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(48:53, Cristal Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Leh 3:49 2. Cirque 2:59 3. Charlotte 3:56 4. What's Democratie? 4:11 5. Tinananana 2:59 6. Le Caquou 3:23 7. Sophie 3:31 8. Cosmos 5:14 9. Planete 3:05 10. Strange 7:12 11. Noturne Indien 4:09 12. Untitled 4:25 LINEUP: Julien Julian – programming, sampling, keyboards Michel Guay – sitar Djamel Laroussi – guitars Karim Toure – djembe, derbouka Apurbo Mukherjee – tablas, percussion Garik Heorhi Anishchanka – cello Koo Young-Euu – violin Andre Jarca – violin
Prolusion. French composer and instrumentalist Julian JULIEN made his solo artist debut back in 1999, and has since produced and released two more outings. "Strange" is the most recent of these efforts, issued by Cristal Records back in 2007.
Analysis. Progressive rock is an intriguing stylistic universe for many reasons, and one of them is that the artists who tend to defy obstacles, boundaries and unwritten rules tend to end up inside it, whether willingly or not. What Julian Julien thinks about it I don't know, but I see that the record label that released this production has marked it down as unclassifiable, which is always a good thing in the book of a dedicated progressive rock fan. In the case of this album, you might want to disregard the rock part of it though, as the stylistic expression here is one with more of a base in folk and world music. The foundation throughout is elaborate percussion, exotic in expression, frequently with a tribal spirit and always with a Middle Eastern or Asian orientation, sharp and energetic to the point of approaching styles, such as house and techno on occasion, otherwise staying more or less put within a world music framework. Reeds, keyboards and strings are placed on top of this, sometimes in sparse arrangements, on other occasions with an elaborate array of different motifs forming a sophisticated overall theme. Ambient moods and chamber rock oriented passages sit side by side with jazz-tinged sequences and even some variety of dub reggae on one occasion. A few nods in the direction of more purebred art rock appear when the organ is added to the proceedings, but mostly this is a production with at least one foot well paced within the world music universe. And as some sort of thematic red thread, appearing in the greater majority of these excursions, we find the sitar, combining quite nicely with the aforementioned elaborate percussion foundation to insert a strong raga flavoring to the proceedings, sometimes in a small dose, barely audible or slyly sneaking into the arrangements, on other occasions as a dominating element or part of a composition. Applied with finesse throughout, on a disc with a rather innovative take on what to anglo-american ears might be described as exotic world music, made and performed in a manner that should have a strong appeal for many art rock fans. A tad too repetitive at times, to my ears, but a welcome experience, nonetheless, and solid material, I might add.
Conclusion. A touch of jazz and a touch of folk music liberally flavored with exotic sounds and rhythms is what Julian Julien has to offer on his 2007 production "Strange". And with plenty of sequences sporting a distinct raga motif, those fond of progressive folk music in general and the psychedelic variety of it in particular appear to be something of a key audience for this CD. More varied in stylistic span than what one might surmise, not quite as varied in performance as one might ideally hope, but a fine production, by and large, and relatively unique at that.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: April 17, 2012
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