Porträt & Reportage

Musical treasures of Romandie 1: Cabinet curieux

This summer, swissmusic.ch takes you to unusual musical places in French-speaking Switzerland. First stop: Alain Meyer's Cabinet curieux.

Julie Henoch - 2018-07-19
Musical treasures of Romandie 1: Cabinet curieux -
Musical treasures of Romandie 1: Cabinet curieux -
Musical treasures of Romandie 1: Cabinet curieux -

The afficionados of Couleur 3 radio remember it with fondness. At the turn of the 2000s, Alain Meyer used to tell forgotten stories with rambling, nasally narratives, playing obscure, improbably tracks, a kind of poetic and musical treasure hunt. This out of the ordinary show was called ‘Lost Songs’, possibily the most priceless programme ever broadcast by Radio Suisse Romande, sadly gone in 2004. This maverick journalist with an ultra-subjective & rock'n'roll attitude is also head of the small label Little Records.

 

A little Ali Baba den

He is now busy at work in another setting, a strange place to say the least, a wooden attic in the city of Bienne: a Cabinet curieux. « It's like the den of Ali Baba, a small but magical place, reminiscent of the old lofts of our childhood where wonders could be found if you looked hard enough ». Alain Meyer pays hommage to the apothecaries of the Middle Ages who opened up ‘cabinets of curiosity’ in their homes. Here, priority is given to three forms of expression: music, literature, cinema, (his almost excessive passions). « For now, music is the most developed, but there are some DVDs on sale, as well as some books. "

Customers can listen to music on LP, CD and cassette format, all in excellent condition. It is a matter of "rematerializing" the music, to make it physically exist in one place at a time when the new listening devices generally contain much less information and sound presence than the old ones. « It's a kind of old-fashioned pocket-sized shop, very ‘old school’ as they say nowadays. »

 

Off grid

Here you can stumble across the most improbable, weirdest stuff. «Anyone know Goldberg, an amazing American artist who released ‘Misty Flats’ in 1974? Who remembers Esquerita, that great madwoman from Greenville, Mississippi ? Who remembers the bluesman Scott Dunbar, whose melodies linger too long in the brain? ». And so, as its name suggests, the Cabinet curieux invites the opening up of all possibilities, the discovery of often unfamiliar sounds, records that have practically disappeared from the racks, but also new trends, cassettes, local groups (especially from the Jura region), as well as lots of other interesting artifacts.

 

Blame the lack of record shops 

« There haven’t been any record shops in Bienne for several years now, with the exception of ‘Vinyl’ which is excellent and a good place to hang out, but essentially sells second hand blues, rock, jazz, and west-coast music. I told myself that it was important to fill this small gap on my humble level, if only to please some of my friends who are without a record outlet ». 

 

With his Cabinet curieux, Alain Meyer continues to scratch around in obscure terrain in search of good material for the mind. His label Little Records also strives to sporadically bring out some pearls. He’s currently working on a book as well as a duet recording with his sidekick Wonkeyman, music based on the theme of striking which he experienced first-hand from the inside as a journalist at the international section of the Swiss Telegraph Agency. From now on, we’ll have the pleasure of reading him again soon in the pages of the excellent independent newspaper, Le Courrier, with whom he shares a lot of resistance views.

Gonzo & Wonkeyman - Met at the jail

To visit the Cabinet of Curiosities, simply contact the housemaster and fix an appointment since there are no regular opening hours. A simple mail to alaingonzo@hotmail.com or an SMS to  +41 (0) 77 401 45 74 and voilà. Note that it is also possible to order and have records sent to a Swiss address but it’s much less charming.

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