Exposé Online banner

Philharmonie — Nord
(Cuneiform Rune 64, 1994, CD)

by Peter Thelen, 1994-10-01:

Nord Cover art

It seems like only about six months since the last Philharmonie disc, these guys are a hard working group for sure! The original guitar trio of Frederic L'Epee, Laurent Chalef and Bernard Ros are now augmented by a full-time fourth member Jean-Louis Boutin on drums — which seemed like the logical next step from their first two. They've now almost completely shed the ethereal 'live' sound of the first disc, and taken the more structured approach of their second and built upon that even more. In addition, Bernard Ros is now full-time on Chapman Stick, giving their sound even more color and energy. Their trademark style is fluid, subtle, and uniquely French — energetic yet not busy, and unlike Fripp's League of Crafty Guitarists — to which comparisons might likely be made, though Philharmonie's approach to composition seems far more natural and effervescent, not so academic and rigid (which is not meant to be a slam on Fripp's music — I'm just attempting to point out differences here). The addition of drums brings the music a little closer to the jazz/rock axis, yet their presence is never overbearing, always yielding priority to the guitar and Stick work, essentially following the natural percussive attack of those instruments. Those who enjoyed the previous Philharmonie albums are sure to enjoy this one, as well as all fans of spirited guitarwork everywhere. For the newbie, this is probably as good a place as any to get on board.


by Dan Casey, 1994-10-01:

Originally formed as an electric guitar trio, this French band led by ex-Shylock fretman Fredric L'Epee has expanded to a four-piece with the addition of Jean-Louis Boutin on drums for the release of Nord. Furthermore, Bernard Ros has taken on the role of all-time bass duties with his Chapman Stick, leaving only Laurent Chalef as the alter-ego to L'Epee. The ensemble functions more as a true band with this lineup, continually drawing stylistic comparisons to the 80s King Crimson dueling fretwork of Fripp and Belew. But Philharmonie take a less aggressive, more harmonic approach. Careful thought has been clearly given to the harmonic content of the stutter-stop guitar patterns that dominate each of the eight cuts, and how they intertwine and overlap. Interesting, but perhaps too academic of an approach with the end result being comparable to a partially successful experiment. To give credit where it's due, the guitar performances are both accurate and impressive, and the quality of the recording and mixing is superior. Philharmonie have a fresh, relaxing approach but it works much better in small doses than in large quantities because of the ever-gentle approach. Don't bother looking for a lot of variety in the guitar sounds, as anything resembling distortion or searing lead tones is deliberately avoided. Unusual and professional enough to recommend, at least marginally.


by Rob Walker, 1994-10-01:

Philharmonie was formed as an electric guitar trio by Frederic L'Epee, best known as the founder and leader of the brilliant 70s French group Shylock. After a relatively unknown self-released debut in 1990, Philharmonie's second CD, 1993's Les Elephants Carillonneurs, was well received by the progressive community for its strong originality and mesmerizing beauty. Now L'Epee and Co. return with Nord, adding a drummer, and serving up more of their intricate interlocking rhythmic ostinatos and well written counterpoint. They use primarily clean electric guitar sounds, coaxing out a variety of timbres, occasionally augmented by an e-bow. The music is generally relaxing and contemplative, in a minimalistic sort of way, despite the constant motion and often complex interweaving lines. The addition of the drummer, as well as the prevalent use of the Chapman Stick, allows the band to execute greater dynamic contrasts, and at times gives the music a degree of energy and drive that was absent in the group's previous work. In some ways, perhaps, the use of drums and Stick, which often simply serves as a glorified bass, takes away some of the novelty and originality of the group. But for the most part, the uniqueness of having a few guitars supply all the elements of the music is still here, only some of those roles are now being shared with the new instruments. The drumming is tasteful and restrained; it basically serves to highlight the dynamic changes and augment the rhythms created by the interaction of the guitars, or to provide a foundation on which rhythmic variations can be overlaid. Nord is a solid 60+ minutes of music, comparable in quality and originality to other Cuneiform releases, though a bit mellower than their usual fare. Recommended.


Filed under: New releases , Issue 5 , 1994 releases

Related artist(s): Philharmonie, Frédéric l'Épée

More info

Latest news

2019-06-05
Legendary Co-Founder of The 13th Floor Elevators Passes Away at Age 71 – Sadly, Roky Erickson passed away on May 31, 2019. Known as the father of psychedelic music and co-founder of the ground breaking 13th Floor Elevators, Roky had a profound influence on music from the 60s to today. Plagued by his own personal demons, Roky had a difficult life and is now free of these burdens. » Read more

2019-04-24
Help MoonJune Bring Great Music to Life – Like many music lovers around the world, we’ve been thrilled and amazed to hear the recordings that have been released by MoonJune from sessions at La Casa Murada in Spain. Such label stalwarts as Mark Wingfield, Markus Reuter, Asaf Sirkis, Tony Levin, Dusan Jevtovic, Vasil Hadzimanov, and many more have gathered in various combinations at the studio to produce some of the most creative music in recent years. Now, label head Leonardo Pavkovic is offering a compilation, La Casa Murada - MoonJune Sessions, Volume One, as a fundraiser for upcoming sessions. » Read more

2019-04-10
The Pineapple Thief to Tour North America – November and December of 2019 will see The Pineapple Thief bringing their music to Canada, Mexico, and the US, and famed drummer Gavin Harrison will be on board. The band has been touring extensively in Europe, but North America will be new territory for them. » Read more

2019-03-25
Scott Walker RIP – Noel Scott Engel, better known as Scott Walker, was one of the most intriguing and enigmatic musical figures in the second half of the 20th Century. His strange career started with The Walker Brothers, an American pop group that featured no one named Walker and no brothers. After moving to England in 1965, they had a series of hit singles. Scott's solo work started with Scott in 1967. Starting in the 80s, his work took an increasingly avant-garde turn. » Read more

2019-03-20
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Simon Steensland - Fat Again – Steensland's is a musical world of sharp edges, intense contrasts, brutal aggression and mysterious beauty all served up in an expressive way that is both challenging and engaging. This makes around...  (2010) » Read more

Echolyn - As the World – Reviewing Echolyn's Sony debut is a chore in itself! This is definitely where words fail — are they progressive? Is it pop? Where does this fit? I'm sure this is going to be cause for many split...  (1995) » Read more

James Johnson - Entering Twilight – This 66 ½-minute, one track CD reveals a style that may be part of the lineage of positive, gentle, cloudy ambient music that one finds on Steve Roach’s Quiet Music albums and in early...  (2001) » Read more

Frank Pahl & Klimperei - Music for Desserts – Here’s a new twist on contemporary chamber music. Much of this CD sounds as if it were recorded by an ensemble of extremely gifted kindergartners. Composer Frank Pahl plays a wide variety of...  (2003) » Read more

Terra Ambient - Wanderlust – “Ambient” gets thrown around quite a lot, and both understanding of the term and of the genre seem to have finally and completely dissipated into catch-all meaninglessness... an ambivalent...  (2010) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues