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Jean Cohen-Solal - Musiques et Instruments Insolites: Flute Libres  CD (album) cover


Jean Cohen-Solal


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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars If you like your prog adventurous and your flute experimental, no doubt you'll love J C-S's debut album. Although the artwork might be bland, believe me it's not representative of the music inside it. Indeed just four tracks in this album, three of them on the first side being still being accessible, while the sidelong corker filling the flipside is completely obscure and

The opening Concerto Cyclique is a sweet enthralling intro to the album, but by the mid-track, JC-S's flutes are completely insane, doubled tracked, saturated, free flowing with absolutely no rules except for the metronomic cymbal, before Solal takes us back into "normality" for the last third of the track; more or less normal, because the "damages" are irreversible. As indicated by its title the Matin track is indeed a raga and particularly well played with the flute piercing the usual monotony of a raga. Matière is an almost entirely flute thing, with multi tracks, wah-wah pedals echoing sounds, rhythms and brooding texturing melodies, almost abstract but still melodically "safe".

The flipside is a scary sidelong piece of music as it will astound you of the sounds extracted from a woodwind. There is a mystical feel given to the track as well, with the "musique concrete" ala Stockhausen or Cage, while there are birdsong flute sounds whistling perkily over spacey cymbal scrapes and gloomy cosmic atmosphere. That 17-mins track Quelqu'un is a haunting and spooky track, which is sometimes reminiscent of the early Tangerine Dream (Zeit), Kluster, Popol Vuh (Aftenstude), but not sounding copied, because of the Martenot waves sprawled over the track. In the MIO Cd reissue, there is an updated version of this track, shortened and not quite as gloomy.

A very interesting release that a lot of krautrock groups would've easily made their own, Flutes Libres is a difficult but rewarding acquisition that will reveal all of its charms over the successive listens.

Report this review (#165183)
Posted Thursday, March 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
Retired Admin
4 stars Woodwind with a phoenix up its backside

The main problem with the flute in a rock setting is arguably Ian Anderson. His majestic stork stands and his larger than life persona all tooted out through this breezy woodwind, is something that resonates with people. It is something that is remembered, in fact so much that bands that feature a flute on a regular basis often get labelled as Jethro Tull wannabes. Well there are other ways of approaching this instrument. Just putting this album on will open up an entirely different world of sounds and tapestries that in no way, shape or form harks back to our most beloved humanized stork.

Jean Cohen-Solal was born in 1946 and already at the age of 10 he was attending musical studies at the national academy in Nimes. Although he majored in the flute, he was no slouch on the double bass, which again points a finger towards his inexhaustible quench for music in all of its facets. This natural curiosity ultimately spurred him on to study counterpoint, harmony, chamber music and orchestrations. He went on to hone his skills at the academy of Versailles, where all of these fascinating inputs slowly came together to form some kind of esoterically charged musical beast.

All in all Solal is what I'd call a craftsman. He learned about music the hard way, and speaking from a personal point of view, I have actually always went for the opposite musicians such as the Jimi Hendrixes and the Eddie Van Halens. The self taught prodigies who sleep with their instruments and learn secret musical languages on their own. However, I must admit that I am completely smitten by this man and the sheer power and ingenuity of his playing. If you thought the flute was a silly hippie accessory or a side dish of Jethro Tull then think again matey. It can be whizzing, ugly, soothing, violently bobbing, heretic, almost robotic, clean as a baby's bottom and strangely rhythmic in nature. All of these different traits are fascinatingly conveyed on Flute Libres, which quite aptly named simply means The free flute.

There are a multitude of different genres coming together on this debut album, and straight away you get the impression that you certainly aren't embarking on a clear cut symphonic quest. As a matter of speculation, I'd deem the first one here to be a French psychedelically charged take on Krautrock. It wields a powerful sweaty rhythm section that takes the simple melodies of the flute and transform them into a dirty, funky and meaty hook. I instantly fell in love with this record the first time I heard this tune.

Without further ado and with nothing insinuated, we are flown halfway across the globe and the music is now remarkably Indian and folk laden. Two short tracks that intertwine Middle- Eastern and Indian cultures around the man of a thousand breaths and his woodwind. They work as a midway section for the audience to catch their breaths and prepare for the last musical frontier.

Finally the closing experiment takes you to those dark and brooding planetary soundscapes, where only acts like Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze did roam. It is music that dissolves and lingers simultaneously on the wind - like throwing sea salt on your lover's tongue and watch it disappear slowly - absorbing - disintegrating into the dark red flesh in a macabre and yet very beautiful manner. It is not a long way from the music you'll get from Cage and Stockhausen, and even though I don't particularly like or endorse the label "musique concrete" - mainly because it bears connotations with unfathomable music, and name wise actually never really gets close to any sort of plausibly description, - even so, I must confess that this last track flutters away on similar paths as the aforementioned musical concrete builders. If you however despise every single note and gesture done by either one of these during their "experimental sprees", then you'd do yourself good in listening to Solal's version of disintegrating music. Just his way of playing the flute on this final track has me thinking: Shoals of flying fish equipped with minuscule windy kazoos and jet packs. Or perhaps my favourite image of this effervescent and experimental track is the interplanetary fighter-plane space birds and floating sand dunes in mid air.

Flute Libres is recommended to seekers of experimental music, lovers of Krautrock and the odd flute aficionados that revel in this instrument's floating and oceanic character.

Report this review (#702191)
Posted Sunday, April 1, 2012 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars Well if your into the flute (and who isn't really) you will love this album. After all the title of this album means "Free Flutes". Jean Cohen-Solal won many international awards for his playing back in the late sixties and early seventies, and has taught flute for many years as well. Obviously being into Progressive Rock i've heard my share of flautists over the years but I have never heard anything like this. It's interesting that this album is listed under Rio / Avant as well, mind you it is quite experimental at times.

"Concerto Cyclique" builds to a catchy sound before a minute with the flute playing over top. A change 2 1/2 minutes in as we get cymbals only then other sounds start to come and go as the cymbals continue. Some crazy sounding flute at times here. Another change 5 minutes in as a catchy rhythm takes over. Organ too and of course flute. Just a great sound here. "Raga Du Matin" is mostly sitar, tablas and flute in this Raga influenced track.

"Matiere" is a short piece with mostly flute expressions and percussion. "Quelquun" is the over 17 minute side long suite to close out the record. A haunting start and man you better get used to it. Flute, percussion and organ and more standout here. A fuller sound after 3 minutes and it's still haunitng. Check out the eerie flute after 6 minutes. So cool. Some suspense around 8 1/2 minutes then it settles back to that haunting mode the rest of the way.

This is just one of those albums that is different and interesting enough to make you feel like you have discovered something very special. Easily 4 stars for this 1971 release.

Report this review (#809851)
Posted Friday, August 24, 2012 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars The flute is one of the world's earliest extant musical instruments and dates back at least 35,000 years according to archeological finds and has pretty much been adopted around the globe by such diverse groups ranging from Native Americans to Asian folk sounds as well as Western classical ensembles just to name a few. In the context of rock music it has been perhaps most associated with progressive rock and has been used to create highly innovative contributions to the standard rock instrumentation of guitar, bass, keyboards and drums with bands like The Moody Blues, Camel, Gong, Genesis, Traffic, Focus and of course Jethro Tull becoming the most famous examples. The instrument has even been incorporated into the extreme metal bombast of bands like Ukraine's Nokturnal Mortem but as s solo instrument the flute has almost always taken a back seat to other instruments save the odd folk based flute ensemble that has appeared now and again throughout history.

In terms of prog, the flute has also usually been subjected to a subordinate position although nobody has rocked the house more than Ian Anderson as an extension to his charismatic vocal performances but once in a while an artist finds a way to use their respective instrument in ways never considered and no better time in history was so fertile as that period that started in the late 60s and carried into the 70s. Born in 1946, JEAN COHEN-SOLAL stands out as one of the more unique acts to take the flute into strange new territories. Born in Algiers, Algeria a young COHEN-SOLAL tasted the splendor of Middle Eastern rhythms before his family returned to France and settled in Nimes in the 1950s where he began his early explorations of experimental music. COHEN-SOLAL was quite accomplished as he studied both double bass and flute at the National Academy of Nimes before moving on to the Academy of Versailles and then on to furthering his flute proficiencies with Roger Bourdin and Gaston Crunelle with the CNSM of Paris.

After mastering the traditional sounds of the flute and double bass, COHEN-SOLAL was poised to take part in the free-for-all experimental 60s where he tailored his playing to fit in with some of the wildest psychedelic scenes of the era. After hooking up with the sitar player Serge Franklin and tabla player Marc Chantereau, COHEN-SOLAL composed and recorded his first album FL'TES LIBRES which translates as 'Free Flutes' and is perhaps one of the most bizarre albums ever to feature this ancient instrument as the primary driver. While most flute players in a prog context were squarely in the folk rock turf, COHEN-SOLAL displayed a much more cosmic approach as if he jumped on his magic carpet and flew off to the Krautrock rich lands of Germany for inspiration rather than looking to the jazz-rock and symphonic prog sound of his homeland. FL'TES LIBRES emerged in the crazy year of 1971 and captures some of the most avant-garde sounds of that pivotal year when prog rock was getting more daring and taking music into some of the most extreme realms where boundaries between genres blurred and logical orthodoxies were thrown out the window.

FL'TES LIBRES featured only four tracks and while only clocking in at 34 minutes managed to circumnavigate the globe by tackling cosmic Krautrock, Indian ragas, Middle Eastern rhythms and the most extreme modernities of classical music ranging from the minimalism of Steve Reich to the musique concr'te of Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Henry. The album basically consists of two side long tracks although Side one is broken down into three sections. The album has only been released on vinyl. The first edition which emerged in 1971 belied the true nature of the musical content with a ridiculously lame COHEN-SOLAL looking somewhat like an Austin Powers dressed as Uncle Sam with a rather dated cover feature of giving credits on the cover. No way. This album deserves one of those colorful acid rock covers that suggests an inner journey that pierces the veil and takes you simultaneously off to both inner and outer space through creative patterns of sound and through the lens of jazz, Hindustani classical, psychedelia and free improvisation.

'Concerto Cyclique' introduces you to the album rather tamely and as it begins like a rather unremarkable garage rock band sound with some technically dazzling flute accompaniments it doesn't become apparent that someone spiked the punch until about the two and a half minute mark when the flute ceases and a cyclical percussive drive takes over allowing a wild experimental performances of the double bass and other sounds to follow. This first part carries on like an Ash Ra Tempel trip for over nine minutes and while breaking into inner orbit doesn't quite take the plunge into deep space. The middle section of the album 'Raga Du Matin' and 'Mati're' heads back to Earth and explores the sounds of India and the Middle East like a Nonesuch Explorer series album with flute accompanied visions of Indo-raga sounds and Arabic acid trips. The brevity is a nice sobering grounding force before the lengthy side B behemoth 'Quelqu'un' which drifts on like a Tangerine Dream expressive sprawl for over 17 minutes. Traversing the progressive electronic sounds of Klaus Schulze in pure acoustic instrumental form, this track takes you to deep space where gravitational forces no longer dictate Earthly orthodoxies and free form flute playing is in full improvisation thus the title of the album FL'TES LIBRES.

FL'TES LIBRES is clearly one of those albums that couldn't have come out at any other time. Riding the Indo-raga craze of the 60s, the album seems simultaneously anachronistic and refreshingly ahead of its time. While the Kraut infused intro track was fully in the present, the ethnic touches seem a bit retro by 1971, however the side long closer was truly looking forward and comes across as textural rich as anything Schulze or Tangerine Dream would come up with a few years later with such albums as 'Phaedra.' Given that COHEN-SOLAL was steeped in academia, it's amazing how detached he sounds from anything stilted from the past. This guy was clearly inspired by the psych-fueled developments of the era and easily fit his own stylistic approach into the zeitgeist of the time. Thankfully the album has been re-released in 2018 albeit on vinyl only with new album cover art. COHEN-SOLAL followed FL'TES LIBRES two years later with 'Captain Tarthopom' which adopted more rock and jazz sounds which leaves this first album an anomaly in the prog universe but what a wickedly cool album this is as it runs the gamut of emotions from the introductory underwhelming garage rock to the ending psychedelic trip to the stars. Perhaps not an all time classic of the ages but still an excellent display of innovation unlike anything before or since.

Report this review (#2376481)
Posted Sunday, May 3, 2020 | Review Permalink

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