Album Reviews

Issue 2012-003: Lazuli - 4603 Battements - Round Table Review

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Lazuli - 4603 Battements
Lazuli - (4603 Battements)
Country of Origin:France
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:BZZ 035
Year of Release:2011
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: ( (0:08), Je Te Laisse Ce Monde (5:35), Le Miroir Aux Alouettes (6:05), Dans Le Formol Au Muséum (5:18), 15H40 (4:56), Les Malveillants (7:21), Quand La Bise Fut Venue (2:55), L'azur (4:58), Saleté De Nuit (5:07), Festin Ultime (4:35), ) (1:18)

Alison Henderson's Review

This Gallic quintet completely rewrote the rules of prog rock for me when they headlined on the Friday night at the Summers End Festival in the UK last October and put on one of the best live sets I had ever seen, made even more remarkable because I had only ever heard one track by them before then on a radio show.

Their performance was simply so original, joyous, enchanting and totally compelling with much of the material they played coming from the new album (4603 Battements), which was unfamiliar to all but a few converts present.

So would such a memorable introduction to Lazuli translate from live performance onto CD? The answer of course is a resounding oui.

Again, the album delivers all those elements that make them such a unique proposition in the current prog arena. Its theme centres on time which seems to be a recurring storyline for several prog albums of 2011, with Cosmograf’s When Age Has Done Its Duty being another example.

From the brief opening seconds of (, we are plunged headlong into Je Te Laisse Ce Monde (I Leave You This World), which sounds like a rallying cry from front man Dominique Leonetti who sings with great urgency in his clear, pitch perfect, high register voice. At some points, he literally spits out the words such as “violence” which are underpinned with heavy insistent keyboards and a driving rhythm. After that, it is the crashing chords of Claude Leonetti’s incredible Léode that explode into life along with Gédéric Byar’s piercing guitar.

So scene well and truly set! Where next? To all appearances, perhaps they may have peaked too early with Le Miroir Aux Alouettes, its quiet acoustic opening developing into a lilting little folkie tune with Domi downplaying his vocals to almost below the instrumental line. It is only when he strings out the words in an increasingly frenetic way that you sense something special is about to happen. And sure enough it does as the song suddenly morphs into joyous exaggerated staccato driven rhythms orchestrated by Vincent Barnavol (though it is keyboards player Roman Thorel who appears at the drum-kit in the video of this song).

On top of this pulsating rhythm, so much a hallmark of what they do, come those kaleidoscopic guitar patterns and Arabic scales which drive harder and faster before ebbing away back to a more contained and muted beat.

No time to draw breath before Dans Le Formol Au Museum roars in with huge swathes of guitar riffing underscored with urgent keyboards and a pounding beat, topped by Dominique’s powerful vocals really tearing into the catchiest of melodic hook lines. All this then launches into a huge, swirling guitar frenzy.

If your senses are not reeling by now, then the next two tracks will ensure that they are well and truly flayed. As the clock ticks on again, the jaw droppingly gorgeous recreation of a clock ticking via keyboards, marimba and guitar starts the extraordinary 15H40. It is a nigh- on perfect sound made all the more so when Dominique starts singing in hushed, haunting tones. And from there, it builds into a swelling harmonic melodic sequence with the instruments making the vocals rise ever higher in the mix before it returns to the gentle ticking.

They hit the button marked “Allez” again with the in-your-face Les Maiveillants, a huge sonic attack of a song, the Léode going at full throttle along with blistering guitars, the keyboards and drums moving the whole wonderful mass of sound along beautifully. From there, the tempo and mood change yet again with Quand la Bise Fut Venue, the sweetest, most delicate little acoustic number - and so quintessentially French in all its charm.

L’azur is the last real strike at the solar plexus though not quite so relentless as the other tracks. However, its main riff is the closest thing you are ever likely to hear to I Am The Walrus and again, it is the unique guitar sounds running in tandem with smooth keyboards which again draw you in.

If there is one track here which simply screams utter creative beauty, it is Saleté De Nuit, a musical depiction of a satellite punctuated by the most extraordinary keyboard motif and effects this humble reviewer has ever heard. It makes you want to rush outside and catch the moment as a real satellite passes overhead, it is that evocative.

Festin Ultime provides a rousing finale, another semi acoustic track brimming with melody and character, perhaps with not quite the raw sonic power of the others, but that growling Léode is never far away. And for the encore, ) briefly reprieves the clock ticking and instrumental part of Je Te Laisse Ce Monde, bringing it a full circle.

Not many albums can keep you guessing and marvelling the way (4603 Battements) does throughout. The production is absolutely crystal clear and there is practically nothing to fault in it from start to finish. Lazuli have certainly brightened up my prog world in the most glorious, musically technicolour way.

Andy Read's Review

Certainly one of the most distinctive of the progressive rock bands to emerge out of Europe in the past decade, Lazuli has a unique sound that identifies its music within a few beats. In the past few years, the band finally seems to be getting the attention it deserves with some notable festival and support slots across the world, gaining an enviable reputation as a live act.

I first encountered the band through its third album En Avant Doute. Their distinctive sound and some great songs in the shape of Cassiopée and Laisse Courir quickly led me to acquire their equally enjoyable second album Amnesie.

The combination of Claude Leonetti’s unique instrument the leode, heartfelt vocals of Dominique Leonetti sung in French and the use of acoustic, world and ambient samples can provide a very powerful music soundscape. However their last disc has sat on my shelves since the first few plays. I rather felt it was re-running through old ideas and themes and the songs didn’t really stick in my memory at all. With a few exceptions I am left feeling very similar with this new album.

The exceptions are the brilliant opener Je te Laisse ce Monde, which stands as one of the best songs the band has yet written. I find the clever rhythm and African vibe of Dans le Formol au Museum different, and appealing in its difference. L'azur is just a lovely song. Elsewhere I find the music too one-paced and one dimensional and lacking the sort of melodies that draw me back for more. Maybe if this was the first album I’d ever heard from the band, I’d love it. But I’m left feeling that this is a band that has failed to really progress over its four albums.

Lazuli is a band that’s never practiced extended songwriting but with the first and the last tracks here being no more than seven seconds of ticking and 78 seconds of a fairground ride, then just nine songs and barely 40 minutes of music is lightweight.

These songs certainly jumped to life when I saw the band play live for the first time at the Fifth Anniversary of Progressive Promotion Festival in Germany. They were also judged the standout band at this year's Summers End Festival in England. One of the best live shows I have ever seen, I wonder if Lazuli are just one of those bands that work best for me in a live setting. At the moment this album is likely to spend a lot of time sat on the shelf alongside its predecessor. Disappointing.

Joris Donkel's Review

Due to personal circumstances this review has become severely delayed and with that also the publication of the other 2 reviews in this small Round Table Review. I sincerely apologize to all involved, our readers and especially Lazuli!

Lazuli went through a rough year when 50% of the band decided to quit to pursue other musical adventures. Some fans feared for the existence of the group, but without wanting to disqualify the input and importance of the three band members that left, I still feel it's right to say that the most important figures of the band did not abandon Lazuli. Singer and guitar player Dominique Leonetti, Claude Leonetti with his self-build unique instrument the Léode and frantic guitar player Gédéric Byar were left to search for a new future of their band. Replacing the two percussionists, who also played marimba and vibraphone (which was a strange constellation to begin with), and one guitarist proved not so difficult in the end, but still the personal change brought along some musical changes along with them as well.

First of all the three members were replaced by only two; keyboard and French horn(!) player Romain Thorel and Vincent Barnavol on drums, percussion and marimba. With this new formation they already played at the Herzberg festival in Germany August 2010 where it already became clear what an interesting addition the French horn played by Romain was to the music of Lazuli. So the expectations for the new album, the first one from the new band composition, were quite high; would Lazuli take the next step in their evolution and make Lazuli mark II a significant different enterprise than mark I?

Without wanting to jump to conclusions I must say NO to that question. A short premature conclusion: (4603 Battements) sounds very much like the old Lazuli. I suspect that the influence by old time members Dominique, Claude and Gédéric was still so significant that the input by the two new members on the general sound of Lazuli was still pretty much limited. Maybe this album is a transitional album, bringing them over to the next phase and will the next album truly bring a new revelation and the second life of Lazuli. You can read all about this and more background information in the interview I had with the band a while ago. But for now we must do with this latest album and although it's not the next step we might have expected it's still a solid Lazuli album with all the strong elements we have learned to appreciate and even adore from this marvellous and still very progressive group! Just the best eclectic prog I know.

So even if this album does not offer a brand new sound it surely should not be overlooked, on the contrary; Lazuli have already set a high standard of music production and created a style of their own that is very mesmerizing and intriguing, not to forget highly enjoyable and they're still expanding their fan crowd. Soon Lazuli won't be an obscurity anymore and a bigger name in the prog world, just because almost everyone who hears or sees them gets in their spell instantly (just read the review of my colleague Alison).

So what I can say about this album that hasn't been said before about Lazuli? If you're already familiar with Lazuli this album won't disappoint you and you will most likely already have it for some time. When you're not familiar with this band this album could be a good one to get acquainted, just as the previous three albums. After the intro of the first track, which is actually just a metronome ticking, referring to the title which mentions exactly the number of beats on this album, the first real track kicks in, powerful in the typical Lazuli way. The intro of that songs reminds me to that of Tonight, Tonight, Tonight by Genesis, but after the first few moments it goes in a totally different direction. Just like this one the album offers several more powerful, sometimes even bombastic songs with the guitars, Léode, keyboards and even occasional French horn all contributing to the enchanting sound I've learned to adore and that can totally swallow me and move me into a total state of trance. But also mellow ballads, as always sung with much emotion, sensitivity and an unreal purity, that regularly also end in a sort of building climax. And when you're able to read French you surely must dive into the poetic lyrics of Dominique!

There isn't much I can criticize about this album, it's simply sublime; except maybe it could have been longer! But I still have the feeling that Lazuli has not yet produced their perfect pièce-de-resistance and therefore still can add another level to their creative outings, hence my score.


ALISON HENDERSON : 9.5 out of 10
ANDY READ : 6.5 out of 10
JORIS DONKEL : 8.5 out of 10

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