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Harmonium - Si on avait besoin d'une cinquième saison CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

4.35 | 1379 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars What has always drawn me to progressive music more than anything else is my unending, insatiable desire to hear something I've never heard before. Ever since I was but a wee toddler plopping yellow plastic 45s on the phonograph music has been an indispensable part of my being and I want to continue to experience new, unusual and intriguing works of aural art as long as I live. It doesn't matter if it's found in the splendor of Beethoven's symphonies, the thunderous ferocity of Dream Theater or the sensuous spirituality of Iona; I crave to be enraptured by the creations of musicians who dare to manipulate sound waves in a thrilling manner that I never expected. And as long as there are albums in the world like this gem from Harmonium I feel confident that I'll always be able to discover something delightfully unexpected to send traveling across my eardrums.

I have several hundred CDs, cassettes and LPs in my personal collection but I don't have anything like this. It is unique. First of all, there are no drums (and I LOVE good drumming). Secondly, it's in French and I have no idea what they're singing. (That's okay, I don't always understand what I hear sung in English, either.) But it's not just those two facets that make this such a pleasing diversion from the norm. It's also Harmonium's combination of instrumentation and their highly imaginative composition skills that make this such a fantastic journey to go on. This I know for certain: Great prog music knows no boundaries and refuses to conform to what we think it should be.

"Vert" (Spring) starts things off with a duet of Serge Fiori and Pierre Dagneault's sprightly flutes that lead to a combo of acoustic guitar, electric piano and vocals in a jazzy folk tune where Louis Valois' walking bass supplies the needed drive. When Pierre masterfully intertwines multiple tracks of his soprano sax during the extended jam you have to remind yourself that all the energy the band is generating beneath him is being produced without the aid of percussion. While this number is the least proggy of the bunch, it never lags for a second and it sets up the rest of the album perfectly.

"Dixie" (Summer) has a wonderfully light and carefree spirit running through it that is irresistible. Fiori's zither harp adds a warmth to this song and its distinct Dixieland flavor makes me think of Gershwin gone Creole. Dagneault's riveting clarinet, Michel Normandeau's playful guitar and Serge Locat's hot piano contribute individual solos that can best be described with one word. Fun. (And everyone can use more of that!) If you're ever having a rough day and need a lift, this tune is a sure- fire remedy that won't insult your prog intelligence or sensibilities.

A somber, droning fade-in at the onset of "Depuis L'Automne" (Fall) announces a change of mood as arresting as the first cool breeze of Autumn. This track is more than twice as long as the first two, allowing the group to stretch out a bit. The lulling melody sung over acoustic guitars pulls you into a huge chorus of Oooohs backed by the cavernous Mellotron chordings of Locat and you soon find yourself mentally strolling the streets of heaven. The second verse is more powerful thanks to a fluid piano and even more emotional singing. Once the middle instrumental section arrives the song opens up and creates pure magic with Mellotron, guitar and sax swirling around each other in a pastiche of colors. After a return to the chanting chorus they develop a slow, steady buildup to a very passionate ending.

"En Pleine Face" (Winter) is dutifully reflective without becoming predictable, morose or overly profound and the inspired introduction of Michel's accordion can take a lot of credit for preventing that from happening. While the accordion is obviously not an "accepted" prog instrument, it's ideal for this tune and yet another example of how surprising this band can be. The song's soulful melody just may be the most memorable of all five cuts and that's saying a lot.

The culmination of this fabulous artwork is the majesty of the 17-minute "Histoires Sans Parole." This mostly instrumental epic begins with flute, guitar and Mellotron and it's nothing short of gorgeous on a grand scale. It's rare that a group graciously allows the majesty of the Mellotron to take center stage and here Locat displays his virtuosity on the "symphony-in-a-box" several times. The track evolves into an excellent guitar chord riff rising over a tinkling piano before entering an almost fantasy-like environment where you're treated to a spectacular phantasmagoria of musical tones and inflections. The Mellotron-manufactured orchestra leads you back down to terra firma where a flowing piano plays underneath wordless vocals and swirling flute lines. After a brief reprise of the fantasy you wake up next to ocean waves, serenaded by soprano sax and flute over acoustic guitar. It takes a genuine artist's touch to patiently allow a tune to build on its own without forcing the issue and in that ability this group does an extraordinary job. What's amazing is how the song changes direction so effortlessly that, before you realize it, you're in a totally different musical landscape. It's uncanny. The number ends with a flourish from Pierre's flute and you find yourself wanting more.

When I found this site one of the top ten albums that caught my attention was this particular one because I'd never in my life heard of these guys. Now I know there's an outstanding reason for it being so revered and respected. It defies description in its simple complexity and stands completely outside the box. It's an admirable achievement of excellence from the first note to the last, proving perhaps more than any other album I know of that progressive music can't and won't be pigeon-holed into a limited, prescribed corner. I will always be thankful to ProgArchives for bringing this awesome masterpiece into my little world. I will cherish each and every listen.

Chicapah | 5/5 |


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