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(50:02, ‘Pretentious Dinosaur’)
TRACK LIST: 1. We're Putting on Our Bulldog Faces 9:30 2. Friendly Pursuit 5:47 3. Rocka-Saggy-Baby-Bubba-Shaggy-Baba-Boo 9:40 4. Gee I Wish We Had One's Them Doomsday Machines 7:44 5. Shemp Vs Classical Economics 6:33 6. Metronome Crisis 10:46 LINEUP: Mike Sary – bass; programming Katsumi Yoneda – guitars Mark L. Perry – drums With: Ryuji Yonikura – keyboards Takao Kawasaki – keyboards
Prolusion. The US combo FRENCH TV is a veteran band in the field of progressive rock, with a past going back to the early ‘80s. A myriad of line-ups have come and gone over the years, with composer and bassist Mike Sary as the sole constant on the 11 CDs they have released to date. "Ambassadors of Good Health and Clean Living" is their most recent production, and was released in 2016.
Analysis. Those not familiar with the earlier exploits by this band should probably note down straight away that this is a venture based firmly in the heartland of avant-garde, expressive music. While not shying away from material containing sounds, styles and expressions of a broadly appealing nature, this isn't a band that focuses on such sounds and atmospheres, but rather incorporates those into a greater whole, and one quite challenging at that. A staple on this album is the manner in which arrangements are developed and then left for a new one in quick successions. The manner in which the compositions develop and unfurl is first and foremost a case of variety. Interludes are most certainly used, ones taking one element to transport the song over to the next phase, but also sharp abruptions and gentler intermissions. On other occasions a set theme or arrangement will disrupt in a more or less chaotic manner, or be taken apart into individual instrument patterns in more of a free form oriented manner. Abrupt shifts into new phases is also a mode of progress employed extensively, as are cases of what may or may not be improvised intermissions not always directly connected to the sequences on either side. This is a band that comes across as clear and well developed, as eclectic as most of these compositions are, they rarely, if ever, appear as forced or otherwise haphazard. There's a vision and a thought to what for many will appear as chaotic and unstructured. That the music here is rather more challenging than what the names of the compositions suggest is probably not all that much of a surprise. A common denominator throughout is instrumental movements and motifs with a clear and distinct connection to jazz. Sometimes in its most challenging, free form guise, but rather more common are one or more movements with a clear jazz orientation, providing a contrast to other instruments either exploring a more conventional vein of delivery or a more whimsical one. The compositions do have a tendency to include multiple instances of calmer, more atmospheric sequences as well, from the more dream-laden ones, not too far removed from the likes of Camel, to ones rather more dark and menacing with more of a King Crimsonian touch to them. Other recurring details are instrumental motifs with more of a classical music tinge to them, and then mainly by keyboards or the piano.
Conclusion. Those who know and love the kind of music generally described as avant-garde progressive rock should have a field day with this most recent excursion by French TV. Challenging, expressive music is the name of the game here, and a fairly complicated and quirky one at that, unconventional and adventurous throughout the album. Those who find such a summary to be intriguing will most likely find this CD to be that as well. Top-2016.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: February 3, 2016
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