Chroniques lieutenant Caramel

Title: The Pandora’s Box

Label: Old Europa Cafe 

Genre: Musique Concrète / Experimental
The Pandora’s Box
01 Presentation of the World
02 The Hunting of Aceton
03 The Bath of Diane
04 Expectation
05 Death of the Deer
I no Longer Want to See the Sky
06 Gold Heart of a Rat
07 Angel Concert
08 And Ring the <<Couscous>>
09 Were it Hurt to You

Musique concrete albums are strange beasts at the best of times, and this one is no exception. I have to say that my experience with them is fairly limited, my first one ever being G*Park’s “Seismogramm” which I reviewed for this very webzine earlier this year. I was pleasantly surprised by that one, simply because to my delight the bizarre collection of beeps, scrapes, boings, blips and other treated sounds turned out to be an effective medium in which to tell a story. Having said that though it would be fair to point out that unlike an ambient album, for instance, it’s hard to engage directly with what the artist is trying to convey, and it’s much more of an intellectual game. Nevertheless, though, the ‘hunt’ is all part of the game and can be an enjoyable exercise in itself.
This album collates a series of recordings made by Pierre Blanchard over a period of fourteen years, starting way back in 1986 and with the most recent being in 2000. Over that span, one is aware of a definite musical progression in terms of style and execution. The first part, entitled ‘The Pandora’s Box’, is much more chaotic, in keeping perhaps with its erstwhile subject matter. And maybe there’s a clue at the very start of track one, where a female voice says (in French) “Enter gentlemen, enter ladies, into the menagerie” (loose translation I have to add), and what follows plunges us into an exotically mad world of twitters, chirps, honkings, howls, squeaks and assorted strange calls, with feathers and fur flying everywhere. It’s that hint of something exotic that holds the awed attention, descriptors of a world of marvellous invention, of devilish devices that wouldn’t necessarily exist in any world, of impossible Heath Robinsonesque contraptions held together with string and tape, and of the bemused denizens of that world, unsure as to whether such machines were a help or a hindrance. Arcane twangings and bizarre plucking, distorted gremlin voices going about their slightly suspect business, arthritic creakings and rheumatic wheezings add further colour to an already dayglo dimension, possibly even turning up the contrast to eye watering levels.
The second part, “I no Longer Want to See the Sky”, while only recorded a matter of two years later, already takes us in a completely different direction, while at the same time retaining some essential Lt. Caramel elements. For one thing, here we have synthesisers and a much more ‘tuneful’, less chaotic, incarnation of this beast. There is even, dare I say it, more of a sense of structure in addition. Apart from anything else, it wraps everything up in a distinctly different mood and atmosphere. As an example, track six, “Gold Heart of a Rat”, feels itchy, skittish, secretive and unwilling to expose itself too much, ultimately shying away from the light and wanting to hide in inaccessible nooks and crannies. Scratchy, urgent, querulous and nervous sketches in sound set paint a shyly scurrying, hurrying and quicksilver picture, refusing to stay in any one place for long while nervously scanning its surroundings. Although there are firmer ‘musical’ underpinnings it still defines itself through a carefully choreographed set of superficially random sounds.
Surprisingly, the album rounds itself off in a much more structured manner, with two longer visually narrative pieces, These two in fact most closely approach what could be considered music, although they don’t completely abandon the musique concrete elements. They still burp and splutter, hop and jump in unexpected and surprising directions, but they’re underpinned by a canvas of drones and keyboards, adding considerable depth and density. These are indeed the most accessible of all the pieces on here, but accessibility is a relative term here it has to be pointed out. Allied to visual elements, as the last track, “Were it Hurt to You”, was meant to be (a composition intended for a theatre production), then it would an even greater level of accessibility.
To be quite honest, I find it difficult to properly evaluate this album. I thoroughly enjoyed everything on here – despite the fact that ultimately I prefer music that develops themes over long periods the very mercurial and ephemeral nature of the pieces on here captivated me. The staccato rapidity with which these compositions fired themselves at me ensured a constant revelatory unravelling, as if, for instance, they were threads in some complex multi-patterned carpet, fundamentally simple as individual threads but nevertheless beautifully and aesthetically complex as a co-operative conglomerate. This is exactly how this album works – each sound represents a thread that in isolation means nothing, but added to other threads in concert creates a wondrous web of narratives and intricate stories. If you have similar tastes to me, or even if musique concrete is your particular favourite musical tipple, then this will definitely fire off every synapse in your brain’s pleasure centres.


Lt.Caramel :: Early Tape Works :: Monochrome Vision :: 2006

En 1986, Philippe Blanchard crée le personnage du "Lt Caramel", marquisat du plateau des Glières. Digne héritier d'un Luigi Russolo qui déclarait en 1913 que "les bruits de tramways ou des masses dans la rue a plus de valeur que la symphonie pastorale", notre lieutenant aime, le bruit de la neige qui tombe, le ballet des sifflets, les klaxons et les bruits de la ville... En véritable chasseur de sons, il capte avec son DAT portable, toutes formes de matières sonores. Fixés, organisés et assemblés avec des bruits d'instruments acoustiques et électroniques, ces objets sonores se métamorphosent en une musique acousmatique comme nulle autre pareille, un magnifique répertoire où se conjuguent, collages, manipulations de bande, et autres subtilités capables d'interpeler les auditoires les plus réticents !

Actif depuis plus de 25 ans, ce bricoleur sonore dadaiste multiplie les projets et les rencontres, Philippe Blanchard doit autant à André Breton et Tristan Tzara qu'aux Varèse, Schaeffer et Russolo. Né en 1961, il réalise ses musiques au Studio Forum à Annecy avec lequel il fonde le Festival annuel "Le bruit de la neige" ( Il est également lauréat de plusieurs concours internationaux (GMEB à Bourges, Luigi Russolo (Italie), Radio France, La Muse en Circuit (Mauricio Kagel), CIMES-FICS (Prague). Il a reçu le prix "Chasseurs de sons" Radio France International 2000 pour sa musique "Captain Cook".

Ce double CD sorti sur le label moscovite Monochrome Vision, réunit ses tout premiers travaux de musique pour bande, 10 années d'une mozaïque de musique concrète surréaliste, à base de dérision et de poésie primitive.

De la notion de "son fixé" si chère à Michel Chion, Felipe Caramelos a fait sienne !

Industrial heaviness from Russia

By Ed Pinsent

Four pieces of heavy-duty tape music and ‘industrial’ noise arrived today from Monochrome Vision, a Russian label in the hands of Dmitry Vasilev. Must admit I was very taken with the black-and-white packaging (in keeping with his label’s name) and the very clear and straightforward layouts for the artworks, even down to the use of Times New Roman. The artworks were wrapped in a piece of Russian newspaper and the CDs were taped up in bubble wrap. Just starting to unpeel ‘em now…

Stroma-Konkret (mv07) is by Maurizio Bianchi and Siegmar Fricke. I never yet heard a single record by this famous ‘MB’ fellow. I understand he used to be pretty noisy. These are not recordings from his well-known 1980 period, but from last year. According to Sigmar, the German electronicist, “These compositions ‘cellular-organelles’ took place inside the spheroid surroundings of hydrophilic microfloras in the course of the radiometric age 2006″. Well, not many people can say that.

Lieutenant Caramel has a double CD compilation called Early Tape Works (mv08). Music hereon mostly dates from 1984-1988, some from a bit later. It’s got a photograph of a big foot on the front cover, and a nice skeleton on the back cover playing a Spanish guitar. This is French artist Philippe Blanchard who is also a film-maker. He says in his notes: “For 20 years, I have produced in my barrrels some tape music representing a suicidal psychodrama for any ‘good’ thinker of current music”. I can’t wait to dredge these barrels, lemme tell ya….apparently this stuff has some sonic commonality with Nurse With Wound and Brume. Juding by his portrait photo, Lieutenant Caramel looks a serious sort.

Label S.F.C.R. Cat. No. CD002 Format CD

Flatulant, metamorphic, full of ideas, this short recording (18'30") makes for interesting listening. Like many recordings which use electronic processing (including, I assume, a sequenced pitch shifter) this has a cardy, material feel to the actual sonics, an unclear, opaque feel which fills the air with primary sounds without sounding in the least bit preset. Vocal treatments (loops, backmasking, processes) bring to mind the chilling backwards sequence from "Twin Peaks". There's also a Dadaist accent, with phonetic dabblings of the 'Zub Zam Zimb' variety. Take RUNZELSTIRN & GURGELSTØCK, fill out their sound to almost deafening proportions and you have yer L.C. Lots of electronic noise as machines and instruments revolt against being taken to such sonic extremes. Tunes of a sort form themselves within this tonal madhouse. Anyone looking to sample weird and unusual noises should find this a worthwhile investment. Let a young RUSSOLO, DALI and VARESE loose in a modern recording studio and lock them in for a week. Whichever survived would create something like this. Take your brain out and let hooligans play football with it for an hour before listening to this - you might detect normality in the composition if you have self-inflicted brain death. Weird, crazy, humerous. As damaged as the contents of the box from the beginning of "Ace Ventura Pet Detective". Reviewer ANTONY BURNHAM for METAMORPHIC JOURNEYMAN

Musique concret — delicious journey —snowscape paint the moon —bicycle handlebar bells - in a darkened room, the light from the hallway leaking in, friendly — childhood tunnels of sweet dreams — this music I like, the orchestral greeting, the way it says hello, you know it's friendly and benign and it will do you no harm; bless it, it might even do you good — voices are a key element / lovely loops ; ah, it makes me smile, and I need to SO bad just now — yes, I'm happy; thank you lieutenant caramel !

Another fab and fun recording of wacky electro-acoustic mayhem from The Lt. This is hyperactive mangling of female vocal bits that are flying in all directions combining with other blips and sonic kernels and fragments. This really does sound like the way couscous looks and feels.
Reviewer : Reprinted from ND #17 (RF)

Noisegate no9

LT Caramel
J'ai 10 Doigts
Format CD
Musique concrete, collage of hundreds of sounds, cut -ups sounds like tape manipulations cut and spliced, but who can tell these days. A lot of French spoken word ( he is French), which has a Futurist, Dada poetry feel which chops and jumps in and out of the other recordings these are also mixed with occasional strings, rubbed and hit. Very bold and not afraid to get noisy.

LT Caramel
Methods Of Speech
Format 3"CD
French spoken word, broken down, reconstructed, reversed, layered and effected. Mixed with strings, scratched, rubbed and hit, bits of electronic keyboard really nice electronic sounds. Noises come and go, in places sounds like its been recorded in a canteen, random and segmented. His methods of mixing work really well.


- 1991 - Revue et corrigée - N°4 par jérôme Noetinger

- 1992 - Vital (Hollande)

- 1997 - L'essor Savoyard du 23/01/1997 -
Interview par François Delhuitre

- 1999 - Art TV - Interview par Frédéric Acquaviva - carte blanche

- 2000 - IEM - Moscou - Russie by Dmitry Vasilyev

ou direct Iem

- 2001 -
par Loco Nordin (Suede)
- Pandore
- Hopscotch

par Klimperei (Lyon) : LE ROSTRE
interview direct

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