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Jean Louis - Jean Louis CD (album) cover


Jean Louis



4.22 | 82 ratings

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5 stars Sometimes I think originality in music has died. Then something comes along that blows that thought away. Jean Louis have done just that. I must first thank Evolutionary_Sleeper for introducing this band to me. When I first heard this album I was pretty much sat with my mouth gaping throughout. As my friend and P.A. Colleague also mentions, this album is all about the GROOVE! Every track (except the incidental tracks) makes me either tap my foot, lightly headbang or flail my arms around due to the rhythmical nature. Indeed, driving whilst listening to this album is even more portentous, especially on a clear road.

The band is a three-piece from France. The noise they create would make you think otherwise however. Joachim Florent (upright bass), Francesco Pastacaldi (drums) and Aymeric Avice (trumpet) are all highly competent musicians and all gel together without any issues. Seeing them play live just adds to the Jean Louis experience too. You get to see how Avice uses effects pedals on his trumpet to create a plethora of noises. The same also applies for Florent, who at one point makes his bass sound like a trumpet. It is worth noting that Aymeric Avice has guested with Magma and also performs with a more generic jazz-orientated collective without his sound effects.

I shall not go into too much of a track-by-track analysis, as this has already been done in Evolutionary_Sleeper's wonderful and thoughtful review. I shall briefly, however, try and mention some of the highlights.

Tourlac is a tour-de-force opener. This track is also a perfect indicator of what the rest of the album sounds like, so if you do not like this, I doubt you will enjoy the rest of the album. It is certainly not for everyone. All tracks (except the incidental tracks) are ballsier, noisier and more groove-laden than most metal bands. I guess a band to compare them to would be Italian band Zu (especially their album Carboniferous). Yet they differ greatly to Zu as well. They are a unique band. Even Italian band Tom Moto (who are often compared to Jean Louis) are unable to sound as original and tight as them.

It still surprises me now how sometimes Avice's trumpet sounds like a guitar or even at one stage, a harmonica. The start-stop, almost math-rock grooves means that this is not just a simple noise-riddled jazz record. The band are clever in how they subtly juxtapose several different genres with ease and often without the listeners full awareness. One moment it's noisy, the next serene, the next jazzy and thoughtful and the next a clusterfuck of noise again. Yet there is always a groove. That's the key to Jean Louis. It's not twiddly avant-garde nonsense and neither is it free jazz. As Derek Trucks delightfully named one of his albums "Joyful Noise", I think he was pre-empting this album. As this is precisely what it is.

Maximator is perhaps the weakest track but only because I feel it is too short. Musically it's as brilliant as the others. Noisy, brash and what I would describe as math-jazz at times. Yet at the same time, the shortness of the track also seems to fit perfectly. It starts off slow with Florent's wonderful bass playing and Pastacaldi's cymbal bashing... until Avice starts playing. Then it bursts into life and does not relent until the end. Maybe it is not too short after all!

Zakir is the longest track on the album and as is often the case with music that is so enjoyable, it does not feel long at all. Again, the relentlessness does not cease. This is a jazzier track and is a slight let-up on the noise front. Yet his is the grooviest track so far. One specific moment with Florent's bass playing makes me rock backwards and forwards. Delightful! I also happen to love the weird ghoulish noises Avice creates on his trumpet. I shall call these noises Scorched Earth. It really does sound like he could start a fire with all that blowing! I especially love the jazziness on this. Avice has a wonderful solo and it's a lovely bit of respite until the awkward yet groove-laden rhythms start once more.

Airbus was the first track I heard by the band due to a live performance found on YouTube. So naturally this track often turns out to be my favourite. However, my favourite composition seems to change with every listen. This is their most accessible track, I feel yet by no means make that sound as if it's weak. Florent's bass is fantastic on here yet all he is doing mostly is tapping a bow against the strings (well, he's doing more than that but it looks easy live!). Avice also makes his trumpet sound like... I don't know what... Elephants, guitars and general otherworldly-ness.

Tranche was and still is one of my favourite tracks. Perhaps the most avant-garde piece on the album. The intro consists of high-notes on the trumpet, weird bow playing on the upright bass and scrappy cymbal crashing. Then, as is expected, the groove starts and continues on and on until reaching a what some would feel was a malaise. Then of course, it slows down again into a parasitic avant-garde fantasy.

Chasseurs en Transe starts off sounding like a marching band until until the rest of the band decide to go a bit nuts. This track features my favourite Avice trumpet solo. A distortion-filled scorched earth fusion. This is the track also where you realise how fantastic Pastacaldi is on the sticks. He's very much an integral part of the band but as many people will tend to focus on the trumpet first, then it is not always obvious at first how much he keeps the band together. The same also applies for Florent on the bass, of course. This piece is my favourite and brings the band together more than on any other track, in my opinion.

Kasams is the final track and is what I'd call a punk influenced introduction yet also with some metal influences. Yet it sounds like neither of those two genres. It is the most laid back of all the tracks. Much more akin to heavier post-rock and avant-prog at times. It's a nice let-up after the onslaught of the previous tracks. Of course, it also has it's moments too. It's the perfect closer though.

It is obvious the band thought about track order on this album. In my opinion that goes a long way in my appreciation for an album. As for the incidental tracks: they serve their purpose. Indeed, the heartbeat intro of the first untitled track is the same as the ending of the final untitled track. The way Pastacaldi plays the cymbals on these tunes reminds me somewhat of Battles though. Not a bad thing, however!

So overall this album is superb. A 5/5 from start to finish. Even what I feel about Maximator being too short, is unjustified when it comes to the whole album. When the album finishes, I don't feel it's too short. Only when the track finishes, do I feel that.

This is definitely my album of 2008 (only I first heard it in 2009) and is most definitely in my top 10 albums of all-time.

A very high accolade indeed for such a modern album. It just proves to me that music originality has not died. They have a second album due in 2010 and I very much look forward to it. I do fear though that it may not ever reach the sheer beauty and excellence of this, their self-titled album.

VanderGraafKommandöh | 5/5 |


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