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8 reviews/ratings
SOFT MACHINE - Third Jazz Related Rock | review permalink
EMBRYO - Embryo's Reise World Fusion | review permalink
MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA - The Inner Mounting Flame Fusion | review permalink
JULIAN JULIEN - Terre II Jazz Related Improv/Composition | review permalink
RETURN TO FOREVER - Romantic Warrior Fusion | review permalink
JULIAN JULIEN - Terre Nu Jazz | review permalink
YOJO - Yojo Jazz Related Rock | review permalink
YOJO - Abduction Jazz Related Rock | review permalink

Jazz Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Jazz Related Rock 3 4.33
2 Fusion 2 4.25
3 Jazz Related Improv/Composition 1 4.00
4 Nu Jazz 1 4.00
5 World Fusion 1 5.00

Latest Albums Reviews

YOJO Abduction

Album · 2016 · Jazz Related Rock
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Elegance and melancholy embracing post-jazz

Second effort by Russian instrumental quintet YOJO, "Abduction" develops the classy and smoky ambiance depicted in the band's first opus, however with a few evolutions. Still displaying impressions of desolation and sadness, the music becomes softer, less oppressive, more jazz-oriented. The orchestration is reinforced by the presence of five invited wind instrumentalists. The guitars are less present and aggressive, resulting in a smoother listening experience than on the band's eponymous debut.

Once again, the surrealistic cover art - this time reminding René Magritte - faithfully transcribes the album's content. The compositions offer a sensation of something vanishing, an evanescent humanity in the modern crowded world, like if people were feeling more and more stranger to each other...

The opener is contradictory reference to the famous 70's fusion band. "Weather Report" is not funky, but rather a nice fusion/jazz title, soothing and mesmerizing instead. The cool "Contact" is quite somber and depressive, whereas the delicate "5 A.M." reveals bright moments of hope immersed in an enigmatic atmosphere. Our journey through the mysterious haze continues with "Cold Case", a soft heavy prog track, and the interrogative touching "Wipers", full of melancholy.

The "Tourist" from this record can only wander into a desolated land, maybe populated in appearance, but empty in essence. Driven by trumpet, this sad and soft waltz is pleasant, although a bit lengthy. The relaxing "Swell" displays rather strange obscure lights progressively increasing in intensity, until a free-jazz explosion. Back to depression with the nostalgic "Jump in the Mirror", evoking alternatively an once familiar but now torn environment, the mirror being the transition bridge. The emotional trip ends with the longest track of the disc, "Hazebook". Certainly a pun referring the well-known social network, these 7 minutes of sorrow are calm, sensitive, nearly aquatic. Is nowadays' ocean of over-connectivity just made of individual drops of loneliness? Perhaps...

More accessible than their first opus, "Abduction" offers a clever and suave revisit of post-rock / heavy-prog through jazz's orchestration and mindset. Again, the interest is present and the composition quality is homogeneous. Well anchored in the 21th Century and its human interrogations, YOJO confirms its talent by refining its musical style, painting melancholic, smoky, dehumanized vanishing landscapes. Another land of grey and pink...

As a conclusion, if you enjoy original and elegant modern jazz soundscapes, don't let this album being "abducted" from you!


Album · 2013 · Jazz Related Rock
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Post-rock wearing the clothes of Jazz

A pterodactyl flying over a cloudy megalopolis... This surrealistic black and white cover picture suits the music very well: light and floating, classy and sober. YOJO's promising eponymous debut offers a fluent and clever mixture of post-rock atmospheres with cool jazz, plus a touch of heavy prog for the depressive mood. Instrumental, driven by the trumpet and supported by guitars, this hazy soundtrack well depicts impressions of loneliness and melancholy, the elegant way. Furthermore, the compositions are quite accessible and of constant quality.

The suave jazzy "Sundiver" is dark and enigmatic, like if you were wandering through a rainy city, looking at unknown faces. Then the track turns more dynamic. Beautiful! The mournful trumpet describes a desolated landscape all over the slow and changing "VHS", while the ethereal "Pterodactyl" is rather mystical with its raging and floating guitar. Magic! You'll be immersed into an ocean of despair hearing "Captain Kirk Had a Bad Day", and intrigued by a mysterious light through the smoky "Waltz"

Longest title of the album, "Alien" is also the strangest. From a spacey free-jazzy background, the music glows in the dark using changing rhythms and cool bass lines, reminding John Surman at times. Featuring a dialog from David Lynch's "Eraserhead", the gloomy "Aftermath" is quite pleasant, while the heavy progressive "Double Henry" is the rockiest passage of the disc. The ender, "Rough Sleeper", is divided in two sections. The first half is an atmospheric hazy ballad including samples from the monologue "How Should I Live, Angels?", written and narrated by Russian writer Mikhail Zhvanetsky. The second half turns more towards free jazz and contains this time a speech by Barack Obama. Enjoyable but too long and a little dissonant for my tastes.

YOJO's first effort is very convincing and promising. This elegant and clever arrangement of post-rock and heavy prog with jazz is really original and inventive. The perfect soundtrack for a lonely rainy day, looking down at the city and its swarming interlaced lives through the window, wondering, observing, feeling like a stranger who doesn't fit in... Finally, like the pterodactyl on the cover art...

A band to keep an eye on, very recommended to modern jazzscapes fans!


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 · 1971 · Fusion
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The primal flame to really fused jazz and rock?

This is perhaps what a volcanic eruption may sound like...

First effort of one of the big 3 fusion bands of the 70's, with WEATHER REPORT and RETURN TO FOREVER, "The Inner Mounting Flame" can be considered as the first record to genuinely combine the raw fury of hard rock with free unconstrained jazz. Of course, funk, jazzy rock or jazz incorporating rock elements have already been heard since the end of the 60's, but I cannot think any other artist went so far in this fusion of genres before. Compared to pioneering records such as Miles Davis' "In a Silent Way" or Frank Zappa's "Hot Rats", "The Inner Mounting Flame" marks a clear evolution. This debut album is a pure magma, an acoustic and electric maelstrom sculpting heavy musical mantras inside mountains. Jazz, rock, blues and Indian ragas find themselves melted together to fuel an unique loud, rapid and mystical fire, with multiple uncommon time signatures and complex rhythms.

Like most line-ups from this time period, MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA's members are all virtuosi in their respective instrument and form a true dream-team: incredible guitarist John McLaughlin, who just spent 2 years at Miles Davis' school to record no less than pioneering albums, organist Jan Hammer, who will later compose Miami Vice theme, whirlwinding violinist Jerry Goodman, bassist Rick Laird and extraordinary drummer Billy Cobham. The fast and spiritual aspects of the music is logical when you know John McLaughlin was the only composer as well as a disciple of the Indian guru Sri Chinmoy. That's certainly where these stylistic choices come from.

The disc opens with the incandescent "Meeting Of The Spirits". Violin and drum explodes in a lava of burning guitars. Wow! After all this condensed fury, "Dawn" arrives as a welcomed spacey pause. A calm beautiful jazzy and bluesy kind of ballad. Then appears the raging "Noonward Race". This high-speed delirium jazzy hard-rock can stand for an overboosted jam. In contrast, "A Lotus On Irish Streams" is the perfect soundtrack to wander barefoot in peaceful hanging gardens. A bit mystical and dominated by Jan Hammer's relaxing keyboard textures, this track is a delicate and soothing passage.

Back to life with "Vital Transformation", maybe the hottest and grooviest composition of the album. Not really sounding like an ancient Center American ritual, "The Dance Of Maya" starts with a dark oppressive pattern. This first half tends to become a little repetitive though. Then it surprisingly mutates into a heavy blues-rock! The slow desert jam "You Know, You Know" is enjoyable, nonetheless not varied enough. The record finishes in fireworks with its wildest track, "Awakening". A thundering and breathtaking piece, fast-paced, with multiple breaks and corrosive moments. Guitar, bass, violin, keyboards, drums, each musician displays his virtuosity here!

As the debut opus of a legendary band, "The Inner Mounting Flame" was already, and still remains nowadays, a true sonic blast, stunning and innovative. Such an advanced mixture of hard rock with complex time signatures in the improvisational jazz mold was never heard at the dawn of the 70's.

Simply an essential listen for anyone interested in fusion music. Not the most accessible MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA offering, but undoubtedly their rawest!

EMBRYO Embryo's Reise

Album · 1979 · World Fusion
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The ultimate fusion journey to Asia

"Reise" is the German word for "Travel", and that's exactly what the album has to offer here: a genuine musical journey... to the East. After the band's average jazz/rock/world releases during the second half of the 70's (last good album being 1973's "We Keep On"), EMBRYO's leader Christian Burchard decided to save his baby and brought with him the other members for a long trip, from Middle-East to India. During their journey, they met various local musicians, played jam sessions and recorded tracks in their company.

Instead of the band's initial jazz/rock/ethnic approach, the music is clearly oriented towards middle-eastern, oriental and Indian styles this time. Most compositions combine these genres with progressive rock (like the great "Kurdistan" and "Farid"), or even punk ("Eis Ist, Wie's Ist"), while others are fully oriental (like the Indian "Chan Delawar Khan" and "Rog de Quadamuna Achna"). As you may expect, the palette of instruments used is very large. The result is astonishing and mesmerizing. This fusion of musical genres was quite original at the time. Furthermore, there are no weak on the record. Such a little treasure will make you travel from desert sands to ancient Asian temples, through mystical lands.

This 1979 opus was the first double album of the band. However, the most common released version nowadays is the single CD edition, which does not include the songs "Paki Funk", "Maharaj" and "Lassie, Lassie", but this does not matter much.

"Embryo's Reise" is one of the finest examples of "world music", presenting a genuine and unique crossing of Occidental and Eastern genres. Even 40 years after, such mastery in mixing these musical ingredients from opposite origins remains still rare. Highly recommended if you enjoy middle-eastern and Indian music! Simply one of the best albums from EMBRYO!

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