Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Verto - Krig/Volubilis


Released 1976 on Pole
Reviewed by gogmagog, 15/04/2006ce

Reading Achuma's excellent set of reviews recently on the dark French-atronica of the mid-seventies Pole collective etc.. I was put in mind of this murderously dark Gallic masterpiece. The work mainly of Jean-Pierre Grasset and various Goubin brothers (who made up the late-Zeuhl band Potemkine) Krig / Volubilis from 1976 is a sort of merger between the abstract electronica of Besombes et al. and a more Crimson-ised Zeuhl. Especially so for the first side of this LP. "Krig" kicks off proceedings with an ominously drawn out Magmoid riff, distorted fretless bass death rattles crying out from the off. "En Terre" retains the dark aura (in fact the dark aura never disperses), sounding like one of the darker Fripp/Eno collaborations maybe, ultra-sustained guitar buzzing like a demonically possessed wasp over vacant, ethereal voices panting out a typically magma three-note ululation. Never slowing the guitar is constantly on the move, never allowing the listener to settle into anything resmbling emotional stability until it cuts off into a satanic laugh. A 45-second interlude "Ether" follows, here doing exactly what is says on the tin, a floaty etherised wobble of guitar notes and into the 5-minute free-folk of "Oka," a disjointed early Amon Dull thing with strange vocal chanting along the melody. For some reason it reminds me of Pye Hastings, don't ask why!?! Verto are back on track for the seven minute "Locomo" - a false bouncy Weather Report-type riff lulling the listener into a false sense of security until the most-fuzzed out guitar solo scrawls musical graffiti all over it (metaphorically speaking).

But as most people famiiar with this LP will be anticipating with this review, the magnum opus is on Side Two - the 18 minute "Strato" - one of the most whacked-out pieces of mid-seventies space-rock to emerge from Europe. French electronica amd space-rock has always seemed to me to be a little more phased and plangent-sounding than its German counterpart. And the overall experience of this piece is akin to being enveloped in some kind of spectral, ectoplasmic, space-goo, as it seemingly undulates slowly and mysteriously from the speakers. Believe me, "Strato" is in no hurry to get finished, it emerges deathly slow out of nowhere, the most sublime guitar strokes gently brushing, tentative and meditative. Similarities might be early Ash Ra Tempel or the more-impressive versions of Jimi Page's violin-solo expeditions into the cosmos on "Dazed."
Even more obvious is the Pompei-era Gilmour-like, sit-down and mess with your guitar noises that Grasset exhumes from the most-buried essences of his instrument. Its easily up there with anything the Germans put out, as far as space-rock is concerned. (Side Note: even the French "Prog" bands were more spacey than most: Pulsar, Wlud, etc)
then everything gets echoed out and we seem to be in a Affenstude-era Popol Vuh space-valley for a while. "Strato" really is a journey in every sense of the word. By its end you will never have guessed 18 minutes have passed. Mid-way a doomed riff begins to form, and some shape emerges out of the mist, a chromium guitar sound crys out , very Hillage-toned until yet another resounding space riff begins to chug away along the home straight, at once recalling the styles of both Gottsching and Achim Reichel's mighty ur-text ECHO (1972). Is there no end to this piece? Of course, there is, and its a a blissfully-stoned glacial guitar-outro, but it isn't the end of the LP. The darkest and most abstract has been saved to the last. A 5-minute er..."potentiometer-out" has yet to take place. The track, called "TK 240 S 52" is early-Cluster-like, huge meta-shapes of abstract synthesiser collide and merge, a fitting (albeit pessimistic) end to this musical experience.
VERTO really is an obscure masterpiece of guitar-driven, electronica and avant space-rock - its seems like an amalgamation of all the various tropes of the seventies French rock scene.

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