March 1993 A4 40 pages
LIGHTWAVE & PAUL
original (last 46 copies)
Example article extract
the music of
The French new-music scene, in the realms of synth music, rock, jazz and electronic musics, has had many luminaries. The likes of Christian Vander, Richard Pinhas, or Pierre Henry (to name just three) have had a profound influence on music world-wide. There are of course many other lesser-known, yet no-less revolutionary musical pioneers. In the terms of destroying boundaries and forging ahead with radical new concepts however, there are few that rank so highly as Gilbert Artman, the brains behind two of the most fascinating musical projects France has produced, namely: Lard Free and Urban Sax. The music he presented has been a constant source of surprise for almost two decades.
Gilbert Artman's musical origins stem back to the fertile 60's jazz-rock scene in Paris. There he had worked with such luminaries as Don Cherry and Steve Lacy, musicians who felt much more at home in the culture bosom of Europe. I've not been able to find out if any albums from this era feature Gilbert, yet he is said to have been much in demand on the club scene. Equally at home with top musicians or with local friends in jam sessions, it's obvious that these formative days had a profound influence on his later work. In common with many other experimentalists with jazz roots, it seems that the pioneering Miles Davis with albums like IN A SILENT WAY had sparked off ideas in how to present jazz in an unconventional and exciting way. Gilbert was quick to see such possibilities and began to formulate ideas for his own band
THE BIRTH OF ELECTRIC JAZZ
Curiously, the name Gilbert chose for his band was: Lard Free. An apt name really, as they were never really a proper band, and the music they created was certainly uncategorizable.
In its embryonic days, Lard Free was in a constant state of flux. Most of the musicians intrigued by Gilbert's ideas were initially from the Paris jazz scene, many of whom I expect had worked with Gilbert in the 60's. One such musician was the self-exiled British vibes player Robert Wood. Wood and Artman also recorded the album SONABULAR together, a nicely sedate and rambling multi-percussion affair. After leaving Lard Free (and obviously inspired by his experiences) Robert Wood created his own "Vibrarock" project, himself playing an electric vibraphone! Aided by Gong members and other French well-known, the results were quite unique.
Sometime, during these sketchy early years, Gilbert also became involved with the group Komintern, a very politically minded folk-jazz progressive band, typical of the more eccentric music of the era. But, of course, Gilbert didn't just want to be a drummer in someone else's band, he had much higher aspirations. Thus, with Lard Free, he began to formulate his own musical concept. Almost like a "think tank" of jazz, rock and classical musicians, the early sessions and concerts were said to be bizarre concoctions crossing musical boundaries.
Along with the evolution of Lard Free with Gilbert Artman at the helm, it is also interesting at this point to draw your attention to the surprisingly similar pioneering steps taken by Richard Pinhas and his project Heldon (for more on Heldon, check out Audion's #22 and #23), as both these musicians gained a fascination in electronics and had notions to creating a music that wasn't really rock nor anything else classifiable. It's hardly surprising that the paths of both these musicians were later to cross.
By the time of recording their debut album, simply entitled GILBERT ARTMAN'S LARD FREE, the group had stabalised as a quartet. Guitarist François Mativet had been around since Lard Free's inception, and had taken great steps on from Robert Fripp influences, in blending fraught chaos with dynamics and feeling. With the line-up completed by a saxophonist and bassist, I imagine it could easily have been mistaken as just another French jazz-rock album. Yet, this couldn't be further from the truth. This piece of vinyl offered a stark, often very bleak and eerie music, sometimes vastly understated music and at other times numbingly raw and abrasive. In hope of gaining a contract with Island Records, Lard Free ventured to Island's London Studio to record it. Apparently, much to the engineer's surprise, the basic tracks were laid-down in under half an hour, with complete mixing and overdubbing being completed in 36 hours!
Gilbert Artman and crew knew exactly what they were doing and what they wanted, and the results are really fresh and clear, sounding spontaneous, almost as though a much larger band had performed the music live. It seems however that Island were not amused (this is sometime before they issued Fripp & Eno's NO PUSSYFOOTING) and the album only gained release via a small French independent.
THE PROGRESSIVE WAVE
The early to mid-70's were very much a boom-time for progressive rock and experimental music in France. Besides those that managed to gain contracts with major labels, there were hoards of others that grew through the subculture via the independents or with self-produced releases. Two independent Parisian labels: Disjuncta and Pôle, bore the fruit to many excellent electronic-based albums along similar lines to Lard Free.
Because of such a proliferation of musical activity it was inevitable that Gilbert would be asked to lend his services as drummer in other bands and projects. I would well imagine that he was exceptionally busy. Probably most noticeable is his collaboration in Cyrille Verdeaux's Clearlight project, Gilbert can be heard as the thunderous drummer on the more experimental side of CLEARLIGHT SYMPHONY, and he is also featured on the follow-up FOREVER BLOWING BUBBLES. Another project (this also featured Cyrille Verdeaux) was Yvan Coaquette's supersession: Delired Chameleon Family, who were established to score the soundtrack to Pierre Clementi's film "Visa de Censure N. X".
It seems, that along with all this activity on the rock front, Gilbert was still quite involved with the jazz scene. Evidence of this can be found in the form of Operation Rhino, whose album credits read almost like a "who's-who" of French experimental jazz!
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