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ODYSSEE

Artcane

Eclectic Prog


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slipperman
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars 'Odyssee' is the one and only album from this French quartet. It has become one of those albums that many prog fans have heard of but have never actually heard. I was lucky enough to find a copy at a used record vinyl shop in the middle of Nowheresville, Virginia, and I believe the guy severely undercharged me at $15. (I wasn't complaining of course!) What I beheld when I laid the needle down was one of the heaviest, darkest, most fascinating and exciting prog records of the '70s. It totally succeeds, despite borrowing quite liberally from a particular rhythm and melody in King Crimson's "Red" (heard in third track "Novembre"). Additionally, the first two "Larks' Tongues In Aspic" movements are referenced in fourth song "25e Anniversaire". But 'Odyssee' as a whole is no K.C. rip-off-it also moves in a similar area as that of Pulsar (hypnotic space). And there are many moments of heavy riff-grinding that remind of the heavier Italian prog combos (ie. Jumbo, Biglietto Per L'Inferno, Il Balletto Di Bronzo). Despite these reference points, Artcane manages a unique, versatile style all their own.

Each of the 6 songs holds it's own captivating personality. A huge thumbs-up for the title track, all 2:20 of it, which doesn't hesitate to let the listener know what's in store on the rest of the album. The song pulses with energy, aggressive rhythms and arresting melodic choices setting the tone. It crashes into the mellow beginnings of "Le Chant D'OrphÚe", which builds and builds and eventually succumbs to Jack Mlynski's incredibly powerful riff construction. Vocals are sparse on 'Odyssee', but when introduced on "Le Chant." they are enigmatic and ghostly. The album's real centerpiece is "Artcane I", a lengthy track encapsulating everything great about Artcane: patient crescendos of cosmic atmospherics; hypnotic keyboard repetitions courtesy of Alain Coupel; the nimble yet heavy-handed drumming of Daniel Locci; creepy, dark vibrations all over the place; spurts of jazz-rock rhythms; moments of pure heaviness like the most metallic moments of '70s-era Rush. Too bad this band's career was so fleeting-I can't imagine what "Artcane II" might've sounded like!

Two of the most exciting moments come second-hand from themes laid down by King Crimson. Some would call it plagiarism; I would call it "tribute". This is not a book report, it is art, and what better art to draw influence from than King Crimson's final '70s period? It would be more disturbing if they couldn't come up with anything original at all, but 'Odyssee' is full of ideas, chemistry, talent and power. Too bad they weren't around long enough to capitalize on it.

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Send comments to slipperman (BETA) | Report this review (#34170)
Posted Tuesday, February 01, 2005 | Review Permalink
Progbear
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars It's no mystery which band influenced this one-off French quartet. "Novembre" features a modified "Starless and Bible Black" riff as its main motive, while "25e Anniversaire" plunders the main guitar riff from "Lark's Tongues In Aspic, Part 2".

Plagiarism aside, this band manage to eventually carve out their own personality on the lengthy "Artcane I", which takes up much of the real estate on the album's B-side. With intriguing synthesizer textures and minimalist references, it's a wistful reminder that this band could have achieved something grand if they lasted long enough to record a second album. As it is, we'll never know.

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Send comments to Progbear (BETA) | Report this review (#44768)
Posted Monday, August 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This one is even better than advertised. Released in 1977 on the Philips label, this French band blesses us with an almost all instrumental album(except for two songs) with some excellent guitar (ala Fripp) and a lot of spacey synths much like fellow French band CARPE DIEM. There is a darkness about this album that really draws me in.

The title track "Odysse" opens with spacey synths and pounding drums. I am addicted to the main melody, I may need an intervention, this is so good. Check out the guitar ! This is way too short, but what a way to open the album. "Le Chant D'Orphee" opens with acoustic guitar and spoken words. Drums and vocals join the guitar. This theme is repeated before the song veers off in another direction 2 minutes in. Spacey synths (i'll be saying that a lot), bass and some crisp drumming take over. I just love this section. A heavy guitar solo 3 1/2 minutes in to end it. "Novembre" is an over 9 minute instrumental. After an intense intro we get some atmosphere as synths provide a solemn melody. Drums come pounding in after 2 minutes. Again they sound so crisp. Guitar joins in and this is heaven ! Dark and heavy with some Fripp-like angular guitar lines. Thankfully this goes on and on for almost 10 minutes. Just a fabulous sound.

"25' Anniversaire" opens with an uptempo melody before calming down quickly. Acoustic guitar with spacey synths are pushed aside by a raw sounding guitar melody that reminds me of KING CRIMSON's "Larks' Tongues In Aspic Part II". The drumming really shines. The guitar style changes as we get some terrific solos the rest of the way. "Artcane 1" is over 16 minutes in length,the longest track. A spacey atmosphere for about 5 minutes with some electronics. Drums then arrive and the synth melody stops. The drums stop 7 1/2 minutes in and are replaced by acoustic guitar and spacey synths. It's building. Keys replace synths and drums replace guitar 8 1/2 minutes in. Guitar is back after 10 minutes. Synths return 14 minutes in. My only complaint is that this song has worn out it's welcome with me before it's over. "Nostalgie" opens with spacey keys that are joined by acoustic guitar. Vocals are reserved. Synths come and go. This is a mellow track until 4 minutes in when electric guitar, bass and drums make some wonderful noise. A great way to end the song and the album.

This was the only album they recorded unfortunately. If you can find it don't hesitate. A real gem.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#158386)
Posted Saturday, January 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars This obscure French band's one and only album is good, but far from great. It definitely has it's moments but tends to wander aimlessly through long, boring, uninspired instrumental sections.

The album starts off on an extremely strong note with the aggressive and heavy guitar-dominated instrumental 'Odyssee'... this introductory track leads perfectly into the next song 'Le Chant D'orphee'. This is, by far, the best song on the album... it has a creepy atmosphere and is quite dark and brooding. The vocals (all in French) are very good as well, and have a somewhat histrionic approach similar to Ange, but not quite as over-the-top.

After the first two excellent songs you feel like you're in for a real treat... but the following few songs are seriously disappointing. My main gripe is the the extreme vocal deficiency that sets in; from 'Novembre' on this is almost entirely instrumental... a very bad choice by this band. Their players are far from virtuosos, and I think they would have been better off focusing on writing more compact song-oriented material... these endless solos are far from impressive in my opinion.

The centerpiece of the album is the epic 'Artcane I' which starts with five minutes of esoteric ambience from repetitive and mesmerizing synth and guitar lines... it has a similar effect as the intro to King Crimson's 'Larks Tongues in Aspic, part I' and even reminds me a bit of Goblin on some of their horror film scores. When the drums and the rest of the song finally kick in, it is one of the most powerful moments on the record... the raging drums snap you back to reality after the hypnosis session that was the first 5 minutes. Unfortunately, the song has far too few interesting ideas to warrant it's extended duration. This just drags on and on... some vocals were definitely needed here to keep things interesting.

'Nostalgie' is a beautiful Folk-Prog song with lovely vocal melodies and serene acoustic guitar playing... i really wish more of this album had this song's emotional impact; it creates a very sullen and somber mood, and creates a feeling of sad nostalgia and deep contemplation. Why, oh why, couldn't this band have made a whole album more in this style?!

In summary: this could have been an amazing gem of an album, but after an initial promising start it goes downhill fast and becomes a huge letdown. This band had great potential, but in my estimation they squandered it trying to be something they didn't have the talent to be (namely: King Crimson).

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Send comments to AdamHearst (BETA) | Report this review (#203071)
Posted Monday, February 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
Anthony H.
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Artcane: Odyssee [1977]

Rating: 6/10

Odyssee is the sole album from the virtually unknown French quartet known as Artcane. I don't know a thing about the history of this band, so I'll cut right to the music. This album features strongly Frippian guitar combined with slightly more traditional synth work. Artcane's bio on PA states that "some have described this album as the French Larks Tongues in Aspic", but I disagree with this statement. Granted, the music here is almost stylistically identical to Larks-era Crimson. However, while this is a good album, it doesn't stack up to Fripp on a compositional level.

The title track opens the album with a catchy main riff and bluesy guitar soloing. "Le Chant d'Orphee" is a dark, slightly folky track with vocals (this album is mostly instrumental). The synths are excellent, but the vocal sections are nothing special. The album really gets rolling with the nine-minute "Novembre." The main riff may be a bit derivative of Fripp, but it sounds great, so who cares? The rhythm section is also excellent, particularly in the quieter sections. "25th Anniversaire" continues in a similar fashion, with solid guitar work. I like this track, but parts of it border on outright plagiarism of Larks Tongues, going beyond mere stylistic similarity. The sixteen-minute "Artcane I" is the crux of this album, and is the definite highlight. The quiet synth sections of this track are fantastic, and there isn't a moment that I dislike. The different sections fail to flow together cohesively, however. This is only a slight problem, though; this is good stuff. The final two-and-a-half minutes here may be the strongest on the whole album. The concluding piece "Nostalgie" brings back the vocals and ends things nicely in a Harmonium-esque fashion.

While Artcane's sole effort is quite a solid one, it lacks in one thing: passion. The compositions are impressive, albeit not masterful, and the playing is crisp and fairly creative. Regardless, I don't find myself being particularly engaged by the majority of this album. I'm impressed with the music, but it doesn't connect with me enough for me to consider it to be truly excellent. This is a good album - "Artcane I" alone makes it worth digging up this lost relic - but it's not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination. If you're planning on doing an excavation of the vast treasure trove of obscure 70s prog, save this until you've unearthed all the true gold.

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Send comments to Anthony H. (BETA) | Report this review (#466513)
Posted Tuesday, June 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars A French band with a single album made in seventies. We can listen some other influencies of other bands just King Crimson, Magma, with some psichedelic parts. Most intrumental parts have a good music moments and just a single part is singing with lyrics in French but nothing special. The keiboards have a important work with some sounds of a sintetizer (the possible in that time), that made the psichedelic vein. The guitar have some good solos and some good arrangements. We can listen a intricate and complicated music but melodic, in the vein of music made in 70 decade. A mature album, and a good music work for those that like the music of this time. 4 stars because it's not a boring album and the musicians have a good sinergy in the tracks.

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Send comments to JoŃo Paulo (BETA) | Report this review (#619518)
Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2012 | Review Permalink
tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
4 stars A bizarre croaking raven-like guitar screeches through the night with mighty flaps of its rhythmic wings , creating a sombre and distressing angst that is utterly delicious and innovative, though a heady KC Larks Tongues period influence is not only obvious , it flirts with adulation. Artcane is a 1977 French one-shot wonder, here today, gone tomorrow band of immense talent and hence an overt iconic attitude is fully deserved. Jack Mlynski has his Frippoid fingers firmly wrapped tight around his fretboard neck and though he is far from the master (isn't everybody), the style is quite compelling. The keyboards add a slight symphonic sense while the bass/drum tandem hold up well with some profound rhythmic drive.

The overall sound is appropriately murky (like Shylock, Pulsar, Pentacle, Atoll, Ange and Mona Lisa), something I personally value in the French progressive school. There is a sombre attitude, a typical de Maupassant (The French Kafka or E.A. Poe) sense of paranoid foreboding that offers up extremes and contrasts, the KC riff on the otherwise magnificent "Novembre' is virtually plagiarism, complete with the Muir-ish percussion. But its soooooo cute, the wispy Alain Coupel synthesizer really cutting a large swath, Belloc's bass roaming like some crazed 'Horla' (ah, look it up! ) and drummer Daniel Locci doing his best BB imitation. Obviously the focus is on the heavenly guitar, as Mlynski shreds, tortures and restrains his monster with considerable aplomb. I just adore this dark, moody style!

"25' Anniversaire" is slightly deranged, more of the same somewhat disjointed lunacy that constantly veers from simplicity to dissonance and back, but when Jack does the classic "LTiA part 2 " riff , you cannot help but to smile! He just takes a slippery solo that fizzes, fuzzes and sizzles like some acrobat on ephedrine.

But the 'piece de resistance' is the massive "Artcane 1", a shimmering 16 minute monster that could rival the classic Shylock epic "Ile de Fievre" for its blatant audacity, complex adventurism and stellar creativity. After an ambient intro, the clock starts ticking on a bright passage of flute synth, very atmospheric and even a tad minimalist/robotic that wishes to induce a sense of hypnosis and placid mental focus. This is almost in Pulsar territory, heavily spacey and unhurried, with just a twist of doom and gloom. Plenty of room is giving to some fiery soloing and letting loose on a variety of levels.

Short, gloomy, dense and evocative, this is one of those rarities that define a true collector's need for unusual treasure and defining the incredible depth of progressive rock's iconic history. The vast amount of these one-shot wonders (forced by a prissy and highly manipulative market) clearly highlight the value of idiosyncratic historical monuments that litter the 50 years of prog's catalog. This is definitely one of the 'need to have' albums though not perfect by any stretch, just very 'je ne sais quoi' special. Lovely cover too.....

4 esoteric expeditions

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Send comments to tszirmay (BETA) | Report this review (#1181842)
Posted Sunday, June 01, 2014 | Review Permalink

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