Ghédalia Tazartes traces his roots to North African Sephardic tradition. His recordings exemplify the most prosperous marriage ever of ethnic vocalizing and imaginative electronic collage. Tazartes’ strength lies in his dynamic, rhythmic and harmonic restraint. The element of surprise, while ubiquitous, does not rely on the shock of opposites. Rather, his compositions flow naturally, always apportioning tasty ingredients, but in an organic, gradualist fashion.
His activity now spans three decades, yet his music is hors temps. Over the years, his bequest has graced many visual performances, but has stood on its own among the most accomplished French creations. From emotional psalms to shamanic hymns, Tazartes vocal eclecticism makes his art unclassifiable and distant from the electro-acoustic orthodoxy in his country.
His recording output dried out in the 1990s and many feared that the legend had been silenced forever. It is, therefore, with great expectations that fans of sonic asymmetry hail his return to a more prolific form.
The recording does not “open”, but breaks through the wall, imploding and rapidly mutating into old man’s lament. Increasingly discernible and sometimes nasal, the sorrowful voice will be accompanied by a piano abandoned on the desert hill.
Change of scenery. We are in a deep tropical valley as depicted earlier Jorge Reyes’s electronic landscapes. Tazartes’ art is less linear, though, with multiple harmonies emanating from a ringing synthesizer and interrupted by a crashing guitar feedback. The static spectacle is further enriched by hollow, impersonal voices flattened through the phone lines.
An apocalyptic moan, most probably in Hebrew, emerges from a cocoon of barely audible synthesized strings and subtle bass drone. We are close to post-“Imperium” era Current 93, but when Tazartes falls into the title Hysteria, the effect is less exaggerated than in David Tibet’s case.
A stylistic mystery tour, mountain calls from the Caucasus, stern Coptic choirs, plaintive Arabian voices – all masterfully cohesive in this short sample of Tazartes’ mixing genius.
Electronic whispers, slothful electric bass, sinusoidal harmonics and dovish sobbing all return in loops of various lengths. The nocturnal quality of this fragment relies on the changing piano-forte combination of these four elements.
Scraps of acoustic guitar tuned similarly to Haino’s Black Blues give way to a love poem recited with a falsely foreign accent. The poet forsakenly expresses his love for a ‘little French girl’. When several violin notes intervene, the text begins to alternate credibly between English and French.
A sharp electric guitar loop cuts through the previous track’s poem. Without the sudden ruptures, this would be a blues. But again, unruly children’s voices, weather events and lost chamber quartets distract the listener.
“Yes – this is a Love Song”, an old man’s voice announces. Self-ironic and very carnal song, indeed, follows. There is a marked contrast between the accompaniment by a congenial bowed acoustic bass, and the singer’s drunken, limping snort.
After these short vignettes, the longest track on the CD unfolds with cinematic strings, oppressive seagulls and majestic ship horns. By the time we visualize a Titanic or Lusitania tragedy, a parody of jazz scat explodes, as if filtered through a long tube. Sustained echoes from Deep Listening tradition, electronic clicks, and finally an uncertain melody all posture in front of the cinematic theme. Tazartes sounds here like an adult impersonating a naughty kid, but not without some humorous twists. The blues guitar loops back in, briefly echoing an earlier passage in a structural formation reminding of 1970s progressive suites. It then becomes the main focus; harder, and as decisive as Albert Collins’s. The last two minutes are sent to us from another world: a falsely demure Japanese girl (Yumi Nara), a choking wah-wah guitar, an opera mezzosoprano and crashing drums.
To the accompaniment of two guitars – acoustic and wah-wah, Tazartes sings out his regret of not being a Spanish nobleman. His characteristic, weeping manner, never breaks into self-parody.
The title is a misnomer for a heavy guitar cum strings fresco carried over by angelic voices. Tonality is shaky. Half-uttered morphemes and electronically edited percussion reinforce the increasingly staccato guitar and it’s a relief when the fuzz ebbs away. Still, the strings will not reign on their own. The guitar hits back and the string section becomes more articulate, pushing the track to another level of intensity. Ultimately, the kettle drum adopts a function of a belated referee.
A frightening virago takes it out on her entourage just as a southern comfort guitar relaxes with calculated indifference. It is up to the listener to infer the meaning… Familiar howling will close this chapter.
Every Tazartes’ recording is highly recommended. Nevertheless, his music requires an open mind. Electro-acoustic hardliners will frown on his vocal verbosity and experimental rock fans may struggle with the more esoteric moments. He remains an island on his own.
Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Diasporas” (1980)
Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Transports” (1981)
Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Transports EP” (1981)
Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Une eclipse totale du soleil” (1983)
Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Tazartes” (1987)
Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Check Point Charlie” (1989)
Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Voyage à l’ombre” (1997)
Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Les danseurs de la pluie” (1977, 2005)
Ghédalia TAZARTES: “5 Rimbaud 1 Verlaine” (2006)
Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Jeanne” (2007)
Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Hystérie Off Music” (2007)