Album Reviews

Issue 2024-043

Duo Review

Philmore — Zébulon

Philmore - Zébulon
Zébulon (4:50), BBC (Boogie Bop Charlie) (4:48), Decade (3:52), Beer Drinkers (3:07), Dreams In Dunkirk (3:58), Evinrude (4:09), High Speeds Traffic (3:14), 16 Impasse Transversale (2:00), Feel More (4:11)
Jerry van Kooten

Philmore (styled as PHIL|MORE on the album but as Philmore in text) comprises French musicians Phil Ammeloot (guitar, bass) and François "French" Moreau. Both have a long history playing in several bands, some of them together, playing from rock to prog rock to fusion. Some artists they are linked to: ESPG, Tape Five, Ça! / Here!, Tumble Home, Didier Malherbe, Soft Heap (ex Soft Machine), EAO Quartet, Gong, Ultramarine, Pharaho...

The way we at DPRP HQ received this album shows the love that has gone into it. We receive LPs now and then, but this is something else. A private release on vinyl in a gatefold sleeve, with the CD version on a hub that is attached to the gatefold — I've never seen anything like this. It also contains a 2-pane poster of the photo that is on the outside of the gatefold, printed on both sides, plus an 8-page full-colour booklet. All that plus a hand-written letter. Now that is just charming.

gatefold outside, also the artwork for the front of the included poster

Given that list of bands, I had some expectations of the music. In the end, those were partly met, and the other part was a nice surprise.

The inescapable fusion sound gave me a lot of pleasant Dixie Dregs vibes, but in a modernised way. With just two people, they sure know how to mix multiple layers and tracks into a full-bodied sound.

Although fusion is used as a style by itself, the word implies bringing in different styles. And that is where this album is showing its delight. Beer Drinkers is incorporating some blues rock, and making for a great title. The result reminds me of the delightful Los Lobotomys sound.

BBC is more towards jazz. The booklet has a lot of information on each track and for this one it says it was an experiment of how their dream combination of Charlie Parker and Allan Holdsworth would sound. I am not a jazz fan per se but this is a successful experiment, I would say.

The unexpected part I mentioned was that at several times I got the impression they were trying to mix in some neo-prog and modern prog elements, which is not something you hear in fusion, usually. A stronger emphasis on melody than jazz playing makes it much more friendly to a prog-minded ear.

gatefold inside with the hub for the CD

In conclusion, what we have here is an album that is firmly based in fusion and is expanding into different directions without losing the plot. The end product is fresh and modern-sounding in excellent production, housed in a great package.

We were warned that there was no website for Philmore yet. The letter says the LP+CD you can order the LP+CD for 25 Euros (excluding postage). You can find contact details and samples on Ammeloot's SoundForge page or contact them via their new Facebook page. I hope they make it a little easier (Bandcamp, own website) to get this album, because the album deserves it.

Philmore, promo photo

Jan Buddenberg

After parting ways with my record player many moons ago I in approximately 2015 decided to rekindle my fondness for vinyl again and bought a new one. First of all to finally be able to listen to the collections of albums I own that are still not released on CD. And second to sometimes indulge by opting for a vinyl copy instead of a CD in order to relive the nostalgic feel of unpacking something of substantial size. Followed by careful placing of the precious needle into the groove and then enjoy the rotation of the music.

A third reason, non-existent in 2015 for me, involves the possibility to listen to the rare occasional vinyl promo we receive at DPRP headquarters. This time around most generously provided by the French based duo Philmore, an abbreviation that stands for PHIL Ammeloot (guitar, bass, effects, loops) and François "French" MOREau (drums, percussion). Accompanied by a poster and a booklet that includes elaborating liner notes the wonderful independently released gatefold album also includes a CD copy for convenience. Which I confess to have played many more times over than the actual vinyl, simply because I wanted to preserve the pristine beautiful black look. I'm pretty sure it would have turned transparent grey over the last few months in light of the excellent progressive fusion entrusted to Zébulon!

The first aspect noticed once the needle hits the opening chord of Zébulon is the crystal clear and lively sound production achieved by sound engineer José Barroy. Echoing a delightful 80s sound similarity to efforts of Mountain and ZZ-Top, it places every instrument distinctively clear in the mix, which perfectly suits the dynamic crispiness of the engaging groovy Steve Morse meets Steve Negus fusion that sets my heart on fire in this energetic to the point arranged melodic opener.

The second aspect, besides the (as it turns out) overall demonstrated solid rhythm foundation and well-structured harmonious nature of the compositions, is Ammeloot's outstanding agile guitar play. A revelation of sorts he effortlessly shifts from subtlety to shred whilst combining melody with rock, and over the course of the album ignites many of memory of illustrious guitar greats.

BBC (Boogie Bop Charlie), a variegated rocker designed with a riff that recalls the mighty Dan Huff (Giant), provokes enticing fusion visions of Ian Crichton (Saga) and Alan Holdsworth. While moments later in Beer Drinkers both Ammeloot and French put on their cheap sunglasses and masterly lay down the blues with an integrated touch of ZZ-Top swagger that would surely meet the approval of one Billy Gibbons. And 16 Impasse Transversale adds intricately atmospheric elegance in style of Michel Héroux.

Two exceptionally crafted songs that stand out differently are Decade and Dreams In Dunkirk. Out of these Decade delivers big delicious funky bass with spiritedly performed groovy melodies that briefly reminisce on Saga before a swinging bridge with trumpet alters its scenery. Dreams In Dunkirk offers comfortingly calm refined jazz with soothing Satchmo-style rhythm & blues trumpet.

High Speed Traffic flexibly manoeuvres from bass-enraptured groovy melodies into a climax of melodic Steve Morse Band brightness, and Evinrude fuses challenging elements of Rush with those of elegant guitar-driven prog-metal. It is in the tightly arranged and excitingly impressive — quite possibly inspired by Buck Dharma (Blue Oyster Cult) — Feel More that the penny drops about the final reference to "PHIL|MORE", and I am not talking about phonetics here. Namely, an analogy to the Guitar's Practising Musicians series which between 1989 - 1994 compiled new and unreleased tracks from six-string masters like Leslie West, Vivian Campbell, Paul Gilbert, Steve Lukather, and Steve Morse to name but a few. Based on Ammeloot's excellent all-roundness I like to think that the grand majority of Zébulon's mature fusion song material would have fitted these records rather nicely.

Available directly upon contact via email ( or via their Facebook page, Philmore's Zébulon is all in all a beautifully designed package perfectly matched in musical attraction. I wouldn't go as far in recommending those who don't own one to buy a record player along with it, but if electrifying prog fusion with a final short list of additional names like Corrado Rustici and Joe Satriani is too your liking, then I would certainly start to consider it, because this is an impressive album fully worth exploring.

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