François De Roubaix, Bernard Maître ‎– Les Onix – Enregistrements Méconnus Pour Marionnettes, Théâtre Et Télévision (1972-1976)

4 out of 5

Label: WeMe Records

Produced by: Stephen des Aulnois (mastered by)

A compilation of soundtrack cuts on which De Roubaix and Maitre worked together. Here are some of the styles listed for this album on its Discogs page – Brass Band, Medieval, Experimental, Abstract, Big Band, Leftfield – and… yup. Normally, I’ll look at the styles on something that’s a bit inscrutable – De Roubaix is amazingly amorphous in the small selections of his works I’ve heard – and sort of question what makes someone hear some particular element, but all of the above are clearly represented here, as our duo shift gears for each of the projects. That makes the record undeniably exciting, in a What’s Around This Corner? sense – and also rather gobsmacking, given how modernly weird a lot of it sounds, when it was composed in the 70s – but, admittedly, it’s also choppy for the same reason. The A-side, as it’s all from a kids’ puppet show called Les Onix, is the most cohesive for that reason, and that does lead-in well to the very French brass stuff that kicks off the B-side, but we start jumping around thereafter, winding up way in left field (or ‘leftfield,’ I guess) on two cuts from a show that already sounds rather meta, from the liner notes’ description – puppets discover that they’re being puppeted – and is befittingly all synthesizer-y ambience, going against the grain of the quirky variants of bop that have preceded it.

In short: it’s strange. And awesome! While the Les Onix stuff is maybe some steps removed from De Roubaix French pop – it’s very much geared towards its younger audience, and so rife with jokey sound effects, and is also a little ADD in that it’s more quick cuts than songs – the tracks are fully enlivened by De Roubaix’s and Maitre’s willful spirit of improvisation and allowing the sounds to just go wherever they will. It’s a lot of fun. On the B-side, while I’ve mentioned the unavoidable herky-jerky flow due to smushing different tracks meant for different experiences together, individually, this is brilliant stuff, very flush and layered, whether it’s the pomp of a big band sound, or the spacey explorations of the concluding ‘Genty Pierrot’ cuts.

Hearing how these two were able to wrangle so much creativity across different styles also has given a bit more context to another Les Onix track WeMe released, although having that isolated still isn’t a great way of listening to it; it would’ve been a nice addition here, had it fit.

The liner notes (from Gilles Loison and Fanny Quément, provided in both French and English) are a nice bonus, although a bit wandering.