Catherine Ribeiro + Alpes

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Catherine Ribeiro + Alpes
Origin France
Genres Psychedelic rock, Avant-garde, Folk rock, Progressive rock
Years active 1968–1981
Labels Philips Records
Fontana Records
Festival Records
Past members Catherine Ribeiro
Patrice Moullet

Catherine Ribeiro (alongside Mama Bea Tekielski and Brigitte Fontaine) is possibly the most unique voice in French rock. Often referred as the French Nico, her Portuguese origins are responsible of the unique character of her voice.

Born in 1941 and raised in a working-class family, she started her career as an actress. Her first appearance was in 1963 Jean-Luc Godard's film "Les Carabiniers" where she met Patrice Moullet (acting the principal role). It was in 1967 that Moullet, then interested in music, proposed to compose music for her poetry. They formed the band 2 BIS (soon to be renamed ALPES) and proved the ideal vehicle for Ribeiro's extraordinary voice, on the seven classic albums they produced together. Ahead of a conventional rock format, their music was a unique amalgam of progressive underground, with vast spacey instrumental passages due to Moullet's home-made instruments (percuphone, cosmophone & orgolia), much improvised weirdness and a strong folk influence.


"About the same time that Brigitte Fontaine started releasing records that combined the tradition French chanteuse style with more radical and progressive music forms, Catherine Ribeiro was going along a similar route though remaining even more obscure internationally than Fontaine. Whereas Fontaine's voice is usually soft and sweet, Ribeiro can sometimes hit more harshly with lower tones, even sounding like Nico with far more emotion, over an experimental backing that can include folk rock, progressive rock, improvisation and more.

Her unique voice certainly hints at her troubled upbringing. Born in 1941 in France to Portuguese immigrants, Ribeiro's early childhood was quite traumatic. With the constant bombs going off from the war, her mother often locked her in the cellar in the dark. Ribeiro's younger brother was half a year old when he suddenly died, and when Ribeiro got older she was often in and out of psychiatric wards. In her early twenties she became an actor, appearing in a 1962 spaghetti western Buffalo Bill and the next year in French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard's Les Carabiniers (aka The Mercenaries or The Soldiers). By the mid 1960s she began taking her singing more seriously and in 1966 she cut two singles for Barclay Records, one of which was a version of Dylan's "It's All Over Baby Blue."

In 1969 Ribeiro had a new band, 2Bis, led by Patrice Moullet, to back her on her first LP, simply titled Catherine Ribeiro + 2 Bis, released on the Festival label. By 1970, on her second LP simply titled No. 2 and also on Festival, 2Bis had become Alpes, the band that would follow Ribeiro on her next several releases. Besides Moullet, who provided guitars, organ, electronics and vocals, Alpes consisted only of Denis Cohen on percussion and organ, though a pair of Portuguese guitarists Pires Moliceiro and Isaac Robles Monteiro were guest musicians on one track on No. 2. On subsequent releases, which came out about one a year on the Philips label, Alpes would often change completely from album to album, with Moullet as the only constant factor. These albums, Ame Debout (Upright Soul), Paix (Peace), Le Rat Debile et l'Homme des Champs (The Weak Rat and the Man of the Fields), and Libertes? are some of Ribeiro's most creative, with the music composed mostly by Moullet.

Even as Ribeiro continued to work with Alpes, she also started doing albums under her name alone where instead of her own material, she paid tribute to older artists. The first of these was the 1977 release Le Blues de Piaf, where she covered songs done by Edith Piaf, followed by the 1978 LP Jacqueries, with works composed by Jacques Prevert and Sebastien Maroto. She also worked with other artists like Peter Gabriel on the 1992 record Soleil Dans l'Ombre (Sun in the Shade). By the early 1980s her output had slowed down a little. In 1999 she wrote a memoir of her early childhood, L'Enfance, published by L'Archipel and she continues to occasionally tour live."

Discography[edit]

Catherine Ribeiro + 2Bis

Catherine Ribeiro + Alpes