Etron fou leloublan - Batelages (1977), 7/10

Etron fou leloublan, loosely translated to the wonderful title “mad shit, the white wolf”, were active years before this studio debut, including opening for Magma in the early seventies, which likely contributes to its surprising artistic maturity. Batelages begins with a crazy and disheveled blend of punk and jazz, followed by a series of intensely focused passages that quickly develop into a jagged set of melodies. Some work better than others while most take time to reveal their quality, but all contribute to a generally gratifying sense of scattered pandemonium. A loose and free rhythm section contributes to the very theatrical and anecdotal presentation set against Richard’s intense yet varied set of vocal passages. The opening track covers an extreme amount of ground musically, feeling like an imaginative musical opening act. This is accentuated and contrasted by “Sololo Birgida”’s percussive experimentation, then retraced by “Yvett’Blouse” and the closer “Histoire de graine”. While the avant-garde musicality of most movements is evident, the combination of uncompromising cheerlessness with eventually sympathetic melody makes songs like the closer stand out against contemporaries. The amateurish production sound only bolsters the album’s ethos, making it feel and sound more pleasantly austere and rebellious. The combination of free flowing, roaming performance with focused yet dissonant verse may appear off putting but expands into a unique appeal with time. The youthful energy combined with a showy sense of humor make the album exceptional and valuable as a representative work of French progressive music.