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(56:54, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Long Metrage 22:23 2. Jour de Fete 15:51 3. Forfanterie 8:34 4. Le Voyageur Egare se Noie Incognito 3:21 5. Casablanca 9:03 LINEUP: Jean Lapouge – guitar Pierre Aubert – violin Denis Le Franc – bass Daniel Renault – drums Christian Paboeuf – woodwinds
Prolusion. NOETRA is a French ensemble, which recorded four albums during the time of its existence from 1977 to 1984. These are “Neuf Songes”, “Definitivement Bleus” and “Live ‘83” , all of which saw the light of day as official releases many years after they were recorded, the hero of this occasion only some 15 months ago. Captured live in the studios of Radio France in 1983, this would be Noetra’s swan song, last recording ever. The band appears to be a quintet here, whilst previously it was quite a large ensemble.
Analysis. Regardless of what the album’s title might suggest, none of its five tracks were available previously (therefore all of them must be taken as new compositions), and it’s quite another matter that it sounds somewhat specific due to being recorded live, without overdubs. In short, the music on this album is different from that on any of its predecessors (each of which is made up of 12 tracks, BTW) by being less sonically saturated, less structurally dense and somewhat less compelling in general. Additionally, there are less complex metric devices or intricate rhythmic patterns alike. The pieces are longer-to-much-longer, and yet the formal designs are less involved, and correspondingly more emphasis is put on conventional art-rock formats. As hinted above, the overall sound is most of the time fairly transparent, which does make the material somewhat more accessible. Don’t get me wrong, though. Overall, all of the tracks here are good; they just don’t have the same depth, or profoundness, of the band’s previous efforts. The first two items of the disc, the epic Long Metrage and Jour de Fete, are somewhat unusual in their overall appearance, let alone length. While certainly interesting in their own way, both are not quite what I normally expect from such sizeable compositions as they are (together they last almost 40 minutes). The music would probably be Chamber Rock, somewhat like classic Art Zoyd’s, although it is less academic than that, rather rarely flirting with specific genre features such as counterpoint melody and assonance. At times, if not fairly often, the band also enters the domain of Jazz-Fusion or even goes well beyond the limits of rock into what might be defined as progressive electro-acoustic music. To complement the picture, I must add that, besides Art Zoyd, I was reminded of Allan Holdsworth, Focus and Yes when listening to the tracks. Jean Lapouge’s guitar parts are art-rock-like solos in one section and then jazzy in another. Since he has always been playing first fiddle in the band, the other musicians willingly veer off into improvisational mode when he does. As these tracks feature some build-up and intensity (which for the most part come across as reserved tension, though), they will certainly get more acclaim than the following two, Forfanterie and Le Voyageur Egare se Noie Incognito, where the instrumental virtuosity is less pronounced, and the harmonic constructions are less complex, almost on every level. Save the fact that the finale of the former piece represents a drum solo, both of them are woven of soft fabrics, now evoking quasi-chamber (reminiscent of Wapassou’s) music, now, say, merely electro-acoustic music or even some minimalist stuff on some occasions. However, the last track, Casablanca, turned out to be the best one, showing how well and tight all of the players work throughout, shaping almost a totally monolithic chamber rock/RIO sculpture, and quite a monumental one.
Conclusion. That being said, the costs of this live production are obvious in places. With the exception of its closing track, the group at times appears even as a trio of guitar, clarinet (or flute) and bass, and there are really some movements that seem to cry to the violin to join in. I’d be happy to declare that Noetra’s last stand is its most pronounced feat, but I can’t. Nevertheless, this is by all means not ‘your’ typical for-completists-only album, which, I believe is clear from the review. Final verdict: recommended with reservations.