Rock/funk/worldbeat/electronica/experimental/ambient/ballads with raging lyrics on the inner and external turmoils of life. Released 2001.
Walter calls this, his seventh solo release, his "divorce album." Certainly some of the songs speak for themselves as they chronicle the dissolution and ultimate end of Ehresman's seven-year marriage. The topics range much wider, however, on this CD by the founder/leader/multi-instrumentalist of the band Snipe Hunt. Anticipating the question "Why should I care about this?", Ehresman takes pains in his lyrics to use personal experiences as a jumping-off point to areas of common experience.
"Le Cafard" literally means "the beetle," but in the vocabulary of the French Foreign Legion stationed in North Africa it referred to a state of temporary insanity caused by long periods of stress and boredom in the desert. They would blame this condition on insects entering the brain, rather than the effects of being stuck in the middle of nowhere with too much time to think, and being mentally and physically exhausted from building roads when they weren't preoccupied with being shot at by snipers.
So he's going apeshit? Well, maybe. Ehresman has spent his life in public service, working to protect the environment in an ideological wasteland (ie. Texas). All those years of banging his head against the wall of Texas', shall we say, "business-friendly" political culture have certainly left scars. Battered by the ceaseless winds of ignorance, selfishness and greed, Ehresman pens protest songs against corruption in places of power around the world (and in the human soul), with particular focus here given to the rise to dominance of international corporations as the real power behind all thrones. But, as we've come to expect from his past work, there is a self-effacing dark humor to these pieces as well. His guts are being ripped out, but he's still able to joke about it.
Like all his solo releases, on "Le Cafard" Ehresman handles all the playing and singing himself (with the exception of ex-Snipe Hunt drummer Tom Corwin on electronic kit drums on Tracks #1 and #11, and Austin mainstay Jon Bessent on pedal steel guitar on Track #11). Here, Ehresman plays electric and acoustic guitars, various fretted and fretless basses, mandolin, keyboards, electric oud, acoustic and electronic percussion, sampling, and sequencer and groove box programming, as well as producing the album. Ehresman has cited Todd Rundgren as a major influence in terms of both demonstrating the possibilities of the self-produced/self-performed album, and in terms of such recordings embracing a wide variety of musical and lyrical ideas. The influence of Rundgren's more experimental works can be felt in Track #9 "I Must Be Doing Something Wrong (Or Something Right Backwards)", an "outside"/drums'n'bass-style song Ehresman says was musically inspired by reading an article on how John Zorn uses radical, jarring techniques in the studio to create his spontaneous avant-garde. Here, Ehresman uses a Najarian electric oud in ways that not only have probably never been attempted before, but would also cause a fatwah to be put out on him by the mullahs if the song were ever widely heard over there.......
Ehresman's love of African music, especially from West Africa, manifests itself here in the Nigerian Afro-beat of "In My Master's House," which uses the voice of the aging native houseboy to comment on the increasing blatancy with which giant mega-corporations run our "houses." The horn and keyboard lines recall '70s Fela Kuti, and it's highly doubtful that the late Mr. Kuti would have disagreed with the song's message.
As Ehresman goes "le cafard" in the political/psychological desert of the New Millennium, he has found solace in the tangible desert of northwestern Nevada. It is there, every August since the early '90s, that a festival called Burning Man takes place. Over 25,000 artists, madmen and free thinkers converge each year for what is billed as a temporary community focused on "radical self-expression/radical self-reliance." Ehresman is the musical director for a Theme Camp called "The Solo Collective," and Track #6 is the latin-flavored theme song he wrote for the group (170 people at one count). At the '01 event, the group had a nightclub out on the playa called "Club Moon," which was the scene of many fine and debaucherous gatherings until the rising sun sent the revelers scurrying for their tents......and Track #8 was written as the "house song" for that nightclub, and marks Ehresman's first serious foray into the "DJ" method of musical construction. According to Ehresman, "I still think music should be played by musicians, but I'm not adverse to seeing what the machines can do on occasion......that is, of course, once they're programmed in inappropriate ways that only obliquely follow the manual." Track #7, "The Poison Pill," tells the chilling story of what can happen when you take on an extremely poorly-chosen passenger for the 4000+ mile drive to Burning Man and back to save on expenses......The dark techno-metal of the song provides a fitting soundtrack for some cathartic venting. This song was included in the Austin compilation "Monkey Boy Sampler--2001."
Track #10, "Sleeping In A Box of Thunder," was inspired by another of Ehresman's favorite artists--Bill Nelson (leader/guitarist for Be Bop Deluxe in the 70s, and prolific solo artist since then). The song is ambient in nature and largely improvised, seeking to create an emotive soundscape that floats delicately through the listener's ear and out the other side. The title was taken from Nelson's description of what it's like to stay in a certain hotel (insert major chain name here) near Heathrow Airport. In May of 2003, this song was included on the Bill Nelson-inspired 3-disc compilation "Several Famous Orchestras" (see www.markrushton.com/music/sfo.htm)
, the latest in a series of such releases compiled and released by Mark Rushton.
The final track, "A Soul Called Desolation," is Ehresman's first tear-jerker C&W ballad (think old honky-tonk, not "pop country"). This mood is greatly enhanced by the pedal steel guitar playing of special guest Jon Bessent (Ehresman was lucky enough to get an evening for recording with this very-busy Austin icon). "Like several of my songs, this one came to me while I was sleeping......all I had to do was get out of bed and write it down.....I guess this was my brain's summing up of my experience being married for many years and suddenly not being married," says Ehresman. The track provides a bittersweet end to a diverse musical and lyrical journey through "Le Cafard," with all its ragged heights and gentle lulls, its dangerous statements and vulnerable reflections.
Ehresman's motto? "Keep an eye on the bastards."
Local Flavor, 2001: "......if he has gone le cafard, we can all be glad he has taken us with him. Very intelligent and deeply personal (as are all his recordings), these 11 tracks range in style from southern-flavored rock to experimental electronica......'Spin It' is a funky bit of social commentary, then my favorite cut 'Rain Down Like Dr. Phibes'....man, what a song....a sort of Roky Erickson/B-52s red hot and creepy delight. Walter's special skills with world music come through on the Nigerian-sounding 'In My Master's House' and his fascination with experimental music is exercised on the long and wildly diverse 'I Must Be Doing Something Wrong (Or Something Right Backwards).' 'Club Moon'..shines very brightly and is my second-favorite cut.....(it) is outstanding."
--solo albums: "Honor in the Swine?" ('89); "In the Path of the Cat Chasers" ('90); "Split Brain Theory" ('91); "The Blue Shoat Special" ('96); the spoken-word "The Rants" ('97); "Handwedge from the Trap" ('99); “Le Cafard“ (’01); "The Feral Rugby Team Must GO!" ('03); "No Unifying Theme" ('04); "March, Scream or Cry" ('07); "The ADG Project" ('07); "Monkey Paw Situation" ('09); “Well…..Let‘s Look at Your Track Record, Shall We?” (’10); “Life Outside the Tent“ (’12); "Blue-Eyed Devils" ('14); and "Pinches Topes" ('16).
--with Snipe Hunt: "We'll Be Right Back!" ('99); "Dirty Ditties and Cover Tunes" ('00); and "I Saw the Future (But the Damn Train Hit Me Just the Same)" ('02).
--with Los Platos: “Oh, No” EP (’08).
--with Delphi Rising: “For Granted” (‘10)
--compilations (various artists):
(with Swine Patrol) “The Austin Cassette Compendium” (‘86)
(solo) "Monkey Boy Sampler" ('01, '05); and "Several Famous Orchestras" ('03).