Motis - L'homme-loup
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Motis, a French trio, appear to be picking up where Malicorne's latter-day progressive-rock experiments left off. In fact, if you are in any way a fan of Malicorne's Le Bestiare, I don't doubt that hearing Motis' L'homme-loup will send you down a rabbit hole of memories. But where Malicorne's synth and studio wizardry had a particular sheen, Motis conjures up the best of progressive rock by adding mellotron, moog, and various other organs. And through sheer magic, the group avoids sounding dated.

What L'homme-loup mines are songs steeped in French medieval and Renaissance atmospheres; tales of werewolves, knights and ladies, the occasional dragon, and satanic alchemy. Rather than sounding twee (which could easily happen, as the leader of the band and singer Motis would appear to deliver his prog-madrigals while wearing red pants), the group approaches its material with real grit and a fistful of musical surprises.

By way of example, "Les Normands" features a frantic organ signature which then brushes up with a much slower reggae element. "L'ermite" is augmented by a lovely flute melody, while keyboards enter into a medieval-sounding tune that could easily be played on a recorder. "Isengrin," the album's opener, grabs your attention with a chorus that layers deep multi-track voices. But L'homme-loup gets stronger and stronger in the later tracks. "L'Artaban" is positively giddy, with sound swirling and dropping out around the rhythmic mandolin, before it all drops out dub-style; it's infinitely catchier than most prog-rock. "Madrigal" begins with a stately violin, and later, a trumpet solo enters with incredible joy while Motis sings over a skittering drumbeat.

Unlike the prog-rock monster albums of the 1970s, no tune here is terribly long; only "La trahison" goes beyond seven minutes. Instead, each song is like a finely etched portrait, hummable and beautifully produced, and Motis rocks in wondrously strange ways. Even if you do not understand a lick of French, let's face it, you still may find L'homme-loup more intelligible than Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. I can't get enough. - Lee Blackstone

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