L'Infonie - "Volume 3"
(Mucho Gusto 2000, TGCD027, originally released 1969)
From Aural Innovations #17 (September 2001)
I don't know where the Mucho Gusto label finds this wild stuff. L'Infonie was a Quebec based band that released four albums, this being the first, released in 1969. The back cover pictures 13 members, and the liner notes indicate that there were sometimes upwards of 33 musicians in the band. The album is a mixed bag of varied styles, much of which sounds like the musicians being experimental just for the sake of being avant-garde. I suppose there are similarities to Gong, maybe a more horn oriented version of Gong. The vocals are in French but there's a lot of ranting (poetry?) that reminded me of Daevid Allen. But for so many band members I rarely hear a full band kicking in and those are the moments that tend to be the ones I enjoyed.
There are a trio of songs with "L'Affaire" in the title that I liked. "Ode á L'Affaire" opens with a lot of crazed screaming, percussion thrashing, synth jamming, and a horde of other sounds. Then it abruptly stops, and a dark jazzy orchestral bit begins, though it has a psychedelic atmosphere about it. Horns drone and space synths pop up intermittently. "L'Affaire" continues the free-for-all, but with crazed horns and sirens. And "Tourtes Les Affaires..." (VERY long song title) has more of the synth jamming heard on the first track, not unlike some of Sun Ra's more electronic work. But these are all too brief and I would have loved to heard this developed more. "J'ai Perdue 15 Cents..." and "Viens Danser le "IL Lá" sound like tracks from the Les Maledictus Sound album, with it's groovy 60s film motif, though L'Infonie make more use of synthesizers to produce some great freaky sounds. The later tune is the stronger of the two, being a cool funky dancey jazz-psych tune. And the manic voices make the whole thing enjoyably nutty.
Unfortunately the album as a whole is too uneven in terms of quality and a little incoherent in terms of the styles explored. "Finale" journeys into the avant-garde jazz realm. There's a lot of yelling and banging, but I loved the bass. Actually the first 4 minutes just muddle around blindly, though in the last couple minutes the ensemble starts to come together more tightly as a unit. Who knows, for 1969 this may well have been impressive as an experimental piece. "Agnus Dei" made me think of romantic Italian restaurant music. "Desafinado" begins with a 2 minute impassioned rant (in French). A crowd cheers and then the band launches into a free-jazz jam. I liked it because they manage to be a bit on the wild side while retaining a laid back loungey feel. Really nice interplay between the horns and piano, and especially solid playing from the piano.
The CD also includes a lame cover of the Beatles' "She's Leaving Home", and 22 minutes of bonus live material that includes precious little music, an annoying gap of silence, and is dominated by a lot of what is either ranting or poetry. I can't criticize too much as I don't speak French, but I would have preferred music. Overall, there's enough here to indicate there are some solid musicians in the group yet they only ever flex their muscles for what seem like moments at a time. Still, this must have been pretty wild stuff in 1969 and I'm sure L'infonie raised some eyebrows at the time. Of interest to those into the history of rock's avant garde.
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Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz