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(46 min, Gazul)
TRACK LIST: 1. Balade d'Edgar 6:08 2. L'Intrus en ce Jardin 2:56 3. Le Poids Ecrasant 8:00 4. Palomer 9:16 5. Trockenspiel 6:25 6. Une Simple Erreur 2:40 7. Ocrives 15:34 8. Salt M Valente 9:13 9. Eight & a Half 2:31 LINEUP: Julien Ash - keyboards; programming, sampling Pierre-Yves Lebeau - vocals; vibraphone; ac. guitar Liesbeth Houdijk - vocals Jean-Paul Escudero - violin Cyril Herry - sound sculpture
Prolusion. NLS is the abbreviation of Nouvelles Lectures Cosmopolites, i.e. New Cosmopolitan Lectures. "Freisengeist II" is the fourth studio album by this French studio project led by Julien Ash, following "Freisengeist" (Frozen Ghost, 2004), "Les Grands Saules" (2002) and "The Link Cutters" (2001). Julien, along with most of his NLC partners, two years ago formed another outfit, A Sparrow-glass Hunt, whose debut CD "Le Journal du Dormeur" was also released in 2004.
Analysis. A continuation of the project's previous concept album of the same title, "Freisengeist II" is designed as a single 62-minute suite Regelmassige Zerstrorungen, conventionally divided into nine parts-tracks, which are stylistically quite uniform. But inasmuch as most of the segments are containers for many styles (progressive, experimental rock, ambient, classical and oriental music and more), it's difficult, if not impossible, to pigeonhole this stuff with one term, and thus refer it to any concrete genre category. In any event, "Freisengeist II" is a major improvement on any of the previous releases by NLC and should please a wide range of prog-lovers. The music is highly original and is definitely intellectual, even though it is never overly complex. With the exception of electronic drums (which sound surprisingly acceptable, by the way) and some synthesizers (used mainly in the background), the album's sonic palette has a pronounced acoustic sense, thanks to the really widespread use of piano, violin, acoustic guitar and vibraphone. While Julien sometimes turns to a library of samples, and one of the participants is responsible for building the notorious sound sculpture, these things are never overbearing, so the acoustic instruments reign nearly everywhere on the album. Some tracks contain narratives, as well as a beautiful (sort of angelic) female singing, at times paired up with that of a male. All the vocal parts are sung in French, but some spoken phrases are in Dutch and, perhaps, some other languages as well. Apart from the aforementioned stylistic peculiarities of the recording, there are psychedelic elements and even surreal, ghost-like features in places, having a kind otherworldly feeling. Some acoustic guitar parts stand out for their distinctly non-typical plucking (possibly tuning as well), reproducing sounds that seem to exist outside our customary concept of space and time. Generally, the album is quite rich in experiments with sound, though never to the detriment of its melodic beauty and structural cohesiveness. Although I don't understand French, the music itself is so eloquent and imaginative that I can't perceive it otherwise than as a fairytale. It's hardly possible to subject "Friesengeist II" to direct comparison with anything else existing under the sun of rock music, so I have to strain my imagination to name the recordings that this one associates with, at least relatively. Perhaps Peter Hammill's "This" and "None of the Above", "Islands" by King Crimson and "Academy In Peril" by John Cale, as these are also mostly atmospheric, determined by decadent mood.
Conclusion. This is one of those records that make the listener think about something eternal, being alone in a quiet room, or in an autumn garden enjoying the surrounding nature. "Friesengeist II" is a masterpiece and can be highly recommended to all those progressive rock lovers who are not afraid to meet academic constructions in their beloved music.
VZ: June 13, 2006
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