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NLC - 2006 - "Ascendances"

(71 min, Gazul)

TRACK LIST:                    
1.  Paradoxe Nocturne 5:50
2.  Salsepareille 5:55
3.  La Traducteur de Corps 4:44
4.  La Pyrotheque de Maximilienne 5:50
5.  Les Rondes Sorciers 1:40
6.  Backwards Running Pigs 4:18
7.  Paradoxe Nostambulesque 5:12
8.  Hystercophonics 4:21
9.  Lintrus Mental 4:20
10. Tendances Dodelincuses 5:20
11. Le Perimetre de Confiance 3:37
12. Evenements Previsibles 7:06
13. Le Theatre de l'Eclipse 4:41
14. Le Sage a Niveau 4:08
15. Paradoxe Crepusculaire 3:55


Julien Ash - piano, synthesizer
Rosalie Hartog - violin
Pierre-Yves Lebeau - guitar
Philippe Joncquel - bass
Lisbeth Houdijk - voice

Prolusion. An acronym of Nouvelles Lectures Cosmopolites (New Cosmopolitan Lectures), NLC is a French studio project led by songwriter and keyboardist Julien Ash. "Ascendances" is the third part of their "Freisengeist" trilogy, and since the booklet features the entire NLC discography, I think I should list all their other fully-fledged releases, meaning 'program' albums - without compilations. Here they are: "Vestiges" (1992), "Allegro Vivace" (1993), "Spiritus Rex" (1994), "Clean" (1995), "Unclean" (1995), "Unis" (1996), "Le Sanctuaire D'Is" (1997), "Le Romane" (1998), "The Cereal Killer" (1999), "The Link Cutters" (2001), "Les Grand Saules" (2002), "L'Armee de Marbre" (2003), "The Book of Laments" (2003), "Le Journal du Dormeur" (2004: as A Sparrow-glass Hunt), "Freisengeist I" (2004) and "Freisengeist II" (2006).

Analysis. The fifteen instrumental pieces on this 71-minute recording all consist of two rather strikingly differing parts which, in conformity with their location within each cut, I will from now on be calling as "intros" and "cores", all cores, without exception, concerning Classical music. The intros bear a certain resemblance between them too, since all are based on a relatively abstract, somewhat emotionless interplay between violin and synthesizer. However four of these find the said instruments interacting to the monotonous beats of a drum machine which is really without rhyme or reason there. Well, this is just merely remarked on. What is really intriguing about this album is that the music in the cores of the tracks whose intros include programmed drums, namely La Pyrotheque de Maximilienne, Backwards Running Pigs, Tendances Dodelincuses and Le Perimetre de Confiance, is light in mood, and exactly the opposite in the case of the other eleven ones. Generally speaking, the remainder is a collection of tunes depicting various shades of grief - from a light sorrow to a deep melancholy, though most of these are associated directly with requiems. As to the cores' musical content as such, all of them represent purely acoustic pieces of Classical music - most often either for a duo of piano and violin or for a trio of piano and two violins one of which is certainly overdubbed. The acoustic guitar is only featured on three pieces, Lintrus Mental, La Pyrotheque de Maximilienne and Hystercophonics (in conjunction with the same aforementioned two instruments), whilst the bass is generally a very rare guest in this show, being audible only on one track. Some female vocalizations can be heard on Paradoxe Nocturne, Le Perimetre de Confiance and Lintrus Menta (exclusively in their introductory themes), though with the exception of those on the opening tune, all the vocal parts are too brief to perceive them as being of any significance at all. So while the booklet presents the project's current lineup as a quintet, most of the album appears as a product of the performance of only two musicians, Julien Ash on piano and Rosalie Hartog on violin, the contribution on the part of the other three participants being nominal.

Conclusion. Unlike the cores all of which are complete compositions, most of the intros seem to be just sketches, each typically lasting for less than two minutes. So I would've been much more enthusiastic about this recording if none of its fifteen tracks had featured intros. Without these, the disc's duration would still have exceeded 40 minutes (which is definitely enough for a full-length album), and then it would've been an excellent effort. Nonetheless, along with "Freisengeist II", I find "Ascendances" to be one of the two best and, at the same time, most coherent recordings among those five NLC albums that I've heard, although being noticeably less sonically saturated than its predecessor.

VM: February 3, 2007

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