In another of this series of reviews, I compared Mr. Rond to various neoclassical and outside musicians, Frank Zappa's bizarrest work included; here, I'll add Erling Wold, Art Zoyd, and Lester Bowie to the mix, as Etranger et Compagne is a bird of hellishly different feather, much more in the operatic mode, even Benjamin Brittenesque…were Benjy drying out with the DTs at Betty Ford. Like Wold, though, Rond's a completely unique character, a walking synthesis embodying far more than the sum of his well-chosen influences. The opener, Riant va sans L'autre is a beautifully demented canvas of schizophrenia and seizures, and things only get weirder from there. In aspect a Cyrano de Bergerac-ish-looking rake, Rond is an extremist unafraid to crack open the sky in order to see what lurks behind, challenging mad gods to disrobe and step forth.
Unbelievably, the guy never studied music but was imbued completely through intensive self-exposure to the headiest of 20th musics aided by an unfailingly innovative instinctual bent, calling his method 'irrational'—in other words, well-informed anarchismos. Critics have been unfailingly stunned, and one finds it difficult to locate reviews that are less than glowing. Though the rampant sampling pervading most every inch of each release is inescapable, the sources lie first in his own work on a panoply of acoustic instruments and then in a loose unit of collaborators, including Marco Oppedisano (here), a fellow perimeter breaker of breath-taking brashness.
At risk of foolishness, I'll say this disc is Rond's most coherent, though I may well get arrested for abusing that adjective so roundly. Etranger et Compagne is the least hectic of his releases but that makes it no less arresting or absorbing…if the sheer outré-ness of each cut doesn't throw you out a dozen times per minute. The uninitiated will have to fight to access the mad genius of this work but the battle will be worth it. Like Harry Partch, Berger Rond is an unrepentant individualist, one of those who brings the quality of rebellion to its outer limit. The CD's broken up into six songs, but they're really a sextet of movements in a grand opus that meanders everywhere (catch the Residents kinships in Me Detester quand Je L'aime), never arriving. The climax isn't the point, the journey is.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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