Maneige

Maneige

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Maneige's first album remains their most daring and their best, the second of these judgments not valid only as the consequence of the first. Yes, the music pushed more toward free improv passages (in "Le Rafiot") and clever dissonances, but these are well wrapped in good melodies elsewhere and never feel gratuitous. No matter how mainstream the group would later attempt to be, the musicians rarely topped the quality of the writing found on this LP. It's tight, rich, and varied, with luscious instrumentation. The production is also excellent, each instrument (close to a dozen at times and mainly acoustic) clearly defined and beautifully recorded. The first side is filled with the 21-minute epic "Le Rafiot" (a decrepit boat), an instrumental tour de force. Beginning in the free improvised currents of a tempest, the piece makes its way through two main melodies stated by Alain Bergeron's flute and a series of variations that act like a loose, wordless narrative. The piece was written by Jérôme Langlois, the group's fervent modernist. Flashes of Zappa, Varèse, and Messiaen intertwine with prog rock stylings. Side two features three short pieces by drummer Gilles Schetagne and bassist Yves Léonard, later to become Maneige's main composers. "Une Année Sans Fin" is a complex workout that will delight fans of challenging prog rock. "Jean-Jacques" foretells the album Ni Vent...Ni Nouvelle, while "Galerie III" sends a typical catchy Schetagne melody back on the boat of the first piece. Released on Harvest in 1975, this album has yet to be reissued.

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