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Abschaum - Moon Tango CD (album) cover





3.23 | 4 ratings

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The Anders
3 stars I noticed no one had written a review of this album, so I decided to give it a try and write one. Hopefully I will be able to say something relatively intelligent about it, but the following lines should answer that question.

Moon Tango contains a sticker on the album cover which describes the music as "Cosmic French krautrock music by a mysterious band from Lyon called Abschaum". Personally I don't really know where the mystery lies, but maybe it is just a marketing strategy from the record company. The inspiration from pioneers like As Ra Tempel, Can and Neu! is clear - it can be heard for instance in some of the long drone-like songs with only one chord, and in the many repeated guitar and keyboard figures. But I also sense an inspiration from new wave in some of the songs. Also, unlike the German pioneers who often sang in English (or made instrumental music), Abschaum's lyrics are in French. Unfortunately I am not familiar with that language, so I can't comment on the lyrics. But I can comment on the music.

The album consists of six tracks, three of which are bound together on side 1, and the other three ditto on side 2. The first track, "La tÍte vide", begins with some electronic sounds. After that, the track evolves into a hypnotic one-chord song with a lower range melody that mostly consists of one note. To be precise it's rather a no-chord song as most instruments stick to the main note which is E, however, a keyboard towards the end adds some harmonizing. The track reminds me a bit of Neu!'s "Hallogallo", but the sound here is darker, leaning more towards minor, and contains vocals (which of course "Hallogallo" doesn't). There are also some sound elements containing natural overtones (such as the "false" lower 7th). The effect is somewhat uncanny and claustrophobic.

"La tÍte vide" leads directly to the slower "Le chemin des ombres" which is also i E and begins with many of the same sound elements. There is more dynamic variation here though, and after the first couple of minutes the track evolves into an intriguing instrumental piece built around a synthesizer arpeggio. My favourite part here is probably the introduction of the bass with its characteristic glissando notes that add a lot of energy to the otherwise more sterile synth sound. Harmonically we are now clearly in E-Dorian now with a lower 3rd, higher 6th and lower 7th. At the same time the music becomes less drone-like, f.e. with the bass plaing other notes than the base note.

The guitar feedback from "Le chemin des ombres" crossfades into "Amour liquide", and here comes the first change of key, to D, but like in the previous songs there are no real chord changes. This time, however, it is more 'major-like' with a higher 3rd. The lower 7th is still used which makes the song essentially Mixolydian. We are back to the drone-like aesthetics here with one bass note and the drums only playing the rhythm without any fills. However, the song feels less claustrophobic than "La tÍte vide", one of the reasons possibly being that the melody doesn't stick to mainly one note in the same way. The overall feeling here is more that of resignation.

Side 2 begins with the title track. Its intro has an Arabic flavour due to the lead guitar playing the notes I, bII and III. After a couple of minutes, the rhythm section is faded in during a dark synth drone. As with track 3, we are in a Dorian/Mixolydian universe (there are elements of both Mixolydian and Dorian as the vocals in the beginning contains the higher 3rd whereas the leard guitar later contains the lower), but this time the key is A. There's another one-note melody, and the overall feel resembles that of the first track with a "Hallogallo"-like groove. The repeated keyboard riff in the left channel however adds a flavour of new wave. As the song evolves, the riff is changing its sound and is subsequently then faded out, just for a variation of it to be introduced shortly afterwards.

The drums are faded out towards the end, and the synths take over the soundscape. By means of an air alarm like synth sound, the track transforms into "Dans tes pas" which is in G. This is by all means the most "song-like" track on the album, even containing something of a verse/chorus structure. Moreover, it is based on two chords: G major and C major (the latter sometimes with a G in the bass, thus keeping the drone feel from the other tracks). Once again there is a new wave flavour about it, especially courtesey of the keyboard. The song also has a lighter tone, adding a welcome contrast to an otherwise very gloomy album. The drum pattern makes me think of the Velvet Underground, and indeed a song like "Heroin" has a similar harmonic structure. "Dans tes pas" is a really good song, and probably it's also the most accessible track on the album.

The final song, "TempÍte" is a bit of an anticlimax. It starts as a sort of 90's like rock song, then comes an early 80's like keyboard riff. Unfortunately, here the characteristic one-note singing doesn't entirely fit, neither does the drone sounds. Or rather it's the other way around. It's a bit of a mismatch, but perhaps there is a thought behind it. Luckily it doesn't take away the enjoyment of the rest of the album

It takes some listenings to really appreciate Moon Tango which is of course a positive thing. By containing few chord changes (if any) and melodies that mostly stick to one note througout most of the song, the music is indeed very minimalistic. You have to be really good to make minimalist music that engages the listener throughout a whole album, and Abschaum actually manages to do that - that is, if you give the music a chance. Of course the music does evolve, but usually so by adding instruments at crucial points, fading sounds in and out, adding an increasing amount of reverb and so on.

Does Moon Tango bring something new and groundbreaking to the music scene? I don't really know. Indeed the band is described as "vintage krautrock" in their Progarchives page, and it mostly consists of elements I have heard before in other contexts. On the other hand a lot of creativity often lies in the way you actually use the musical elements and combine them. But innovative or not, it is still an intriguing listening experience, probably with "Le chemin des ombres" and "Dans tes pas" as the strongest tracks.

If there is an overall weakness on the album, it is probably the vocals, especially as the low-pitched one-note singing can get a bit boring in the long run. At times a more varied vocal might actually be a welcome contrast to the otherwise very monotonous music.

I personally think 3,5 stars would be the most appropriate rating. It is by no means a masterpiece, but it is still an engaging listening. Unfortunately it is not possible to give half stars.

[Re-upload edit: I changed my mind about the rating and decided on 3 stars rather than 4, on the grounds that it's a really good album without necessarily being excellent. I stil want to give it 3,5.]

The Anders | 3/5 |


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