Lazuli – [4603 Battements]

[4603 Battements], the latest album from the French band Lazuli, is an album that manages to be both pretty good and difficult to recommend.

The title means [4603 Beats], presumably in a musical sense. The first and last tracks are titled “[" and "]” respectively, so my initial assumption was that the album (disregarding the first and last track) contains a total of 4603 musical beats. While I won’t take the time to count out 48 minutes of music, I have no reason to doubt this assumption.

Still, it’s a very intriguing concept – and that is, ultimately, the best description I can give of [4603 Battements]. Some of its tracks are very good, and some are just okay. It’s not a mind-blowing album, but it plays around with some interesting ideas and is worth a look if you’re into that sort of thing

The album begins with a concept that is, to me, very cool. The first track consists entirely of 7 seconds of a metronome beating out the time signature to the following song. At the end of the second track, the metronome reappears and speeds up to match the time signature of the third. Initially, this mechanic appeared to be a neat way of connecting all the tracks (and it does fit in with the album’s concept of “4603 beats”), but it disappears at the ends of certain tracks and at other points does not seem to match the time signature of the following track. I’m not sure what to make of it – when it appears it’s a very intriguing concept (and that is, after all, most of what the album has going for it), but it doesn’t appear with enough consistency to have any discernable meaning.

The second track, Je Te Laisse Ce Monde, is a good start to the album. It is largely indicative of the style of the rest of the tracks, taking a heavier approach to progressive rock with a pounding bass and heavily distorted instruments, interspersed with lighter breaks. About halfway through the track, however, one begins to realize that the same musical strains are being repeated in verse-chorus-verse fashion. Ultimately, this is [4603 Battements]‘s greatest vice. Years of rock and roll have shown that a few strong chords can be repeated endlessly without becoming boring, but eclectic music and repetition do not mix well. Lazuli does often strive for an eclectic style – and they achieve it quite well. The first two minutes of every track on the album are highly enjoyable – but the repetition may become too much for fans of freeform prog. This is not a condemnation – but those bothered by repetition will probably be turned away by [4603 Battements].

The third track, Le Miroir Aux Alouettes, follows enough in the style of the second that it is not notable for the purposes of this review.

The fourth track, Dans Le Formol Au Museum, is a slight departure from the trend of the previous songs. It becomes fairly proggy and pleasing to hear. It’s on the heavier side of prog rock, and occasionally treads into metal territory (but only slightly), but it’s never too heavy to be enjoyable. Despite its progressiveness, though, Dans Le Formol Au Museum’s eclectic nature only really shows up in the form of a standard light-drums repeated-piano-chords guitar solo in the style of Jimi Hendrix. If repetition is [4603 Battements]‘s greatest vice, its second greatest is a fear to try anything new. While this may seem conflicting with my previous statement that intrigue is its best quality, the intrigue generally appears in concept alone.

The fifth track, 15H40, is a nice light interlude between the heaviness of the preceding and following tracks. It’s a very pretty song, and a great showcase of the singer’s voice, but musically not as proggy as the rest of the album. It’s occasionally reminiscent of Spock’s Beard, and fans thereof will probably be equally enamored with Lazuli.

The sixth track, Les Malveillants, is an unfortunate return to the repetitive nature of [4603 Battements]‘s first few tracks. It is still, however, one of the best tracks on the album – it’s not as eclectic as, say, Beardfish or Yes, but is still willing to experiment – and its symphonic nature occasionally reminds one of Ayreon’s 01011001. Les Malveillants greatest quality, though, is that it begins a trend that extends throughout the rest of the album of ending each track with an exploratory passage. Although the main musical strains are repeated a few times, the last third of the track becomes fairly freeform, and these parts are very good – if the entire album consisted of these passages, I’d hold it in high regard.

The seventh track, Quand La Bise Fut Venue, is another song in the vein of 15H40 (and, by extension, Spock’s Beard). Fans of intense prog won’t like it, but the singer’s voice is genuinely beautiful and it’s a good, gentle break (once more as an interlude between two heavy tracks).

The eighth track, L’azur, switches back and forth between lighter akin to 15H40 and heavier parts more like Les Malveillants. Once more, though, it falls into the verse-chorus-verse trap. It’s a good song, with good music, but as with the rest of the album doesn’t take much variation outside of its two primary musical strains until two thirds of the way through the song, when, like with Les Malveillants and Dans Le Formol Au Museum, it becomes more exploratory musically. As I stated before, these sections are pretty great – I only wish they started earlier without requiring 2-3 repetitions of the verse-chorus-verse format.

The ninth track, Saleté de Nuit, is probably the most unique of the album. It features a syncopated synth with strange electronic musical effects in the background. This uniqueness isn’t necessarily a good thing, but it’s a good track. Once more I’m reminded of Spock’s Beard – there’s not much going on musically, but it’s still a pretty, intriguing song.

The tenth track, Festin Ultime, starts out quite calm (once more acting as a showcase for the singer’s voice), but picks up as it revisits all the musical styles that appeared in preceding tracks. It’s actually quite an excellent track, and easily my favorite, as its entire course mimicks the exploratory parts of earlier songs. Although it occasionally reworks musical strains that appeared elsewhere in [4603 Battements], Festin Ultime manages to be largely a unique piece, and it’s a shame that it’s only four minutes long.

The final track, “]”, is a repetition of what appears to be the main musical theme of the album, eventually fading into ambience. It’s not a shining musical piece, but it’s a fitting end to what is, overall, an above-average album.

[4603 Battements] does not have one single unifying style. Throughout its course i was reminded in equal parts of Beardfish, Spock’s Beard, Ayreon and Jimi Hendrix. Although this makes it difficult to recommend to any specific demographic, it accomplishes all the styles it attempts quite well, and it is by no means a bad album.

At times it even feels difficult to call [4603 Battements] a progressive album. Fans of Spock’s Beard and Ayreon alike may be intrigued by Lazuli’s vocal-centric approach to the progressive genre, although those who like only one of the aforementioned artists will probably be turned away by its diverse musical style.

Tracklist:

[ - 0:08
Je Te Laisse Ce Monde - 5:35
Le Miroir Aux Alouettes - 6:05
Dans Le Formol Au Museum - 5:18
15H40 - 4:56
Les Malveillants - 7:20
Quand La Bise Fut Venue - 2:56
L'azur - 4:58
Saleté de Nuit - 5:07
Festin Ultime - 4:35
] – 1:18

Line-up:

* Claude Leonetti – Léode*
* Dominique Leonetti – vocals, guitar, mandolin
* Gédéric Byar – guitar
* Romain Thorel – keyboards, French horn
* Vincent Barnavol – drum, percussions, marimba

Links:

http://www.lazuli-music.com/

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.

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