There are few hidden gems more deserving of salivating
praise than this insanely scrumptious album from
unknown French composer and multi-instrumentalist
maestro Patrick Broguiere.
I have been waiting for this inclusion into the PA community,
a deserved arrival that needs some serious attention,
as this album is on my top 50 all-time list.
His previous works, the highly medieval Broceliandre
and the museum visit Icones were more than pleasant
listens but Mont St-Michel simply out distances his
past work as well as many others that claim
Everything is utterly splendid, the artwork, cover and booklet
(the paintings by Herve Thibon are gorgeous) are probably
the finest this reviewer has ever seen (er... I've seen a lot!),
the instrumentation is top notch with whirling keyboards,
piercing guitar, real drums, stunning strings and lush
arrangements especially on the vocal side.
Jerome Wolff adds saxophone liberally and does it well.
What makes this such a winner is the overt musical
celebration displayed, never murky, bland or wispy,
au contraire, the delivery is always focused and exalted.
Patrick expertly handles all guitars, bass and keyboards
in a style that will recall hints of Mike Oldfield.
For those who do not know, Mont St-Michel is a famous
tidal rock island has been a strategic point holding
fortifications since ancient times, and since the 8th century
AD it became the seat of the Saint-Michel monastery,
from which it draws the name.
Victor Hugo of Les Miserables fame was imprisoned
here by his nemesis Napoleon III.
It remains today a Unesco World Heritage site and a
massive tourist attraction.
Gregorian chants introduces the three part
"The Archangel's Finger", sandwiched between the
title track and wastes little time in setting a glowing
melody that is both serenely bewitching and haunting,
with that Oldfieldian flair, a musical gallop into the
gothic/medieval past that is highlighted by some lovely
piano and vocal work.
Percussion adds even more dynamics to the mix.
The second and third segments are string driven things
that infuse a sense of history and gloomy past, violins,
violas and cellos evoking heady times of power and glory.
When the brilliant sax kicks in, the bliss becomes highly
effusive (that Wolff man can blow!) and the gentle piano
outro is delicious.
After a brief string quartet interlude
("The Thirty Candles quartet"), we are transported into
a bluesier world, where the extended guitar picking vies
with the plaintive violin in a gentle duel.
The piano driven finale is achingly pretty.
The 2 part "A Night in the Abbey" is perhaps one of
the finest medieval ? prog compositions ever recorded,
featuring an orgasmic soprano aria from Patricia Samuel
that would rival Floyd's anthemic "The Great Gig in the Sky",
I mean WOW!
Haunting Gregorian choirs starts this mother off,
the powerful bass forging ahead convincingly,
rumbling church organ blasting away with religious zeal,
laying down the tonal carpet on which Mademoiselle
Samuel wails away (this is spine tingling stuff).
The manner in which it is slowly building up to a paroxysm
is to be duly noted, on par with "Sailor's Tale" by KC and
of course, the classic PF track mentioned earlier.
I am a sucker of operatic wailing anytime of the day and it
does not get better than this I assure you, especially when
she hits those impossible high notes!
My goodness?? worth getting for this moment alone.
Talk about sonic orgasm."Theme of the Pigrim"
brings us back to a sense of reality, sliding from ambient
to quirky to playful, in an almost Gentle Giant way,
extremely musical and developed .
The track builds a head of steam when the resounding
lead guitar enters the fray, giving direction to the dissonance
and reappears repeatedly with more vigor.
Very slick?.."Gothic Gargoyles and Lace" continues on
the path, interjecting gruesome gargoyle voices,
cubic synths and solemn strings (viola is such a
fabulous instrument) while the drums pound mercilessly.
The modern and the ancient clash with energetic gusto.
The sensual sax makes another sexy appearance.
The wispy "Quicksands" prefers more orchestrations and
a classical outlook as if acting as a prelude for the majestic
" A Feast in the Guest Hall" , another corker that visualizes
a raucous medieval banquet, with prancing troubadours
and blazing torches, laughing, dancing and general
cavorting (belches not withstanding) and hence
Patrick reprises the main theme of the title track,
An orgy of colliding themes both classical and rock teem
without restraint, gentle plucking acoustic guitars, vibes,
flutes and then, boom, ripping guitars smashing through
The serene acoustic guitar on "In the Crypt" serves
to prepare for the grand finale "Immensi Tremor Oceani"
referring to the constant threat of engulfment by tidal waves
of this little rock in the middle of the English Channel.
Musical prayers beckoned by chanting monks, church organ,
acoustic guitar, bass and marshalling drums all collaborate
in the euphoria.
Understandably, not all fans will like this formula but I have
always enjoyed going to wider boundaries than the usual
staple of rock n roll, so this is just another elevation
in the process.
Open ears create open minds. I love baroque, renaissance
and medieval-folk as well , so if I can infuse that with
some finesse prog, who am I to complain?
Obviously fans of The Morrigan, Iona, Colin Masson,
Minimum Vital (and its offshoot Vital Duo) and classic
Oldfield should flock hysterically towards purchasing
it has EVERYTHING you could want in prog.
Review by tszirmay