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(55:30 / MNS & Poseidon Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Alloy 5:45 2. Parade 4:36 3. Nullset 4:50 4. Seven Steps to Post Tango 10:11 5. Tempered Etan 5:51 6. Painted Red 2:48 7. Calcutta 3:45 8. Arcos 6:36 9. Crater 14:00 LINEUP: Kido Notsuki - guitars Kita Naoki - violin Hayashi Masaki - piano Sato Yoshiaki - accordion Torigae Keisuke - contrabass
Prolusion. "Alloy" is the first official release by Japan's SALLE GAVEAU. The ensemble's name appears to be in French, but this is not the first case by far, when artists from the Land of the Rising Sun have resorted to European languages to choose a name for their bands (I've just recalled Il Berlione, who are certainly not Italians).
Analysis. As you can see above, Salle Gaveau is a quintet of violinist, contrabassist, pianist, accordionist and guitarist, yet I just wanted to make certain you notice there is no drummer among the musicians. According to the CD booklet, Kido Notsuki (of Bondage Fruit fame) plays guitar - just guitar, but not guitars as it says in my homemade listing of the group's lineup. To be as short as possible, I just note that the man more often plays acoustic than electric guitar, never 'mixing' the instruments within the same piece. Those of you, dear readers, who are familiar with Art Zoyd and, at the same time, find these lines to be a hint of the similarity between Salle Gaveau and that French outfit, are right in your supposition, but nevertheless you are not even halfway to having an idea of this recording. Despite the absence of drums in the arrangement, much of the music here possesses enough energy and dynamism that one perceives its makers at least as a quasi chamber-rock ensemble, though each of the nine instrumentals present contains episodes with a purely chamber sound - yes, just as is in the case of classic Art Zoyd. But while being certainly inspired by some 20th century composers, such as Stravinsky, Schoenberg and Schnitke, our Japanese men rarely tread a strict neoclassical path, besides which their music is emotionally much lighter than that of Art Zoyd. "Alloy" is a very appropriate (I'd even say, almost mathematically correct) title for this album, both briefly and capaciously reflecting the essence of Salle Gaveau's work. Parade is the only piece on the CD that is made up predominantly of RIO-like constructions, while what I meet here most often is indeed nothing other than an alloy of a few genres. The title track, Crater and Seven Steps to Post Tango are absolute winners to my way of thinking. Blending together both classical and avant-garde branches of Academic music and genuine jazz improvisations, with bright Spanish folk colorations put on top of all that, i.e. combining harmonies most of which seem to be completely incompatible with each other, all these remind me in a way of a meta-architecture (where while going upstairs, a man finds himself going down), just embodied in music. Nonetheless, while widely deploying dissonances and other tricks referring to Dodecaphony, Salle Gaveau never dissolve into cacophony, the music remaining comprehensible even at its most avant-garde. Seven Steps to Post Tango is especially rich in Spanish and related tunes, tango being certainly part of the music too, though I doubt I'll be able to tell you what freakish shapes that traditional style can take here, once in conjunction with a rapid electric guitar solo. The only track in the set with the electric guitar as its main driving force is the shortest one, Painted Red, sliding somewhere between Classical and Avant-garde music. There are avant-garde features to be found on Nullset and Tempered Etan as well, though for the most part, both these follow a symphonic harmony, with the violin and acoustic guitar taking most of the key roles in the soloing department of each. Still, the energy is here in abundance, particularly on the latter, when listening to which I was even reminded of Kansas - twice! Calcutta and Arcos, following each other just before the last track, are both somewhat conventional, compared to the preceding. Titled after the city in India, Calcutta has musically nothing to do with that country; instead, it draws a jovial dance-like folk tune whose European origin is beyond doubt. As is everywhere on the CD, the music on Arcos is ever changing too, but unlike all the other tracks, this one is slow-paced throughout, one of the violin-driven moments very strongly resembling Black Eyes - a kind of everlasting hit from the repertoire of Russian Gypsies.
Conclusion. It is only because of the two tracks described last that I decided not to add an exclamation mark to the rating, although the other seven pieces (totaling 45 minutes in length) are all masterworks. One way or another, "Alloy" is an outstanding album that will bring plenty of joy to anyone who still values progressive music with no commercial values. Don't miss.
VM: July 4, 2007
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