What a delightful little album! Alco Frisbass, an oddly named duo from Rennes and Paris have come up with an assorted confection of Canterbury goodness that any fan of that particular obscure backwater can only appreciate in ever increasing amounts the more often they listen to it.
Taking a blend of National Health, Gilgamesh, the Hatfields and the Softs, and stamping it all with their own Gallic identity, these two multi-talented musicians and their consummate supporting cast have produced an album that while maybe not progressive in the true sense shows enough character of its own to keep this particular audient more than enthralled.
The reference points are many and varied, and as there is so much a good musician can do with these open-ended jazz inflected grooves it never becomes a slave to its influences, as is often the case where modern bands draw on the narrower musical seams of some of the other more commercially successful bands of the original prog era.
Escamotage translates as “Retraction”, and is one of the more straightforward track titles, as the band keep up the Canterbury mining with some appropriately surreal titles for their instrumental forays. The artwork on the tasteful tri-foldout digipak is from that same off-kilter world, and is slightly reminiscent of Terry Gilliam’s Python animations.
The album opens with the quirky rhythms of La Suspension Ethéréenne (Ethereal Suspension), a combination of melancholy violin from Archimede De Martini, a name you really hope is not a pseudonym, and a mischievously bubbling bass line, that judging by the credits must have been keyboard generated, unless the “Guitars” credited to Jacob Holm Lupo include the bass variety. The song works its way through sections, frequently returning to the theme with that clever bass line keeping the song simmering nicely. The instrumental spotlight shines on all manner of keyboard, guitar and other instruments, and it is all quite delightful.
The wordless vocals in Induction Magnétique although male recall The Northettes, and with a spidery Phil Miller guitar solo thrown in for good measure, the whole song is very nostalgic, but with a trademark sound of its own.
The songs are all of sufficient length to take the listener on a musical journey, but never so long as to outstay their welcome. La Danse du Pantin (Dancing Puppet) has an air of impish humour, again underpinned by a high level of musicality, and you can’t see the strings! Escamotage features more of Monsieur Martini’s violin, over a hypnotic keyboard figure and complimentary guitar line, and sounds like something Karl Jenkins might have dreamed up during his Soft Machine tenure.
We end with Judith Coupeuse de Tête (Judith the Executioner – possibly!), which gives us a final helping of the Canterbury inflected groove , this time with a pastoral air at odds with the Dadaist track title. The tune then dances away, waltzing over a surreal landscape under a kaleidoscopic sky. Time signatures change, the seemingly solid ground shifts beneath our feet, and the cumulative effect is woozy and dream-like, ending with a rousing burst of applause and ovation.
Marvellous stuff! This album is a must for anyone into the more accessible end of the Canterbury spectrum and it is a charm from beginning to end. “Alco Frisbass” – I wish I knew where that name came from!
01. La Suspension Ethéréenne (10:29)
02. Pas À Pas (6:42)
03. Induction Magnétique (9:06)
04. La Danse du Pantin (7:38)
05. Escamotage (12:14)
06. Judith Coupeuse de Tête (9:04)
Total Time – 55:13
Fabrice “Chfab” Chouette – Keyboards, Guitars, Voice, Recorder, Whistling & Percussions
Patrick “Paskinel” Dufour – Fender Rhodes, Keyboards, all drum programming & Chimes
Thierry Payssan – Sigma solos and Mellotron [final] (6)
Jacob Holm Lupo – Guitars (1 & 6)
Archimede De Martini – Violin solos (1, 2 & 5)
Record Label: AltrOck Productions/Fading Records
Year Of Release: 2015