I have to say that I've been a little surprised when I saw that Julian Julien is on PA as a Jazz- Rock fusion artist instead of a Zeuhl one, but effectively one eclectic artist with several different influences and able to combine them can stay in almost all the subgenres.
Terre is his debut album on which he plays almost all the instruments and is first of all an album full of good music. Then, looking at each track, we can discover many different elements which make each track a worth listen each one for its own specificity.
The title track "Terre" is opened by some voices, few seconds but enough to understand that even Pink Floyd are not too far. However this track is made mainly of piano, percussions and strings, a sort of Latin America, maybe tango mixed with samba percussions, with a melody which has a bit of Canterbury. This is a great opener and also one of the best tracks of the album.
"L'Attente" is another excellent track. A bell instrument, I don't know if glockenspiele or Xylophone provides the base to a very relaxing ambience but at the same time sounds like gamelan and effectively there's also a short "Indonesian" interlude, but if you listen better it's like hearing sounds coming to your mind before you wake up from a dream. What I see in my mind is a watercolor painting with a clear childish line.
A hypnagogic track I'd say.
"Tupperware and Bibelots" has an ethnic intro of wind flute and slow percussions, then a concertina together with a baritone sax transform it into a grotesque tango, made more grotesque by the trumpet. Astor Piazzolla would have liked it, but there's more behind. I can imagine a circus full of weird characters. This kind of jazz makes me think to Paolo Conte, an italian jazzist.
"Bencoleen Hotel" is where the influence of Soft Machine is more evident. The glockenspiele (or what it is) reminds clearly, and is maybe a hommage, to "Palace of Glass" from Land of Cockayne, but in the same time has a Balinese mood. Not bad for a song shorter than two minutes.
"Souquez" is driven by the cello that's a fantastic instrument and here is very fit for purpose. Its structure is similar to "Terre", but the dreamy environment is a little darker, probably because of the bass notes of the cello (or a viola?). A violin would haven't sounded so well. It's another excellent track which shows an impressive composing skill.
"Promenade" is another short piece with a repetitive theme backed by percussions- A very nioce one, which could have possibly been extended but even in thos form is good enough.
"Degung" makes me think to Soft Machine again, but in a darker version. It's another dreamy track, but it's like the dream is now deeper. Something is changing in the watercolor painting, 66 now characters come and go seamlessly in this painting, it's not just a scene, there's movement brought in by the violin. Soemtimes a crescendo in the tempo with the violin increasing its volume and coming in the freground makes the tension increase. The tango element is now mixed with a middle eastern influence. Well, please consider that those are my personal sensations while I'm relistening to the album, I don't know which kind of ideas were in Julian's mind when he composed it. However this is surely one of the album's highlights.
A long piano intro on which percussions and, I think, some "pizzicato" are the start of another very good track. "Les Deux" is one of the more jazzy tracks. It seems like a long piano jazz improvisation but the structure lets intend that it's not so improvised. It has also some ethnic elements but is one of the most approachable moments for who is not familiar with this genre.
A young girl sings something in French, surely better than the Jingle Bells on Jon Anderson's "3 Ships". What follows is a piece of art. I've been able to put my head into the music without realizing that its only 1 minute and half long.
"P'Tite Peche" has a bit of sadness inside, even if not too different from the dreamy tracks in its structure. The good with this album is that can be apprecieated in different ways: both putting a lot of attention to the instruents and the composition, in a more "technical" way, or just letting your mind go with the music which flows very well.
A particular mention is deserved by "La Tombe Des Lucioles", that's the longest track of the album, the most dramatic and at the same time one of the most dreamy. I have exchanged some mails with Julian Julien and he has told me which situation has inspired this composition. I won't tell you. Close your eyes and try to imagine it. The track has a crescendo of intensity and in the middle it becomes a little chaotic, showing the influence of Zeuhl, even if I think more to bands like Art Zoyd than to Magma. IN the second part of the song a cello cries over a piano. Can you see firefiles slowly falling down to their grave? Then the song features very compulsive percussions and piano which make the tension grow and give to the strings the possibility to express all their dramatic potential.
The only thing that I initially didn't like is the sudden end of the song (and of the album), but knowing what's behind this track, I think that it's right so. The sudden end is one of the keys to read this track.
To summarize, this is a very good album, not too difficult but never trivial. Not challenging but not easy. I don't hesitate in suggesting it to who wants to explore this side of prog and I'm happy to rate it with 4 stars.
Review by octopus-4, COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
Disclaimer: I'm not primarily a jazz or jazz-related reviewer, so I apologize to the readers for my ignorance of the genre, which I will surely become apparent throughout this review.
But I do know what I like, and after being pleasantly surprised with Julian Julien's other project, Fractale, I was given another surprising opportunity to review Julien's solo music on this album. Compared to Fractale, this album is a significant decrease in overall heaviness while still displaying fantastic musicianship and greatly enjoyable music.
While this is jazz, ,Terre is not representative of the popular "funk-fusion" like Return to Forever or Weather Report. The music here has a very strong world music feel, almost like a combination of Al di Meola's World Sinfonia work and some of Nguyen Le's music, but still undeniably French sounding as a whole. Some individual tracks have their own feel, such as "Tupperware et Bibelots", which reminds me of Gentle Giant's "Inmate's Lullaby" fused with some of the more cheerful tracks on Aranis' Roqueforte (the RIO chamber music atmosphere on Terre is indisputable).
In addition to the musicianship on this album, Terre is an incredibly danceable album. A lot of jazz is either too fast or too complex to really let loose and let the beat carry me along, but most of these tracks are mid-tempo, rhythmically oriented, and relaxing compositions that are easy to get lost in. If you are too occupied to concentrate on what is happening with the instruments, then you can rather easily pay attention to the way that your body is subconsciously grooving. It may also be worth mentioning that I find this music to be rather romantic and sensual, I have that opinion on many things.
Whenever I look for European jazz, Terre is exactly the kind of music I have in mind and leaves nothing to be desired. Anyone who is already a fan of any of the artists I've mentioned earlier in this review, I'd highly recommend you give Terre a listen -- you won't be disappointed. Julian Julien has successfully landed a spot on artists to follow closely from now on, and I sincerely hope to hear more greatness from him in the future.
Review by colorofmoney91
Julian Julien (more recently known for his band Fractale) plays all of the instruments on this intriguing album. He also manages quite an accomplishment: releasing an album with accordian that doesn't irritate the hell out of me.
It's difficult for me to call this album fusion, or even jazz, for that matter. It's all intrumental, there are improvised parts, but it sounds altogether unique to my ears. In some ways, there is a similarity to some of the music of Magma. There is that sense of repetition in the compositions, with the repeated sections slowly evolving into works of mesmerizing beauty.
Julien's work on all the instruments, while not astounding, is very tasteful. His string playing to me is quite compelling, and his choices for sounds to use in his rhythm tracks is perfection.
Often, I tend to get tired on one man multitracked solo albums, with the overlaying sounding too mechanical. Julian manages to avoid this pitfall, making his pieces sound natural and flowing.
Review by Evolver, SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
I was rather excited when I was asked to review this solo album from Julian Julien, as I'd previously reviewed another project of his, the live album from his band Fractale. This album certainly did not disappoint either, with perhaps even a greater amount of sonic variety than appeared on the Fractale album and plenty of that same innovative spirit that manages to sound very experimental while also being very listenable. References to zeuhl get thrown around a lot with reference to Julian Julien's work, but don't let that frighten you off if you've previously found the genre hard to approach: despite containing obvious zeuhl influences, this is a very melodic, listenable album.
The title track "Terre" begins the album with some field recordings before a jazzy piano part comes in, to be quickly joined by some amazing melodic strings. Somehow all the parts combine to form an amalgamation that sounds like something you'd hear if you arranged Magma for a jazz club, though there are also sections are far more tenderly beautiful than anything I've heard from Magma. It's a very impressive track, especially considering that based on the album credits everything was played by Julian Julien himself.
"L'Attente" comes next, beginning with a bit of a classically influenced wind part before some other instruments come in (perhaps a marimba? I can't tell). "L'Attente" is a bit more languid than was the opening track, and perhaps a bit more eccentric as well, with some very eastern-influenced sections interspersed with what sounds to me like low-pitched windchimes. The track manages to avoid sounding noisy, which is impressive given the menagerie (not the right word but the best way I can describe it) of sounds used.
"Tupperware Et Bibelots" begins with some minimal wind and percussion creating a very open, almost dissonant atmosphere. This feeling continues for a little while before a very folky melody from what is perhaps an accordion enters. It really is incredibly impressive to me how seamlessly Mr. Julien can blend a folky, Italian sounding melodic line with elements of a zeuhl sound and still have it sound so good. And believe me, it sounds amazing.
"Tupperware Et Bibeots" sounds like cinematic avant-folk-zeuhl, and if that doesn't intrigue you than I don't know what would. The best part, as I've mentioned, is that the song never loses its strong melodic presence- this is incredibly pleasant music to listen to despite the wide range of influences. "Bencoleen Hotel" begins with another slightly eastern-sounding theme that reminds me just a bit of Ozric Tentacles. It's a pretty short track but it accomplishes what it needs to, providing a spacey, psychedelic interlude after the much longer "Tupperware."
"Souquez" has a bit of a darker feel to it and a little more of a zeuhl feel to it. To Mr. Julien's immense credit, however, every time it begins to sound like Magma the track does something unexpected, like introducing a gorgeous melodic cello part that gives the track an entirely different feel. The melodies here are really absurdly good, and the five minutes of the track fly by in no time at all.
"Promenade," another short track, begins with a quirky horn part which is aided by some minimal but well-placed percussion. The track really doesn't deviate too far from this initial feel, but at only 2 minutes it certainly doesn't get repetitive and it's another good break on an album with so much density. 69 "Degung" begins with an almost gothic sounding melody, and builds on it with very interesting instrumentation, utilizing a variety of string sounds and what sounds like some sort of gong or bell. This is another track which really captures the "melodic zeuhl" feel that permeates so much of this album, with the strings creating an intense, urgent, gothic feel while also remaining very smooth melodically. I do think it runs just a bit overlong, but really, when the music is of this high quality I can hardly complain about there being too much of it. This track also really highlights how well Mr. Julien can capture the zeuhl feeling with only minimal percussion, which is part of what makes this music sound so unique.
"Les Yeux" is the album's next track, beginning with a solo piano part that sounds like it could have come out of a horror movie soundtrack. This part is quickly joined by another piano part and some percussion, as well as something that sounds like it might be a harp. As all of these parts converge the track begins to have a very strong if uniquely textured rhythmic presence, and with piano taking the melodic lead over the strings it has quite a different feel than a lot of the music on this album. Unfortunately, I think this track also runs a bit long, especially given the near constant playing of the frenetic, high-pitched piano at the front of the track. Fantastic atmosphere and textures, but unfortunately this one wears a bit thin for me by the time it reaches its close.
"Clementine" begins with a soundclip of a young girl singing before bass comes in, which is itself soon joined by that same marimba sound from earlier. Despite coming it at under two minutes I think this is one of the coolest sounding tracks on the album, making excellent use of a repeating motif to create an atmosphere that's haunting and mysterious.
"P' Tite Peche" is another great two minute track, with great interplay between several different instruments, densely arranged in a way that still avoids sounding cluttered. I must confess that I'm a bit jealous of both Mr. Julien's compositional skill as well as his actual playing, as this track, despite its brevity, highlights both.
"La Tombe Des Lucioles" is the last track on the album, beginning with some free jamming before a very zeuhl-esque piano and string part begins. Interplay between many instruments is again the name of the game for this track, but the composition, like all the music here, is masterful, and the track manages to combine all the parts into a wall of sound so cohesive it's difficult to pick out individual parts. Personally I think that's one of the hallmarks of good composing, and it's extremely evident here. Really, there's nothing about this track that doesn't highlight everything good about Mr. Julien's work: the melodies are fantastic, the composition is top-notch, and the atmospheres are unique and compelling. Stellar work.
I'd really be lying if I said Terre wasn't one of the freshest, most interesting albums I've heard in a while. With a wide range of influences and sounds, this is an album that would be equally at home labeled as zeuhl, eclectic or jazz. Better yet, eschew labels all together and just enjoy this great ride. I don't think you'll regret it.
Review by VanVanVan, COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog Team
French producer / composer / musician Julian Julien debut album opens with beautiful Latin fusion scented "Terre". Don't be fooled though - this small orchestra's ( lot of strings, reeds, bandoneon, percussion, acoustic bass and occasion vocals with Julian on programming / samples and control) isn't your another world fusion band.
Step by step, song after song you will realize that album's music (with its obvious roots in French urban folklore tradition) is elegant mix of European chamber music, some Mediterranean tunes and a very few fusion touches. Released on label with strange name "Prikosnovénie" ( what means "the touch" on few Slavic languages) , this album's genre could be classified as RIO - but without dissonance, anger and angular sound. "Warm RIO" ?
Speaking about music without tags, this album contains well composed (not improvised - that's why this music is not jazz fusion) warm, friendly and has its own beauty almost on every composition. Possibly nearest work that comes in mind (even if both of them are stylistically quite different) is one of Al DiMeola's "World Sinfonia" albums. Remove from "World Sinfonia's" music Al's guitar, Latin passion and add European chamber tradition - you will have "Terre"!
Terre's pros and cons come from its concept - not enough dramatic for RIO fans this album at the same time contains more accessible and friendly music which can attract listener with wider interests.
Review by snobb, SPECIAL COLLABORATOR ZART & JR/F Team
A saxophonist and composer from Paris, France, Julian Julien begun playing music professionally in the 90's as member of various small Jazz-Rock ensembles, influenced by the likes of MAGMA, SOFT MACHINE and PINK FLOYD, before coming up with a personal album in 1999 entitled ''Tupperware et bibelot'', a self-produced work experimenting with string sections and percussion.Just after a year Julien pushed this sound a little further with his sophomore effort ''Terre'', an album released on Priskonovenie label.
Percussions and string arrangements remain a basic ingredient of Julien's music approach, but this time he adds a high dose of wind instruments to his sound with the style ending up as a mix of Jazz-Rock, Zeuhl and RIO/Chamber music.There is also a strong Ethnic dose in a few tracks, ''L'attente'' and ''Bencoleen Hotel'' are a great examples of atmospheric ethnicinfluenced RIO with some nice synth sampling in the background.Generally Julien's compositions have a strong old 30'-50's French feeling, especially when trombone, saxes and accordion take over, even flirting with Cabaret music at moments.On the other hand there is a heavy compound of Chamber-like arrangements with dissonant piano parts along with haunting violin and cello passages.Bands like VOLAPUK, CRO MAGNON and WAPASSOU should have been Julien's possible inspirations and his approach slightly reminds of FRANCOIS THOLLOT's personal works minus the guitar.The biggest achievement of Julien though among the interesting tracks is the careful addition of synthesizers (programmed as stated in the booklet of CD) along with some fascinating dreamy gong sounds throughout, eventually offering the album a beautiful extra color.
A soft instrumental album of rather old-fashioned music with pieces, which could have been easily composed for Paris around 50's.Nice, partly melodic but definitely personal Zeuhl-ish Jazz/Chamber music by a talented man.Warmly recommended.
Review by psarros
A nice debut from this French talent!
My first experience with Julian Julien's music was his live album "Suraneé" from the Fractale project, and I really liked what I heard. Now I have reached the first of his "solo" albums (solo under quotation marks because he has lots of guest musicians) which is entitled "Terre", released in 2000 and with a wide musical spectrum, sharing jazz fusion tunes, with improvisations and more avant garde sounds. This album consists of fifteen songs ranging from 2 to 6 minutes average, with one longer track until the very end; all together make 45 minutes of good music.
The title track begins the album, "Terre" offers a gorgeous violin, percussion and piano sound creating a delicious sound, that perfectly works as the introduction of the record."L'attente" has a melodic style with beauty moments made by xylophone and some soft keyboards as background. What I don't like of this track is that after only 3 minutes it finishes, when I believe it could have been more exploded. The third song is "Tupperware et Bibelots" which is one of the long themes of the album. It begins softly, like an improvisation that produce an atmosphere of uncertainty, but a minute later the rhythm begins to be implemented with the addition of accordion and saxophone. I can imagine this music working as the background of a theatre play, or even a French or Argentinean film.
"Bencoleen Hotel" has an oriental flavor since the first seconds, and it continues with the same sound until it finishes after one minute and a half. "Souquez" is a track full of cadence, with piano playing all the time while strings (violin and cello, I am afraid) make great figures and create wonderful textures that give a very good track as a result. "Promenade" is a short composition with percussion and winds, here I put some images in my head and watch my own film. What a wonderful short song, too bad it ended too soon.
"Degung" is one of my favorite tracks here, it may be the closest one to zeuhl due to the dark atmosphere; violin, piano, cello and table produce wonderful music in this six-minute journey to the eclectic musical realm. After three minutes the song becomes even more interesting and crazier, truly enjoyable.
"Les Deux" is a piano based track that produces the jazzy oriented sound of the album.
"Clementine" is another shortie. Here we can listen to a little girl singing for some seconds, then xylophone enters accompanied by piano, it flows for two minutes until the girl returns, and then the song finishes. "P'Tite Peche" continues with a charming sound, jazzy ala Canterbury style that is good for the ears. And the album finishes with its longest composition, entitled "La Tombe des Lucioles", it starts with a dark atmosphere in an uncertain way, but later violins, drums and piano join and begin to build up a wonderful structure, in which we will have a great journey, musically and emotionally talking. This song has various inner passages that share different textures and colours, moments where it is really intense, and moments where it totally slows down. This is a great song and cool as a last track.
I would highlight the first and last songs of this album, though all of them are very good, I believe some of them could have had more to offer, instead of being that short, so I felt something was missing here. That is why I am giving it three stars, though it is a very good album, really. Enjoy it!
Review by memowakeman, SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
Julian Julien from France is quite a new name for me. Even he releases two albums under his name long ago I've only came across of his work recently. He is a multi instumentalist but specialy a saxophonist, knowing him from band Fractale. Well his first album released in 2000 named Terre is an ethnic album with some jazz leanings, I can't trace here as aswell on his second offer those jazz fusion passages. Is quite an unusual album for me, not bad but I can't say that this is my kind of music I want to here every day. The album has plenty of improvised sections with many instruments working at full capacity, trombone, tabla, sax and others. Overall is pleasent, but something is missing in overall sound, to much world or ethnic parts and less jazz fusion arrangements. To me only 3 stars, ok but far from being something groundbreaking.
Review by b_olariu