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(52 min, 'Pretentious Dinosaur')
TRACK LIST: 1. Colorless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously 10:19 2. Ska Face 8:24 3. My Little Cicada 11:48 4. Look at the Bears 8:10 5. Theme from ESPN X-treme 13:01 LINEUP: Mike Sary - bass; voice Warren Dale - keyboards; winds, reeds; mallets Chris Smith - guitars; violins, exotic strings Jeff Gard - drums With: Steven Dale - trumpet (1, 2) Pam Thompson - trombone (2) Paolo Botta - keyboards (3)
Prolusion. "This is What We Do" is the ninth proGduction by FRENCH TV, which (as every Prog lover should know like their ABC!) 'broadcasts' from the USA. The history of this fantastically innovative group begins in 1981; their debut took place in 1984, and since 1994 they, thankfully, release one CD in two years on average. If you are curious to read the other French TV-related reviews on this site or at least to see my rating on each of the band's albums, please click here.
Analysis. French TV is back with nothing else but the Fifth Element of the first water in their bag. In other words, it's extremely innovative music, which avoids any precise definitions, and particularly those originating from classic progressive genres. Although the tendency to constantly change their primordially original style was always typical of this band, "What They Do" this time out does not remind me of anything they've done before or anything else in general. Can you remember how bizarre The Gates of Delirium from Yes's "Relayer" sounded when you heard it the first time? Does this frantic epic still sound both fresh and unusual to you? And, knowing all this, do you really find it to be the work of classic symphonic Art-Rock? Well if so, you will most likely perceive "This is What We Do" much in the same way, despite the fact that no parallels can be drawn on the field that true freethinkers work on, i.e. between the cited examples in our case. Trust me, there is neither snobbery nor dirty trick in these my discrepant assertions, and it was I myself to whom I've addressed all the above questions and their daughterly contradictions first. Many years passed until I realized that The Gates of Delirium is woven throughout not only of symphonic fabrics, but features elements of many progressive genres: from Art-Rock and Jazz-Fusion to Prog-Metal and even RIO-like forms, even though the former seem to be prevalent. There is a similar picture on the general stylistic level, much of the music arousing vivid associations with the gold vintage sound of the '70s and, at the same time, having a wonderful futuristic sense. The violin and various woodwinds however, impart a certain chamber sense to FTV-9, while the brass instruments make the Jazz-Fusion component more distinct in places, particularly in the middle of each of the first two compositions, Colorless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously and Ska Face, both, unlike the other tracks, featuring guest trombone players. The centerpiece My Little Cicada is notable for a longish episode with atmospheric violin- and acoustic guitar-laden arrangements, which can relatively be referred to symphonic Space Rock. In the beginning of Look at the Bears the organ somewhat calls to mind a theme from "Pictures at an Exhibition", but not for long, soon giving way to the clarinet and bass exercising new methods in Chamber Rock. On the Theme from ESPN X-treme can be found some Classical-like movements, though it's some exotic stringed instrument (reminds me of Turkish Saz), which probably should be regarded as the main factor discriminating this piece from the others. With the exception of these peculiarities, the compositions have much common ground between themselves, each coming with no thematic sections as such, but consisting exclusively of ever-changing, both highly eclectic and cohesive arrangements. With an average track length of 10+ minutes, there is more than enough time to develop themes and push them through countless twists and turns. Not a second is wasted and no direct nods to the past either! The music is abundant in everything that a profound Prog head can dream of. Best tracks include all five of the tracks present, each showing that there are few bands on the contemporary scene on a par with French TV in their intelligent ability to construct long polymorphous compositions, that would be equally cerebral and fascinating. It's like reading a thrilling sci-fi to listen to what these monsters of Prog do here.
Conclusion. Dear reader, you shouldn't be a mathematician or rocket scientist to comprehend this album. Just give it one listen, and it will grow on you with each successive one. The music just breathes with a living energy, which is always a sign of genuine inspiration. Beginner? At least remember this name, French TV. It will forever be stamped in any yet-to-be written Rock Encyclopedia. Sounds pathetic? I weighed my every word before putting it here.
VM: May 11, 2006
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