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(42:54, 'Spleen Arcana')
TRACK LIST: 1. Trample on Me 9:07 2. The Missing Piece 3:42 3. A Picture of Two Lovers in the Mist 10:12 4. Tears Are Made to Flow 9:49 5. A Kind of Heaven 10:04 LINEUP: Julien Gaullier – vocals; guitars, bass; keyboards, bodhran David Perron – drums Marie Guillaumet – vocals
Prolusion. SPLEEN ARCANA is the creative vehicle of self-taught French composer and multi-instrumentalist Julien Gaullier. Over the years he has written and recorded a great deal of material for his own pleasure. Five years ago he decided to make a concentrated effort with a full length album as the goal he wanted to achieve. Late in 2008 the finishing touches were applied, and early in 2009 his solo debut "The Field Where She Died" was released.
Analysis. Gaullier is inspired by vintage progressive rock, but also has many – in prog circles – modern artists he's influenced by, with acts such as Radiohead and Anathema as some examples mentioned. The most dominant element as far as vintage leanings go on this venture isn't found in the music though, but in the production. Gaullier has opted for a sound pretty close to what was common back in the day of the vinyl LP – digital compression of the music is limited as much as possible, and rather than the loud, clean soundscape most common these days the sonic tapestries are warm, gentle and quiet. On this CD the volume knob needs to be turned up a notch or three higher than what most are used to if you want to reach the same loudness level as on most modern recordings. A side result of this is that the instruments are slightly less distinct in the mix, which might feel a bit alien to those who unaccustomed to listening to good old-fashioned LPs. The music itself is somewhat divided, where two different stylistic expressions to some extent contrast with each other. Many passages are gentle affairs, where acoustic guitars, piano and keys sometimes alone and sometimes supported by drums and bass convey mellow, almost pastoral musical landscapes in a manner pretty close to the calmest varieties of the symphonic side of the art rock universe from the ‘70s. Other passages incorporate drawn out riffs and riff patterns with an obvious influence from progressive metal. In this case they are toned down and subdued to fit into an art rock setting without pushing the stylistic expression towards the metal side of prog, but the similarities in expression for these particular elements are still pretty obvious. After the spirited opener Trample on Me this production ended up as a so-so affair for me though; but not due to any of the elements above. This is a venture where the vocal parts are long and numerous, and as I rarely concern myself with the lyrics of an album I tend to focus on the overall musical effect in those parts of a composition. And in this case they became too similar and too sparse for my personal liking. Gaullier isn't a vocalist talented enough to mesmerize with his voice, and the musical foundations for the various vocal-dominated segments basically failed to prove the additional details I crave to really take note of a composition in this case. I was never bored, but neither did any of the songs manage to captivate me throughout, with A Picture of Two Lovers in the Mist as the one closest to intriguing me due to some really captivating instrumental sequences.
Conclusion. "The Field Where She Died" takes on a gentle variety of art rock in the symphonic vein, where vintage influences and a vintage sound are dominating aspects of the production while a select few modern embellishments with clear influences from the metal side of prog added in a toned down manner to contrast with the mellow dimension of this creation. The album as such seems to focus just as much, if not even more, on telling stories rather than venturing into instrumental escapades, and as such should be most interesting to those who really enjoy listening to and following the lyrics rather than ones anxiously awaiting the next instrumental passage.
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