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(43:30, Musea / Gazul Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. What We Eat 4:29 2. Sharks 3:25 3. Counting & Spelling 3:22 4. Headlouse 5:01 5. U Boat 4:25 6. Celtic Toupee 3:54 7. A Sparrow 2:28 8. Salish 4:48 9. Saint Louis 5:02 10. Snob 2:17 11. Plaster Guys 2:19 12. Coupez Moi la Tete 1:55 LINEUP: Etienne Gaillochet – drums, vibes; lead vocals Phil Reptil – el. guitar; backing vocals With: Cyrille Mechin – saxophone Pierre Le Bourgeois – cello
Prolusion. “Kwakiutls” is the debut release by France’s ZARBOTH, a duo of Etienne Gaillochet on drums and vibes and Phil Reptil on electric guitar, both of whom sing in addition, providing lead and backing vocals respectively. The album also features two guest musicians, saxophonist Cyrille Mechin and cellist Pierre Le Bourgeois, but they appear infrequently – unfortunately, I must add.
Analysis. No less than four different musical styles are presented on the recording’s twelve tracks, which I'll describe by moving from the simpler to the more complex ones. A Sparrow and Coupez Moi la Tete are heavy metal-evoking pieces, each an antithesis of stand-out, despite the fact that both of them do stand out for something: the former is the sole track here that comes with artistic narration, and the latter is the one whose lyrical content is in the men’s first language. The other songs are all in English. Counting & Spelling is of the same, i.e. rather poor, quality that the above two are, even though it begins in a different way – as a punk rock/metal tune. What We Eat, Sharks, U Boat and Celtic Toupee are better creations, all blending Thrash with what sounds like Grunge with the added complexity and musicianship of progressive Doom Metal, albeit the latter piece reveals some quieter landscapes as well. The remaining vocal track, Headlouse, has a certain funky feel to it, sounding much like Primus everywhere, save a few episodes featuring the cellist. The songs show that the men aren’t bad vocalists, though on the other hand, most of their singing is either hooligan-like in character or is so-called growling – which I only accept when the music is highly progressive. As players they are decent-to-good, though, especially impressive on the tracks that are described next. Following one another right after the core of the album, Salish, Saint Louis, Snob and Plaster Guys are instrumental compositions, all great. The first of them is similar to the above Celtic Toupee in construction, but is richer in textural contrasts and is generally more diverse. The other three could be described as aggressive electro-acoustic Chamber Rock/RIO, at times bordering on avant-garde Jazz Metal, with certain hints of Finnegans Wake circa “Pictures”, classic Etron Fou Leloublan, as well as “Larks”-to-“Red” era King Crimson. Although the music isn’t as twisted as either of the reference points, it’s still quite remarkable – in many ways thanks to the side participants, both of whom appear as mature musicians, knowing their work like the back of their hands. The drummer also shines with mastery, particularly on the latter track, where he acts as another lead player, taking part in an equal musical dialog with the saxophonist and guitarist in a manner that captures all the nuances of the involved instruments. And it’s just here where he deploys vibes in the most effective way, as they fit right into the track’s musical scheme – unlike those on a couple of heavy metal tunes.
Conclusion. Such stylistically and compositionally motley material as is presented on this album indicates that its creators are still verdant musicians, albeit definitely talented ones. I’d recommend to the guys forming a full-fledged band and, in the future, keeping the direction they’ve designated on the instrumental pieces.
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