JULIAN JULIEN — Terre (review)

JULIAN JULIEN — Terre album cover Album · 2000 · Nu Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
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...
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