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Volapük — P​ü​kap​ö​k
(Cuneiform no#, 1999/2023, DL)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2023-11-24

P​ü​kap​ö​k Cover art

One of the most interesting and unique groups on Cuneiform’s roster in the late 90s was Volapük, a trio led by ex-Etron Fou Leloublan drummer Guigou Chenevier, who should need no introduction to readers of Exposé. The group also featured bass clarinetist Michel Mandel, with his master's degree from the Grenoble Academy of Music, and cellist Guillaume Saurel from at the Avignon Academy of Music. While the trio’s instrumentation may seem unusual, it does in fact have all of the ranges covered and together create a charming atmosphere like no other, working elements of jazz, classical, and avant-garde into a gentle yet wholesome brew of what we call Rock In Opposition — though there is hardly any rock to be found in their sound and it remains thoroughly unclear exactly what it is in opposition to; suffice to say that Volapük’s music exists in a world of its own. They made three studio records for Cuneiform, Le Feu du Tigre (1995), Slang! (1997) and lastly Polyglöt (2000), all primarily instrumental, after which they became a quartet.with the addition of violin and changed their style a bit, releasing a final studio recording in 2003. The album at hand, Pükapök, Is a live document of the band’s May and June 1998 tour of Poland, originally released in a very limited edition CD on a private label, which sadly disappeared almost as soon as it was released. The nine-song set features pieces from all three Cuneiform studio releases, but primarily the first two, and offers the listener an idea of what the trio sounded like in a live setting. “Bach Is Back” opens the set and gives some clues to the group’s classical influences before it spins off into wild avant directions, with “Le Feu du Tigre” following it with some Eastern world influences in tow. Other standouts include the intense “Chandelle Verte” from the first album, and the multi-part suite “Dunaj” that opened the Slang! album. Probably due to the fact that the recordings were made across several venues and dates, one may detect some unevenness in the sound from one track to the next, but that doesn’t detract from Pükapök’s overall excellence, and one must say that it’s great to have this live document available once again.

Filed under: New releases, 2023 releases, 1999 recordings

Related artist(s): Volapük

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