Maneige — Libre Service - Self Service
(ProgQuébec MPM10, 1978/2006, CD)
Maneige — Ni Vent... Ni Nouvelle
(ProgQuébec MPM09, 1977/2006, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 1995-07-01
Of all the Quebecois bands that came to prominence in the 70s, one of the most unique and universally appreciated is Maneige. During their career which spanned from around '72 through the mid 80s, the six-piece produced six studio albums and one live release. The band had two distinct phases; the early phase which would include the albums Maneige and Les Porches ('75 and '76 respectively) was characterized by a very lush symphonic sound accented with percussive elements, lengthy multi-part suites, and delicate arrangements. In the later phase, from around 1979 onward, and including the albums Montréal 6AM and Images, the band took on a more percussive powered melodic jazz-rock approach. Between these two phases was a transitional period (although the case could easily be made that the band's sound was always in a state of flux), which saw the release of these two albums recently reissued on Kozak/Mezzo. With very few exceptions, the bands' entire output is solely instrumental.
Ni Vent... Ni Nouvelle was the first of the transitional albums, a point at which their sound was a very rich and subtle blend of many elements, where points of comparison might be Soft Machine or Gentle Giant, but with the prominence of percussion they might also be thought of as a symphonic version of Pierre Moerlen's Gong. Reedsman/flautist Alain Bergeron and keyboardist Vincent Langlois deliver colorful melodics to the top end of the mix, while the stunt-rhythm section of Yves Leonard (bass) and Gilles Schetagne (drums) keep the structures lively and unpredictable with frequent sig and tempo changes. Langlois, guitarist Denis Lapierre and percussionist Paul Picard (glockenspiel, vibraphone, xylophone, wood-blocks) work both ends, giving Maneige's music its unique dynamic character. In addition, the band has brought in a string quartet on two of the tracks, and André Pechat delivers a splendid soprano sax solo on "Mambo Chant." There are many standouts here, and the various band members offer a variety of compositional styles.
A year later, Libre Service is convincing evidence of the band moving into more jazz-rock realms. The lineup remained the same, yet all the tracks are now group compositions, and perhaps stronger for it. The arrangements – while still encompassing a strong melodic spirit, wide range of dynamics, and an even greater variety of styles (latin, funk, Zappa-like counterpoint), are definitely more high-gear and electrified. Much of the symphonic lushness of the previous three albums is in remission, having been replaced by a more assertive, no-nonsense approach. Both albums are outstanding, but different – different points on the band's developmental continuum. I find it difficult to recommend one over the other, they both shine equally bright. Perhaps listeners of a jazz-rock or Zappa/RIO oriented background may find Libre Service a bit more to their liking, while fans of symphonic progressive rock may want to start with Ni Vent... If in doubt, buy them both!
Related artist(s): Maneige
ProgDay 2017 Announces First Bands – Flor de Loto, Sonar, and Infinien are the first three performers to be announced for the 2017 edition of the long-running ProgDay Festival. The 23rd ProgDay takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 2nd and 3rd, at Storybook Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. » Read more
Allan Holdsworth RIP – Surely in the list of artists who have contributed to the sound of modern music, there is a special spot for guitarist Allan Holdsworth. His name is known to virtually every student of the instrument in jazz and rock, and his style has been so widely emulated that it's hardly worth mentioning anymore — we can just assume that every guitarist has Holdsworth as an influence. » Read more
Larry Coryell RIP – One of the greats of jazz guitar has left us at the age of 73. Larry Coryell was one of the founding figures of jazz fusion, but produced a significant body of work the bridged many styles. His group Eleventh House provided a unique take on the combination of jazz and rock that was distinct from contemporaries such as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, and Weather Report. » Read more
John Wetton RIP – After a long battle with colon cancer, singer and bassist John Wetton has died at the age of 67. As an integral member of such bands as King Crimson, UK, and Asia, his was one of the distinctive voices in progressive rock, lending a human touch to often difficult music. » Read more
Seaprog Announces First Artists for 2017 – The organizers of the Seaprog Festival in Seattle have announced the first set of confirmed performers for the 2017 festival. The best known names are Jack o' the Clock and Zero Times Everything, but a host of other bands are featured, mostly from the Northwest. The festival will take place June 2-4, 2017. » Read more