I don't often combine two or more titles as a single review, but since I received a pair of CD’s from French artists Demian Clav simultaneously I thought I'd make an exception.
The two albums are “Nightfall Prayers” which was released back in 2009 on Cykxincorp Records and the 2013 release “Adrift: Ten Years Before Scardanelli” on the Yajna Editions label.
The band also release the album “Wisteria Lodge” in 2011, as well as “Night At The Catacombs” with Ray Buttiqieq in 2009.
Demian Clav is a Gothic dark-wave band from Nantes, France founded by vocalist D. Clavreul.
The music on the debut album “Nightfall Prayers” is filled with dark shadowy imagery with subject matter inspired by artists and authors like Kierkegaard, Hölderlin, and Tarkovski. The album is a mixture of spoken word dialogue and anomalous musical arrangements reminiscent of early Pink Floyd and the solo albums of Syd Barrett and Roger Waters. More melancholy than melodic.
And like “Nightfall Prayers” the 2013 release “Adrift” also includes extensive blocks of spoken word narration, ambiguous lyrics, and an oppressive shroud of dark melancholia, but it also displays a higher level of sophistication in both the compositions and musical arrangements.
Since “Adrift” is the newer of the two releases I'll devote more time to it.
The line-up for “Adrift” includes: D. Clavreul (vocals, electric guitar, keyboards), J.C. Wintrebert (drums, keyboards, cello), J.Y. Brard (bass) as well as guest musicians: Raphaelle Guillet, Jessica Farley, and Armelle Darbon (vocals), Baptiste Brenton (keyboards), Madeleine Goosens and Patrick Meriau (violin), Pierre-Entienne Malefond (guitar) and Cedric Lerouley (sounds).
Unfortunately I don't understand French. But from the information I was able to gather this is a concept album on the early life of German lyric poet Friedrich Hölderlin (who is associated with the artists movement known as Romanticism), taking place ten years before his descent into madness. Yet the events leading up to the confinement of Hölderlin is only the prelude to his adventures as Scardanelli.
Locked in his tower in Tübingen, Germany, and looked after by Ernst Zimmer (a local carpenter and his family), Friedrich Hölderlin wrote a series of strange poems he describes as a voyage beyond time and invisibility under several pseudonyms, including that of his enigmatic alter ego Scardanelli.
And “Adrift” follows events leading up to that point before his transition from Hölderlin to Scardanelli. And since the narrative tale is in French – which I don't understand - I'll concentrate on the musical content instead.
The French Nouvelle Vague (New Wave) avant-garde music of “Adrift” is at times a confluence of spoken word narrative and a cacophony of eerie noises which could be as biting as the King Crimson improvisations between David Cross' staccato violin and Fripp's distorted feedback slowly building to a crescendo. Other times it takes a darkly romantic path augmented by beautiful symphonic moments as cello, violin and lush keyboard strings blend into a Harmonic Convergence and I'm reminded of (x-Crimson) Pete Sinfield's album “Still”, the Stephen Wilson/Tim Bowness project No-Man, or the cinematic neo-classical/martial electronica band In The Nursery. A grandiose coupling of orchestra and the spoken word.
Comparisons can also be drawn to the French progressive rock artists Halloween specifically the quieter moments of (“Part One”, “Laz”, and “Merlin”), Arachnoid, Terpandre, and XII Alfonso.
It's a difficult album to get through if you're unfamiliar with the language because the narrative is voice-over and not simply lyrics. Usually albums with lyrics in a band's native tongue don't bother me, because it's often difficult to understand the lyrics in a lot of today's music, unless you happen to be following the liner notes for reference. But when a concept album is carried along by extensive spoken word narration, and you can't comprehend the storyteller, one can't help but become disengaged. And as a result it made it difficult for me to fully appreciate.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on August 11th, 2013