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Julian Julien - Strange CD (album) cover

STRANGE

Julian Julien

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.84 | 19 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
4 stars Julian Julien is not only an intelligent and gifted artist but a pretty smart marketer as well, spreading news of his craft with strategic placement of his material into the laps of the reviewers and critics who populate the prog realm. This is a sensible move mostly due to the immutable fact that his music isn't exactly commercial or even easy listening, a tiny interval between jazz, avant-garde, world and with a "saupoudree" of zeuhl to seal the deal. This makes for some ardent listening that requires multiple listens before the magic sinks in. With a title like "Strange' what do you think is on the menu? Indeed, odd sounds abound, very much attuned to the urban cacophony that osculates the maddening crowds, the hustle and bustle of daily civic machines are expressed via sound and fury.

"Leh" is a perfect window onto the street, as orchestral strings play a sad lament. The electric sitar and the hand percussion revive the current realities of Paris, a city that is French in architecture and African in its aromas, a cosmopolitan miasma of bubbling contradictions and contrasts. This trend continues all the way through the album, showcasing the modern social realities of urban living, the merry go round lilt and innocent nature of the strident "Cirque" seeking to evoke the escapism that cities provide only in small occasional droplets. "Charlotte" is a whimsical keyboard ditty that again displays a certain child-like simplicity within a complex dissonance, screeching strings, gurgling synths and playful elegance. On the fascinating "What's Democratie?", Julien displays the distinctions between the "arrondissement" and the "casbah", a heady mixture of North African sounds and European structures democratically united in some temporal harmony, with assorted voices doing most of the weaving. Things get even more exotic on the brief "Tinananana", a ultra-modern electronica beat, spiced with tablas, derboukas, djembes and Michel Guay's slithering sitar, creating a fascinating snapshot of sound. "Le Caquou" is more of a string driven thing, again heavily loaded with aromatic percussives, swerving electric sitar. We were introduced earlier to the seductive Charlotte , now Julien has us meet "Sophie", a sultry little demoiselle , who seemingly exudes a ephemeral attitude, surely quite confident of her sensual looks, as she strolls down the avenue. This is a breezy affair, with electric guitar ruling the roost. Off to deep space for a while, first with orchestral "Cosmos", perhaps the most structured composition up to now, somehow reminiscent of mid-period Can, where the piano takes a predominant role and does so convincingly, still fueled by an array of percussion. This is certainly my favorite track here, as the sonic scope can be breathtaking. Got to land somewhere and "Planete" is chosen as an LZ, an echoing gong sets the craft in motion, spiced by cool polyphonic beats, distant e-piano and assorted effects. Another gong bash introduces the epic piece here, the 7 minute+ title track, "Strange" is in fact a perfect highlight reel for Julien's artform, as it encompasses all of the ingredients mentioned above, except this has a stronger zeuhl feel perhaps due to the groaning bass notes in the low ground that are fascinating to behold. Again, German legends Can come to mind, where massive amounts of colliding sounds coalesce smartly together. Modern, eclectic, jazz, world, zeuhl, electronica and piano etude all conspire to take this somewhere exotic, original and special. "Nocturne Indien" is a gently somber farewell that has a setting sun feel, still highly innovative and an untitled bonus track that defies description, led by a classic organ (that very French accordion sound) and a most welcome finale to this rather strange disc. Unique and sophisticated without falling into redundancies, make Strange a sobering inclusion into an already eclectic progressive universe.

Merci, mon pote et bonjour a Sophie et Charlotte

4 etranges etoiles

tszirmay | 4/5 |

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