Archive for the 'field recording' Category

Renaud Gagneux – Musiques sur la Place

Renaud Gagneux – Musiques sur la Place 7-in front cover
Renaud Gagneux – Musiques sur la Place 7-in back cover
Renaud Gagneux – Musiques sur la Place 7-in side A

Another single in the Sonoriage series on Le Chant Du Monde (see previous post), with the same motto of “Pour une initiation active à l’écoute et à la lecture de la musique d’aujourd’hui née de l’attention à l’environnement sonore quotidien” (or, Introduction to today’s music based on special awareness to everyday sounds).

Renaud Gagneux

♫ This disc is played on one of the best Parisian carillons at Saint Germain L’Auxerois church, near Le Louvre museum – the exact adress is 2 Place du Louvre, hence the title Musiques sur la PlaceRenaud Gagneux (pictured right) is the titular carillonist player there since 1970. The music on this disc integrates environemental sounds like street noises, passers-by, car engines or regular monthly alert sirens, with carillon strokes and carillon music by Gagneux, Louis Couperin and Olivier Bernager. French contemporary music composer Renaud Gagneux, born 1947, studied with Stockhausen, André Jolivet and Olivier Messiaen, among others. In 1970, he became a member of Pierre Mariétan‘s Groupe d’Etude et de Réalisation Musicale (GERM) along Jean-Yves Bosseur, Gérard Frémy and Philippe Drogoz, and in 1972, he integrated Pierre Schaeffer’s INA-GRM institution. In addition to being an educator, Gagneux composes electroacoustic music, string quartets, chamber music and opera.

Musiques Sur La Place, side A (5:50)

  • Cloche à la volée : “Marie” de Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois + ambient sounds
  • Indicatif au carillon automatique + ambient sounds (1:00)
  • Heure au bourdon et alerte
  • Air des moissonneurs (Louis Couperin) + ambient sounds (2:00)

Musiques Sur La Place, side B (4:30)

  • Gamme lente (Olivier Bernager)

Renaud Gagneux, carillon, field recordings

Total time 10:20
7in released by Le Chant Du Monde, France, 1985


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Bill Fontana – Field Recordings of Natural Sounds

Bill Fontana - Field Recordings of Natural Sounds LP front cover
Bill Fontana - Field Recordings of Natural Sounds LP back cover
Bill Fontana - Field Recordings of Natural Sounds LP side A

Just like Bill Fontana‘s sound installations often displaced sounds from one location to an other (like Kirribilli Wharf, 1976 ; Brooklyn Bridge, 1983 ; Golden Gate Bridge, 1987), the recordings on this LP transplant environmental sounds into the listener’s home, thus creating the feeling of estrangement typical from Fontana’s other works.

♫ As opposed to other field recordists like Paul Schwartz, Jean-C. Roché or Boris Nikolayevich Veprintsev, Fontana obviously used a number of microphones and careful studio mixing to achieve a wide soundstage and complex, multilayered soundscapes. As a consequence, in these field recordings, some sounds seem to come from far away yet are heard very clearly – in #2, for instance. Somehow like in Michael Snow’s film La Région Centrale, the spectator is afforded a 360° view of the landscape, as well as an incredible level of details. In this regard, these field recordings sound like no other.

01 The Mating Dance of Sage Grouse near Mammoth Lake California (5:22)
02 Multi-Channel Recording of a Woodpecker and Other Birds on a Lake in the Adirondack Mountains (6:44)
03 Spring Peepers in the Adirondack Mountains (4:30)
04 Birds along a Rivers Edge in a Chaparral South of Monterey (5:23)
05 Birds in a Rainforest in Southeastern Australia (12:30)
06 Waves Breaking on Rocks along the Northeast Australian Coast (8:22)

Total time 42:51
LP released by Sierra Club, San Francisco, CA, 1983


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Bill Fontana discography up to 1983:
1978 Sound Sculpture: Bill Fontana, National Gallery of Victoria, EMI Limited, Melbourne, Australia
1982 Landscape Sculpture With Fog Horns , KQED-FM, San Francisco
1983 Klangsituationen In Berlin (10 Aufnahmen), cassette, Edition Giannozzo, Berlin
Sounds Of The Bay Area, KQED-FM, San Francisco
1983 Field Recordings Of Natural Sounds, Sierra Club, San Francisco

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Pierre Mariétan – Rose des Vents

Pierre Mariétan - Rose des Vents 2xLP front cover
Pierre Mariétan - Rose des Vents 2xLP set
Pierre Mariétan - Rose des Vents side IA
Pierre Mariétan - Rose des Vents side IIB

Composer, sound artist, sound ecologist and theorician Pierre Mariétan was born in Switzerland in 1935. He studied music in Basel’s Musikakademie with P. Boulez and K. Stockhausen (1961-1963) and in Cologne with B.A. Zimmermann (1960-1962) and H. Pousseur (1964-1965) – see Wikipedia article. He relocated to France in 1966 and founded the Groupe d’Etude et Réalisation Musicales (GERM), a group of musicians and composers (including Gérard Frémy and Martine Joste, piano, Philippe Blachette, violin, Philippe Drogoz, double bass, Louis Roquin, trumpet, Chantal Lemaire, cello, Jean-Yves Bosseur, rebab and flute and Bernadette Val, voice) exploring new music tendencies at the intersection of composition and improvisation. In 1970, the BYG Actuel label released an LP of Terry Riley and Mariétan’s music played by GERM members. In 1969, Mariétan became the sound producer of the legendary Atelier de Création Radiophonique founded by Alain Trutat on French national radio France Culture, a program commissioning new, original radio plays or sound documentaries by musicians, writers or composers – in a word, the closest thing France ever came to Hörspiel. In 1979, Mariétan founded the Laboratoire Acoustique et Musique Urbaine (LAMU), a think tank dedicated to the interaction of urban sound environment and architecture. It’s not clear whether he was influenced by Murray Schafer L'Environnement Sonore, 2005or followed a parallel track, but, like Murray Schafer, Mariétan was interested in sound ecology and soundscape and worked for UNESCO on which sounds need to be preserved in our sound environment and which ones could be reduced. Mariétan published several books on the subject, including L’Environement Sonore, published 2005, pictured right.

♫ Rose Des Vents, or compass rose, was commissioned by the French government in 1981 and would take 6 years to complete through various stages. A preliminary version was premiered during a live performance  in 1982 with 8 saxophonists and tape. During the following years, Mariétan gave more and more importance to field recordings and the work became an aural travelogue, “a seven-day musical happening in an urban environment” (PM). In its final version, self released in 1987 with help from GERM members, Rose Des Vents included urban and field recordings, music workshops for children, interviews, animal sounds as well as music recorded in the studio – saxophone and keyboards, mostly. The outdoor recordings come from various small cities around Paris (Cergy-Pontoise, Meaux).

During the 1980s, Pierre Mariétan worked on several projects with children as an educator, materializing in his book “L’enfant à l’écoute de son environnement” (The child’s sound environment). This experience is well reflected in the first part of Rose Des Vents (IA) with lovely, tentative music by children (see listening guide below). But it’s actually the low rumble of a barge’s engine which forms the backbone of IA and IIB. This specific sound functions as a metaphor of power, travel and home living on water, and can brings memories of childhood or tourism. Generally speaking, the sounds chosen by Mariétan for Rose Des Vents have deep psychological roots and the whole sound work is a major achievement in the field of psychoacoustics, comparable only with similar works by Annea Lockwood and Herbert Distel. If you’ve ever wondered what psychoacoustics means, listen to track #4 at around 05:00, a French horn and neighing horse duet. The juxtaposition of these 2 sounds, the proximity with the horse contrasted with the horn in the distance, combine for an overwhelming experience where the smell of the horse is almost tangible (on a good stereo).

01 Rose Des Vents – IA (25:06)
02 Rose Des Vents – IB (23:55)
03 Rose Des Vents – IIA (25:23)
04 Rose Des Vents – IIB (27:25)

Pierre Mariétan, field recordings, montage
Bernard Geyer & Gérard Frémy, piano and synthesizer
Daniel Kientzy, saxophones
Gilles Laujol, sound engineer
GERM, producer

Total time 1h 41mn 49s
2xLP in gatefold, white cover, private release, France, 1987

Download (238 Mb)

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Pierre Mariétan, 1991Sound installation, 2008
Sound installation, 1996Pierre Mariétan with children, 1996

Rose Des Vents – a listening guide

00:00 Children shouting
00:18 Speaker: “Concert d’enfants à La Péniche. Le jour” (Children’s concert on The Barge, day time)
00:30 Children playing various music instruments
01:00 Low rumble of a barge’s engine
05:15 Barge’s engine+saxophone (Daniel Kientzy)
10:20 Barge’s engine+naive electronic loop (Gérard Frémy?)
13:00 Children (?) on metallic percussion and wind instruments
16:00 Speaker: “Approche, écarte” (bring it near, put it away)
17:30 Saxophone duo ends with synthesizer sounds and loop
19:18 Speaker: “Marché aux saxophones” (The saxophone outdoor market)
20:00 Sounds from an outdoor, organic food market
21:05 Discreet saxophone and synthesizer notes in the background
24:37 A vegetable peddler: “On est parti mon kiki dans la patate, là!” (Potatoes, potatoes!)

00:00 Speaker: “Trains et jardin” (Trains and garden)
00:05 Brief saxophone call, then train station environmental sounds
04:04 Speaker: “Jardin et trains” (Garden and trains)
04:40 Soprano saxophone and synthesizer notes with train station environmental sounds
08:00 Speaker: “Carillon des Etaux. Cloches et saxo” (The Etaux carillon. Bells and saxophone)
08:10 Low electronic drones with saxophones
15:00 Quiet saxophone chamber ensemble
16:00 Bird sounds
18:00 Short electronic loop
18:20 Church bell. Bird sounds
19:53 Short electronic loop. Bird sounds
20:30 Speaker: “Lointain et près” (Near and far)
22:50 Bass and soprano saxophone duet

00:00 Speaker: “Octave et trains” (Octave with trains)
00:05 Saxophone playing octaves
02:40 Speaker: “Carillon de la Gare. Cergy-Pontoise” (The train station’s carillon in Cergy-Pontoise)
02:45 Train station environmental sounds with carillon
05;00 Train station environmental sounds with low electronic drone.
06:40 Train station environmental sounds with short synthesizer melody
07:00 Train station environmental sounds with various electronic loops
10:28 Speaker: “Extraits de La Rose. Approche. Pièces 1 à 12. Marche” (Excerpts from The Rose. Approach. Part #1-12. March)
10:36 Twelve piano+saxophone duets, with occasional synthesizer or basic sound treatment, like re-recording or speed modification
24:50 Bell sounds

00:00 Speaker: “Chevaux. Echo” (Horses. Echo)
00:10 Horse paddock environmental sounds
04:55 French horn+neighing horse duet
06:25 Speaker: “Matin. Midi. Soir” (Morning. Noon. Evening)
06:35 Bird sounds
08:47 Interview with local elder from the city of Meaux, near Paris, about an old radar and sound environment in general
12:00 Bird sounds with distant planes
13:00 Powerful, static electronic drone slowly growing
15:40 French horn. Street recordings and conversations
17:50 Speaker: “Péniche la nuit. Ecoute” (A barge at night. Listen)
18:00 Low rumble of the barge’s engine. Water sounds
19:00 Engine sounds growing in intensity. Loudest sound so far
22:20 Engine sound ends. Water sounds from a canal lock or bridge
23:45 Harmonium notes
24:00 Water sounds slowly decreasing

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Boris Veprintsev ‘Oiseaux des Plaines Russes’ [Birds of the Russian Plain]

Boris Veprintsev LP front cover
Boris Veprintsev LP back cover
Boris Veprintsev LP side A
Boris Veprintsev in the field

A cryogenics and nerve cells specialist, Russian biophysicist Boris Nikolayevich Veprintsev (1928-1990) started recording Soviet birds on homemade equipment in 1957 while studying at Moscow University, undertaking annual birding expeditions throughout the country, a habit he kept almost until his death. Veprintsev collected thousand recordings documenting the Soviet avifauna as well as mammals, fishes, amphibians and insects of the East European Plain region, including rare and now extinct species. His first LP, Morning in the Forest, was published in 1960, with the approval of Khrushchev himself, though Veprintsev’s family had been harassed by the Soviet regime, and Boris’ father sent to the gulag in the 1940s. Veprintsev subsequently published as many as 28 LPs (according to this source), amounting to over 500 bird voices. He founded the Soviet Archive of Wildlife Sounds of the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1973, located in Puschino-on-Oka, 120 km south of Moscow, where Veprintsev worked as head of the Academy’s Laboratory of Biophysics of nerve cells from 1966.

Melodiya LP box setMelodiya LP box setMelodiya LP box setMelodiya LP box set

This French LP from the Le Chant du Monde label is meant as an introduction to Veprintsev’s recorded legacy, though it is not clear if this is from one original Melodiya LP or culled from Veprintsev’s archives. The liner notes, obviously by Veprintsev himself, describe with great details the location of the recordings in the Russian Plain area: the Ryazan district, the Oka, Pra and Syr Darya rivers, the Meshchera lowlands, towns of Pereiaslav and Spasskoye-Lutovinov. Mostly recorded during yearly floods of the aforementionned rivers, when the entire land is submerged and bird cries resonate miles around, these aural documents have a unique sound quality, unknown from, say, British and French bird recordings conducted in dense bushes among impenetrable thickets of vegetation – i.e.: non-resonant. Some of the birds recorded here seem like giant creatures, larger than they actually are, thanks to a wide scenic panorama.

  1. Rook – Corbeau Freux (Corvus frugilegus) 2:12
  2. European Robin – Rouge-gorge (Erithacus rubecula) 4:17
  3. Song Thrush – Grive musicienne (Turdus philomelos) 4:29
  4. Chaffinch – Pinson des Arbres (Fringilla coelebs) 3:18
  5. Eurasian Crane – Grue Cendrée (Grus grus) 3:08
  6. Common Snipe – Bécassine des Marais et al (Gallinago gallinago) 3:41
  7. Grey Heron – Héron Cendré (Ardea cinerea) 2:33
  8. Northern Lapwing – Vanneau Huppé (Vanellus vanellus) 4:58
  9. Wood Warbler – Pouillot Siffleur (Phylloscopus sibilatrix) 3:01
  10. Chiffchaff – Pouillot Véloce (Phylloscopus collybita) 1:37
  11. Thrush Nightingale – Rossignol Progné (Luscinia luscinia) 5:18
  12. Mistle Thrush – Grive Draine (Turdus viscivorus) 4:24

Total time 42:55
LP released by Le Chant du Monde, France, 1982


B.N. Veprintsev discography (tbc):
1960 Morning in the Forest, LP, Melodiya
1966 Voices of Birds in the Nature, 5xLP, Melodiya
1980 Voices of Birds in the nature. vol. 2 (rec. 1960), Melodiya
1982 Birds of the Soviet Union: A Sound Guide, 3xLP,  Melodiya
1987 Birds of the Soviet Union: A Sound Guide, 7xLP, Melodiya

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Spiral #9 – January 1990

Spiral #9
Spiral #9
Spiral #9

The previous Spiral episode I posted was terrible and this one is also rather tiresome, at least for the main interview. But there is hope: the second track on Spiral #9 is a fine field recording of barking dog packs in a small Italian city, presumably recorded when Willem De Ridder was living in Italy in 1979. It seems it was recorded from a hill atop Genzano Di Roma, for it remarkably sounds like a panorama of various dogs scattered across the city. I added one of these covers from the Discogs Spiral pages, as they look rather different from the ones I use. I wonder if there was several issues for each tapes, or maybe different ones for the US and Europe. Thanks to anonymous reader for the rip.

01 George – interview with Willem de Ridder (73:38)
02 Genzano Di Roma, Italy field recording (17:05)

Total time 90mns
Cassette released by Spiral Information Service, Amsterdam, 1990


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Knud Viktor ‘Images’

Knud Viktor 'Images' LP front cover
Knud Viktor 'Images' LP back cover
'Images' side B

Born 1924 in Copenhagen, painter, photographer and film maker Viktor Knud relocated to Southern France around 1965 and has since lived in Cheval Blanc, near Gorges du Régalon (the Lubéron area in Vaucluse – see googlemap). He started recording insects and minute sound phenomenons in the early 1970s, equipped with self-build microphones, in a way and with an approach that was close to today’s field recordists. While still connected to Musique Concrète during the 1970s, his sound work slowly moved to (almost) un-processed field recordings and close-miking technique, culminating in a series of emblematic recordings: a spider weaving its web, a woodworm, ants hitting the ground with their abdomen, etc.

In the area where he lived in the 1970s, Knud Viktor (his artist name) met several kindred souls, like French legendary ornithologist and bird-recordist Jean-Claude Roché (artist name: Jean C. Roché). A friend of Knud, for whose first LP he wrote liner notes, Roché lived nearby in Aubenas-Les-Alpes. In 1972 (the year Images was released), Roché was himself in South America’s Amazon region, recording his breathtaking ‘Oiseaux du Vénézuela’ LP for Edwards Records – see here. Between 1964 and 1966, Roché had self-released the 27 volumes of his monumental French Birds Guide on 7” records. Coincidentally, Roché was also a photographer, especially found of macro-photography. The little village of Aubenas-Les-Alpes was also the home of French raconteur Jacques Coutureau, founder of Le Grand Magic Circus in 1968. In 1977, he published the La Forêt des Heures solo LP on L’Oiseau Musicien label and in 1979, he released an LP with Crystal Baschet accompaniment titled L’oiseau qui faisait du lait – see Discogs. There is little doubt Knud found the local L’Oiseau Musicien label and studios (also from Vaucluse area) through Jean C. Roché. During the 1970s, the label  released folk and jazz, but was close to local environmentalists like the above-mentioned Roché and Coutureau. L’Oiseau Musicien released the two Knud Viktor LPs in 1972, the first being Images (KV01), the second Ambiances (KV02).

What makes this album so special, then? First, it goes back to the very roots of Musique Concrète as defined by Pierre Schaeffer: a unique sound source, vari-speed technique, textures in counterpoint, immense care to pitch and rhythm. Knud Viktor adds an autobiographical dimension to the formula, using sounds he recorded himself after personal involvement and hunting in his own environment, recording insects and water sounds at hand. The music becomes an audio diary as well as a personal reenactment of the act of listening, as experienced on location, what Knud Viktor calls ‘Images Sonores’, as opposed to music, or Musique concrète, for that matter. Both music and track titles on Images are inspired by Claude Debussy‘s own obsession with water and outdoor games. Tracks #1 to 4 use water drops as unique sound source, while #5 and 6 are based on cicadas, fly and vocal recordings. Track #3, Images 1c, for instance, examines and magnifies the elasticity of a water drop, playing with the infinite variations, rebounds and possibilities of a unique sound sample. Track #4, Images 3, is a study in rhythm from a simple water drop. The last track, Jeu 1, is a powerful mix of a fly trapped in a container, percussion sounds and treated vocals, reminiscent of the François Bayle and Robert Wyatt collaboration titled It, in 1971.

Knud Viktor – Images (or Images et Jeux):

01 Images 1a (3:01)
02 Images 1b (3:00)
03 Images 1c (3:36)
04 Images 3 (8:21)
05 Images 2 (10:34)
06 Jeu 1 (4:10)

Total time 32:40
LP released by L’Oiseau Musicien, KV01, France, 1972

Download [NEW LINK as of July 2011]

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Henrik Håkansson ‘Dusk b/w Dawn’

The Dusk/Dawn 12in e.p. was released by Swedish contemporary artist Henrik Håkansson (born 1968, Helsinborg) for the Utopia Station exhibition at the 2003 Venice Biennale, curated by Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Molly Nesbit and Rirkrit Tiravanija. The record is based on field recordings made in Sweden forests between 2001 and 2003, in line with the artist’s concept of bringing nature into the art gallery. Other Håkansson projects have included exhibiting tropical forest trees and plants in art galleries (see here), organizing a 1,000 crickets-concert in Japan during The Monsters of Rock Tour, Tokyo, 1999 and recording endangered species like Mexico’s Quetzal bird, Mexico, 2008. As far as field recordings goes, ‘Dusk/Dawn’ is a strange affair, as Håkansson is no environmentalist documenting one location’s sound world, like the World Soundscape Project would do, for instance. Instead, several outdoor recordings are piled up to build a dense, busy sound world full of birds of various species, including geese. In addition, some bird songs are slowed down and/or sampled to appear in a disembodied voice. Though what we hear is based on natural recordings, the result seems an unsettling artifact, like background sounds in Second Life. Maybe this is what the artist means when he says: ‘This record is a comment on the state of the environment’.

01 Dusk (14:00)
02 Dawn (13:37)

Total time 27:37
12” released by A Better Tomorrow Records, (Italy?), 2003


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Alfred 23 Harth ‘Sweet Paris’

Alfred 23 Harth 'Sweet Paris' CD front coverPhoto from liner notes'Sweet Paris' CD tray card
Wolf Pehlke

In 1990, German painter and poet from Karlsruhe Wolf Pehlke (born 1955) was living in Paris, Boulevard Diderot in the 11th Arrondissement, from where he sent numerous letters to saxophonist Alfred 23 Harth (born 1949) in Frankfurt, Germany, himself a frequent visitor in Paris. The letters describe the city’s idiosyncrasies, the peculiarities of its inhabitants and Pehlke’s own emotional reaction to Paris. They include factual observations and descriptions, drawings, philosophical concepts, personal memories and Marxist/Anarchist point of views (e.g.: ‘The Metro is the only true Socialist working class Anarchy theater of the world’, tr.#1 Pyramides). All the letters were collected in a book+CD titled ‘Sweet Paris’ (apparently as a joint release between publisher Dirk Herbert Erschienen and FFM Production in 1991 ; later reissued by Engstler, Ostheim/Rhön, 2005, and by Peter Engstler Verlag, 2006).

Setting a selection of these letters to music, Alfred 23 Harth created a large text-sound composition mirroring the letters multifaceted inspiration – past and present, French and German, matter-of-fact and exalted. In this complex sound-diary of sorts, tracks are named after Paris Métro stations and reflects Harth’s own psychogeography of the town. The basic sound material was recorded in Paris and Frankfurt-am-Main in 1990, with texts read by Rebecca Pauli and Peter Bauer, and includes field recordings, interviews with passersby, collage, musique concrète, Harth’s own archive recordings on cassette (including ‘Melancholy blues’, a 1965 Dixieland jazz on tr.#13), etc. Almost an electroacoustic composition, thanks to location recordings and sound collage, Sweet Paris is remarkably close to French avantgarde composer Hélène Sage’s Supposons Le Problème Résolu LP and Place de la Bastille, or Luc Ferrari’s Musique Anecdotique concept, but also from Goebbels/Harth’s legendary Berlin, Q-Damm 12.4.81. Texts and speeches are either in German, English or French, but cross-reading is also used where an English- or French-speaking reader will bravely read through a German text.

In addition to Harth’s varied instrumentation (saxophone, clarinet, Korg synth, sampler, etc), a number of guests add up to the variety of the disc, including bands Populäre Mechanik [+], Gestalt & Jive (A23H w/ Uwe Schmitt, Steve Beresford, Ferdinand Richard) or LA Guardia (A23H w/ Stephan Wittwer, Lars Rudolph, Wietn Wito) ; as well as Nicole and Jean Van den Plas, Peter Kowald, Paul Lovens, Christoph Anders, Winfried Szameitat, Bernd Otto. With its use of multiple sound sources and languages, Sweet Paris draws a parallel between Alfred 23 Harth’s on wanderings during the 1980s-90s, and his multifarious music projects.

Alfred 23 Harth ‘Sweet Paris’

01 Pyramides (13:19)
02 Stille Bars/La Chapelle (2:53)
03 Unberührbarkeit & Vergewaltigung (2:06)
04 Oberkampf (4:24)
05 Stalingrad (3:06)
06 Parrhesia (4:45)
07 Des Fêtes (5:26)
08 Champ-de-Mars (5:08)
09 Crimée Rome (3:07)
10 Mairie des Lilas (3:20)
11 De St. Cloud/Café Montmartre (6:43)
12 Dauphine (3:46)
13 Melancholy Blues/Invalides (6:20)
14 Sweet & Bitter Little Death (2:08)

Total time 66:29
CD released by Free Flow Music Production, ffm0291, Germany, 1991

Download (Link removed, complaint received)

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