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Carré.Ladich.Marchal - Science & Violence CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.45 | 6 ratings

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4 stars My first visit to Paris, in 1983, coincided with a student riot. Not quite the fall of the Bastille, it all went off like a damp squib in comparison to the uprising of sixty-eight when student 'strikes' provided the catalyst for a wildcat walkout that brought France to a standstill for almost a fortnight. For right-wing youth like Jack Marchal the events of 1968 were at the root of modern problems and those same events subsequently informed the music on 'Science & Violence' (1979). The album is ostensibly an inquiry into aspects of culture and human nature. It apparently proposes plans of revolution where nothing will be spared and where the risks will be great, although the upshot involves a return to roots where the certitudes are to be found.

However, this album is really more about disillusionment and sadness than revolution. For Marchal, the ten intervening years between the sixty-eight and the release of the album had seen the end of revolutionary myths; activists were gripped by apathy and had become more concerned with the trials and tribulations of their everyday existence. This is epitomised by the pensive sadness of 'Le Spleen De Paris', a brief guitar instrumental that takes its name from a collection of prose poems by Charles Baudelaire. Baudelaire's 19th Century collection didn't so much advocate the reform of society as recognise the horrors of the modernising of Paris, something that perhaps reflects Marchal's own concern for French culture and his disillusionment with the then current state of affairs.

So, 'Science & Violence' came from a desire by Marchal and fellow musician-artist Olivier Carre to produce a nationalist-inspired rock album but they were unable to find other like- minded musicians in France. However they had an ally in Mario Ladich, the drummer and leader of Italian prog band Janus. The Janus album 'Il Maestrale' was like a messenger carried on the wind to the musically and socially isolated Frenchmen; it gave them something to aspire to, it convinced them they could do it. And in a spirit of mutual help, Marchal designed the Janus album cover while Ladich gave them the use of his Rome studio for the recordings.

Ladich also played drums on 'Science & Violence' (in spite of Carre being a drummer) and the Italian's loose, reckless stick work gives the music a primitive vitality. The album is actually considered by some to be a solo work by Marchal because he wrote all the music and played all other instruments. However, one of the key tracks is 'Derriere Ta Porte' with lyrics and vocals by Carre. His splenetic vocal deals with a megalomaniac's dream of power, driving an armoured car through society without realising the dream is actually a nightmare; the monsieur in the song is just a hapless fool who hides behind his door and doesn't let the world in.

The dynamic brio of the song can't hide that 'Science & Violence' was self-produced and is fairly rough around the edges. While it embraced contemporary punk to an extent, it largely turned away from the alternative music of the era to a comparatively more sophisticated sound. Marchal had a declared admiration for Pink Floyd but he also seems to have been indebted to Krautrock; the end result is an innovative blend of dramatic contrasts that hovers somewhere between uncompromising punk and a more elegant spacey prog. This is particularly evident on 'Parcours', the track which enjoys pride of place in this collection.

While they were on their jaunt to Rome, Marchal felt homesick and the idea of returning to his roots took on a new emotional significance for him. 'Parcours' is a reflection on Marchal's disillusionment with 1968 but it also charts a nostalgic odyssey around Paris. It's filled with contemporary descriptions of ordinary scenes and people, reminiscent of Victor Hugo's Parisian low life, placed end to end - the approach from the southern highway, a girl returning home alone after a party... The track is in four parts and incorporates some Krautrock hurtling along pell-mell and flanked by a couple of more thoughtful, reflective passages - all dominated by Marchal's fuzzed-out guitars. The whole thing culminates in a swarming silence of flickering synths and swelling organ - a powerful climax reflecting the deserted streets of Paris at night, in which Hugo sensed solitude and Marchal the idea of eternity.

The CD reissue includes two bonus tracks that differ in style from remainder of the album; these tracks were recorded in 1980 for an unfinished follow-up album. The music on these little divertissements is electronic, the tone ironic and playful in contrast to the more serious nature of this album, thus reflecting the change of atmosphere and of music in the 1980s. Assigning a star-rating to a piece of art always strikes me as absurd, but 'Science & Violence' is probably more of a rude nude than high art so 4-stars.

seventhsojourn | 4/5 |


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