Lard Free
I'm Around About Midnight

Released 1975 on Vamp
Reviewed by achuma, 27/06/2006ce

For this second Lard Free album, Gilbert Artman – here playing drums, percussion, vibes, Hammond organ, piano, tenor sax and CNDP [?] – put together an entirely new group behind him and leapt into moody deep inner-space territory informed in part by Terry Riley and Heldon, though leaping a few shades beyond. Some of the elements of the debut were still present, but the whole was smoother texturally, and more experimentally sophisticated. It still stands the test of time today and sounds remarkably modern. The other musicians on this album were Richard Pinhas (guitar, bass, synths (ARP and Synthi VKS 3)), Alain Audat (Synthi VKS 3, tenor sax, CLB[?]) and Antoine Duvernot (alto sax, flute).
The retro-noir night-time city streets album cover painting is really apt, and perfectly captures the mood of the music, though not hinting at the experimental and (for the time) futuristic nature of it. This is deep nocturnal music through and through, and consequently, I’m writing this at around two in the morning!

‘Violez l’Espace de Son Refrigerant’ [4:37] oozes forth with slow drones from synth and sax filled out by swooshing synth washes. It’s like the speakers are secreting some thick, mournfully ominous paste of brain gel, as with the whole album in fact – what’s remarkable here, apart from the high quality of the music, is the way in which all the different instruments coalesce to create one unified, gently writhing ear-worm that constantly mutates in a mirage-like fashion. This seeps seamlessly into ‘In A Desert – Alambic’ [5:28], where the dark drones are joined by a repeated sax honk riff, then drums enter like a strolling hippo, and following this, Pinhas steps in with serpentine Frippian electric guitar lines, sinuous and exotic, never deviating far from the root drone note. Mainly due to the sax, this is the first good hint of the kind of realms Artman would explore more thoroughly in a few years with his Urban Sax group (of which I’ve only heard a little, unfortunately). Usually the idea of massed saxophones doing Terry Rileyan locked grooves (as was the basic approach of Urban Sax) wouldn’t seduce me much, as much as I love Terry Riley, but with Artman’s cosmic flair you can’t go too wrong.
‘Does East Bakestan Belong To Itself’ [7:45] segues out of the previous track in a spray of electronic mist, out of which emerges a repeated melody on vibes, reminiscent of one of the themes from Goblin’s ‘Profondo Rosso’ soundtrack, and shortly it’s joined by an overdub of more interlocking vibes, added to which is the fragile and restrained beauty of Pinhas’s free guitar melodics and Duvernot’s soothing avian flute, all creating a delicate and gorgeous tapestry. And, the same penetrating drone is still running the undercurrent that began at the start of the album, and near the end of the track the drones rise and multiply momentarily and threaten to darken the mood with alien menace, eventually subsiding in volume but replacing the ethereal music that swam around it earlier.
‘Tatkooz A Roulette’ [8:00] opens side two with a quiet mesh of keyboards that sounds like the beginning of a Terry Riley piece until punctuated with shimmering reverbed single note synth stabs separated by glacial gaps, and now I’m reminded more of Cozmic Corridors and Temple, two of those obscure Pyramid label German groups, then tone-modulated rhomboid synth sequences seethe into the scene and make everything more jewel-like and deeply kosmische. Near the end a space-dust rhythm machine kicks in with subtle flanged flicks of cymbaline splash propelling it all to its destiny.
That is, WHOOSH, into the next track, ‘Pale Violence Under A Reverbere’ [4:15], which is actually another version (or a longer edit of the same version – it’s hard to tell if they’re exactly identical renditions or not) of ‘Mechamment Rock’ from Heldon’s third album, ‘It’s Always Rock’n’Roll’, made in the same year and also featuring Gilbert Artman on drums as a guest musician. What you get here is a fat, nasty street prowler fuzz bass riff and sturdy drums thwacks driving a beat-up car through the scariest ghetto district in town at 4 in the morn’, as discordant multiple guitar screams and scrapes all manner of anguished industrial hell over the top like sheet metal being rubbed against a massive angle grinder (although it’s not painful to listen to).
‘Even Silence Stops When Trains Come’ [4:10] could hardly be more different, short of being a country pop song, which thankfully it isn’t. Instead we’re soothed with airy washes of synth bedding under a heavenly cascade of multiple pianos, sounding at times like blissful trills across a harp. All up a little like similar gentle electronics’n’piano-laden moments on the Moolah album, cross-pollinated with some similar Popol Vuh – in other words, pretty sublime stuff!

And there you have the second Lard Free album, which would be followed by only one more (see the review for ‘III’) before Artman retired the group and moved on to new realms.

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