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Vortex - Vortex CD (album) cover





4.21 | 53 ratings

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4 stars French instrumental avant-prog band Vortex's debut album is a wonderful, jazz-fueled album, featuring lots of impressive flute, saxophone and Fender Rhodes piano throughout.

The opener Haroun' Thasckouack is a great start to an impressive album and if you like this track, you will like the rest of the album. It is a chamber-rock orientated track, but stripped bare a little, it is not as dark and avant as they would later become. The standout piece for me is Délicieuse Créature, which always keeps my ears on their toes. The intro to this track reminds me of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Our Favorite Things", yet I am not sure if it is coincidental. The Fender Rhodes playing of Jean-Pierre Vivant is most notable, yet the whole band keep everything together superbly and the bass playing is also sublime, subtlely being played in the background, yet actually being very prominent to the overall sound; for me, this is the sign of an excellent band with lots of ideas. On Ahsquoumboum the bass playing becomes more prominent and the band play a slight jazzed-up Eastern sound.

As for avant-prog moments, well there are a few of them, but this is mainly impressively well composed jazz pieces with avant and prog leanings in small amounts. They remind me a little of Jenkins/Ratledge era Soft Machine in places, yet without the Holdsworth/Etheridge guitar playing, which is intriguing, as the Vivant brothers were more likely influenced by Third era Soft Machine (they started their careers in a Soft Machine covers band). They also have a distinct influence from 20th century composers, such as Olivier Messiaen, Igor Stravinsky and Béla Bartók, which underpins their more obvious jazz fixations.

Even though this is very little related to progressive rock, it is a wonderful album to listen to. The band would get much more avant-prog orientated on their follow-up album "Les Cycles de Thanatos", dropping their jazz rock forays and incorporating a darker, more psychotic chamber rock sound.

My copy of "Vortex" features two bonus tracks, the first of which, C'est Cool, Raoul, is a tremendously slow and often haunting piece and much more akin to progressive rock than the previous tracks. The Chinese cymbals at the beginning add a nice bit of atmosphere here, as does what sounds like a 'cello (not credited as such though). Infact, it reminds me of Italian progressive rock at times, with the melancholic atmosphere.

The other bonus number is Prolégo 1, a faster, more bass orientated track, with lush and fluid flute and saxophone throughout.

This is an excellent introduction to a much forgotten band with a lot of power in their playing and incorporating a lot of thought in their compositions. Their follow-up, as stated, continues on in a different vain, yet if they had never released it, this album would be classed as a masterpiece of chamber rock and jazz.

VanderGraafKommandöh | 4/5 |


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