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Fractale - Live Suranné CD (album) cover





3.66 | 40 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
3 stars 'Live Suranné' - Fractale (6/10)

While most bands wait at least until they have a studio album out before they release a live concert recording, French jazz group Fractale have jumped right into the fray. For music of this style, playing all together at once has some tasteful benefits, but can fall apart quickly if the musicians aren't tight enough. Fractale are certainly a skilled bunch, and their chemistry as players shows. This is a strange performance for jazz, with many of the sounds making me wonder which instrument they are actually coming from. The compositions of this band are inventive and complex, and well worth several listens. However, despite being a live demonstration of skilled musicianship, there's something about 'Suranné' that feels more mechanical than it should.

Fractale are often labelled as a Zeuhl outfit, and this is fair to say; they have that odd apocalyptic tinge to their jazz fusion sound. Fractale's music is not conventionally happy or sad, but rather eerie and unsettling. There are many members participating in Fractale, but it is largely the project of Julian Julien, a man who obviously has a distinct idea of what he wants with the music. Unlike alot of jazz I'm used to, the musicians here rarely seem to improvise, nor do they ever get energetic with the compositions. Instead, their musical skill is represented through the way they are able to perform complex, sometimes polyrhythmic passages without breaking a sweat. 'Suranné' is filled with moments where the saxophones will be building on an idea, while the tuba and trumpets will be doing something that grinds against it. The result is not at all catchy, but it is interesting, and quite enjoyable if you're in the proper mindset.

Although 'Suranné' is labelled as a live album, there was something about the recording that didn't feel right to me while I was listening to it. Sure, these compositions may have benefited from a few extra hooks and dynamic in relation to the pace and tempo, but the biggest issue I have with 'Suranné' is that the production sounds mechanical and contrived, sometimes to the point where it actually helps the music to become eerier. Although the warmth of the individual instruments translates into the recording somewhat, I could not stop thinking that, for a live audience, there was very little background ambiance. That is, until the musicians finished, and immediately there would be a monotonous wave of applause. In fact, only on the bonus track (and highlight) 'Sans-Papiers' is there any indication that humans are listening to the performance. Perhaps it's just me being used to hearing the audience element of a live album, but the crowd reaction is possibly the most jarring and frightening aspect of this performance.

The compositions on 'Suranné' sport some impressive complexity to them, although in terms of execution, Fractale are a little rough around the edges. It will be very interesting to hear how these songs translate onto a studio recording, and while the music itself is intriguing, the band does not use the live setting to their advantage as much as they should have.

Conor Fynes | 3/5 |


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