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  • Barricade 3
  • René van Peer
Barricade 3 by ZNR. ReR Megacorp/ReR USA, Thornton Heath, Surrey, U.K., 2004. RER ZNR1.

Barricade 3, originally recorded in 1976, was the debut album of the French composers and musicians Hector Zazou and Joseph Racaille. Five years later it was released by ReR's predecessor Recommended Records as one of their earliest titles. In the label's catalog of out-of-the-ordinary albums, Barricade 3 ranks high among the most eccentric. Re-issued on CD in 2004, it has not lost any of its musical lopsidedness.

ZNR's album has the hallmarks of a debut, and of the technology that was in use at the time. It is also very French, mindful of Erik Satie's spiritual heritage. This is immediately evident from the titles of the pieces and descriptions of the instruments played, such as "The great composer seen in the face" (and from behind a bit further on), and "Your nipples are like poppy petals," which features Zazou on "inspired electric piano" in the first movement; on "Annie la Telie" Racaille sings "disastrous vocals."

The album's sound is determined largely by the duo's use of the VCS3 and ARP2600 (synthesizers that were very much in vogue in the mid-1970s), electric piano and all manner of sound treatment. In some ways ZNR's tools are similar to what Brian Eno unloaded on the music and musicians with whom he worked. They even share with Eno a bent for the elegant. ZNR's interpretation of this is far-removed from Eno's stylish and dreamy moodiness, however. The duo are more light-hearted and light-footed. They sound like they enjoy what they are doing, rather than brood over it. And if a solo has the sonic finesse and grandeur of a dentist's drill, they clearly welcome that.

Zazou's only appearance as a vocalist (Racaille does all the singing on this album, in a charming and inexpert manner), on "Seynete," has him intone his lines through a distortion device that gives his voice an alien, machinelike, croaky buzz that contrasts poignantly with the emotional urgency of the accompaniment, and which is especially sinister when he chuckles. Likewise, the synthesized sounds float through those of the acoustic instruments (woodwinds of all sorts and sizes are particularly in evidence), resulting in patchwork chamber music that is too bizarre to become sentimental—although Zazou and Racaille like to dance on the dangerous line between brilliance and bad taste. If anything, their game is confusion. They play that to their heart's content. The sound is outdated, there is no doubt about that, but the playful joy is timeless.

René van Peer
Bachlaan 786, 5011 BS, Tilburg, the Netherlands. E-mail: <r.vanpeer@wxs.nl>.
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Additional Information

ISSN
1530-9282
Print ISSN
0024-094X
Pages
p. 174
Launched on MUSE
2006-04-12
Open Access
No
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