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Mentat Routage - 2009 - "Mentat Routage"

(67:47, Musea Records)

TRACK LIST:                   

1.  Vox of an Industrial Nowhere 0:44
2.  Zonder’s Kilt Vacation 7:08
3.  Les Premices 0:19
4.  Mentat Swing 6:32
5.  Neorurbanism 0:40
6.  Monklimit Variation -1 2:43
7.  La Chute 0:16
8.  Seriel Killer 5:56
9.  Et Le Grand Zornbergh Dit 0:04
10. Zorn Mask Replica 6:47
11. The Message 0:37
12. Monklimit Variation -2 2:07
13. Doc Ledus Madness 1:14
14. Monklimit 5:03
15. Rythmico-Verbal 0:12
16. Noisy Tap 4:23
17. Les Improphetes -1 1:44
18. Genese 7:09
19. Les Improphetes -2 2:12
20. Il Est Dangereux De 1:54
21. Tritonite’s Prelude 1:45
22. Mentat Tritonite Aigue 8:18


Ludovic Fabre – violin 
Nicolas Fabre – keyboards 
Karl Ledus – saxophone, flute; sampling
Sylvie Daguet – xylophone, percussion
The Pieric Teissier – drums 
Leverger Thomas – saxophones, flute
Simon Dutay – bass 
Nicolas Garnier – bass 
Berton Alexander – drums, percussion

Prolusion. The French ensemble MENTAT ROUTAGE was formed around 2006, and its members describe themselves as a transartistic collective "combining improvised music, tap-dance, painting and video-projection", the latter two aspects parts of their live shows, courtesy of Didier Ledus. Musically they describe their stylistic territory as a variety of free-form-oriented experimental contemporary jazz. In 2010 they were signed by Musea Records, which issued their self-titled debut album on their imprint Musea Parallele.

Analysis. Describing the exploits of this French ensemble is a rather daunting task, as was the process of listening to this creation with a high level of concentration, as is the case with all artists that defy and challenge the norms and established musical boundaries. When encountering the unexpected it tends to leave you rather drained and to some extent at a loss of words to describe it in a proper manner, too. The 22 items that make up this production can, roughly speaking, be divided into two categories: the compositions venturing beyond the 5 minute mark and the ones not doing so. The latter group is mostly comprised of cuts clocking in at less than 2 minutes, the briefest given a track time of a mere 4 seconds. And whether they are prologs or epilogs to the longer efforts or connected to them in other manners, or if they are standalone efforts, they can all mostly be categorized as avant-garde excursions, most commonly consisting of voice and rhythm experiments, but also a few examples of free-form jazz improvisations as exemplified perfectly by the Monklimit variations. Most of these come across as studio outtakes, pieces where the musicians obviously have a great deal of fun, but how much value they add to this album as such can most likely be discussed. Avid fans of minimalistic and avant-garde music might find themselves rather intrigued by these efforts however, even if the material isn't challenging as such. The longer tracks are of a rather different nature though. Jazz and fusion are the foundations and building blocks of these musical journeys, each of them exploring a rather different stylistic territory. Zonder's Kilt Vacations combines jazzy instrumental soloing from violin and sax with a thumping, industrial-tinged rhythmic backdrop. Variations of this stylistic excursion are revisited later on but without the industrial touches in the circulating bass and drums driven Zorn Mask Replica, where dark-tinged textures and sparsely populated soloing passages are central features, while final track Mentat Tritonite Aigue adds flavors of trip hop to the proceedings, adding in free-form-oriented jazz developments to this particular take on the contemporary-inspired fusion escapades these pieces all exemplify in a brilliant manner. And while the industrial touches reappear in Seriel Killer, on that occasion they’re blended in with an elongated improvisational rhythm workout, maintaining the contemporary edge from the aforementioned Zonder's Kilt Vacations bit in a track of a vastly different structure and composition. And while the experimental scope and contemporary edge are just as much parts of the proceedings as the eclectic and unpredictable nature of the album itself, there's also room for numbers of a somewhat more traditional nature, Genese a case in point in that department where the violin, sax and piano each are given ample time for soloing over a distinctly jazz-oriented rhythmic backdrop. Apart from the aspects mentioned, this is a disc of impeccable musicianship from band members and guest musicians alike, where the rhythm department in particular impresses. In addition to the usual suspects, handling sticks and bass respectively, Sylvie Daguet impresses perhaps even more with her percussion details, the xylophone motifs in particular. The tight manner in which this instrument blends with bass and drums to craft and add tension to the proceedings is among the more intriguing I've encountered in a while.

Conclusion. Highly experimental albums tend to be, at least in my experience, something of a hit-and-miss experience, as is the case for this initial effort by Mentat Routage as well, where moments of magic and true brilliance can be found side-by-side with pieces of a far more lacklustre nature, at least for those who weren't in the studio at the time this album was assembled. Dedicated followers of adventurous and challenging music should know their visiting time on this occasion though, where those with a soft spot for the jazz-oriented escapades of capital P progressive music in particular have an item worth their attention in this case.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: December 6, 2010
The Rating Room

Related Links:

Mentat Routage

Musea Records


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