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RIO/Avant-Prog • France

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Chêne Noir biography
In PA we have bands or musicians listed in the database. With the addition of Théâtre du Chêne Noir we have a new type of group in PA; A group of actors and musicians forming a theater.
In 1966 when the atmosphere was setting its sails towards the events of 1968, the 19 year old Gérard Gelas forms in Avignon the theater group with his high school mates Daniel Dublet, Gilbert Gay and Bernadette Marini.
Their two first plays Poèmes and L'Homme qui chavire include music and the texts were written by Gelas and the music either composed by the actors or borrowed from compositions by John Coltrane, Ravi Shankar, Pierre Henry and Charles Mingus.

His next endeavour La Paillasse aux seins nus is not allowed to be shown in the district for fear of disturbing the public order. Gelas received the support of several fellow artists and is invited to Rome by Giancarlo Nanni with his group where they meet prominent cultural figures (writer Elsa Morante, director Federico Fellini etc.).

When back in France he continues to write plays - Radio Mon Amour, Vivre Debout, Sarcophage, Marylin and Opération and through those he gains public fame and reputation.

In 1971 the piece Aurora is created and is very successful. It is the shows of July 22nd and 23rd that are recorded and are then released as LP on the label Futura run by Gérard Terronès. The group then consists of Gérard Gelas (direction, drums), Nicole Aubiat (vocals), Bénédicte Maulet (vocals), Pierre Surtel (flutes, saxophone alto and vocals), Guy Paquin (violoncello, trumpet and vocals), Daniel Dublet (guitar, percussions and vocals) and Jean Marie Redon (flute and vocals). This piece is an abstract and free-form composition, narrated, moaned and cried as the text demands it, daring and experimental and avant-garde. The narrator is "The Earth" who gave its children the seas, sun, air and love. But her children have become old and their love has been stolen by bird-men. The music and vocals adapt themselves to the storyline and the experience should have a greater impact if the listener was able to see the play as well as listening to it.

Reassured by their public success, the group then goes on to create their own production through which they will release their next releases, entitled Chêne Noir Disques. It is on this label that they release the next plays; Miss Madona in 1973, Chant pour le delta, la lune et le soleil in 1976 and Orphée 2000 in 1977.

Chant pour le delta,...
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CHÊNE NOIR discography

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

2.69 | 12 ratings
3.88 | 8 ratings
Chant pour le Delta, la Lune et le Soleil
3.25 | 4 ratings
Orphée 2000

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Showing last 10 reviews only
 Aurora by CHÊNE NOIR album cover Studio Album, 1971
2.69 | 12 ratings

Chêne Noir RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars I approached this album without expectations, and welcomed its mysterious and dreamy flowing aural characteristics most warmly. Both melodic patterns and dramatic evolvements stood the test of pure listening enjoyment for me. The ancient raw style has evidently been influenced by traditional tribal music. Primitiveness of the flute scales, foreignness of the lunatic wailings and furiousness of the drumming are united as interesting artistic entity. Chêne Noir approaches musical expression interestingly within 70's art rock sound context, but refrains producing anything relating to blues rock form nor its ideology. The album is slightly similar to "Machbeth" by Third Ear Band, another ancient oriented stage music recording from the same era. Hollow calls, flute melody theme and distant drums present calmly the opening scene, upon where the lady narrator appears to recite. Then the record gains unrest in wave-formed hypnotic curves. The "death sequence" begins with a promising static wall of sound, relieving tension beautifully losing control; The lady vocalist followed by the faithful band head to the pit of Thanatos in a blissful cacophony. After the catharsis is successfully reached, the performance calms to some human whistles. These are strengthened by ghastly chants, voices, low pitched drums and wildly spinning pipe, leading the cosmic libretto forward and containing a very funny aural hidden missile in it. Later a very calm and quiet ambience pulses quietly in the infinite hallways lit by the glow of lost souls, lurking horrors get revealed and escalating signals leads back the melody theme of horns. The last moments of this album are not as interesting as the beginning, as the musical ideas run little looser without so evident logics, and the thin scale of musical elements start to be quite much used. But the start and middle parts are here quite nice mood creation in my opinion.

It would be fun to be able to see the original stage production and study the lyrics, but even with this level of documentation and comprehension ability one can associate the psychic experience of this record by personal subjective imagination. So this is a quite sympathetic recording, pleasant in its scan of lower levels of life's functions, which might be the breeding ground for the higher functions, and thus a basis of life experience. I would consider this as recommendable background music for pagan ritual imitations and solitary contemplation. I am yet at the beginning of learning the 60's/70's psychedelic and avant-garde music scene of France, but along with this record and the albums of Catherine Ribeiro & Alpes I'm motivated to proceed.

 Aurora by CHÊNE NOIR album cover Studio Album, 1971
2.69 | 12 ratings

Chêne Noir RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Marty McFly
Special Collaborator Errors and Omissions Team

2 stars Soft, tender, but also hypnotic and depths of mind touching are the words which appeared before my eyes when I listen this. But after a while, it all sounds like first track. If you're one of those lucky guys, who knows Czech Avant scene (and also RIO, but opposition here is against government), to be exact - The Plastic People of the Universe, you know what I'm talking about when I say that this reminds me their album, Pašijové hry velikonoční (or Passion Play). But when I then gave 4 stars and was totally stunned, now I don't know what to think about it.

I can't say that I'm pleased. When someone say that red square in bigger blue square is art perfection, that there can't be nothing else, then I can nod him and think to myself that he's crazy, or I can argue with him. He can be even so keen on this idea that he would be willing to sacrifice few thousands dollars to buy this "thing". Same situation is here. Or maybe I'm wrong and he's right. Someone can see 5 star worthy album here and if he'll give good reasons, he's right. I like complex and pleasant things at once if possible. I have not so big problems with weird, avant-garde, or progressive things. Problems yes, because everything new is bigger or lesser problem at first try. But I can't see nothing good here. It's so empty for me, so boring and music-free that I can't give anything else than

2(-), because it don't bring me bad feelings. It's listenable, but there's nothing to listen. However, as I said, it's no offensive, or ugly music. Just plain.

 Aurora by CHÊNE NOIR album cover Studio Album, 1971
2.69 | 12 ratings

Chêne Noir RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Grammar Popo

3 stars CHÊNE NOIR Aurora

Rightly classified as avant-garde, this bizarre little french group excels in dark theatrical absurdity. I wish I spoke french to understand what was going on. However, not knowing is somewhat a treat, in a way. Combining some of the finer elements of folk, jazz, opera, classical, and minimal ambient music, Aurora flows both smooth and angelic, as well as sometimes assailing and jagged. However, the experience is enjoyable and listenable in both varieties. Though despite being of such an atmospheric timbre and compelling quality, the overall composure of the album is somewhat forgettable and unexciting. For that reason, I don't rate it terribly high, though I still recommend it greatly for fans of the obscure theatre scene, loose avant-garde, psychedelic dark ambient, and 20th Century classical.


 Aurora by CHÊNE NOIR album cover Studio Album, 1971
2.69 | 12 ratings

Chêne Noir RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Pnoom!

3 stars Rating: B-

Gentle flutes float across a barren landscape, ushering in a musical experience of a new kind, an experience that can most accurately be called "theatre rock." Soon augmented by drum fills, the flute continues, undaunted, in subtle beauty. Still more elements emerge behind the flute, creating bleak atmospheres. The flute may be beautiful, but something feels off, though that something is not realized fully for some time yet. Instead, we listen, entranced, wondering what will happen, how events will unfold. Once the theatrical female vocals enter, the song takes on a new sense of purpose. The darker atmospheres start to be more fully realized. The calming flute is gone, the cymbal-heavy drumming taking its place in the center stage.

That is how Chene Noir's debut album/play begins, setting the tone for what is to come. This is not a CD in the traditional sense. There are not well-defined songs on this album. Yes, the CD is split into six tracks, but each one is really just a part of the grand whole. And, of course, this is as much a play as it is a CD. A play that just happens to have one of the most fantastic backing soundtracks ever created. We need only look towards the second track to realize the full power of this masterwork. Here, the flute returns, but it is no longer gentle. It is played with an urgency heard far too rarely on the flute. Behind it, the drums create dynamic rhythms that hold everything together and propel the action at the same time.

While the rest of the CD doesn't vary too much from this formula, we still do get to enjoy additional layers as the action of the play progresses, including (though certainly not limited to) a powerful mix of tortured sax and vocals that will drive a spike through your brain and yet make it look like a work of art. "La Conte de la Terre et de Ses Enfants," where this particular technique is featured, also uses powerful drums to hammer the spike home, and the resulting climax must be heard to be believed. The opening two tracks might not show it (though the second certainly hints at it), but Aurora is one of the most intense listening experiences I know. Atmospheres chill to the bone, vocals reach to the soul, drums rattle your skeleton, and saxophone pierces your eardrums. And there is nothing you can do about, because as this CD so tortures you, it also captivates you. Once you turn this CD on, you will find it surprisingly hard to turn off until it's ended.

Aurora is a work of art, in short. It should come as no surprise that this band made the infamous Nurse With Wound list, as Steven Stapleton and co. were able to pick out, with uncanny accuracy, the best avant-garde CDs the musical world offered up to that point. This is one of those CDs. I stayed away for a long time assuming that the music would be relatively uninteresting with spoken vocals on top of it. Don't make the same mistake I made, because you'll regret it once you finally come around to this album. Aurora is not a CD to be heard, it is a CD to be experienced. With Aurora, Chene Noir have created art that won't be for everyone - there's absolutely nothing conventional about it, and so it will drive away all but adventurous avant-heads - but if you are a fan of the avant-garde side of progressive rock and are looking for a unique CD to add to your collection, this is worth checking out.

Thanks to avestin for the artist addition.

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