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Brigitte Fontaine - Kékéland (2001)


With the recent rebirth of Paris and its arts, French artists and celebrities have been showing up everywhere. In fashion, all the youth energy is carried on in Paris with Nicolas Ghesquiere, Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, and Stella McCartney, among others, all calling the city their own. French cinema is alsogetting over its dry spell with a new Charlotte Gainsbourg film in the works, as well as Americanactresses like Chloë Sevigny working there now. French music has found a fanbase in America, withDaft Punk and Air becoming nigh-household names. In past years most popular things in Paris wereimported from America or other countries. But this new excitement is purely French, a celebration oftheir country. It's almost patriotic.

So, with all of this going on, what does one of France's living legends spend her time doing? Well, if you're Brigitte Fontaine, you call up long-time partner Areski, as well as Jim O'Rourke, Sonic Youth, Noir Desir, and Dave Pajo to help make the most colorful record of your career (complete with Eiffel towers amid the cover art and minimal English). Brigitte's music has always been varied and eclectic, ranging from the semi-traditional (albeit quirky) French-pop orchestrations of her 1970 debut, Brigitte Fontaine Est..., through her work with the Art Ensemble of Chicago; from her early a capella work with Areski to their later psychedelic Moog experiments in the late 70s. 1997's Les Palaces showed a more electronic sound, similar to Stereolab's Dots and Loops of that time. But as vast as her sounds were, each album remained similar in tone. That's what makes Kekeland so exciting-- each song is an entirely different style. Such a vast mix of sounds can get confusing, but the record never sounds strained or forced, and manages to achieve a nice flow throughout.

"Demie Clocharde" opens the album with a low-key SYR-sound, but is soon broken up by a decidedly simple and clean piano line. After a while, the piano morphs into a keyboard and then back. The next track, "Bis Baby Boum Boum" could pass as Limp Bizkit, with Areski passing as a vastly superior FredDurst and Brigitte pulling out her best Patty Waters scream. "Pipeau" has a great Blondie/Clash reggae vibe to it and "Je T'aime Encore" sounds like a long-lost Kurt Weill song that Marianne Faithfull couldn't handle. "God's Nightmare" sounds like a perfect single, complete with dance-pop hooks galore, and "Guadalquivir" tries on Spanish flamenco.

"Les Filles D'Aujuord'hui" has the traditional, pretty Jane Birkin-ish keyboard lines which reflect the source of French music that's been expanded upon with this release. It brings you back to the Paris of
baguettes and red lipstick, of berets and cigarettes. Kekeland is the perfect accompaniment to this worldwide rediscovery of Paris as a source of art. Like all good memories and tributes, it salutes the past while looking to the future. And who better to take us there than Brigitte Fontaine? As she makes
known in the title track, "You know I am the queen, the queen of Kekeland." Yes, Mme. Fontaine, Nico and Yoko Ono still have nothing on you.

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