Peter Thelen 21-May-2001 The Early Years   

The roots of Minimum Vital go back to 1983 in Begles, France (near Bordeaux), where twin brothers Thierry and Jean-Luc Payssan (keyboards and guitars respectively) decided to form a band in order to perform the music they had written together. They set out to recruit other musicians interested in their ideas. First to join was Eric Rebeyrol, on bass guitar, followed by Antoine Fillon (drums) and Anne Colas (flute). The name of the band was originally "Concept", and after winning a rock show in '84, they went into the studio to record their first album Envol Triangles, which was released on cassette in 1985 under the new name Minimum Vital.

Fillon, who's aim was to be a studio drummer, was replaced that summer by Christoph Godet. The band continued to play many live dates throughout '85 and '86, and caught the attention of the then-newly formed Musea label, who agreed to do their second album. Les Saisons Marines was recorded during the summer of '87 in the same studio in Bordeaux where they had recorded the first album, and released on LP early the following year.

Throughout '88 the band continued gigging and writing new material in preparation for a third album. Unhappy with the sound on "Les Saisons", they opted for a new studio near Perigueux, and began recording in the summer of '89. At that point there was a really good synergy within the band, and the resulting CD Sarabandes, released in 1990, certainly illustrates that.

With their next album, the band wanted to take a new, more spiritual approach to the music through the utilization of vocals. Recording began in '91 and took nearly a year to finish, using guest vocalists Antoine Guerber and Jacki Whitren. During this period, the band played live, but the new material had to be rearranged as instrumentals, as they couldn't do the vocal parts on stage. After the release of La Source in the early weeks of '93, the band joined forces with Philippe Cauvin (vocals & guitar, ex-of Uppsala) for a series of live dates, in order to have a singer on stage.

In the post-Cauvin period, the band grew bored, and in the beginning of '94 decided to split, allowing Thierry and Jean-Luc some time to concentrate on writing new material, going further in the direction of La Source. After a short period, the band reformed, with Rebeyrol returning on bass, and two new members: lead vocalist Sonia Nedelec, and drummer Charly Berna. This new lineup performed in Los Angeles on the second night at Progfest '94.

(Originally published in Exposť # 5, p. 15, as part of the "Progfest '94 Preview", Edited for Gnosis 5/20/01)

Peter Thelen    13-April-2001 La Source - Huit Chants De Lumiere Par

On this, their fourth outing in nine years, les freres Payssan and company continue moving boldly into new territory, while retaining the essence of the sound that makes them unique among modern French bands. They offer some oblique references to the neo-canterbury styles of Camel, Happy the Man and Sky, yet sound like none of the aforementioned, developing those elements and attributes that set them apart from their contemporaries. The subtitle Huit Chants De Lumiere should offer a clue: in addition to further refinements in their basic sound, they have given it new life with the inclusion of vocals on every track, although they remain primarily an instrumentally-oriented band. As always, the sound is dominated by Jean-Luc's ripping guitars and the colorful keyboard pyrotechnics of brother Thierry. Bassist Eric Rebeyrol and Drummer Christophe Godet seem a bit more animated this time out and are offering more punch to the arrangements, as evidenced in the highly charged "Tabou," nine minutes of pure brilliance. Another track of special note is the acoustic guitar-driven "Les Mondes De Miranda," with it's strong folk spirit, jazz and classical influences, energized guitar and accordion solos - this is quite possibly the album's strongest cut. The only fault I find in "La Source" is that one or two of the tracks seem a bit more lengthy than they need to be with extra and unnecessary repetition, but this is a relatively minor flaw. Overall this is an exceptional album by one France's most unique bands.

(Originally published in Exposť #1, p. 9, Edited for Gnosis 1/29/01)

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