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Chêne Noir - Aurora CD (album) cover


Chêne Noir



2.69 | 12 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

3 stars Rating: B-

Gentle flutes float across a barren landscape, ushering in a musical experience of a new kind, an experience that can most accurately be called "theatre rock." Soon augmented by drum fills, the flute continues, undaunted, in subtle beauty. Still more elements emerge behind the flute, creating bleak atmospheres. The flute may be beautiful, but something feels off, though that something is not realized fully for some time yet. Instead, we listen, entranced, wondering what will happen, how events will unfold. Once the theatrical female vocals enter, the song takes on a new sense of purpose. The darker atmospheres start to be more fully realized. The calming flute is gone, the cymbal-heavy drumming taking its place in the center stage.

That is how Chene Noir's debut album/play begins, setting the tone for what is to come. This is not a CD in the traditional sense. There are not well-defined songs on this album. Yes, the CD is split into six tracks, but each one is really just a part of the grand whole. And, of course, this is as much a play as it is a CD. A play that just happens to have one of the most fantastic backing soundtracks ever created. We need only look towards the second track to realize the full power of this masterwork. Here, the flute returns, but it is no longer gentle. It is played with an urgency heard far too rarely on the flute. Behind it, the drums create dynamic rhythms that hold everything together and propel the action at the same time.

While the rest of the CD doesn't vary too much from this formula, we still do get to enjoy additional layers as the action of the play progresses, including (though certainly not limited to) a powerful mix of tortured sax and vocals that will drive a spike through your brain and yet make it look like a work of art. "La Conte de la Terre et de Ses Enfants," where this particular technique is featured, also uses powerful drums to hammer the spike home, and the resulting climax must be heard to be believed. The opening two tracks might not show it (though the second certainly hints at it), but Aurora is one of the most intense listening experiences I know. Atmospheres chill to the bone, vocals reach to the soul, drums rattle your skeleton, and saxophone pierces your eardrums. And there is nothing you can do about, because as this CD so tortures you, it also captivates you. Once you turn this CD on, you will find it surprisingly hard to turn off until it's ended.

Aurora is a work of art, in short. It should come as no surprise that this band made the infamous Nurse With Wound list, as Steven Stapleton and co. were able to pick out, with uncanny accuracy, the best avant-garde CDs the musical world offered up to that point. This is one of those CDs. I stayed away for a long time assuming that the music would be relatively uninteresting with spoken vocals on top of it. Don't make the same mistake I made, because you'll regret it once you finally come around to this album. Aurora is not a CD to be heard, it is a CD to be experienced. With Aurora, Chene Noir have created art that won't be for everyone - there's absolutely nothing conventional about it, and so it will drive away all but adventurous avant-heads - but if you are a fan of the avant-garde side of progressive rock and are looking for a unique CD to add to your collection, this is worth checking out.

Pnoom! | 3/5 |


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