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Lard Free - Gilbert Artman's Lard Free (1973)

Francuski zespół Lard Free założony został w 1970 roku przez multiinstrumentalistę i kompozytora Gilberta Artmana, grającego wcześniej w jazzowej formacji Operation Rhino. W latach 70-tych zdołali wydać trzy interesujące i zróżnicowane albumy studyjne łączące w sobie jazz, rock, muzykę eksperymentalną i elektroniczną, zawierające także pewne elementy pozwalające kojarzyć ich twórczość z krautrockiem.

With the possible exception of Richard Pinhas' Heldon, Gilbert Artman's Lard Free was probably the premier French progressive group of the '70s. The prolific Heldon might win in terms of amount of material, but the three near-perfect albums by Lard Free (despite the truly wretched band name) probably have them beat in terms of overall quality.

Although Artman, a drummer who also dabbles in synthesizers and piano, called Lard Free a group, he was the only constant member; all three albums have different lineups. 1973's Lard Free consists of relatively short pieces with prominent piano and saxophone parts, and as such is the most jazz-oriented of the three. The following year's I'm Around About Midnight consists of three long pieces with much more synthesizer; at times, it sounds almost like early (pre-ambient) Tangerine Dream, or perhaps Clear Light, the French collective Artman and the then-current lineup of Lard Free occasionally worked with around this time. (This version of Lard Free was the backing band on side two of 1974's Clear Light Symphony). 1977's Lard Free III, also known as Spirale Malax, is Artman's best work, a pair of side-long experiments that combine space music, jazz, and King Crimson-style heavy progressive rock better than many groups (including King Crimson) could ever hope to manage. Artman dropped the Lard Free name after that release, but remained a vital presence on the French progressive and Rock in Opposition scenes.

The first album by Gilbert Artman's Lard Free is the band's most conventional record, with six relatively concise songs (more than would appear on the next two albums combined) dominated by Phillippe Bolliet's saxophone and Francois Mativet's Robert Fripp-like guitar work. The tracks, credited to the group as a whole, sound composed, not improvisational, with group interplay taking precedence over showboat soloing. There's an element of free jazz in the way Bolliet's sax regularly flies away from the melody and chord patterns established by Mativet and bassist/synthesizer player Herve Eyhani but, for the most part, this is a fairly restrained album even on the noisiest pieces. The best tracks, in fact, are the last two, "Livarot Respiration" and "Culturez-Vous Vous-Memes," a pair of placid explorations led by Artman's vibes and piano that close the sometimes chaotic album on a tranquil note. (Stewart Mason)

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