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

More info

Latest news

2017-07-27
Yestival Dates Beef up the Beat – Word reaches us that Dylan Howe (son of guitarist Steve Howe) will be joining Yes on their "Yestival" tour, drumming alongside longtime band member Alan White. » Read more

2017-05-19
First ProgStock Festival Set for October – October 2017 will see the inaugural edition of a festival called ProgStock in Rahway, New Jersey at the Union County Performing Arts Center. With a definite slant towards neo-progressive music, the event is sure to please many fans with the inclusion of such artists as Echolyn, Glass Hammer, and Aisles. The festival will take place October 13-15. » Read more

2017-05-05
Clive Brooks RIP – Word reaches us today of another sad passing in the music world. Drummer Clive Brooks, best known as a member of such Canterbury bands as Egg, Uriel / Arzachel, and Groundhogs, has died at the age of 67. Details are sketchy at this point. The news was reported on Nick Mason's Facebook page — Brooks was Mason's drum tech. » Read more

2017-05-02
Col. Bruce Hampton RIP – The phrase "He died doing what he loved" is almost a cliche, but in the case of Col. Bruce Hampton, it couldn't be more true. Hampton, who was born Gustav Berglund III, collapsed on stage at his own 70th birthday celebration and later passed away. The event took place at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. » Read more

2017-04-16
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


Previously in Exposé...

Walter Hill - Popjazz – There are a few important reasons to consider why slick jazz is still popular, emphasizing passionate sax lines and comfortable grooves. One is that the best session musicians are on tap to record a...  (2006) » Read more

Picchio dal Pozzo - A_Live – Many great Italian progressive bands reformed in the 90s and early 00s (some returned to their roots after years of producing pop music), and PDP is one example of a band that made a real difference...  (2011) » Read more

The Spacious Mind - Sailing the Seagoat – This third album from The Spacious Mind delivers more of their patented spacy psychedelia. Those familiar with their earlier releases know exactly what to expect; E-bowed guitar leads over a backdrop...  (1996) » Read more

Spirit - Feedback – There's plenty of good reasons why this is one of the last Spirit albums to receive the digital treatment. After Sardonicus (or more properly during Sardonicus), most of the original lineup flew the...  (1996) » Read more

Banda Elástica - Los Awakates de Nepantla – I haven't much music coming from across the border recently. However, we are very lucky that Banda Elástica managed to record their third album before the peso crashed. Los Awakates...  (1995) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues