The excellent cheese-rock that is not cheesy in the slightest of French troubadours Camembert returns with a delightfully skewiff trip along the blue lines and down into the holes entitled Negative Toe. Not as immediate as their debut Schnörgl Attahk, this new album has taken some time before I found a way in, hence the near three months between me receiving the download and the publication of this brief review.
With over six years between the debut and this, their second album, which was released in December last year, not to mention a virtual orchestra of extra support musicians, it is not surprising that there is a somewhat different vibe to Negative Toe. Thankfully the core band remain virtually the same, with a change in drummer, the remarkably talented Jacopo Costa joining the ranks, also contributing screams – rarely, for which we can only be grateful! This core continuity maintains a thematic and musical link with the previous incarnation that could easily have otherwise been lost, there being such a long period between albums.
Captain Pierre Cheese sails the mature but not over-ripe block of France’s finest dry biscuit accompaniment to the edge of the known universe to a soundtrack that draws its influences from anywhere and everywhere slightly left-field. The additional musicians take the often reverential Zeuhl stylings of the devoutly named debut into new territory, creating a rock orchestre de chamber, occasionally inhabiting some of the territory also explored by Knifeworld in recent times. Add in a dash of Uncle Frank, and a pinch or two of the esoteric end of Canterbury, and “ou est le fromage, mon aéroglisseur est plein d’anguilles”. Enjoy the ride!
This makes Negative Toe not always the easiest listen, but that, dear readers, need not put you off, for enticing melody lines are never far below the surface of this accomplished effort. This is certainly not wilfully obscure or difficult for the sake of it. Repaying the obvious hard work that went into making this record by giving it a bit of due care and attention will eventually pay you back in spades, or any other garden implement you may prefer.
The ship of cheese lurches to the avant Zeuhl symphonie of opener Orteil négatif – Once upon a time in the Galax Cheese, and later ventures north via Hatfield for the intricate yet gorgeously languorous The lament of Pr. Frankenschnorgl, where the protagonist from the first album Schnörgl Attahk contemplates isolation in the far reaches of space, or so it seems. This song is probably the most lovely thing I have heard this year, and is worth the entry fee alone.
And then we wend our way onwards into the swaying hinterland of Skwitch, which contains some fine trumpet blowing from Bernard Eber and a very filmic building of suspense, ending with some spooky Gongisms we remember from that debut album.
Elesewhere we have bossa nova beats, and we witness fertilization by an extra-terrestrial. Gros bouquin sees Sun Ra joining in on the act, as being an extra-terrestrial he doesn’t want to be left out of the fun, and fun is what this album is.
High levels of compositional skill married with some top notch ensemble playing render this stinky cheese more than palatable, and never less than interesting. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait over six years for the third instalment
01. Orteil négatif – Once upon a time in the Galax Cheese (3:13)
02. Fécondée par un extra-terrestre (15:10)
03. Gros bouquin (11:11)
04. The lament of Pr. Frankenschnorgl (9:11)
05. Skwitch (14:47)
06. El pulpo (3:19)
Total Time – 56:54
Valentin Metz – Guitars, FX, Fretless Bass (track 4), Voice (tracks 1,4 & 5), Sound Design (tracks 1,5 & 6)
Bertrand Eber – Trumpet, Bugle, Whistle, Screams
Guillaume Gravelin – Harp
Pierre Wawrzyniak – Bass, Acoustic Guitar (track 4)
Jacopo Costa – Drums, Drum Arrangements, Screams
Fabrice Toussaint – Vibes, Xylophone, Marimba, Glockenpiel, Congas, Bongos, Clave, Campana, Tam-Tam, Triangle, Timpani, Tubular Bells, Chacha, Symphonic Bass Drum, Percussion
Mélanie Gerber – Voice (track 4)
Mathieu Caro – Bassoon, Contrabassoon
Adam Starkie – Clarinets
David Bouchard – Oboe, Oboe d’Amore, English Horn
Emiliano Gavito – Flutes
Adrien Laborde – Saxes
Thierry Ndinda – Udu, Nkul
Philémon Walter – Drum Arrangements (tracks 2-5)
Record Label: AltrOck Productions
Date of Release: 26th December 2017