Although the title of this CD might lead you to expect something more hard-edged and dissonant – like George Antheil’s score to Leger’s Ballet Mécanique – it’s actually a charming and infectious assembly of 27 short tracks that prove to be extremely tuneful, extremely catchy and extremely French. The instrumentation of up to four clarinets plus a specially-constructed wide-range barrel organ seems outlandish at first but proves just perfect for the music. Milhaud’s short suite Scaramouche is one of my favorite pieces of music – having played the two-piano version with friends – and I don’t think I’ve ever heard it done better than this version by the Meyers and their cohorts. Jean Francaix’s Exotic Dances is a delight, and the selections are not limited to French composers – with entries from Scott Joplin, Enrico Morricone and even Leroy Anderson. There’s a serious error in crediting the Java Martienne to Erik Satie – it’s by Alain Goraguer and Boris Vian and was originally included on the amazing Columbia LP (now reissue CD) Delirium in Hi-Fi by “Elsa Popping and her Pixieland Band” – actually Andre Popp – who pioneering all sorts of audio tricks in the mono era by running tapes backwards, changing speeds, and adding reverb, among other tricks.
Pierre Charial is the world’s leading (and perhaps only) barrel organ virtuoso, and had a special wide-range instrument made just for himself. It complements perfectly the sounds of the massed clarinets. This is a totally odd but most enjoyable musical outing. It made me think of the visual appeal of the French animation The Triplets of Belleville. The sonics are terrific as well.
1. Introduction Mécanique / Le flaneur des deux rives
2. Marche de fauves
5. Nube gris
6. Samba lente
15. Java Martienne
16. A l’aube du cinquième jour
– John Sunier