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Lazuli - En avant doute... CD (album) cover

EN AVANT DOUTE...

Lazuli

Eclectic Prog


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4 stars One of the best french progressive rock group nowadays!

Though Lazuli is a french group, offering pleasant and accessible music, and singing in french, it isn't well-known in the french rock scene. Don't ask me why I can't understand! They give a rare example of a progressive music that can easily be enjoyed, both for their melodies and their lyrics. Of course the choice of french lyrics penalize them a bit in the perspective of getting international recognition. But it should help french-speaking people to familiarize and appreciate their music. Yet I notice they lack of fame even here in France, what is pity because they really deserves more recognition.

Their music is fine, with clear but never boring melodies. They alternate smooth and more powerful pages, with a really readiness for atmospherical change-overs, devoid of any artificial cuts. A wide range of instruments are used, creating original ambiances while keeping a great musical coherence. Finally their lyrics mix humor and seriousness, and even though they are sung in french the voice is very pleasant and catchy.

Everyone should at least give a try to this amazing group!

Report this review (#155670)
Posted Sunday, December 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars The album, when it came out, was named The Album Of The Month by a German magazine Eclipsed, so I decided to check it out. Well - it can easily qualify for the Album of the Year as well! The music here is mostly quite powerful, louder and harder than the band's previous effort "Amnesie", but still melodic; not overly complex, and yet with fantastically arranged multilayered structure. The self-made instrument Leode produces the sound which again and again sends shivers down your spine, especially on "Capitain Coeur De Miel" (borrowed from a late-70's recording of another great French band Ange), where it reaches the hights of the most wonderful David Gilmour's solos. The various percussion gives a bit Pierre Moerlen-esque feel, although it is not as distinct as in "Amnesie". And the great, clear voice of Dominique Leonetti eliminates any doubts concerning the language; somehow French goes absolutely perfectly with this music. My personal favourites here are Laisse Courir, Capitain Coeur De Miel, and L'arbre. The bonus DVD contains a great live show, a couple of videos, a documentary and other extras. By the way - I saw Lazuli live twice this year and can absolutely assure - they are just as great live as on a cd, so if they do a gig or a festival near to your place - go and see them! As for rating of the album - being rather critical I wouldn't give it full 5 stars; yet 4 stars seem a bit too low. OK, I'm generous today - 5 stars and hope that their next effort will be at least as good as this.
Report this review (#155910)
Posted Wednesday, December 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars en avant doute (going forward despite everything)

Lazuli is a French band formed in 1998 who with "en avant doute" released a work that made many "best of 2007" lists. I can certainly understand why. Their myspace site describes the band as "somewhere between progressive rock & electro-world, poetry & travel.visiting new territories with a rather unusual instrumentation: Warr guitar, Chapman stick, marimba, vibraphone, percussions, guitars, vocals..& especially a unique instrument created by Claude Leonetti : the LEODE." (the Leode is an instrument created by Leonetti who lost the use of one arm in an accident, so that he could play guitar with one hand.and it sounds amazing.) They note that "songs are canvas on which they mix colors to paint their own world." High-minded sentiments to be sure but quite accurate. This album possesses an exciting sound all its own in an age where it's not all that easy to break through the din anymore. The release is also great value because they throw in a bonus DVD with performance and documentary stuff.

The title track is first and this is a song about losing a loved one. The title is described as a nonsensical phrase meaning to "go forward despite everything." Vocals are usually present and very good. The track starts with electronica-like sounds gurgling behind the vocal with a Bjorkish feel until the band kicks in a bit later. The album really engages on "Laisse Courir" which is a song about the rat race in life that we all put ourselves through. The beautiful LEODE really comes through here and gives the album such a unique sound. It sounds a bit like a combination of slide guitar and keyboard, and Leonetti sounds to me influenced by Robert Fripp. What is so amazing about the LEODE is the total freedom and agility of sound Claude is able to extract, it's just wild to hear and worth the price of admission by itself. You won't believe the notes he finds, he pulls them to Earth from distant planets and ocean bottoms. Incredible. But I don't recommend Lazuli on the strength of their guitarists alone, they are all accomplished musicians with some very good songs. "Le Repas de l' Ogre" in a not-so-veiled shot at our own President Bush with quiet vocal sections contrasted with loud rocking parts. Next up is an Ange cover song (a shortened version) called "Capitaine Coeur de Miel" from their "Guet-Apens" album. Their love of Ange is obvious in the passionate playing and singing. "La Valse a Cent Ans" is a love song where Dominique Leonetti does a great job in a higher range of notes and there is an immaculate balance between this expressive vocal and the Leode accenting. He also accompanies himself on acoustic with interesting instruments and percussion behind him. If I'm vague about the instruments I'm hearing it's because I can't figure out what the hell is making half the sounds I'm hearing! It's that kind of album, but such is the fun! "Film d'aurore" has a bit of a creepy vibe with a quick-paced tight drumming and industrial grating behind a heavy bass line. The track gets heavier and heavier with a definite Crimson-like cacophony, though this album is not like KC overall. Much of it is quieter and more folk-influenced, but with a modern sound. "Quest Terne" is a break-up song described as the "sun setting on the life of a couple." A softer track with a nice vocal. "L'Arbre" (the tree) is a tribute to nature and how our perceived evolution has actually been the opposite. We have set up a system that cannot sustain itself and refuse to take our heads out of the sand, lest we upset someone's profit potential. It's my favorite song here and not because just because of the subject: this is simply jubilant playing with nice hooks and Peter Gabriel style rhythms. "Cassiopee" is another treat with great escalation of the music until the frenzied latter part, while remaining grounded with the acoustic guitar and strong vocal melody.

The DVD is a fun bonus to have. You get a live performance (although I don't see the crowd.empty venue?) and a documentary. This is more like a road journal that shows us that while these guys play sophisticated music, they're still having fun like kids on the road. We see them partying in one city and getting back to their hotel rooms a little crazy pushing one another down the hallway on the luggage rack. There is also an informative history of the Leode instrument and how it came to be, very cool. And a promo video for "le repas de l'ogre" which proves the band has a way to go in the production of compelling rock video. The booklet contains complete lyrics in French with brief English descriptions about the subject matter, a very nice touch for those of us who understand English-only. And what a fantastic album cover!! It says a whole lot in that one photo if you really stop to think about it for a spell.

This is a band with much promise who I expect to only get better. I would like to hear maybe one or two instrumental tracks on their next album, here I believe all or most were quite vocal and I'd like to hear what they can do without that structure. But as they continue to master their unique sound and even expand it, my hope is that they maintain a strong emphasis on melody, on keeping it tethered to Earth in a sense. I think it's that combination of eclectic sound and folkish warmth that make this band so appealing to so many this year. 3 ¾ stars.

Report this review (#159825)
Posted Saturday, January 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This French band didn't really impressed me with their previous album which was very much world music oriented.

It is rather different with En Avant Doute (which doesn't mean anything, it is a play-on-word actually). The opening number and title track sets the pace: great play-on-words, Crimsonesque music. It is a good summary of what we'll get on this good album. Laisse Courir reminds me of

The band keeps on with the magnificent Le Repas De L'Ogre. IMO, it is the best track of the band. Intriguing lyrics (at last!!!), scary and exceptionally dark music. The influences are obvious: Crimson for the music and Ange for the theatrical vocals and lyrics. It is a wonderful piece of music and a highlight of course.

The next song is a cover from Ange. Captain Coeur de Miel was the central piece of their very good Guet-Apens album. The last of their classic era. Although the original song lasts for about fourteen minutes, this cover only lasts for about a third of its original length. The vocal parts are the best ones and compared to the original version what is really missing is the fantastic closing guitar solo. Since this album is so short, they really could have developed this great song a little more.

The band is still in the very good territories with La Valse à Cent Ans. While the band totally ignored Ange in their first album, it sounds different here. Again, the whole Ange world is close: weird lyrics (which was a characteristic totally alien during Amnésie) with lots of play-on-words (like the masters). Another highlight.

The album goes on finely with another dark song: Film d' Aurore which is another scary number on the heavy side this time.

Other play on words with Ouest Terne (literally lifeless West but referring to Western-the US). Lyrics are full of these play-on-words mixing the wild West and the French (or best said Parisian) press world (Fogiel for whom who might know this TV guy whom I can't stand). But it is almost impossible for a non- French (or neighbour as I am Belgian) to get into these lyrics.

L' Arbre brings us back to their debut album and the world music feeling. Middle-East musical sounds and very high pitched vocals (as on most of the songs). One has to bear this aspect which could not be easily digested by most listeners.

In all, this album is much better than their Amnésie one. Much more interesting lyrics and obvious references to two prog giants for the instrumental parts are a much better experience.

Four stars.

Report this review (#186542)
Posted Monday, October 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This is much better than their debut i'll say that much. These guys have such a unique sound with the percussions, marimba, vibes, warr guitar, chapman stick and a homemade instrument called a leode that can make synth-like sounds to distorted guitar-like sounds. No keyboards. The vocalist does remind me a little of Descamps from ANGE, they even cover one of their songs, so they're no doubt influenced by this great fellow-French band. For me the toughest thing to digest is the vocals. They're not bad at all, it's just that they are often almost spoken and the focus of the song. Just not a fan of them that's all.

"En Avant Doute" is a good example of the vocals being the focus as sounds come and go in a pastoral setting. "Laisse Courir" opens with percussion and leode as reserved vocals come in. Some atmosphere here and good contrasts as well. One of the better tracks. "Le Repas De L'ogre" opens with almost spoken words and vibes while the leode creates some atmosphere. It kicks in briefly as contrasts continue.

"Capitaine Coeur De Miel (Part II)" is the ANGE cover but much shorter than the original. The vocals are almost spoken as leode cries out in the background. It's building until it gets intense before 2 minutes. This is the best part of the album. It ends as it began. "La Valse A Cent Ans" features vibes and fragile vocals. Not a fan. "Film D'aurore" again has these almost spoken vocals but it kicks in quickly. It sounds good 2 1/2 minutes in to the end. More intense. "Quest Terne" is my least favourite, it just doesn't go anywhere. "L'arbre" has these high pitched vocals and I like when it kicks in at 2 minutes. "Cassiopee" opens with some atmosphere as these light vocals come in. A heavier sound does take over and these contrasts continue.

Just can't get into this band the way most can.

Report this review (#236001)
Posted Sunday, August 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Lazuli is one of the greatest musical discoveries I have made these years. I was completely blown away by performance of this French group during Symforce festival in Tilburg in 2007. I have never heard something like that. The group has such an absolutely unique sound, such a drive. They don't merely play music. They fly, and take the audience along, to the far away and unimaginable heights.

They use no synthesizers, but still, the music sounds very modern. Their specific sound is defined by the omnipresent vibraphone and marimba played by Frédéric Juan, polyphonic Warr guitar of Sylvain Bayol and the high pitched vocals of Dominique Leonetti. But above all soar the unpredictable and beautifully outrageous improvisations of Claude Leonetti on Leode. This Leode deserves a few more words here. It is a strange self invented musical instrument, a hybrid of electric guitar and sequencer. It looks a little like Chapman stick, but is played by gliding the fingers along the fingerboard. Like SynthAxe, it is hooked to a midi controller and can actually produce a very large variety of sounds, including saw, violin, plush bear and of course - electric guitar.

Dominique Leonetti has told me the creation story of Leode after the concert during Symforce - of course, I couldn't suppress the urge directly to know all about them, then and there. By the way, you will also find this story ? as a short film - on the bonus DVD. After a motorbike accident a while ago, in the 80-s, the left hand of Dominique's brother and guitar player Claude Leonetti became partly disabled. So he couldn't play guitar any more. One day - or one night, according to the story on the DVD - Claude imagined a new sort guitar. A synthesized instrument that you can play with only one hand. It came to an actual creation of the instrument only 10 years later. Until now, Claude is the only player of Leode in the world.

"en avant doute?" is Lazuli's second record, after the very strong debut "Amnesie". It comes together with a bonus DVD with a live show and some extra's. Both CD and DVD contain beautiful music. The CD might seem a little short with it's 41 minutes of music. But the sheer strength and intensity of the music makes up a lot. It stands, like a musical monolith. I will place only one critical note: all songs are composed in a little similar way and don't provide quite enough diversity. One can say, it is their style, love it or leave it. But for me, it's still a reason not to give them 10 out of 10.

Report this review (#547169)
Posted Sunday, October 9, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars You will be amazed when you hear this band play live; not only because of their original sound but also due to unique combination of accessible music, light level of experimentation, touches of electronic and world music and last but not least, passionate French lyrics.

Starting with this album, the band improved songwriting and became a bit more adventureous taking more risks. The greatest assets are some partly more epic songs, good arrangements and more rocking sound than on the previous album. For tradional progger, the music will sound instrumentally not too challenging. "Captain Couer" has though a very pleasant guitar solo. My favourite song is the last one due to chord sequence.

Report this review (#2375270)
Posted Tuesday, April 28, 2020 | Review Permalink

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