Various Artists

Musique du Jouet

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Under this cute little title (which translates to "Toy Music"), the Japanese label Novel Cell Poem**** has gathered previously unreleased tracks by a cross-section of artists whom we could designate non-pejoratively as childish composers. Most of them belong to the Europe-Japan axis, Frank Pahl representing the Americas all by himself (he's a big boy, he can handle it). The common thread between these artists is their frequent use of toys as instruments, be they actual toy instruments, home-built automatons or miscellaneous noise-makers. They also all embrace the child within, so to speak. Some cuts try too hard at sounding cute (Mami Chan's "La Valse Qui S'ennuit," and Dragibus' "A Crocodile in an Aquarium" are examples of this). But overall this is a very fine collection. Each artist gets to stretch over a few tracks. The disc brings forth two esthetic approaches to naive music: the song and the tune. Those like Mami Chan, Harpy, Dragibus, Klimperei and Ammakasie Noka opt for the songs using cheap keyboards and drum machines (or household percussion). Highlights in this group include Mami Chan's hilarious "Donky Hop!," Harpy's "Selfish Moving," and Klimperei's "Soupe de Tortue," the latter being one of their best songs yet. The second group focuses on simple melodies but complex arrangements handled by odd instrumentation that includes harmonium, euphonium, recorder and various toys. These include Pahl, Itoken, Mayunoniwa, David Fenech and Pascal Comelade (the pioneer of them all). Pahl's three contributions showcase his automatons and trusty banjo; while Itoken steals the show with "Energy Ball," essentially a one-man Comelade tune. There are very few weak moments on this album and they go by quickly since most pieces clock in under three minutes. Recommended.

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