Francois De Roubaix & Bernard Maitre – Les Onix: Enregistrements Meconnus Pour Marionnettes: Theatre Et Television 1972-1976 (WéMè, May 2016)

I hope I’m not the only one that’s been progressively falling in love with Francois De Roubaix’s astonishingly heterogenous production via WéMè’s reissues – last year’s Commissaire Moulin Et Autres Scènes De Crimes is a must. If you are too, and you have a penchant for children’s TV music, then make sure you give this latest WéMè edition a good, hard listen. I say this as it would be easy to class this collection of ‘unknown recordings for puppets’ as a novelty record, but underneath lies something else, and something more. Yes it’s children’s tunes for TV and theatre; short bites and pieces of mostly manic, unhinged stuff. A lot of it is quite far in tone from that lovely “Le Labyrinthe Des Onix” theme WéMè put out earlier this year, replete with a majestic Jodey Kendrick remix. Yet listen hard and you’ll find thoughtfully playful musique concrète that delivers a rare balance of expertise and light-hearted eccentricity.

Listening to the collection you have to wonder what on earth these kids were watching. In this 23-track anthology there are talking springs, ‘monster generators’, fanfares on speed, whole sequences that feel like syncopated, upside-down merry-go-rounds, a plenitude of groans, squeaks, distorted voices, irregulars drums, echoed recorders and intensely high-pitched synths. And then there’s the odd car-chase melody, industrial clangs, foley sound – footsteps, machinery being wound up, cars and cackles – and the odd Morricone-style countryside waltz. Tracking down the images to these compositions is tricky, but a record like this makes me think of the importance of what you hear as a child, how it shapes your taste, your ears and your mind. Remember parents, the kids shows of today are the techno of tomorrow.

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