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Grandval - A Ciel Ouvert CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

2.95 | 2 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars I sometimes think progressive rock is like the aristocracy of other independently produced music like punk or alternative. What they (the musicians) all share is the desire to create music on their own terms, putting in as much energy, innovation, creativity, and imagination as they see fit in order to realize their visions. Stepping out of the mainstream often requires a lot of self-sufficiency, and while the do-it-yourselfers have always been around, in recent years, thanks to technology and the Internet, many amateur progressive rock musicians (or semi-pro as some cases may be) are now able to put together an album's worth of music and through various Internet forums they can promote their music and sell some CDs or downloads. However, unlike past days when self-produced music often lacked hi-fidelity, these modern recordings sound very good when the persons responsible for the mixing know what their doing.

So here's Grandval, a band project of Henri Vaugrand. According to his bio, the music here was composed some 15 years ago but only this year was at last released on CD. Far from being a one-man band though (he sings and plays guitars, bass and keyboards), Henri gathered a number of guest musicians to help colour the sonic palette of his album. Guest guitarists are Steph Honde of Café Bertrand and Hollywood Monsters, Jean-Pierre Louveton of Nemo, Kevin Serra of Quantum Legacy, and Colin Tench of Corvus Stone, CTP, and Oceans 5. On drums we have Marshal Semonsut, providing real percussion for most of the album.

The album does have a DIY quality to it perhaps in its simplicity regarding instrumentation. There's not much layering except to create a vocal chorus and there's an "unedited" aspect, to borrow a term used by a reviewer in Prog Magazine for another self-produced album. Don't expect a big shiny Steven Wilson sound or Big Big Train level of production. The quality of the mix and overall production, however, doesn't mean that the album sounds poor. As I wrote above, if the artist knows what he's doing, an very fine result is possible, and I feel Henri has achieved that here.

My opening remarks in this review were inspired by the somewhat simple approach to the mix: vocals, guitars, keyboards, bass, drums. There's a rawness to the guitars at times that are reminiscent of some late eighties/early nineties alternative and so-called shoe gazer bands. There's also a slight looseness often in the music. However, rather than detracting from the enjoyment, the style creates its own atmosphere, and the guest guitarists find their way in working with it. Particularly I enjoy Colin Tench's contribution to "Comment les loups changent les rivières", a song inspired by the documentary film "How the Wolves Changed the Rivers", and also Jean-Pierre Louveton's solo in the title track.

The music basically has a hard-edged guitar sound which is tempered by the synthesizer and vocal melodies so that the music doesn't come across as heavy or aggressive. Indeed, Henri's vocals have a youthful yet soothing quality to them and the multitrack vocals bring back impressions of the seventies Québécois prog scene, of which several bands are known to Henri. Of course to be considered for this web site, one must expect that the music goes beyond the alternative rock sound I've likened it to. Tracks like "Maîtresse Eternelle" and "Aktion T4" exhibit Grandval's progressive side rather well as do some of the other tracks.

I also quite enjoy the final track, "Au Delà De Ce Grand Val" which is only 3:11 in length and has a kind of rap feel. The percussion here sounds programmed and again that looser, DIY feel shows up more strongly, but if you enjoy the sound of the French language and Henri's voice like I do, then you'll appreciate his enunciation and how pleasing and cool he makes the French language sound.

Keeping in mind that many of PA's prog connoisseurs are looking for something perhaps a little more involved, I rate this album with 3 stars. All be quick to add, however, that I enjoy it and often go around with songs in my head from "A ciel ouvert" and enjoy listening to select tracks and even the whole album often enough. I welcome anyone interested to give a listen to "Entendre les engoulevents", "Aktion T4", and "A ciel ouvert" on YouTube. This could just be a new sub-genre of DIY, alternative progressive music!

FragileKings | 3/5 |


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