View Full Version : Etron Fou Leloublan - Batelages

Oct-16-2007, 17:05
Another favorite of mine. Comments welcome.

Of all the eccentric bands in Henry Cow’s Rock In Opposition movement, Etron Fou Leloublan (whose name roughly translates to “Crazy **** of the Elusive Sheep,” an apt title) was probably the zaniest. Their music is completely off-the-wall, mixing your traditional power duo core (Guigou Chenevrier on drums and Ferdinand Richard on bass guitar and guitar) with an ever-revolving cast of lead vocalists and saxophonists (and I mean ever-revolving; on their first four albums, they had four different sax players NOT including Guigou, who also plays sax). The result is some of the most endearing music ever created, a humorous and eclectic concoction of great ideas and pure energy.

I am clearly in the minority here, but I generally find that I prefer Batelages, their debut, to their later albums (though there is the odd day that I prefer Les Poumons Gonfles). Batelages features a less song-oriented format than their later releases, with one long epic and two songs each around ten minutes in length forming the core of the album, backed by two brilliant shorter songs. The overall sound is hard to describe, but imagine jazzy saxophone (does sax ever NOT sound jazzy?) on top of music with a proto-punk energy that features many staccato starts and stops with the drums. Speaking of the drums, I must say that while the sax is fantastic and probably the defining factor in Etron Fou’s music, I find myself most attracted to the drums. Guigou ranks among my top ten drummers of all time, largely for his work on this album (though he’s stellar on every Etron Fou album, as well as on Volapuk’s albums, where he is also featured). The vocals tend to be harsh, but not altogether unfriendly. They are not the highlight of the album (that’d be the drums and sax), but I find them highly enjoyable, and that’s enough for me.

Batelages opens with its strongest piece, the epic “L’amulette et le Petit Rabbin,” a fun song that jumps about through many sections representing all sorts of musical styles, all infused with a terrific ability to groove, which is a quality that I love in music (proof: Can is my favorite band). Indeed, even if you cannot stand their music, the one thing you must recognize about Etron Fou is that they know how to groove. Back on topic, however, this epic will win you over with its humor and charm. For example, in the second to last section, there is a period where every line is punctuated by some percussion sound effect. Some chanting ensued, followed by a closing section that is a brilliant parody of the bombastic closing sections of such epics as “Supper’s Ready” and “A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers” (or, at least, it feels like a parody of those).

After that song left me breathless, you’d think the rest of the album would have a hard time living up to it. You would be wrong, however, as the remaining four tracks are all astounding. “Sololo Brigida” is essentially a drum solo (though there are some effects), and it really showcases the brilliant Guigou Chenevrier. Drums are truly an underrated instrument, and this song dispels the notion that drum solos are inferior to, say, guitar solos. Then, on “Yvett’ Blouse,” we hear a short jazzy groove piece similar to Can’s “Pnoom,” but less atonal. After these two short pieces, it’s time for the other two highlights of the album, the instrumental “Madame Richard Larika” and the vocal “Histoire De Graine.” The former is a jazzy piece that’s tons of fun, while the latter is a more groove-oriented song that’s… tons of fun.

That, in essence, is Etron Fou Leloublan’s excellent debut in a nutshell: tons of fun. This album overflows with energy and childish joy. These guys are not afraid to goof around, and they manage to make it sound very good because they have no reservations. It’s easy to see why Henry Cow picked them to join the Rock In Opposition movement. However, unless you know you like groovy avant-garde rock music, you’d probably be better off starting with Les Poumons Gonfles, an album that is nearly as good but a lot more accessible. Ultimately, though, you’ll want to get them all, as they are all very good albums. Just make sure not to get the 43 songs compilation album, which contains them all but in a terrible format. I give this excellent album 4.5/6 stars (near masterpiece). This is an album everyone should hear.

Aug-27-2010, 13:53
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