This second and last album from France’s legendary Verto (ie. Jean-Pierre Grasset and guests) is another winner, and is quite different to the first album ‘Krig Volubilis’ (see separate review), as well as being a little more electronic and experimental. Many folks who’ve heard both albums rate this as the best, but really, they’re both pretty awesome on their own terms. Around this time Grasset was also collaborating to brilliant effect with fellow French loons Etron Fou Leloublan (featuring on their second album ‘Les Trois Fous Perdegagnent’) and Video Aventures (various recordings – can be heard with them on the Spalax CD ‘Musiques Pour Garçons et Filles’), and some of the results of those collaborations have more in common with the music on ‘Reel 19 36’ than that on its predecessor. Keyboardist Benoit Widemann from Magma plays an important role as a collaborator on this album.
‘Comme la Folie’ [4:12] opens the album with Grasset on guitars and bass, Widemann on Moog bass and Minimoog, and Philippe Perronet on drums. Thick fuzzed guitar and cyber-bass grind straight into a rocky King Crimson (Red-era) and Magma-infused late 70’s Heldon-like jam. Soon strange leads emerge from the guitar and synth, with the synth sometimes sounding more like a treated electric guitar, wrenching out unconventional twisted notes. After a while the guitar starts to sound more like a synth, and then another electric lead comes in… it gets a bit confusing here for a while, if you’re trying to identify the instruments (well, the drums are pretty easy to pick!), but if you’re just trying to enjoy it, it’s a great chunky piece of electronic rock.
‘19/36’ [4:24] features Grasset on ring-modulated guitar, RSF synth, modified A77 recorders and voice. We slide into deep space territory here, with expansive splashes of space foam in your earphones as you float otherwise soundlessly through the black void, gentle cosmic sweeps and swoops glide around, then an alien voice rudely interrupts the free-float and leads into a robotic, repeated synth sequence that loops on and on like a slippery electric eel flipping over in the air again and again. Just as it seems like it would go on forever, a mirthful echoed group laugh breaks it up.
‘15 Pour Moi’ [2:57] kicks straight into business with no mucking about, cocky, tight, muscular funk bass from Jean-Pierre Fouquey struts its stuff as Widemann’s drums and synth back it up, and the synth and Grasset’s guitar battle it out with spaced lead lines. Sounds rather like the funkier moments of legendary late-70’s Australian experimental progressive jazz rock group Quasar, if you’ve had the pleasure of hearing them, though not with as much godly virtuosity. Regardless, this is some hot cookin’, although twice it goes into a very different ‘mellow’ bit that has the very European electro-zeuhl keyboard feel of some Patrick Gauthier and late Magma.
‘Danse à Cabanes’ [1:44] is a borrowed anonymous traditional folk jig squeezed out of a warbly Moog by Widemann, as Grasset’s snare drum and Fouquey’s cymbals bash out an unsubtle uni-beat rhythm backed by handclaps (courtesy of Widemann, Fouquey, Dany Huc and François Artige – the latter of whom had contributed to the first Verto album), until suddenly it ends and segues into a treated group choir rendition (Grasset, Widemann, Paul Seurat and Okamoto – who was also on one track of the first Verto album) that ends just as suddenly (are there different grades of sudden? Or is sudden sudden and that’s that?).
‘Réel’ [9:04] opens side two with queasy random synths multi-tracked all over the show, like stumbling into an electronic forest whilst inside your computer Tron-style. A minute in and hypnotic percussion and a throbbing, pingy synth loop on one repetitive note have emerged out of the sandstorm like a trance caravan leading out of the desert, and soothing emerald synth blobules soon ooze out of the horizon like melting rays of light. As it all starts to get inner-space hollow and cosmic, restrained fuzz guitar enters sounding like Richard Pinhas without the Fripp obsession, and we are carried further and further through the psychedelic galaxy on a magic carpet of electronic tones. Pure kosmische bliss! This is all courtesy of Grasset on guitars, RSF synth and screw-driver.
‘C’est Loopé’ [5:27] features Grasset on ring-modulated guitar, Widemann and Fouquey on Fender piano, Dominique Grasset and Artige on guitar, and Cyril Lefebvre on dobro. It emerges slowly out of silence with a chaotic, detailed loop of all the instruments playing at once that starts to sound like it isn’t a loop, but then you realise it is after all. Or maybe not. But actually, it is a series of individual loops for each instrument. Over the duration it does seem to change in some ways, but perhaps it’s just the way the different tracks on the tape were being mixed to and fro in the final processing. It’s not chaotic in a noisy or particularly atonal way, there’s definitely a strange sense of harmonious melodicism going on if your tastes are adventurous and your ears attuned enough. Could be some old avant-garde freeformers like Horde Catalytique Pour La Fin or Anima we’re listening to here, condensed and trapped in an eternal bubble of weird-juice.
‘Carton Acidulé’ [5:18] is a web of chromatic melodic Moog riffs played out by Widemann with a different synth track in each channel, and with another (sounding more like a Fender Rhodes) setting a simple Magma-like counterpoint. As the web of intrigue grows in the number of separate synth overdubs, massive fuzz bass thunders down from the skies and now we could just as well be listening to an old Peter Frohmader/Nekropolis album or perhaps Archaïa, the music now enveloped in a dark cloud of zeuhl cyber-dread for the remainder of the track. Grasset is credited here for guitars and Widemann for bass (and Moog), but it all sounds like bass to me, both meshed together in one ferocious instrument.
I’ve no idea what happened to Jean-Pierre Grasset after this. There’s a guy with the same name who’s known for making films, but I don’t know if they’re the same person. In any case, if he continued making music, it would seem to be even more obscure than what he did with Verto. Unfortunately, neither Verto album has been issued on CD – not even on bootlegs. They certainly deserve it, though, and hopefully someone can track down Grasset and do these albums justice for the CD age. ……..by achuma,…Julian Cope blog……..