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Music Review: Bruno Letort – Lignes

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French composer Bruno Letort has been recording since the early eighties. He is nothing if not diverse, having played in jazz, rock, and classical groups. His latest release, Lignes combines all of these and more into an intoxicating blend of music. The 11 tracks that comprise Lignes are loosely based on the novel of the same name by Ryu Murakami. Like D.W. Griffith’s classic Intolerance (1916), Murakami’s work deals with mankind’s seemingly endless propensity for self-destruction.

One need not be familiar with to book to enjoy Lignes however. This is a disc that almost defies description, although it does lend itself to comparisons to early works by CAN or Magma at some points. Legendary Magma vocalist Klaus Blasquix even appears on the record, singing the outrageous “Les Autres.”

The disc begins with “Mukai,” which sets up the slowly building theme of dementia quite well. The ethereal voice of Japanese pop singer Kumi Okamoto follows on “Takayama.” Her beautiful vocal instrument is brilliantly offset by the nervous strings of the Musiques Nouvelles chamber orchestra.

The contrast between ghostly magnificence and discordant intimidation is at the heart of Lignes. More notable examples of the twin forces at work include “Yukari,” “Kaoru,” and “Junko.” The CAN influence is most prominent on “Fumi.”

“Yuko,” and “Minako” blend together almost as a single piece. At one point, they sound like a transmission being received from outer space. It is almost as if Kraftwerk’s Radio Activity was sent out into the ozone 35 years ago, and we are just now picking up the alien response.

At 12:19, final cut “Les Autres” is clearly the big “statement” Letort intended. This is also the song Blasquix appears on. Any similarities to Magma begin and end there however. “Autres” is a strange tune, unlike anything else on the record. It is something of a blues, with prominent “protest” lyrics sung in English. The melody is catchy as hell though.

Although Bruno Letort is fairly well known in Europe, especially in his home country, many in the US are unaware of him. Hopefully Lignes will change that, it is one of the most adventurous albums I have heard in quite some time.

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