Prince des Hauteurs

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Motis has managed to find a way to blend progressive rock and French medieval songs without coming off sounding too obviously like Malicorne. The fact that the trio members are writing their own songs instead of adapting traditional tunes has a lot to do with it. But one could easily hear in their spirited melodies the influence of latter-day Gabriel Yacoub, along with the softer side of Jethro Tull and the symphonic leanings of Ange. Prince des Hauteurs is not quite a mature work, but it holds considerable promise. Among the flaws is the opening "Roman de Renard," one of the weakest tracks because of its clumsy and somewhat gratuitous shifts between acoustic medieval-esque verses and electric prog rock choruses. Also, the lyrics to some of the songs are overcrowded, forcing the singer to cram unnatural numbers of words into melodies that thus become rushed and cluttered. On the other hand, the musicianship is more than adept (with special kudos to the flutist) and the writing in general allies a certain originality with a listener-friendly attitude. The group relies mostly on acoustic guitar, flutes, Mellotron, and drums. Highlights include the title track, "Chanson à Boire," "Les Damnés," and "Les Sirènes," all songs that feature memorable melodies and strong arrangements. The lyrics generally stick to the clichés of medieval literature, but the group has managed to give a contemporary resonance to some themes -- war, for instance, in "Le Rire et l'Épée." The album benefits from very solid production, each track seguing into the next with the help of environmental sounds, making for an inviting listening experience. Fans of Malicorne and Alan Stivell, but also Amazing Blondel and other Anglo-Saxon medieval folk revivalists, should appreciate Prince des Hauteurs. Despite its good average, this album mostly shows that, in time, Motis should be capable of something even better.