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Xaal - Seconde Ere CD (album) cover





3.85 | 29 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Recorded in 1993 but only released by Musea Records two years later, when Xaal had already broken up, "Second Ere" is an outstanding elegy for a band so young and that has done some great input for the 90s progressive scene in such a short time. Going for a deeper exploration of the eclectic approach to zheul, jazz-rock, heavy psychedelia and Crimsonian vibe delivered in "En Chemin", this sophomore effort puts a special emphasis on contrast between the aggressive and subtle sides of Xaal's music. This second age is one of a tighter focus on two main sources, approaching the writing and arranging procedures from there. With greyish synth layers properly adorned with percussive touches and soaring guitar nuances we witness the start of 'Rah', leading shortly after to a pulsationally based section that reminds us of Magma-meets-Present. The presence of Arabic undertones helps to maintain some mysterious aura for a few climatic passages. The exotic vibe is enhanced on track 2, 'Jamais Tranquille'. Its rhythmic cadences and harmonic developments brings us to North African landscapes; the bass guitar's phrases add an exquisiteness to a wall of sound that, halfway through, augments its tense intensity on the wings of the guitar lines. This harder section sounds like a lost piece from King Crimson's Red era as if performed by cuya cadencia rítmica y armonías sobregrabadas de guitarras nos remiten a paisajes Shylock trying to emulate Primus - believe me, I couldn't come up with a better analogy to complete this description, my apologies. With its 10 ½ minute timespan, 'Al Abad' is the longest piece in teh album. Returning to the Arabic textures, 'Al Abad' starts on a heavily contemplative note, reminiscing of early 70s Weather Report: the serene sax lines provided by guest Ferrand reinforce this impression. The guitar solo that follows in not as jazzy: sounding more like a mixture of Steve Hillage and Chris Karrer, it sets a hard psychedelic tone fluidly framed in the overall fusionesque structure. 'Piège' starts with a languid cadence tha resembles the preceding track, but the level of tension is noticeably higher due to the rhythm duo's tribal spur and the agile, neurotic lead guitar's phrases. It's just a matter of time that the band shifts into a more extrovrted section, which is when the bands makes a powerful jazz-rock statement weirdly augmented by spacey synthesizer ornaments. I feel like the potential climax is not completely capitalized, since the abrupt ending comes a bit too early to my taste. This factor is properly resolved in the closer 'Force', a piece that finds the band (once again) revitaliazing the heritages of Shylock and avant-prog-jazz (a bit of Magma, a bit of Potemkine). The guitar solo is infinitely electrifying, very McLaughlinesque. The presence of guest horn players helps to reinforce the track's rhythmic structure, with the drummer also finding some room to let his individual proficiency shine. It is a real pity that this album didn't even reach the 40 minute mark: too short, indeed. Anyway, when you look back in the eraly stages of te hso-called 90s prog revival and focus on a appreciation of Xaal's discography, you might as well label them as the missing link between the avant-side of 70s French prog and the sonic achievements of current French bands such as Taal and NeBeLNeST.
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |


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