Lion Prod. Emmanuelle Parrenin : Maison Rose (F,rec.1976,pub.1977,re.2006)****°
It’s been a while since the first reissue of this album on Musea Records in France. But it is only now, with the introduction in the booklet, that I finally am able to realize the backgrounds for this album.
I learned that “La Maison Rose” (=“the pink house”) refers to the actual house where Emmanuel was born and grew up. Emmanuel’s father escaped German forced labour camp thanks to the intervention of conservatory director Claude Delvincour who gave them this house where Maurice Ravel used to live and compose. Also the other members of her father’s famous quartet used to live and practice there which gave Emmanuel a constant classical background. Her father was the first violinist, while her mother’s instrument was the classical harp.
Emmanuel studied ballet from an early age, before she started to study harp. After 2 years in the French Basque province, at the age 17 she discovered a new musical world in Paris, presented by some hurdy-gurdy artists (like the contemporary/traditional folk artist Christian Gour’han who also had worked with G.Yacoub (Malicorne) on his 'Pierre de Grenoble' (1973), and the medieval folk artist René Zosso, -from whom I know the wonderful original album "Florilège de la vielle à roue" (1978) with Anne Osnowycz, reissued in 1992-) which inspired her interest for the hurdy-gurdy. It was also the place where she met (Celtic) folk and folkrock harpist Alan Stivell. After two more years in Quebec, Canada, some friends of hers had created the Le Bourdon folk, an antique folk club, a centre stimulating the development of a folk repertoire. She recorded eight discs, often on labels related with folk traditions (Chant Du Monde, Sonopress,..) between 1970 and 1977. Her third release for instance had help from folk trio Melusine. In 1976 she also appeared on the very nice, soft, original folk album by Pierre Bensusan, “Prés de Paris” (1976) (Info with audio : here), where she played the hurdy-gurdy. It was in this year when her style showed more diversity and creativity, with this last album from 1977 as a known highlight. This "Maison Rose" album recording had created a spirit of communal, structural development. The guest participants were also not just any musicians. Their backgrounds reveal the interest to create something special beyond the obvious approach. Percussionist and effect-manager Bruno Menny, was asked after this album, in 1978, to appear on Malicorne's highlighting folkrock album, and on the rather unique symphonic folkrock only album by Ripaille on the same label. He was asked more often to be the sound engineer. I believe he also did some cosmos-related electro-acoustic work in the '80's and '90s (see next page). Flutist Didier Malherbe is most known for his work with psychedelic group Gong but he also did interesting solo work in ethno-fusion and jazzfusion styles later on. Mostly jazz-guitarist and vocalist Yan Vagh will appear later on one of Malherbe's solo albums but had worked before with some variety of artists which included Brigitte Fontaine, Johnny Hallyday, Pierre Bensusan,.. Nowadays he is associated with his 10 string fretless acoustic guitar. Guitarist Denis Gasser has some kind of French-Canadian connection. Pierre Bensusan is an original folk and stylistic guitar related musician, who worked here and there closely with vocalist Doatea Bensusan, who participates on this album. Also new for the occasion was some self built instruments, like the tulcivinâ, an instrument based upon the spinet but with the sound of a sitar (she says "based upon the sound of McLauglin’s guitar", used for playing sitar-tunes during Shakti, -a guitar which by the way meant the launching of a whole new generation of sitar-related guitars and instruments-), and a hurdy-gurdy with wah-wah pedal. Also used was the epinette, a French regional instrument from the zither family.
The album has various short instrumentals that are built mostly on combining, harmonically improvisations with the different string instruments, like acoustic guitar, the spinette and a bit of dulcimer, and with hurdy-gurdy. This idea surely is based upon earlier experiences in playing folk and medieval music, but with the feeling to work more freely with them is there, with the same kind of enjoyment and mostly not too far away from casual folk improvisation ideas, with its own delicacy, often structurally simple but sweet and original in building up the album. The instrumentals are alternated with some songs or “chansoniettes” of which the first song, “Plume Blanche, plume Noire” is closest to folk chanson. Just now and then vaguely Brigitte Fontaine comes in mind. Brigitte Fontaine started from chanson on her first album, but while working with people like Areski, she tried also different sounds in her arrangements. Emmanuelle Parrenin isn’t as avant-garde and as tracks has much shorter ideas, she is working in the same nest of finding a new area that is lying already outside folk. On the 6th track, “Topaze”, together with Yan Vagh she really goes into the experiment itself. This slightly longer track is based upon electro-acoustic string sounds, experimental sounds on hurdy-gurdy, recorded in two layers, with some harder percussion giving rhythmic pulses, creating a real abstract landscape. This is followed by another more medieval flavoured track with hurdy-gurdy. The title track, with multiple vocal arrangements, has almost a spiritual (music) flavour mixed with a folk inherited style. In some way I’m reminded here of some tracks with Malicorne, like “Marie De Rose”. “Apres L’Ondée” is also completely semi-acoustic and experimental. This track is done by Bruno Mendy, who, I think, based himself on some of the acoustic complex harmonies that were found during the improvisations. He deformed them into a short but very interesting, experimental cosmic soundtrack, which sounds incredibly nice between the other tracks. Very nice to see also, is how the well fitting bonus track is added, which was recorded at the occasion of a show soundtrack, reminding me this time even more of Brigitte Fontaine. It is a rondo-kind of song with several flute layers of an arrangement, making me wish for more music.
It is a unique album that shows how a series of experiences and backgrounds can lead musically, to inspiration and stimulation (just what the house came to signify for Emmanuelle Parrenin, personally).
PS. The original small 'Ballon Noir' label (distributed by CBS), released a few other gems, like the solo album of Laurent Thibault (fusion progressive styled, from the earliest bassplayer from Magma, who recorded this album with Magma members) and the aforementioned Ripaille.
After this recording Emmanuelle also appeared on the rather interesting progressive folk album ‘La Confrérie des Fous’ (1979), before focusing again on dance and choreographical music.