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(62:00, The Laser's Edge Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Tapas Nocturne 4:52 2. L'Ami Deglingo 5:19 3. Buffet Froid 6:49 4. Le Project Pied De Biche 6:33 5. Lieutenant Colombin 6:39 6. Les Petits Nous 4:34 7. The Toy Maker 4:31 8. Haute Voltige En Haute-Volta 4:28 9. Fevrier Afghan 5:17 10. Totale Bricole 6:03 11. Il Bello Di Note 5:36 12. Studio Delirium 3:42 LINEUP: Cristophe Godin – guitars; voice Ivan Rougny – bass; voice Jean-Pierre Frelezeau – drums; voice
Prolusion. Here is a French trio whose history began in 1996 and whose name, MORGBL, is associated exclusively with the extreme metal genre. I was very surprised to learn they’re based on Free Electric Sound, the ‘jazzy’ division of The Laser’s Edge label, but not on Sensory. “Grotesk” is their third album, released last November, while their previous CDs, “Ze Morgbl Trio” and “Bienvenue a Morgbl Land”, both saw the light of day in the last century, in 1997 and 1999 respectively. Bandleader Cristophe Godin has two more outings to his credit: “Trash Delux” from 2000, with the metal band GNO, and “Metal Kartoon Nocturne”, his solo effort issued in 2005.
Analysis. The twenty instrumental tracks here all involve the entire trio, but on no less than half of them the standard guitar/ bass/ drums instrumentation is in places complemented with what comes across as a thin keyboard bedding as a background, so it is likely that Godin deploys a guitar synthesizer from time to time. A few pieces occasionally reveal an extra (overdubbed) solo, though most of the time this “Grotesk” sounds like having been recorded live in the studio - just with nothing grotesque to its sound. That being said, this album is largely Just Fusion rather than Jazz-Fusion, a field that has been covered by many, so it is no surprise that the standout pieces here are those that combine dissimilar styles. While none of the compositions go through many changes, the transitions in those that are made up of different sonic architectures are at least evident, arresting the listener’s attention at once due to the striking contrast between them, in terms of nature and mood alike. Besides fusionesque arrangements and atmospheric landscapes, Buffet Froid, Lieutenant Colombin and The Toy Maker all contain some vivid hard rock moves that, in contrast to the pieces’ other components, are dark and aggressive, and which, besides strongly diversifying the picture, urge on the emotional intensity. The latter track even finds itself taking on the form of Waltz, resulting in one of the finest crossovers of a few styles I’ve heard in years. So unlike most of the other tracks (and despite the fact that those also fluctuate between three or four basic themes), I find a certain pleasure even after a few successive listens to these three, though there is one more piece that I like in its entirety, despite an absence of hard-and-edgy arrangements there. This is Il Bello Di Note, flavored with elements of Spanish folk music and standing out for its Flamenco-stylized acoustic guitar solo in particular. Fevrier Afghan is structurally closer to the three tracks described first and has quite a few great moments also. It would’ve been listed along with those if its first and last sections hadn’t consisted of circus music filled with “La-la-la” vocal clownery. Tapas Nocturne, Le Project Pied De Biche and Totale Bricole all find Just Fusion alternating with the ‘guitar hero’ style, each resembling a cross between Primus and Steve Vai with some hints of John Patituci (due to the presence of a couple of bass histrionics besides the guitar ones). The same fusion scheme of soloing over a groove predominates on both L'Ami Deglingo and Haute Voltige En Haute-Volta, though these two include also some moves in a more contemplative way, reminiscent of Allan Holdsworth at his most laidback and atmospheric. My main complaint about these is a certain thematic scantiness, and although this is typical of the program’s best tracks as well, their structural heterogeneity makes them sound much more compelling and at the same time much less repetitive. Les Petits Nous is an ambient-like piece with fluid guitar solos at its helm, never getting beyond its basic theme. Even less than a mere musical makeweight, the bonus track Studio Delirium is worse than a demo in sound quality, but reflects its title well as being nonsensical indeed, in all senses. This is an excerpt from the trio’s rehearsal with all of them playing the fool that was recorded for some uncertain reason and moreover included in this (already quite long) release.
Conclusion. Four of the twenty tracks here are quite attractive. Overall however, this recording will fully satisfy only lovers of conventional Fusion, though I don’t know if those form the main fan base of Morgbl, since I’m not acquainted with any of their preceding releases. As to the people from the ‘classic’ jazz-fusion camp and the progressive audience in general, the trio will make a greater impact on them if they pay more attention to the diversity of their compositions.
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