POTEMKINE

Jazz Related Rock • France
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POTEMKINE Discography

POTEMKINE albums / top albums

POTEMKINE Foetus album cover 3.50 | 3 ratings
Foetus
Jazz Related Rock 1976
POTEMKINE Triton album cover 2.52 | 4 ratings
Triton
Jazz Related Rock 1977
POTEMKINE Nicolas II album cover 3.46 | 3 ratings
Nicolas II
Jazz Related Rock 1978

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POTEMKINE Reviews

POTEMKINE Nicolas II

Album · 1978 · Jazz Related Rock
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Sean Trane
Potemkine’s last album is more of a return to their Foetus origins than Triton was, since we see the return of one of the Goubin brothers (Michel) as a full-time member, but also musically with a return to jazzier-rock than Triton. Armed with a superb artwork, the group’s soundscapes are definitely fusionesque, this could be their easiest album to get into.

The band’s Brand of JR/F is not so much of the X type (less flashy), rather more in the MO, RTF, the Spanish group Iceberg or their countrymen Transit Express mould, but the Zeuhl influence is still resent in some tunes, mainly through Dubuisson’s bass. Yes, we’re very much into the typical mid-70’s fusion wit the usual quartet line-up, so it’s not like the fusionhead will be unsettled, as there are plenty of 100 MPH tracks, namely the excellent Mahavishnu-esque Tango. The following Raspoutine is the only track that refers to the Russian-derived album title.

Sometimes things can get a bit funky with Swing Imaginaire, but they can also slow down to a more delicate Air De Famille, which goes through a wide array of ambiances and dynamics, despite being the second-shortest track on the album – this also goes for the album-shortest Aux Images. The album’s highlight is the slow-starting Ode To Mars that slowly evolves in a scorching rapid-fire fusion, but the closing Amphitheatre Magique is also fine in my book, and the only time on the album where you’ll hear some choirs.

So in terms of accessibility of the music, Nicolas II is easier to get into, but not that much more than their debut foetus album, of which most of the album is featured in the bonus tracks (read my review of that album in the specific Foetus page). Sooo don’t expect Nicolas to sound like Triton, strictly on the assumption that it is the follow-up album, but think of an up-graded but wiser (no violin or choirs) Foetus album. A typical 70’s JR/F album but also their more conventional (IMHO), a bit like there were dozens of them around at the time.

POTEMKINE Triton

Album · 1977 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Sean Trane
Reduced to a trio, Triton is a very different affair, when compared to its predecessor Foetus. First of all the one-time septet that included a prog-best four brothers Goubin (thus beating GG’s three Shulman, but not the Jackson 5 in the non-prog category), is now only a trio, with only two brothers Charles & Philippe (both on piano, but guitar and voices for the former and drums and percs for the latter) and bassist Dubuisson on bass. As you can imagine, these personnel cuts have drastically modified the group’s sound, as we move away from the Mahavishnu Orchestra sound (and to a lesser extent Weather Report and RTF) of their debut Foetus and advance well into mostly-instrumental Zeuhlian/Canterbury soundscapes (which were already present but much more discreet), somewhere between Hatfield, Univers Zero, Magma and Vortex. Much of the sonic changes are of course due to the absence of Vidal’s violin, but the Zeuhl elements in their music on Foetus have slipped from the joyous Zao to the solemn Magma and the depressive UZ on Triton.

Named on the famously "church-forbidden devil-induced chord", it's easy to see why Potemkine sound became all a sudden much more severe and somber (and sober, but that due to the group's trimming to a trio), as they chose to delve into Varese and Bartok, while keeping the jazz influence alive. The opening track Asyle is definitely UZ-inspired (although the Belgians were just releasing their first album the same year, but they'd been around since 73) and Goubin hasn't much that D Denis would lack or envy. The vocals are sufficiently rare, but in the high register. With the ultra-slow and gloomy Crepuscula (this is sounding like the future Shub-Niggurath), then the most distinctive (and fave of mine) and intricate Loolit II, which a rework of the Foetus track of the same name.

After the GG-esque Chant de Viamor opening the flipside, comes the album’s highlight, the 13-mins+ Eiram (Marie in reverse) with tons of interesting passages, including some percussion-only, but the gradual crescendo with the pulsating bass around the fifth and seventh minutes is quite impressive. The second part of the track is much more on Magma’s Milky Way, but can remind me of early Eskaton as well.

The first two bonus tracks are taken from the first album Foetus and can be useful to point out the progress between the two works, but most of you will be on the look out for that first (and a bit elusive) album. You’ll plainly see/hear the Stravinsky-laden jazz-rock of Mahavishnu Orchestra being one of their huge influences on their debut album. The next two tracks are of even much greater interest, since they’re from their debut single recorded three years prior to this album and already hinting at the general Zeuhl/Canterburian musical direction.

Hard to say which of the three Potemkine is the best as they’ve all got their pros and cons, but in face of the difficulty of finding the debut Foetus (it’s always nice to discover a band’s oeuvre chronologically), Triton will be also a more likely good start as it features part of that debut album and the very first recordings of the group which much more accessible. Some would also pretend that Potemkine’s third album is the better intro, because of the stronger rhythms and more conventional chord structures.

POTEMKINE Foetus

Album · 1976 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Sean Trane
Having started as early as 71, the Goubin brothers (four of them at one point) started as a cover garage group; they evolved into this JR/F band upon hearing Weather Report and Mahavishnu Orchestra. After an initial single released in 74, they got the ball rolling with Foetus and its crusader ship of their band name as an artwork, but by that time Dubuisson had taken over the bass and Vidal had appeared on violin. The appearance of the violin will immediately make you think of MO, but more of the Goodman period than the Ponty era. Of course, the main difference between Foetus and the rest of the JR/F pack is the use of wordless vocals, chants and choirs, one that sound rather “female”, despite being the work of the five (male) members. The group’s previous single had a slightly Canterburian feel added to the JR/F musical realm, but with their Foetus, it seems to have disappeared.

The band’s first opus is definitely a tad derivative on its avowed JR/F influences but one can’t really find much Zeuhl in the present album, Foetus still manages to develop its own personality and some excellent and inventive high-pitched choir vocals. But if it is clear that tracks like Laure, or Hymne have MO roots, reinforced by the presence of Vidal’s violin, her tracks like Cedille are much slower-paced, which is a piano-based ambient piece, but things can also get even a tad dissonant with the Golan track. Elsewhere, Vidal’s violin comes dangerously close to coming un-tuned in the middle section of Ballade. Zed is a very repetitive nature, turning over and over its choppy descending riff.

Although Potemkine’s debut album Foetus has never seen a proper CD release (and is not likely to, unless vinyls are reissued), but since all of it came as bonus tracks on their later albums CD reissues, I was able to re-construct their album, and managed a review. According to the great Soleil Zeuhl label reissues’ booklets, the band’s fortunes grew rapidly, opening for MO or Magma and creating an unison project with other French bands from different parts of the country to play concerts in each other’s regions. Despite not getting a proper release, Foetus is a very honest (at times brilliant) JR/F album, a typical product of its time, despite lacking the fully-professional feel of the groups it inspired itself upon, but if you’re interested enough, you will get it through their other two CDs, and it’s very much worth it. Actually I may even prefer it to both Triton and Nicolas II.

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