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Etron Fou Leloublan - 1983/2004 - "Les Sillons de la Terre"

(41 min, Musea)

TRACK LIST:                             

1.  Phare Plafond 4:14
2.  Les Vitres 4:47
3.  Les Alsaciennes 1:59
4.  Nouveau 4:14
5.  L'Enfance de Guigou 6:09
6.  Emoi 4:09
7.  C'est pas Bien 4:01
8.  Et Qui'cet Air-la 2:54
9.  Lavabo 5:10
10. Le Jeu l'Alcool Et les Femmes 3:46

All tracks: by Etron Fou Leloublan.
Produced by Chenevier.


Guigou Chenevier - drums; sax; vocals
Ferdinand Richard - bass; vocals
Jo Thirion - organ, piano; vocals
Bruno Meillier - saxophones

Prolusion. Musea Records continues the CD reissue series of the legacy of ETRON FOU LELOUBLAN (EFL henceforth), one of the best RIO acts to come out of France (perhaps from the whole Europe, inasmuch as there were only Henry Cow and a few of their branch projects in the UK). "Les Sillons de la Terre" is the fourth / next to last album by the band. For the reviews of their previous albums, please click here, here and here.

Analysis. Until the '80s, the band's calling card was the extraordinary talent of drummer / saxophonist Guigou Chenevier and bassist Ferdinand Richard, also responsible for all vocals. The release of 1982's "Les Poumons Gonfles" saw the men sharing their compositional and vocal duties with keyboardist Jo Thirion, whom I would've called the French Dagmar Krause if only their vocals weren't so different. "Les Sillons de la Terre" is the band's first album marking their totally collective creation. It was amazing to hear EFL playing both tight and bright. Indeed, even representatives of such a conservative genre as RIO could not fully avoid the epidemic tendency to simplify music, which, like a tsunami, has flown the Prog community at the end of the '70s. The first two compositions, Phare Plafond and Les Vitres, are built around a few themes, all being fixed even though they are highly complex rhythmically. Both feature rather many unison solos and the like primitive techniques (in 4th and 5th) and are heavier in vocals than usual. Nevertheless, the band's natural originality is totally preserved, and some of the genre's hallmark features can be easily found here, too. All in all, I do not intend to criticize this huge band, especially since all of the other tracks are much better. Although quite short, the first of the three instrumental pieces, Les Alsaciennes, is eventful enough to please the adventurous listener. Both Guigou Chenevier and Bruno Meillier play saxophones here, and their dissonant solos combine with those of the rhythm section and organ to form that distinctive eccentric sound, which was a hallmark of the band's early creation and which is now considered a classic French RIO. Nouveau follows Les Alsaciennes, as well as the direction laid there. The changes begin on the fifth track, and each of the further ones shows the further departure from the band's classic sound along with the lessening of the arrangements done without drums. Working from what are essentially RIO-based structures, the quartet embellished the material with features of the other genres, some of which were really new for them. On L'Enfance de Guigou, Emoi and C'est pas Bien, they mix up things nicely between their typical RIO and a unique Space Fusion, which is certainly the brainchild of the newcomer, saxophonist Bruno Meillier. The former song, composed by him, is one of the best presented. Emoi features Jo on vocals. With distinctive invocatory and ironic intonations in her voice, she sticks to the typical RIO mode of singing, while the men provide the vocals in their traditional, semi-waggish manner. The remaining tracks include Lavabo, which is another excellent song, and the instrumentals: Et Qui'cet Air-la and Le Jeu l'Alcool Et les Femmes, all displaying that Meillier took most of the matters under his control. For the first two, Chenevier leaves his drum kit to join Bruno in doing improvisation, but the absence of drums there does not affect the intricacy of the music in the least. Generally, a confluence of RIO, Space Fusion and free jazz, presented in the album's second half, is definitely the most solid achievement the band has gained in the last phase of their creation.

Conclusion. Overall, "Les Sillons de la Terre" is absolutely on par with its predecessor, "Les Poumons Gonfles". Besides, if the band had not moved to explore new musical dimensions, they would have probably fallen on stagnation. All in all, most of this CD is an essential listen. Recommended above all to those considering both the classic and jazzy forms of RIO.

VM: February 9, 2005

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