Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Potemkine - 1976 - Foetus


01. Foetus (6:18)
02. Zed (5:13)
03. Nuit Sur Le Golan (2:18)
04. Ballade (6:16)
05. Hymne (1:58)
06. Loolitt (3:04)
07. Cedille (5:53)
08. Laure (4:33)
09. Cycles (2:16)

Line-up / Musicians
- Dominique Dubuisson / bass, vocals
- Charles Goubin / guitar, vocals
- Michel Goubin / keyboards, vocals
- Philippe Goubin / drums, percussion
- Xavier Vidal / violin

Potemkine managed to blend in a very good way the basis of Zeuhl music with its prominent bass role and a lighthearted spirit of fusion with some 20th century contemporary music. They this deviate from the norm of "mainstream" Zeuhl, but they manage to deliver an original sound, making them unique in this scene. Potemkine was formed by three brothers from Toulouse - Charles (guitars, piano, vocals), Philippe (drums and percussions, piano) and Michel (piano, vocals) Goubin. They had taken other musicians to fill in the positions of bass, violin and some drumming and percussions parts. They released their first album Foetus in 1975. This album was more influenced by Magma, though it contained the fusion leniency. In 1977 Triton was released and it featured a more clear inclination towards a fusion sound, but the Zeuhl characteristics are still there (in the bass part, theatrical piano playing and the occasional chanting vocals) and also the chamber music sound that would later appear in RIO originators bands such as Univers Zero. This approach reached its peak in Nicolas II released in 1978 which also marks their last album. You can get both Triton and Nicolas II on CD from SOLEIL ZEUHL.
Having started as early as 71, the Goubin brothers (four of them at one point) started as a cover garage group; they evolved into this JR/F band upon hearing Weather Report and Mahavishnu Orchestra. After an initial single released in 74, they got the ball rolling with Foetus and its crusader ship of their band name as an artwork, but by that time Dubuisson had taken over the bass and Vidal had appeared on violin. The appearance of the violin will immediately make you think of MO, but more of the Goodman period than the Ponty era. Of course, the main difference between Foetus and the rest of the JR/F pack is the use of wordless vocals, chants and choirs, one that sound rather "female", despite being the work of the five (male) members. The group's previous single had a slightly Canterburian feel added to the JR/F musical realm, but with their Foetus, it seems to have disappeared.
The band's first opus is definitely a tad derivative on its avowed JR/F influences but one can't really find much Zeuhl in the present album, Foetus still manages to develop its own personality and some excellent and inventive high-pitched choir vocals. But if it is clear that tracks like Laure, or Hymne have MO roots, reinforced by the presence of Vidal's violin, her tracks like Cedille are much slower-paced, which is a piano-based ambient piece, but things can also get even a tad dissonant with the Golan track. Elsewhere, Vidal's violin comes dangerously close to coming un-tuned in the middle section of Ballade. Zed is a very repetitive nature, turning over and over its choppy descending riff.
Although Potemkine's debut album Foetus has never seen a proper CD release (and is not likely to, unless vinyls are reissued), but since all of it came as bonus tracks on their later albums CD reissues, I was able to re-construct their album, and managed a review. According to the great Soleil Zeuhl label reissues' booklets, the band's fortunes grew rapidly, opening for MO or Magma and creating an unison project with other French bands from different parts of the country to play concerts in each other's regions. Despite not getting a proper release, Foetus is a very honest (at times brilliant) JR/F album, a typical product of its time, despite lacking the fully-professional feel of the groups it inspired itself upon, but if you're interested enough, you will get it through their other two CDs, and it's very much worth it. Actually I may even prefer it to both Triton and Nicolas II.

1 comment:

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