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Ange - Au-delà du délire CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.98 | 327 ratings

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4 stars Never Criticize Farmers with Your Mouth Full

Note to Self:

1 - No cheap French gags 2 - No mock translation of the lyrics 3 - Pretend that concept albums are for grownups

Easily the strongest and perhaps most even collection from the so-called 'classic' Ange lineup.

Godevin le Vilain - Solitary violin supported by gentle piano in a classic 'smokescreen' intro which might lull the unwary listener into thinking they are about to enter wistful French chanson territory. However, once Ange are satisfied we are sufficiently off guard, they thrillingly and unnervingly tear down this fake scenery to reveal a lurching and dislocated groove from bass and synth strings. The vocals are something of an acquired taste in the Ange oeuvre and hearing for the first time Mr Decamps anguished and neurotic tonsilry as I did on this number, is something that lives long in the memory. I guess some folks find his delivery a tad too theatrical and affected, but over time I have grown to love and cherish his audible sulks, niggles and agitated rants. Stick with it, he is the true Godfather of Grump and makes Morrissey and Robert Smith sound comparatively jaunty. There is an inconsolable torment in his declamations that suits the claustrophobic character of this music perfectly. Notice how he takes up the violin melody unaltered when he enters, but his own inimitable delivery wedded to some bristling harmonic choices from the band serve to contradict the relative prettiness of these phrases. This is quite a favourite trick of this band and there are numerous other examples throughout their work that exploit this technique to memorable effect.

Les longues nuits d'Isaac - Atmospheric wind effects cut short by an urgent overdriven guitar riff that retreats to reveal an ethereal synth motif over which Decamps intones a haunting and yearning melody. I suspect that many of the modulating string textures that permeate so much of this album are sourced from either a synth or Tron put through a flanger or phaser effect? There is real snarling bile in Decamps delivery in the heavier section that follows, accentuated appropriately by Brezovar's staccato distorted guitar and the latter displays what a fine 'team' and 'solo' player he is. Economy and discipline are all too rare in many forms of prog, but Ange seldom outstay their welcome on any track and are perhaps one of the few European originators who might even be guilty of failing to develop or exploit more fully their musical materials i.e the tracks are very often too short and leave us dangling and begging for more ? The acoustic guitar arpeggios in the calmer section do betray an echo of Cinema Show by Genesis but I must admit that this is one of the few instances where a trace of the English band can be heard. It always puzzles me that people cite Gabriel and Co as such a discernible influence on Ange ?

Si j'étais le Messie - Another claustrophobic and eerie intro with a narrative that becomes ever more agitated joined by timpani and some truly neurotic chamber ensemble writing. Ange at their most avant sounding which culminates in a glorious string pad sound over which some fondant flute cleverly contradicts the restless harmonic progression underneath. When the instrumentation is suddenly and without warning muted to leave only the naked vocal, the effect is startling. Ange have always had a firm and sure grasp of how to utilize dynamic contrasts to achieve maximum impact.

Balade pour une Orgie - Some relative relief from the foregoing psychodramas in the shape of this beautiful song which will enter your waking hours unbidden at any given moment of the day. Addictively memorable tune and perhaps one of Ange's most brilliant 'conventional' compositions.

Exode - Mock triumphant fanfare writing with a whiff of the medieval era and you just suspect by now that Ange are setting us up deliberately to undermine this jolly period music with another pungent slice of the naysayer Decamps but wait, we enter into an infectious and beguiling waltz that is very European and has a childlike 'folk' undertone. Yet more great use of the 'all stop' technique before the pace and intensity increases dramatically on a guitar solo with perhaps a slight nod in the direction of Genesis. Fades out rather incongruously with a few bars of solo drums laying down a simple rock groove.

La bataille du Sucre (Inclus: La colère des Dieux) - Punch and Judy on the psychiatric couch attempting a reconciliation anyone ? The spoken 'on pitch' narrative is truly spooky and once again, the delivery and atmosphere created are at delightful odds with the cool and unhurried nature of the underlying music. After 4 minutes (ish) we are regaled with an unwavering and unadorned 4 note ostinato on crepuscular synth over which a vaguely Frippian guitar winds an ever tauter sinew of distress. Very intense and beautifully paced transition.

Fils de Lumiere - No keyboard players I have heard circa '74 employ the types of textures and timbres that the Decamps brothers do here, and both should be credited with great originality and daring. After all, the habitual arsenal of Hammond, Moog, Rhodes and Clavinet do start to sound a tad samey on much of the prog material at around this time. The individual sections on the track are all very strong but the overall architecture creaks a little, with it perhaps betraying the pitfalls of an unwavering linear arrangement of rather unrelated parts.

Au delà du Délire - Rippling acoustic guitar fingerpicking over which Decamps dreamily and almost as if preoccupied, weaves his melancholy melody with a resigned air. Nice mood building via some parched and nasal organ which imbues the atmosphere with a trace of liturgy. We don't have to hang around long though before Decamps becomes increasingly angsty as the piece develops (is he imitating waking from sleep ?) Strummed guitar now over a kit beat utilising tom toms in the manner of a stately mediaeval dance with sounds of the rural countryside spliced into the mix (this might be a concept album about the feudal system and one really, really pissed off French serf) We end with some instrumental writing with string pads under a very plaintive and lyrical guitar solo from the excellent Brezovar which does however drag a bit in places until the melodic rejoinder parts are reached. A quick word about Gerald Jelsch's drumming, which is always understated and although not a technician in the Palmer, Hiseman, Bruford class, he sensibly never overreaches himself and plays thoughtfully and supportingly throughout. Some more musique concrete via some farmyard animal noises brings us to a conclusion and given the sheer brazen perversity of this band, I cannot help but think this is not meant to have an unwitting comedic effect.

I really feel that given the theatrical bent of so much of Ange's work, there is probably good cause to conclude that seeing this band in the flesh would cast their music in a completely different light. Many of their perceived shortcomings and excesses would make perfect sense in the live environment where we could see them 'act out a performance' of this music as opposed to just 'hear the notes' from our speakers.

Ange are truly original and there is no other band from prog's golden years of '69 to '75 that sounds anything remotely like them.

This review is dedicated with apologies to Debrewguy.

ExittheLemming | 4/5 |


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