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Seven Reizh - L'Albatros CD (album) cover


Seven Reizh

Symphonic Prog

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The only other Seven Reizh album I've heard is 2001's Strinkadenn Ys--one of my five favorite albums from that year. As the band and its composers did so well on that album, there is an attempt to merge and blend the musical traditions of different cultures and ethnicities--here more toward West-East, Celtic and Arabic. Apparently, I've just learned, the four Seven Reizh musical releases--Strinkadenn Ys, Samsara, La Barque Ail'e, and L'albatross--are meant to be a "quadrilogy," four album releases intended to musically convey the story as told in an accompanying fantasy novel--one that tells the "history" of the adventures of a 19th Century Bretagnais world-traveling sailor named Jean-Marie Le Bris who is also imagining and aspiring to invent an "aerial ship" (the "barque aill'e"). I love the fact that composer Claude Mignon and novelist-production designer G'rard Le Dortz show the esteem in which they hold their contributing vocalists (who are all wonderful) by listing them first among their credited contributors. As you listen to any of the Seven Reizh albums you'll understand why: These albums are unique in the way they are telling the story--the novel--in a kind of conversational/narrational format with all vocalists making appearances over the course of each and every song--and using multiple languages and many, many ethnic music traditions, to do so.

1. "Le Pavillon Chinois" (3:59) The title says it all: music stylized Chinese. Could be a travel video soundtrack. The takeover of the main melody from Chinese flutes to Celtic Uilleann pipes at 2:30 is interesting--and then German vocals! (8.5/10)

2. "Brizh" (14:48) slow, cinematic music plods beneath violin and English vocals of Laur'ne Bourvon. The synth "Strings" lead that follows the first verse sounds a little dated, but the breathy, vulnerable vocal (not unlike KOOP/LITTLE DRAGON's Yukimi Nagano) is awesome. At :00 the singer and language of choice change. I'm not much of a fan of saxophone, so the long Dick Parry-like solo in the sixth and seventh minutes is not for me. The ensuing lull of orchestral nuances is gorgeous--great, emotional melody. More delicate female vocalists appear, wafting in and out, until at the 13:00 mark an explosion of sound unleashes more Dick Parry-like sax and some slide guitar co-soloing to the finish. Overall, a great song; a veritable classic prog epic. (9.5/10)

3. "Tiqit Weman" (5:52) opens with strings to support the Kabyle singing of Farid A't Siameur (who sounds a bit like older PETER GABRIEL). In the second minute the lead vocal switches to a female singing in a different language. Back and forth the two go; this is a conversation. The operatic voice of this lead singer is quite beautiful--and a great contrast to the raspy voice of A't Siameur. The underlying music is quite like a stage or cinematic musical--could be a Disney love song. It's beautiful. (9/10)

4. "Dalc'h Mad" (6:55) Farid A't Siameur bursts out from the opening note in his Kabyle tongue, isnging in a forceful, devotional way. Laur'ne Bourvon's English singing comes next over some incongruously heavy rock music. Again, a theatric conversation style of lyrical presentation unfolds as the two protagonists and their choral support seem to be expressing anguish and longing. Another great song that could belong in a Disney or Cirque du Soleil presentation. (9/10)

5. "Klasker-bara" (4:40) the most subdued and sad of the Celtic-Arabic blends on the album, here the exceptionally emotional vocal performances are perfectly matched and integreted with the music--much of which is orchestral acoustic. (9.5/10)

6. "Kriz" (9:27) electronically clipped drum with delicately played steel-string guitar and woodwinds opens this song for the first gentle, sleepy two minutes. Then Laur'ne and Farid continue their conversation. I am so engaged in this conversation, this story, I just wish I knew what it was about (in detail)! There is a major song shift at the three minute mark into a kind of Buddha Lounge oriental fantasy song. It's extremely pretty! Lyrics are sung in French. Some cool drumming at the end of the fifth minute to signal another shift--one in which Farid enters and sings on multiple tracks with electric guitar power chords counter-balancing the Chinese erhu and then the English lyrics sung by Laur'ne. Nice guitar solo in the seventh/eighth minutes (especially its climactic section flwoing into the ninth minute). Oriental themes return and are woven among the continued soloing of the electric guitar to the end. Brilliant creation! (9.25/10)

7. "Lostmarc'h" (9:59) despite an unspectacular opening section--calm and desert-beautiful, sung in English--this one carries an incredibly touching emotional quality within both the multi-voice vocal performances and the instrumental fabric supporting it all. The musical foundation becomes more compelling with the entry of operatic voice of one of the women (Stefanie or Bleunwenn, I know not which). The conversational aspect of storytelling is quite apparent in this one as Laur'ne, Farid, and Stefanie/Bleunwenn take turns in the lead position. Eventually, the song finishes with some more wonderful acoustic and electric guitar soloing. In the end, this is truly a gorgeous song regardless of whether or not it ever develops or evolves into something surprising or unexpected. I'm just so glad someone is doing this kind of music. (9.25/10)

8. "Er Lein" (9:30) all-out Celtic rock (despite Farid's Kabyle vocals). After the opening three minutes, this song is amped up to full power all the way through until the final 30 seconds. The female vocals are awesome from start to finish--from the scrambled, almost mumbled openers into the thrum-supported doubled-up verses to the operatic Gaelic ones before Farid's entrance. Brilliant! The deep pulse of bass, drums, and keys balanced by the celtic cimbalom (zither/autoharp), celtic pipes and horns and guitar are so well done! Truly an awesome song! (9.5/10)

I greatly admire the successful melding of Celtic and Arabic traditions; perhaps there is a larger social-political statement being made here. Now knowing the continuous story line that this one concludes I will go back and add the middle two releases ((2006's Samsara and 2015's La barque aill'e) that I have yet to hear. Also, I must comment on the drastically improved sound production Messers. Mignon and Le Dortz have achieved since Strinkadenn Ys: it doesn't get much better than this.

Five stars; a masterpiece of cross-cultural storytelling progressive rock music.

Report this review (#2052777)
Posted Sunday, November 4, 2018 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
4 stars This is another lavish epic from Claude Mignon, Gerard Le Dortz and their myriad guests, who show as much dedication to the project as its parents. Apparently "La Barq Ailee" and "L'Albatros" were originally conceived as the final part of a trilogy that began with "Strainkadenn Ys" in 2001, but the scope of the story and the limitations of CD lengths necessitated their split. It's therefore a "trilogy" in the manner of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". Underpromise and over deliver!

While the concept and production are as fantastical as they should be, and "L'Albatros" is somewhat more diverse and memorable than its predecessor, I feel unfair in judging it as somewhat formulaic. Most of the tracks clock in the high single digits, and follow the playbook of beginning reflectively, with one of the three main singers taking and sometimes relinquishing lead in the language of their character, after which the intensity builds to a bombastic end with the charge led by a wind instrument, sizzling electric guitar, or pipes. Like Loreena McKennitt, Seven Reizh is loyal to the Celtic tradition no matter what the lineage of the piece. Sure I hear Arabic and world influences, and even Chinese motifs in the opener, and this is undeniably symphonic in nature, but the filter is stuck on Celtic. Personally I don't mind that at all, but I sometimes find the music is so familiar and likeable that I take it for granted. For all the twists and turns, it's a bit predictable, but it does sound wonderful in a home stereo setting!

It's taken nigh 20 years for this work of the heart to reach fruition, but our gents have managed to liberate their albatross. Where to go next? Well deserved rest or perhaps a more conventional production? Now that doesn't seem very likely. 3.5 stars rounded up.

Report this review (#2498326)
Posted Saturday, January 30, 2021 | Review Permalink
3 stars SEVEN REIZH came to hit my ears in 2006 with "Samsara", a concept album on world-prog notes of great beauty. I had in mind a varied instrumentation and an incredible number of musicians on stage! Then time made that I lost sight of them, knowing however that they had also mixed at the famous Real World studios, a reference in itself. Their latest album released at the beginning of the year takes up the breathtaking adventures of an aviator, Jean Marie LE BRIS, known to have been one of the (if not "the") pioneers of aviation around 1856, with the project avant-garde to rescue sailors lost in the Atlantic!

At the composition level, it was therefore Claude MIGNON and G'rard LE DORTZ who created the backbone of the album with, once again, many instrumentalists using both current sounds and ancient sounds from multiple roots: Celtic, Irish , Muslim among others. This also reminds us that trade has long been operating between the Channel Islands and sub-Saharan Africa and that commercial and musical exchanges come from very far away. Concerning the influences, I will quote pell-mell the sound stamped PINK FLOYD for the guitar solos, the sax and the planing atmospheres; Alan STIVELL for the typical Celtic instrumentation; Alan SIMON for somewhat the same; a bit of TRI YANN for the Breton sound; some CORRS for the development of voices and melodies; a bit of Loreena McKENNITT for bringing together different musical cultures; a bit of KHALED for the voice (too much ') Kabyle; a bit of NENA, yes that goth voice of a cult band from the 80s (listen up on tracks 4 and 8!); a bit of STONE AGE too for this mix of intoxicating sounds and atmospheres; and a bit of ENYA who worked on the BOF of 'THE LORD OF THE RINGS'. That's about all, but in my opinion it's not bad.

Concerning the titles, 8 of which some approaching to see exceeding the 10 minutes! The intro "The Chinese Pavilion" invites us to travel, making us visit a landscape of tranquility alternating between prog development and relaxing melody. "Brizh", more than 14 minutes long, brings him the weft of voices, sailing between Celtic air, Irish air and Kabyle lament, all accompanied by soft but tenacious sounds. Just listen to the break with heavy percussion around 8 minutes then the explosive finale with sax (which is coming back into fashion for this instrument!) and compulsive guitar, a piece that passes without realizing it. The following two titles are for me the most "painful", the most irritating if you haven't opened your ear to the North African influence, with Farid's voice still sounding too high. At the sound level, on the other hand, especially on "Dalc'h mad", the association between the violin and the explosive guitar at the end is absolutely beautiful. For "Klasker-bara", a piano ballad where ethereal and Kabyle female voices mixed with the harp allow our senses to rest. The end violin even becomes a little spleenant, magnificent! The last three tracks all exceed 9 minutes. For "Kriz" soft, relaxing atmosphere with association of voices and then mounted on a Celtic, Arabic, Irish and French multi-sound tune. Note also the final symphonic prog guitar almost of a "metal-prog" nature, it is perhaps the most accomplished composition. "Lostmarc'h" goes straight to the lands of the Middle East with a deaf rhythm of drums and voices twirling between soft female voice worthy of an elven song and Kabyle lament, it is very beautiful and well done! "Er Lein" concludes with a high-class "Gilmourian" guitar, an airy air, a prog atmosphere by the accumulation of various sounds coming to be grafted one after the other, bringing us to deep Brittany or even to Western Asia by moments. Note here the bagad 'Bro an aberiou' from Plabennec, and at the end a few whistles from Claude to confirm that ' it's over!

Well, what can I say, except that the album touches on the roots of great navigators, and not simply winged. I feel left from a port to make a stopover, and it is perhaps the downside that I will put to this album' too many ports, too many destinations can make lose the framework of the CD! As for the magnificent voices, the Kabyle voice can distract in the wrong way, you be the judge.

Report this review (#2934420)
Posted Monday, June 19, 2023 | Review Permalink

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