I’m afraid I find it rather difficult to describe the music of Sloche without using words like ”hurray!”. This is cream first class prog that makes one want to climb right into it and never come back out again. For the sake of clarity, however, I’ll try my best to restrain myself. Their sound is dominated by several kinds of mouthwatering keyboard instruments: Rhodes, Wurlitzer, mini-moog, grand piano, clavinet, and Hammond B-3. Still they manage not to overdo it; the sound is never crowded with pompousness, as is unfortunately the case with some other keyboard dominated progressive rock bands of the 70’s. But the guitar sound also deserves high praise, it’s warmness and roundness melting perfectly with the general soundscape, at the same time adding essential substance to it without stealing the spotlight from the keyboards. In fact, in this and many other respects, the arrangements are brilliant, utilizing any instrument only when it’s needed and taking great care and discipline not to overdo anything. Still, they have left plenty of room for tasteful improvisations when writing the material, and through their outstanding taste and musicianship they manage to keep long (but never too long!) stretches of improvisations continually interesting and exciting. Some of the themes seem to be inspired by folk tunes, others by jazzrock, as well as general progressive influences, while funky grooves dominate their rhythmical ideas. They display a very unique, unpredictable and beautiful use of chords, that makes me think of Pekka Pohjola every now and then. Their tonality is somewhat nicely ambivalent, their tone language reminding me of the most delicious Canterbury. In fact, in the same way that Picchio dal Pozzo can be described as an Italian form of Canterbury, Sloche can be said to successfully have invented a Canadian version of the same genre. It seems however somehow more colorful than British Canterbury (and I’m afraid I’m not able to explain exactly what I mean by that without regressing back to the ”hurray!” level of clarity). It’s so extremely mature and intelligent, yet wonderfully humorous. It never sounds overworked, although it certainly takes a lot of hard work and good thinking to compose and arrange something as brilliant and balanced as this. It manages to stay clear and understandable, although it is extremely sophisticated and complex. And of course, in addition to their sound being fabulous and the compositions and arrangements genius, they play their instruments (as well as sing) like gods. A lot of the same things can be said about both these albums, and that’s why I have chosen to do this as a overview of the band as a whole and not as reviews of the two albums individually. There is however a slight difference between the two: ”J’un oeil” has a tendency to be a bit more repetitive, and its musical ideas are slightly less individualistic than those of its incredibly fantastic follow-up ”Stadacone”. But this tiny difference of quality is nothing more than the degree of which one must expect an excellent group of musicians to mature and evolve themselves from their first album to their second one, and does in no way reflect badly on ”J’un oeil”. Besides Pohjola and the Canterbury (especially National Health) scene, Sloche tends to remind me somewhat of both Gentle Giant and Yezda Urfa (more specifically the Gentle Giant stuff that sounds almost like Canterbury, and the Yezda Urfa stuff that reminds one of Gentle Giant). Actually, Sloche is such an exceptionally great band that, although their uniqueness makes these kinds of comparisons rather inaccurate, their name deserves to be mentioned more frequently in the same breath as such artists as those mentioned above.
|Hugues Chantraine||9-Sep-2006||J'Un Oeil + Stadacone|
Sloche – J’un Oeil
A real gem , this one . To rank up with “Cinquième Saison” from Harmonium, “Les Porches” from Maneige, “Contre Courant” from Opus-5 and Et Cetera. This is full of great music twirling around in your living-room and the French singing is simply a delight. Although , this was released on a major label (RCA) , this remains mostly obscure and this always baffled me. Somehow, this album reminds me of Atoll (although I find this superior) and also Maneige, and to a certain extent, Mahavishnu in their quieter moments. Together with Maneige and Et Cetera, Sloche is part of the Quebecois Holy Trinity of 70s Prog. Their debut album is an outstanding musical work that fairly deserves all the good rep that it usually gets in the Internet. Definitely, Sloche is one of those many unsung prog heroes that most prog collectors only got to know through CD technology and WWW merchandising. Their music tends to be a bit more bombastic than their aforementioned fellows, while keeping a similar fusion-oriented vein as Maneige; meanwhile, the dual keyboard layers provide a symphonic feel every now and then. The fusion facet is clearly influenced by Return to Forever and Weather Report, albeit less pompous than the former and a more uplifting than the latter. I observe some Kerry Minnear and George Duke influences on both keyboardists, but generally speaking, it must be stated that Sloche never gets derivative. The optimistic spirit that is generally spread all throughout “J’un Oeil” allows the complex compositions receive a certain air of catchiness, and also gives a frontal freshness to the musicians’ intricate interplaying - structural sophistication and warmth, all at once. ‘C’pas fin du Monde’ kicks off the album as a proper sample of the band’s style, displaying an attractive intensity and a healthy variety of moods expanded along the succession of different motifs. Things get more solemn in ‘Le Karême d’Eros’, which starts with a 3 ½ minute majestic piano solo, until a brief chorale enters along with the whole instrumental ensemble; the sung parts are accompanied by a series of voices of people partying, acting as a funnily disturbing chorus, and so the solemnity is over. But not the seriousness, as the alternate solos on synth and guitar show - things can only get better with a piece like this, especially when the string synth layers go fading out while a spatial Moog effect drags in to announce the entry of the funk-jazz closing section. Brilliant! The title track is the shortest and catchiest one, keeping things uplifting and a bit gentler… and gigantic as well, since it is the most Gentle Giant-like piece in the album. The same gentleness is carried out by the last two numbers, albeit they’re a bit more complex: ‘Algébrique’ and ‘Potage aux herbes douteuses’ contain the biggest dose of funky colors in the album, but always keeping a constant loyalty to the overall fusion-prog essence of the album. In conclusion - a masterpiece.
Sloche – Stadacone
Actually this is almost as good as their debut, but it
is harder-edged and more demonstrative which in itself
is not a problem, but I find it is a little at the
expense of the beauty of the music compared to the
first album. Don't get me wrong, this is still highly
worth your hunt to find it. However the Mahavishnu
influence are stronger here than previously and might
also be a tad more.... Gentle Giant. It is such a
shame that most of these Quebecois bands never
released more albums (max three or four) during that
incredible period from 74 until 80 as this was a real
explosion but it got probably muffled away as the
internal Canadian political background of the times
(menace of Quebec separatism) was provoking anger
towards francophone culture. I know this well as I was
a French-speaking youth living in Toronto we were
constantly abused verbally and had I not Quebecer
friends, we would have never heard these groups.
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