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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Morglbl

Jazz for the Deaf

Review by Julie Knispel

Morglbl has been building quite a name for themselves in the United States, one which may someday match their reputation in Europe.  There, band leader and guitarist Christophe Godin is far from under rated; he’s perhaps one of the most highly regarded players in the genre today, and Morglbl, while perhaps not quite a household name, is just as regarded.  Here, a pair of festival showcase gigs (at Progday and NEARfest) have led to more recognition and familiarity, and a contract with the Free Electric Sound division of New Jersey’s Laser’s Edge Records for the release of their latest effort, Jazz for the Deaf.

Morglbl is a unique creature musically; Godin is an absolute monster on guitar, and his compositions range from the incredibly heavy and intricate to the silly and twisted.  His partners in crime musically have to measure up to his skills; fortunately bassist Ivan Rougny and drummer Aurelien Ouzoulias can more than match Godin note for note, twist for turn.  The 12 tracks that make up Jazz for the Deaf are tightly played, honed and polished to a fine gleaming shine without becoming too processed or digitally tweaked to perfection.  Musically, songs range from heavy rock and metal to electric fusion to twisted circus music, often within the same song, with the band playing every note, every change, as if their lives depended on it.

Morglbl’s career is definitely on a slope upward, and one can only hope that Jazz for the Deaf marks another milestone in their future domination of the American musical scene.


This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Morglbl Circus
Twisted calliope music and an almost drunken feel lead into the opening track of Morglbl’s latest slab of wild instrumental music.  Yes, there’s a decidedly carnival of the surreal feel to this track, replete with trapeze style music and some funky, popping bass work.  Mixing the humourous with the surreal, the serious with the intense, this is a smoking slice of music to open up this release.
22 Oz
22 ounces of what?  That’s the question I have here.  Christophe Godin’s guitar has a slight bit of wah to it, and the harmonized lines are interesting, with one seeming to ascend under an almost circular melody line.  His rhythm work is tight as well, with a crunchy tone that isn’t too overdriven nor too light.
Borderline
The stereo panning that opens this track is enough to send me reeling from dizziness, while the melody that kicks in at the thirty second mark is twisted enough to once again evoke carnival-esque images.  One thing that continues to strike me about this band is that they can go off on some tangents where humour and twisted ness are the hallmarks, yet this never overshadows their impressive playing abilities; they’re means to an end, not ends in and of themselves.  The breakdown at 2:30 is an example of how the band can go from a flight of fancy to some tight playing and deft rhythm work.
Myspacebook
The opening riff on “Myspacebook” is one of the heaviest I’ve heard in a while, and it almost sounds like it’s being played on a  baritone guitar.  That is followed by some speedy guitar lines scattered around a thick bass line, and impressive drumming courtesy of Aurelien Ouzoulias. “Myspacebook” exemplifies the heavier side of Morglbl’s music.
Stoner de Brest
Another super-heavy riff opens this piece, with sludgy mid-tempo beats and enough fuzz to make fans of garage rock green with envy.  This lasts a few moments before a lighter section, with plaintive guitar work and suitably restrained drumming, takes its place.  The shifts are jarring, almost whiplash inducing, yet somehow they are more oil and vinegar than oil and water.
The Bleach Boy
Word play is awesome.  Every time I see this title I want to see “The Beach Boy,” which probably says more about me being American than anything else.  And I have to admit, even with that the song has as much to do with the Beach Boys as Britney Spears has to do with songs in 17/8.  The opening lines remind me of FM for some reason, while the main section of the song drives along in a propulsive, energetic manner.  There’s some sweet faux-funk work here and there from the whole group, and the grooves are deep and wide enough for a semi to fit in.
The Monster Within Me
The title is evocative as it is, and the opening sections, with some eerie, minor key playing, matches the title wonderfully.  When the full band kicks in about 30 seconds in, the playing is tight, heavy, and dark.  Ivan Rougny’s bass playing is heavy and pulsing, leaving behind a lot of the playfulness and popping for a heavier handed style, while Godin shows off both impressive rhythm playing and the fluid soling skills for which he is widely known.
Jazz for Deaf People
This piece is neither jazz in the truest sense of the word, not is it so loud and heavy as to be audible for those with hearing loss.  It is, however, pretty jaunty, with a fun beat and some playful guitar work that shows the group in lighter mood without going full force into the wacky.
Point d'Org
Morglbl continues in a heavier mode on this track, with slashing chords alternating with some fleet fingered lines that show once again why Godin may well be one of the most underrated guitarists in the rock idiom today.  This is not to belittle the contributions of Rougny or Ouzoulias…Morglbl’s music would not be the same without their tight rhythm playing or ability to shift things within the blink of an eye.
Hell's Bells
With “Hell’s Bells” we find things going back into the slightly wackier side…or so it seems for the first 20 or so seconds, with a twisted effected guitar line opening things up.  Things shift gears with a super heavy riff that gives way to a full band iteration of that weird opening.  The alternating sections are handled with a bit more finesse than described earlier, with the shifts in mood a bit more telegraphed and smoothly effected.
Untold Stories
This composition feels a lot jazzier than anything else on an album with jazz in the title.  I can’t pick out individual highlights on this track, sadly…yet at the same time, that is perhaps because the band as a whole shines here.  Everything fits together so tightly here, from Godin’s guitar work (mostly longer, more sustained lines, with occasional bits of fast fretboard work) to Rougny’s laid back bass playing to Ouzoulias’s in the pocket drumming.  Even when the arrangement gets heavy the band is locked together.  This is perhaps the tightest track on the set.
My Little Man
The title is quaint and wistful, and the opening to “My Little Man” seems to follow suit.  On my first listen I was sure this’d be a lovely little piece written to someone’s son or small child, filled with misty-eyed preciousness.  And yes, there are many moments within this piece that fit that categorization…but there’s also a healthy dollop of heaviness and metal as well.  At times I almost wish the song had remained in the more wistful mode it opened with, but that’d not be Morglbl’s way.  There’s enough balance between the light and heavy to satisfy, however, and it’s a solid closer to what may be the band’s tightest album yet.
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