Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Julian Julien: Terre II (2015)

Julian Julien: Terre II
French composer/saxophonist Julian Julien has a growing fan base and a rich portfolio of work within his native country, reflecting a wide interest in genres, cultures and media. With his first composition of note coming in a 1993 Sorbonne University project, Julien went on to release his first EP album Tupperware et Bibelot (Self-produced, 1999). While he later travelled throughout Central and Southeastern Asia, he absorbed ethnic influences that would eventually be incorporated into his increasingly eclectic style of writing.

Terre II is less of a sequel to Terre (Priskosnovenie, 2000) than the name would imply. While many of the same musical influences are present (Keith Jarrett, John Surman and film composer John Barry), Julien now works more with silence in the midst of the nuevo-jazz, chamber music and soundtrack dramas of his previous recording. There is also a strong element of European folk music that is becoming increasingly present in the continent's modern music. Terre II is also a concept album where Julien has worked with photographers from Europe, Asia and North America to realize a collaborative musical cinematography of ideas.

Terre II opens with "Prélude," its otherworldly flute and a pulsing bass setting the stage for the title track, a homage to the physical and esoteric territory covered in Julien's previous release. Julien focuses on slightly detached patterns over consistent melody. "Iris I"—the first of six randomly dispersed interludes—leans more toward the European chamber mindset (with some subdued electronic enhancements), as do the ..."II" through ..."VI" variations. "Ailleurs" envisions a better, if not utopian place, where the engaging dialog of the baritone sax and flute direct the narrative.

More personal contributions to the collection are seen in "Une Attente" and "Doudou" dealing with different aspects of the human dilemma. "Non Sens—Nonsence" takes on the very current geopolitical plight of emigres and those faced with the prospect of waves of refugees entering into their society. The album closes with "Mr. John Barry," a tribute to Julien's previously mentioned soundtrack composer favorite; an appropriate conclusion to a collection that in and of itself has elements of a cinematic score.

Though a saxophonist by trade, Julien is credited on Terre II with programming and percussion while Michaël Havard takes on many saxophones and Rémi Dumoulin mans the bass clarinet. Siegfried Canto's flute and cellist Adeline Lecce add much to the chamber aspects of the album. Terre II is a pleasing outing played in a refined atmosphere and with occasional dissonance. It suffers only minimally from a sense of not quite breaking out when given the opportunity. Still, it is different and that makes it worth considering.

Track Listing: Prélude; Terre II; Iris I; Ailleurs; Iris II; Iris III; Une attente; Iris IV; Doudou; Iris V; Non-Sens; Iris VI; Mr. John Barry.

Personnel: Hélène Argo: voice; Guillaume Billaux: guitar; Siegfried Canto: flute; Médéric Collignon: cornet/voice; Rémi Dumoulin: bass clarinet; Michaël Havard: soprano, tenor, baritone saxophone; Julian Julien: percussion, programming; Adeline Lecce: cello.

Record Label: Self Produced

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