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French TV - The Violence Of Amateurs CD (album) cover


French TV



4.23 | 91 ratings

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5 stars 'The Violence of Amateurs' by the band French TV is an all instrumental album that is a study mostly in change. The album itself is full of melody and meter changes, especially in some tracks more than others, but that is the overall feel. Things can change many times over the course of each track, sometimes the song will follow a theme and other times it doesn't. It is complex, yet it isn't very dissonant, so it's easy to digest, but not necessarily accessible.

'The Kokonino Stomp' starts off with a good taste of what you can expect. It sounds like a big band performance except everyone is on acid and playing their own distinctive parts, but of 5 different songs. This track is a lot of fun, and you'll hear a lot going on throughout, but the biggest surprise, is the sudden appearance of a banjo or a honky-tonk piano. This might all sound incoherent, but it is surprisingly listenable. Then all of a sudden you get some tribal chanting that suddenly changes to big band with an electric guitar. It's just a fun collage of everything, sometimes all at once, but always quite listenable.

'The Secret Life of Watler Riddle' starts out with whistling of a happy tune that suddenly goes into a 007 style tune, heavy on the bass, and then a sudden guitar jam. The theme for this track seems to be more of a spy soundtrack, with ever changing melodies and meters. Around the 5 minute mark, it flips into a loungy jazz mode with a sax which eventually turns squeaky and loses it's coherency a bit before moving back into the surf rock/spy movie mode.

'The Odesa Steps Sequence' has more of heavy feel to it, more like a jazz/rock fusion. There is a definite progressive rock feel, and the melodies and meters are under constant flux. As disjointed as this all sounds, it really isn't. Yes, it's complex, never happy to settle to any specific melody, but still flowing together like that is how it should be. It's this style of flux that makes this album avant-prog, it doesn't have to be full of dissonance and harshness to make it complex. It also is not heavy complex as say 'The Evaptoria Report' or 'Blotted Science' but it does change a lot, but even so, it is more focused than the random feel of the last two tracks.

'Mail Order Quarks' starts as a jazz tune that varies from light jazz to dissonant and complex jazz. This changes after a brief pause at 2:30 to arpeggiated guitar chords and more woodwinds and synthesizer and it picks up a folk vibe. A violin shows up a little bit later and takes the melodic spotlight. Soon the reeds share the spotlight and slowly take it over. Things pick up speed much later and the light folk jazz feel continues as an acoustic guitar gets the chance to show off. In the last minute, there is a unpredicted change to ' time for a short period before returning to the original vibe.

'Tiger Tea' goes back to the 'music-in-flux' mode as it stars with a cool bass line and a more tropical jazz feel. Sax and organ playfully mess around until it goes into a complex rhythm pattern and then returns to the original vibe. Things turn to a real progressive feel as the rhythm gets more complex and a strange fuzzy keyboard takes over as a piano churns out a progressive foundation. This has a real 'Phish' feel to it, sort of laid back, a little challenging and improvisation. At four minutes, it all turns psychedelic, then returns to the tricky rhythm again as a sax takes over followed by a surprisingly heavy electric guitar, then to a circus vibe and then that pattern repeats again. At around 6:45, there is a cool organ solo and then everything mellows out. Things keep changing in sometimes unpredictable ways all the way to the finish at over 12 minutes.

The last track is a 21 minute piece called 'Joosan Lost/The Fate'. It starts out as a fairly standard rock instrumental with some nice keyboard and guitar interplay, but soon gets more complex as it continues. After a more progressive passage, it returns to the beginning. This one has more of a rock fusion vibe similar to 'Focus'. The most standard track turns into the most avant-prog as things move on. Things head south at the 5 minute mark however as it transitions to an odd, slow 3 / 4 quarter experimental phase, with plenty of humor in the music. Things get a little noodly at this point, and you can hear the melody in the background trying to take over again. The best it can manage though is a march-style rhythm with a scratchy sound and a persistent piano driving the rhythm along. The music sort of ebbs and flows with dynamic changes and then at 10:30, atmospheric guitars drown everything else out and get psychedelic again. Things start to get somewhat intense as drums try to work out a rhythmic pattern, which they eventually do when an electric guitar tries to work out a melody. At 13 minutes, it gets rather heavy as layers of guitars build on each other and turn into a drone as another guitar plucks out chords and drums play frantically trying to get control. Things cool down at 16:30 but a dissonant guitar continues to play. The drums finally establish a rhythm and we get a melody from electric and bass guitars playing together. There is a sudden change at 18:15 as we return to the standard rock fusion feel that we had at the beginning.

This is an excellent album that demonstrates how standard can be made complex. Trying to fit it under any one style is hard to do, but avant-garde comes the closest. The most consistent thing about this album is change. But the whole thing is completely enjoyable and, for the most part, it seems accessible, but then by the end, you think, was it really? I love the album and it's variety, but also how it seems to stay cohesive all the way through. It is great music, especially if you like instrumental music, sometimes with a jazz feel, others when it feels folksy, and still others when it goes into rock mode. But it is still progressive through and through. Easily 5 stars.

TCat | 5/5 |


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