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(73:41, Gazul/Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Phare Plafond 5:49 2. Paris 65 4:49 3. Gifle Hubert 6:40 4. Lave a la Machine 8:38 5. Dernier Solo Avant l'Autoroute 3:27 6. Blanc 6:24 7. Hors de Son Monde 4:55 8. Tous le Poussent 8:59 9. Plus Rien Ne Nous Retient Dans Ce Pays 5:38 10. Araignee du Matin 6:03 11. La Musique 4:06 12. Comment Choisir Son Infirmiere 3:59 13. La Java des Bombes Atomiques 4:14 LINEUP: Guigou Chenevier – drums; sax; vocals Ferdinand Richard – bass; vocals Jo Thirion – keyboards; vocals
Prolusion. The French ensemble ETRON FOU LELOUBLAN has been described as one of Europe’s most important group of artists exploring the RIO and avant-garde segment of progressive rock, and in the 12 years they've existed they released a total of 6 albums, all productions that are generally regarded as influential and well-worth seeking out. "A Prague" is an archival live recording, given its first official release by Musea Records' Gazul imprint in the fall of 2010.
Analysis. The circumstances surrounding this live recording are intriguing ones. The band itself had at that point just recently given up on the quartet format and decided to continue as a three piece, a line-up that would issue two albums before Etron Fou Leloublan called it a day the year after this concert. The place of this live performance was special as well: like most East European countries, Czechoslovakia didn't hear an abundance of Western-based rock artists performing back in the days of the fully existing Iron Curtain, and one might suspect that the band had politically radical connections to be able to get this gig. Furthermore, many of the songs they play on this set were unreleased at the time, pieces that would surface on the following year's swansong production "Face Aux Elements Dechaines". And while playing new unreleased material at concerts wasn't exactly unheard of back then, it was a curious choice for what must have been a rather special concert for the group given the geographical location and historical backdrop, presumably demonstrating musicians with a high personal belief in their new material. The audio capture itself is of a decent quality for its time. Some breakups occur in some places; hissing and some static noise pop up on occasion, but all instruments and vocals are clearly captured and the balance appears to be of good quality. While not what you would call topnotch, especially when compared to contemporary live material captured digitally, the overall quality indicates that we're dealing with material well-worth an official release and of a generally better quality than one would expect to find on a bootleg production. The performance is good and tight, as one would expect from a band whose principal members had collaborated for slightly over a decade, and while the vocal performance won't draw accolades from those who expect ordinary lead vocals, the talk-like delivery works very well within the confines of the experimental material at hand. The songs themselves are minimalistic excursions, where bass, drums and organ are tightly interwoven in energetic and spirited features. It would appear that both punk and new wave had a slight impact on the instrumental performances, in particular for the bass and drums, but influences from the world of jazz fusion are also easily detectable. The pace and energy are traits of the former, while the technical skills, quirky arrangements and sophisticated instrumental details document the latter trait. The organ often takes the lead on the most experimental features, most often in the shape of dissonant, contrasting textures applied to the tight rhythm section, and the compositional structure underscores the experimental nature of the material, with brief repeated and circulating motifs being a key feature. The saxophone gets aired on a few occasions and most commonly provides facets of the same nature as the organ, albeit with slightly more of a jazz-tinged mannerism, improvisational soloing the most profound aspect of that dimension. Personally I found the two tracks at the very end the most enjoyable, the cabaret-style explored on these pieces more uplifting, and in particular the extreme minimalism of La Java des Bombes Atomiques one that intrigued greatly. And I suspect that this latter piece contains lyrics with a wry sense of humor: at least the vocal delivery gives that impression. As my understanding of French is severely limited, others will have to confirm this, though.
Conclusion. Existing fans of Etron Fou Leloublan should find this production to be one well worth acquiring. The live audio capture is as good as one can expect under the circumstances they were made; the performance is on a par with what you would expect from this band, and I do believe that this is the only official live recording released by this version of the band to boot. RIO fans with a general taste for live performances might also want to take note of this CD, in particular if they have yet to explore the discography of this fine French ensemble.
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