Le Drapeau Noir - s/t (CR 02)

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New dream project of European improvised music to get the Euro-sceptics worked up for the forthcoming elections. This octet is comprised from members of UK’s Hunter Gracchus & Chora as well as French duo Part Wild Horses Mane On Both Sides. Recorded live from a performance in Lyon, France, last year, this rambling cacophony of free improvisation erupts with big-band formations, that fill a gaping chasm left by the departure of Italy’s Qbico Records. Chironex, the French label responsible for last years Hunter Gracchus LP, are carrying the European improvisation-on-wax torch high with their second vinyl release.

The sound sits somewhere between the various Jooklo projects, that have exploded over the last few years, and the big-band insanity of The A Band. The multicultural folk influences are strong, keeping the East/West primitivism as associated with the sounds of Helhesten, HG, PWHMOBS and Chora respectively. Removed from local scene based movements, this close, yet geographically traversing collective seem to have inspired a sound of a displaced Europe fighting to escape the banality of recycled postmodernism. They escape the vacuum of the trivial object, forging live and simmering performances that playback with an excitement and freedom that somehow remains important out of context. Fusing acoustic and electric with little juxtaposition and much synergy – the performance glides with natural independence.

Side A drones into shape with a powerful leading string/harmonium sound that strangles the air, faltering unevenly whilst percussion settles into a cohesive form, via the collective swirls of an ally-way whirl-wind. Flute and bells and other irregular clamour shifts and searches with scrapes and knocks. Twists and chants lay light upon the rolling hills in a sound as tumultuous as the wonderful “Shiggajon”, whose recent Singing Knives CD left me pining. The folk music of the middle-east, that of Turkey, Afghanistan, India etc tinges the roots of the delivery as things unfold with a haunting Anglo-centric mid section. Sparse blues guitar plucks and parleys with the heat-haze din beneath it. This soft interlude then rises to a finale of drones and scattered percussion along with some ritual vocal cries

Side B rambles with low base and eastern mouth organ. Towers of flames forge columns as a vocal prayer begins to illicit images of distant people of scorched canyons. Delirious humanity joins in energetic storms of chaotic rave-like motion – a dance of deep understanding driven by a thumping bass, tapping percussion and droning vocal-led mania. A reed twists in vigorous spasmodic formations somewhere in the gaggle. After five minutes things begin to drift into soft tidal shore activity led by a beautiful flute. The musicians seem to have found a perfect balance after years of evolving their various duo/trio outfits, seamlessly moving into this incredible 8-piece. It takes almost another 5 minutes for the chirping flute to ‘call to arms’ the remaining instruments to join in a raucous display of bestial pomposity. Once again things heat up and thud into a pounding trance. The sound then drifts with controlled termination into rattles and dying calls, as night-creatures return to the comfort of shade before the dawn approach. 9/10 -- Foxy Digitalis (27 May, 2009)

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