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Catherine Ribeiro + Alpes
No2 / Ame Debout / Paix Brian Coney , September 21st, 2018 10:41

A long overdue reissue of three albums packed with prog and cosmic ritualism, free jazz and European medieval traditions

Born in Lyon in 1941, the daughter of working class Portuguese parents, Catherine Ribeiro holds unique dominion in both the European avant-garde and in Gallic-leaning psychedelia of the 1970s.

Though she has continued to release music, together with Alpes – a band led by her songwriting partner Patrice Moullet – Ribeiro guided trance and tension to the fringes of darkly netherworlds on three successive albums: No2, Ame Debout and Paix. This long out-of-print trilogy, championed by Kim Gordon among others in recent years, has been reissued by Anthology Recording and reveals a dense nexus linking prog and cosmic ritualism with free jazz and European medieval traditions.

Titled as such to reference their previous guise as the short-lived Catherine Ribeiro + 2 Bis, 1970’s No2 is a fervent, at times remarkable first point of entry. After opening incantation ‘15 Août 1970’ and shivering prog-folk chanson ‘Silen Voy Kathy’ strike an anguished tone, 18-minute centrepiece ‘Poeme Non Equipe’ sees Ribeiro’s sprees double up as a protracted primal scream. Banshee shrieks one moment, sobbing glossolalia the next – it’s a siren call that, dreamt up in the feverish residuum of May 1968, is as much a political decree as it is an unknowable spiritual expulsion.

No2 caught the attention of Philips Records, who signed the group in 1971; their follow-up Ame Debout proved yet more impressive. Peaking on the raga guitar and fast tabla attack of its title track, as well as the minimalist kosmische of the two-part ‘Alpes’, Ribeiro and Alpes run rings around second-guessers listening in. Bleak and beatific, chaotic yet sensual, Ribeiro’s implosions – cast out above Moullet’s shapeshifting avant-folk – make short work of lazy comparisons to Nico in the process (they both started off as underground actresses that would later front bands).

But it’s on 1972’s Paix – the gateway to Ribeiro + Alpes for many – that this long-overdue reissue comes into its own. Alongside Jean-Sebastien Lemoine on bass, Patrice Lemoine on organ and drummer Michel Santangelli, Moullet’s homemade instruments (the cosmophone and percuphone) weave droning, unearthly prog textures around Ribeiro’s range-leaping death throes. As its 25-minute closer ‘Un Jour... La Mort’ simmers out into oblivion, the silence is simply an open invitation to delve deeper.