Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Vol. 4 - Illuminations

Released 1971 on Festival
Reviewed by gogmagog, 17/12/2007ce

Catharsis: Vol. 4 - Illuminations (1971)

Inspired by Seth Man’s enthralling interpretation of C. Ribeiro’s first + Alpes LP, I proceeded to dig out some of my own French psych and, hence, Gallicise my whole Sunday afternoon. Alighting on Ribeiro’s 1975 live LP ‘Libertes’ on French Philips, I was astonished to remember just how great the live version of “Poeme Non Epique” was - a must for fans. But it was Ribeiro's obscure Festival label stable-mates, Catharsis, that really got me ga-ga for the Gallic culture.

The exquisitely ephemeral psych-rock of Catharsis is in place from the off, as the Floyd-like keyboards of opener “Aube” emerge out of the ether - that great, minor-chord, searching Rick Wright-quality being the main stylistic motif of Catharsis’ elegant muse. Fans of the 68/69 Floyd (‘Omayyad’s “One One” or the More OST), will not be disappointed with the organ playing on this record. As the descending acoustic chords of “La Morte des Pendus” begin to cascade down some mythical landscape - as if sound-tracking a group of Templar Knights slowing moving through the Saharan valley - the organ twists through the circular acoustics, while lead singer Charlotte’s wordless vocal caresses the ancient souls of nomadic cultures past. Although gentle, Catharsis retain a sinister vibe overall, and “En Revenant de la Noce” could be Stella Vander journeying into the tomb of Emehnteht-Re all on her lonesome - a solemn 4/4 drum and warbling Farfisa her only company; the wordless vocal as clear as cut crystal lighting her winding harmonic path. “Mignone Allons Voir” gets a little medieval on our asses - all oboes calling out the beginning of some spectral banquet - Third Ear Band-meets-Beggars Opera - while Charlotte the hand-maiden goes la-la-la for a while. “Le Canard Blanc” retains this middle-ages romp for a while, but it can’t be long before the gloom descends again - and, as if she foresees the great pain ahead, Charlotte’s vocal lament gets ever more maudlin.

And, as if on cue, the title-track “Illuminations” begins side two with strange cavernous organ assaults and rampant drums, Charlotte’s ghostly vocal flitting around some long-forgotten ante-chamber - Gormenghast-like in its gothic ridiculousness - maddening piano and stern organ vamping away on a sole throbbing chord. Gothic French (avant-)prog-folk never sounded so giddy. Surprisingly bouncy bass begins “Poemes du 17e Siecle” but is soon joined with Charlotte’s breathy sex-noises (ala Papas’ contributions to 666), giggling away while a jaunty mid-sixties organ grooves on. Finisher “Alchemie Du Verbe (2e parte)” is the LP’s epic at 7:35 - a stroked acoustic and mordantly-sad piano trills back up strange electronic oscillations in the background - the sort of thing Amon Duul II might slip on their LPs’ from time to time. A languorous sunset of a tune, it concludes this strange and druggy musical experience. Fans of Amon Duul I and II, Ribeiro’s work, and 70’s French acid-folksters, Tangerine, will find much of value here.

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