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Sea of Tranquility - Jon Neudorf (U.S.A.)

Yang are an instrumental outfit hailing from France that play guitar rock blended with a variety of styles including metal, jazz, heavy prog and probably a few more that I have yet to discover. In the band are Volodia Brice (drums, electronic equipment), Nico Gomez (bass), Laurent James (guitars) and Frédéric L'Epée (guitars, saz, piano, sound programming).
The songs are built around complex guitar rhythms and structures often going from heavy instrumental crescendos to lighter, fragile guitar parts. For an instrumental release I found this to be a compelling listen which kept me fully engaged from start to finish. I love how the band transition between intricate and discordant guitar patterns to more melodic parts effortlessly, in much the same way as 70s King Crimson. Suffice to say the musicianship is top notch.
Beginning with the heavy guitar rock of "massacre" where discordant guitar patterns give way to a more peaceful guitar style and vice versa, the music took this listener on an interesting journey and sets the tone nicely for what is to come. More twists and turns can be heard in the very progressive sounding "superball" where lighter textures and dense guitar chords makes for a compelling listen. The contrast between complex guitar arrangements and softer melodies makes "from melancholy to rebellion" another winner. "3ème messs" takes more of a metal approach having a slightly ominous sound where Eastern tinged guitar melodies are interspersed with heavy guitar chords. This is the kind of stuff you can expect throughout this CD.
This was another strong instrumental release from 2009 that would have made my best of the year list if I would have got to it sooner. Highly recommended for purveyors of guitar heavy progressive music and also for those who appreciate bands like King Crimson.

DPRP - Jez Rowden (U.K.)

It has taken 6 years for Frédéric L'Epée’s Yang to release the follow-up to 2004’s Cuneiform released A Complex Nature which was glowingly reviewed on DPRP. This second, independent instalment follows the same King Crimson dual guitar influence as the debut but there have been some line-up changes with Nico Gomez and Laurent James joining on bass and guitar respectively, the rest of the group still comprising L'Epée (guitar) and Volodia Brice (drums).
L'Epée, who previously played with Shylock in the ‘70s and Philharmonie in the ‘90s, formed Yang in 2002 as an instrumental quartet mixing guitar counterpoint with rock dynamics. After the debut album the band broke up but with the new recruits on board a new, more powerful Yang has appeared. The music is in the vein of Gordian Knot and ‘80s+ Crimson with intricate and beautiful guitar pieces embedded in hard-edged compositions with complex rhythms. The connection with Robert Fripp is close and Machines was recently mentioned in RF’s diary after L'Epée, who previously attended some Guitar Craft seminars, sent him a copy.
Massacre kicks things off with an industrial rhythm section conjuring images of the album’s title with the guitars opposing each other – one slashing, one picking – into a delicate mid section before the pressure builds again. Superball initially sounds like it could be a late period Rush instrumental moving through changes of mood and texture and holding the interest throughout. There is a very live sound, particularly to the drums, and the guitars play off each other beautifully, complementing and contradicting where necessary. King Crimson’s twin guitar incarnations are obvious pointers but do not give the full impact of the subtleties inherent in the playing by all concerned. This is predominantly a guitar album; they shriek and wail when required but the addition of delicacy and beauty makes it almost breathtaking.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is an album of shredding solos as this is far from the truth and all of the pieces are laid out to reap as much emotional benefit as possible whilst retaining the technical accomplishment. A good balance is achieved.
De La Mélancolie À La Révolte is filled with emotion and a hint of Metheny that builds into a metallic pounder with psychotic stabs of guitar and sublime harmonies – all at the same time! Le Procès opens unusually with bleepy noises and ticking clocks before rhythm and melody emerge over gorgeous plucked acoustics. Then “the French Fripps” kick into some classic Krimsonesque dovetailing guitars with more jazz influence. Circuits De Satisfaction appears more mainstream with a steady rhythm before jazz madness crashes the party. Quiet flowing sections move through a choppy bass solo which opens into a smoother part before returning to the original theme to close.
The Arabic textures of 3ème Messs are refreshing before the return of the Machines and some thumping industrialism. L'étau Familial is a particularly French sounding track to me; sophisticated, different and stylish with some nice up-tempo parts with KC visible but against a straighter rock background.
On Heavy Motion, Light Thoughts the title sums things up nicely – a roller coaster of thumping metal, delicate classical and jazz flavoured acoustics and increases in intensity with interlocking guitars. A hint of Tool can be found in Some Rescued Demons’ elastic rhythms and frenzied guitars. But that isn’t the whole story and the dynamics and variations are mesmerizing and I’d love to see them pull this off live. Temperance is a glorious display of controlled power and technique, the jumpy guitars striking against the solid rhythm section will have you pressing ‘play’ again as soon as it finishes.
This is dynamic instrumental music that rocks hard whilst maintaining a firm grip on melody. Many instrumental albums get a bit samey but not this – not to me anyway and I love the collisions and recoveries. The rhythm section has chops in spades and can mix the genres and styles with the best of them but keep things nailed down as a backdrop for the wonderful guitars. There is jazz, blues, world and rock and the whole seems more accessible than KC but without down-playing the complexity. Ultimately, although the influence is clear, this is not a Fripp & Belew tribute – they are merely the spark that has resulted in this very different flame.
So if you like energetic and enthusiastic instrumentals with superb dynamics and lots of melody whilst lacking the all too common problem of self indulgence you could do much worse than get your hands on this fine release. Hopefully it won’t be so long until the next one. Classy.


Progressives Area - CHFAB (France)

« Math en deux coups »

Voici donc la nouvelle production du troisième groupe initié par Frédéric LEPEE, compositeur autant que guitariste émérite (école frippienne par excellence) après le légendaire SHYLOCK (pour la fin des années 70), puis PHILHARMONIE (fin 80, milieu des 90s), et voici donc le deuxième album de YANG.
Cette formation récente (2002 ) est ainsi composée d'un formidable duo de guitaristes (le deuxième c'est Laurent JAMES de LORDS OF MUSHROOMS, formation française de metal prog), et d'une section rythmique non moins brillante (Volodia BRICE, batteur, co-fondateur de ce quatuor, avec LEPEE, compositeur également, puis à la basse: Nico GOMEZ).
Inutile de le dissimuler davantage, YANG avance dans les eaux somptueuses et aventureuses du courant crimsonnien nouvellement dénommé MATH ROCK.
En effet, il était sans doute temps de redécouvrir (et donc redéfinir) ce courant aussi populaire que le R I O (rock in opposition), ou le ZEUHL, et dont on attribuait jusque là le poids des fondations à KING CRIMSON, en oubliant les pères réels de cette musique: BELA BARTOK, STRAVINSKI, MOUSSORSKI, SATI (pour la simplicité apparente, et l'emprunte lumineuse des choses) bien sûr, et tant d'autres... en bref, tous les compositeurs de la première moitié du 20ème siècle, avec aussi les minimalistes Philip GLASS, Steve REICH, Terry RILEY, aux aspirations sombres et inquiètes (industrie et guerres mondiales obligent...), dont la musique aujourd'hui amplifiée s'allie avec une expression d'apparence froide (mais réchauffée par l'électricité), métrique, basée sur la transposition, la symétrie, le contrepoint et la répétition.
Voici donc un album d'exception, criblé de pulsions rock à souhait, parfois jazzy (dans l'esprit), aux stridences fulgurantes (voir le 1er morceau ), soutenues par des rythmiques puissantes lorsque lentes et majestueuses (pièces 3, 6, 8 ), arythmiques (mesures aux pulsations impaires), et parfois diablement dansantes ( 4, 5 et 10) ) puisque funky.
Les constructions alternées s'envisagent réellement comme autant d'édifices architecturaux, laissant entrer la lumière, à travers des charpentes faites de métal, de rouages et de vapeur (confère le nom de l'album et son design...), aux contrastes saisissants, sans la moindre baisse d'inspiration...Tout est passionnant de bout en bout, et le dialogue synchrone des guitares, aux entrelacs électriques incroyables, syncopés à souhait, incrustés de quelques synthés et piano, de nous emporter jusqu'au bout de ces à peu près 50 minutes (bonne durée, laissant comme une envie d'y retourner).
Les accalmies sont oniriques à souhait, délicieuses, et agencent magnifiquement toute transition vers de nouveaux schémas.
La technique de chaque instrumentiste est exemplaire.
Quelle écriture, ciselée, taillée avec une grande précision, aux arrangements splendides. Le son est excellentissime (album enregistré à Antibes, près de Nice)...
Alors, du diamant ?
Oui, et franchement étourdissant, tout en étant exempt de toute confusion.
En un mot: BRILLANT.




Progressia - Mathieu Carré (France)

Groupe formé autour du guitariste Frédéric L’Epée, Yang a débuté il y a plusieurs années sous l’égide glorieuse et exigeante de Cuneiform Records. Aujourd’hui, suite à des changements de personnel, le leader qui évolue depuis la fin des années soixante-dix dans le milieu de la musique progressive a choisi de s’entourer de jeunes loups pour poursuivre son ambitieux projet. Formation de rock instrumental compact et agressif (deux guitaristes, un batteur, un bassiste), Yang joue une musique rugueuse et exigeante héritée des riches heures de King Crimson (Red ou Lark’s Tongue in Aspic) sans jamais tomber cependant dans les grands fracas abscons. L’opposition entre moments plus calmes, où la basse ronde et chaude de Nico Gomez fait merveille et les parties acérées, peut parfois désorienter un peu (« Superball », « De la mélancolie à la révolte »). En misant néanmoins sur ces deux aspects de leur musique sans jamais trancher le débat, Yang évite les grands poncifs souvent rébarbatifs du rock instrumental récent. Quand certains choisissent de faire de leur musique un grand crescendo de décibels jouissifs, ici les musiciens mettent un honneur à tout maîtriser de leurs émotions. Yang préfère la froide menace à sa mise en exécution, leur rock reste solide, dangereux mais ne verse jamais dans la violence gratuite. Un beau numéro d’équilibriste.



Prog Brazil - Renato Moraes (Brasil)

Machines é o segundo CD do quarteto francês Yang, liderado por Frédéric L Epée, guitarrista das bandas Shylock e Philarmonie. Yang é a continuação lógica do Philharmonie, que começou com quarteto de guitarras, quase acústico, depois a bateria foi adicionada, o stick, e o som foi ficando cada vez mais elétrico e nervoso, até a banda se transformar no Yang. O único músico que sobrou dos tempos do Philharmonie foi o baterista Volodia Brice, e os outros dois integrantes são novos na banda. Machines é independente e lançado pelo próprio L Epée e reúne quarteto elétrico, com bateria, duas guitarras e baixo que, em dez faixas arrebentam a boca do balão. Para ter uma idéia do nível energético envolvido no CD a primeira faixa chama-se Massacre, mas apesar de ser pesadona, Superball é quem eleva ao máximo nível de adrenalina do CD, num crescendo incrível em toda a faixa. Mesmo com o peso das guitarras, as composições são muito boas, com dedicação a belas melodias e harmonias, contrapontos intrincados que em certos pontos nos dá a sensação de um Gentle Giant de guitarras. Mesmo com toda a eletricidade da banda, Frédérick acha espaço para iniciar a sexta faixa tocando saz, instrumento de cordas do oriente médio com som bem característico, mas após o começo acústico a banda estoura com tudo, e enquanto as guitarras duelam, ruídos de fundo ficam perturbando a mente dos mais fracos; 3éme mesas é uma das faixas mais interessantes do CD, misturando o rock com levada árabe, sensacional! L étau familial é uma mistura de blues, rock pesado e rock a Billy, muito legal e os gêneros são bem administrados na composição. Heavy Motion, Light Thoughts é a faixa mais crimsoniana, começando melancólica e evoluindo para uma sequência torturante com as duas guitarras guerreando o tempo todo. Temperance fecha o CD, a composição com mais cara do Philharmonie, com bom ritmo e swing.



The Laser’s Edge - Chad Hutchinson (USA)

Long awaited second album from this French quartet. Yang is led by former Shylock/Philharmonie guitarist Frederic L'Epee. Machines finds Yang with an altered lineup. Drummer Volodia Brice has returned but there is a new bassist in Nico Gomez and Laurent James as the second guitarist. There are no surprises, Yang adhere to the formula which is totally fine by me. The two guitarists work together in concert, interlocking at times with outbreaks of gnashing, crushing leads. In all the bands that L'Epee has been involved with there has always been the spectre of King Crimson hovering overhead and this is no different. L'Epee introduces some interesting variations with saz, piano, and electronics for additional color but the over ridding soundscape has a definite Crimson feel. I would think fans of the two Gordian Knot albums will find a lot to sink their teeth into hear. Hard and heavy with lots of intricacies. Does it get any better?    



Psyche Van Het Folk - Gerald Van Waes (Belgium)

On this new album by Yang, the band developed a few compositions as a new art rock band, compositions with clearly leading ideas and with a feeling of somewhat improvising on the evolutions, with layers of electric acoustic guitar harmonies or slightly technical double or even triple layered arrangements around the lead themes. However it never becomes too complex and the band compositions remain to sound rather relaxed over the whole album, so that there are also never real surprises in energy, despite a few good additional ideas to increase its fundaments, like the strange flute like theme on the fourth track, or a short Middle Eastern theme starting a new more westernised composition on track 6.
A good album with fluently played rational achievements.



Babyblaue Prog - Jochen Rindfrey (Germany)

Ein halbes Jahrzehnt hat es gedauert, bis mit Machines ein neues Album des Quartetts Yang um den Gitarristen Frédéric L'Epée erschien. In der Zwischenzeit hat sich die Besetzung geändert, neu dabei sind Bassist Nino Gomez und Zweitgitarrist Laurent James.
Laut Selbstbeschreibung der Band hat der Wechsel in der Besetzung mehr Härte in die Musik gebracht. Nun kenne ich den Vorgänger A Complex Nature nicht, aber der Rezension des Kollegen Udo nach zu urteilen, halten sich die Unterschiede doch in Grenzen. Yang bieten auch auf Machines einen komplexen, komplett instrumentalen und tastenfreien Progressive Rock, der vor allem vom virtuosen und variablen Spiel der beiden Gitarristen lebt. Diese haben von komplex-verzwirbelten Läufen bis zu harten Riffs, von clean bis extrem verzerrt alles im Programm. Der Einfluss von King Crimson, insbesondere von deren 80er-Inkarnation, ist dabei vielfach erkennbar - ein Stück wie Le Procès könnte auch von KCs Discipline stammen.
Yang sind dabei keineswegs eine Klonband. Nicht nur, dass sie insgesamt etwas zugänglicher sind als die Crims, sie integrieren auch noch andere Einflüsse in ihre Musik. Da darf schon mal lässig geswingt werden (L'étau familial), oder es wird mittels des orientalischen Saiteninstruments Saz (eine Art Laute) ein orientalischer Einschlag in die Musik gebracht (3ème messs [sic] - übrigens das einzige Stück, das nicht von von L'Epée im Alleingang komponiert wurde).
Das französische Quartett bietet auf seinem Zweitling hochwertigen Progressive Rock, der trotz einer gewissen Retro-Orientierung alles andere als angestaubt klingt. Es wäre schön, wenn bis zum nächsten Album nicht wieder fünf Jahre vergehen!

Progpulsion (France)

Frédéric L'Epée et ses acolytes reviennent vers nous avec un album (instrumental) tout simplement superbe! Le style crimsonien, tantôt climatique et ambitieux, dévoile un groupe d'une grande exigence technique; parfois comme sur SHYLOCK ou PHILHARMONIE, F. L'Epée sait imprimer des ambiances mystérieuses et mélancoliques, enfiévrées et symphoniques, tout en gardant un style bien à lui. La modernité de "Machines" se fait surtout sentir avec des compositions ciselées et nerveuses à la GORDIAN KNOT, rappelant ainsi la filiation au maître, KING CRIMSON. Hautement recommandé aux fans de Progressif ambitieux!