Thursday, February 22, 2018

Wapassou - 1974 - Wapassou


01. Melopée (4:05)
02. Rien (10:44)
03. Musillusion (4:00)
04. Châtiment (6:56)
05. Trip (13:45)

CD reissue:
01. Femmes-Fleurs (bonus track) (2:48)
02. Borgia (bonus track) (2:31)
03. Melopée (4:05)
04. Rien (10:44)
05. Musillusion (4:00)
06. Châtiment (6:56)
07. Trip (13:45)

- Freddy Brua / organ, electric piano, piano, synthesizer
- Karin Nickerl / vocals, acoustic guitar
- Jacques Lichti / violin
- Fernand Landmann / acoustic equipment

Guest musicians:
- Geneviève Moerlen / flute on `Melopée', `Châtiment'
- Benoît Moerlen / percussion on `Trip'
- Jean-Pierre Schaal / bass on `Trip'
- Jean-Jacques Bacquet / clarinet on `Musillusion', `Châtiment'
- Jean-Michel Biger / drums on `Trip', `Châtiment'
- Christian Laurent / electric guitar, sitar on `Trip'.

Wapassou is one of those hard to classify prog group, not really on the rock side of prog, but it would be a shame not to include it, the same way Art Zoyd or Univers Zero are in the archives. Their music is a mix of classical with meditative (almost hippie) moments and spacey ethereal music. Their line-up is just about as unconventional as there is no drums and bass guitar, concentrating between violin, electric guitars and organs. Sounds intriguing? Well it is. 

 A fascinating debut album from a male and female member Seventies musical collective with a skewed split personality of styles and sounds, French group Wapassou would eventually become an avant-garde/chamber prog/rock-in-opposition act of note in the second half of that decade. But while there's the first emerging signs of that on their self-titled first album from 1974, the band were also experimenting with psychedelic, Krautrock, folk, raga and symphonic passages, making for an exploratory work searching musically in so many teasing little glimpses of schizophrenic directions.
Opening instrumental `Melopée' is a melancholic but wistful searing violin, flute and classical guitar folk rumination, keyboards shimmering gently with restraint in the background. The churning and senses-rattling `Rien' races in and out of a wealth of fascinating little themes in almost eleven minutes, Karin Nickerl's breathy pained vocal both reflective and weary over despondent piano, straining synths and scratchy violin responses. The piece quickly turns frantic and dangerous as electric piano and manic acoustic guitar picking grows in urgency, and pulsing electronics and mischievous droning organ brings a nightmarish mood. `Musillusion' closes the first side and is a shorter medieval-flavoured folk lament with droning choir-like vocals, Karin's slightly flat voice giving the piece an eerie despondent quality.

After a first side that was entirely devoid of drums altogether or anything except the lightest of percussive elements, the symphonic `Châtiment' maintains a nicely clipping beat (with almost an accidently modern trip-hop kick to it decades too early!) as Karin's breathy spoken-word purr drifts in and out of aching violin, dancing flute and spectral Ange-like keyboards. The almost fourteen- minute instrumental closer `Trip' sounds like nothing else on the disc (partly due to the addition of several guest musicians), with a Krautrock, raga and psych-rock flavour to the constant spacey electronic drones, lengthy jamming keyboard runs over lively drumming, hypnotic percussion and relentless snaking bass. Acid-fried electric guitar jamming simmers in the background, and sitar groans to life and builds wildly in the climax.

Oddly (and rather frustratingly, because there shouldn't be this kind of `re-writing of history'), the reissue licensed from Musea Records not only adds two instrumental recordings from a 1974 single to the front of the album (they should at least be tacked onto the end of the disc as `bonus tracks'), but it fails to even list them on the back cover. A bit of internet sleuthing reveals they are `Femmes-Fleurs', an easy to enjoy mix of plodding electronics and fuzzy distorted guitars that remind of the title-track opener of Pink Floyd's `Obscured by Clouds', and `Borgia', a throwaway but upbeat jig-like psych-lite rocker full of sprightly Hammond organ and spirited violin.

Initially confusing on first listen, `Wapassou' proves to be an unpredictable and exciting curio if you can connect with the somewhat gloomy mood of the pieces. Each track has a sparse, low-key production and is full of interesting (if not always the most skilled) playing, and there's a constant tasty roughness and natural fragility to the entire set that creates a very permeating and highly distinctive atmosphere. Don't instantly dismiss the album, let it take its time to reveal its precious secrets, and you'll likely find a welcome little unexpected gem.