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(50:50 / Carbon-7 Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Sometimes God Hides 2:23 2. Our Mangler 4:13 3. Bloodsucker 5:47 4. First Study 5:43 5. Our Lady of Sins 4:31 6. Here We Sailed 3:23 7. Les Lieux 3:39 8. My Father's Steps 5:17 9. Asako's Notebook 4:47 10. Jesus Wept 4:21 11. Run Amok Run 3:23 12. Almost a Happy Ending 1:47 13. Sometimes God Smiles 1:07 LINEUP: David Coutler - accordion, acoustic guitar Madame Pascale Tempes - vocals, voices Jean-Marie Mathoul - keyboards, piano Pascal Lacroix - el. guitars; didgeridoo Jean-Pierre Devresse - bass; cello Calogero Marotta - bass; harp Shiri Bernard-Petit - percussion With: Several other musicians
Prolusion. 48 CAMERAS is a Belgium-based project and consists predominantly of native musicians. Nevertheless, it is usually regarded as an international ensemble, although only one of its three foreign participants, David Coutler from England, is a permanent member. The recording under review, whose full title is "I Swear I Saw Garlic Growing Under My Father's Steps", is the outfit's sixth album, but it marks my very first encounter with their work. Their other releases include "B-Sides Are For Lovers" (1985), "Easter, November & a Year" (1993), "Me, My Youth & a Bass Drum" (1995), "From Dawn To Dust & Backwards" (1997) and "Three Weeks With My Dog" (1999). Warning: it's quite difficult to find any more or less specific information on them in the Internet, their website, mentioned in the booklet, being inaccessible.
Analysis. Six pieces on this thirteen-track recording contain vocals (in English), though lyrics aren't something that the instrumentals are lacking in either, five of those abounding in narratives. However the last two tracks on the disc in a way stand apart from the others. The title of the song Almost a Happy Ending holds almost all its lyrical content, Madame Pascale Tempes singing "This is almost a happy ending" throughout, only to the accompaniment of David Coutler's accordion. The concluding piece, Sometimes God Smiles, reveals only a couple of (unvectored) cello riffs and something reminding me of a rattle. There are no obvious flaws on the rest of the material, but nevertheless the instrumentals aren't too eventful from a traditional progressive viewpoint. What is evident immediately is that all of them are much less sonically saturated than the songs, though they're generally constructed in quite a different way. With numerous musicians involved in the project, and with such a large and varied instrumentation heralded, the instrumentals all appear to be almost ridiculously poor in sound, the emphasis being put either exclusively on ambience (Bloodsucker, Here We Sailed and Les Lieux) or on a combination of ambience and groove (Our Mangler, Run Amok Run and Asako's Notebook, though the latter opus also has a pleasing acoustic guitar solo). Of course all these ambient textures are creations of real instruments, which however, instead of soloing, just drone, shimmer and so on, so it's often impossible to identify them. However, if you take the instrumentals just as they are, without imagining what they potentially could be about, each would be floating Ambient of the highest quality, since everything is provided exclusively with real instruments, with not even the smallest hint of loops or sequences or anything else that would have to do with an approach used by classic ambient makers. Otherwise the instruments are usually instantly recognizable, and the only discontent I feel when listening to the songs is, well, the same story, a kind of fixed idea concerning my awareness of you already know what: that none of them have a sound that would even relatively conform to the one I had expected to hear bearing in mind the number of musicians who take part in this recording. One way or another, only the songs are awarded the privilege of combining three or more instruments, and it's only here where a genuine melody exists, with Madame (whose singing is heavenly beautiful) in turn being responsible for providing the most expressive melodic lines. On First Study the sound is both transparent and fragile, but this is a kind of mystical song, reminding me somewhat of Hinduist transcendental teachings. My Father's Steps, Our Lady of Sins and Jesus Wept are all haunting symphonic ballads, the first of which is reminiscent of Landberk at their softest (something from "Indian Summer" for sure), while the other two both of Kate Bush. Finally, my favorite track on this disc is its opening number, Sometimes God Hides, the most eclectic composition in the set and probably the richest in instrumentation as well.
Conclusion. I can't say this music is definitely my cup of tea, but nevertheless on second thoughts I clearly realize that this is one of the most important creations in the field of contemporary experimental music, created by real musicians who moreover have managed to find a very personal sound in what seems to have been already used throughout the length and breadth of it. Recommended to those who, besides being able to read between the lines, like the general idea laid out in this treatise:-).
VM: November 12, 2007
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