Nu Jazz / Jazz Related Improv/Composition / Exotica • France
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Julian Julien is the frontman and founder member of the instrumental jazzy-Zeuhl collective Fractale (free-form heavy-jazz improvs. One album has been published under this name and entitled Live Suranné, 2008)

Julian Julien started his composing works back in the early 90s. He first released an orchestrated live piece La tombe des lucioles (1993), then follows up on a soundtrack for the french documentary "Mémoire d'un maître chien". He finally auto-published his first complete album entitled Tupperware et Bibelot in between 1998 and 1999. in 2000 is published the album "Terre", then "Strange" (2006). The musical signature of these two official efforts oscillate between avant-garde-minimalism (mantric-like meditation) and psyched-out jazz. the musical direction sounds close to the world inflected jazz of Oregon, Codona, Brother Ah (...)the classical minimal epics of Jon Hassel, Ingram Marshall (with the add of punchy cosmic grooves) with a discreet reminiscence to Magma, Dün and a few other
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JULIAN JULIEN albums / top albums

JULIAN JULIEN Terre album cover 4.09 | 2 ratings
Nu Jazz 2000
JULIAN JULIEN Strange album cover 4.05 | 3 ratings
Exotica 2006
JULIAN JULIEN Terre II album cover 3.62 | 5 ratings
Terre II
Jazz Related Improv/Composition 2015


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Album · 2000 · Nu Jazz
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Fusion from a parallel Earth

Have you ever wondered how the musical landscape will be if, centuries ago, someone had swap Earth's local populations' instruments with other populations'? Sonorities played by different cultures with their own approaches? For example, what music would have Eastern European nomads created if they were given Indonesian gamelans? What melodies based on pipes and Indian tablas would have musicians from the old Hausmannian Paris composed? Never thought of this question? Well, I had, and so certainly did multi-instrumentalist Julian Julien, as he - at least partially - brought pieces of a possible answer through his first studio opus.

Fully instrumental, "Terre", the well-named, can be described as world/ethnic fusion, maybe post-fusion, yet accessible. Inspired by his various travels and influences, Julian Julien uses a wide range of instruments and sound effects for unusual purposes to weave harmonious and inventive ambiances. First fooled by exotic sonorities, the listener is brought from an unexpected place to another, then to both known and unknown lands, like on unconnected continents at the same time. The surprise factor is therefore kept intact at each listen.

"La grand-voile!" yells the sailor at the very beginning. Opening with an extract from the movie "L'île aux trésors", the title track is a tragic rhythmic violin-driven tune that can distantly remind another French multi-instrumentalist, Yann Tiersen. Completely different, "L'attente" carries well its name, as the xylophone and soft keyboards seem to suspend time. A little Javanese sounding, but with other incursions, this ethereal tracks is like a patchwork of impressions from South-Eastern Asia displayed through Philip Glass's prism. After an enigmatic and tablas pipes introduction, "Tupperware Et Bibelots" unveils a sad accordion and piano theme, turning from melancholic to frightening. You're wandering in the old 19th Century Paris, among boulevards and galleries of clowns. "Bencoleen Hotel" is located in Singapore, and also a short contemplative and dreamy Asian interlude, while the slowly evolving "Souquez" more resembles modal jazz. Through its interlaced piano and violin, you can sometimes hear few distant echoes from SOFT MACHINE. Really nice. The cheerful "Promenade" is charming and quite contrasts with the rest of the record.

Despite its name, "Degung" don't make usage of a gamelan, but of various gongs, keyboards and organs to recreate an impression of the proud Indonesian instrument, however this time for unexpected destinations. Alongside a sinuous cord melody, this tune will transport you for a mystical journey, to an unknown place somewhere between Hungary and Egypt! On the contrary, "Les Yeux" may be my least favorite passage of the disc. This jazzy minimalistic piano title accompanied by a slight electronic background is a bit lengthy. Don't be fooled by the childish opening of "Clémentine", its mysterious xylophone will make you lost your direction in some enigmatic labyrinth. "P'Tite Pêche" continues with the fruit thematic on a touching and melancholic tone. The record finishes with its longest track, "La Tombe Des Lucioles". Inspired by Isao Takahata's famous and beautiful anime "Le Tombeau des Lucioles" ("Grave of the Fireflies" in English), the instruments depict a desolated and chaotic landscape after the war bombing. You can barely hear the victims struggling for their survival... The last part suddenly accelerates. Certainly influenced by John Surman, this ender is simply shivering!

"Terre" is a genuine trip through several genres and places, between the dramatic and the enchanting, the modern and the ancient, the mystical and the melancholic, yet always remaining accessible and quite homogeneous in terms of quality. The album even gained a little success during its release. If you like to travel and enjoy unexpected musical mixtures, this first opus by Julian Julian will transport you to another lands. Very recommended!

15 years after, the artist will give a follow-up to "Terre", however this second volume will head towards a different planet...


Album · 2015 · Jazz Related Improv/Composition
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Jazz from planet Earth?

Looking for original, creative yet refined and accessible jazz? Classically trained composer JULIAN JULIEN's "Terre II" may well be your destination. Adopting a genuine cinematographic approach, this third self-produced album is composed of short soundtracks depicting professional photographs from all around the world. With a wide range of various influences, such as JOHN SURMAN, zheul, krautrock, ambient, Eastern, and even concrete music, these compositions are a true invitation to travel to different countries from Earth, but also to unknown worlds.

The reference to photography is also perceptible with the tracks named "Iris" (Iris are adjustable diaphragms in optical capture devices). Thought as interludes by the artist, these short pieces are more atmospheric than the other compositions, and are interesting for their highly crafted sound work.

This time, JULIAN JULIEN plays percussions instead of saxophone, as numerous guest musicians were invited to play on this opus. Mainly from the jazz universe, the palette of instruments used is quite large. However, the music do not resemble traditional jazz or fusion at all, but rather elegant, intriguing and sometimes enigmatic soundscapes.

The opener "Prelude" immediately sets the tone. A true prelude for a journey to an unidentified destination. A beautiful mesmerizing overture, with a bit of JOHN SURMAN and a slight middle-eastern touch. The title track is more melancholic and hopeful, as its combination of piano and saxophone works perfectly. Sounding typically French at the beginning, the location is always evolving, you don't know where you are anymore. Paris? New-York? This mixture of different cultures is very nice. Then arrives the first ambient experimental "Iris", which surprisingly changes the atmosphere. As it title may suggest, "Ailleurs" ("Elsewhere" in English) does well carry its name. An aerial flute piece, with a mystical ambiance and crystalline sonoroties. With elements that can remind concrete music, early TANGERINE DREAM or KLAUS SCHULZE, the mysterious "Iris II" is spacey and floating, showing the artistic research on sound work. Nonetheless, the "Iris" tracks are not all short ambient pieces. The echoing horns of "Iris III" is a cry into the depths of the universe, like an astronaut seeking help from the infinite void. Quite cosmic, this is my favorite "Iris".

On the contrary, as the only track with wordless vocals, I found the sad "Une attente" a bit lengthy. Back to spacey experimentations with "Iris IV" and its little dissonant trumpet. Maybe the only 'difficult' passage of the disc. "Doudou" possesses a genuine ethereal beauty. An unreal soundscape depicting several places from Earth. Magic! Concerning "Iris V", it combines exotica and ambient music in the vein of modern electronic bands such as AUTECHRE or PLAID. A little strange but still pleasant. The 8 minutes "Non-Sens" is the longest track of the record. With a style resembling JOHN SURMAN's, this melancholic composition is really good. The last "Iris" sounds like music made with glasses, displaying crystalline and enigmatic notes. The album concludes on a lighter tone with "Mr John Barry", showing also JULIAN JULIEN's inspiration from the cinema. This closer can be described as a jazzy and East-European "Peter Gunn", due to the presence of a cymbalum. A bit more conventional compared to the rest of the disc, but still pretty uncommon, refreshing and very cool.

"Terre II" is a true journey around and beyond our planet. From his numerous travels and influences around the world, JULIAN JULIEN has really created a musical universe on his own, made of melancholic, mystical, touching and spacey soundscapes. Hard to describe, but not to listen to, this music is innovative and refreshing, yet varied and accessible. This is no complex free jazz here, but rather jazz instruments played for other purposes, refined and elegant ambiances, depicting Earth and space. Highly recommended!

With the important sound work, JULIAN JULIEN's style is well suited to soundtracks. The artist already did some in the past, maybe he'll compose more and more soundtracks in the future, and maybe one day an artist will release a song named "Mr Julian Julien", who knows?


Album · 2015 · Jazz Related Improv/Composition
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French composer/saxophonist Julian Julien third album's title "Terre II" means more time's mark than continuity with his debut "Terra" released 15 years ago. Originally a soundtrack to series of works of different photographers from all around the world,it obviously has strong cinematographic feel.

Surprisingly,Julian doesn't play sax but percussion here (programming is credited to him as well; there is guest sax player Michaël Havard participated in recording). All music is very liquid,combining white and dark ambient with chamber pop, some elements of electronics rock and jazz.

All elements are connected/mixed quite organically and in clever proportions - nothing dominates here and the music in whole flows free and quite logically.

As with any good soundtrack, music builds atmosphere that almost doesn't require visual line, sound itself is expressive enough to stimulate imagination. At the same time, as with many soundtracks internal development isn't all that clear without visual line, so generally the music starts nowhere and goes same way. Differently from myriads more ambient-based works around, presence of live musicians on recording adds enough lifelines to save it from boredom.

An interesting work for fans of soundtracks and possibly, exotica.


Album · 2015 · Jazz Related Improv/Composition
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With so much self-produced and self-released music coming out these days, there has to be some serious flotsam and jetsam piling up out there, which is a shame because not all self-released projects are thrown together indulgences. A great example of someone who releases self-produced albums that contain painstaking craftsmanship and a high level of composition is Julian Julien and his latest opus, “Terre II”. Like Julian’s previous albums, “Terre II’ features an interesting mix of mini-soundtracks, instrumental exotica, chamber art-pop, nu jazz and that peculiar form of French art-rock known as zeuhl. The main difference with “Terre II”, when compared to his earlier albums, is there is more use of ambience this time around, with many tracks being more about floating textures rather than more specific melodies. Whether this is good or bad is just a matter of taste, but despite a slightly different musical direction, “Terre II” still features all the careful craftsmanship revealed on Julian’s previous albums. Also, Julian’s use of ambience does not get overly fluffy, as many an ambient moment is topped with expressive, sometimes atonal horn solos.

So many references come to mind when listening to Julian’s music, particularly those artists who know how to create a very personal atmosphere, for instance late 70s Brian Eno and Bo Hanson, Chico Hamilton’s 50s exotic chamber jazz, Brian Wilson and Les Baxter as well. Every song on here is like a miniature world to itself, but all the songs flow together to make an almost soundtrack effect. Some of the better cuts include title track “Terre II” with its jazzy sax solo, “Alleurs”, which features a lazy semi-classical melody orchestrated with flute and bass clarinet floating over an obstinate Celeste, and “Iris V”, which features buzzing synth drones and melodies over a driving hand percussion beat.


Album · 2006 · Exotica
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Like most people I missed this gem when it first came out in 2006, which is a shame because Julian Julien's “Strange” is one of the better instrumental albums to come to my attention over the past year. A lot of different music can come to mind when listening to this colorful CD; the art pop experiments of Brian Wilson, Les Baxter’s exotic arrangements, Indian soundtracks, the electronica pastiche of Kruder and Dorfmeister, Ennio Morricone and Phillip Glass’ short works to name a few. Its hard to find a genre label for this album, but basically “Strange” consists of exotic art-pop tunes and cinematic soundscapes with very inventive instrumental combinations and rich sonic textures. The melodies used are catchy, but never trite or boring, at the same time, many sections are more ambient or minimal than melodic. There are plenty of Indian and electronica influences on here, but nothing is used in a cheap gratuitous manner, all of the elements fit together naturally.

Some standout cuts include “Tinananana” with its Indian dub beat that constantly slips in and out of a double time tabala driven break-beat and “Le Caqnon” with its Bollywood melody and sublime Les Baxter style wordless vocal ending. “Sophie”, with its ambient techno beat topped with Indian flute solos is also nice. This is highly recommended for those who like interesting exotic instrumental music with some modern electronica touches. “Strange” is a very imaginative album that deserves wider recognition.

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