most texts about her do start with mentioning that she is “folle”, as she frequently describes herself as such. so, mrs brigitte fontaine is crazy, trulla trulla, just that you know.
and yes, “queer rooted in the straight” of my previous post was a reference to her (you didn’t think of etienne daho, did you?). in the context of the last post it sounded slightly negative, due to my frustration, but not doing justice to brigitte fontaine’s amazing work.
queer it is, she is, in many ways, if queer stands for transgressing, for not fulfilling expectations, for challenging, for being and doing outside and across categories.
and the above she does, outside of music – and musically she is most definitely queer. music oscillating between the (seemingly) pleasant song and irritating sonic structures.
i do find it very interesting to post this in the context of an artist like ingrid caven, as the approach to music is interesting in its difference. ingrid caven is working within a more or less clearly defined musical space, adapting and expanding this space from within. usually she worked with the same people over the years – trusted partners. it gives her musical universe seen from that viewpoint an intimacy. this might be in contrast to her career in film where by default there are usually a lot more people involved.
brigitte fontaine on the other hand explodes the musical and works across the board with musicians from all corners. it seems to me she worked with the majority of french musicians and did not stop there, recording an entire album with the art ensemble of chicago, and also with sonic youth and the gotan project (allright, they’re partly french – and here would be a nice line to touch el arab, but that will be another story for another day…) and her sister grace jones. it is to note though that some names appear constantly – most notably her man areski belkacem (a nice beard at the time, too).
in contrast she did record hardly anything in the 1980s, but focused on theater (ha! she did play in a production of genet’s les bonnes) and her writing, but became again musically very active and sucessfull in the last good ten years.
as an introduction to her work i propose from 1974 l’incendie. this is one of her less obviously strange records. not completely incidentally it also seems that this is the only one out of print, although it seems that the label does reissue the vinyl occasionally. a little bit naïve i first thought i post some more vinyls of hers from the 70s, which i own due to the generous M H, but i did underestimate badly brigitte fontaine’s status as cultural icon: most of her work is easily accessible / obtainable.
l’incendie is at first listen a spaced out mediterranean folk record. then one notices the whispering, and discreet layers of patterns and loops, revealing structures underneath. it’s folktronica very much avant la lettre…
and it has the notable guest appearance of guem, as well as one of the most infectious bass lines i know. just check out the second song – and would then someone please do a remix and just stretch that baseline into infinity…
and then there is also the lyrical side. i’m not really sure, but there seems to be a direct connection between the innocence of the melody and the strangeness of the lyrics.
so this record is like a leftfield perfume: layers of different impressions, seemingly at first contradictory, then falling into place and starting to scintillate, creating its own fascinating universe.
l’incendie, ripped with fascination from vinyl, you can get here. do enjoy!
and for yet another side: