Erik Truffaz Arkhangelsk Review

Album. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

Not so much an involving variety as a confusion of stylistic droppings.

Martin Longley 2007

Here, French trumpeter Truffaz is wandering into an introverted landscape, taking his three regular playing partners on a journey that will involve collaborations with a trio of vocalists.

The album's ten tracks are divided equally between these instrumental and vocal pieces. The opening "Miss Kaba" sets up a travellin' pulse, with which Truffaz acolytes will be familiar. Truffaz has been marinated in the deep romanticism of Chet Baker and Miles Davis, but he also shares a granulated whisper with Jon Hassell and Arve Henriksen. Veering away from overt funkiness, the emphasis here is on balladry, or at least softly ruminating soundtracks for non-existent movies.

It's the three tracks penned with British singer-songwriter Ed Harcourt that cause the most unpleasantness. "Red Cloud" features the kind of vocal employed by a pompadoured metal band for their token ballad number; "Snake Charmer Man" could be from the blander end of Canterbury prog and "Nobody Puts Baby In The Corner" is the best of the three, making a clunky, old-timey stumble. "Trippin' The Lovelight Fantastic" fares better, with the oleaginous rap-poetic intonations of Nya feeling more appropriate to the band's sound.

"Les Nuits De Monsieur Naj" and the title cut keep things instrumental, the first a soft ballad that edges into a proggy theme. Again, this is courtesy of Patrick Muller, whose Hammond organ work adds much appealing texture, prompting Truffaz to discover some exceptionally low notes on his horn. Then, "Arkhangelsk" remains in slow mode, also awash with organ, feeding Erik a soulful Ann Peebles "I Can't Stand The Rain" vibe to coax out some delicate solos.

Singer Christophe goes for some old-fashioned Parisian smooching on "L'un Dans L'Autre", but it's "Akiko" that makes the listener yearn for an outbreak of uptempo funking. It's a rubbery stepper that benefits from Muller's Fender Rhodes jabbing, flying over a light-touch bassline and skipping drums. The closing "Entre Le Ciel Et L'eau" is another slowie, with a very melancholic charge, a different kind of introversion.

There's a vague attempt at conceptuality with the album title, named after the Russian city, just north of Moscow. Truffaz attempts to link the experience of waking to a panoramic vision of rickety houses with the later discovery of 'anarchitect' Richard Greaves' patchwork huts. This unconvincing attempt to explain his music is in keeping with the album's own confused orientation. Not so much an involving variety as a confusion of stylistic droppings.

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