Album Review: Just Weird Enough — Axel Krygier’s Art-Pop Finds the Fun Spot
Axel Krygier wisely treats the album’s framing concept as lightly as possible, turning Monsieur Bigfoot into a sort of Everyhominid who offers existential-woe comments on a variety of subjects.
by Milo Miles
As with any art form, music’s eccentricity lies along a continuum. Right now, popular tunes hereabout are a shade on the sober-sided part of the spectrum. One reason is the mildly tedious fad for the non-Dylan part of the early-‘60s folk revival, a movement so self-righteous even its jokes tended smug. No question, though, eccentricity is a more unstable, dangerous element than idealism or plain romance. If eccentricity fills an entire recording, you get a documentary of novelty, valuable for historical purposes, perhaps, but never played in the normal course of events. The foundational classic of the modern era is An Evening With Wild Man Fischer (1968). Falling off the opposite side are releases that aren’t as wild and crazy (or entertaining) as they imagine they are. I hear two or three of these every year, so examples unnecessary. No particular musical style or background seems to make for a superior eccentric.
Which is good news for Argentine Axel Krygier since his sonic background is a modern mixed-bag to a fault. The Belgian label Crammed Discs offers a more specific clue because, no matter the style or country their catalog comes from, the material is a bit arty, a bit intellectual, and often with a playful touch. Wouldn’t want to set up permanent residence in Crammed world but every serious music fan should visit sometime.
A fine example of the risky rule regarding eccentric concepts is Krygier’s latest, Hombre de Piedra [“Man of Stone”], which proposes that a Bigfoot, inspired or following in along in some fashion with the famous cave paintings at Lascaux, France, speed-visits and then reacts to every era of humanity from the stone age to the cyber age. This is a framework that risks first twee, then tortured, then toxic. Consider that the only other Krygier recording I have heard, Pesebre (2010) is so insistently odd-sounded, so relentlessly daffy, that I’m afraid it falls into the novelty category. I don’t know when I’ll put it on again.
Krygier wisely treats his Monsieur Bigfoot framing concept as lightly as possible, turning the time-tripping galoot into a sort of Everyhominid who offers existential-woe comments on subjects like alcohol, mosquitoes (on Pesebre, Krygier took up “Cucaracha” – he should be careful, there’s a limit to insect whimsy), time and the earth, peace of mind, and “My Animal Skin.” [See link for lyric translations.] While Bigfoot’s reflections are uniformly droll, they are not incisive or fresh, so Hombre de Piedra does not offer the kind of obscurity that the general pop fans should seek out. But those with a proclivity for the eccentric should tune into this stone man, because Krygier goes beyond mere novelty.
Too many eccentrics equate seductive riffs and passages of simple beauty with aesthetic weakness (or they avoid such material because they have no ability to create it). Even master oddballs like R. Stevie Moore could do with more brainy explorations of the uses of Top 40. Over and over on Hombre de Piedra, pleasure gets to be pleasure. Krygier doesn’t throw in protective quotation marks around the Morricone mix-mash of “Mosquito” and he lets the inside-out soul-horns throw unironic capering into his homage to “Changarin” (“Luggage Boys” – guess this is Bigfoot at the international airport).
Hombre de Piedra is not a cartoony record, or a party soundtrack, or even background music for sophisticate wits. It’s a polka-dot pinwheel of all those things, and there’s very little like it around, no matter what era.
Milo Miles has reviewed world-music and American-roots music for “Fresh Air with Terry Gross” since 1989. He is a former music editor of The Boston Phoenix. Milo is a contributing writer for Rolling Stone magazine, and he also written about music for The Village Voice and The New York Times. His blog about pop culture and more is Miles To Go.