Monday, December 8, 2008

L' Enfant Assasin des Mouches

About a week ago, I had a dream that after taking part in a Pig Butchering class at Brooklyn Kitchen I found myself in the store cutting up a human being. Within the dream there seemed to be nothing strange or out of the ordinary about this. The human body in question was a headless male figure. With a long boning knife I started cutting it up as it lay on the floor. Similar to a normal animal butchering, the man had already been drained of his blood. Removing the arms and deftly carving into it was in no way gross or bloody even if I was slightly self-conscious in the dream. It wasn’t until the next day that I realized the human was wearing jeans and a blue sweater. Anyone who has seen me in the last few months knows this outfit has been my winter uniform. (For the record I have two of the same exact blue sweater)

In 1972, after creating music with Serge Gainsbourg including the 1970 arguable masterpiece Histoire de Melody Nelson, French composer Jean Claude Vannier made one of the most glorious, delirious, and baffling albums of the last half century. L’Enfant Assassin des Mouches, (The Child Killer of Flies) is a stunning and tightly composed pastiche of musique concrete, film score, carnival waltz, psychedelic rock, free jazz, lounge, etc. And be certain a great deal of emphasis should be placed on that “etc.” An instrumental concept album of sorts that seems to revolve, as best as I understand it, around a young child and his descent into an underground kingdom of flies, wherein after a great deal of struggle, the child is eventually murdered and consumed by the flies. And while this operatic narrative is only suggested within the French titles and linear notes, a sense of the grotesque and violent lurks just beneath the absurdist pop compositions.

The album often gets referred to as ‘difficult,’ and to the extent that it denotes abrasive or harsh sounds it is quite misleading. The majority of the compositions are melodic, beautiful, and straightforward. But like a dream in which every scene may be mundane and realistic, the whole narrative is still impossible to describe, and the more one attempts to do so, the faster it slips away. No matter how many times I listen to this record, it remains ever elusive and hard to put into words. It feels distant and foreign upon each listen; and in the surreal pop fantasia there is always something new to discover. Later in the week, JeffH was kind enough to give me a tarot reading, a fantastic and informative exploration. All the details are too personal and complex to share here but the 5 Cups card came up as the card that signified how others see me.

Both this card and the cover of L’Enfant Assassin des Mouches depict a lone figure starring off into the void; wishing for what could have been, confronting the bad choices that lead them there, and feeling overwhelmed by the weight of infinite possibilities before them.

Jean Claude Vannier
L’Enfant Assassin des Mouches (1972)

Jean Claude Vannier
L' Enfant la Mouche Les Allumettes (1971)
Don't ask me to explain it but this is perhaps my favorite video ever.

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