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PHILHARMONIE

Eclectic Prog • France


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Philharmonie biography

PHILHARMONIE is a French trio (that become a quartet in September 1993 when the drummer Jean-Louis Boutin joined in) formed in 1988 by Frédéric L'Epée, the guitarist of SHYLOCK fame. Between the foundation of PHILHARMONIE and disbanding of SHYLOCK he attended conservatory where he studied harmony, fugue, counterpoint and composition.
The other two guitarists in the band are jazz/fusion influenced Laurent Chalef and Bernard Ros who also plays Chapman Stick (on later albums playing it exclusively). Boutin, who attended Nice conservatory joined the group just before their third album, "North".

As evident from the SHYLOCK days - and hence, in PHILHARMONIE, L'Epée and his bandmates are heavily influenced with all things KING CRIMSON related; KC, Fripp, and Mr. Fripp's LEAGUE OF CRAFTY GUITARISTS. However, the French combo are far from being copycats, and development of their own expression could be thoroghly observated throgh thie albums:
On the debut album, 1990's "Beau Soleil" (self-released), the music could be described as introvert and introspective, but on the second album ("Les Éléphants Carillonneurs") onwards, the band started being more furious, pointilistic, on their third the drummer joined the line-up (needless to say, broadening the musical scope), on their fourth the evolving continued with thir multiple textures, and just when it seemed the band is in their creative peak, they disbanded in October of 1997. However, they had written & rehearsed all the material for a new release, and after the crew from their label (all of their albums are on Cuneiform records except for the self-released debut) had heard the demos, they suggested PHILHARMONIE to do their swan song, appropriately titled "The Last Word", full of twisting, amazing interplays and intriguing structures.
Needless to say, if you're into music that is sharing similar structural experimentations as the music of KING CRIMSON, then PHILHARMONIE is highly recommended.

Moris Mateljan, compiled and edited from various sources (thanks to gutsofdarkness.com, gepr.net, allmusic.com and cuneiformrecords.com)

Philharmonie official website

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PHILHARMONIE discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

PHILHARMONIE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.05 | 3 ratings
Beau Soleil
1991
3.00 | 4 ratings
Les Éléphants Carillonneurs
1993
3.00 | 3 ratings
Nord
1994
3.79 | 5 ratings
Rage
1996
4.41 | 6 ratings
Le Dernier Mot
1998

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PHILHARMONIE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Les Éléphants Carillonneurs  by PHILHARMONIE album cover Studio Album, 1993
3.00 | 4 ratings

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Les Éléphants Carillonneurs
Philharmonie Eclectic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars The Philharmonie crew described the pressing and distribution of their first album as quite an achievement.Label offers were hard to come and they ended up publishing the record via a totally unknown publisher from Marseilles.Once the album saw the light, Cuneiform Records became interested in signing the French guitar trio.Apparently things became much easier for the recordings and output of ''Les elephants carillonneurs'', Philharmonie's second album, released in 1993.

This sophomore work by the French guitarists sounds rather different from their first effort and this fact alone marks them as a totally unique band in my books.After all, how many styles can you play on guitar and at the same time come up with a listenable record?What really differs from the first release is the fact that ''Les elephants carillonneurs'' sounds a lot more shiny and positive of a listening experience.There are still many KING CRIMSON references to the sound and the jazzy spices can be found everywhere in this work, but I can hear a definite switch towards strongly atmospheric soundscapes, which offer plenty of dreamy chords and ethereal textures.It's also fairly more laid-back with a soft guitar jazziness, but what really shocks is some, what should I call them, pre Post-Rock tunes, a term not even defined in early-90's.The album has an obvious ambiental atmosphere, which works very well despite its length, on the other hand there are these less interesting moments, which hurt the consistency of this work with the band sounding a lot like throwing an academic seminar of guitar exercises.No bass, no drums.Just lovely guitar spelling with some nice and smooth playing.

Again the album's length is not a positive assess.The best moments of ''Les eléphants carillonneurs'' deserve a wide exposure, but the lack of coherence makes this a simply recommended effort, which will be loved by guitar heroes worldwide.

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 Beau Soleil by PHILHARMONIE album cover Studio Album, 1991
3.05 | 3 ratings

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Beau Soleil
Philharmonie Eclectic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars A unique band formed in 1987 by former Shylock guitarist Frederic L'Epee.After Shylock disbanded L'Epee studied composition in the Nice music conservatory between 1983 and 1987.These studies led him to form Philharmonie, initially featuring four guitarists besides him with a Jazz background.Through time Frederic would only collaborate with Bernard Ros and Laurent Chalef and this stable Philharmonie trio would self-produce the debut ''Beau soleil'' in 1990.

This is a trully experimental record of three guitarists performing both individually and simultaneously in an album, that produces dreamy, ethereal and Ambient-like atmospheres.Already since his days with Shylock L'Epee had been compared to ROBERT FRIPP regarding his style and this comparison seems reasonable again listening to ''Beau soleil'', where the three guitarists use these FRIPP-ian techniques to result obscure soundscapes, based on steady grooves, light jazzy solos, dark distortions and generally series of unique collaborations.The ability to come up with a very personal and haunting atmosphere marks Philharmonie as a very original act, however the long duration of the album does not really help, a length of 30-40 minutes would be really great and the time plenty enough for the listener to catch up with the idea, unfortunately ''Beau soleil'' tends to sound rather boring after the 40-min. mark.

Hard to fully describe it, but good enough to purchase it, ''Beau soleil'' is an album with a unique sound of its own and definitely in need of a decent reissue by a major label, fully representative of Frederic L'Epee's musical personality.Recommended to all guitar freaks and lovers of deep music atmospheres.

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 Rage by PHILHARMONIE album cover Studio Album, 1996
3.79 | 5 ratings

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Rage
Philharmonie Eclectic Prog

Review by Neil C

4 stars This is my favourite Philharmonie album. It is certainly more energetic and a little more aggressive than the other discs. It has excellent clear production with wonderful seperation of those intricate interlocking 'Discipline-era King Crimson meets Steve Reich minimalism' ostinati. The viruosity of group interplay and intelligence of composition is very high and extremely impressive. Often, as in much of Steve Reich's music, there is a 12/8 polyrhythmic approach to rhythmic construction which lends the listener a wonderful ambiguity of perspective as to how the music is percived rhythmically. There is evidence of great technical virtuosity as regards soloing, with glimpses of a free-er sort of expression peeping out from the essentially pattern based systems-music-driven surface, but any sense of 'blowing' or player indulgence is well and truly reigned in in service to the tightness of the group interplay required to execute the compositions. While there is a solid ensemble 'sound' across the disc characterised by clean interlocking electric guitar and bass lines and intricate kit, scattered about the album there are also wonderful sprinkles of texture from percussion and processed sustained guitar textures (foreground and background) to add welcome contrast to the generally percussive approach. Whereas I think on other Philharmonie albums there are ocassional less interesting spots, on 'Rage' every track excels in its own way.

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 Nord by PHILHARMONIE album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.00 | 3 ratings

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Nord
Philharmonie Eclectic Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Frederic L'Epee formerly the lead guitarist for SHYLOCK is joined by another lead guitarist to offer up a style not that different from KING CRIMSON's Discipline album. The guitars intertwine and weave together much like Fripp and Belew.

This is heard most prominantly on the song "Vers Le Nord".There are drums and bass on this record as well, but the guitars dominate the sound. The sound here is restrained and pleasant without much variation. There is little in the way of outbursts or solos. This is a band playing together as one for the most part, and it's very impressive. Intricate and interplay are two words that come to mind a lot. I must say though that I much prefer L'Epee's next band YANG which is very dynamic with some great angular guitar. The final song "From The North" was interesting because the guitars almost sound like electronics the way they sort of bubble quickly.

This is in my opinion more for guitar fans or guitar players. An hour of this is a bit much for me though.

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 Le Dernier Mot by PHILHARMONIE album cover Studio Album, 1998
4.41 | 6 ratings

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Le Dernier Mot
Philharmonie Eclectic Prog

Review by Atavachron
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars A truly marvelous album that deserves the attention of anyone interested in rock fusion played with aplomb. Unclassifiable and deeply ensconced in stellar musicianship, these fellas don't mess around, demonstrating the wonderful possibilities of the fusion format seasoned with modern minimalism and slight Fripperrifics. One of the finest bands to emerge from France in the 90s, perhaps ever, Philharmonie's swan song comes with my highest recommendation and it is truly a shame they've parted.

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 Le Dernier Mot by PHILHARMONIE album cover Studio Album, 1998
4.41 | 6 ratings

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Le Dernier Mot
Philharmonie Eclectic Prog

Review by Greger
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Inside the CD-booklet you can read that "This record is the final release by PHILHARMONIE. What a shame, especially as this is a really exciting album with great all-instrumental compositions, performed by three technically good musicians. The music that is based on guitars is a mixture of Progressive rock and RIO. There are reminiscences to KING CRIMSON and SAMLA MAMMAS MANNA / VON ZAMLA.

The album has very high-class compositions, and there's not a weak track. The production and the sound quality are also top notch.

The band disbanded in October 1997, and this fifth and final album was recorded between March and August, 1998 at Studio 26, Antibes, France, and it is a great way of saying good-bye to their audience. Recommended!

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