Débile Menthol — Emile à la Campagne
(Recrec Music 601, 1984/1994, 2CD)
Débile Menthol — Emile au Jardin Patrologique
(Recrec Music 01, 1981, LP)
Débile Menthol — Battre Campagne
(Recrec Music 06, 1984, LP)
by Peter Thelen, Published 1995-03-01
This two-disc set collects both of Swiss band Debile Menthol's early-80s studio LPs (1981's Emile au Jardin Patrologique and Battre Campagne from '84) into a single package, adding a couple bonus tracks on the first disc. In 1981, as a nine-piece of essentially four guitarists (switching on bass duties), drums, keys, saxes, clarinet and violin, with occasional vocals, their music was an eccentric blend of rock, jazz, neo-classical and folk styles with a unique vision. No doubt drawing some influence by Zappa, Etron Fou, Samla, and Henry Cow, they work through thirteen tracks mostly in the three-to-four minute range. The compositions and arrangements are brilliant and tightly played, always quirky and humorous, with plenty of fire and energy. A general comparison with Samla circa Schlagerns Mystik might be in order, yet here the music leans toward the more angular and experimental, and the instrumental makeup is quite different. The songs are about an even mix of vocals and instrumentals, perhaps a little more of the latter; four band members contribute voices (singing, spoken, shouting, etc). The two bonus tracks are quite good, added at the ends of the original album sides, and they flow well with the rest of the music.
On Battre Campagne the lineup changed some, eliminating the saxes and clarinet (although guests are brought in on a couple tracks to relieve the deficit), and the band in general became more vocal oriented. The music here applies more of the typical RIO excesses (especially the abrasive harmonies) and more experimentation, yet they are still extremely tight and cohesive. Violinist Marie Schwab contributes more in the vocal department this time, the result often reminding of Thinking Plague mixed with the almost-punk urgency of David Byrne. It's an excellent album throughout, but it's clear that the band traded some of their eccentric charm for more avant-garde weirdness. In all, though, this double-CD set is one that many will enjoy, recommended especially for fans of the aforementioned bands, and in general the adventurous listener.
Phil Miller RIP – Sad word reaches us today of the passing of another of the great musicians of the Canterbury Scene — guitarist Phil Miller. His distinctive sound added greatly to Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North, and National Health, and he also contributed to albums by Caravan, Dave Stewart $amp; Barbara Gaskin, and many others. He was 68. » Read more
Moonjune to Distribute Tony Levin's Back Catalog – It has been announced that Moonjune will now handle distribution for Tony Levin's catalog of releases. These great albums will now be a bit easier to get hold of, so check out the site and see what you're missing. The veteran of King Crimson and Stick Men worked with a host of great players on these albums, and we've reviewed most of them over the course of the years. » Read more
Bandcamp Shines Light on Niches We Like – Bandcamp has developed into one of the best places to discover new music, and even a lot of old music is showing up there. In addition, their staff has been producing periodic articles spotlighting some interesting stylistic areas. On 20 September, they published one called "The New Face of Prog Rock" which bears checking out. » Read more
Holger Czukay RIP – Holger Czukay, a musical experimentalist without boundaries who has been involved with expanding the sound palette of rock music since the late 60s, has died at the age of 79. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 60s, he became fascinated with the possibilities of rock music, and was a co-founder of the pioneering group Can. He leaves behind an impressive body of work both as musician and producer. » Read more
John Abercrombie RIP – Another of the greats of jazz guitar has left us. John Abercrombie plied his way through a beautiful series of albums on the ECM label as well as bringing his talent to bear on albums by many of jazz's greatest artists. From his early work in the group Dreams to Gateway and outstanding work with Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Wheeler, and many more to his own trios and quartets, he brought a unique instrumental voice to the world. » Read more