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Harmonium - L'Heptade CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.10 | 310 ratings

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4 stars Harmonium's most ambitious undertaking attempts to build upon the classical moments of Si on avait besoin d'une 5ième Saison, but does see Serge Fiori and co overstretch themselves. Quite simply, despite a sizable chunk of beautiful moving music, 85 minutes is simply too much, and thus leaves a listener having to wade through filler on the latter half of the double album. When one considers the intense melancholic feel of a lot of the material, you'll understand why I say that L'Heptade is the most difficult of Harmonium's three studio efforts. It is however still an essential cornerstone of both Harmonium's career and Queboicois prog in general.

The first half of the double album is almost universally excellent. Opening Prologue sets the scene with an evocative and entertaining score. Comme un Fou is a real standout, starting out with more of the pastoral folk that we've come to know and love, before breaking into rocking passages with some excellent synth work (you gotta love the "madness" of the pitch bends). Belying its dark title (Black Song) Chanson Noire is the most upbeat piece here, riding on some lovely piano from Serge Locat and the acoustic guitar work of Michel Normandeau, with a nice sax solo from Pierre Daigneault and a glorious epic chorus thrown in for good measure.

The shorter pieces like Sommeil San Reves also serve a purpose in linking the themes of the longer songs. This disc concludes with two massive pieces ... Le premier Ciel / Sur une Corde Raide and L'Exil, both of which are simply beautiful. Le premier Ciel "overcomes" a really heavy opening to burst into an explosion of much needed joy, tasteful double-tracked guitar solo (12:54), Beatlesque segments and another with absolutely wonderful vocal harmonies ("tous les voire le premier ciel") CHECK with a build up of strings and eventually a laid-back light funk-tinged rock portion with a majestic Locat synth solo. As for L'Exil, the first minute alone makes me want to weep, as Fiori's beautiful vocal melody sits atop a string/organ/acoustic guitar backing that is simply perfect. In fact, when the second verse starts after 4 minutes and the band kicks in, one has hardly noticed the passing of time. A desolate passage confirms the feeling of exile, and the melancholy can really get overpowering during this track, even though it finishes on an emotional, if not musical, high.

It is on the second "album" that the trouble starts. It is plainly too difficult for Harmonium to keep up the intensity and the two of the three main pieces are just too long. The shortest, the 8 minute long Le Corridor employs a murky Rhodes electric piano sound that I love, as well as the services of emale vocalist Monique Fauteux, there is a lovely swirly mid-section that carries you to other worlds with a minimum of fuss. Unfortunately, Lumières de Vie while undoubtedly grappling with expansive subject matter, seems to spend far too long on ambient/New Age/light jazz piano rambles, and the same ailment plagues Comme Un Sage, except that this time the orchestral arrangements are overdone, and the awesome vocal harmonies towards the end come way too late to save the song. It is a shame because the Fiori vocal segments on both tracks are as great as ever. One wonders if the Quebecois world will ever see his like again.

Overall, there's so much good stuff here, I feel I shouldn't be complaining. ... 78% on the MPV scale

Trotsky | 4/5 |


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