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(62:45, Gazul/Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Noisy Champs 3:39 2. Sunday and Dimanche 2:46 3. Identity Parade 1:46 4. Polar 1:30 5. Post-Polar 2:06 6. Dernier Solo Avant l'Autoroute 2:46 7. White Elegance 5:54 8. The Letter 1:57 9. Dernier Rendez-vous au Gord 2:53 10. Flintstone 1:35 11. Maksymenko 2:20 12. 3 Hommes et Un Mouchoir 2:13 13. 3 Legs for 2 Birds 2:06 14. Supply and Demand 3:04 15. Stop Those Ideas 2:20 Bonus tracks: 16. Rosetta 4:11 17. Vieux divan 3:20 18. Le Pad a Papa 2:16 19. Ondo Martini 4:00 20. Pocket 3:11 21. Concoction 4:52 LINEUP: Charles Hayward – drums, percussion; keyboards; vocals Guigou Chenevier – drums, percussion; saxophone Rick Brown – drums, percussion; clarinet Michael Maksymenko – percussion Sue Garner – bass
Prolusion. The multinational ensemble LES BATTERIES was assembled by Guigou Chenevier (ex-Etron Fou Leloublan) in 1985, consisting of himself and fellow drummers Rick Brown and Charles Hayward. Hayward decided to move on to other pastures in 1987, but the project continued on as a duo utilizing various guest musicians as needed. "Noisy Champs" was the only album recorded by the initial version of the band, and was originally issued back in 1986. Largely unavailable for many years, Musea Records decided to reissue this production on their Gazul imprint in 2010, adding a total of six bonus tracks, all of them efforts of a more recent date.
Analysis. When dealing with a band choosing Les Batteries as their moniker and consisting of three drummers, most would expect any albums resulting in such a collaboration to be of a rather limited nature and scope. And while this might also be an accurate and comprehensive description of this excursion, the nature of the creations making up this disc will most likely be somewhat surprising for many. Mostly due to the variety of the material at hand, which does extend a bit beyond the drum and percussion experiments I presume many would assume to solely make up such a venture. Not that this is a wildly eclectic creation spanning multiple genres and expressions; rhythms and percussion are the most central elements throughout, but even if confined to rhythmically-dominated numbers there is a fair bit of variety at hand here. The nature of these excursions is rather minimalistic, and a less-is-more approach is a central trait throughout, applied in different manners: from the loosely improvised drums-only efforts, like opening number and title track Noisy Champs, and later examples like Flintstone to the slightly more elaborate and sophisticated. The latter represented by pieces like the somber, funeral-like Identity Parade with its improvised sax and organ explorations supported by the sticks. The energetic tribal drum foundation of Post-Polar is another, featuring brief improvised drum insertions adding unpredictable facets to the pace-filled but predictable main motif. Additional elements beyond the rhythmic ones mostly play something of a minor role, and a fair few efforts are solely based on rhythmic experiments, mostly of an improvisational nature, and more often than not what most would describe as experimental as well. And as such productions often tend to be, it will most likely be regarded as something of an uneven one by most listeners. As is customary in this field of music, the performance is impeccable, but some of the material is of a nature that will only be enjoyed by a select few with a highly specialized interest in rhythmic experiments. Other efforts are less narrow in scope. Bonus track Pocket is one example of just that, with weary vocals over a circulating drum and organ construction I suspect should have a strong appeal to fans of an artist like Tom Waits. Personally I actually found the bonus tracks to be marginally more interesting than the reissued material, one of the rare cases where the additional material actually does represent a bonus feature to a reissued album.
Conclusion. If you have a more than passing interest in rhythm-dominated efforts, find experimental and minimalistic music to be generally intriguing, and adhere to the philosophy that the best and most interesting music is of a non-conformatist nature, Les Batteries is a band that warrants your attention. And while it may not be an example of sheer perfection from start to finish, there's a fair deal of interesting material to be found, with personal tastes and interests limiting or expanding the scope of this creation as far as enjoyable experiences go.