Jean-Pierre Massiera was a surrealist sonic svengali nonpareil, and this album is a good introduction
Jean-Pierre Massiera was a surrealist sonic svengali nonpareil, and this album is a good introduction Finders Keepers Records

Jean-Pierre Massiera was one of those studio madmen whose creativity required dozens of aliases to properly express the phenomenal range of his abilities. (The French producer/musician/conceptualist died on December 28, 2019 at age 78, but reports of his passing didn't reach the media till this month.) Because of this profusion of projects and pseudonyms, Massiera never really built a strong identity with the record-buying public, save for only the most dedicated followers of European underground music, acolytes of the Nurse With Wound List, and fans of the British reissue label Finders Keepers, which has done more than any entity in this century to resurrect Massiera's crazily diverse discography (along with Mucho Gusto Records).

Jean-Pierre Massiera became for many adventurous listeners one of those artists whose name on the cover or in the credits meant "buy on sight." In a just world, he would be at least as well known as that other promiscuously gifted sonic bon vivant from France, Serge Gainsbourg.

Massiera's heyday stretched from the '60s to the '80s, but only the richest, most obsessive collector will possess or know all of his output. I've heard a lot of it, but I imagine it's still only a small fraction. Nevertheless, you can dip in anywhere in JPM's canon and ascertain the twisted je ne sais quoi of his multifaceted sound.

In a 2011 feature on weird French music in these pages, I described Massiera as a "Fellini of the mixing board [who] concocts hugely fun, crazy-­angled productions touching on nearly every genre over the moon. While his disco tracks are trés camp, hypersexual romps of maximal pleasure-­­giving, JPM also flexes ebullient studio wizardry in the prog, psych, garage, and African realms. But check out his Horrific Child guise for a truly mind-­fucking audio-­collage experience."

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For an excellent intro to JPM's bizarre oeuvre, explore Finders Keepers' Midnight Massiera compilation [see below]. Massiera was a true original, a surrealist sonic svengali nonpareil who followed his strangest whims wherever they may have taken him. You could spend a lifetime immersing yourself in his music and never exhaust its manifold pleasures. We will be very lucky if they make anymore like him.