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(76:38 / Carbon-7 Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Movie of the Events 3:57 2. Reality to Come 5:06 3. Underground Resonance 4:18 4. Oppressive Past 1:47 5. Denature Le Reel 3:34 6. Echos d'Ailleurs 2:30 7. The Observer 4:28 8. Human Archives 5:37 9. Messages Cryptes 5:06 10. Artificial Environment 1:23 11. Revez en Paix 6:46 12. Cortege Virtuel 4:52 13. End of an Era 5:14 14. Imminent Threat 2:02 15. The Angels' Warning 7:00 16. Interval of Circumstances 1:15 17. Metal History in Operation 4:26 18. Zone d'Endormissement 6:14 SOLO PILOT: Franck Balestracci - drums; keyboards; voices With: Marianne Denoia - violin Reginald Trigaux - guitar Guy Segers - bass; vocals
Prolusion. Franck BALESTRACCI is a contemporary songwriter and musician from Belgium. "Modified Reality" is his sophomore release, following "Existences Invisibles" from four years ago. Unlike his debut album, which Franck performed entirely on his own, "Modified Reality" features a small host:-) of guest musicians on a few tracks, Guy Segers (of Univers Zero and Present fame) on bass and vocals, Reginald Trigaux (from Present) on guitar and violinist Marianne Denoia, whose name is new to me. Nevertheless, the album's basic material (here: mainly keyboard and drum tracks) was recorded in Franck's home studio, as usual.
Analysis. It would be a very difficult, in some ways impracticable task to carefully investigate each of the pieces present on this very long multi-track album, even though there is much common ground between "Modified Reality" and its predecessor. The point is that my current approach to reviewing music is vastly different from the one I had four years ago. So the only way out I see from this situation is to do an overview of the recording without missing at least its most essential aspects. As hinted in the previous paragraph, the structural foundation for most of the album's eighteen tracks is a drum (or rather percussion) and synthesizer groove that Balestracci then solos over via the electric piano or the other synthesizer, periodically resorting to a library of sounds. All in all, he uses quite a wide array of real and virtual instruments, creating an adjusted crossbreed of passive and active music. I am not sure whether the percussion tracks are played manually or are the product of a drum machine, but even if so, the machinery is programmed in a very resourceful way, securing the avoidance of a tasteless "square" measure. What Franck performs on "Modified Reality" is something utterly poly-stylistic, but which can be in general defined as dark impressionist E-music with a vide variety of influences, varying from electronica to soundscape to experimental to noisily-voicy (think a lot of radio etc voices deployed) to industrial to ethnic to ambient to symphonic to improvisational to avant-garde bordering on RIO. However, such pieces as Movie of the Events, Reality to Come, Revez en Paix and The Observer (the only real song in the set), despite the presence of violin, guitar, bass and vocals on some of these, are all perceived to a greater degree as Experimental Electronica, and even though the music is often propelled forward by means of a genuinely polyrhythmic groove, the grooviness itself is always a bearer of hypnotism. Of the three shortest cuts, Oppressive Past, Artificial Environment and Interval of Circumstances, but also the second longest one, Zone d'Endormissement (6:14), none stylistically can be defined in any way, inasmuch as besides some percussion, there are usually only strange effects, voices and noises, now reminiscent of a public demonstration, now the tramping of marching soldiers and so on. Lasting for about 50 minutes (a perfect length for any album IMHO), the other ten tracks are either good or excellent creations. The good ones include Echos d'Ailleurs, which stands out for its strong ethnic component, and also Cortege Virtuel, End of an Era and Imminent Threat. Following one another somewhere in the middle of the disc's last third, those three all begin in the style reminiscent of Symphonic Progressive, but sooner or later transform into disturbing, dark soundscapes that could be fine soundtracks for a picture combining motifs of a horror novel and a psychological drama. The pieces that form, say, the first sheaf of highlights are as follows: Underground Resonance, Denature Le Reel and The Angels' Warning, each bringing electronic textures along with symphonic and jazz-fusion-related arrangements to the surface, which therefore appears to be quite a multi-layered substance. My personal favorites, however, would be Metal History in Operation, Messages Cryptes and Human Archives, all of which, besides the three components listed in the previous sentence, include some RIO-like maneuvers, additionally offering quite a few of dynamic transitions, the latter two both having a certain chamber-like feeling.
Conclusion. When listening to Balestracci, the uninitiated might be reminded of Vangelis or even Jarre, whilst in fact much of Franck's creation is quite advanced music, taking more after Richard Pinhas (solo) or Art Zoyd (late work: "Faust" etc), as well as something from Belgian RIO. Despite the modern technologies and the relatively large amount of pre-recorded and processed sounds, this music has almost nothing to do with that cold and unimaginative stuff we most often meet within contemporary Electronic. That said, this "Modified Reality" is a highly modified, plus overall greatly improved E-sound, a quite adventurous album that not only fans of Franck's first disc should meet with applause, figuratively speaking.
VM: November 13, 2007
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