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Posts Tagged ‘France’

TRACKLISTING:
1. Nebulos (4:40)
2. Un Peuplier Un Peu Plié (5:32)
3. Sprouts (3:11)
4. Sprouts (Continued) (1:57)
5. Sprouts (Continued) (1:19)
6. Sprouts (Continued) (3:57)
7. Troïde (7:31)
8. La Serrure (2:32)
9. Soft Fate (1:25)
10. Boletus Edulis (2:52)
11. Dynamique Cassoulet (2:28)
12. Fast Fate (0:35)
13. Le Chiffre (4:05)

LINEUP:
Guillaume Amiel-  bass marimba, vibraphone, percussion
Maxime Delporte – double bass
Ferdinand Doumerc – tenor, alto and sopranino saxes, flute, crooning (11)
Stéphane Gratteau –  drums
Rémi Leclerc – Fender Rhodes, clavinet, Moog, Hammond organ, piano
Marc Maffiolo – bass and tenor saxes

With:
Olivier Cussac – lap steel guitar (2)
Sarah Roussel – words (3-7)
Nicolas Gardel – trumpet (9, 12, 13)
Olivier “Lapin” Sabatier – trombone (9, 12, 13)

Based in the southern French city of Toulouse, Stabat Akish are a sextet formed in 2007 by bassist/composer Maxime Delporte. In 2009 they caught the attention of free-jazz icon John Zorn, who released their self-titled debut album on his own label, Tzadik Records. The band’s sophomore effort, Nebulos, was released on Italian label AltrOck Productions in the early summer of 2012.

As much as I try to avoid resorting to definitions that might sound a bit overblown, “jazz meets chamber rock with a liberal dash of Zappaesque humour thrown in for good measure” describes Stabat Akish’s music quite effectively. With a distinctive, mostly acoustic instrumentation that rules out the guitar on all but one track, but places a heavy emphasis on reeds and mallet percussion (as well as on founder Maxime Delporte’s expertly handled double bass)  they privilege a sophisticated delivery that, while undeniably full of twists and turns, is not as daunting as the typical output of other bands and artists found under the RIO/Avant umbrella. In fact, Nebulos is at the same time very complex and surprisingly approachable, and not just on account of its very restrained running time and light-hearted attitude. The band members, while all considerably gifted and in full command of their own instruments, behave like true ensemble players, and avoid hitting the listener over the head with their technical skill.

On the whole, Nebulos is elegant and very pleasing to the ear, its intricate instrumental texture relieved by an appealing lightness of touch and a keen sense of melody that is not often associated with the genre. Even when the music possesses a loose, almost improvisational feel, it never sounds unscripted or haphazard. The title-track acts introduces the album in style, opening briskly then gradually slowing down, with all the instruments engaged in a sort of lively conversation, blending subtle electronics with warmer, organic tones. However, it is the second track – bearing the tongue-twister-like title of “Un Peuplier Un Peu Plié” (A Slightly Bent Poplar) – that best illustrates Stabat Akish’s effortless marriage of sheer melodic beauty and avant-garde tendencies. Pervaded by the heady tinkle of marimba and vibraphone and the ethereal, faraway strains of Olivier Cussac’s lap steel guitar, contrasted with  buzzing sound effects and cascading drums, it is oddly cinematic and thoroughly riveting.

Stabat Akish’s take on the old prog stalwart of the “epic”, the four-part “Sprouts”,  is made of almost bite-size sections veering from the sax-driven, meditative mood of the first part to the classic jazz feel of the final part, and includes a short spoken-word section in which Sarah Roussel recites something concerning the titular sprouts. Roussel’s voice – almost an additional instrument – also stars in the 7-minute “Troïde”, the longest track on the album, and also the most openly experimental, in which an increasingly agitated phone conversation in three languages is punctuated by sparse drums, piano and whistling synth. “La Serrure” begins in low-key, atmospheric fashion, then suddenly turns into a very upbeat, circus-like tune; similarly, “Dynamique Cassoulet” packs an astonishing amount of variety in under 3 minutes, including a very entertaining appearance by reedist Ferdinand Doumerc in the role of a crooner. On the other hand, “Boletus Edulis” (the scientific name of the delicious porcini mushrooms) blends ambient-like sound effects of birdsong and burbling water with charming, Eastern-tinged  percussion and flute; while “Le Chiffre” closes the album in style with a triumphant, albeit slightly chaotic big-band workout, in which the saxes are augmented by trumpet and trombone.

An intriguingly classy effort, Nebulos is warmly recommended to lovers of modern jazz and RIO/Avant/chamber rock, though the more traditionally-minded faction of the prog audience might find it a more appealing proposition than other recent releases in a similar vein.  Another fine release from the AltrOck roster, purveyor of endless musical surprises, the album – in keeping with the label’s tradition for outstanding visual packaging – is accompanied by high-quality artwork and photography.

Links:
http://stabatakish.com/

http://www.altrock.it

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TRACKLISTING:
CD:
1. Corps et Âmes (6:26)
2. Loin d’Issy (7:14)
3. George V (10:27)
4. Ultraviolet (8:18)
5. Feu Sacré (6:50)
6. Midi-Minuit (13:30)

DVD (Recorded live at NEARfest 2010):
1. Ultraviolet (8:34)
2. L’Axe Du Fou (16:06)
3. Feu Sacré (6:53)
4. Soleil 12 (9:09)
5. Double Sens (13:38)
6. Extralucide (10:20)
7. Éclipse (7:45)

LINEUP:
Patrick Forgas – drums
Sébastien Trognon – tenor, alto & soprano saxes, flute
Dimitri Alexaline –  trumpet, flugelhorn
Benjamin Violet – guitar
Karolina Mlodecka – violin
Igor Brover – keyboards
Kengo Mochizuki – bass

Active on the music scene since the mid-Seventies, drummer/composer Patrick Forgas has often been regarded as the French answer to Robert Wyatt. Indeed, Forgas describes his discovery of Soft Machine’s second album, at the age of 18, as nothing short of life-changing. Anyone familiar with his debut album, Cocktail (originally released in 1977, and reissued by Musea Records in 2009 as an expanded edition) will not fail to notice the similarities in the two drummers’ vocal styles, as well as in terms of musical content.

In spite of a career marked by frequent breaks from music-making, Forgas has always been able to reignite his creative spark. Forgas Band Phenomena was born in the late Nineties, and released two albums with a lineup that included mallet percussionist Mireille Bauer (of Gong fame). Then, after a 6-year hiatus, they reappeared in 2005 with a revamped configuration and a live album, Soleil 12, which featured mostly new material. The breakthrough for the band, however, came in 2009 with the release of the magnificent L’Axe du Fou, and their highly acclaimed performance at the 2010 edition of NEARfest. That career-defining show is captured on the DVD that accompanies Acte V, the band’s fifth album, released at the beginning of 2012 on Cuneiform Records.  The album’s title, which at a superficial glance may seem self-explanatory, is illustrated in the liner notes with some intriguingly esoteric references that also expand on the origin of some of the track titles.

Acte V features the same lineup as the band’s previous album – a rock-solid ensemble of 7 people, led by Patrick Forgas’ discreet but astonishingly precise drumming, bolstered by Kengo Mochizuki’s equally understated, reliable bass lines. With an  instrumentation that includes violin, trumpet, flute and saxophone as well as the rock “basics” of bass, guitar, drums and keyboards, Forgas Band Phenomena produce an impressive volume of music that comes across as lush and tight at the same time, with a slightly repetitive yet heady quality that holds the listener’s interest. Karolina Mlodecka’s violin soars above the fray with lyrical abandon, often sparring with the forceful blare of the horns and the razor-sharp edge of Benjamin Violet’s guitar. Forgas’ handles the cymbals with a firm yet delicate touch, their metallic tinkle blending with Igor Brover’s sparkling electric piano to create one of the hallmarks of the band’s sound.

As a whole, Acte V is a more nuanced effort than the ebullient L’Axe du Fou, and may need repeated listens before it starts growing on you.  While the mood is definitely upbeat, alternating energetic bursts of sound with more stately, subdued passages, those shifts are effected with remarkable subtlety, rather than in the blatantly head-spinning fashion preferred by more overtly “technical” bands. The music flows elegantly and naturally, the horns conferring an appealing “big band” touch that is quite unique. In spite of the Canterbury comparisons, Forgas Band Phenomena’s  powerful, exhilarating sound may bring to mind a cross between Caravan circa For Girls Grow Plump in the Night and early jazz-rock outfits such as Colosseum or Blood Sweat & Tears, rather than the sparser experimental approach of Soft Machine.

Clocking in at a healthy 52 minutes, Acte V comprises 6 well-balanced, richly arranged tracks. Even if, at a superficial listen, they might sound rather alike, variety is achieved by contrasting the “choral” sections, in which all the instruments emote together, driving the melody along, with solo spots that never smack of self-indulgence. Opener “Corps et Âmes” allows Violet’s guitar to step into the limelight, imparting a piercingly clear rock tone offset by the airy lyricism of the violin and the full-on blasts of Dimitri Alexaline’s trumpet and Sébastien Trognon’s sax. “Loin d’Issy” hovers between a dynamic, upbeat mood and a gentler one, the almost mournful trumpet solo in the middle bringing to mind Ennio Morricone’s iconic soundtracks; while “George V” and “Ultraviolet” raise the rock stakes with blistering guitar combined with assertive horns and violin to produce an intensely exhilarating effect. Sax and violin interweave smoothly, though with a sharp edge that emerges towards the end, in the intricate “Feu Sacré”; then the album is brought to a close by the 13-minute “Midi-Minuit”, an ambitious orchestral piece that allows each of the instruments its time in the spotlight, displaying a slightly angular, jazzy allure at first, then unexpectedly introducing a different, more regular pace before the end, with hauntingly atmospheric effects.

The DVD that completes the package (rounded off by a stunningly stylish cover in trendy sepia tones, reprising the Ferris wheel theme of Forgas Band Phenomena’s first three albums) offers a unique opportunity to witness the band’s blend of energy and sophistication coming alive on stage. The 75-minute set showcases a selection of compositions from the past (“Soleil 12”, “Extralucide”, “Eclipse”), the present (three out of four tracks from L’Axe du Fou, which had been released a few months before the show) and the future (“Ultraviolet” and “Feu Sacré”), as well as shots of the band. With outstanding image and sound quality, it is a must for anyone who wants to witness what, in my view, was the highlight of the whole event (together with Moraine’s breakthrough performance on the following day).

All in all, Acte V is an album that oozes pure class from one of the finest bands on the modern progressive rock scene. This is one of those rare efforts that may actually succeed in bridging the ever-widening gap between the retro-oriented and the forward-looking components of the prog audience, appealing to both “factions” on account of the strength of its musical offer. A must-listen for jazz-rock fans and lovers of instrumental music, Acte V is highly recommended to everyone.

Links:
http://forgasbp.online.fr/

http://www.myspace.com/forgasbandphenomena

http://www.cuneiformrecords.com

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TRACKLISTING:
1. Infinicheese (1:35)
2. Clacos Zero (0:35)
3.Untung Untungan 2.0 (11:13)
4. Clacos 1 : Notre Mère à Tous (1:58)
5. El Ruotuav Ed Sram (8:16)
6. Clacos 2 : Die Experimente von Dr Frankenschnörgl (0:48)
7. Le Meurtrier Volant (9:01)
8. La Danse du Chameau:
a) Batifolade  (5:29)
b) Soif! (1:17)
c) La Tempête De Sable (4:51)
d) Rêveries Lubriques Sous une Dune (1:09)
e) The Final Run  (5:01)

LINEUP:
Fabrice Toussaint – tenor trombone, xybraphone, congas, tam-tam, triangle, other percussionBernard Eber – trumpet, didgeridoo, cowbell, whistle, voices
Pierre Wawrzyniak – bass, acoustic guitar, voices
Philémon Walter – drums
Guillaume Gravelin – harp
Vincent Sexauer – electric guitar

 With:
Julien Travelletti – bass trombone (3, 5, 7, 8), tuba (7)
Francesco Zago – electric guitar (3)

When coming across a French band named Camembert, and an album title featuring the word “Attahk”, most progressive rock fans will inevitably think of two illustrious outfits such as Magma and Gong – both of whom have also ties with France. Add to that a rather left-field story about the Earth being invaded by small, gelatin-like beings from outer space called Schnörgl, led by a mad scientist researching weapons of mass destruction, and involving a giant spaceship made of intergalactic cheese – and the resemblance will steadily grow, so that a first-time listener might wonder if they are being confronted with the new frontier of “retro-prog”. However, there is very little “retro-anything” about Camembert, whose thoroughly modern brand of jazz-rock proudly sports that strongly absurdist streak that is one of the distinctive traits of French prog.

Camembert are a six-piece hailing from the city of Strasbourg in north-eastern France, where they formed in 2005.  Schnörgl Attahk, their first full-length CD, which marks the beginning of the band’s collaboration with Milan-based label AltrOck Productions, was preceded in 2009 by the release of the 6-track EP Clacosmique. Most of the material that had originally appeared on the EP has been included on the album, though in almost completely rearranged form. Camembert members Fabrice Toussaint and Pierre Wawrzyniak had also appeared on another noteworthy 2011 release, Ske’s 1000 Autunni – and Ske mainman Paolo Botta (who also plays keyboards with Yugen, and is a gifted graphic artist) returned the favour by providing suitably wacky artwork for Camembert’s debut.

As previously hinted, Schnörgl Attahk manages the remarkable feat of combining an amazing level of complexity with an upbeat, ebullient mood that will provide the perfect antidote to the excess of earnestness of far too much prog. The outrageous tale of Dr Frankenschnörgl and his dastardly plans for a global takeover is told through the artwork and detailed liner notes, as the album is completely instrumental. On the other hand, while no actual singing is involved, the music suggests the events in strikingly effective manner, appealing to the listener’s powers of imagination.

Like the best examples of progressive rock (modern or otherwise), Schnörgl Attahk is a quintessentially eclectic effort. The band’s handling of their main sources of inspiration eschews derivativeness, moving rather along the lines of incorporating those sources into the fabric of their own original sound – whose foundation is a sinuously intricate brand of jazz-rock with roots in Frank Zappa’s output circa Apostrophe, as well as Shamal/Gazeuse!-era Gong (incidentally, both Pierre Moerlen and Mireille Bauer were originally from the Strasbourg area – perhaps something in the water?). However, the many pieces of Camembert’s musical mosaic are extremely variegated, supported by a very distinctive instrumentation that rules out keyboards, but hinges primarily on an unusual combination of horns, mallet percussion and harp. The gentle, liquid voice of the latter, blending harmoniously with the rippling tinkle of Fabrice Toussaint’s xybraphone and the warm, organic sound of various percussion instruments, gives Camembert’s sound a unique imprint.

While the two short, consecutive openers, “Infinicheese” and “Clacos Zero”, set the scene in textbook-spacey fashion, with swishing electronics and occasional guitar touches, the 11-minute “Untung Untungan 2.0” makes a bold entrance with its lively avant-fusion allure, then unfolds in a myriad of dazzling twists and turns, to which Francesco Zago’s guitar lends some extra bite. The easy, natural flow of the music, whose melodic flair almost belies its inherent complexity, brings to mind Canterbury acts like Hatfield and the North, and the energetic presence of the horns, coupled with Pierre Wawrzyniak’s solid bass lines, lend a funky swagger to tracks like “El Ruotuav ed Sram” (“Le Vautour de Mars” spelled backwards). Shades of Magma and Univers Zéro lurk in the imperious, martial pace of  the intense “Le Meurtrier Volant”, while in the 5-part suite, “La Danse du Chameau”, sprightly Latin-tinged rhythms in the style of early Santana, weird voices and dense, faintly dissonant passages coexist, held together by the lush yet unconventional instrumentation.

An exciting slice of sparkling eclecticism, combining melody, complexity and zany humour in an irresistible mixture, Schnörgl Attahk is almost mandatory listening for fans of modern jazz-rock and RIO/Avant prog, and will particularly appeal to fans of genre-straddling bands such as Frogg Café, miRthkon or Miriodor, as well as newer outfits like Calomito or Slivovitz. With all-round outstanding performances, excellent production values (courtesy of Udi Koomran and Eric Gauthier-Lafaye), and a genuinely positive attitude that will put a smile on your face (as well as a very restrained running time, which allows the music to be absorbed without weariness setting in), Schnörgl Attahk  proves that it is fully possible to pay homage to the trailblazers of the past without turning into a nostalgia act.

Links:
http://www.myspace.com/camembert67

http://production.altrock.it/home.asp?lang=ita_&id=9&id2=9

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TRACKLISTING:
1. Here I Stand (4:11)
2. In My Place (3:33)
3. The Keeper (5:33)
4. Cannibal Tango (3:27)
5. Fever (the Battle Rages On) (4:48)
6. Hate Incarnate (2:58)
7. Get Out of My Way (4:38)
8. Russian Girls (3:32)
9. Demon Disco (4:05)
10. Be My Pride (4:30)
11. Fathers & Sons (5:01)
12. Inner Feelings (Silence) (18:54)

LINEUP:
Christophe Godin – guitar, lead and background vocals
Julien “Peter Puke” Rousset – vocals, drums, percussion, background vocals
Gaby Vegh – vocals, bass guitar, background vocals; tablas (3)

With:
Lilit Karapetyan – Russian girl’s voice (8)

French power trio Gnô are one of the projects of guitarist Christophe Godin, known in progressive rock circles as the founder and mastermind of Mörglbl, as well as one of France’s hottest guitar players. Cannibal Tango, Gnô’s second album, was released in the early summer of 2011 on the US-based label The Laser’s Edge – 10 years after their debut, Trash Deluxe, released in 2001 after Mörglbl’s temporary demise.

Mörglbl are widely considered as one of the most exciting bands on the current prog scene, and anticipation is running very high for their forthcoming US tour – whose culmination will be the  headlining slot on Saturday, September 3, at the legendary ProgDay festival in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Though adopting a somewhat more straightforward format than Mörglbl’s output, Cannibal Tango is bound to win over most fans of Godin’s main gig, especially those who have a broader view of progressive rock than the average fan pining for the good old days of the Seventies. With their irrepressible, genre-bending attitude and obvious enthusiasm for making music, Gnô deliver a real rollercoaster ride of an album, bubbling with a wild and wacky sense of humour, crushingly heavy but also full of infectious grooves and catchy hooks.

Cannibal Tango’s press release describes the band as “Pantera meets The Beatles” – a rather weird, but oddly effective definition.  Driven by Godin’s high-powered, razor-sharp riffs and searing lead breaks, propelled by Julien “Peter Puke” Rousset’s thunderous drums and Gaby Vegh’s solid yet nimble bass lines, Gnô;s music is always brimming with energy, but capable of unexpected twists and turns. While the influence of heavy metal – both in its classic incarnation (as in Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden) and the more eclectic strains represented by the likes of the above-mentioned Pantera, Faith No More or System of a Down – is clearly recognizable, one of the closest terms of comparison would be King’s X, whose imprint is hard to miss in the impossibly catchy vocal harmonies. Like the American trio, Gnô rely on conventional song structures spiced up by intriguing hints of a higher complexity.

With 12 tracks averaging between 3 and 5 minutes, the album’s 63-minute running time is quite deceptive, as it includes the unexpected “Easter egg” (a funny a cappella version of “Fever”) tacked at the end of closing number “Inner Feelings (Silence)” after a lengthy pause.  Although the canonical “prog” features of mind-boggling time signature changes and extended instrumental sections are conspicuously absent on Cannibal Tango, there is still plenty of variety to hold the listener’s interest. Starting with opener “Here I Stand”, the songs as a whole are bold and relentlessly dynamic, without too much subtlety, yet introducing different elements into the sheer heaviness of their foundation. The funky  pace and catchy chorus coexisting with an aggressive guitar solo reminded me of another of the seminal crossover bands of the Eighties, New Yorkers Living Colour; while with “In My Place” some lazy reggae licks are thrown into the mix, together with a chorus that owes a lot to The Beatles, though with a much harder edge. Echoes of King’s X emerges in numbers such as the slower, doom-infused “The Keeper” with its faint Middle Eastern vibe, the groovy “Get Out of My Way” and the intense, slow-burning “Inner Feelings”. The more nuanced instrumental bridge of  the brisk “Demon Disco”, on the other hand, points to another hugely influential power trio – the mighty Rush; while the unabated intensity of “Russian Girls”, probably the heaviest number on the album, borders on hardcore punk.

As pointed out in the previous paragraphs, Cannibal Tango requires a high level of tolerance for heaviness and fast and furious riffing in order to be fully enjoyed – as well as a taste for artists such as Frank Zappa or Primus, whose music prominently features a blend of chops and off-the-wall humour. Packaged in a colourful, zany cover proudly emblazoned with the band’s striking logo,  and photos hinting at the “cannibal” motif gracing the CD’s inner sleeve, this is a genuinely entertaining album from a very talented outfit, which fans of the more crossover-

Links:
http://www.gno-music.com/

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