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Minimum Vital - 1990 - "Sarabandes"

(45 min, Musea)


******
                 
TRACK LIST:                    
                                   
1.  Le Chant du Monde 7:37 
2.  Porte Sur l'Ete 3:17
3.  Sarabande No 1 6:43
4.  Cantiga de Santa Maria 3:48
5.  Sarabande No 2 7:04
6.  Hymne et Danse 8:52
7.  Danza Vital 7:27
8.  Le Bal du Diable 1:32

LINEUP:

Thierry Payssan - keyboards; accordion
Jean Luc Payssan - guitars, vocals
Christophe Godet - drums
Eric Rebeyrol - bass

Prolusion. "Sarabandes" is the third album by the remarkable French group MINIMUM VITAL. There are three more related reviews on this site (here, here and here).

Analysis. In my view, this album represents the Payssan brothers' attempt to convey the traditions of Celtic, French and Spanish musical cultures through the language of progressive rock, and I'd assert they've succeeded in that. The CD contains eight tracks, seven of which are instrumentals. Cantiga de Santa Maria is dedicated to Alfonso el Sabio, who was the king of Castile, as well as being a troubadour. The style is an original mixture of art-rock, folk and medieval dance music and is directly linked with the album's title ("Sarabandes" means "dances" or "melodies") and, thus, is typical of most of the material as well. The introductory section of Le Chant du Monde has a pronouncedly medieval feeling, although the accordion, with its specific sound, seems to be somewhat out of place here. Subsequent events fall squarely into the idiom of classic sympho-art rock (with some hints of Yes and Finch), enriched by a wind section. Porte Sur l'Ete demonstrates Jean-Luc's virtuosic command of guitar, the central melody reminding me of Hairless Heart by Genesis, only enriched with elements of flamenco. Sarabande-1 first reveals tiny bells chiming softly and some other medieval-like sounds. French lyrics are heard as well. Then follow orchestral arrangements that draw a picture of a medieval market, but when Jean-Luc switches over to electric guitar the music finds a rather different shape, at times resembling Michael Oldfield. In contrast, Sarabande-2 is rich in jazz-rock intonations, its improvisations in the vein of flamenco being simply mind-blowing. There also are some spacey and psychedelic features reminiscent of early Eloy and, of course, those ubiquitous dance-like movements (such can be found on each of the pieces). The beginning of Hymne et Danse plunges the listener into a restaurant atmosphere, with a jazz pianist idly running his fingers over the ivories. Soon however, the group enter their familiar realm, combining symphonic art-rock, folk and dance melodies, though the overall atmosphere is anthemic. As if asserting that any hymn is incomplete without words, the band add their singing "hallelujah" to the mix. Danza Vital: The king's party begins with invocatory fanfares; the throne hall is thronged; the court circle are dancing without noticing that the music is quite strange - a sort of metallized flamenco with rich and pompous keyboards, art-rock and even swing in places. Finally, Le Bal du Diable is a brief sketch-joke.

Conclusion. "Saradandes" is an excellent album, disclosing the Payssan brothers and their cohort's huge talent in combining medieval folk tunes and contemporary progressive music, with a good sense of humor and an inimitable atmosphere. This is not the most intricate thing I've ever heard, by any means, but it makes me really happy. Recommended with no reservations or limitations either.

EK: November 7, 2006


Related Links:

Musea Records
Musea Records


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