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Twelfth Alfonso - 2006 - "Claude Monet Vol. 2"

(74 min, Musea)

TRACK LIST:                    

1.  Crusade for Olympia 7:11
2.  Poppy's Score 2:31
3.  Suns in the Mist 7:43
4.  Words of Trees 4:50
5.  That Changes Though Stone 4:45
6.  The Cathedral Was Falling on Me 1:10
7.  Visit to Giverny 2:50
8.  In Winter's Country 8:05
9.  Nothing Else But Impossible 2:09
10. Custom Officer's Shed 2:30
11. In the Daybreak Puddles 4:31
12. Elegy for Suzan 1:54
13. Japanese Bridges 3:30
14. The Fog Watchman 6:14
15. Vethenil 2:01
16. Illusory Archipelago 6:58
17. Madrid 1904 4:33


Michael Geyre - Stick; accordions; pianos, keyboards
Philippe Claerhout - guitars, bass, lutes; flutes; percussion
Francois Claerhout - drums & percussion
Franck Geyre - trumpet (4)
Mickey Simmonds - piano (16)
Claude Aufaure - Claude Monet's voice

Prolusion. This is a French band, which is named after the medieval Spanish king TWELFTH ALFONSO. The second part of their "Monet" trilogy, "Claude Monet Vol. 2" is the fifth studio album in their discography and is dedicated to the mid period of the painter's life and creation (from 1989 to 1904).

Analysis. Before I put this CD into my player I thought this band should play something like Rick Wakeman- or Anthony Phillips-oriented music, closer to the old West European Art-Rock traditions. And I was wrong in my presupposition, because "Claude Monet Vol. 2" is penetrated by the spirit of the epoch of Impressionism, Decadence and, well, Claude Monet. While listening to probably any track from this disk you can feel as if you find yourself in Paris or Madrid one hundred years ago, imbued with melancholic moods and peaceful conditions. The music is abundant in sounds of folk and classical chamber instruments, e.g. flutes, lutes, pianos, accordions and more, all of which can be equally useful for minstrels (street musicians), for a symphonic orchestra and for a modern Avant-garde band, and I must say Twelfth Alfonso quite well suits my concept of the latter example. Really, when I listened to the album I rather often could not keep myself from drawing parallels between it and some classic works of Chamber Rock / RIO, such as those by Univers Zero for instance, because there is no shortage of angular constructions, complex rhythms and other avant-garde features here. On the other hand however, the gentlemen from Twelfth Alfonso by no means intend to scorn Rock as such, Ambient and quasi Jazz-Fusion, sometimes venturing even into the '60s psychedelic areas. All in all, the music is not as complex as that which is normally typical of RIO performers, but anyway it's very intriguing, avoiding any straight analogies. The band's primary lineup includes three musicians: Michael Geyre and the Claerhout brothers - Philippe and Francois. Michael and Philippe are definitely the main moving force in the collective, and not only because they play all the basic instruments responsible for the program's sonic palette. Both are gifted composers and arrangers in addition. The album features the performance of several session musicians, though almost all of them appear episodically. Only "the voice of Claude Monet", Claude Aufaure, is present on many tracks, periodically reading texts in French. There is no surprise that most of the seventeen tracks on the album are quite short, but there are no lightweights among them. Furthermore, those such as Words of Tress, That Changes Though Stone and Custom Officer's Shed are very beautiful and are among the most successful compositions here, as also is the atmospherically melancholic Elegy for Suzan, with its psychedelic guitars, unusual keyboards and percussions, reminding me somewhat of the ticking of some universal clocks. Among the longer tracks the highlights include Crusade for Olympia, Sung in the Twist, Illusory Archipelago and In Winter's Country, which, with its unforgettable "Zoom! Zoom!" sung by a male choir consisting of bass and baritone singers, is probably the most thrilling moment on the recording.

Conclusion. Highly recommended to anybody valuing extraordinary methods in Progressive and might be a truly crucial point for those halfway in comprehending Chamber Rock / RIO. Twelfth Alfonso can serve as a good bridge between Yes or Genesis from one side and Univers Zero or Thinking Plague from another.

VZ: April 12, 2006

Related Links:

Musea Records


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