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Julian Julien - Terre CD (album) cover

TERRE

Julian Julien

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.59 | 13 ratings

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VanVanVan
Prog Reviewer
4 stars I was rather excited when I was asked to review this solo album from Julian Julien, as I'd previously reviewed another project of his, the live album from his band Fractale. This album certainly did not disappoint either, with perhaps even a greater amount of sonic variety than appeared on the Fractale album and plenty of that same innovative spirit that manages to sound very experimental while also being very listenable. References to zeuhl get thrown around a lot with reference to Julian Julien's work, but don't let that frighten you off if you've previously found the genre hard to approach: despite containing obvious zeuhl influences, this is a very melodic, listenable album.

The title track "Terre" begins the album with some field recordings before a jazzy piano part comes in, to be quickly joined by some amazing melodic strings. Somehow all the parts combine to form an amalgamation that sounds like something you'd hear if you arranged Magma for a jazz club, though there are also sections are far more tenderly beautiful than anything I've heard from Magma. It's a very impressive track, especially considering that based on the album credits everything was played by Julian Julien himself.

"L'Attente" comes next, beginning with a bit of a classically influenced wind part before some other instruments come in (perhaps a marimba? I can't tell). "L'Attente" is a bit more languid than was the opening track, and perhaps a bit more eccentric as well, with some very eastern-influenced sections interspersed with what sounds to me like low-pitched wind- chimes. The track manages to avoid sounding noisy, which is impressive given the menagerie (not the right word but the best way I can describe it) of sounds used.

"Tupperware Et Bibelots" begins with some minimal wind and percussion creating a very open, almost dissonant atmosphere. This feeling continues for a little while before a very folky melody from what is perhaps an accordion enters. It really is incredibly impressive to me how seamlessly Mr. Julien can blend a folky, Italian sounding melodic line with elements of a zeuhl sound and still have it sound so good. And believe me, it sounds amazing. "Tupperware Et Bibeots" sounds like cinematic avant-folk-zeuhl, and if that doesn't intrigue you than I don't know what would. The best part, as I've mentioned, is that the song never loses its strong melodic presence- this is incredibly pleasant music to listen to despite the wide range of influences.

"Bencoleen Hotel" begins with another slightly eastern-sounding theme that reminds me just a bit of Ozric Tentacles. It's a pretty short track but it accomplishes what it needs to, providing a spacey, psychedelic interlude after the much longer "Tupperware."

"Souquez" has a bit of a darker feel to it and a little more of a zeuhl feel to it. To Mr. Julien's immense credit, however, every time it begins to sound like Magma the track does something unexpected, like introducing a gorgeous melodic cello part that gives the track an entirely different feel. The melodies here are really absurdly good, and the five minutes of the track fly by in no time at all.

"Promenade," another short track, begins with a quirky horn part which is aided by some minimal but well-placed percussion. The track really doesn't deviate too far from this initial feel, but at only 2 minutes it certainly doesn't get repetitive and it's another good break on an album with so much density.

"Degung" begins with an almost gothic sounding melody, and builds on it with very interesting instrumentation, utilizing a variety of string sounds and what sounds like some sort of gong or bell. This is another track which really captures the "melodic zeuhl" feel that permeates so much of this album, with the strings creating an intense, urgent, gothic feel while also remaining very smooth melodically. I do think it runs just a bit overlong, but really, when the music is of this high quality I can hardly complain about there being too much of it. This track also really highlights how well Mr. Julien can capture the zeuhl feeling with only minimal percussion, which is part of what makes this music sound so unique.

"Les Yeux" is the album's next track, beginning with a solo piano part that sounds like it could have come out of a horror movie soundtrack. This part is quickly joined by another piano part and some percussion, as well as something that sounds like it might be a harp. As all of these parts converge the track begins to have a very strong if uniquely textured rhythmic presence, and with piano taking the melodic lead over the strings it has quite a different feel than a lot of the music on this album. Unfortunately, I think this track also runs a bit long, especially given the near constant playing of the frenetic, high-pitched piano at the front of the track. Fantastic atmosphere and textures, but unfortunately this one wears a bit thin for me by the time it reaches its close.

"Clementine" begins with a soundclip of a young girl singing before bass comes in, which is itself soon joined by that same marimba sound from earlier. Despite coming it at under two minutes I think this is one of the coolest sounding tracks on the album, making excellent use of a repeating motif to create an atmosphere that's haunting and mysterious.

"P' Tite Peche" is another great two minute track, with great interplay between several different instruments, densely arranged in a way that still avoids sounding cluttered. I must confess that I'm a bit jealous of both Mr. Julien's compositional skill as well as his actual playing, as this track, despite its brevity, highlights both.

"La Tombe Des Lucioles" is the last track on the album, beginning with some free jamming before a very zeuhl-esque piano and string part begins. Interplay between many instruments is again the name of the game for this track, but the composition, like all the music here, is masterful, and the track manages to combine all the parts into a wall of sound so cohesive it's difficult to pick out individual parts. Personally I think that's one of the hallmarks of good composing, and it's extremely evident here. Really, there's nothing about this track that doesn't highlight everything good about Mr. Julien's work: the melodies are fantastic, the composition is top-notch, and the atmospheres are unique and compelling. Stellar work.

I'd really be lying if I said Terre wasn't one of the freshest, most interesting albums I've heard in a while. With a wide range of influences and sounds, this is an album that would be equally at home labeled as zeuhl, eclectic or jazz. Better yet, eschew labels all together and just enjoy this great ride. I don't think you'll regret it.

4/5

VanVanVan | 4/5 |

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