Audion #38

October 1997 A4 48 pages

NME at the NFT - Julian Cope Presents A Krautrocksampler
- The Palace Theatre, Newark, 11/5/97
- Physio & Firkin, Leicester, 31/5/97 & 6/7/97
- An interview with Heinz Fröhling
- "Street Life" at the South Bank, London, 18/7/97
, etc.


original (last 271 copies)



UK £4.90




Europe £8.35




World £9.40


Example article extract

"Part 4: The French Connection"


Of all the bands discussed here in this feature, possibly the most radical and outlandish were Etron Fou, which also meant they were the least-known internationally. A bit of a paradox in that they were to become the first French RIO band! But, in being very French their music was not so appealing to the general British audience. Also, they remained underground on their own scene even when a little international fame came their way. Because of this, the history of Etron Fou Leloublan has never been properly documented, and attempting to obtain concrete facts is difficult. In fact, writing an article about a band whose history (when documented) reads like a Monty Python script is nigh on impossible!

The only established fact about their early history that I can find is that the original band was formed in 1971 by the organist Jean‑Baptiste Moulu. They originated from Beaufort (near Toulouse, in the South West corner of France, I believe) and included Guigou Chenevier (drums) and others. They were then known as Grace Molle, but underwent various name changes as they felt fit. Such was their un-commercial attitude! Their influences at this time are quoted to have included the likes of Soft Machine and Captain Beefheart. The next addition to the band was winds player Chris Chanet (who for some reason is also known as "Eulalie Ruynat"), an eccentric maestro who was capable of getting noises out of all sorts of pipes and things. He took the band to more outlandish realms.

In 1973, when looking for a Ratledge style keyboard player, to replace their founder Jean‑Baptiste, they instead take on bassist Ferdinand Richard, and shift focus again musically. So, to mark a new start Etron Fou (meaning "Mad Shit" in English!) is chosen as the name of the band, as a kind of reaction to the general music scene. The next couple of years find the band attempting to gain an audience, and develop their own style, however they only manage to get gigs in small bars and clubs. They did get some recognition, all be it confused. Thus in 1975, to mystify the music-press who seemed to think they were some sort of a joke band, the name is expanded to Etron Fou Leloublan (the suffix meaning "White Wolf" implying loners or outsiders I believe). They also established the collective "Dupont et ses Fantomes" along with other like-minded groups (distributed throughout France) like: Grand Gouia, Camizole and Herbe Rouge, with the aim help promote each other, aid with concert organisation and get together the means for releasing records.

Their debut album BATELAGES, recorded in November 1976 by the trio of: Ferdinand Richard (strings, vocals), Chris Chanet (brass, vocals) and Guigou Chenevier (percussion, choir) took the experience of five years as an underground band, and attempted to shout at the world, hoping someone would take notice! Although so radical and so weirdly French someone did. Their new allies Henry Cow took them on tour with them in England and Italy, and this was the birth of Rock In Opposition. Etron Fou's music was a frantic blend of political folk, jazz and rock that demanded attention. The complex rhythmic structures have often been compared to John French (aka "Drumbo" of Captain Beefheart's Magic Band), however Guigou's drum style was far more eccentric, slicing unexpected fills and variations into rhythms at will. Ferdinand's "strings" actually saw him take on the role of guitarist and bassist, he also fronted as lead vocalist on Histoire de Graine, a track that became the model for the Etron Fou style to come. Being a winds player in such a frenetic music was no easy job, and Chris Chanet was the first of a succession of talented musicians to pass through the band, and not only a winds player his role as vocalist on the opening L'Amulette et le petit rabin was as much as a poet as he was a bizarre punk-folk singer. How they managed to come close to this sound when live, I've no idea, as they often sound more like a five or six piece band and not just a trio!

Although BATELAGES was remarkable, it wasn't their finest moment, that was to come in the form of their second album: LES TROIS FOU'S PERDÉGAGNENT [AU PAYS DES...] (which means something like "The three crazies go on [into the country...]") which saw newcomer Francis Grand in the role of multi-winds player (and much more). The album was recorded and mixed by Jean‑Pierre Grasset (the guitarist/multi‑instrumentalist who also works under the moniker "Vertø") who did an incredible job in complex studio montage and mixing, and can be heard playing guitar on side one. The ideas from the previous album are here refined and developed, having even more complex instrumental interplay, with kind of half sung "poems" wedged in between the scuttling scampering musical progressions. It's all very complex stuff - schizophrenia controlled! Side one ends with a track subtitled "Artman inspiration" where Etron Fou become an intense Urban Sax and Lard Free hybrid, with multi‑winds and electronics against Vertø/Frippian guitar. This is interesting in that Chris Chanet had left Etron Fou to work in Urban Sax, and also, much of the album was written by Chris under the guise of Eulalie Ruynat (just to confuse us). Obviously it was material they had been working on for some time, and it's this refinement of composition, complex elaboration and advanced use of the studio that makes this the finest Etron Fou record. Musically superb, challenging and excellently recorded.


[other bands featured in this article: ZNR, Albert Marcoeur, Art Zoyd]

Article by Alan Freeman

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