Being that the French progressive rock movement was arguably the most diverse of the various national scenes of the 70s, it should be no surprise that a band as joyfully eclectic as Wapassou exists. On their second effort, Salammbô, Wapassou have arrived at a near perfect cross section of French folk music, electronic music, orchestral grandeur and the avant-garde. In short, Salammbô is an extremely innovative yet profoundly beautiful album. Perhaps the closest comparison can be made to some of the more eclectic Italian groups like Opus Avantra, or to Franco Battiato’s early albums, but even then major elements are missing. Certainly, the group relies on seemingly folk-inspired themes as well as gorgeous, conventionally "classical" sounding melodies, but it is in their subtle crafting of a dream-like, disembodied effect where much of the power of this record lies.
Salammbô is divided into two side-long pieces. The band’s style generally involves droning synthesizer textures and spry organ motifs, over which layers of violin and hallucinogenic guitar washes operate. Instruments are intermittently driven through various effects processors, essentially creating deceptively vast sonic soundscapes that range from the haunting to the strikingly beautiful. The sense of formlessness is only exacerbated by the complete lack of a percussive base, and indeed the band does seem to take some liberties with tempo and meter at times. In the end though, it only serves to heighten the amorphous, stream-of-consciousness effect that the album might have. Both pieces progress in essentially the same manner, moving through a variety of themes, occasionally featuring sparse female vocals, before arriving at particularly moving and evocative conclusions. This album, along with its successor M’esse en Re Mineur, are both heartily recommended for French progressive rock enthusiasts, particularly those with a taste for the more avant-garde side of the spectrum. - Greg Northrup [May 2003]
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