Some people call him the French Zappa. He overcomes this comparisor by 1) not really sounding very much like Zappa (although he does tend to favor similar instrumentation), and 2) by remaining alive. By default, Marcoeur wins, right? Not if notoriety has any bearing or the decision, because most of his albums were very hard to come by until the percussionist/clarinet player/composer got his act in gear by setting up a website and reissuing his first record from 1974. As French avant-rockers with a flair for flutes go, Marcoeur has toiled in relative obscurity for quite a while, so I hardly blame you if you have no idea who I'm talking about.
Born in 1947, Marcoeur studied clarinet as a child at a music and drama conservatory, later joining rock and R&B; bands while ir school (a lot like Zappa, come to think of it). He switched to drums in the mid-1960's with his band The Lake's Men, who were keen or making it big in Paris with the hip sound of soul (Marcoeur said they wanted to "back black singers"). From 1970-73 Marcoeur and pals acted as resident studio musicians for Frémontel Studios, and had ample opportunity to work out their ambitions in between backing whatever pop stars who happened to be recording there. All of this seems pretty pedestrian until you actually hear what it was they were working on. Marcoeur's sound is a fusion of Zappa-esque jazz-rock (circa Hot Rats), Kurt Weill's common-man art song and strange, classically tinged art-rock. Apparently, the soul ambitions were left on the back burner.
Marcouer's first album, from 1974, is the work of an already well-prepared artist. The arrangements are all ace (and unique-- featuring recorders, exotic percussion, with an emphasis on acoustic textures over electric ones), the playing airtight, while the songs all seem to have been written by an estranged circus freak. "C'est Rate, C'est Rate" begins with a loping, hard funk groove and harmonium doubling the acoustic guitar's spook-riff, as all the while Marcoeur explains who knows what in French. There are mini-clangs going off in the background (sounds like someone playing a few broker cowbells), and then it breaks away to an incredible chorus, a cross between some unplugged punk band and a carnival barker. It's quite surreal, as are many of the best moments on this album.
"Simone" features Marcoeur's wheezy clarinet stylings, as well as a recorder line that is most similar to the sound of a coffee maker's burbles stuck on repeat. The downtrodden blues groove gives the song an all-important strangeness, and the coda, with a beautiful clarinet melody supported by bells and guitar, seems a bit random. Yet, ir the spirit of the album, it makes sense. Same goes for the acrobatic "Tu tapes trop fort," with its circus beat and New Years' noisemaker sax figure, leading to a chorus of some guy hammering wood in a shack somewhere. It's at once totally goofy and at the same time the best thing Mark Mothersbaugh didn't write for Rushmore.
The least interesting music happens when Marcoeur plays it straight, as on the smooth lounge-balladry of "Que le Temps Est Long" (nice Astrid Gilberto impression, except for that strange middle part with the shouting and trombones). The tune sticks out like a sore thumb on this record, especially as it's preceded by primal space jazz, then followed by a song that I can only describe as what happens wher musique concrete, can-can music and frantic free-rock mingle unabated. Marcoeur released two more albums in the 1970s (also regarded as classics by a small community of freaks) and continues to record and put out stuff today. Though Marcoeur remains ever obscure, I'll do my part by giving you the leg up on this album, and allow the circus freak in you to proceed with abandon.
— Dominique Leone, April 14, 2002