#023 – Gilbert Artman

Note: My aim with this blog has always been to keep it as legal as possible and resist the urge to provide download links for the albums under discussion, but writing this review has made me realise just how much more effective this blog would be as an online resource with the addition of a few audio samples. So, starting from now I will include a 2-3 minute clip from the album in question purely for the purposes of reference and illustration. If you find this new feature useful please do let me know by leaving a comment below. Thanks.

#023 – Gilbert Artman

Album: Urban Sax (1977)

Urban Sax – Official Homepage

Sample: Urban Sax Part II (extract)

This French drummer/saxophonist/keyboardist/composer is perhaps best known for his avant-garde/psychedelic band Lard Free, blessed with their own separate entry on the NWW list. I searched in vain for a recording produced solely under the name of Gilbert Artman but on finding none opted for the first album by his other major project, Urban Sax.

Founded in 1973 but still going strong today, Urban Sax is a musical and performance art ensemble “made up of massive numbers of saxophones, accompanied by percussion and sometimes voices” (if Wikipedia is to be believed, at any rate).

How to describe the sounds on this record? It consists of two sides of psychedelic drone experiments, using saxophones as the primary instrument. Saxophones are typically employed as an expressive, vocal-like melodic/counter-melodic instrument, but on Urban Sax they are used as tools to create deep, rich drones and subtle, shifting phrases. In short, this album is the antithesis of the saxophone solo. There are also sounds on here which surely can’t be of sax origin but I’m damned if I know what else is making them. Answers on a postcard, please.

On the surface Urban Sax seems to be an emotionally neutral album, neither overtly dark nor upbeat, but the sheer depth of sound and immersive nature of the experience was sufficient to provoke a strong emotional response from me. So strong in fact that I’ve just spent the last fifteen minutes attempting to articulate it without success. That old chestnut concerning writing about music being akin to dancing about architecture (variously attributed to Elvis Costello, Frank Zappa and countless others) has never felt more apt. Just go ahead and seek this one out, it is a thing worth experiencing. That is all.

Freak Factor: 8/10
Replayability: 5/10
Final Score: 8/10

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