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

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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.

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