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(54:24, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Recit 1 0:08 2. Petit Peuple 4:49 3. Recit 2 0:10 4. Libera Nos 2:16 5. Recit 3 0:32 6. Laisse-Moi 6:12 7. Recit 4 0:17 8. La Valse des Dames 3:17 9. Insoumise 3:42 10. Recit 5 0:27 11. Lundi 5 Au Soir 8:11 12. Recit 6 0:16 13. Beyrouth 4:51 14. Recit 7 0:21 15. Nirvana 6:38 16. Recit 8 0:23 17. L'alpha 7:27 18. Recit 9 1:34 19. Cerf-Volant 2:53 LINEUP: Andre Balzer vocals; guitars; programming Raoul Leininger bass, guitars; vocals Caroline Crozat backing vocals With: Alain Nau drums Bernard Frentzel percussion Philippe Woindrich bass; piano Bruno Masselon synthesizers Jerome Lessard saxophone Pascal Weber accordion Etienne Genvrin horns Jonathan Meli flute Elodie Wurtz violin
Prolusion. French composer and vocalist Andre BALZER may not be a name that invites to instant association these days, but those with a solid memory might recall that he used to be the vocalist for the French progressive rock band Atoll a few decades ago. Following a lengthy hiatus as a recording artist he suddenly reappeared in 2011 with his first ever solo production, "Entre l'Alpha & l'Omega-I, released by the French label Musea Records.
Analysis. It's always a refreshing experience when you encounter artists with an original approach and a creative mind, composers and musicians able to experiment and expand the borders of a stylistic expression, or even expand the framework of music itself, but also those who are able and willing to use and utilize familiar elements in a manner few others do. And it's in this latter department I'd place Andre Balzer, based on this first solo album of his. The familiar elements on this disc are ones most commonly found in the singer/songwriter department, compositions where the acoustic guitar is the main instrument used and dominated by vocal passages, a type of music explored by thousands upon thousands of recording and live artists each and every year. Balzer separates from the norm on a number of different levels, however. This disc is in itself of a conceptual nature, as far as I can understand: one piece of music divided into ten parts, with spoken recitals separating them, a structure that gives me associations to classical music, and in particular Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition". The monologs separating the musical chapters are relatively diverse in length, from a few seconds up to just over 90 seconds for the most elaborate of them, but all of them consist of a voice backed by futuristic, dampened sounds, more often than not of a cold, detached nature, inviting associations towards machines and a future society a stark contrast to the music explored, which probably isn't a coincidence. The individual pieces of music are warm and organic. Acoustic guitar and vocals tend to be just that, and the theatrical nature of the lead vocals adds an emphasis on the organic and human nature of these pieces. And adding a distinct vitality to them is the use of additional details. Gentle symphonic backdrops make the occasional visit; on another piece the accordion adds a distinct chanson atmosphere to the proceedings, and fairly common throughout are jazz-oriented bass lines and a flute which adds a folk music touch to the proceedings. Dampened rhythms and at times elaborate but gentle percussion further add a strong vitality and presence to the ten musical chapters of this suite, as does the occasional development towards a distinct art rock expression, guitar riffs and solo guitars employed alongside more elaborate keyboard arrangements for sequences of a majestic, grandiose and superbly dramatic nature, an effect used to perfection on Nirvana, an aptly named construction that, to my sensibilities, appears as the brilliant high point of this disc. From the gentle initial phase through to the majestic finale around the 5 minute mark, followed by a dark, haunting flute and strings construction that adds classical music to the list of genres visited on this disc. A list that otherwise consists of pop, rock, folk, jazz and progressive music. And returning to Nirvana, the classical ending of this piece does of course conclude in a breathtaking grand finale, as majestic and impact heavy as only classical music can be.
Conclusion. Not always breathtaking or spectacular, but fairly often surprising and generally inventive within the given framework explored, Andre Balzer has made a fine debut as a solo artist with " Entre l'Alpha & l'Omega-I". If you think you'd like folk-oriented music with subtle jazz orientation that sparingly employs art rock as an effect this is a disc you might want to investigate. Much the same goes for anyone with an interest in conceptual suites outside of the classical music realm, and in particular if distinctly sounding French music is something you tend to enjoy.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: December 4, 2012
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