Banjo on Le Metro

I like to call myself a Eugene Chadbourne fan, but to my dishonour I never bought any of the records he mad for the French Rectangle label, such as 1996’s The Aquaduct or the 10-inch duo with Derek Bailey Tout For Tea!. Chadbourne had a good relationship with the label owners, Noël Akchoté and Quentin Rollet, but it’s to Rollet’s regret that they didn’t record together at that time. However, water found its own natural level eventually, and in 2002 they met up and quickly laid down five tracks of improvised saxophone and banjo music in a studio, one day before Eugene’s live show at the Mo-Fo Antifolk Festival in Saint-Ouen. The musicians pressed up 10 CDR copies and sold them at the show.

This anecdote explains the title Recorded Yesterday And On Sale Today (REQORDS REQ009), making a virtue of the instant-connection-with-the-audience quality that is the hallmark of spontaneous music, and enabled by the speed of digital technology. Snap snap – 20 years go by, and Quentin Rollet finds the recordings are still intact on his computer, and so he decided to put them out on today’s CD. Five tracks of charming all-acoustic improvisation herein, all titled with mini-chapter headings which doubtless reflect on Chadbourne’s colourful adventures when touring (he used to publish excerpts from his American tour diaries in the 1980s in Forced Exposure magazine, and they made for hair-raising reading). These short episodes aren’t quite as manic as we’d like from a date where the Euge is involved, but listeners who savour his intricate, scratchy approach on the banjo strings will find much to enjoy, and the combined sound with the squealing, errant alto sax is a true delight. My personal favourite is ‘La Motte Piquet’, which showcases Chadbourne’s deep knowledge of blues and bluegrass as refracted through his many cracked filters, and he builds a framework that allows our French hero to chase many a rabbit down many a hollow log.

Mika Pusse did the cover artworks, perhaps a bit “cute” to render the musicians as animals, but the artists has captured something of Chadbourne’s intense stare. (24/03/2022)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *