Ma Banlieue Flasque
01. 13'20 d'happiness 10:20
02. N.S.K. 7:00
03. H.B.H.V. 5:10
04. Aller-retour Les Grésillons 7:55
05. Un soir 5:00
Philippe Maugars (guitar, vocals)
Marc Ledevedec (guitar)
Philippe Botta (flute, saxophone)
Loïc Gautier (bass)
Christian "Chypo" Cheype (drums, vocals)
The lineup consists of Philippe Maugars on guitar and vocals, Marc Ledevedec on guitar, Loic Gautier on bass, Christian "Chypo" Cheype on drumms and vocals, and Philippe Botta on flute and saxophone. The vocals themselves are sometimes sang and sometimes more in a narrative style and always playful or with good mood.
They only released one s/t album in 1979 and there were rumors of Musea re-issuing it in 2005, but nothing came out of it, but it is worth to be on the lookout for it.
Good humor, cheerful atmosphere, uplifting and amusing. That can pretty much sum this up but still not give it proper credit for the band’s creativeness.
It would seem they were having fun while recording this. I can picture them smiling while playing this. The singer sounds as if he’s about to laugh at certain points, and the different vocals he’s employing, some of them deliberately odd and squeaky, emphasize the good mood and humour embedded in this album. Not only the vocals and lyrics, but the music itself tells you that this album is about goofiness, having a good time, and enjoying the tunes, and not at the expense of the music. This attitude towards the music, not entirely bereft of the theatrical aspect that I often hear in French rock-progressif though not as prominent, reminds me a but of the deliberate foolishness of Komintern’s Le Bal Du Rat Mort and of course one can hear the Zappa-esque characteristics and influences as well. Moreover, the first track is called 13’20 d’happiness; what more evidence do you need?
But don’t think the humor comes at the expense of the music; not at all. There are fabulous melodies, great rhythm and good musicianship and instrumentation. The sax and flute bring a nice contrast to the frisky guitars which seem to have a ball. There is good variation in terms of style; from rock forms (whether progressive or not) to fusion, avant-rock/experimental and even some blues thrown in there and the ever present French charm and theatrical style. It is happy, joyous and fun - A great listening experience. It may not be the most original, but the way they mix all their influences is efficient.
While not a straightforward avant-rock album, this is quite the experimental album that would please listeners of avant-rock/RIO and also those who like Jazz-rock and Canterbury or alternatively fans of Frank Zappa, Komintern, Moving Gelatine Plates and other like-minded eccentric, experimental and humorous bands and musicians.
Protocol has it, if a band exults a work till the point of artistry (and, to embrace the warm idea, produces a splendid spark of progressive rock), that band is either rare and obscure, either a popular group with a very unusual and unexpected release - it can also have a special sound or rather contemplate an overdoze of a musical vision, fit a peculiar/particular frame of styles or swipe the floor with the competition.
Ma Banlieue Flasque is typical for the first category (in each case). However of a rare goody, an atypical flavor, an insensible grandeur and an unspectacular energy their music would appear, it is still a well-spotted, heavy, curious and upside-down trendy act, close to perfect for those who see in prog rock a hobby of sizes, a real treat and a place for pure art trying to be born out of rock. Their fizzy and snappy moment is not even part of prog rock's beginning cult, but rather of its ending years of classic jubilation, performing with much of the expanded, vulturous, emphasized or honest progressiveness, while a second style of post-modern sounds or strange jamming is also part of their view. There's only one album to prove their worthiness, and despite that the rock quintet didn't start nor ended their rock life with it, everything focuses on the album and how it can enchant. Ma Banlieue Flasque pretty much play all their cards with this short one-off project.
Even if a rather bolted choice of heavy music, Ma Banlieue Flasque is yet far from a mash of emotions and unbearable rock, the same thing going for the pleasure of listening what looks like a more critic-oriented composition. Admirable, at least for me, is that the influence taken from the RIO/Avant classic courses (apparently Zappa was a great inspiration and a musician to be improvised for them) doesn't trim the feeling of a prog rock classic beat, meaning, on one hand, that there are other artists doing a more extorted or impossible to describe art out of their music (most being RIO-ists or crazy Zeuhlists), and that, on the other hand, a few elements (like the ragged dark-bass tone or the cool-headed improvisation of symphonic, art rock, avant and jazzy chords) keep the album's special warmth inside the culture of pure and artistic, only dependent on difficulty and curiosity rock. For such a reason the links with Gentle Giant or Van der Graaf Generator sound promising, even if it doesn't mean a proper comparison. The music is, essentially, a lot freer and unbounded upon listening, it only stays of a fuzzy virtuosity.
The five musicians impress not by a cleansing emotion, but by a staggering energy (called "fooling around" whenever it lacks rigorousness), leaving the music a bit impure, yet more loaded. The thrills of a special sound, like the mellow one created by the saxophone or the flute, alternates with the pressured high strung of the usual instruments, like the firing drums, the serious drums or the well-dozed bass. A bit of the sound and the music is hard to categorize, otherwise there is a lively special approach of music, rock and post-modern tensions. Ledevedec's and Maugars's electric guitar spectacle is one thing, whilst the delicacy of a few acoustic hidden harmonies is touching. The vocals are not stunning (nor too important), but give an air to the rest of the whirlpool jam.
Ma Banlieue Flasque lasts under 40 minutes, with a treacherous and unequal epic being anyway supreme in comparison with the rest of the album (the four pieces left are from light to dissonant and clothed), is intense and creative, and proves a pleasant model in combining the more unusual prog rock with the complex character of an artistic sensibility and the cold ambiance of a dynamic chromatic.
This band's rare pearl isn't perfect, neither sensational (for the masses), but feels a lot like an obscure record with an authentic sound of hard-worked rock. Turning a harsh strip of difficult listening into impressive music, solid art and veracious prog, Ma Banlieue Flasque's fumigating underground realization is, nolens volens.