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Vortex - Les Cycles De Thanatos CD (album) cover

LES CYCLES DE THANATOS

Vortex

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.12 | 60 ratings

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ExittheLemming
Prog Reviewer
3 stars The Greek God of Lycra Says Bicycle Clips Just Postpone the Death of Flair

Every once in a while I like to venture outside my habitual comfort zone when it comes to sourcing new music. The older I've become, the harder these off-piste forays become, and yes, that does make me vulnerable to mistaking the resultant cold sores as vindication for falling into the arms of the world's worst ski instructor: the Venus de Milo (thanks Tom). However, I plucked up every vestige of derring do remaining in my overripe soul for this release. That Bartok and Stravinsky are name-dropped piqued my curiosity of course, and any band that are reckoned to have intuited the sublime chamber rock of Univers Zero and Art Zoyd are deserving of some of anyone's time innit?.

Given that this music was recorded in 1977 when (un)conventional wisdom was asking itself if anyone over the age of 25, with a centre parting and in gainful employment could be deemed a bona fide punk provacateur, the prescience of this like minded amalgam of French artists is humbling to behold. All manner of subsequent musical developments can be discerned on Les Cycles De Thanatos waaay before their time: chamber rock, math rock, what might pass for pre-post rock and the earnest orientation of shoegaze (at a pinch) There is even a deferential nod to 20th Century post-modern luvvies like Steve Reich and Terry Reilly. Yep, commercial hara-kiri is being acted out here and the victims never looked or sounded healthier. You will also hear faint remnants of Gong, Zappa and a considerably less volatile Mahavishnu from time to time. (see God is Good For You John for some unexpectedly mordant Gallic humour)

Very little of what might be recognised as even tenuously Prog, is remotely equipped to withstand the scrutiny afforded to 'academic' or 'art' music. I'm quite happy to admit that if the 17 year old me had heard this record when it was released I would, in all likelihood , have dismissed it crassly as 'old hippies art wank blather'. Whether we care to accede to the idea or otherwise, our beloved, eccentric and wilfully esoteric Prog mongrel is never gonna earn that Best In Show prize rosette from those judges we pretend don't matter. We can but console ourselves in the knowledge that our rebellious pup can at least be trained to defecate in that stuck up bastard's conservatory next door. The music presented by Vortex on this album is about as close as rawk was ever going to get to donning the swishing vestments of orthodoxy in my lifetime. It should be self evident that the estimated sales of circa 3000 units would have been insufficient to provide any working ensemble with the viability for a professional career. People don't take popular music seriously because people who like or understand it don't take popular music seriously.(loop to fade) What survives as 'Serious' Music now requires to be heavily subsidised while 'obscure' Popular music will always be disqualified for subsidy as it ain't popular enough to be self sustaining. (DS al Coda) I know, the irony of toff's music being immunised from the germ warfare currently endemic in the free marketplace is hideous.

Thanatos was the Greek God of Death and with relatives holding offices as the equivalent deities for suffering, old age, deception, doom, blame, strife and retribution he was clearly not the sort of guy you would hang with on a Friday night to drink beer and stare at girls. We're advised the seeds of the ambitious title track were sown from a 15 second fragment of a Messiaen piece. I don't know Messiaen at all but I do know Bartok and Stavinsky and even shorn of the eastern european peasant melodies and neo classical conceits, I can still recognise their palpable influence in the pacing, textures, percussion and developmental ideas deployed in this work. Such is the forensic rigour of the undertaking that this new found formal discipline would designate hooks, riffs or killer choruses followed by 'heroic' solos as hopelessly kitsch and plain vanilla tacky. You will require patience and perseverance to elicit the many delights that this composition can deliver so stick with it and just try to train your expectations away from those you are routinely inured to.

Listeners new to this band should maybe dip their blushing tootsies in the more welcoming waters of God Is Good For You, John and Prolegomenes first before negotiating the uncharted territory of the title track. No-one should dive headlong into terra incognita (Ouch)

ExittheLemming | 3/5 |

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