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Track List: 1. L'amulette et le Petit Rabbin 18:01 2. Sololo Brigida 3:01 3. Yvett' Blouse 0:22 4. Madame Richard & Larika 9:22 5. Histoire De Graine 11:10 All tracks: by Etron Fou Leloublan. Line-up: Chris Chanet- saxophones; vocals Ferdinand Richard - bass & acoustic guitars; vocals Guigou Chenevier - drums & various percussion Produced by Etron Fou Leloublan. Engineered by T. Magal & F. Ferreux.
Preamble. Etron Fou Leloublan (originally Etron Fou) was formed by the actor and saxophonist Chris Chanet and existed from 1973 to 1976. In the first half of the 1970s this French band was notable for their joint concerts with the famous Magma. Chris Chanet (his real name is Eulalie Ruynat, though) quit the band just before the "Batelage" album was released, which happened in November of 1976, and joined another well-known French outfit Urban Sax.
The Album. Two out of the five tracks that are present on this album are songs. These are the first and the last tracks here: the 'side-long' L'amulette et le Petit Rabbin (Talisman of a Little Rabbi, 1) and Histoire De Graine (5), which is the second longest track on "Batelage". Approximately, there is the equal number of the vocal parts and purely instrumental arrangements on each of these songs, though stylistically, they're different among themselves, as well as all the other tracks on the album. Highly original and very contrasting interplay between passages and solos of acoustic guitar and solos of saxophone, bass guitar, drums, and various percussion instruments, done with the presence of all the possible and, sometimes, seemingly impossible progressive features, all of which is raised to the power of a continuous development. In short, that is what the instrumental arrangements that are featured on the album's opening track are about. However, both Chris Chanet and Ferdinand Richard use their vocals here (and on Histoire De Graine, too) like real instruments as well. It's just wonderful to hear the vocals being part of the complex stop-to-play movements done by all of the band members simultaneously (in fourth, etc) and exclusively with the use of unusual meters! And there are plenty of highly original arrangements on this song and the album in general. Although there are less of the 'genre' constituents in the music on the album's opening track (a unique guitar-based Art-Rock, Jazz-Fusion, and Avant-garde Academic Music) than in that on both of the other long tracks on "Batelage", it is certainly about Fifth Element as well. Though, talking about Fifth Element and its presence on this album, I should note that here, I hear one of the very first and, thus, one of the most unique manifestations of it. As for the vocals on Talisman of a Little Rabbi, they're mostly of a theatrically comic character and are as unique as everything that is present on this masterwork. There are more of Chris's vocals (and he is a chameleon singer) than those of Ferdinand on this song, and vice versa on Histoire De Graine. Here, unlike all of the other tracks on the album, I hear a series of repetitions performed with the riffs of acoustic (yeah) and bass guitar, all of which, though, being done advisedly, are just filled with a hypnotic, tense, and quite dark pulsation. While the drumming, and especially the solos and improvisations of sax that cross the parts of acoustic and bass guitar by a wide variety of wonderful parabolas, are often really wild here. All of this is often accompanied by very eccentric, either dark or sinister, yet, always impressive vocals. Overall, this is very surrealistic music, which, nevertheless, consists of quite stable structures, as well as the song I've depicted first. The third lengthy composition on "Batelage", the instrumental piece Madame Richard & Larika (4), while being as much intricate and intriguing as the boundary tracks of the album, is here and there a bit less structured and, at the same time, jazzier than any of them. Nevertheless, I'd hardly rate Madame Richard & Larika lower than the songs, and both of them are rare pearls of Progressive. Especially since everything is here in the state of constant development. Both of the remaining instrumentals: Sololo Brigida and Yvett' Blouse (2 & 3), are also unique and in many ways (in their own way, to be precise), despite the fact that both of them are short, to say the least - at least with regard to the latter of them. (Thanks, and sorry for the frequent use of intentional tautologies). Sololo Brigida represents somewhat of a real (huh?) concerto for drums, percussion, and whistles where you can hear simply outstanding stop-to-play movements performed with solos of a few percussion instruments and 'those' by whistles in unison and maybe not only: Yvett' Blues features a few interplay between bass, saxophone, and drums, done in the vein of the old-fashioned foxtrot, yet, in the key of Fifth Element, which is really ubiquitous on this album.
Summary. All those Prog-lovers, who are both profound and adventurous, you shouldn't deprive yourselves the great pleasure to hear "Batelage", which (and I am almost sure of this) is one of the most unique Progressive Rock albums you'll ever hear. It will be a revelation for most of you.
VM: December 24, 2002
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