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(63:24, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. The 95 7:21 2. Ballade Sur Un Nuage 3:02 3. Malthus 5:26 4. Passage 9:22 5. Petite Symphonie Mecanique 6:06 6. Les Mille Et Une Pattes 3:38 7. American Gang 5:12 8. Cartoune 2:51 9. Travelling 7:13 10. Hier Sera Comme Demain 1:20 11. Volutes 2:26 12. Orient 8:00 13. Qui Sait 1:21 LINEUP: Jean Jacques Toussant – piano, keyboards; contrabass Remy Chauvidan – el. & ac. guitars With: Francois Verly – drums, tablas &: Pierre-Olivier Govin – saxophones Georgi Kornazov – trombone Michel Delakian – trumpet Mateusz Dutka – violin Michel Berrier – violin Marie Duperret – viola Isabelle Sajot – cello Nicolas Marty – contrabass Louis-Marie Audubert – accordion
Prolusion. The name of Jean-Jacques TOUSSANT should be known to many progressive rock lovers, as the man was the primary mastermind behind the remarkable French avant-garde art-rock trio Tiemko. “Travelling” is his first solo output, though I think it could have been released as a new Tiemko album. The point is that Remy Chauvidan – a guitar player, who was another key personage in the band – is also here, while the only absent member, drummer Eric Delaunay, had never contributed musically. What is more, most of the album sounds like its main creator has broken down the band’s overall style into its constituent parts and made a few different sets of compositions based on those.
Analysis. On six of the disc’s thirteen tracks Toussant and his partners step rather far beyond what today is seen as Tiemko’s statistically-average sound, as the style explored here never was a prevalent ingredient in the band’s genre cocktail. Besides Jean-Jacques and Remy, Malthus, American Gang and Passage each features drummer Francois Verly, and also a host of guest musicians on various chamber instruments. The music is RIO of the first water in all cases, no matter that the former two pieces are dominated by the brass players, and the latter by the violin quartet. All in all, the melody, counterpoint, emphasis on acoustic instruments, both classical and neoclassical influences are just what we get in Univers Zero, circa 1977. Petite Symphonie Mecanique, Les Mille Et Une Pattes and Cartoune are somewhat inferior to the above three compositions (mainly because each of these deploys a virtual chamber ensemble instead of a real one), but are still very good pieces, of the same style overall. Please also take note that the described tracks all follow one another, and total 34 minutes in length, creating an album (quite a full-fledged one: remember Gentle Giant’s LPs) within the album. What’s next? Two more gems. Performed by the above duo alone and along with Verly on tablas respectively, Ballade Sur Un Nuage and Volutes are each based on the interplay between piano and acoustic guitar, belonging exclusively to symphonic music. Let’s move further – to ‘get’ The 95 and Orient, both of which are overall merely good creations. The latter piece lies entirely within the jazz-rock domain. It has rather solid instrumentation, which involves synthesizer, piano, organ, contrabass (all ‘courtesy’ of Toussant), electric and acoustic guitar, drums and tables, and varies structurally. However, it never changes its initial pace and, what is particularly vexatious, the virtual brass ensemble deployed here has a very strong synthetic feeling – unlike the aforementioned chamber one, which for the most part sounds almost as natural as a real one. The oddly titled disc opener, The 95, begins and develops as Art-Rock with elements of electronic as well as heavy music (much in the vein of The Alan Parsons Project), but then transforms into a boring folksy tune, performed by a guest accordion player. The remaining three pieces, Hier Sera Comme Demain, Qui Sait and Travelling, are simply terrible, and it’s completely beyond me why these have been included in the disc. The first two of them are mere excerpts from the above ‘accordion’ tune, just used as separate tracks. As to the one that has given the album its title (7:13), in its very beginning it imitates the intro to Lucifer by the aforesaid Project, while the rest of it comes across in no way other than as a container of musical wastes.
Conclusion. What I see as the main musical material of “Travelling” turned out to be a victim – yet another victim – of the notorious CD syndrome. (Blessed are the artists who are unaffected by that!) Nonetheless, I would highly recommend it to those who enjoy Chamber Rock and related stylings. Only take tracks 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 11 (which total in 38 minutes), tune up your CD player to make a substantive album of those, and then you’ll be happy with what you hear, trust me.
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