L'Ensemble Rayé

Ein Fest für Pu den Bären

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This CD might be a little disconcerting for the avant-leaning music fan who, while recognizing L'Ensemble Rayé's light, quirky, and breezy qualities, might still have thought of the group as playing music primarily for adults. After all, several members of the Swiss avant folk-jazz outfit began in the Rock in Opposition-influenced Débile Menthol, whose 1982 album, Emile au Jardin Patrologique, was the first release on the Zurich-based RecRec imprint, an affiliate of Chris Cutler's Recommended Records. Then 1999 rolls around, and a few of these same musicians can be heard reveling in the innocence of early childhood by performing music with a Winnie the Pooh theme. It's a little like showing up at a Fred Frith concert and watching him step out of a full-body suit midway through the show, revealing that he's actually been Barney all along. Ein Fest für Pu den Bären is really a throwback of sorts to the first two L'Ensemble Rayé albums, featuring considerable multi-tracking and a revolving cast of characters from tune to tune, rather than the five-piece band recorded live in the studio for 1996's En Frac! The engaging melodies, ingenious arrangements, and odd sonic embellishments are all pure L'Ensemble Rayé, as is the musical blend touching upon brass band, Gypsy, ska, and European folk styles. Sophisticated adults might not want to pick this CD as cocktail party background music, and anybody over the age of five would likely skip over a singsongy tune like "Pu und Einige Bienen," which is obviously aimed exclusively toward the kiddies. But aside from a few overly cutesy tunes scattered through its 17 tracks, this disc should appeal to L'Ensemble Rayé fans of any age. And it's certainly not a bad way to introduce the young'uns to some tremendous musicians with roots in the RIO school. Get them started listening to this and, who knows, can Fred Frith be far behind?

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