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Bernard Bonnier

Bernard Bonnier - Casse-Tete - Musique Concrete

Casse-Tete - Musique Concrete
Amaryllis - 1984

Michael Panontin
Montreal-born composer Bernard Bonnier studied under Pierre Henry, collaborating with the musique-concrete master during the first half of the seventies. On his return to Quebec, Bonnier sequestered himself in the Quebec City suburb of Levis, where he assembled his Amaryllis studio, soaked up the influences of electronic, new wave and dance music, and set about on a musical journey that would culminate in the left-field experiments on the long-forgotten LP Casse-Tete.

Bonnier had already issued a number of singles on the John Oswald-curated CAPAC (Composers, Authors and Publishers Association of Canada Limited) label that were mostly cerebral affairs, featuring sparse electronics of the sterner sort. But on the more whimsical Casse-Tete, Bonnier mixes the high-brow with the low. And though it was for the most part recorded and mixed back in 1979 at Amaryllis, with the added help of Michel Mercier on sundry percussion instruments, the sounds here are musically complex, yet still lithe and danceable, predating even hallmarks like Eno and Byrne's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by a good year or two.

On the playful 'I Can Sing', for instance, Bonnier enhances what would be a fairly simple beat with a cacophony of percussion and a hilariously goofy laugh sample, probably taken from a child's toy. 'Le Grincant Mr. Smile' is more primal, and wouldn't have been out of place on Eno and Byrne's masterpiece. And the disc closes with the 11-minute-plus 'Soldier Boy', nothing more than one simple tape loop of Elvis Presley, manipulated and transformed into pure sonic magic.

Alas, Bonnier died prematurely at age 41, largely unknown and with his records in near total obscurity. But with his grave now kept freshly flowered by the on-line bloggers, Bonnier and his pioneering Casse-tete seem to have secured a place alongside fellow Canuck experimenters Oswald, L'Infonie and Intersystems.

(In 2008 Quebec's Oral label finally issued a CD version of Casse-tete - remastered by his son Ludovic - though outside la belle province, it might be a bit tough to track down.)

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