Lazuli have, over the last decade and more, become one of the finest live bands in the world, thrilling audiences across Europe with their dazzling and accessible mix of melodic prog, industrial tones and ethnic musical influences. It’s a melting pot that provides a unique experience, and on stage is where they really shine, their enthusiasm and raw talent brimming over for all to see. But take away the thrill of the live show and their albums to date – excellent though they undoubtedly are – have fallen short in conveying the full Lazuli experience.
This might also be true of their ninth album, Le Fantastique Envol de Dieter Böhm, but it is, without doubt, their finest release so far.
It’s a concept piece split into six parts, but it remains concise and to the point. The idea arose from a concert where the band spotted a member of the audience so completely lost in the music that he seemed to be in a trance-like world of his own. I don’t know whether the name is real or fictionalised, but that person is the Dieter Böhm of the story. The album describes the musicians pouring their crafted sounds into bottles and casting them into the sea, hoping that some will fall into the hands of someone like Dieter, who will allow the songs in to make their world better, to allow the individual to fly on new-found wings. It’s a lovely idea, many of us will understand the power of such an awakening, and I think it underlines one of the things that is so special about Lazuli, their enthusiasm for making other people’s lives better with their music.
The story’s prologue has an industrial and brooding feel to it, possibly referring to the world before the creation of the music. The sound suddenly getting more intense and bursting out as Dominique Leonetti’s majestic voice rises to its highest registers. The music swells with keys and soaring guitars in the act of creation. It’s a breathtaking opener, leading into the first part of the story where the songs are released, like messages in bottles cast into the sea. Les chansons sont des bouteilles à la mer starts with a beautiful and sparsely supported vocal, the music gradually building with stabs of piano melody breaking through. It’s stately and well-directed, the Léode solo from Claude Leonetti a confident statement of intent for what is to come. I haven’t seen a translation of the words as yet but it seems to me that Mers lacrymales might take in the treacherous and often fraught journey that these songs have to undertake to make it through to their audience. It’s an epic piece with a real edge to it, gilded by Gédéric Byar’s angular soloing.
There’s a pause before the next Act starts, the ‘bottle’ arriving with Dieter far away, on a wave of Léode and guitar. It’s punchy and direct with a relentless drive, the breakdown and re-establishment of momentum at the end of the song underlining this. To Dieter, the song is like a balm, Baume describing that feeling in soothing tones with twinkling sounds and with a beautiful piano interlude from Romain Thorel towards the end that moves effortlessly into the dreamy tones of Un visage lunaire, the music growing in intensity, again epic in the chorus. It’s a wonderful tour de force, shot through with the unique sound of the Léode, the band’s delicate and heavier inclinations beautifully delivered as the music takes hold of Dieter’s soul.
L’envol (‘The Flight’) opens the final act on the back of the previous track as Dieter’s feet gradually leave the ground. There’s a sense of expectation that builds into a rocking instrumental interlude, you can feel the wide-eyed excitement as the music itself starts to fly. Finally, Dieter is gracefully soaring through the air in an airy piece of almost orchestral sounds, light and breezy but packed with intent, as always delivered to perfection by Dominique. The song is now ‘In the Hands of Dieter’ and enhancing his world, as the makers had hoped would happen to someone, somewhere.
It’s an uplifting end to a quite thrilling album. It might not have the jaw-dropping visual side of the band’s live performances, but it ticks all the boxes as far as a listening experience goes. The confidence displayed on this album is wonderful, and Lazuli have clearly moved to the next level. Bien fait et bien mérité!
In troubled times we could all do with music of this quality to take us somewhere better.
01. Sol (4:27)
02. Les chansons sont des bouteilles à la mer (6:13)
03. Mers lacrymales (5:04)
04: Dieter Böhm (5:33)
05. Baume (3:31)
06. Un visage lunaire (4:15)
07. L’envol (2:25)
08. L’homme volant (5:37)
09. Dans les mains de Dieter (5:37)
Total Time – 42:42
Vincent Barnavol – Drums, Percussion, Marimba
Gédéric Byar – Guitar
Claude Leonetti – Léode
Dominique Leonetti – Lead Vocals, 6 & 12-string Guitars
Romain Thorel – Keyboards, French Horn
Record Label: L’Abeille Rôde
Country of Origin: France
Date of Release: 14th February 2020