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Amanda - Là où Chimène dort ? CD (album) cover

LÀ OÙ CHIMÈNE DORT ?

Amanda

Neo-Prog


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
4 stars Continuing in their explorations of mysterious women around them, after Amanda and the blonde Flore, we're now focusing on the Chimène, a most-likely sumptuous brunette (all we see is her hair and lips, much like we had for Flore). A slight change in the line-up (Gauthier had already helped on their debut album) is one of the reasons why it took almost 5 years between albums. While Chimène is definitely in the logical musical continuity of Flore, it's hardly a carbon copy, but it is unmistakably an AmAndA album from the first note until the Maxwell's last drop. Yes, their rather enjoyable and accessible mix of rock-pop and prog still sounds unlike anyone other group I heard, with the Queen and Saga influences of yesteryear now gone, though the Ange one remains, when listening to their latest album. The album's outside artwork is already, but the innerfold's Japanese medieval print is equally intriguing, but referring to some undisclosable gender relation.

Opening on two short tracks serving as a crescendoing intro (including a trumpet) from the "newcomer" Gauthier, the album veers into the main course on Saam's crunchy guitar and Mik's electric piano into Littleton. Bassist Claude and Mik are at the centre of the next two tracks: Docteur Pierrot and Claude's Clone suite, the former going post-rock, while the second is a typical (and excellent) number of theirs. As interesting a start that was/is, it's closely followed by Saam's poignant Confidence, with some thoughtful lyrics and searing guitar heroics, despite some not-so-successful drumming that sounds programmed and a tad 80's-ish. The following two-piecer Devenir and Fou is clearly the album's peak, opening on a one-note piano ostinato then going symphonic (there are somùe missing lyrics in the booklet) then intro-ing directly in the absolutely poignant and chilling Fou, where the vocakls are delivered in the Jacques Brel manner with lyrics worthy of Le Grand Jacques (Mik's mastery of French is impressive here), the verses being interrupted by a total musical madness. Outstanding stuff really!!

But unfortunately the following two-picer can't live up to its predecessor's standard. Despite a promising and eerie intro, Celestial Poker sounds like a French pop tune, even if there are some interesting lines in the lyrics. However another typical AmandA facet comes back with the choral Cornelius Ballad, where the band deals us another one of these semi- Burana pieces that only them can do. As the choir-piece segues in the album's title track (subtitled "six questions about ecstasy"), one can't help thinking again of La Chanson Française, but behind's Mik's again absolutely wonderful lyrics and plenty of dramatics too boot. The album dips again somewhat with following Au Bout De Ma Rue, a guitar-heavy with some opera squeals tune, but the bottom is reached with the hors-de-propos Belgique piece. Not bad in itself, but ruining the album's cohesiveness. Best programming out this tune when playing the album, because to end it here would mean you're missing the album's second highlight, the 11-mins+ On, the first part being sung, but it's lengthy instrumental (well there are some lovely choirs in it) part that evolves out of it, some parts that Karl Orff would've gladly signed as his. The lengthy heroic On finale drops to a slow a capella outro.

Although again not flawless (especially that out-of-context Belgium-love tune), but this is clearly the best of what Belgium had to offer, along with Aka moon's saxman Fabrizzio Cassol's solo album Strange Fruit. Clearly AmAndA has reached a new level in their art, and hopefully their upcoming album will reach the perfection they're aiming at.

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Posted Thursday, February 7, 2013 | Review Permalink

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