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Etron Fou Leloublan - Les Sillons De La Terre CD (album) cover


Etron Fou Leloublan


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4 stars Ahhh, what a time the eighties were...Reagan and Thatcher were wreaking havoc with their nation's underpriveleged and human rights in general, and artists were pissed! A lot of that frenetic dissident energy found its way into music, which gave rise to fresh impulses, as can be heard in bands like Frith's Skeleton Crew, Pere Ubu, various Zorn projects, and Etron Fou Leloublan. While I haven't yet analyzed the French texts, the music itself radiates a healthy defiance of all things comfortable, smooth or commercial. The compositions are of a rich Beefhartian jaggedness and complexity that always surprises, the sax work very original and expressive, if not expressionistic, the bass playing hard , raw, and very solid. Especially refreshing is the keyboard stripped-down to one cheesy, but very expressive organ (reminiscent of Fripp's temporarily punk stance in "Breathless" and in The League of Gentlemen), which goes to prove that "progressiveness" is about originality and substance in composition and execution, not giant stacks and endless layers of synths, etc. Couldn't call it a masterpiece (a much abused word), but a vital, challenging work that always cheers one up, if only for its sheer audacity.
Report this review (#48477)
Posted Monday, September 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars EFL studio album number 4 saw the arrival of saxophonist number 4 into the camp - on this occasion Bruno Meillier joined the core trio of Ferdinand Richard, Guigou Chenevier and Jo Thirion. As on their previous outing shorter pieces were the the order of the day, although this time there was a greater emphasis on instrumentals and the vocals were generally more low key.

The album opens with a classic piece of EFL lunacy in Phare Plafond, which features a splendid vocal by Jo Thirion. From here on the album combines the familiar EFL elements - Beefheart rhythms, free jazz stylings, surreal lyrics - with some new developments. Guigou Chenevier plays more sax this time around, usually duetting with Meillier, and in places the drums are completely absent. EFL always had admirably democratic working practices; they were never merely Richard and Chenevier plus hired hands, and this meant that each new member of the ever shifting line up added something of their own. On this album as always all 4 participants make significant contributions to the writing, arrangements and performances, and the result is as joyful a noise as ever with a more obvious jazz element than Les Poumons Gonfles. Jo Thirion's contributions on both keyboards and vocals are more assured, with the organ occasionally muscling past the sax to dominate the arrangements. Chenevier and Richard are as tight and unpredictable as ever, while Bruno Millier may be the most accomplished saxophonist they worked with. There isn't a weak track on the album, but the standout is the 6 minute L'enfance de Guigou, which is the most ambitious piece on the album and also one of EFL's best.

One of the twin peaks of EFL's career, Les Sillons de la Terre is perhaps a slightly darker piece of work than their previous release but their offbeat sense of humour remained intact and the playing was even tighter than ever. Like Les Poumons.. this will appeal to fans of SMM, The Muffins, early Soft Machine and Aksak Maboul.

Report this review (#136230)
Posted Tuesday, September 4, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars The music reminds me of Samla Mammas Manna, but it's certainly no clone; it's just the seeming randomness, which really isn't random when I listen closer. I like it better than SMM, as it's a little darker, and can invoke moods of Univers Zero (but not as good as UZ). It's weird, and everyone else thinks so too. I love that the name roughly translates to Crazy Shit The White Wolf, because that may be the best explanation of what this music sounds like.
Report this review (#163152)
Posted Tuesday, March 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Rating: B+

After the stunning masterpiece that was Les Poumons Gonfles, Etron Fou Leloublan certainly had a lot to prove. Rather than produce a carbon copy of that CD, they expanded their boundaries (while still remaining themselves) with the excellent Les Sillons de la Terre, which ultimately stands as their second best effort (behind Les Poumons Gonfles). Etron Fou is still the same ridiculously quirky (and equally charming) band that fans of the first three CDs know and love, but they prove they're no one-trick pony with this CD, as it marks a relative shift in sound.

They still build their music around start and stop rhythms, most notably the fantastic drumming of Guigou Chenevrier, but now they focus less on that aspect. Instead of being THE dominant factor in their music, it is now one of three equally dominant factors (and Etron Fou only had three dominant traits at that point). Sharing the spotlight is the saxophone, which is more prominent here than on previous releases. Before, the saxophone was mostly used to build around the grooves. Now, however, with a new saxophonist in the fold, the saxophone sees more time as the prime carrier of the CD's dominant musical themes, adding a strong jazz flavor to much of the music (stronger than before, that is).

Even more noticeably different, however, is the prominence of keyboards. Les Poumons Gonfles was the first Etron Fou Leloublan CD to feature keyboards. As such, the band was still experimenting with how to fit them into their music, meaning that the keyboard contributions were often subdued and non-intrusive, with occasional flashes of brilliance coloring the already explosive music around them. On Les Sillons De La Terre, Thirion (the keyboardist) has found her element within the band and is given the opportunity to shine, which she grabs, coloring the music with some its most serious themes. The result of the more dominant keyboards (and saxophone) is one of Etron Fou's greatest musical statements. Songs like "Lavabo" and "L'enfance de Guigou" feature perhaps the greatest songwriting of any Etron Fou songs.

The strange vocals that characterized early releases are, like the rhythms, less prominent here (though still clearly present), making it one of Etron Fou's most accessible releases. Given that they are an avant-garde band, and thus potentially quite difficult to get into, that automatically makes this one of the best places to start with the band. That the music is fantastic only reaffirms that. Les Poumon Gonfles is the band's masterpiece, but Les Sillons de la Terre is a worthy follow up and an essential slice of avant-garde listening.

Report this review (#164162)
Posted Monday, March 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars ETRON FOU LELOUBLAN from France were one of the original Rio bands from the seventies. This is their fourth and next to last album that was released in 1984. According to the liner notes this record "Is one of the closest studio approximations to the band's "live" sound. And it has a harder edged, more bare-boned approach than the preceeding album, "Les Poumons Gonfies" produced by Fred Frith in 1981. "Les Sillons De La Terre" ("The Furrows Of The Earth") may also embody ETRON FOU's strongest affinities to Jazz..." This is a fun album, kind of quirky with male and female vocals. I really like the bass which is very prominant throughout. Lots of sax, keyboards and drums as well.

"Phare Plafond" has a catchy rhythm to open with bass and drums leading the way. Sax and organ come in. Female vocals before 1 1/2 minutes. She's almost yelling the words. Great sound when she stops singing and the focus goes back to the impressive instrumental work. "Les Vitres" opens with deep bass lines as sax and drums come in. Male vocals and keys follow. The sax is pretty cool on this track. I really like this one. "Les Alsaciennes" opens with a sax and drum melody. I like the bass and organ that follows. The sax and bass section is kind of silly then the organ and bass return. "Nouveau" opens with guitar and bass. The tempo picks up as keys come in. Sax follows. Love the deep bass lines. Spoken male words 2 minutes in. Guitar is back.

"L'Enfance De Guigou" opens with organ, sax and bass. Male vocals come in. Great sound ! What a fantastic sound 5 minutes in, so laid back. "Emoi" is jazzy and uptempo as female vocals join in. She gets theatrical at times. It settles with organ before 3 minutes as sax plays over top. "C'est Pas Bien" opens with pulsating sounds before the vocals and spacey organ comes in with light drums. These are contrasted throughout. I like it ! "Et Qu'Cet Air-La" is mostly sax and piano throughout. "Lavabo" opens with sax, organ and spoken vocals. Huge bass comes in. Strummed guitar after a minute. It's jazzy before 2 1/2 minutes as themes are repeated. "Le Jeu L'alcool Et Les Femmes" opens with sax. It kicks in before a minute with fat bass, organ and light drums. Sax continues though. So intricate here. Themes are repeated.

Certainly this band is a must for Rio fans out there. They're an important part of the history of this genre. Excellent album as well.

Report this review (#212482)
Posted Sunday, April 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really

Fourth album from this crazy outfit, usually a sax-lead rhythm section, but this time as a quartet, having again replaced the sax player (this time Bruno Mellier) but also added Jo Thirion on KBs and vocals. Yes this album and the next will surprise you a bit because a lot of vocals are female (even though it wasn't the first time there was feminine presence at EFL's mike) but also the presence of keyboards About these, they're NOT 80's keyboards, but definitely organ and piano, so rest assured that EFL remains true to themselves. With the black & red Wolf pack artwork with Leloublan (whitewolf) heading the pack, the group shorter songs (five aside), something they'd started with the previous "poumons gonflés".

Musically this album is much safer for your mental health (even if it starts the flipside with "Les Gens Sont Cons", and the opening side is about a woman depicting her husband pigging out on Christmas and puking everything later. And it should also be nicer to the average eardrums, being a lot less punk in attitude and playing a lot less with dissonances. The Chevenier/Richard pair is still working wonders but seem to take a slight back seat as there are two leading instruments, with the organ often teaming very well with the sax.. As usual with all of EFL's work, understanding French is an asset to enjoy the songs even more, but the songwriting is expressive enough to "get" the songs anyway. I've yet to see this album and its follow-up in Cd format, but no doubt most RIO enthusiast will look after the vinyl, which should still be affordable, but maybe not the most essential of EFL's albums.

Report this review (#214821)
Posted Monday, May 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars ETRON FOU LELOUBLAN is one of original RIO bands, and on this album you can hear quite characteristic French RIO sound. What means music there is sax-led alternative avant French urban music, based on free-jazz, chanson, French pop tradition, chamber music and soft and melodic French version of what would be tagged as punk in UK or States.

Musicianship is very precise, sound is excellent, and all album is full of energy. Songs are almost all well structured what gives to listener quite interesting effect: it looks like you listen well crafted jazzy pop-songs and free-form avant based music at the same time. Vocals are mostly half-spoken, in a punk/chanson tradition, so this element is possibly most controversial part of all music. Instrumental part is often quite close to avant prog though.

I believe such music is more question of listener's taste, I like this album as real French face of avant rock.My rating is 3,5 rounded to4.

Report this review (#359144)
Posted Tuesday, December 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Another masterpiece from the original French members of RIO proper. The album remains as fun and complex as any other EFL release, even with its loss of influence from French folk. There is, instead, a bit of leaning on classic symphonic keys from time to time. "Phare Plafond" opens the record with the usual energy inherent to the band, and this of course sticks through all their strange sounds and experiments. Guitar drives this album more than any other EFL record, and those symphonic keys match Chenevier's sax as the other main instruments. "C'est pas Bien" stands as the best track, with a more dour and unique form of the band's sound. Above all, excellently played. As enjoyable as any other EFL album, highly recommended to all.
Report this review (#1321619)
Posted Monday, December 8, 2014 | Review Permalink

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