Catherine Ribeiro+Alpes—
Theme En Bref/Silen Voy Kathy

Released 1970 on Festival
The Seth Man, December 2008ce
Neither side of this record sounds like a typical single, even for 1970. How they lodged this much excellent psychosis onto a 2-song 45 (and their debut disc at that) eternally buoys my spirit and kicks my ass. The A-side sounds like a B-side (instrumental in the main) while the B-side is a seven-minute liturgical cry from the abyss more suited as an album track -- which it soon would be on Catherine Ribeiro+Alpes first album, “No. 2” (The title referencing a 1969 album for Festival that Ribeiro and husband Patrice Moullet had recorded within the short-live quintet, 2 Bis.)

The A-side, “Theme En Bref” was not only unique to this single alone but was also unlike anything Catherine Ribeiro+Alpes would release, ever. Written by Patrice Moullet and featuring his electric lyre switching between staccato thrumming to surf picking that ease thru the rhythm, Ribeiro discharges extensive wordless vocalisations while Denis Cohen consistently hammers the drum kit in strong and steaming pre-punk motion. “Theme En Bref” is like a more regimented “Kanaan”-era Amon Düül 2 shaved down to a trio while free-falling into a half-forgotten dream-zone of interpretive surf music via a future 1978 bass-less PIL single that nearly-almost-could’ve-been-only-it-didn’t. With a steady pogo-ing snare/hi-hatting beat segueing into a repetitive strain of surf riffing on electric lyre, Ribeiro’s vocals are neither reverential pleas or focused diatribes but a scatted-up, super-simplistic storm of “Da de dum da de dum, dum dum dum, deh dum deh dum dum, dum deh dum” as if hopping on one foot then the other along with the melody. With the e-lyre melody still in process, she halts to issue forth a prolonged scream-unto-strangulation that signals a break out for Moullet’s electric lyre to switch to choppy, psychedelic surf riffs that unfurl all around the doubled up, clattering drums. All fades. Then it all starts all over again from the top, repeats once more and...End of A-side.

At two minutes, “Theme En Bref” is as brief as “Silen Voy Kathy,” the opposing side, is not. A different version of the seven minute odyssey that would wind up on their subsequent debut album, “No. 2,” it’s far more stripped down while retaining a similar duration. Unlike the LP version, it features no background organ and has full drumming for most of the time instead of kettledrums applied to the crescendos alone. As on the forthcoming album version, Moullet’s bowed electric lyre (or ‘cosmophone’ as he so dubbed this instrument of his own creation) is as prominently featured as Page’s quiet bowing of guitar on “Dazed and Confused” live and is every bit the ‘needling drama’ it would be on the LP version. The lament of fado, the protest of folk and the power of Rock all entwine here in a stoic place seeping with immense yearning. Gently opening and closing in a triptych of vocalisations in the gathering gloom of some remote nighttime location, “Silen Voy Kathy” is overhung with Moullet’s electric lyre strumming glimmering like flickering filaments in the darkened background, their glow intensifying with Ribeiro’s vocalisations which clamber through shrouding mists of dizzying heights, their every step as resolute and firm as the terrain they tread upon is uncertain and crumbling. Billowing cymbals part for heart-beating tom-tom patterns as Moullet picks out chiming strands on e-lyre as Ribeiro’s voice wails upwards further and further until crashing down in a descending crescendo of ten feet tall granite slabs masquerading as music. Three times the song slowly dilates from a subdued somberness out into a gradually elevating imbroglio of bellowing, sweeping electric lyre, persistent drums and three times it closes like a repentant curtain of silence. Three times the Sisyphusian trudge uphill and subsequent spiral downwards. Three people did this single, and I often wonder how.