20 Nov 2017

Claude Lombard - Chante

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Claude Lombard's reasonably obscure 1969 debut "Chante" has recently been reissued on vinyl and CD by Guerrsen's offshoot Sommor label. While the sheer number of titles that Guerssen releases makes it impossible for all but the most dedicated listener to keep up with them, the occasional release like this and Cozmic Corridors which we've focused on here at the Active Listener must make it clear that the label are providing a considerable service for the discerning listener by bringing to light some of the most fascinating and worthwhile obscurities that I've had the pleasure to hear in recent times.

Belgian chanteuse Claude Lombard had represented Belgium in the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest and would go on to record tunes for kid's cartoon television shows, so the content of "Chante" is something of a surprise.

Lombard effectively invents Broadcast, and to a lesser extent Stereolab on "Chante", and a lot of the credit for this must go to producer Roland Kluger (Chakachas, Free Pop Electronic Concept...), and arranger Willy Albymoor who have created an envelope pushing masterpiece here that embraces chanson, psychedelia, avant-garde and pure space-age pop in a way that confused listeners in 1969 but sounds like a delightfully nostalgic view of the future now.

The theremin-like sounds of the ondes Martenots features predominantly here as do chimes, David Axelrod style bass guitar leads and adventurous orchestral flourishes. And the end result sounds very much like Broadcast's "Work and Non Work" which would appear 28 years later.

Highlights are plentiful, but the delightfully breezy, almost tropicalia "La Coupe" must be very near the top of the list with its spacey keys and swooping ondes Martenots. "Sleep Well" (below) meanwhile is a gorgeous, lysergic dream sequence of a song delivered by Lombard with the perfect balance of melancholy and detachment.
It's not all delivered on dreamy, wistful pillows of sound though; "L'usine" is significantly busier with a much more progressive approach, perfectly complimented by Lombard's increasingly avant garde shrieks.

A groundbreaking classic that deserves to be heard by a much wider audience, and the significantly long shadow of Broadcast's influence on current bands shows that there is a huge audience just waiting to discover "Chante".

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