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Etron Fou Leloublan - Batelages CD (album) cover

BATELAGES

Etron Fou Leloublan

RIO/Avant-Prog


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Prog-jester
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Now hide your rocks and let me explain my 2 stars.Yes, I ain't a RIO/Avant fan...but it's only MY point of view, isn't it?

ETRON FOU LELOUBLAN is a band from France. They're all - a fatal coincidence - Frenchmen and sing - now, stop shocking me! - in French. One can hardly call THIS singing - actually, voice is just another instrumenta and I don't what the hell it's singing about. The voice itself is an agonizing beast of declamating Hammil and chanting Morrison mixed together - but not that good surely. Musically EFL is definetely an Avnt Rock band - very humoresque and quirky (imagine ZAPPA playing MARS VOLTA cover!!!). Sounding rather hollow (the band consists from a drummer, a sax-player and a 6-string bass player/singer), it'll took several listenings to get use to their rough and agressive (almost proto-punk!) manner. Only first track (18 minutes long) offers OBVIOUS melody - it begins with it - others lie somewhere in between the improvised ("composed spontaneously") bits and prepared jams. The further you get the stranger music you'll have: second bit is a drum solo, third track is a 23-second long march based on two-notes bass-line...The side B opens with 9-minute instrumental number (jamming on 3-4 themes) and ends with 11-minute half-bearable "chant". It's doubtfully you'll be listening to it daily.

In conclusion I must say that in Avant Art the FORM (or the attitude) becomes sometimes more important than the PLOT.Bearing this formula in mind and appreciating EFL's masterity and sense of humor, I give them these deserved 2 stars - this is not kind of music you'll listen to all the time, but it's worthy as an example of experimental Art. After al, RECOMMENDED - try it!l

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Send comments to Prog-jester (BETA) | Report this review (#114247)
Posted Monday, March 05, 2007 | Review Permalink
Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Etron Fou Leloublan were the most eccentric of the decidedly odd bands in the original RIO movement. For some years they functioned as a trio with rhythm section Ferdinand Richard (bass, guitar, voice) and Guigou Chenevier (drums, sax, voice) and a rotating cast of saxophonists/lead vocalists. In their early years the frontman was Chris 'Eulalie Ruynaut' Chanet, a talented comedian as well as a musician. This was the line up that started their career opening for Magma and recorded Batelages, their debut album, generally considered to be their least accessible.

It opens innocuously enough, Ferdinand Richard playing some fairly tasteful fingerpicked guitar while Guigou strokes the cymbals - then the drums strike up a Beefheart style beat, Richard strums a frantic proto punk rhythm and Eulalie starts declaiming the lengthy narrative that winds its way through the opening 18 minute epic L'Amulette et le Petit Rabin. After about 5 minutes Richard switches to bass, Chanet starts blowing some very free tenor sax and the ensuing instrumental passage sounds like it was recorded with the three musicians were in seperate rooms, quite possibly on seperate continents. In fact, it all works rather well - Richard and Chenevier formed an unorthodox but highly skilled rhythm section which doubtless inspired Ruins, with Chanet's freeform voice and sax meandering over the top of it all. The piece switches between vocal and instrumental interludes and will either enchant or infuriate. The second half of the album is more instrumental but equally bizarre - it starts with a drums/percussion piece, followed by 22 seconds of Yvett' Blouse. Madame Richard/Larika opened side 2 of the vinyl original and is a lengthy piece which is probably the most recognisably RIO style piece on the album, with the sax played through effects pedals at some points. Histoire de Graine closes the proceedings, with vocals by Richard and very much in the style of the opening track.

Batealges is a very raw piece of work, but the talent of the three performers is obvious and there are some excellent passages of free jazz/rock lunacy if you're prepared to persevere with it. Captain Beefheart is the most obvious reference point, although if you can imagine Henry Cow getting very drunk and jamming with a stand up comedian that will also give you some idea of what to expect. Understanding French isn't necessary, and may even be an advantage as the vocals become just another instrument. Following this album Chanet left, later to join Urban Sax, and EFL would acquire a new frontman for the next stage in their career. As uneven as it is there's plenty of inspiration in evidence, and lovers of the truly surreal and bizarre will enjoy it. If you're not already a fan either of the band or RIO in general, start with one of their later albums; otherwise jump right in, but don't say that you weren't warned!

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Send comments to Syzygy (BETA) | Report this review (#124144)
Posted Thursday, May 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Rating: B

Etron Fou Leloublan are widely loved for their later releases, most especially Les Poumons Gonfles, which is a masterpiece of avant-garde progressive rock, and one of the greatest CDs from any of the bands associated with Rock In Opposition. When it comes to their debut, however, opinions are a bit more polarized. On the one hand, this is their roughest work. It lacks flow at times and it has occasional songwriting lapses. On the other hand, it is quirky and charming, and all-around excellent.

Of all the original five Rock In Opposition bands, Etron Fou Leloublan (Crazy Shit, The White Wolf) was decidedly the quirkiest. With staccato starts and stops, bizarre vocals, and wild saxophone, their music is some of the weirdest ever created, but it's also potent and explosive, especially on their later releases. They are unpredictable, shifting from one theme to the next, one rhythm to the next with reckless abandon. On Batelages, these changes don't always work (even though most of the ideas are excellent, the transitions don't always come across well), but when they do, they are fantastic.

Take, for example, the epic "L'amulette et le Petit Rabin", a fantastic opening epic and the clear centerpiece of Batelages. It alternates between vocal sections sans saxophone and instrumental sections with lead saxophone, and encompasses everything from quasi-religious chanting (in style, not lyrics) to rhythm-dominated grooves augmented with scorching saxophone on top. Each section is repetitive, but the result of meshing them together is an excellent 18-minute piece that shows all the versatility and charm of Etron Fou Leloublan.

The highlights of the CD, however, are actually the closing two pieces, both of which expand on the grooves and saxophone theme. The instrumental "Madame Richard Larika" takes bass and drum grooves that shift nearly constantly and puts emotional yet rhythmic saxophone on top. The saxophone line that enters after about three mintues in is particularly potent. The more vocals-dominated "Histoire De Graine" is stranger and more repetitive, showing Etron Fou's ability to develop a groove and then return to it for grand effect (read: it starts and ends with the same theme). Rounding out the CD are "Sololo Brigida", a whimsical drum solo (with plenty of percussive effects) and "Yvett' Blouse", which might be the most representative track on Batelages. At a mere 26 seconds, it is a single bass-drum groove with a single saxophone line over the top, and it might just be the best on the CD (though the specific one mentioned from "Madame Richard Larika" is particularly excellent as well).

Batelages is rough and will scare off the uninitiated listener. As such, it's a poor place to start discovering Etron Fou Leloublan. The newcomer would be better to start with Les Poumons Gonfles or Les Sillons de la Terre, both of which revolve around shorter, more focused songs that are tighter compositionally, and ultimately more effective. Batelages is a great effort nonetheless, and no Etron Fou Leloublan fan should do without it.

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Send comments to Pnoom! (BETA) | Report this review (#164151)
Posted Monday, March 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars There is some kind of war going on, and this album hurts a little too much. It's not a masterpiece, but it is certainly unconventional, which is enough for anyone to give it a listen, I guess. However, if you are new to this kind of RIO, I'd advise starting elsewhere. EFL have many other releases that showcase their better edge.

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Send comments to kabright (BETA) | Report this review (#170651)
Posted Sunday, May 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
4 stars Of all the signataires of the RIO chart, EFL was one of the younger bands (along with UZ), having released their debut album in 76 and to say the least, it was an amateurish release in terms of production (although in some ways it's remarkable as well). The group's backbone is the rhythm section, while the sax frontmen will change after almost every album, even if it is Chris Chanet, the present sax player, that started this group in Grenoble (France's main Alp city) and had them play their first concert in a Magma support slot. Back in 74.

Their debut album sees the group's spectrum ranging from a very raw Gong (Malherbe-like sax, cosmic/dementia bruitages and non-sensical humour) to an almost punk brutality. I would even add to the Gong that the EFL continuing pair of Chevenier (drums) and Richard (bass & the occasional guitar) is at least on par with a few GonG's ever-changing rhythm section. Indeed Chevenier's mastery of the drums and other percussions allows him to have even two drum solo sufficiently entertaining for this proghead's usual skipping/zapping tolerances. While their 18-mins "epic" Amulette, followed by the 3- mins drum solo Sololo Brigida is certainly worth a listen, it's mostly side 2's tracks that will hold more interest.

Apart from the slapstick ultra-short Yvette's Blouse (and what's inside), there is only two more tracks, even if one is divided. Indeed Madame Richard (mostly likely Ferdinand's mommy) holds some rather dissonant mood before finally finding its demented plot straight, with Malherbian improvs and Pixie rhythms by the time it is called Larika. The closing 11-mins Histoires De Graines returns to the rough madness of the previous Amulette track with their drunken Beefheart rawness and a Hammillian way of unleashing a sonic chaos.

It's obvious that a good mastery of French is a plus for enjoyment of EFL's oeuvre, but the singing is always clearly intelligible that even those with a lesser French should follow the lyrics in the booklet without much problems. Not that these lyrics are that profound at all, they're often verging on the silly, despite the usual force at which they're delivered, going as far as shouting or yelling, not that there is that much of texts into this debut album, rather than in their follow-ups. In either case, I find Batelages quite interesting and despite its GonG influences, its definitely one of France's mosrt remarkable debut album. Definitely worth a shot, but be warned.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#213955)
Posted Tuesday, May 05, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Probably one of the best debuts in the history of music

In 1973, Étron Fou Leloublan was opening for Magma. For sure, it was a promising band.

Batelages is Étron Fou Leloublan's first album, released in 1977. Even if not considered as their best by many lovers of the genre, I think this album is very strong because of its uniqueness. To be clear, I disagree with the majority, and will say it IS their best, followed closely by Les poumons gonflés. At this time, ÉFL was a trio consisting of Guigou Chenevier (drums, percussions), Ferdinand Richard (bass, vocals) and Chris Chanet (vocals, saxophone), who would only participate in this album, sadly. The album includes five pieces, ranging from twenty-eight seconds to eighteen minutes. The first song, named L'amulette et le petit rabbin, was written as an "exquisite corpse". This epic song is probably the highlight on the album. I also think it is more enjoyable if you understand French as I do, because the lyrics are very funny (that does not just state for this song, but for everything ÉFL wrote). It is sung by Chanet. The second piece, Sololo Brigida, is a three minutes instrumental jazzy avant-garde one. It is followed by the very short Yvett' Blouse, which could be described as a blues caricature. I consider it as a kind of bridge to Madame Richard / Larika, the last (but definitely not least) instrumental piece of the album. Mixing elements of jazz, folk / traditional music and avant-garde, they achieve to create an excellent music, a unique sound that would characterize them throughout their fructuous career. The saxophone in this piece is worth mentioning, as it takes a leader role in the music. The album ends with Histoire de graine, sung by Ferdinand Richard, and featuring crazy lyrics again. He plays with words and makes twisted sentences. Neither he nor Chanet have "usual" voices. They are what I can call an acquired taste. The music is also excellent, particularly the bass (in E flat) and the drums (in some moments).

I really suggest this album (this band, in fact) to newcomers of the genre, as it has its catchy moments (it is one of ÉFL's strengths, by the way). It also clearly indicates the direction they would take in their other albums. A masterpiece, definitely.

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Send comments to Tsevir Leirbag (BETA) | Report this review (#274023)
Posted Wednesday, March 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars The first album from the original Rock in Opposition band Etron Fou Leloublan is quite different from some their later more popular works, like Les Poumons Gonflés, and instead actually reminds me more of the early Rush records!

Of course my comparison of Etron Fou Leloublan to Rush has very little to do with how these bands sound and much more with the development of their individual styles. Both of them began their relation to progressive rock music with lengthy spliced-up suites. Rush did so with compositions like By-Tor And The Snowdog, The Necromancer and The Fountain Of Lamneth where they clearly stated their intention of writing experimental rock music with instrumental virtuosity. Etron Fou Leloublan basically did the same with the release of Batelages.

In spirit, this is a very ambitious and well-executed record featuring a band that knows exactly what they want with their music and try to achieve just that. Unfortunately, just like the early works of Rush, I lack the fluency that would make this material special for me. Granted that this is a common fault of early albums and most such releases instead manage to make up for lack in the structural songwriting department by substituting it with raw energy and exceptional creativity. This is definitely the case with Batelages, but unlike most other bands who lose their spark after a few releases, Etron Fou Leloublan managed to uphold all of these qualities throughout their career while constantly improving their songwriting skills.

Lengthy pieces like L'amulette Et Le Petit Rabbin, Madame Richard - Larika and Histoire De Graine are all nice experimental explorations of that perfect mood and setting but they inevitably also become an exercise in excess where the young inexperienced band just doesn't know when to pull the plug and call it a day. There is definitely enough ambition on Batelages and Rush's early albums but composition-wise both bands achieved far more further on in their careers.

**** star songs: L'amulette Et Le Petit Rabbin (18:09) Yvett'Blouse (0:28) Madame Richard - Larika (9:25) Histoire De Graine (11:20)

*** star songs: Sololo Brigida (3:19)

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Send comments to Rune2000 (BETA) | Report this review (#296998)
Posted Wednesday, September 01, 2010 | Review Permalink
Sinusoid
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Etron Fou Leloublan are a band in the RIO movement that are as notable as Henry Cow, Univers Zero or Samla Mammas Manna. But that doesn't mean that EFL aren't unique in their own right. The dissonant, freeform capabilities of the genre appear in EFL's music, but so do punk and Latin music to a degree. The penchant for French humour is the wild card, and unless one understands the French language pretty well (I don't, unfortunately), expect to find yourself lost.

Starting at the end, the last two big numbers (''Madame Richard'', ''Histoire de Graine'') have loads of dissonant sax lines and absolutely bonkers percussive lines in the middles. The latter track has a beautiful bass-chord driven beginning that sparks interest. During the crazier section, it's hard to understand that all of that noise comes from just a bassist playing chords, a percussionist and a saxophonist. Unfortunately, this freeform stuff is what might drive most progsters nuts.

There's an epic here in the opening track, and it features punk-like shouting in the beginning, loads of bass chords that sound like guitars and Latin music excursions. The problem is that the epic is way to fragmented; sometimes ideas simply fade out and there's just a bit of French comedy in dry time until the next idea comes.

''Solo Brigada'' is another percussion solo that doesn't make that big of a splash, ''Yvett' Blouse'' is way too short considering the idea the band had going. EFL through BATELAGES is mainly for those with a soft spot for RIO, but some of the more accessible ideas are likely to attract newcomers to the genre moreso than the modern classical avantness of say Henry Cow. A little too much disjointedness keeps BATELAGES from being in the upper strata of RIO albums.

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Send comments to Sinusoid (BETA) | Report this review (#384522)
Posted Friday, January 21, 2011 | Review Permalink

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