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Music Review: Aimer et Perdre - To Love and To Lose - Songs, 1917-1934

 aimer et perdre cover
Various Artists
Aimer et Perdre: To Love and To Lose - Songs, 1917-1934
Available now on Tompkins Square (Feb. 14, 2012)

Love is the easiest universal human experience to convey in song, rivaled only by the similarly universal human experience of losing love. That’s not to say it’s “easy” to write a good song about love, but rather that the opportunity for unique and nuanced perspectives are plentiful; a notion that is celebrated on the fantastic 36-song compilation  Aimer et Perdre: To Love & To Lose – Songs, 1917-1934 appropriately released on Valentines Day 2012 on Tompkins Square.

For those who appreciate the preservation of vintage recorded music, this collection is essential. Featuring pre-war Cajun, eastern European, and rural American music carefully selected and remastered by album executive producer Christopher King from his own rare collection of 78s, Aimer et Perdre is a treasure trove of recordings once bound by shellac, now set free by the digital age.


While it would have made sense to clump the “To Love” songs together on one disc and the “To Lose” songs on the other, King was smart to mix them up. The ebb and flow of happy courting tunes, lively wedding dances and mournful laments, match the cycle of love that we as humans seem hardwired to repeat throughout our lives.

Sonically, it’s apparent that these songs were lifted from old shellac, but the hiss and crackles are remarkably overshadowed by the depth of sound King was able to coax from these recordings through remastering. Many of the songs feature multi-piece traditional groups, yet most of the instruments are easy to distinguish from one another. On tunes like “La Valse De La Prison (The Prison Waltz)” by Black Creole musicians Douglas Bellard and Kirby Riley, we’re able to easily discern the dark, rolling rumble of Riley’s accordion behind Bellard’s lively fiddling. And on rollicking Ukrainian dance tunes like “Chernovitzer Bulgar (Dance from Chernovitz),” each transcendent note from Izikel Kramtweiss’s clarinet hardly sounds like it was recorded almost 83 years ago. The point is there are wonderful moments in every one of these songs, and new ones you’ll discover on repeat listens.

In addition to a collection of outstanding music, Aimer et Perdre is also a beautiful physical package, featuring extensive liner notes by King, brief descriptions and lyrics for every song, and three original illustrations by the inimitable Robert Crumb. Thanks to art direction by Susan Archie, it’s a collection you’ll find just as satisfying to look at as listen to.

rayna gutzman
6/22/2012 3:13:21 PM

I have this...it is a startlingly moving and thoughtful collection! The music is great and the presentation and art are out of this world. You won't see these R. Crumb paintings in his book of album covers. It came out right afterwards.