: PIERRE BASTIEN - MECANOID :Like an alternative soundtrack to Jeunet & Caro's City Of Lost Children, composed by Raymond Scott for instruments designed by Hube Goldberg, Pierre Bastien's Mecanoid is a surreal, cartoon-like collection of frayed, looping laments played on organ, bala, tama, prepared trumpet, sanzas, kerar, godje and bass, accompanied by Bastien's self-built robots - themselves playing castanets, marimba, piano, records and a further assortment of oddities.
In tone, it's an odd release for Rephlex, more Tom Waits than Hailway Haver, but Bastien's reliance on mechanised processes - specifically, contraptions built from Meccano toys and designed to play rudimentary loops on arcane instruments or jerry-rigged turntables - places it squarely within the label's terrain of machine art, going so far as to draw links between computer music, the noisemaking contraptions of outsider artists like Tom Ze, and even post-Futurist fantasies of automaton orchestras.
Bastien does not make purely automated art. Building his loops with a robotic rhythm section, he adds additional melodies, basslines and tone colour afterwards. The sleevenotes, for instance, note those parts played by his Meccano musicians, but the majority of the instruments are handled manually. This has the inadvertent result of throwing a wrench in the conceptual works. There's a certain letdown in realising that the homemade toy robots only account for a small fraction of the ultimate musicality of the album. But this shouldn't detract from a remarkable work of dusty, oily charm, of off-kilter loops, wheezing bellows and herky-jerky movements. In an age of Max patches and ever higher levels of abstraction, Bastien's compositions come off like Modern Times for postmodern times, capable of turning an off-key funeral march into a bumper car collision of gizmos - poignant, hilarious and ingenious.
REPHLEX CAT119CD / BY PHILIP SHERBURNE
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