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(65 min, Unicorn)
TRACK LIST: 1. Quarante Jours sur le Sinai-I 36:16 2. Quarante Jours sur le Sinai-II 26:42 LINEUP: David Maurin - guitars; flute, bass clarinet Samuel Maurin - bass, Stick Benjamin Croizy - keyboards Frank Niebel - drums With: Roselyne Berthet - vocals Samy Cyr - vocals Francois Pernel - harp Anne Cayrol - cello Herve Franconi - sax Eric Vedovati - vocals Aubrey Casella - narration
Prolusion. NIL are already widely known outside their homeland France, due to the huge success of their second CD "Novo Sub Sole", which was brought out last year by Unicorn Records. Now this label presents the reissue of the band's first full-length album, "40 Jours sur le Sinai". It was originally released by Nil themselves in 2002, but wasn't properly promoted or distributed either. At the time I am writing these lines, there is not a single review of it on the Internet.
Analysis. Nominally, officially, according to the booklet and Nil's website all alike, this album is a two-part suite of the same title, whereas on this CD it appears to be divided into 29 tracks. But inasmuch as this is in fact one monolithic piece, the music flowing with no pauses plus being in a state of a constant evolution, it really is hard to check when the next segment begins without looking at the display of a player. I believe the lyrical content is a biblical story of Moses' forty-day vigil on the mountain of Sinai. As for the music, it will be a really risky gamble to describe it - not only due to the album's indigestible multi-track appearance. Although I've heard the group's latest effort (or, maybe, just because of that), I was not prepared for this one. On their two outings Nil appear in many ways like two different bands: Generally speaking, "40 Jours sur le Sinai" is not Space Rock as was "Nove Sub Sole". Furthermore, they sound like several unique bands in one on this recording, now playing hard-hitting Art-Rock, now venturing on somewhat angular Prog-Metal, now turning to quieter music with either a clearly chamber or just a soft symphonic sense, and more, though everything is filled with a mystically-mysterious aura. The most amazing thing is that despite all the listed divergences, the music's development remains always logical and coherent, which is because the band have seamlessly integrated all their discoveries into a very cohesive whole. At the same time, the picture retains all the aspects characterizing Nil's distinct individuality - they sound really unlike anyone else. Only the atmosphere (which is certainly not to say the music) that reigns almost throughout this wonderful musical wandering has much common ground with that on the 28-minute epic Tangerine Windows of Solace from the second Sieges Even album, "Steps". Magic is the word. Great moments abound - within the sections where Nil play both densely and intensely (which they do while working within the first two of the aforesaid idioms), as well as in those with quieter music, most of which serve also as arenas for vocals and vocalizations. Nonetheless, the amount of purely instrumental arrangements rather noticeably exceeds that of those mixed. Have a look at the lineup above. Most of the instruments listed there are well employed throughout the material, though I think it's thanks above all to Benjamin Croizy (whose keyboard equipment comprises synthesizers, Mellotron, piano and church organ!) that the album's palette is so rich in lush symphonic colors. Singer Roselyne Berthet, who became a fully-fledged member of the band in the same 2002, performs most of the lead vocal parts, a male guest singer participating only in one episode - shortly before the album's finale, which by the way is the only weak place here. Track 28 finds guitarist David Maurin soloing solely to a slowly droning synthesizer for the whole five minutes, while the last segment is just the sound of emptiness concluding with a brief acoustic guitar riff as 'its coda'. Although I've scrupulously written down what kind of music corresponds to one or another segment, it is beyond my power to list and describe them all. Generally, I am rather dissatisfied with this review, as I am unable to highlight all the virtues of the recording, yet have had time to point out its only flaw. Well, I'll try at least to summarize my feelings about it in the following paragraph.
Conclusion. This disc is an example of outstanding Progressive Rock for the new century. It's a superb masterpiece and will be a source of the endless enjoinment for any more or less experienced Prog head. While the music is immediately attractive, it holds up to numerous repeated listening sessions. In other words, it is for use in perpetuity, which means this is nothing else but a real classic for the future. Top-20-2002.
VM: September 25, 2006
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