Jean Cohen-Solal

Flutes Libres/Captain Tarthopom

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This reissue drags Jean Cohen-Solal's two solo albums out of oblivion in style. It puts both his 1971 LP, Flûtes Libres, and his 1973 LP, Captain Tarthopom, on a single CD, adding a brand new seven-minute piece ("Quelqu'un 2003") to round things up. The music belongs to the more experimental end of early progressive rock, drawing from classical and psychedelic music, with hints of Krautrock. Then again, much like other French artists from that period like Jacques Berrocal or Fille Qui Mousse, Cohen-Solal's music defies categorization. Friendlier than those artists' because of its heavier reliance on melody, it gets its uniqueness from the instrumentation. Besides being a skilled flutist, Cohen-Solal also plays organ, piano, and double bass. These instruments form the core of Flûtes Libres, adding only tabla and sitar for "Raga du Matin." Often considered to be the weakest of the two albums, it must not be overlooked. The fact that it lacks drums and guitar actually means that it takes more risks. The "Concerto Cyclique" messes around with concerto and bolero forms. "Quelqu'un," which filled all of side two on the original LP, contains some very interesting passages where bowed double bass and organ drone together. For Captain Tarthopom, Cohen-Solal recruited extra musicians to play electric guitar and bass, drums, trumpet, trombone, and Ondes Martenot -- although these instruments don't appear all at once in the same piece. "Ludions," "Intime Panique," and "Fossette Surprise" all feature a driving rock beat and fluttering multi-tracked flute parts, giving the album more of a Jean-Pierre Rampal-goes-Krautrock feel. "Mémoires d'un Ventricule," ten minutes long, picks up where "Quelqu'un" had left, alternating rich atonal textures and beat-driven outbursts in a way that strongly evokes Faust and Neu! The new piece, "Quelqu'un 2003," is a dizzying computer construction of flute, double bass, and electronics, proving that Cohen-Solal's music can make it and has made it to the 21st century. Recommended.

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