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Julian Julien - Strange CD (album) cover


Julian Julien


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.76 | 19 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Strange is a 2006 release by Julian Julien, a French artist recently added to the site database. Julian contacted a little while ago asking me to review this album, something which came as a bit of a surprise to me (a pleasant surprise, but a surprise, nonetheless), given that out of the 200-odd reviews I have done for this site, not one has fallen into the Rio/Avant Prog category. I am known for a few things, but my knowledge of this particular sub-genre is not amongst them.

So, given this, how would I take to it? Well, I am pleased to say that my reaction to this album is one of distinct pleasure. It is very good, with a wide range of sounds, excellent musicianship, and a delightful eccentricity that delights the more you listen.

The album also manages that rather difficult feat for a work almost devoid of any lyrics by transporting the listener to the place where the song intends. As no finer example, I cite the marvellous Cirque. Julian's keyboard work is exemplary on this, and you see before you the animals rushing around the ring, and the trapeze artists swirling. He saves his best keyboard work until last, though, on the superb untitled/bonus track on the CD, where, at the denouement, his organ playing is a joy.

There are some very talented musicians appearing here as well. I love the violins of Andre Jarca & Koo Young-Euu (they shine on Charlotte, a joyous track which I interpret as a homage to a loved one), Garik Heorhi-Anishchanka plays some lovely cello, the sitar of Michel Guay adds a very welcome World Music feel to proceedings, Djamel Laroussi is a good guitarist & bassist, the tabla of Apurbo Mukherjee adds a vibrancy to What's Democratie? in particular, and in Karim Toure we have a world class percussionist.

The voices and the whole mid Asian feel to What's Democratie? more than adequately convey the question the author is seeking to answer, although I suspect that it is as much beyond him as the rest of us.

My personal favourite on the album is the five and a quarter minute long Cosmos, a journey which has at its heart a vibrant piano, together with upbeat drums and effects, and mournful strings combining to create its own space to allow the mind to picture its trek. I'm sure that Julian would not mind me stating that this is the one track that comes closest to the type of eclectic symphonia that bands such as King Crimson made so well in the heyday of the early 1970's.

The longest track on the album is the seven minute title track, Strange. Laroussi's guitar work is a joy here, and the whole track has the feel of a band effort, rather than a mere solo artist with backing. It is a smorgasbord of avant experimentation and ethnic interpretation, so strange indeed, but all rather enjoyable. The bassline and piano lead holding it all together are fantastic.

Other highlights include the beautiful sound of Tinananana, full of Eastern promise, some wonderful sampling effects and keyboard work on the warm Sophie, and the soulful and melancholic Nocturne Indien, which I understand to be based upon a French film of the same name. The strings and sampling on this are an absolute delight, and it never once loses the attention of the listener.

So, my first foray into the world of Rio/Avant, and what I will say is that for fans of this particular type of music, this album comes very highly recommended. However, perhaps more to the point, for those of you who very rarely dare to move out of the symphonic, neo, or crossover world of prog, this one might well tempt you to explore a little bit more daringly. It certainly will with me. I also think that those of you who enjoy releases by labels such as Real World will find much to enjoy here.

It is not a masterpiece, by any means, but what it is, is a very intelligent piece of work, and one that, to my great surprise, only caught my attention wondering with noodling on a couple of occasions.

3.5 stars, if we had such a rating, but uplifted to four stars for awakening me to a new world of music, and one that I will explore more in the future. An excellent addition to any prog rock collection.

lazland | 4/5 |


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