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Julian Julien - Terre II CD (album) cover


Julian Julien


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.99 | 12 ratings

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4 stars Talk about originality, French Jazz saxophonist and composer Julian Julien travels in a peculiar realm, an avant-garde fusion form that is both urban and modern on one side and very traditional and exotic on the other. I had reviewed with great delectation his previous album 'Strange', released in 2006 which also contained this wonderfully interesting dichotomy. His debut album was entitled 'Terre' (1980), and this is the second chapter. Being a resident of Paris, Julian grasps hauntingly the particular vibe that makes today's Paris very different than the one I saw first back in 1966, to say the least! The French capital is a towering melting pot of various cultures in close proximity, a sprinkling of Africa (Mali, Niger, Senegal, Guinea, Cameroun, etc'.), a large dose of Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia) , plus some additional Polynesian, Caribbean and Asian influences . France once had a colonial empire that spanned the globe and has representation in every Parisian neighbourhood. Add some Jewish, Portuguese, Polish, Romanian and Russian contingents, and you get the idea! When I listen to both Strange and Terre II, my immediate feeling is one of almost documentary-like soundtrack of a megalopolis' day in the life.

'Prelude' is tremendous first stop, a vibrant piece that defies description, highly cinematographic, swirling sonic motifs that are brass-led, allied to some percussive rhythm, and a strange resonating keyboard sound. Eerie and moody, great introduction/introspection. The title track has a shimmering quality due to the string work, with both cello and violin supplying the angst, the piano taking the lead and the sultry clarinet finishing the deal. Fabuleux!

The first 'Iris' interlude kicks in (there will be six in all spread throughout the album, at regular intervals) and sets the table for the flute-fueled 'Ailleurs', which will set a particular vibe of complexity within a sensible framework, both dense and lightly daubed, crystalline effects that induce a strong jazzy feel, snippets of synth, blotches of trumpet, percussion islands that certainly induce mind travel.

'Iris II' and 'Iris III', combine to further the electronic cause, almost industrial space with odd noises and echoes, pinging and ponging in a slow, deliberate fashion. The soundtrack to an urban jungle, colliding and contrasting incessantly, the nighttime sax tending to scream out some moody frustration. The horn in particular takes the front stage, near the curb where the jaded mademoiselle looks on , somewhat indifferent to her waiting 'copain' .

As expected, 'Une Attente' delivers more outlandish sounds, where riveting piano, distant echoed beats, voice effects amid the mournful cello settle the impatience, with a 'chanson fran'aise' vocal from H'l'ne Argo that completely unzips the naked French genre of romantic yet somewhat schizoid music. 'Lingerie et un p'tit coup de rouge' (lipstick and red wine), she seems to think out loud.

The very 'avant' 'Iris IV' is almost painful, the insane sax blaring like some elephant gone amok, screeching, irate and out of control. I thought of Adrian Belew on electric guitar for a second' definitely pushing the envelope. The exuberant and urban 'Doudou' has a definite African vibe (a common nickname in French Africa) that suddenly becomes very sociable, as if Mike Oldfield was in the studio, visiting. Warm, sunny, smooth and obscure.

Another 'Iris' interval (V) maintains the electronic feel, with resonating backroom distortion, as if some noise was emanating from the neighbour's flat, shuffled along by some explicit synth and percussion work. This prepares the longest piece here, the 7 minute + 'Non-Sens', a no nonsense (tres drole) composition that sets a typical synthesized mood and sticks to it for a good while before it morphs into something totally else. Cyclical beats, broad string swaths, and a superb horn solo that gets really emotive and profound. A delight!

The final 'Iris (VI)' only serves to set up the brilliant finale, dedicated to the legendary John Barry, film composer of international fame and reputation. Entitled 'Mr.John Barry', the music meanders like a final musical credit roll that is extremely evocative of some Parisian scene, perhaps Place de la Concorde, or the Palais de Chaillot, or maybe some of those magical Paris staircases that abound Montmartre.

This is in fact perfect nocturnal music, ideal to chill out after a long day, tired from both work and the after dinner escapade that finally brought you home. The sounds are never overtly aggressive or harsh but always unexpectedly created and alive. Very real, very social, very Paris. While this is neither mainstream or niche, Julian Julien makes quite a statement with this amazing release, in a genre that really needs something beyond the usual fusion technical display.

This review is also dedicated to my French cousin, who sadly had to witness the police raid in St-Denis on November 18, 2015 that ended with 5000 bullets being shot. He heard every one of them, poor man. Not exactly music.

4.5 earthy globes

tszirmay | 4/5 |


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