Christian Boule - Photo Musik (Musea, 1999 [originally 1978]) I’d seen Boule’s name somewhere before, and a quick scan of Musea’s ever-informative liner notes (I genuinely wish all reissues would go to this kind of trouble - five pages of biographical info!) revealed that Boule has played with Cyrille Verdeaux’s Clearlight outfit on multiple occasions and, in fact, Verdeaux is present on this very album. Aha. Not surprisingly, Photo Musik isn’t too far removed from Verdeaux’s material, although Boule’s music is more direct and never marred by Verdeaux’s new-ageisms. Fine by me. The festivities start with “Elastic Minute,” and damned if it doesn’t remind me of Happy the Man’s “Service With a Smile.” Just in spirit, though, since Happy the Man wouldn’t be caught dead with this stoned-out delay and fuzz guitar work. The Propulsive drumming and bubbly synth work also suggest prime Gong and Ozric Tentacles, And Verdeaux’s piano rides high in the mix and takes the song to places none of these other bands ever quite ventured. Can the rest of it be up to this level of quality? Well, yes and no. The title track is a (graciously) short piece with some more of that blissful fuzz guitar and a cute pop/disco hook. It almost overstays its welcome at under three minutes, though, so it’s nice to see that Boule has a sense for when to shut up an’ play his guitar. Things kick back into space rock heaven with the long “Cristal Palace” and its lovely vocal and slightly Gong-ish atmosphere. But by the time the next track boogies its way through the speakers (lifting the guitar riff from “Born To Be Wild,” I might add!) I’m left wondering exactly what Boule was hoping to accomplish here. A fierce space rock album or a bluesy pop disc? It shouldn’t be necessary to pigeonhole it, but it leaves the veteran cosmic rocker in me a bit disappointed at what is shaping up to be a patchy album. Things cohere more in the last half of the album (er... side two?), with four short tracks sharing more of a Clearlight vibe. The ninth and final track, the aptly titled “Orange Climax,” is perhaps the highlight of the album and is a real smoker. If not for the acoustic guitar and piano, this could have been lifted right off Gong’s godly You. Christian’s electric guitar work is at once Steve Hillage (via the spiraling leads) and Daevid Allen (via the glissando guitar that gently closes out the track), while Jean-Pierre Thirault’s sax conjures up Bloomdido Bad de Grasse himself. Jeez, this one is good. And delightfully long! The last track clinches it: it’s definitely in the instrumental tunes that this album shines. Unfortunately, five of the nine tracks have vocals, and these are indeed the weaker of the album’s tracks. Boule does, however, have the good sense to enlist a native English speaker (American Andy Flaten) in singing the English lyrics, while a French lass breathily moans the album’s lone French vocal (which is just lovely and, I might add, backwards). Musea’s usual bonus tracks are in place, and this time around it’s two tracks recorded in 1998 with ex-Gonger Tim Blake on synths. Neither is half as good as most of the album tracks, but it’s nice to see Tim Blake with a gig again. Now rejoin Gong, Mr. Moonweed. More hits than misses, sez me. Gong and Clearlight fans take note and Immediately contact your local prog emporium. This is certainly a welcome reissue and, despite the presence of a couple duff tracks, belongs in the collections of fans of spacey French prog. --Mike Thaxton Tracks: 1. Elastic Minute 4:08 2. Photo Musik 2:44 3. Cristal Palace 7:27 4. 22 Broad Street 4:25 5. Radio-Arc-en-Ciel 2:32 6. 5eme Ocean 2:37 7. Aqua Deva 2:57 8. Inter Galactic Cosmic Triolet 4:03 9. Orange Climax 7:38 Bonus tracks: 10. Comet Hotel 3:07 11. Estella Futur 3:56
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