Catherine Ribeiro + Alpes, Paix (Phillips, 1974)

Catherine Ribeiro and Alpes, Paix

Catherine Ribeiro’s stunning vocal
delivery was matched with Alpes leader Patrice Moullet’s innovative rural
psych compositions on several albums to fantastic results, but none hit the
same level of intensity and integration as Paix.

While they pioneered several genres in the early seventies, from rural
psychedelia to prog rock and the spacey ether in between, they combine
these elements flawlessly on this record with some hints of burgeoning
genres, such as space rock, chamber pop and even punk (the "punk" aspect
being Ribeiro’s unforgiving vocal deliveries in part).

The album starts with two shorter songs, the first being an almost cheesy
number that dates itself to that period, though its spiraling loops and
ecstatic tone give the country/acid-fried pastoral jam a light and
enjoyable summery tone to start things off. The second song is simple
beauty, acoustic riffing, vocal lines harmonizing with an organ in an
almost "dream pop" type number. The next two songs start to push the limits
of space, with longer and slower builds and intricately woven melodies
under highly conceptual stories of the balance between life and death.

The album’s namesake, "Paix", begins with some droning space and driving
percussion, before chaotic soloing comes into the mix. It swirls and
breathes under Ribeiro’s spoken word, building upon layer of layer of
carefully crafted instrumental loops, slightly playing off the theme at all
the right moments before Ribeiro launches into her declarations for peace,
her voice achingly and frustratingly screaming out the hopes of a
generation whose revolution was ending soon. The swirling instruments gain
focus and steam, ending in a cathartic breakdown that is parts progressive
psychedelia, parts revolutionary punk ethos and by all accounts genuine and

The final song is a story of Ribeiro’s dance with Lady Death. By all
accounts this song is the longest (though it is tiered), most cosmic and
conceptual. Under an ephemeral soundscape delay effected guitar lines belt
out in a dark and brooding atmosphere. Any of the "sun-kissed" hippydom
that existed earlier on is gone. Ribeiro begins with the details of meeting
Death. Thick bass lines start to come in as they begin their descent/ascent
to the other side, with the primal screams and loud singing of Ribeiro
decrying her realization that death is no different than life. All the doom
and gloom begins to wash away as an intensely layered percussive background
mingling with dense finger picking and microtonal piano lines, Ribeiro’s
voice becoming hoarse as it joins the escalation and repetition of the
music. It all ends in a cathartic and triumphant declaration that neither
life nor death is as bad as one might think.

This album remains hard to pin down as it was clearly a product of it’s
time, but way ahead of it’s time. It is extremely progressive in all
aspects of the word and because of such it does not neatly fit into any
specific genre nor is it easily comparable to any other album. It is at
times a relaxing jaunt, others an impassioned cry and in the end an amazing
exploration and affirmation of what it means to be human.

-Hermione Marquis


the mosesman said…
this is an absolutely classic album. I dont know anyone who had ever heard of her until this year. She is astounding.
good blog you got here.
Lope de Aguirre said…
Absolutely brilliant. Didn't know it existed. Thanks a lot. Rural psych - great label for this music :)

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