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Émeraude - Geoffroy CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

4.13 | 40 ratings

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4 stars This is yet another one-off recording from a group of mostly amateur (or at least not full-time professional) musicians. That’s one of the wonderful things about music these days – just about anyone with the will to can make a record. Okay, maybe some people shouldn’t, but in this case the result is another semi-legendary album among the progressive music archives that gets to be ‘discovered’ anew every time a collector stumbles across it.

One of the most interesting things about this album is the timing. If it had been recorded in the early (or possibly even mid) seventies, this would most likely be considered a symphonic rock album even though there aren’t any orchestral instruments used in the recordings. If it had been released a few years later it may have been tagged as neo-progressive, along the lines of similar projects like Distant Dream or a slightly mellower version of the band Faun. I have even read suggestions that band could be an early incarnation of post-rock, providing the missing link between the Bark Psychosis and Sigur Rós styled variants of that genre. I’m not sure which (if any) of these is correct, and I would throw into the mix an observation that the group’s guitarists were clearly fans of Pink Floyd or at least of Dave Gilmour.

For comparative reference I will say that the band has been linked in style and sound to the German symphonic rock band Novalis; the UK’s Cressida and Camel; and their own countrymen Terpandre. All of these are valid observations to some extent, although in the case of Camel it sometimes seems as if any progressive band whose music is rather languid and who singer seems overly-sensitive gets the ‘Camel-like’ label stuck on them. One other band I would throw in here that has not only a similar sound, but also a rather similar story and is also a French group – Chrysalide. They came later but offer the same sorts of unhurried arrangements centered on guitar, along with lyrical themes that are historical in nature. The American group Dead Meadow comes to mind a bit as well in terms of the style of the song arrangements, although their music also includes a heavy psych element.

This is an album that is made for people who are willing to give it the attention and thought it demands, and in exchange it gives little in return beyond the experience. You won’t put this into heavy rotation on your playlist, and it doesn’t travel very well in either iPod or automobile stereo format. You pretty much want to play this while sitting in a comfortable lounge chair and dimly lit room, and with nothing pressing to hurry or distract you. If you can manage that then the trip is worth the time.

Like I said, the emphasis is heavily on guitar throughout the album, and there are no orchestral, ethnic or even brass used anywhere. The percussion is quite limited as well, mostly soft drumming and even that is quite limited. Again, mostly guitars and a lot of that is acoustic (although especially on the longer tracks you’ll see what I mean by the Gilmour influence thanks to the one guy who plugs his in). The other omnipresent instrument is piano, played rather simply and not in classical fashion but more like a soft-rock type of style. There’s also a bit of synthesized keyboard that sounds a bit like an electric spinet, but even that was deemphasized in the mixing process and tends to take a back seat to the guitars and piano for the most part. The blend of these instruments is slightly amateurish at times, but really that only becomes apparent when playing the record multiple times with a highly critical ear for the purpose of reviewing it. In casual listening the album acquits itself quite well, mellow but well- played and not one-dimensional like so many softer bands can tend to be. Even in its quietest moments the group keeps the piano or drums in play to enhance the persistent guitar playing.

The album is centered around the two lengthy middle tracks, “Viking” and “Geoffrey” in which the band tells the album’s mythical and historic story. Wrapped around these are a couple of short intros and “Duo”, the brief but sonically strong closing track. Of the longer tracks “Viking” seems a bit heavier on bass and acoustic guitar, while the title track includes a lengthy guitar instrumental that can’t hide its Floydian influence and is quite beautiful. Behind the guitar throughout that track the guitar, keyboards and drums keep a slow and slightly hypnotic rhythm going while the vocalist hums and times and sings in hushed tones at others. This one is the album’s highlight for sure.

‘Geoffrey’ is an obscure album from what was more of a collective or project than a true band. It’s not for everyone, but hardcore progressive fans will undoubtedly love it, as well as those who favor music that is introspective and slow music, but not emo fodder. These guys fit that description. Four stars.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


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