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Malicorne - Almanach CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.88 | 49 ratings

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4 stars A vocals-dominated folk band from France that uses some electrified instruments in their arrangements. Similar to the French-Canadian band CONVENTUM. This is a band totally new to me--and, unfortunately, I decided to start with their most highly regarded album (on ProgArchives). Apparently band founders Gabriel and Marie had worked with Alan Stivell before striking out on their own.

1. "Salut à La Compagnie" (0:55) choral vocals with bass drum. They sound tired--as if it's well past midnight and the wine has run out. (4.333/5)

2. "Quand J'étais Chez Mon Père" (3:44) layered vocals with simple stringed accompaniment (electric bass, acoustic guitar, violin, mandolin). Rather one-dimensional and monotonous. The additional instruments in the final minute are nice. (8.375/10)

3. "Margot" (0:59) an all-male start gives a different feel and sound but then the female voices join in and spread the harmonies out nicely. (4.5/5)

4. "Les Tristes Noces" (7:45) solo male voice opens this before single female joins in the second half of the opening minute. Instruments anciens and more voices join in around the one-minute mark as the train tries to gain momentum. By 1:37 things are finally rolling with bass and violin showing the movement. Lone male vocalist takes the singing over, weaving his way between/among the bass and violin. All stop at 4:10 for shaker bells and what sounds like a processional dancing through. When voice, violin and bass return they sound funereal--really somber and sad. (13.5/15)

5. "Voici Venir Le Joli Mai" (0:24) sounds like a Xmas carol sung by tired chorus.

6. "Voici La Saint-Jean (ronde)" (3:13) electrified instrumentation and syncopated song structure give this one a bit of a 20th Century sound and feel. I like the prominent role female vocalist Marie Yacoob is given on this song. Plus, the vocal arrangement (and its sound engineering) is very creative and interesting. There is almost an early CLANNAD feel to this song. (8.875/10)

7. "Les Luneux" (5:04) very interesting engineering to the delicately played opening instruments (lots of echo) here. Then they all disappear as Marie Yacoob takes on the lead vocal as a solo, a cappella artist. When the sparsely played echoed guitar returns, it gives the music quite a Brian Eno eerie ambient effect. I LOVE this! Easily my favorite song on the album. (10/10)

8. "Branle De La Haie" (2:08) a more traditional RenFaire-like song amped up with some electricity. (4.375/5)

9. "Quand Je Menai Mes Chevaux Boire" (4:39) would that I liked a lyrics-driven song. The music of this is just too repetitive and monotonous. (8.4/10)

10. "La Fille Au Cresson" (3:40) the weave at the start of this one sounds a bit too out-of-synch/cacophonous but then it all thins out as the vocalists enter. I absolutely love this unique and unusual vocal performance (and arrangement). (Perhaps it is the fuzzy effects/recording techniques employed to some of the full-tapestry instruments [electric guitar and hurdy gurdy] that cause the illusion of timing/synchrony issues.) Again the music serves more to support the lyric/singing, which is, to me, unfortunate. (8.75/10)

11. "L'Écolier Assassin" (8:38) soft picked acoustic guitar, electric bass, and organ support Gabriel's lead vocal. The ethereal support vocal team for the chorus is excellent. After three minutes of highly repetitive music, there is an interesting interlude of sharpened knives (violin) and other attention-grabbing sounds within the musical weave, but then we're back at the same boring repetition. Again: it's too bad that I'm not a lyrics/story-driven music listener or this would fare better in my ratings. The next, second sharp-knives interlude lasts a bit longer than the first but then at the seven-minute mark we're back at the monotonous vocal-carrying motif. (17.5/20)

12. "Noël Est Arrivé" (2:03) military drumming with bass and violin jumping to provide a texture for a kind of rollicking cabaret song. At least the song and performers sound alive and alert on this one. (4.4/5)

Total time 43:12

Emanating much more from the mediæval troubadour traditions, if that's the way you like your Prog Folk, there are enough unusual, creative sound and structural choices here to make this both proggy and highly interesting for the prog music lover. I do find it interesting that the band chooses to intentionally avoid the Celtic traditions of Brétagne (especially since Marie and Gabriel both performed with Alan Stivell before forming Pierre de Grenoble [their original name for the band before Malicorne]). Still, I am very grateful for their efforts to uncover and resuscitate some of France's old folk classics.

B/four stars; an excellent dip into the ancient traditions of French folk music though perhaps more for the Prog Folk lover, not so much for the true prog lover. Highly recommended if you like storytelling and have a fairly good command of French.

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |


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