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Aside Beside - Tadj Mahall Gates  CD (album) cover


Aside Beside


Crossover Prog

3.31 | 25 ratings

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4 stars How close can you come to being perfect but ruin it by some technical glitches done on purpose or not (?) is the story behind this French group's rather tasty debut album. Firstly, a quirky name Aside Beside (A-Side B-Side), a reverential nod to the 2 sided vinyl LP, that has appeal to say the least, as well as some sumptuous artwork. Lead lung Lionel Giardina does have a Gabrielesque voice there is no doubt but adds the usual tinge of gallic theatricality, best expressed on the opening title track where all the musicians really shine, certainly highly evocative of the Genesis tradition. Pascal Riaux weaves some spidery guitar patterns, with dual keyboards blasting away in a very Dave Stewart-Canterbury style, a little zeuhl chanting in the mid-section reminding us all that they are French and do have a fine prog tradition. A dash of Mellotron adds to the frenzy of this highly appealing "entrée en matière". Frédéric Wolff is the main Hammond player, as well as the drummer while Vincent Chevalier deals with the Mellotron, Fender Rhodes and piano parts, both prominently displayed on the fabulous "Nightmare" with hints of Gong, a little Wilding-Bonus (funky prog), some wacky jazzy noodling, driving bass guitar contributing to stop and start the theme, amazing muffled English vocals with a series of Frippoid guitar seizures and a wow organ/synth solo that revives the Genesis style to seal the deal. "And I Hate Her" offers up some overt Hillage influences, synth and tron both nicely contributing to the spacey feel, floating delicately with fluffy abandon. "Autumn" is not akin to the Strawbs classic, preferring a frail Celtic harp intro to a sad melancholic lament, a plaintive oboe whimsically "playing my song", Lionel's somber voice in sequence with the mournful cello, Riaux sizing it all up with expert 12 string acoustic patterns and a superb female vocal intervention that duets marvelously with Lionel's. This is precious stuff. "You Who Know" bends into a different direction, trumpets and horns highlighting the fanfare, while maintaining the "Trespass" flavor on the microphone, an idiosyncratic arrangement that searches out a little dissonance. Good idea, because the next out of this world piece has this huge whopping chorus that leaves a severe imprint on the soul, "The Ghost of Love", sung with heartfelt craze, combined with a scorching Fripp-style lead, a definite highpoint of this CD, I could listen to these on repeat. The very brief "Tu Qui Omnia Scis" dives straight in an outright operatic style, with a big male voice singing in Latin, queuing into "Friends", a vocal-piano male-female voice duet that has an almost fragile aroma. "Christmas Time", as the title implies has a Yuletide feel to it, a gentle lilt loaded with choir work, on a melody slightly reminiscent of Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles. "Loneliness" returns to more contemplative material, with loads of vocal work from Lionel, trumpets blaring again in the hatch, a Santana like guitar solo to add some piquant, all propped up with some fine yet obtuse lyrics ("I've never ever seen the organs that should have played for the two of us , the Symphony of Destiny"). "The Carelessness Song" is really not as vocally interesting, perhaps adhering to the title's precept, yet spiced with numerous superior guitar leads, towering flute sorties and sprawling organ work to keep the interest level high. The finale (?) "Fruits of Meaning" (de-Meaning, I say) is where the sour taste mentioned in my opening shows up, a simply pulsating bass-led, guitar-machined groove with masterful vocals, grandiose symphonics and lavish rippling flute simply lights up the pleasure dome for about 4.5 minutes until it suddenly fades into silence, like a reel of film coming unspoiled. The silence lasts 5 darn minutes!!!!! I simply hate when that happens, no dead air with my prog please, whether purposefully or not. And then it suddenly continues with some atmospheric para-psychedelic rambling that sounds more like The Legendary Pink Dots than anything else, very bizarre: "ground control", "communication breakdown", really. Bad timing , monsieur le Producer . Because of this mindless glitch, the 5th star just fell from the sky in brooding shame. That Aside and Beside, this is whopping good music. 4 Gates (no not Bill!)
tszirmay | 4/5 |


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