Perhaps the most frightening album ever released, Horrific Child‘s “L’Étrange Monsieur Whinster” is a 1976 offering by Frenchman Jean-Pierre Massiera.
Massiera had previously been behind Les Maledictus Sound, a 1968 project that offered more than the odd suggestion that the culminations of his experimentations with sound would lead somewhere suitably disturbing. Massiera spent most of his childhood in Argentina and when he returned to France aged 14, he had listened to the music of both Native Indians and gauchos, both being an influence of his own work, their rhythmic chanting and primal tones easy to detect.
The early sixties saw Massiera experimenting with the psychedelic sounds of the period, playing guitar in the splendidly named Milords (a rather more spacey-sounding Shadows) and later The Monegasque, who used influences from horror films in their tunes and sound like the creepier end of The Sonics.
By the release of Les Maledictus Sound, Massiera was experimenting with soundscapes, using screams, abstract beats and more straightforward instrumentation to create undefinable tracts of sound and volume to entrance the listener. The stand-out track is “Kriminal Theme”, a thoroughly alarmingly yet thrilling broth of groovy beats, Zappa-like horns and blood-curdling screams. Elsewhere “Inside My Brain” marries fuzztone guitar with imaginary TV detective themes whilst “Transfer From The Modulation” sounds like German sexploitation themester, Gert Wilden, being played at the wrong speed with the wrong instruments. Naturally, it sold very little and has only very recently been seized upon as the minor- masterpiece it is, particularly in Britain.
And so to “L’Étrange Monsieur Whinster”. The surrealistic cover suggests what treasures are to be hidden within the grooves, a fish head atop King Philip II of Spain’s body, surrounded by snakes, bats, skulls and eyeballs. The album opens with initially barely perceptible heavy breathing, before launching into a fanfare of trumpets and what appears to be someone repeatedly falling on a piano. Breathing progresses to screaming, ranting and slamming doors, blasts of a choir being chased through a burning church (probably) and ultimately the reassuring sound of a deathly pipe organ; that’s the first five minutes. Over the course of three suites, a couple of cheery poems (Baudelaire and Lautreamont) and repeated attempts make you burst into tears, the album is utterly uncompromising and makes no attempts to be commercial nor offers any reasoning for why we have just experienced such disturbing sounds. Again, unloved, the album only really resurfaced in the 1990s, eventually receiving a respectable release on Andy Votel’s Finders Keepers label.
Though now with a loyal following in England, Massiera continues to be largely ignored in his homeland, which is rather their loss.
Daz Lawrence, MOVIES & MANIA