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Jean-Claude Vannier - Electro Rapide (2011)

Electro Rapide is a collection of rare and unreleased archive material from the studio archives of legendary French orchestral pop composer Jean-Claude Vannier. Taken from the period before and during his revered creative relationship with Serge Gainsbourg (reaching their halcyon with 1971’s Histoire De Melody Nelson) these tracks reveal a rare glimpse of Vannier’s self-initiated instrumental projects that were crowbarred between an airtight studio diary as one of France’s most in demand arrangers and composers of the post Mai-68 generation...

Alongside a handful of his contemporaries and collaborators such as Michel Colombier, Serge Gainsbourg, François de Roubaix, Brigitte Fontaine, Claude Nougaro and Gerard Manset, composer and orchestral arranger Jean-Claude Vannier is globally recognised as one of the key exponents of the Gallic pop cognoscenti to make the significant change from 60s yé-yé to the brooding conceptual pop which defined the following decade. His own masterworks, Histoire De Melody Nelson and L’Enfant Assassin Des Mouches (both of which benefited from the poetic prose of Serge Gainsbourg), are two such productions that continue to inspire and challenge popular music as long as five decades since they were first released to moderate audiences in the early 1970s.

Electro Rapide is a collection of similarly underexposed instrumental works that combine a mixture of Jean-Claude Vannier’s familiar trademark motifs and stylings from his coveted work for idiosyncratic French pop vocalists (such as Fontaine, Nougaro, Leonie and Anna St. Clair) with the seldom heard experimental music for ballets, fashion shows as well as his infamous film music (such as the soundtracks for Cannabis and La Horse). --- Finders Keepers

Electro Rapide is most certainly not Jean-Claude Vannier's lost holy grail instrumental album, but given the sparseness of his recorded output, it might as well be. This collection of 14 rarities, which whizzes by in under 25 minutes, is a fascinating, even compelling listen to the composer, multi-instrumentalist, arranger, and enigma at an early and creative peak in his strange career. This music was carefully selected from his personal archive, soundtracks of puppet shows and children's programs, and early library music recordings, from 1968-1973. As a whole, what this collection reveals is that certain Vannier trademarks were already in place by 1968 when the jaunty "Road to Cuba" was recorded, with exaggerated, plucked electric basslines, irregular backbeats and drop drums, well-spaced reverb, and taut, often humorous melody lines countered by more brooding, orchestral, harmonic extensions. Some of the best material here is what has remained in the can until now. These selections include the very brief yet gorgeously sad, orchestral postlude of "L'doleur de L'orchestre," the chamber strings and marimba in "L'automne À Barbès Rochechouar," and the two versions of "Bombarde Lamentation" (the bombard is a powerful, mournful-sounding double-reed instrument usually employed in traditional Breton music). The bombard is also at the heart of "L'ours Paresseux," a track featuring some of Vannier's best-known collaborators, including drummer Pierre-Alain Dahan and bassist Tonio Rubio. It was originally released on a 7" EP of music to accompany the puppet shows of Jean-Loup Temporal, and later compiled by Karl Heinz Schäfer for inclusion on an April Orchestra library album. Vannier's rock side is represented as well, sometimes in genuinely perverse ways. There's the relatively straight-ahead groove in "La Girafe au Ballon" (another puppet show cut), but there's also the spooky groove of "Je M'appele Geraldine," driven by harpsichord, organ, and electric guitars, and the weird, wonderful "L'éléphant Équilibriste," an orchestral tune for a children's show with an electric guitar playing surf riffs off meter. While Electro Rapide is way too brief -- these pieces are very short, from just under a minute to two-minutes-and-15-seconds -- these "moments" leave the listener desperately wanting more. --- Thom Jurek

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