Mike McLatchey    11-August-2002 Ma Banlieue Flasque

Ma Banlieue Flasque (1979) (Celluloid LTM 1.021)

Nothing does crazy like French experimental music, but some of it wouldn't have been done in the first place if it wasn't for Frank Zappa. From the opening vocals on the album, it's evident that, vocally, the intent is satirical and humorous (although most of this is lost on me, due to the language), and the falsetto is typical of Frank and co., especially in the "Baby Snakes" days. MBF have a guitars/sax/flute/bass/drums instrumental line up and there is plenty of room for instrumentals once the initial "13'20 D'Happiness" is over. "N.S.K." shows strains of "Legend" period Henry Cow, with more falsetto vocals, and some very nice drumming. I think it's about two minutes into this track that you hear one of the first of several instrumental jams on the album, definitely what make this piece compulsory. Brilliant drumming, a chance for some really nice solos, including bass. A Canterbury-like flavor permeates, subtly similar to early Caravan's jams, a great piece of music. The album really escalates in quality from here (don't let the first track put you off.) "H.B.H.V"'s slight Happy the Man feel is quite captivating, although the scaling is slightly off-kilter, and when the lead guitar kicks in, you start to realize how much Gong is going on here as well. The last two tracks continue at an incredibly high level of energy, the music just gets better and better. No doubt there were some RIO connections going on, there's some excellent playfulness here that only the best musicians master, an interplay that is on an unusually high level. A great one-shot, no doubt, recommended to fans of RIO, Jazz, and Canterbury.

(Originally published in Exposť # 17, p. 26, Edited for Gnosis 8/11/02)

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