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Shub-Niggurath - Les morts vont vite CD (album) cover





4.08 | 161 ratings

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3 stars An intriguiing album to say the least, and an intriguing composoitional style - largely influenced by Messaien, it would seem - where the music is composed. When it goes off on a jam, however, it tends to get lost and meandering.

Jean-Luc Herve would seem to be the driving force, as the piano is clearly guiding the way for the other instrumentalists. Ann Stewart delivers a good performance throughout, holding her own very well against the serialism and resultant frequent dischords, but with slight intonation issues.

The music, as one might expect from such extensive use of serialism, is generally dark and brooding - definitely an album for connoisseurs or those who appreciate serialism.

Mostly, then, this is a very interesting album simply from the point of view of the compositional techniques and the resultant "zeuhl" type sound - with surprising "bling" in the production given that this was released in the 1980s, but the approach is only partly successful in delivering creative music of distinction, hence this album does not achieve the "Masterpiece" status.

Neither would I say that it is essential, as it will have a limited appeal. There is an immediate "wow" factor, as the playing is tight, the overall style fresh to anyone unfamiliar with the genre, the production is crisp and the exectution mostly precise - but on repeated listens, tends to sound rather samey, and the music reveals little in any kind of hidden depths.

This is a great album to put on if you're holding a party, and want everyone to get the hint that it's over ;0)

If you don't like long and detailed anaylsis, this review ends here.

I provide the analysis partly to help give a foothold into this type of music to those not used to "difficult" styles, and partly because the music lends itself to analysis so well, it'd be a shame not to - after all, analysis is what consumate proggers do best :0)

A cell (a partial note-row) begins the work, by way of a kind of insistent fanfare. Ann Stewart has a tough job against the cell and ever-shifting brass, bass and rhythm section, maintaining semitonal dischords to sinister effect. Tiny decorations appear on the piano's rhythmic cell, and are echoed by the flute.

Around 2:30, the music drops into a dark cavern, as the drums stop to allow a development of the cell, and a buildup topped with shimmering flute.

Don't let the drums fool you, despite the amazing and largely successful efforts to blur the time signature, 3/4 is the order of the day here - but the percussive work is precise without ever being sterile, driving the work forward.

The biggest weakness really is the guitar, which, when left to its own devices, noodles about aimlessly and stands out starkly from the other instruments, which are tightly orchestrated.

The piano "solo" section around 7:30 is quite brilliant, however, concentrating on a mainly rhythmic delivery, elastically stretching ideas developed from the initial cell, and orchestrating the other instruments and voice around it into a single complex web of sound.

Around 9:30, guitar feedback provides some great ambience, and fuzz bass continues to threaten the existence of this quiet moment, despite being hushed by gentle percussion and electronic effects. The bass becomes ever more edgy, however, and the ambience becomes more and more claustrophobic in a superb build-up, which is "shattered" by gentle vocals.

This develops a nice theme of dark against light, dark eventually winning, as we knew it would, with the piano creating a rippling theme based on the cell, and the trombone and bass in full agreement.

After a while, the voice does become insistent to the point of irritating, in my opinion - I would have liked more rhythmic variation, instead of straight crotchet patterns with the occasional long note, and the entire piece falls into the trap of coming across as rather samey - but only too long by about a minute.

"Cabine 67" begins with another piano cell - but almost entirely rhythmic. The guitar, brass and organ weave atmospherics around mini-explosions in the percussion, all of which rather predict the eventual ensemble, which ambles off very nicely - but as with John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu orchestra, the incessant noodling on the guitar rather spoils the precise composition in place in the rest of the instruments. Much more repetitive than the previous piece, the tight and narrow definition quickly loses interest - moreso given that this piece carries a 4/4 drum pattern! The chaotic build-up at the end is good.

"Yog Sothoth" begins with a low D on what sounds like the trombone - but is presumably the organ, unless the trombonist is an expert at cyclic breathing... always possible. The piano creeps in with another cell, and extends it a lttle for interest. At last we move away from simple time to more complex time, with a 5-bar pattern that passes through 4/4/, 3/4, 3/4, 2/4 and 4/4... unless something's up with my counting. Anyway, it's more interesting to work out what time signatures are being passed through than to listen to the music at this particular point. It gets interesting around 5:30, though, and a series of timbral moments are worked through, with key-shifts that are interesting, given that the true serialist approach is to remove any idea of diatonic harmony. However, there is implicit harmony of D here. I can't say major or minor, as the third is almost alternately sharpened and flatted as if by some sort of whim, but the overall dark feeling would imply the minor.

Regular 4 time is re-established around 10:00, and a hypnotic, repetitive passage provides a kind of echoing coda.

"La Ballade De Lenore" begins with what sounds like a note row, which soon breaks down into a brilliant dischort - sparse, yet rich in clashes. The voice and trombone proceed in a semi fugal style over shifting organ, and small melodic motifs continuosly raise their heads until the fuzz bass, feedback guitar and drums crash in. Almost unbelievably, the underlying time signature appears to be 4/4 - this is muddied so well that it took me a few bars to get it. Shows there's life in the old time signatures yet!

As before, the style continues, with the predictable drawing back of the drums and bass, and repeated entry with dark and somewhat over muddy textures. There are moments that are really good, and longer moments that are just meandering noodle. My favourite is the unison voice, piano and trombone section that ends the piece.

"Delear Prius" begins by conjouring up a sinister almost mediaeval or even Dark Ages world with the soprano voice separated by a cavernous gulf from the bass accompaniment and careful, precise percussion. Stabs ring out, similar to some you might hear in Orff's "Carmina Burana", emphasisng this feeling. However, the entire piece continues in this vein and only develops on a small scale, with little changes in the musical motifs, which leaves this feeling somewhat plodding and lugubrious.

And so the great finale, "J'ai Vu Naguère En Peinture Les Harpies Ravissant Le Repas De Phynée". This begins with crashing introductory chords, in similar style to the opeining "fanfare", and maintains the "Dark Ages" flavour, with ever-increasing crashes. The bass and wild, feedback driven guitar promise the build-up from hell, but it is soon apparent that this is not going to be delivered, and the rest of the piece simply uses this idea to pad out the time, it would seem.

A disappointing ending to what could have been a great album, if only there had been some more actual musical development, instead of the microscopic development "in the small". While this sort of minimalism may appeal to some, I would not recommend this album to everyone, and certainly not to anyone who is unfamilar with either zuehl, minimalism or serialism. The surface "bling" may appeal to someone who wants something quite radically different in their collection - but I'm willing to bet that this is not an album that makes it to the stereo on a regular basis, or even gets end-to-ended very often.

Maybe all this a bit academic, but Shub Niggurath appear to be presenting the music in an academic kind of style, and I feel, only partially achieve the objectives. Hence a solid 3 stars - a good album showing great potential in a difficult style, but of limited appeal and somewhat basic when you consider the scope of what could be done using serialism and imaginative composition.

Certif1ed | 3/5 |


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