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Tracklist: La tour haute 7:04 Loueson nom! 3:35 Chansonde trouvere 8:45 Les saisons marines** 6:20 Tel rit au main* 2:32 Ce me dame* 7:56 Deuxchemis d'enfance (part 1) 3:35 Deuxchemis d'enfance (part 2) 4:36 Nostre Dame - Uno Messe: Kirie* 2:05 Credo* 2:05 X File 2:16 Exutoire 2:48 En castille*** 5:48 Meditation 2:04 Music, arrangements, lyrics and imaginary words by Thierry & Jean-Luc Payssan. Some pieces on this album have been worked out from medieval sources attributed to: (*) - Guillaume de Machaut (XIV C); (**) - Conon de Bethune (XIII C); (***) - Anonymous (XV C). We have freely structured, expanded and arranged those musical quotations which constituted the basis for our own compositions. (noted by Thierry & Jean-Luc Payssan.). Recorded by Bertrand Amable between July 1999 and September 2000 at "Manatma" studio, Bordeaux, France. Mixed by B. Amable & Vital Duo at the same studio between October 2000 and January 2001. Mastered by Loic Lachaize & B. Amable. Co-prodeced by "Musea" & Vital Duo. Line-up: Jean-Luc Payssan - bass, electric & classical guitars, mandolin, 16-string cithern (old lyre); vocals; drums, percussion & tambourine. Thierry Payssan - keyboards (digital Church & Hammond organs, synthesizers, grand piano), sampler; percussion; vocals. Discography (with Minimum Vital): 1985 - "Envol triangles" 1987 - "Les saisons marines" (both LPs on one CD); 1990 - "Sarabandes"; 1993 - "La source"; 1996 - "Esprit d'amour"; 2001 - "Ex Tempore" (all released by "Musea"). Other recordings: 1999 - "Au cercle de Pierre" (M/V compilation); "Les mondes de Min/Vital" (video).
Prologue. The very, very talented Payssan brothers were co-founders and the main masterminds of Minimum Vital. While the Minimum Vital band just cannot exist without them - at all, in general, etc, - to me, a new album by their new ProGject Vital Duo (I like this name much more than Minimum Vital) is just a continuation of the Payssan brothers' discography - no matter under which name - of their band or project. In guess, everything created by this brother duo is a high-quality musical production, though I've heard only few Minimum Vital albums. Even their quite poppy "Esprit d'amour" I consider a unique work in general and a real masterpiece of Neo Progressive in particular.
The Album. It would be useless just to describe compositions one after another in case of "Ex Tempore". Personally, I can't perceive this album any other way but as a complete work. This one in some ways reminds me very much of a picture by some brilliant medieval (yet modernistic at the same time) painter. It's impossible to reproduce the impression of the picture just enumerating each its stroke and describing it in detail (it's possible only in the stroke books, no?). Vital Duo's "Ex Tempore" is, perhaps, really a vital album for the contemporary progressive scene thanks to its unique, distinctly innovative contents representing a brave approach to mixing the medieval and contemporary (Rock) forms of music. It must be said, however, that the blend of medieval and contemporary Progressive Rock sounds on the album lesser than a typical medieval-alike music. Despite the fact that there is the only real medieval instrument (old lyre) in the duo's equipment the music on "Ex Tempore" is filled with an obvious medieval spirit and I just wonder how masterly the Payssan brothers manage to elicit a wide variety of old sounds from the arsenal of modern instruments. Jean-Luc is a wonderful musician. I didn't know that he is a real multi-instrumentalist. Some of the pieces are in the same medieval vein, only performed to the accompaniment of a rhythm-section, they sound just amazing. Jean-Luc's drumming is not only something outstanding - it's especially impressive exactly in the medieval structures. When he does all these most unusual breaks he feels the spirit surrounding him at the moment so fine as if he'd previously lived several centuries ago. There also are few pieces with almost clear contemporary Progressive Rock sound on "Ex Tempore", but all the 'additional' colours have the same medieval feel which actually is more than just typical for the album as a whole. Several compositions contain either short yet loud tunes of some choral prayers or incantations, wonderful exactly in their monotony, or large-scale songs.. While the first of them, as I think, were spoken and sung in Latin, the second ones were sung in French. Of course, all kinds of singing on the album have obviously that medieval character. Though the digital church organ's sound isn't all that similar to the real church organ, all its scores played by Thierry always help to disregard these minor differences. As for Thierry's Grand Piano parts they sound as classically as centuries ago. (In this case I'd like to thank myself for some attentive listens to contemporary pianists played the music of past centuries.)
Summary. Thinking of Vital Duo's "Ex Tempore" as just of a kind of music that some other present and past progressive artists have used in their works too, I don't find an effort to perform medieval music too innovative, generally. I've heard no less than a dozen albums whose musical structures at least partly contain some medieval components (beginning with Gryphon's first and third albums). Meanwhile, I can't compare "Ex Tempore" to any of the albums I mean. Plus, bearing in mind that Gryphon on their first album performed not their own, but original medieval pieces, I have to admit that I've never heard anything at least a bit similar to this album of Vital Duo. Thus, if this work isn't totally innovative, then it's incredibly original and even unique. That's for sure, though. Not extremely complex, "Ex Tempore" is, however, slightly more than just moderately complex progressive music. So I don't think most of the Neo-heads will like this album.
VM. June 13, 2000
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