Exposé Online banner

Philharmonie — Nord
(Cuneiform Rune 64, 1994, CD)

by Peter Thelen, 1994-10-01:

Nord Cover art

It seems like only about six months since the last Philharmonie disc, these guys are a hard working group for sure! The original guitar trio of Frederic L'Epee, Laurent Chalef and Bernard Ros are now augmented by a full-time fourth member Jean-Louis Boutin on drums — which seemed like the logical next step from their first two. They've now almost completely shed the ethereal 'live' sound of the first disc, and taken the more structured approach of their second and built upon that even more. In addition, Bernard Ros is now full-time on Chapman Stick, giving their sound even more color and energy. Their trademark style is fluid, subtle, and uniquely French — energetic yet not busy, and unlike Fripp's League of Crafty Guitarists — to which comparisons might likely be made, though Philharmonie's approach to composition seems far more natural and effervescent, not so academic and rigid (which is not meant to be a slam on Fripp's music — I'm just attempting to point out differences here). The addition of drums brings the music a little closer to the jazz/rock axis, yet their presence is never overbearing, always yielding priority to the guitar and Stick work, essentially following the natural percussive attack of those instruments. Those who enjoyed the previous Philharmonie albums are sure to enjoy this one, as well as all fans of spirited guitarwork everywhere. For the newbie, this is probably as good a place as any to get on board.


by Dan Casey, 1994-10-01:

Originally formed as an electric guitar trio, this French band led by ex-Shylock fretman Fredric L'Epee has expanded to a four-piece with the addition of Jean-Louis Boutin on drums for the release of Nord. Furthermore, Bernard Ros has taken on the role of all-time bass duties with his Chapman Stick, leaving only Laurent Chalef as the alter-ego to L'Epee. The ensemble functions more as a true band with this lineup, continually drawing stylistic comparisons to the 80s King Crimson dueling fretwork of Fripp and Belew. But Philharmonie take a less aggressive, more harmonic approach. Careful thought has been clearly given to the harmonic content of the stutter-stop guitar patterns that dominate each of the eight cuts, and how they intertwine and overlap. Interesting, but perhaps too academic of an approach with the end result being comparable to a partially successful experiment. To give credit where it's due, the guitar performances are both accurate and impressive, and the quality of the recording and mixing is superior. Philharmonie have a fresh, relaxing approach but it works much better in small doses than in large quantities because of the ever-gentle approach. Don't bother looking for a lot of variety in the guitar sounds, as anything resembling distortion or searing lead tones is deliberately avoided. Unusual and professional enough to recommend, at least marginally.


by Rob Walker, 1994-10-01:

Philharmonie was formed as an electric guitar trio by Frederic L'Epee, best known as the founder and leader of the brilliant 70s French group Shylock. After a relatively unknown self-released debut in 1990, Philharmonie's second CD, 1993's Les Elephants Carillonneurs, was well received by the progressive community for its strong originality and mesmerizing beauty. Now L'Epee and Co. return with Nord, adding a drummer, and serving up more of their intricate interlocking rhythmic ostinatos and well written counterpoint. They use primarily clean electric guitar sounds, coaxing out a variety of timbres, occasionally augmented by an e-bow. The music is generally relaxing and contemplative, in a minimalistic sort of way, despite the constant motion and often complex interweaving lines. The addition of the drummer, as well as the prevalent use of the Chapman Stick, allows the band to execute greater dynamic contrasts, and at times gives the music a degree of energy and drive that was absent in the group's previous work. In some ways, perhaps, the use of drums and Stick, which often simply serves as a glorified bass, takes away some of the novelty and originality of the group. But for the most part, the uniqueness of having a few guitars supply all the elements of the music is still here, only some of those roles are now being shared with the new instruments. The drumming is tasteful and restrained; it basically serves to highlight the dynamic changes and augment the rhythms created by the interaction of the guitars, or to provide a foundation on which rhythmic variations can be overlaid. Nord is a solid 60+ minutes of music, comparable in quality and originality to other Cuneiform releases, though a bit mellower than their usual fare. Recommended.


Filed under: New releases , Issue 5 , 1994 releases

Related artist(s): Philharmonie, Frédéric l'Épée

More info

Latest news

2021-02-14
SoundQuest Fest 2021 – SoundQuest Fest, first experienced as a live festival in Tucson Arizona in 2010 was created by ambient music pioneer Steve Roach. This 2021 event will unite a worldwide gathering of artists and audience members together for a 3-day online event unique in the realm of ambient music. From March 26-28th a continuous flow of streamed performances, audio-video wonder worlds and deep immersion zones will burn bright on Roach’s YouTube channel. » Read more

2021-02-10
Chick Corea RIP – The sad news has reached us that Chick Corea has Returned to Forever, so to speak. The innovative keyboardist and composer died on February 9 at the age of 79. With a career that spanned from the 60s until shortly before his death, Corea touched many listeners with the incredible variety of music he produced in his lifetime. » Read more

2021-01-18
Asia Minor Third Album on the Way – On January 29, AMS records will be releasing the long-awaited third album by classic Turkish-French band Asia Minor. Released last year in Japan, this will be the widespread debut of Points of Libration. The album features original members Setrak Bakirel (vocals, guitar) and Eril Tekeli (flute, guitar). » Read more

2020-12-09
Harold Budd RIP – Harold Budd, one of pre-eminent American composers of avant-garde and minimalism, has died of complications from the coronavirus. Budd came to prominence in the 70s, championed by Brian Eno on his Obscure Records label, with music that blended academic minimalism with electric jazz and electronic music. Much of Budd's best known work was done in collaboration with other artists, including Eno, Daniel Lanois, Robin Guthrie, Andy Partridge, John Foxx, Jah Wobble, and many others. » Read more

2020-11-20
25 Views of Worthing Finally Gets Released – A while ago, we wrote about the discovery of a "long lost" Canterbury-style gem by a band called 25 Views of Worthing. And now we're pleased to find out that Wind Waker Records has released their music on an LP. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Clepsydra - More Grains of Sand – Ever miss the sound of Marillion in their glory days? This Swiss five-piece regularly evokes the memory of Misplaced Childhood on this, their second album, and build upon that general sound using...  (1995) » Read more

DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid & Dave Lombardo - Drums of Death – DJ Spooky (Paul Miller) and Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo are the core of this oddly compelling recording. Together with bassist Jack Dangers, this cleverly arranged fusion of samples and hard rock...  (2006) » Read more

Rick Wakeman - Say Yes! – I knew Rick Wakeman had a great sense of humor, but I didn't know he was this funny! Told with a true gift for storytelling, Say Yes! should have all but the most hardened cynics in stitches...  (1997) » Read more

Chance:Risiko - Sleep Talking – The first thing I’d have to say about this four-piece from Bologna is that they really don’t sound Italian, which of course is an absurd thing to say, since a whole country can’t be...  (2011) » Read more

Curved Air - Live 1990 – Curved Air was always one of the most talented bands that was unable to realize the financial rewards for leading the crest of the 70s progressive wave. This was due in part to the massive hype by the...  (2001) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues