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Harmonium - Si on avait besoin d'une cinquième saison CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

4.35 | 1349 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars HARMONIUM's second album is an attempt to incorporate progressive sensibilities into their folk music. By and large it succeeds, though on a rather subdued level, serving as a prelude to 'L'Heptade', their best work.

The basic premise here is to portray musically what a fifth season would be like. The first four tracks represent the current four seasons, while the epic fifth track 'Histoires sans Paroles' is the new season. The trouble begins at this point: not only do I not quite 'get' the concept - why is the new season so variable musically? How does it fit between winter and spring? - I'm not convinced by any of the previous 'seasons', bar winter. 'Dixie', for example, is supposed to represent summer. How? It's jaunty and lighthearted but such music needs something more than cheerfulness to get its message across. How is 'Dixie' a season? I thought it was a place. Don't they have summers in Quebec? And where's the deep snow, Arctic storms, crisp frosts and exploding pines of a Canadian winter? 'En Pleine Face' is nothing more than a gentle ballad. As an aside, the most interesting part of the song, the accordion work, fades out just as it gets going.

Stop over-analysing and enjoy the music, you cry. Well, OK, but there's more trouble here. The vocalists are sometimes flat (noticeable in the opening song, for example). The instrumental palette is rather limited, with little of the scope, sweep and grandeur of the best progressive music. I'm self-aware enough to realise that this is perhaps my perception of prog-folk as a whole, and that my criticism is a little churlish. So let me add that there is real beauty in places: 'Vert' works well, for example, lovely melodies flowing over a distinctive bass (and it needs to be distinctive, with the almost total lack of percussion). 'Depuis d'automne' tries to bring in a sterner mood, but even then the overwhelming impression is one of tranquility - where I live autumn can be tempestuous. I'm minded of Beethoven's 'Pastoral' symphony and how it is possible to inject raw power into music of fragile beauty. That said, 'Depuis d'automne' is an excellent track, with an excellent vocal-led climax - as long as you forget it's supposed to be a season.

'Histoires Sans Paroles' redeems the album. This is as good as anything RENAISSANCE or CAMEL or any of the more highly regarded 'soft' prog bands conjured up during their careers. Seldom can there have been a more compelling statement made for the integrity of the mellotron in modern music.

In the end, the album falls short. These are seasons I don't need to take shelter from. This album is as playful as a sparkling brook, cheerful as Pollyanna and pretty as a sunset, but it doesn't dive or soar. I'm left unmoved, with my feet firmly stuck to the ground. Ultimately I want more than 'nice' from prog rock.

russellk | 3/5 |


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