Vocalist-multi-instrumentalist Areski and singer Brigitte Fontaine are a legendary French musical couple that rose to prominence in the ‘60s, making a series of albums that showcased a boldly unorthodox approach to the art of song.
Taken as a whole the 13 pieces on L’Incendie stand as high-impact scenes or episodes in a theatre or TV production as much as they represent another take on the concept album. Translated from French L’Incendie means fire, but Areski & Fontaine give it admirably broad implications, as the hazardous situation is much more than material. The stories of love, war, personal breakdowns, family strife and capital punishment, entre autres, peel away all the layers of a complex post-war society that, certainly in the wake of the upheaval of Mai ‘68 in France, has many pressing debates ahead of it.
While their defiantly esoteric style, which could veer from North African folk to Brazilian samba to subversive takes on French chanson, was striking their lyrics were no less provocative, broaching anything from mental health to social injustice. With the longest piece lasting just over three and a half minutes, L’Incendie is a master class in concision, and the sharply focused interplay of the human voice and a wide range of instruments. The result is off grid, hors normes; something that is post-modern yet steeped in the ambiances of the Middle Ages or ‘early music.’ In many ways it is a template for any musical maverick, from Laurie Anderson and Bjork to Tom Waits and Meshell Ndegecello.
“This re-mastered version of a timeless work is a must-hear for open minds and open ears.” Kevin Le Gendre, 2022.