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Jean Cohen-Solal - Musiques et Instruments Insolites: Flute Libres  CD (album) cover


Jean Cohen-Solal



4.00 | 15 ratings

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4 stars Woodwind with a phoenix up its backside

The main problem with the flute in a rock setting is arguably Ian Anderson. His majestic stork stands and his larger than life persona all tooted out through this breezy woodwind, is something that resonates with people. It is something that is remembered, in fact so much that bands that feature a flute on a regular basis often get labelled as Jethro Tull wannabes. Well there are other ways of approaching this instrument. Just putting this album on will open up an entirely different world of sounds and tapestries that in no way, shape or form harks back to our most beloved humanized stork.

Jean Cohen-Solal was born in 1946 and already at the age of 10 he was attending musical studies at the national academy in Nimes. Although he majored in the flute, he was no slouch on the double bass, which again points a finger towards his inexhaustible quench for music in all of its facets. This natural curiosity ultimately spurred him on to study counterpoint, harmony, chamber music and orchestrations. He went on to hone his skills at the academy of Versailles, where all of these fascinating inputs slowly came together to form some kind of esoterically charged musical beast.

All in all Solal is what I'd call a craftsman. He learned about music the hard way, and speaking from a personal point of view, I have actually always went for the opposite musicians such as the Jimi Hendrixes and the Eddie Van Halens. The self taught prodigies who sleep with their instruments and learn secret musical languages on their own. However, I must admit that I am completely smitten by this man and the sheer power and ingenuity of his playing. If you thought the flute was a silly hippie accessory or a side dish of Jethro Tull then think again matey. It can be whizzing, ugly, soothing, violently bobbing, heretic, almost robotic, clean as a baby's bottom and strangely rhythmic in nature. All of these different traits are fascinatingly conveyed on Flute Libres, which quite aptly named simply means The free flute.

There are a multitude of different genres coming together on this debut album, and straight away you get the impression that you certainly aren't embarking on a clear cut symphonic quest. As a matter of speculation, I'd deem the first one here to be a French psychedelically charged take on Krautrock. It wields a powerful sweaty rhythm section that takes the simple melodies of the flute and transform them into a dirty, funky and meaty hook. I instantly fell in love with this record the first time I heard this tune.

Without further ado and with nothing insinuated, we are flown halfway across the globe and the music is now remarkably Indian and folk laden. Two short tracks that intertwine Middle- Eastern and Indian cultures around the man of a thousand breaths and his woodwind. They work as a midway section for the audience to catch their breaths and prepare for the last musical frontier.

Finally the closing experiment takes you to those dark and brooding planetary soundscapes, where only acts like Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze did roam. It is music that dissolves and lingers simultaneously on the wind - like throwing sea salt on your lover's tongue and watch it disappear slowly - absorbing - disintegrating into the dark red flesh in a macabre and yet very beautiful manner. It is not a long way from the music you'll get from Cage and Stockhausen, and even though I don't particularly like or endorse the label "musique concrete" - mainly because it bears connotations with unfathomable music, and name wise actually never really gets close to any sort of plausibly description, - even so, I must confess that this last track flutters away on similar paths as the aforementioned musical concrete builders. If you however despise every single note and gesture done by either one of these during their "experimental sprees", then you'd do yourself good in listening to Solal's version of disintegrating music. Just his way of playing the flute on this final track has me thinking: Shoals of flying fish equipped with minuscule windy kazoos and jet packs. Or perhaps my favourite image of this effervescent and experimental track is the interplanetary fighter-plane space birds and floating sand dunes in mid air.

Flute Libres is recommended to seekers of experimental music, lovers of Krautrock and the odd flute aficionados that revel in this instrument's floating and oceanic character.

Guldbamsen | 4/5 |


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