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Etron Fou Leloublan - Batelages CD (album) cover

BATELAGES

Etron Fou Leloublan

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.42 | 37 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Pnoom!
4 stars Rating: B

Etron Fou Leloublan are widely loved for their later releases, most especially Les Poumons Gonfles, which is a masterpiece of avant-garde progressive rock, and one of the greatest CDs from any of the bands associated with Rock In Opposition. When it comes to their debut, however, opinions are a bit more polarized. On the one hand, this is their roughest work. It lacks flow at times and it has occasional songwriting lapses. On the other hand, it is quirky and charming, and all-around excellent.

Of all the original five Rock In Opposition bands, Etron Fou Leloublan (Crazy Shit, The White Wolf) was decidedly the quirkiest. With staccato starts and stops, bizarre vocals, and wild saxophone, their music is some of the weirdest ever created, but it's also potent and explosive, especially on their later releases. They are unpredictable, shifting from one theme to the next, one rhythm to the next with reckless abandon. On Batelages, these changes don't always work (even though most of the ideas are excellent, the transitions don't always come across well), but when they do, they are fantastic.

Take, for example, the epic "L'amulette et le Petit Rabin", a fantastic opening epic and the clear centerpiece of Batelages. It alternates between vocal sections sans saxophone and instrumental sections with lead saxophone, and encompasses everything from quasi-religious chanting (in style, not lyrics) to rhythm-dominated grooves augmented with scorching saxophone on top. Each section is repetitive, but the result of meshing them together is an excellent 18-minute piece that shows all the versatility and charm of Etron Fou Leloublan.

The highlights of the CD, however, are actually the closing two pieces, both of which expand on the grooves and saxophone theme. The instrumental "Madame Richard Larika" takes bass and drum grooves that shift nearly constantly and puts emotional yet rhythmic saxophone on top. The saxophone line that enters after about three mintues in is particularly potent. The more vocals-dominated "Histoire De Graine" is stranger and more repetitive, showing Etron Fou's ability to develop a groove and then return to it for grand effect (read: it starts and ends with the same theme). Rounding out the CD are "Sololo Brigida", a whimsical drum solo (with plenty of percussive effects) and "Yvett' Blouse", which might be the most representative track on Batelages. At a mere 26 seconds, it is a single bass-drum groove with a single saxophone line over the top, and it might just be the best on the CD (though the specific one mentioned from "Madame Richard Larika" is particularly excellent as well).

Batelages is rough and will scare off the uninitiated listener. As such, it's a poor place to start discovering Etron Fou Leloublan. The newcomer would be better to start with Les Poumons Gonfles or Les Sillons de la Terre, both of which revolve around shorter, more focused songs that are tighter compositionally, and ultimately more effective. Batelages is a great effort nonetheless, and no Etron Fou Leloublan fan should do without it.

Pnoom! | 4/5 |

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