BRIGITTE FONTAINE & ARESKI BELKACEM – “VOUS ET NOUS” (1977)
Brigitte Fontaine and Areski Belkacem’s final release before a retirement that lasted nearly 20 years, ask 1977′s “Vous et Nous” is a remarkable album. A 33-track double album (song lengths range from barely 30 seconds to nearly seven minutes), “Vous et Nous” often sounds like nothing so much as what Stereolab would be doing two decades later. (The members of Stereolab are acknowledged fans of Fontaine, and the band’s lovely “Brigitte” was written in tribute to her in 1995.)
The instrumentation alternates between bleeping synthesizers and rattlingly primitive electronic drums on some songs and acoustic guitars and hand percussion on others. For the first time, Fontaine and Belkacem split the vocal duties about evenly; his gruff, mumbled vocals contrast nicely with her much sweeter tone, and the North African and Eastern European influences he had brought to her previous few albums are much more in evidence here. The two versions of the title track, one with a minimal electronic background and the other featuring the same Balkan-style melody played on authentic instruments, are representative of the two stylistic poles of the album.
Artistically challenging yet surprisingly accessible (at least more so to a contemporary audience than it might have been upon its initial release), “Vous et Nous” is an endlessly fascinating cross-cultural experiment.