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

MUSIQUES ET INSTRUMENTS INSOLITES: FLUTE LIBRES

Jean Cohen-Solal

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.02 | 14 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars The flute is one of the world's earliest extant musical instruments and dates back at least 35,000 years according to archeological finds and has pretty much been adopted around the globe by such diverse groups ranging from Native Americans to Asian folk sounds as well as Western classical ensembles just to name a few. In the context of rock music it has been perhaps most associated with progressive rock and has been used to create highly innovative contributions to the standard rock instrumentation of guitar, bass, keyboards and drums with bands like The Moody Blues, Camel, Gong, Genesis, Traffic, Focus and of course Jethro Tull becoming the most famous examples. The instrument has even been incorporated into the extreme metal bombast of bands like Ukraine's Nokturnal Mortem but as s solo instrument the flute has almost always taken a back seat to other instruments save the odd folk based flute ensemble that has appeared now and again throughout history.

In terms of prog, the flute has also usually been subjected to a subordinate position although nobody has rocked the house more than Ian Anderson as an extension to his charismatic vocal performances but once in a while an artist finds a way to use their respective instrument in ways never considered and no better time in history was so fertile as that period that started in the late 60s and carried into the 70s. Born in 1946, JEAN COHEN-SOLAL stands out as one of the more unique acts to take the flute into strange new territories. Born in Algiers, Algeria a young COHEN-SOLAL tasted the splendor of Middle Eastern rhythms before his family returned to France and settled in Nimes in the 1950s where he began his early explorations of experimental music. COHEN-SOLAL was quite accomplished as he studied both double bass and flute at the National Academy of Nimes before moving on to the Academy of Versailles and then on to furthering his flute proficiencies with Roger Bourdin and Gaston Crunelle with the CNSM of Paris.

After mastering the traditional sounds of the flute and double bass, COHEN-SOLAL was poised to take part in the free-for-all experimental 60s where he tailored his playing to fit in with some of the wildest psychedelic scenes of the era. After hooking up with the sitar player Serge Franklin and tabla player Marc Chantereau, COHEN-SOLAL composed and recorded his first album FL'TES LIBRES which translates as 'Free Flutes' and is perhaps one of the most bizarre albums ever to feature this ancient instrument as the primary driver. While most flute players in a prog context were squarely in the folk rock turf, COHEN-SOLAL displayed a much more cosmic approach as if he jumped on his magic carpet and flew off to the Krautrock rich lands of Germany for inspiration rather than looking to the jazz-rock and symphonic prog sound of his homeland. FL'TES LIBRES emerged in the crazy year of 1971 and captures some of the most avant-garde sounds of that pivotal year when prog rock was getting more daring and taking music into some of the most extreme realms where boundaries between genres blurred and logical orthodoxies were thrown out the window.

FL'TES LIBRES featured only four tracks and while only clocking in at 34 minutes managed to circumnavigate the globe by tackling cosmic Krautrock, Indian ragas, Middle Eastern rhythms and the most extreme modernities of classical music ranging from the minimalism of Steve Reich to the musique concr'te of Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Henry. The album basically consists of two side long tracks although Side one is broken down into three sections. The album has only been released on vinyl. The first edition which emerged in 1971 belied the true nature of the musical content with a ridiculously lame COHEN-SOLAL looking somewhat like an Austin Powers dressed as Uncle Sam with a rather dated cover feature of giving credits on the cover. No way. This album deserves one of those colorful acid rock covers that suggests an inner journey that pierces the veil and takes you simultaneously off to both inner and outer space through creative patterns of sound and through the lens of jazz, Hindustani classical, psychedelia and free improvisation.

'Concerto Cyclique' introduces you to the album rather tamely and as it begins like a rather unremarkable garage rock band sound with some technically dazzling flute accompaniments it doesn't become apparent that someone spiked the punch until about the two and a half minute mark when the flute ceases and a cyclical percussive drive takes over allowing a wild experimental performances of the double bass and other sounds to follow. This first part carries on like an Ash Ra Tempel trip for over nine minutes and while breaking into inner orbit doesn't quite take the plunge into deep space. The middle section of the album 'Raga Du Matin' and 'Mati're' heads back to Earth and explores the sounds of India and the Middle East like a Nonesuch Explorer series album with flute accompanied visions of Indo-raga sounds and Arabic acid trips. The brevity is a nice sobering grounding force before the lengthy side B behemoth 'Quelqu'un' which drifts on like a Tangerine Dream expressive sprawl for over 17 minutes. Traversing the progressive electronic sounds of Klaus Schulze in pure acoustic instrumental form, this track takes you to deep space where gravitational forces no longer dictate Earthly orthodoxies and free form flute playing is in full improvisation thus the title of the album FL'TES LIBRES.

FL'TES LIBRES is clearly one of those albums that couldn't have come out at any other time. Riding the Indo-raga craze of the 60s, the album seems simultaneously anachronistic and refreshingly ahead of its time. While the Kraut infused intro track was fully in the present, the ethnic touches seem a bit retro by 1971, however the side long closer was truly looking forward and comes across as textural rich as anything Schulze or Tangerine Dream would come up with a few years later with such albums as 'Phaedra.' Given that COHEN-SOLAL was steeped in academia, it's amazing how detached he sounds from anything stilted from the past. This guy was clearly inspired by the psych-fueled developments of the era and easily fit his own stylistic approach into the zeitgeist of the time. Thankfully the album has been re-released in 2018 albeit on vinyl only with new album cover art. COHEN-SOLAL followed FL'TES LIBRES two years later with 'Captain Tarthopom' which adopted more rock and jazz sounds which leaves this first album an anomaly in the prog universe but what a wickedly cool album this is as it runs the gamut of emotions from the introductory underwhelming garage rock to the ending psychedelic trip to the stars. Perhaps not an all time classic of the ages but still an excellent display of innovation unlike anything before or since.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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