Clair Obscur – All The Madmen Records – 1986

Blume / Zeda / KG / Toundra

Slough Of Despond / Czarin / The Rope / Michel / Ethique

‘The Pilgrims Progress’ was a live recording by French Gothic / industrial performance artistes Clair Obscure, released on All The Madmen records in 1986.

This band were similar musically and attitude wise to the Virgin Prunes with excellent stage sets and peculiar performance styles. On first listen I also noticed a slight nod musically to Chrome from San Francisco.

A short biography written in the text and the performance photograph below are taken from the Clair Obscur website.

The original master 1/4 inch reel is carefully stored here at Penguin Towers!

Clair Obscur was founded in Creil in 1981 by Thierry Damerval (bass), Christophe Demarthe (vocals) and Nicolas Demarthe (guitar). Clair Obscur strived to nurture their musical creativity into atmospheres, rather than just dispel mere melodies.

Their shows mixing music and visual performances were very quickly recognised, and became a reference to both the buying public and the up and coming French independent radio stations.

In 1982 they were invited to play at the Cirque d’Hiver de Paris for the French magazine Actuel which spoke of “young cultured barbarians” and of “rock Artaud”.

The first cassette of Clair Obscur was released the same year. Later re-published on vinyl and on CD, nearly 7000 copies have been sold since then.

In 1983 Clair Obscur were invited to play at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts de Paris as well as to support Killing Joke at Le Palace in Paris. The stage was cluttered with furniture and domestic objects (between the drums and the amplifiers a couple lived their daily life during these performances).

Their first single Santa Maria was released the same year.

In 1984 Clair Obscur published the 12″ single ‘Dansez’ and created a show at the Théâtre du Forum des Halles in Paris. In a hall transformed into a forest the four musicians of the group became actors to tell a social fable, The Pilgrim’s Progress.

The recording of the ‘Pilgrims Progress’ concert was released on the All the Madmen record label in 1986. The album was greeted warmly in the British press by the New Musical Express and by Sounds.

From 1986 on Clair Obscur decided to play more with their audience. Their shows proposed situations which could take place only if the spectators played the game. Thus at La Grange à Musique in Creil a pseudo-TV game took place with real candidates.

The British label Cathexis Recordings published the 12″ single ‘Smurf in the Gulag’ which was a wink at disco music, the genuine industrial music.

Each show of the group had to be a unique event always different from their previous show. Clair Obscur attempted to break the established sketches of the performance.

In October 1986 the Théâtre Déjazet in Paris, an Italian style theatre, became the pretext of a feigned bucolic decorum, featuring a chamber orchestra and replicas of famous impressionist paintings, which happened only to be destroyed immediately after.

This gave birth to the album ‘In Out’ recorded thanks to the French national radio France Culture and released by V.I.S.A. (France) in 1988.

Official Clair Obscur Site

1 comment
  1. RE-mind
    January 8, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this – Clair Obscur are/were a superb band, and I always thought this LP was seriously under-rated. Finally, I can listen to it on my mp3 player – oh frabjous day!

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