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(49:59, ‘Le Grand Baton’)
TRACK LIST: 1. Don't Copy 0:07 2. Ou La Ka Pale 1:12 3. Atoupannan 4:46 4. File 3:41 5. Avan Yo Jwenn 1:09 6. Zafe a Koule La 5:00 7. Gran Rivye 5:57 8. An Mitan Pit 5:41 9. Manzel 4:05 10. De Jou Avan 3:05 11. Toutle Depi De Jou 3:59 12. Ki Zanma 0:38 13. Joune Ay 0:24 14. Les Jours s'Allongent 8:40 15. Epilog 1:25 LINEUP: Mbutu – vocals; guitars; Ka drum Philippe Maka?a – Ka drum Pascal Rey – drums Cyrile Nobilet – bass Etienne Mbappe – bass
Prolusion. LE GRAND BATON is a band project lead by Jean-Christophe Maillard, also known as Mbutu, a native Caribbean living in France. The rest of the band apparently has an international flavor, as the group’s homepage lists Paris and New York City as other geographical locations for the outfit. Mbutu apparently has made a name for himself in a musical style known as Gwoka, and this current project mixes this ethnic musical genre with rock.
Analysis. The main and dominant instrument on this creation is a drum known as Ka. With references to the ancient tragic history of the slave trade it's also known as a "slave drum". This goat-skin covered rhythm instrument has a peculiar sound, but it's the way it is utilized and played on these compositions that really makes an impact. Mixed with regular drums, the groovy patterns served by the combination of these rhythm instruments have a distinct ethnic feel to them, world music or folk music, but with an edge. Voodoo is a key word here, I guess; the band describes themselves as "the true voodoo children" and there's a distinct tribal feel of the dark kind seeping through most of these songs, where the rhythmic work sets up a foundation often wild as well as frenzied, the kind of rhythms you'd expect to hear when stumbling upon forbidden rites performed in the deep jungles, in celebration of nameless horrors and decadent excesses. The first half dozen compositions add twisted, dark rock music to these almost decadent, quirky rhythmic displays. Booming distorted bass lines or eerie melodic twists, with even more distorted guitar licks and riffs placed upon those, form dark and ominous compositions, the kind of music fitting for a post-apocalyptic zombie feast. Effective use of weird vocals and whispers in those creations enhance this atmosphere even more. On the rest of this CD there's a drastic change in the music explored: the melodies, moods and atmospheres calm down and mellow down, moving more and more towards jazz in style. The ethnic beats are still present and the rhythms may still be on the wild side at times, the compositions remain rather complex in nature, though the dark and ominous feel disappears. Slight remnants remain for a while, but as this production draws to a close with the long track Les Jours s'Allongent, we're in a different world altogether, as this creation is pretty close in style and sound to what an artist like Bendik Hofseth produced in the late ‘80s: mellow, melodic jazz with strong leanings towards pop and rock. This makes for a rather adventurous production in many aspects; the Caribbean ethnic rhythms and voodoo heritage mixed first with rock close to avant-garde and even punk in style at the start, the sudden change towards mellower rock and further evolvement towards jazz in stylistic expression is a daring one. Not always successful though, but none of the songs here comes across as fillers or as undeveloped either.
Conclusion. For liberal-minded followers of rock music that feel a variety of styles, moods and genres is a treat, this production should be worthwhile investigating. The compositions, especially the dark and somewhat brutal ones opening this album, may not be appealing at first; but many will find that over time they get more and more fascinating as one adjusts to this rather unique stylistic expression. The mix of ethnic music and rock may also attract the attentions of jazz- and folk-rock aficionados. The most conservative among them may find this release a tad difficult to relate to, but it should be of interest to quite a few among that crowd too.
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