Le Voyage Le Voyage


The Alps The AlpsLe Voyage

6.8 / 10

The Alps  Le Voyage TYPE

The passage from space to progressive within The Alps has been fully consummated. Where before there was more floating electronica –specifically in “Jewelt Galaxies / Spirit Shambles,” the trio’s first album, which was really the joining of two CD-R recordings in a single volume for the Japanese label Spekk– now there are more guitars, as the first auteurs of American free-folk or the prog bands on the Canterbury scene, as well as the more acid, shamanic moments of German rock. That is to say: it’s an unusual triangle in which each vertex is occupied by Robbie Basho (or, in his place, as a substitute, John Fahey ), the early Soft Machine (exchangeable with the rambling Caravan), and the original formation of Faust. This means, to start with, that Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Scott Hewicker, and Alexis Georgopoulos are not lacking referents to nourish the experimental –and fairly intellectualised– proposal for their entertainment apart from their main bands, Tarentel, Arp, and Tussle. Grown men who come from post-rock or mutant disco music where their more acid, hippy, or improvisational referents didn’t fit in without the situation getting out of control, until they needed to form and consolidate The Alps as a safety-valve, as an oxygen cylinder.

The Alps, as can only occur when you give yourself the name of a mountain range, are altitude and space, freedom, and air, although when you look down everything is vertigo. “Le Voyage”, as can only occur when you give an album that name, is a group of pieces that try to create a narrative continuum and, therefore, to draw a landscape in which we can move with absolute freedom. This is the trip that the album refers to, as the music here moves and develops, and also visits places and influences without coming to a stop anywhere specific. “Drop In”, which is the start-up, and which already in the title alludes to acid tests, at times appears to be a reprise of those post-rock Chicago scene albums– I’m talking about the middle-period Tortoise if we took away the jazz passages, or The Sea And Cake if they hadn’t been fascinated with Brazil and bossa– where we heard guitars throwing off harmonic sparks, and alluding to an elastic folk like that of Fahey. But this influence hardly stays there, because The Alps move and get into specific music –samples of Mozart in “Marzipan”, cannon fire from the Napoleonic war, samples of crunchy records sliced with a digital knife, krautrock with a pagan background ( “Crossing The Sands” is more hippy than motorik, more Amon Düül than Neu!), and ambient segments that can’t be classified unless we connect them with the free use that the trio makes of incidental music for films (the brief intros of “Petals” and “The Lemon Tree”, which plays with both the magnetic tape and the aesthetic of 70’s library music).

The problem here is that The Alps camouflage a taste for the old with undeniable technical abilities and a ton of referents that haven’t been used much lately in what is generically known as free-folk. Let’s say that in “St. Laurent” they sound like Genesis, when Peter Gabriel was in Genesis, and we don’t think we’re going out on a limb here. They sound good because they do it with elegance and criteria, but “Le Voyage” is still a retro exercise with a hippy inclination. It is put out by Type, but it could perfectly well be an album from the Twisted Nerve catalogue, and never a reference from the Ghost Box label. The sitar that abounds in “Black Mountain” is indicative of the giant acid trip that they propose, and that moment can go so far as to eclipse the recreation of the musty old soundtracks of Francis Lai or Vangelis, with a little Soft Machine progressive rock for decoration, in “Saturno Contro”. Because the sitar turns out to be the main vertex of the last section of the album, the phase where they take off their masks and everything turns into a thoroughly white, psychedelic groove jam with “Le Voyage” and the semi-noisy, openly Hindu crescendo of “Telepathe”. It is when the album ends that one wonders where their former interest in ambient went, and if there is any possibility that this interest will come back some day. Having seen the progression, it doesn’t look like it will. But at least this acid trip doesn’t cause uncomfortable hallucinations, only a placid feeling of pastoral comfort.

Tom Madsen

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