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François Thollot - Contact CD (album) cover


François Thollot


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Mellotron Storm
5 stars Francois Thollot is a very talented man who on his first album played all the instruments including the bass, drums, guitar and piano. On this one he calls in some friends to help out, namely Phillipe Bussonnet on bass (MAGMA) and Daniel Jeand'heur on drums (ONE SHOT). From the very first listen I loved this album, and the love has grown. Imagine Robert Fripp playing guitar in a Zeuhl band with a very accomplished Zeuhl bassist, and a drummer who recalls the great Jazz drummers.This is dark but not sinister in any way. The piano is such a key ingredient as well. It adds to the melancholic vibe found here.

"Ascension" is such an amazing song. The angular guitar melodies with piano and one of the best rhythm sections I have heard in a while. It's cool when the guitar and piano play the same notes 3 1/2 minutes in, and listen carefully to the way this guy plays drums. Impressive. "Histoire Triste" is more laid back with some beautiful guitar melodies, light drums and piano. Just a great sound. The song does speed up before reverting back to the original melody with those mournful guitar melodies. "Promenade Urgente" features some great bass lines while the drums pound away and the guitar grinds out some melodies.There is a brief calm before the magic comes back. "13e Parallele" opens with intricate guitar melodies that are joined by the piano playing the same melody. Nice. The bass is fantastic and the sound is heavy. The guitar is angular and dark just the way I like it. Check out the bass later on as well. What a song !

"Etude Plombee" made me say to myself "This guy can really play bass".Then I thought "Francois can really play guitar". You know what ? They are all incredible musicians. The guitar is firing off some angular solos while the bass continues to boggle my mind. Hey the piano and drumming are fantastic as well. Great track ! "Blues Du Crabe" has a Jazz vibe to it and the bass is relentless. Lots of cymbals too. As the guitar comes in the Jazz flavour goes away. "Cyclopede" has more angular guitar with some great drum patterns to enjoy. "Leon Le Herisson" is an uptempo tune with Fripp like guitar and piano. The bass playing really shines late in the song. "Cabanon Oriental" features some heavy bass and drums as the guitar plays slowly over top. Nice. "Indefiniment" is the only song with synths and they arrive 2 1/2 minutes in. The drumming is impressive as usual, as the guitar joins in to create a terrific melody. The guitar to end the song is a highlight.

I had no idea what to expect with this record but I didn't consider that it would become one of my favourite records. It has.

Report this review (#137935)
Posted Thursday, September 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Zeuhl Muzik comes in a wide variety of delicious flavours. There's the classic Magma Zeuhl: majestic, dense, many-layered, mythic. Or maybe your tastes veer more towards the wide-open, warm and embracing soundscapes offered by Weidorje. On the other hand, perhaps you'd prefer the brutal, post-modern psychotic Zeuhl of Guapo.

But then again, perhaps not. All of the above are extremely (some would say excessively) flamboyant and even Rhadamantine - uncompromising, tyrannical music that bosses your imagination around until it's quivering in a corner, compliant to the overarching might of a set of drums and a bass guitar being used in anger! François Thollot's flavour of Zeuhl is, by contrast, much subtler, much airier, much smaller and more intimate in scale; diluted, maybe, so that it is suitable for consumption by those with too weak a constitution to handle the strong stuff.

That is not to say that this is not very excellent music. Just that it is perhaps tasteful and approachable enough for your non-Zeuhl-loving friends to stomach! It is also served up in bite-size, tasting-menu portions, instead of the whole-LP-side binges common to the genre. This might be an advantage to those daunted by the prospect of gamier fare, but there are disadvantages to this format - which will become clear on our piece-by-piece tour of the album.

Performing on this album are such luminaries as bassist Philippe Bussonnet of Magma, and Daniel Jeand'heur, his colleague from One Shot, on drums. These two are extremely fine musicians, and they lend a polished sophistication to Thollot's compositions. Bussonnet's vigorous, confident playing adds a comfortingly familiar Magma aroma; and not only that, Jeand'heur's percussion style seems markedly influenced by Christian Vander - one moment a stiflingly tense, fast passage; next, it's all laid-back (and yet precisely controlled) poise.

Thollot himself contributes beautifully poignant, eloquent guitar which adds a rather romantic, melancholic air to the overall sound; he also plays keyboards (as does Jeand'heur on a few tracks).

Right: without further ado, on to the music itself.

'Ascension' starts us off in brisk, purposeful, slightly ominous fashion. There's an agreeably machiney feel, with a section featuring Present-like repetitions in 9/8 time. Towards the end, there is a brief break in the clouds, before the piece ends, a little abruptly.

The second track is, I think, my favourite: 'Histoire Triste', with its lovely wistful guitar opening. Agitated drums lead into a faster, more urgent passage with driving bass. I love the catchy guitar part, all sonorous parallel fourths. And here comes another abrupt ending! (Can you spot a theme developing here.?)

'Promenade Urgente' rings the changes - with an abrupt beginning! This piece has a murky feel and a marvellous, rudely bubbling bassline. You can sort of feel Bussonnet reigning himself in a little. This would be a great place for an utterly mad bass solo. Unfortunately, we don't get one! We find ourselves in the major key for the ending. you guessed it, an abrupt one - with an odd little bass doodle at the end.

'13e Parallèle' begins with an angular bassline and, flowing against the current of the bass, some carping guitar. (Oddly, momentarily, it reminds me of Snakefinger!!) The bass rasps away like it's shouted its way to a sore throat. And Jeand'heur is really into it by now: there's some very Vanderish drumming here at times. This piece has plenty of intensity, but I think it could withstand considerably more. At last, though, we get a somewhat more definite ending.

'Etude Plombée' sports a really lovely, fuzzy, insect-like, Zeuhl bass tone. Bussonnet really goes for it - with an impatient, peevish feel. The ending is nicely forthright, too.

'Blues du Crabe' pitches us straight into an energetic tangle in 5/4 time. There's an even growlier, more obstinate bass here. Jazzy drums engage in an elegant freak out. Liquid guitar rises above the brawling rhythm section before the piece fades out.

'Cyclopède' is leisurely, but with a hint of tension. Jeand'heur's drumming on this piece is excellent, and also really Vanderesque! It all has a feeling of immense power, restrained beneath a sort of haughty, diplomatic coolness. An eerie fade out ends the piece.

On we go to 'Léon le Hérisson': well, 'Léon the Hedgehog' to you! And the music is appropriately prickly, with jagged repetitions. After a meltingly dark interlude, it's back to jumpiness again. Jeand'heur contributes more of those precise, juddery, Vanderish drum fills. And oh no, here is yet another abrupt ending!

'Cabanon Oriental' features a fine bass opening, with a really dirty, treacly, snarly tone. The keyboard part sulks quietly via aggrieved muttering. This piece is nicely energetic. Jeand'heur certainly gives it some welly! Annoyingly, the ending is (again!) less than satisfactory - it just seems to stop all of a sudden.

Finally, 'Indéfiniment': the bass part in the opening reminds me of something - I can't put my finger on what exactly, but something. The drumming is impressive yet again - Jeand'heur has really hit his stride. Soaring guitar meets boiling tension, but the mood becomes rather breezier as the piece ends by fading out. This is something of an anti-climax, to be honest - really good Zeuhl customarily delivers a bold and blistering dénouement, rather than slipping away apologetically without saying goodbye.

And that is the problem with this album - it is full of fantastic potential, but these are all short pieces that do not allow Thollot's ideas room to unfurl and flourish. Sometimes they seem like sketches for sections of a longer work. It's almost as though he is a little too modest to impose himself on us for longer than about six minutes at a time! Whilst in life, humility can be an attractive trait, in this kind of music it's a bit frustrating! Come on, François, you feel like saying - don't be coy! I really do enjoy listening to this album - it impresses me every time I hear it - but my hope is that François Thollot will eventually do justice to his talent (which is obviously considerable). Let's hope he will return to the limelight very soon to present us with a main course of some longer, better-developed compositions. I certainly think that would be worth hearing!

In the meantime, I'll give this enjoyable selection of light and simple Zeuhl hors d'oeuvres three twinkly stars.

Report this review (#178702)
Posted Saturday, August 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars After reading John's review of this album and the lineup of musicians playing on it, I knew right away that I wanted to check this one out, as Philippe Bussonnet is one of my favorite bassists and I love Daniel's drumming on One Shot's albums and Pienza Ethnorkestra's. Unfortunately, this one wasn't the amazing masterpiece I was hoping for. It's got a lot of the right elements - great bass (of course), drumming, and good guitar playing. The keyboards remind me often enough of the keyboard sounds used on Weidorje's album, too. I think my main problem with the album is the compositions. They don't really draw any reaction from me, with a few exceptions here and there. For many of them, I find myself wondering if Thollot could have expanded on the ideas presented here and had something which I would have enjoyed more. Plus, most of the songs I like best end up being over just when I'm really getting into them.

Not a masterpiece in my opinion, nor do I think it's an essential album for most listeners. If you're a big fan of Zeuhl and sort of Frippian guitar playing, then you'd probably like it well enough, but for me it's not all that amazing.

Report this review (#291825)
Posted Saturday, July 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars On his second album French multi instrumentalist Francois Thollot is supported by One Shot's rhythm section. That power trio have plenty of energy, believe me!

Bassist Philippe Bussonnet (Magma and One Shot) is a hero of the day on this recording. Thollot guitar are tasteful, elegant and heavy in moments, but almost on all compositions he sounds just as another soloing musician, after Bussonnet !

Such rhythm section (especially on the front of the sound mix) gives strong zeuhl vibes to all music, but One Shot's jazzy side besides of Thollot's quite jazzy musicianship just make musical direction of this release really fusion influenced.

Recorded by power trio without orchestration and overproduction, this album represent lighter form of zeuhl, almost jazz fusion with chamber elements and some dark atmosphere. Musicians all are high class, and music, if not very original, sounds really great.

Good release for zeuhl newcomers or fans of lighter and jazzier zeuhl.

Report this review (#303546)
Posted Tuesday, October 12, 2010 | Review Permalink

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