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Cheval Fou - Cheval Fou CD (album) cover


Cheval Fou



3.01 | 9 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
3 stars 'Cheval Fou' - Cheval Fou (48/100)

For every band that found a place of significance in the progressive rock pantheon, there are at least a dozen that time never saw fit to remember. In some cases, it was a matter of the band simply not being good enough; in others, it may have been due to lack of commitment, inspiration or luck. Yet thanks to records like PsychUp and the widespread use of digital file sharing, these once-forgotten acts have been given another chance to be heard. So it is for Cheval Fou, a French krautrock act that never left the demo stage. Cheval Fou (or 'Crazy Horse') would eventually develop into the spacier Nyl and release a more realized LP in 1976 (with Jannick Top in the credits as guest bassist no less!); all we have from Cheval Fou is this collection of recordings from '71-75.

When reviewing Nyl's self-titled, I wrote that it felt like their compositions had been written solely as a framework for performance and musicianship; the songwriting was nothing without the way it was presented. I feel similarly about the French trio's work as Cheval Fou, except instead of their technique and skill with performing, it's effects and texture that are getting the showcase. At seventy minutes in length, there isn't a single song or riff that stands out or merits respect for the way it was written. When there are conventional riffs, they're kept minimalistic to the point where you might have thought Cheval Fou were intentionally trying to keep it simple. There is a wide variety of material on these demos, ranging from murky ambient to driving rock rhythms, but never once does the miasma solidify into something focused or memorable. The production is about as lo-fi as you can get without recording with a banana and a tree stump, and while the garage-style production would have hurt the music in most cases, Cheval Fou's murky krautrock sensibilities benefit from it.

Ultimately, in spite of its no-budget recording and forgettable songwriting, Cheval Fou are saved in large part due to their work with soundscapes. It sometimes feels as if rock instrumentation has been tossed in a cauldron and broiled to the point where the effects are louder than the instruments themselves. Echoes are aplenty, and the vocals (when they're there) are usually screeched and off-key. Somehow, the atmosphere works: Cheval Fou make themselves out to be unlikely adepts in the art of creepy atmosphere. Don't let the colourful cover and psychedelic improvisations fool you; there are moments on this album that get downright frightening. I know it's a central aim of psychedelic rock to mimic some element of mental distortion, but few are able to explore its frightening implications like Cheval Fou do here. That potential makes it all the more disappointing; with this excellent grasp of atmosphere, Cheval Fou could have done something great if the rest of their craft had been improved upon. Alas, no amount of effects can help forgive essentially weak compositions. Close, yet so far away...

More a demo compilation than a full-length, this weird trip into lo-fi psychedelia only ever found a release in 1994 with the short-lived Legend Records, and more recently in 2011 with PsychUp. Its production values are about what you'd expect from an early 70's demo, and it comes off as a largely aimless reproduction of hazy Krautrock aesthetics. For what it lacks in composure, however, Cheval Fou conjure some fiercely mind-bending soundscapes and ambient effects here; it's a shame they never went any farther with it than this.

Conor Fynes | 3/5 |


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