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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Alan Stivell: Legende


1) Tour An Arvor; 2) Marc'heien; 3) Barn; 4) Azenor; 5) Sawen; 6) Tour An Arvor; 7) Eireog Shineidin; 8) Imram Brain; 9) Les Peuples Dieux De Danu; 10) Dagda & Morrigan; 11) Eriu; 12) Dans Le Tertre; 13) Le Songe D'Angus; 14) Le Pacte; 15) Au-Delà Des 9 Vagues.

Stuff started happening to musical traditionalists in the Eighties that is fairly hard to describe. Wi­thout expressly «selling out», many of them tried to adapt to common shifts in «sonic value», ta­king more advantage of various studio technologies than they ever paid attention to in the previ­ous decades, sometimes putting production and atmosphere way in advance of the melodies.

Clannad were probably the most notorious example — all of a sudden, going from a fresh, lively band sound to exaggeratedly mystical ambience that eventually dissolved them among miriads of commercially oriented New-Ageists. But at least Clannad never had any serious progressive am­bitions — their scope and reputation always made it obvious that those guys, if necessary, could and would go with the flow. But Stivell? In a certain way, the man was a creative giant of the 1970s; and the higher he ascended, the more cause we all had to worry with the upcoming change of the third number from 7 to 8.

Légende is the first album from Stivell that, while not being expressly bad or distasteful, does ab­solutely nothing for me. Technically, it consists of two long suites ('Si J'Avais 1,000 Ans' and 'La Venue Des Peuples-Dieux'), the first one serenely meditative, the second a musical recasting of a little bit of Irish mythology. Substantially, not only does it add relatively little, if anything, to our already accumulated hoard of Stivell wisdom, but it simply sounds slight. Most of the music just seems like bits of homebrewn harp and flute improvs without much depth or development — in comparison with Renaissance De La Harpe Celtique, it is almost as if Alan had a strange idea to reward his fans with old bits and pieces from the scrapbooks of his youth.

What is new on the album is what I'd call the «gathering-of-the-clouds» approach: lots and lots and lots of synthesized background noises, whirlwinds, echoes, dark choral vocals, etc. — typical New Age stylistics with its silly paradox: using ultra-modern electronic technologies to create an atmosphere of allegedly archaic, reverential mysticism. Of course, this stuff can be done well, but if you just prop it up by humming under your nose, distractedly plucking the same old chords, that's not inspiration, that's crisis.

I honestly cannot recommend this at all. Thumbs down. As an amusing bit of trivia, Clannad would release their album called Legend just one year later — and that, too, would be one of their blandest efforts. Coincidence or revenge of the old gods?

1 comment:

  1. The "gathering of the clouds". Man, that's a GREAT description. And it sorta worked. You're from my generation, more or less, and you've probably, as me, been in a phase in which things like the "Lady Hawke" soundtrack, Jethro Tull's "Broadsword", synth-era Clannad, etc. seem to sound more medieval than medieval music itself.