- Relentlessly bizarre grooves from Tolouse Low Trax and a luminary of French psychedelic folk.
- Someone close to Salon des Amateurs—the sadly-dormant Düsseldorf club that has produced a curious number of leading leftfield DJs—once briefed me on the romantic economics of the place. In the early days of the club, as residents like Jan Schulte, Lena Willikens and Vladimir Ivkovic developed the no-rules style that made Salon the stuff of legend, nights would wrap up deep into the morning, leaving the staff to count the till. After figuring out the night's take, Detlef Weinrich, better known as Tolouse Low Trax, would abscond to an office computer in the back and emerge victorious, having just purchased some rare, expensive record with a lion's share of the night's earnings.
One of those nights, he might have scored Emmanuelle Parrenin's 1977 psych-folk masterpiece Maison Rose. The LP has become a landmark for record collectors for its delicate balance of airy, Vashti Bunyan-esque songwriting and hurdy gurdy-driven instrumental psychedelia. The Faust-like, proto-downtempo cut "Topaze" is the kind of track that would fit in easily amidst a topsy-turvy Salon set. This leads us to Jours De Grève ("Strike Days"), the unexpected collaboration between Weinrich and Parrenin, recorded at Gilb'R's studio in Paris during the chaotic public strikes at the end of 2019.
Pairing experimentalists of different generations isn't a new idea—a previous release on Gilb'R's Versatile label saw him teaming up with Ariel Kalma, and RVNG's FRKWYS series centers around this concept. But rarely does a collaboration of this nature feel so natural. The liner notes describe Jours De Grève as "a bouquet of music full of mirrors, eyes, statues, secret doors, rooms and blood," and somehow, even a description this colourful rings true. On the opener, "Le Couple Coupable," Parrenin's chant-like vocals are turbocharged by Weinrich's endlessly tumbling Krautrock percussion. "While Layers Over Black Papers" introduces a heavy dub bassline, while the addition of the incomparable Parisian vocalist Ghédalia Tazartès brings this witches brew to full boil.
Tazartès, whose vocal stylings have been described as falling between "the muezzin psalmody and the screaming of a rocker," alternates between open-throated ululation and possessed muttering, splitting vocal duties with Parrenin, whose ethereal sing-speak is looped into yet another percussive element on downtempo crushers like "Hephaisto's Breeze." The saxophonist Quentin Rollet drones and solos, lending a crucial melodic counterpoint to relentless, lurching grooves on cuts like "Gelbe Schlange," one of a handful of Jours De Grève tracks that falls within humid leftfield dance territory. Gilb'R (Gilbert Cohen) pitched in on the record as well. After the initial sessions in Paris, Weinrich and fellow Salon resident Jan Schulte mixed down the material back in Düsseldorf.
I'm going over the personnel in an attempt to decipher the magic that clearly coursed through the studio during these sessions. Jours De Grève doesn't really sound like anything, though key reference points might be Areski's collaboration with Brigitte Fontaine, Danielle Dax's bizarre 1984 LP The Jesus Egg That Wept or the outernational '80s post-punk released on Crammed's Made To Measure sub-label. Perhaps due to Jours De Grève's distinctly Parisian flavor, I keep coming back to the surreal 1991 film Delicatessen. Just as that movie functions on its own bizarre logic—zonked-out drama unfolding in claustrophobic Parisian apartments—this album, too, feels like a contained collective freakout. Jours De Grève is an utter triumph, exactly the type of bizarre, beguiling LP Weinrich might drop an entire DJ fee on.
01. Le Couple Coupable
02. Caltec's Dance
03. While Layers Over Black Paper
04. Hephaisto's Breeze
05. Gelbe Schlange
06. Zombie's Passport
07. Le Souffle D'Hephaistos Attisant Le Fourneau Qui
08. Crépite D'Impatience
09. L'Incantation du Héros Au Yeux Bandés