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Arachnoid - Arachnoid CD (album) cover

ARACHNOID

Arachnoid

 

Symphonic Prog

3.85 | 126 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars During the 70's, France was one of the champions of dark & sombre prog rock, ranging from Magma to Art Zoyd and many more, resulting in Shub Niggurath and Wapassou during the 80's as well. All of these groups stuck fairly closely with modern classical music as one of their main influences, and somehow Arachnoid was not that far away from these groups, even though they weren't nearly as complex as these afore mentioned groups. Actually their kind of dark symphonic music seems like a cross of Crimson, Genesis, Ange, Shylock and others French groups of the moment (but to me no Atoll, Carpe Diem or Pulsar), but traces of Genesis, Magma (some Zeuhl moments) and Dün. Arachnoid came from the Parisian suburbs and the group's life lasted a small decade under one form or another, but only managing one album, but it will remain one of the most legendary (and produced by Phil Desombres >> look up his entry), not least because of the striking hand spider-like artwork. The group uses a double keyboard (a mixture mellotron, Farfisa, MS 10, Korg Synthesizers, and piano), double guitar attack, and has at least four regular lead singers (Nicolas, Patrick, François, Yves and Marc, plus guests), which allowed for much flexibility, including an odd flute in the only English-sung track of the album.

Right from the eerie Moog intro of La Chamadère, you know that you'll plunge into a deep angst-laden trip into the realms of human reason, of reaching treason. This 14-min epic goes through a ton of ambiances, from the gloomy to the lugubrious, but manages to remain soft enough to fascinate throughout its duration. Indeed the vocals (shared by Popowsky, Woindrich and Meryl) and lyrics (often handled by externs to the core of the group) are some of the more characteristic traits (a bit like Ange's vocals definitely alter the rest of their music) of this rather uncanny and slightly awe-striking album. The piano and spoken intro of Piano Caveau (cellar or vault piano) segues into a non-piano (acoustic anyway) lengthy instrumental energetic passage that will last until the piano finale takes over and ends it in a very classical fashion. The English-sung Screen Side is probably the album's weaker moments, but partly because of "surprising" recording sound levels.

Having never seen the vinyl, I'd be hard pressed to know which track was on which side, but there are some definitive Genesis influences in the intro of Toutes Ces lmages. Indeed everything in this track spells a gloomy Genesis, especially the Banks-like mellotron, but slowly metamorphosing into an early Crimson ambiance, reminiscent of Shylock's second (and superb) album. Easily the album's highlight, its Crimsonian constant schizoid mood being breathtaking at times. The following Guèpe (wasp) is circling around your stunned mind for the intro of this wild track that delves into Zeuhl, not like Magma in the vocal delivery, but more like Eskaton (especially if you know their Fiction album), and crazed-out instrumentation often nearing internment in an asylum. The quiet Adieu Au Pierrot and its crazy linked Final are a fitting outro for the original album, again ogling between Crimson and Shylock, with a pitch of VdGG doom thrown in for added spices. Too bad that the sound levels were again defective art recording time.

The Musea re-issue comes with four bonus tracks, one of which would be a real bonus, if it had been better recorded. Somehow closest to La Guèpe, but without the Zeuhl groove, L'Hiver is indeed well in the line of the album's Zoyd nightmarish feel. The following three live tracks are interesting but eventually confusing in their nomenclatures. Indeed if Le Pierrot starts out as L'Adieu Au Pierrot, it lasts a full six times its studio length and gets added some lyrics, while L'Adieu is much reminiscent of the studio Final. Most likely these two live tracks' value is to show how this double-header could/should've evolved. The final bonus track is an alternate take to Caveau Piano, and represent limited interest.

Arachnoid's sole album is definitely a small masterpiece, but certainly not a chef d'oeuvre, but most Schizoidheads should enjoy this reissue tremendously, despite some fairly amateur twists, it cannot deceive you, provided you give it more than a distracted ear the first few times around, because it's a slow grower.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |

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