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Fractale - Live Suranné CD (album) cover





3.66 | 40 ratings

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4 stars When bandleader Julian Julien contacted me asking if I would be interested in doing a review, he described his music as influenced by Magma, Genesis, and Zappa. That's enough to intrigue any prog fan, and Fractale's "Live Suranne" certainly lives up to its influences. While Magma definitely comes through the most (to my ears at least) this is such a dynamic and sonically diverse album that I hesitate to even call it pure Zeuhl. This is some kind of avant-spaced out jazz fusion, and if that's not an interesting combination of genres then I don't know what is. Rambling aside, this live album is a great listen and certainly one of the more interesting things I've heard in a while.

"Partie XV" starts the album off on an energetic note, with some excellent horn work that reminds a bit of a smoother Magma; much less percussive and militaristic sounding but no less compelling. Fractale has a very unique sound that is really highlighted on this track; so much that I struggle to find comparison. Sections almost have a big-band sound to them, but the whole thing has such a zeuhl mentality that the end product here is really quite unlike much that I've ever heard.

"Partie VI" is a bit of a more psychedelic track, a bit like a much trippier Magma with some spacey effects thrown in for good measure. It's much more languid than "Partie XV," but no less compelling, as it's two minutes sound very melodic but also completely avant-garde and "out-there." My only complaint with this one is that I wish it was longer!

"Partie V" starts off on yet another note, with some very cool synth-sounding atmospheres starting off the track before a rather dark horn line enters. This track feels to me like it could serve very well as the background music to an extraterrestrial film noir (how's that for a comparison?), as the whole track has a very dark, jazzy feel to it that feels very alien at the same time. This track I think highlights one of Fractale's greatest strength's, which is their ability to play incredibly "out-there" music while not losing one whit of musical cohesiveness or completeness of idea. The backing notes (I think it's a keyboard, but I don't see one listed in the credits so I'm not sure how the sound is made) really help to differentiate Fractale's brand of Avant-Space-Jazz from the harsh, punctuated zeuhl sound of a lot of other groups. One of my favorite tracks on the album.

"Partie XVI" has a heavier sound that really highlights the variety of sound that these players are able to get from their instruments. "Partie XVI" features a very cool low rhythm line from what I'm assuming must be the electrified tuba, and as with all these tracks features some very dynamic, expression filled soloing on top. This is one of the more uptempo tracks and it's very impressive how tight the band sounds considering that this is a live album. These guys and gals are clearly very talented and very disciplined players.

"Partie XVIII" is a much slower, more somber track, almost having the feel of a funeral dirge. The main melodic line almost has a spaghetti-western type feel to it, though the very interesting textures backing it up give it a totally unique and interesting sound. The track's pacing is very good, and despite its brevity it's a great conclusion for the main sequence of tracks on the album.

There's more though, as the bonus tracks are excellent as well. "Sans Papiers" almost has a flamenco flavor to it, which combined with the obvious Zeuhl influences make this an incredibly compelling track to listen to. There's some very jazzy soloing toward the end as well. The recording on this bonus track doesn't sound as pristine as the main sequence of the album but it certainly doesn't detract from the sound and, in my opinion, actually adds to the atmosphere.

"Clementine" is the other bonus track provided here. It starts with some distorted horn sounds before transitioning into a horn melody that reminds me of, of all things, Tchaikovsky. It has a very "eastern-folk" feel to it, which really highlights the astounding range of influence on this album. "Clementine" is a bit sparser and more repetition based than the other tracks on the album, but it's definitely still an engaging listen and a fun track to end on.

Overall, this live album from Fractale is an excellent (if a bit short) offering and one that I would highly recommend. I really haven't heard anything this diverse in quite some time and I tremendously look forward to hopefully hearing more from this group.


VanVanVan | 4/5 |


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