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Lazuli - 2007 - "En Avant Doute"

(42:00 CD + 82 min DVD)


****+

Prolusion. The heroes of this occasion are French sextet LAZULI and their new output, which includes their third studio CD, "En Avant Doute", and a DVD having its own title, "Live at the Odeon Theatre". The group's eponymous debut album was released in 1999 and was followed by "Amnesie" in 2003. As to Leode (see lineup above), this is a hand-made Stick-like instrument that Claude Leonetti invented to play on without using his left hand which lost its functionality after he suffered a motorcycle accident. I see he named the instrument by using the first three and the last two letters from his last and first name, respectively.

Lazuli - CD - "En Avant Doute"
*****

TRACK LIST:

1.  En Avant Doute 3:02
2.  Laisse Courir 5:11
3.  Le Repas de l'Orge 5:07
4.  Capitaine Coeur de Miel-II 5:03
5.  La Valse a Cent Ans 4:20
6.  Film d'Aurore 4:26
7.  Ouest Ferne 3:32
8.  L'Arbre 4:18
9.  Cassiopee 6:36

LINEUP:

Dominic Leonetti - vocals; ac. guitar
Claude Leonetti - Leode
Gederic Byar - el. guitar
Sylvan Bayol - Warr guitar; Stick
Yohan Simeon - drums, metallophone
Frederik Juan - vibraphones, percussion 

Analysis. There are no keyboards in Lazuli's instrumentation, and yet those seem to be present on quite a few of the disc's nine songs (no instrumentals here). So I assume some of the band members occasionally use either MIDI devices or guitar synthesizers - unless the possibilities of up-to-date Sticks allow their players to reproduce the sounds of different instruments without any subsidiary equipments. Just listen to lush string arrangements on each of the first two tracks, the title number and Laisse Courir, whose presence here, though, is the only significant matter distinguishing these from their (lacking a better term) brothers in style, namely Film d'Aurore, Le Repas de l'Orge, Capitaine Coeur de Miel-II and Cassiopee. Each of the said six tunes begins very gently, having usually only vocals, acoustic guitar and Leode in its introductory theme, which is in all cases followed by the band's joint playing with an alternation of ballad-like with both hard and dynamic arrangements, where the former are still often performed without drums, but feature other percussive instruments, e.g. vibraphone, congas, etc. From this it follows that precisely two thirds of the tracks here resemble each other architectonically and in their construction alike or, in other words, all are created upon a very similar compositional scenario, due to which I find the material to be sounding somewhat samey on the one hand, whilst on the other I am much pleased by the fact that Lazuli play in a style which is totally their own, perhaps just seeing no reason to transgress its bounds. Back to the aforesaid songs: each of them is a combination of Alternative Rock, World Music and Gothic Metal, but while the music is only prog-tinged, its exceptional uniqueness is just striking, besides which it possesses a certain hypnotic power. Under such circumstances, I always regret I am not a polyglot, because it's clear the lyrics are one of the most important components of Lazuli's work (perhaps the most important one, as they bear a literal information), while in English the booklet features only brief hints of what each song is about, but no translated lyrics themselves. La Valse a Cent Ans and Ouest Ferne are both kind of fragile ballads, performed without drums or any power percussion either. Free of any heaviness on the one hand and imbued with colorations belonging to Celtic, Breton and even Middle East music on the other, L'Arbre draws something halfway between Folk Rock and World Music (the sounds of bagpipe, flute and other wind instruments being clearly heard in places), and yet almost perfectly blends with the album's prevalent picture as well. There are some instrumental interludes to be found on each of the nine songs, though at least basically, most of those just continue the same musical storyline that has been laid in the previous vocal section.

Lazuli - DVD - "Live at the Odeon Theatre"
****

TRACK LIST:

1.  L'Impasse 3:55
2.  L'Arbre 5:27 
3.  Le Repas de l'Orge 5:17 
4.  Laisse Courir 5:27 
5.  Mal de Chien 4:13
6.  Chansons Nettes 2:33
7.  Amnesie 5:27    
8.  Le Repas de l'Orge Video 5:11

Analysis. The DVD, "Live at the Odeon Theatre", contains seven songs (all depicting Lazuli onstage, though it seems only Amnesie was in reality recorded live), one video clip plus, well, traditional additional material, which in this particular case includes nearly 40-minutes of documentary footage, a little story of why and how Leode was made and a photo gallery. I will only touch on the songs, by your permission. The most curious thing I came away with after seeing the main content of the DVD concerns Leode, which turns out to be one of the most important lead voices in this show, the instrument sounding quite uniquely here, distantly resembling sitar. Not surprisingly, the camera is focused on Claude Leonetti almost as often as on his brother, singer / acoustic guitarist / frontman Dominic. Three of the tunes, L'Arbre, Le Repas de l'Orge and Laisse Courir, all have their studio counterparts on the CD, but only the latter more or less exactly echoes its original version and is generally the only song in this set featuring a strong rock component, whereas the other two both have much more to do with World Music than even with Alternative Rock. Since the remaining four tracks, L'Impasse, Mal de Chien, Chansons Nettes and Amnesie, are all in the same style, I should probably welcome the fact that the content of the DVD is rather strongly different from that of the CD, but something prevents me from doing that. I only can appreciate progressive manifestations of World Music (my favorite band in this field being Ancient Future from the States), but in the case of Lazuli that genre appears to be too strongly diluted with vocals to enjoy it. Besides, being deprived of the energy of Metal the songs lose something so essential that their non-progressive nature becomes really striking. Musically, the video clip of Le Repas de l'Orge strictly repeats the original tune, but the song's visual 'accompaniment' is just terrible to my taste. I think Anatomy of the Singer's Unfolded Throat would've been a perfect sub-title for that thing, as there is really almost nothing in the picture, save Dominic's mouth shot not only in detail (sweat, salvation, etc), but also in sanguine colors, bringing nothing to mind but a vampire. Do you really consider this to be art, guys?

Conclusion. The band's third studio album, meaning the CD, depicts a really gifted band who, while playing a simple music, are well aware of how to make it sound in such a way as to intrigue even those who are usually on a crash 'progressive' diet, as I am for instance. Unfortunately, the DVD has marred that impression.

VM: July 10 & 11, 2007


Related Links:

Musea Records
Lazuli


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