FRENCH TV: #7: The Case Against Art 2001 (CD: 54:47);
Pretentious Dinosaur 006 Sound: *** Composition: ****
Musicianship: *** Performance: **** Total rating: 14.
French TV occupies an undeservedly obscure niche in American prog due to its complex dizzying style, a potpourri of damn near every worthwhile genre availiable. With this latest, their hands-down best, they appear resolved to accept that status permanently, deadset against dumbing down to please the monkey mass and its manna. The Case Against Art is, in all aspects, an apt companion to the latest Univers Zero (Rhythmix, their best). It is nearly as sophisticated compositionally while occupying a realm not so pronouncedly baroque. Particularly attractive are Warren Dale's keyboards, often reminiscent of Robin Lumley and the chief ingredient in each song's colorations. Dean Zigoris' guitar work is alternately brash and subtle, lyrical and in-your-face, one minute gliding through lush backunds, then rushing to searingly lumber amongst foreground horns. All players, though, are in perfect synchrony and harmony, as diffusely peripatetic as that may be.beyond the standards, The Case Against Art is a study in where this splinter-sound should be heading, maturing even more deeply as the years pass, rather than aping Geffen-esque marketability. Miss it not.
----MARC TUCKER, PROGRESSION #41
Dean Suzuki, EXPOSE #24, APRIL 2002:
Led by founder Mike Sary, French TV cranks out clever, intricate, and engaging post-Canterbury prog. With all manner of woodwinds and brass, violin, even a narrator, plus the complement of rock instruments, bits of beer hall oom-pah pah brass band, lounge lizard and swing jazz, free improvisation and more, along with that prog thang, are woven together in a musical crazy quilt that suggests something of Frank Zappa. The dizzyingly eclectic "Under the Big W" combines these with progressive gestures redolent of a deconstructed version of Yes's Relayer. The Zappa connection is manifested in the speedy sampled xylophone lines. It careens to a climax as a frenetic scherzo in triple meter before crashing to its conclusion. Bits of Relayer also inform "That Thing on the Wall" and "Partly the State", but are processed and re-invented through the French TV filter. The latter has some Emersonian Hammond B3 sounds to pull in traditional prog fans, but the musical structures derive from the more complicated Canterbury realm. The raging guitar lines of "That Thing..." invoke Holdsworthian fusion, but the piece darts through so many different styles, that it cannot be compared to anyone else. The sweet lyricism of "Viable Tissue Matter" veers too close to MOR or smooth jazz (perhaps like Holland's Solution at their more mainstream) and "One Humiliating Incident After Another" might be too eclectic, too Ivesian for its own good, with bits of folk and regional Americana, music hall, guitar-oriented hard rock, and more, which undermine a sense of direction or focus, but at least French TV are pushing the envelope.
Jeff Melton: EXPOSE #24, APRIL 2002:
Mike Sary has come a long way since his humble anti-establishment ideas created the best American equivalent of Canterbury music: French TV. The slow development with the group has a lot to do with stabilizing the unit by adding key band members and expanding the identity of the group by sheer stubborn persistence. The band is also closer to a cooperative indicated by four of the five cuts being group written. Leading off the disc is "That Thing on the Wall" which is 100% on the mark and Looney tunes, which would even make Mike Keneally blush!
On board as a full time member (parallel with his duties in Gary Parra's Trap) is Warren Dale. "Viable Tissue Matter" takes full advantage of Dale's mini-moog soloing abilities which in turn pushes the band into Happy the Man symphonic terrain (along with the flute playing of new conspirator Greg Acker). In fact, ex-HTM member, Cliff Fortney's track, "Partly the State" is included with ex-Boud Deun's Shawn Persinger on acoustic guitar! The album is literally a hot bed of progressive rock cross-pollination! Guitarist Dean Zigoris continues to apply his patented shred technique across the album without duress, while violin duties are shared on the album by Chris Smith (also with Dale in Trap) and Cathy Moeller. Lastly, Mac Beaulieu, while on a two-day pass from Rockwell Sanitarium, managed to draft liner notes worth a chuckle or two. Watch for this disc atop the best of lists for next year after the mass public recovery period has expired.
Mike McLatchey: EXPOSE #24, APRIL 2002:
You have to hand it to Mike Sary and co., every French TV seems an improvement on the last, a feat impressive considering the strength of 1999's The Violence of Amateurs. Album number seven is here with five long pieces of music and guests including Trap's Warren Dale, guitarist Shawn Persinger, and vocalist Cliff Fortney. All three are present on the albums middle piece, a cover of Happy The Man's "Partly The State". While this rates among my least favorites of that band's songs, the rendition here is a vast improvement over the one on Beginnings, capitalizing on the broad and tasteful strengths of French TV's current line up. The music certainly evinces a number of RIO and Canterbury influences, but Sary's integration of these over the years into his own vision has resulted in an idiosyncratic blend that is practically recognizable now. It's not just the complexity and dynamics, which are abundant throughout, but it's also the quirky humor and oddball time changes that do more than deliver good music, they also deliver it with a casual panache often missing in the dead-serious world of progressive rock. Another of the album's strengths is its wonderful dynamics, a chromatic range from the full-tilt and rocking to the soft and introspective, all enhanced by the tasteful and instrumentally eclectic guest appearances. For fans of the intricate, humorous, and left field, The Case Against Art is likely to leave one with an unsolvable paradox, as this makes a rather damn good case for art. This is clever, tasteful music the fan of
avant-rock should make a priority purchase.
French TV: The Case Against Art
If you are in the mood for a hairy, insane musical ride, then French TV's seventh release is just the way to go. Bassist and composer Mike Sary has once again put together a stunning group of musicians to record what could be one of the more complex and adventurous CD's that you will hear all year.
The best way to descibe the music of French TV is to give a comparison to the great Canterbury bands of the 70's, such as National Health, Hatfield and the North, Matching Mole, Soft Machine, and Gilgamesh, plus throw in a bit of Gentle Giant, Camel, and Caravan. The opening track is a blistering hodge-podge of unrelenting guitars, squonking sax, nimble keyboards, and gymnastic percussion. Sary manages to keep everything under wraps with his fluid bass playing, but there is a definite feeling of chaos lurking at all times, much like what Henry Cow were able to accomplish back in their heyday. French TV however, always manage to come across a bit more melodic and less dissonant that that band. While there are some vocals, the majority of this CD is instrumental, and loaded with as many time and meter changes as there are guest band members. Another good point of reference is the work of Frank Zappa back in the early 70's, where he created a sort of mini-orchestra with guitars, horns, violins, keyboards, and much more. The quirky nature of Sary's compositions also leave you feeling upbeat, even though this is not easy listening music for most people.
French TV's music is really what progressive rock is all about. Not one trace of commerciality, lots of complex playing, abundant time changes, and long songs-what more can you ask for!
-- review by Pete Pardo, SEA OF TRANQUILITY
French TV's web site and the CD insert for The Case Against Art both feature the following description of FTV, which captures their essence so well that I must repeat it here: "'Modern Classical' has its Stravinsky, 'modern jazz' has its Coltrane and 'modern American south regional post - Canterburian - influenced progressive rock' has French TV (Mac Beaulieu)." This is appropriate not only because it's a pretty good description of FTV's music, but also because it mirrors the tongue-in-cheek humor that pervades all of the compositions.
From what I've heard, FTV's bassist and leader Mike Sary laughs at folks who call their music "Canterbury". Yes, I know it's a region and not a musical style, so they are clearly not "Canterbury", being from Kentucky. The folks that call this music "fusion" have also missed the mark by a fair amount, at least judging from The Case Against Art, which is the only FTV album I've heard. So if I'm not allowed to use either of these comparisons, I don't really know how to characterize FTV. How about this: "French TV is a Post-Jurassic band with a greenish hue and a slight odor of almonds. Their music is basically Kentucky Bluegrass, except that they use different notes, rhythms, chord progressions, musical instruments and lyrical content than most other bands of this kind. But they do use Western 12-tone-per-octave equally-tempered tunings. Mostly. I can sum up this style in five words: "Remove sunshade before operating vehicle."
How's that for dancing about architecture? Let's try it again without the restrictions.
While there are some fusiony bits and pieces, Canterbury style is much closer to the mark, at least because the music has its moments of -like crazed non-harmonies and also because of the almost ish sense of humor (without the drug-induced psychedelic leanings). The themes slip easily between serious jazzy parts, an outburst of blues for two measures, sections of cartoon chase music and finally ending up with a warped 3/4 oom-pah beat (with a female vocal rapping something in German). It's not really like anything you've heard before, but there's also nothing that will make you gasp and reach for the bottle of Motrins. You may want to have your Ritalin handy, though, this is definitely Attention Deficit Disorder music for people who can't stand to be doing one thing for more than thirty seconds at a time. Not at all predictable, yet somehow very comfortable for the experienced prog music conoisseur.
Mostly instrumental, this CD never pauses on any theme long enough for it to get boring. The mood varies from solemn to silly to pastoral and relaxing, then on to teeth-grinding angst as fast as you think you've figured out what's going to happen next. The music is not as super-precise as you might hear from a fusion band, but is instead more layed-back, sometimes almost loose in its orchestration. Also, despite what others have said, I do not consider the bass to be super-heavy or -like at all ... it is merely excellently played and in exactly the right place in the overall sound mix.
I've listened to The Case Against Art three times now, and I can tell this is one of those I'll need several more listens to before I can even begin to appreciate it fully, there's just so much going on. And I already appreciate it plenty now! This is a fantastic album, and raises FTV, in my mind, to the status of modern American south regional post - Canterburian - influenced progressive rock Gods. I must say, however, that it fails to make its "case against art" ... it has instead made a case for how great art can be! Highly recommended!
- Fred Trafton; GIBRALTAR PROGRESSIVE ROCK REVIEWS
FRENCH TV: THE CASE AGAINST ART
The new French TV album is not only as outstanding as their previous masterpiece The Violence of Amateurs, but also, it clearly shows that the words like "repetition", "stagnation", and not to mention "decadence", aren't applicable to such true Heroes of Prog as French TV. The Case Against Art is another remarkable example of these veterans' indefatigability in searching for new ways in their creation. Each of the five compositions that are featured on the album, contain very diverse and complex arrangements, all of which are filled with seemingly endless and often atonal interplay between various soloing instruments, constant and mostly sudden changes of tone and mood, etc. Also, it must be mentioned that there are not many musicians on the contemporary Progressive Rock scene who would be as masterful by all means as the members of French TV.
As for the styles the band presented on this album, don't expect to hear something typical for their previous works. Here, you won't find even the slight traces of RIO and real Jazz-Fusion (let alone Canterbury, which has nothing to do with the creation of French TV). On the whole, the music on The Case Against Art represents a very innovative manifestation of Classic Symphonic Progressive. Just the elements of Jazz-Fusion and Prog-Metal (yeah) that are also presented here, are nothing else but the usual components of that genre, aren't they? You can easily find them in the early (classic!) albums by ... etc, etc. It's quite another matter that on The Case Against Art, all of those notorious genre constituents were used in such an original way that the album sounds as innovative and futuristic as, for example,YES 's Tales From Topographic Oceans had sounded at the time when it was released. In that way, the most correct definition of the new style of French TV would be not just Classic Symphonic Progressive, but a unique blend of Classic Symphonic Art-Rock and Fifth Element. Despite the title of the album, this music is real Art - in the truest meaning of the word. In other words, with such strong lawyers (the new lawmakers of Prog) as French TV, Art won the case against it.
-- Vitaly Menshikov, PROGRESSOR (UZBEKISTAN
The Case Against Art --FRENCH TV
It took a few listens for me to realize that French TV's latest release titled The Case Against Art is actually BETTER than their previous release. I have been so impressed by their last one for so long, I hardly thought it possible for them to improve upon it. Will wonders never cease?
The creative force behind French TV is Mike Sary. For 20 years or more, Sary has been the one constant member in an ever-changing line-up of great musicians. Rolling with the punches through the years, Sary has always come out on top in his never ending quest to surround himself with the very finest musicians available, and The Case Against Art is no exception to this. Sary's fellow Louisvillian and drummer extraordinaire Chris Vincent along with San Diego-based multi-instrumentalist Warren Dale are the only people that accompany Sary on all five of the albums tracks. An incredible line-up of musicians join these three on various songs, including original Happy The Man frontman Cliff Fortney, world-class acoustic guitarist Shawn Persinger, Louisville KY legends like Kirk Davis and Greg Acker, and a host of other highly talented individuals.
"That Thing On The Wall" is the first cut on French TV's new album, and it eases into the frenzy with an initial few seconds of deliciousness that evokes memories of Pierre Moerlen. Take a deep breath at this point because in true FTV fashion the music suddenly changes, this time into an all out assault on your senses. You can go ahead and acclimate yourselves to this phenomenon as well, because there's plenty more to come. This piece changes direction more often than a housefly on amphetamines, and not only will it blister your eardrums, it just as easily leads you into the very choicest of blues segments, dreamy ethereal moments, contemplative interludes, and suspenseful, dramatic crescendos.
The second track is titled "Viable Tissue Matter", and like the previous song, compositional credits are given to Sary, Zigoris, Vincent, and Dale. It opens in utter space, and takes us gently into a beautiful interplay between Greg Acker on flute and Dean Zigoris on guitar. As Sary and Vincent masterfully set the pace, Dale mesmerizes you with his unique and subtle keyboard styling. After an uplifting jam into a beautifully timid climax, the band changes direction yet again into a then subdued, then not, frenzied "monsterpiece" that one would be quite sure could ONLY have come from a well-schooled Zeuhl ensemble. Now we roll into Zigoris weaving his magic on the six-string, as Sary and Vincent franticly send you into "prog rocking heaven." Never satisfied with keeping to one course, the tune graciously takes one through a plethora of changes as it gradually revisits the opening theme.
Cliff Fortney's composition "Partly The State", previously released on the Happy The Man album Beginnings, is (for the fan of great progressive music) simply to die for. Featuring the talents of Mr. Fortney himself, as well as legendary ex-Boud Deun axe man Shawn Persinger, this song realizes its full potential under the guiding hand of Mike Sary, who teams with Howie Gano on a stunning mix that truly spotlights the musicianship of not only Fortney, but all of the ensemble. This particular recording may well be the crowning moment of an overall brilliant album.
"One Humiliating Incident After Another" is the fourth cut on FTV #7. Somewhat whimsical at times (another trademark of the French TV sound), this track again reminds us not to get too comfortable with one musical style or direction. Again our senses are shredded as this song rolls us all over the map, never quite allowing us to rest long enough to catch our breath. This is some of the most tasty classic progressive jazz-rock fusion that I've ever heard, but not to stop at just that (as if that weren't enough), we continue to be vaulted through a maze of European progressive influences that one can't quite pin down to anyone for long, as these influences have combined to create something new and fresh.
Our final listen is with the last track of the CD titled "Under The Big W." This song features layer upon layer of rich and vibrant melodies, again visiting with the whimsical playfulness of French TV, then again visiting with the savage and torturous nature of the darker artist within, to carry us into so many emotions simultaneously that only the most adventurous of ears can grasp all of the forces at work here. With obvious classical influences here as well, this track in yet another lesson in compositional techniques from French TV.
Someone once asked me if French TV was a fusion band. My reply was: "Yes, you name the style, and at some point Mike Sary has probably fused it into one of his tunes." French TV #7 The Case Against Art is but another fine example of this principle, in a series of such examples that has continued for the last twenty years. If the previous six albums weren't enough, surely this release gives the band their cue to proudly take their place among the masters of progressive musicians.
-----GNOSIS REVIEWS-Mike Hargis 14-August-2002-FRENCH TV 7: The Case Against Art (PRETENTIOUS DINOSAUR RECORDS CD006)
A new CD of French TV is always an adventure musically and as far as its the artwork concerned. It's great again with the latter on The Case Against Art, when you look at the quasi-serious introduction on the band by a so-called expert. Musically this album is probably the strongest and most accessible from Mike Sary's band. The central track is a cover of "Partly The State", from which the original comes from Beginnings, a collection of obscure recordings by Happy The Man. This version is strong because on one side it improves in production terms the demo very much and Sary has given it an own interpretation, with for example folk-like, Gentle Giant-like vocals. On the other side they have stayed very close to the mood of the song of 1974 and this is particularly due to the presence of singer/flutist Chris Fortney, the composer of the piece. But the other four tracks are well worth listening too. For example the subtle structure of "Viable Tissue Matter". Beautiful symphonic fragments, with Eddie Jobson-like violin-passages, a slow bas- and drum-accompaniment, melodious flute and saxophone-parts, floating synthesizer-sounds and sharp and legato guitar-work are some of the ingredients with which this composition is coloured in an almost orchestral way. Further on theres plenty of space for that humour-full, typical French TV adventurousness, like the walls-rhythm and arrangement from the sometimes vaudeville-like "Under The Big W", that brings to mind associations with a barrel organ fed by a progressive music-cylinder. And Sary and co. also know how to send you barking up the wrong tree when it comes to rhythmical shifts, like in the sparkling "That Thing On The Wall" and "One Humiliating Incident After Another", which has been revived with Zappa-like jazz-rock-injections. But everything is placed in the service of the compositions, which contain the same liveliness as many Canterbury song, without having a stylistic similarity with that style. Actually, French TV should overgrown its cult-status with the convincing The Case Against Art.
-iO PAGES [THE NETHERLANDS]
GIANT PROGWEED REVIEWS-FRENCH TV 7: THE CASE AGAINST ART
Taking up where 1999's The Violence of Amateurs left off, French TV is back with another stunning effort. Mike Sary, along with a new cast of characters including main contributors Warren Dale and Chris Smith of Trap, and some familiar guests round out this edition. Whereas previous French TV albums were quite diverse - spastically so at times -The Case Against Art relies on the strength of its cohesiveness. A well tempered complexity throughout walks hand in had with the trademark FTV playfulness, albeit much more restrained this time around. In a way, it is similar to the more sophisticated and mature approach of Von Zamla, as compared to Samla Mammas Manna, and is stylistically similar (even capturing the carnival vibe in "Under the Big W". The core of bass/guitar/drums/keyboards is augmented by a healthy dose of woodwinds and violin, adding subtle texture or spiky tone colour. The predominantly instrumental offerings undulate with every twist and turn; delicate flute interludes give way to dark and unsettling sax drones. The calm of sweeping violin is broken by thunderous bass riffs. The post-Canterbury sound shines through many times, injecting the songs with a jazzy, lyrical melodicism. As has come to be expected, there is the obligatory cover tune, this time a re-working of Happy the Man's "Partly the State", complete with original vocalist Cliff Fortney. Happily, this version runs circles around the original, with added clarity and bite. "Under the Big W" has that traditional FTV feel, with stop on a dime changes ushering in seemingly unrelated passages that work perfectly together. While I still prefer the previous effort, The Case Against Art comes highly recommended nonetheless.
- Mike Prete [March 2002]
FRENCH TV 7: THE CASE AGAINST ART
You're bound to wonder where the cartoons are. This disc starts with something that sounds like the theme from The Westinghouse Talent Hour, some fictional TV or radio variety show. After that late-1950s type of intro there are almost nine minutes of alternately frantic, calm, dramatic, silly, and boisterous conversation and interplay between bass, keyboards, wind instruments, drums, guitar, violin, and banjo. That's life for "That Thing on the Wall,” the first song of the seventh official full-length CD by the famously obscure band, French TV. Based in Louisville, KY (where they're all but unknown), revered worldwide (by the progressive rock community), and led by Mike Sary, French TV makes music like, well, imagine the Lounge Lizards and (the late) Frank Zappa creating music for Pee Wee's Playhouse, especially for the claymation inside the refrigerator. Or imagine what Pink Floyd might've sounded like if Syd Barrett had remained as their chief songwriter. The five adventurous songs that live life to the fullest on this CD add up to about 55 minutes of solid, if quirky entertainment.
On the way out of here, we're treated to "Under the Big W,” which has its very own set of personalities, like much of FTV's best work. A section near the end sounds like some kind of Beatles-inspired experiment, but a good chunk of the song comes across like a clever tip of the hat to the soundtrack of the film The Elephant Man. But hey, thats in my ears; you might hear something else.
Believe it or not, there is already material for the next French TV CD, information that "the faithful” will be glad to hear. The year 2002 is still young and we hope for many great recordings from various artists throughout the next several months. However, The Case Against Art has my vote as one of the best CDs of the year, whether in or out of the "cult favorites” category.
---Dave Lilly, LOUISVILLE MUSIC NEWS
FRENCH TV 7: THE CASE AGAINST ART
French TV, is a band that has adopted a gamut of progressive styles. They have everything and I mean everything imaginable, fusion, progressive rock, RIO, symphonic, etal. At some point you will hear segments of each. And as time has passed, I can only say, they just keep getting better at what they do. This music has complexity galore, in every facet of the creative process, time signatures, counter melodies, cadences, disharmonic harmonies, even the recording has a complicated mix, as there are a lot of things going on, with many different instruments, and each has it's own spatial isolation, masterfully done. FTV makes a case for experimental prog, many casual prog fans have found some RIO bands unlistenable, trying to distinguish it from music or noise. That is not the case for FTV, they use only enough of RIO to give the music a quirkyness, but the masterful use of fusion and progressive rock tempo keeps the music coherent and accessable to most listeners, inless you have trouble with complex music. At times I am remind of Zappa's instrumental explorations, the horn sections follow exotic charts over syncopated rhythm sections, you must pay attention to take in all of what is happening here. If you are at all interested in what I have written so far, this cd is a no brainer, and a great place to start to discover the band, the stuff is so deep, that by the time you have comprehended the onslaught of perplexity to memory, chances are they will have a new one for you to get.
French TV #7 The Case Against Art Pretentious Dinosaur Records CDOO6
It is some while since I last came across French TV and it is good to see that they are still as wonderfully eccentric as ever. Try to imagine jazz prog rock or maybe Brand X meets VDGG and you will have some idea of French TV. Leader and bass player Mike Sary has pulled together a talented team and the subtle use of violin and wind instruments brings a new dimension to the sound. There does appear to be more of a jazz element than on earlier releases and this has probably resulted in a more rounded structure to the compositions. Five extended pieces (of which three are purely instrumental) fully allows the various musicians to push the sound to the limits and impress with their virtuosity. Greg Acker provides some great sax particularly on the sensational Viable Tissue Matter that very much strays into VDGG territory. There is some nice guitar work too and pulsating bass from Sary but it is the strings and wind that steal the show. The amusingly titled One Humiliating Incident After Another probably sums up the band as they swagger from one direction to another simply revelling in the glories of music making it a divine and heady experience. The Case Against Art is certainly not as "off the wall" as previous releases and is full of lush melody and startling counterpoints. If you like your music a little unconventional then French TV will come as a major surprise and delight to you.
Terry Craven, WONDEROUS STORIES , #122, MARCH 2002
FRENCH TV 7: THE CASE AGAINST ART
Released in 2001 by Pretentious Dinosaur Records this is the new offering from the jazz rock/Canterbury outfit French TV.
This album opened quietly but it soon became apparent where this track was heading, full tilt into unstructured jazz rock territory that jangled my nerves. The last three mins though saw calmness return when a peaceful interlude, followed by some wailing sax, redeemed this track and allowed my head to regain its balance. With the haunting intro of track two, a semblance of normality continued, with acoustic guitar, sax, flute and violin all creating a memorable 11mins 45secs of outstanding, controlled jazz rock.The excellence continued on "Partly The State", another longish track, 10mins 30secs, that sounded very 70s and at times this reminded me of Tull's "Passion Play" when the complexities appeared. Great flute, keys, sax and the occasional vocal on this classic piece. "One Humiliating Incident After Another" followed, yet again creating some thoughtful moments, especially from the flute, sax and clarinets.
With only one track left, the 14min 18sec "Under The Big "W", I half expected a repeat performance of track for the climactic finale, but no, more superb controlled jazz rock that created some tremendous fairground influenced music, right down to the umpah, umpah of the tuba. About half way through, the killer sax and violin return as the mood deepens and changes direction before it finally winds itself up for the climactic ending.Well, what more can I say? This album really is a benchmark for French TV. I'm not a great lover of complex jazz rock and I did not expect something as grand as this from this band. In its field, this is a modern classic that deserves to be heard. Well done guys! 90%
---Terry Tucker, EUROPEAN PROGRESSIVE ROCK REVIEWS
The Case Against Art--French TV, Pretentious Dinosaur
Had Frank Zappa recorded a largely sincere fusion album c.1984 or had Jethro Tull given themselves over to warm, lazy instrumental work in their Stand Up days, it would have sounded something like this. Here, as in the best moments of Zappa, you can almost visualize each of the played notes moving toward each other in the air, intersecting for a moment, then floating away in opposite directions.
Although the lineup varies slightly throughout, the core of French TV is (or seems to be) Chris Smith (player of virtually all things stringed) who reveals himself as a passionate and knowledge player with an incredible set of musical taste buds, bassist Mike Sary, whose rich, warm rumbling tones create a soothing middle layer between drummer Chris Vincent's subtle propulsion and keysman Warren Dale's sometimes delicate, sometimes vesuvian touches while allowing sometime flautist, sometime saxophonist Greg Acker to enter unobtrusively into the mix. (Cathy Moeller contributes wildly imaginative violin to two tracks, including "Viable Tissue Matter,” while Dean Zigoris's presence can be felt throughout.) Together, they create many moments of dreamy chaos (Partly The State) and loose canon magic (One Humiliating Incident After Another).
The Case Against Art is remarkable in its effortlessness and remarkably effortless to enjoy.
---Jedd Beaudoin/ yjesjam.com
FRENCH TV 7: THE CASE AGAINST ART
Summary of history:
Mike Sary is both a rec.music.progressive personality as well as the long time leader of American Canterbury/RIO combo French TV. This is the seventh album so far, featuring also Warren Dale and Chris Smith of Trap. Do not forget to read Mac Beaulieu's hilarious liner notes.
Canterbury is a line of music that comes with its own sense of humour. This humour is also present in the extremely quirky music of French TV, lightening their RIO influenced music with a banjo here and some comic music otherwhere.
That Thing On The Wall for instance starts out believably serious enough reminding you possibly of bands like Univers Zero or 5UU's, but sooner or later it seems the band gets fed up with being run-of-the-mill RIO and aforementioned country style guitar and later Tom & Jerry are attic-chasing each other. The band however comes back with a vengeance in the wonderful and eerie atmospheric middle part. This is top notch. The bass moves slowly and darkly here, the keyboards reign. Slowly the music gets underway again, with a sax wailing out a Middle-Eastern melody.
On Viable Tissue Matter, the music takes on a more mellow guise. Here the flute is dominant at first, and very melodically so. The song exudes a very laid back jazz feel. Warbly synths follow, holding on to the same mood. Shrill sax and a bouncy rtythm take over then, giving the song a primordial feel. Then the pace goes up and the bass is allowed to solo, with a rhythm guitar filling in the holes in the back. The rhythm guitar then takes over the fore as well in dissonant fashion. The pace goes up and up, the band going for a climax.
Partly The State has militaristic and technocratic aspects, so one might say that fits in well with the title. The next passage is a vocal one, to my surprise, with strumming guitars and a strongly percussive feel and some flute joining in. The music now has a very warm vibe and the music has taken on Happy The Man and Gentle Giant with seventies vocal harmonies. Then we come to a moody interlude with a hesitant flute and tinkling keyboards. The bass gives the signal for the music to fire up again, here I am tempted to think of Yes with for their typical guitar sound, piano runs and chanting vocals. Yes, overtly complex and varied, Yes is not far off here.
One Humiliating Incident After Another is a bit of a fragmentary one with the RIO/Canterbury influences shining through big times again. All kinds of musics are included here, and not all of them in their separate passage even. This makes for a rather chaotic and dense tune for the first three and a half minute. Temperament is also high in this track, with a certain Spanish and sometimes French feel in the music. Notwithstanding this is symphonic jazzrock, meandering instruments, all very tuneful, all very seventies. A laid back Cuban feel gives rise to taking some gas back, the following bass, flute and piano part is even mellower. Dissonance rises high when the guitar sets in again, going against the sax.
Under The Big 'W' opens ploddingly with a woman speaking in a sexy German voice, I am not sure in what accent. Could be Russian. Whether it was meant that way remains to be seen. Accordion sounds and a waltzy bass make this a rather optimistic tune. A mellow interlude, again with accordionic sounds.The music tends to wander a bit here, in fusion style. Then the music gets active again with a frenzied Crimsonesque approach, tension building and building... After another hectic interlude, military drums take over and we are in for another groovy sleighride across runs of meandering keyboards. The horns in the closing section may remind a bit of Van Der Graaf Generator, although somewhat more mellow. The music returns to us, after a bit of silence with the French sounding pipe organ (or whatever).
A particularly strong offering from this age old band, who for Europe at least have always had a marginal position. This time it seems, the band sees fit to combine their Canterbury style (with a bit of RIO) with elements of Yes, ending up with with a complex and varied music with lots of passages, but also a surprisingly lot of melody in there. In addition to musical prowess and elaborate arrangemnents, melody, humour, and mood and feel are certainly not left out in the cold, and this level of variation is something that I really like, especially on the first three tracks.
---Reviewer: Jurriaan Hage/AXIOM OF CHOICE [Netherlands]
French TV -The Case Against Art (Pretentious Dinosaur Records)
Hello everyone out there in Chatty Land! I hope everyone had a great past week and weekend. For many of us, the first day of school has come and gone, so it is back to the grind for another wonderful semester. Well, anyway, first up this week is Louisville. Kentucky natives French TV and their latest release "The Case Against Art."
What can I say about French TV? Well, for starters, it's definitely different. The disc opens up with a song entitled "That Thing On The Wall" which reminded me of something that might be heard on a Looney Tunes episode. It's like listening to a playfully dialogue between a number of different instruments-it has this classical music feel, but then they screw you up with the jazz, the rock, and the overall fusion of everything else. The same goes with the instruments...banjo, flute, woodwind, guitar, keyboards etc. Its very avante garde/progressive heavy in its characteristics. I'm sure this comparison has been mentioned many times before, but I don't care. French TV sounds like Frank Zappa on a crack bender with Steely Dan and the London Philharmonic. Overall. I thought it was pretty good despite the absolute weirdness of the whole thing. I really enjoyed listening to how the band "talks' with the instruments and throws them all together for a few songs. Be sure to check the calendar page for when and where these guys are playing in town.
CHATTANOOGA'S "ENIGMA WEEKLY"
Nuno Published on: 3 Jun 2003 : THE CASE AGAINST ART-FRENCH TV
With so many line-up changes all over the years, "cartoonish prog-fusion headers" French TV are still able to introduce new sensations and eccentricity to the already adventurous world of progressive music. Not that many bands manage to exploit successfully so many different ambiances and musical orientations as these brave American sound scientists. After the stunning The Violence of Amateurs, their follow up The Case Against Art is quieter and more introspective, but still present some bizarre variations of complex musicianship, that can be both intense and humorous.
In my opinion, if French TV are presenting a case against art, they will undisputedly loose the trial. This is because they are shooting their own foot; due to the fact this album is musical art itself. Its really like a known robber presenting a new security alarm to banks and jewelries...who can they fool?? The Case Against Art brings, though, a more symphonic sound, settled in long instrumental parts that are then bridged with more intricate and fast fierce interplay. If you take for instance Viable Tissue Matter, it starts almost reminiscent of the 70's Italian Progressive till it becomes heavier (driven by the guitar riffing) and jazzy. The known elements of RIO, psychedelic, prog, fusion and cartoon music are still present, though this is a more straightforward progressive album than their previous.
Another novelty here is the fact of song 3 - Partly the State - has vocals. This is a cover from a Happy The Man song, which brings us back to the tribute of bands that have influenced their music. Just remember their Samla Mammas Manna cover in The Violence of Amateurs or Van Der Graaf Generator's Pioneers over C in Intestinal Fortitude.
Without reaching the brilliancy peaks of the prior album, The Case Against Art still give us an hour of delightful and insightful music, filled with crafted delicacies and sonic architectural compositions. A statement in Art against what media considers art in music these days...
As for me, I rather be considered an Art illiterate and listen to French TV than watch what the media wants you to...the "real" modern musical Art in MTV !
----- Nuno, PROGGNOSIS
French TV is a band that has adopted a gamut of progressive styles. They have everything and I mean everything imaginable, fusion, progressive rock, RIO, symphonic, metal. At some point you will hear segments of each. And as time has passed, I can only say, they just keep getting better at what they do. This music has complexity galore in every facet of the creative process: time signatures, counter melodies, cadences, disharmonic harmonies- even the recording has a complicated mix, as there are a lot of things going on with many different instruments, and each has its own spatial isolation, masterfully done. FTV makes a case for experimental prog. Many casual prog fans have found some RIO bands unlistenable, trying to distinguish it from music or noise. That is not the case for FTV, they use only enough of RIO to give the music a quirkyness, but the masterful use of fusion and progressive rock tempo keeps the music coherent and accessable to most listeners, unless you have trouble with complex music. At times I am reminded of Zappa's instrumental explorations: the horn sections follow exotic charts over syncopated rhythm sections- you must pay attention to take in all of what is happening here. If you are at all interested in what I have written so far, this cd is a no brainer, and a great place to start to discover the band. The stuff is so deep, that by the time you have comprehended the onslaught of perplexity to memory, chances are they will have a new one for you to get.
MJBrady Published on: 31 Mar 2002. Prognosis - Progressive Rock & Fusion
Reviewed by: Stephanie Sollow, August 2002; PROGRESSIVEWORLD
The Case Against Art
isn't a legal tristese on Linkletter, Pepper, or even Garfunkle. The
"art" being referred to here is that creative endeavor that this album
represents, both in the concept of the title and by the mere fact of
its existence. It is art as art, for the sake of art... The Case Against Art is the latest release from French TV,
a CD that features five tracks that are both robust and low-key, all
with titles sure to start more than one conversation - "That Thing On
The Wall," "Viable Tissue Matter," "Partly The State," "One Humiliating
Incident After Another," and "Under The Big 'W'." French TV's musical
version of art is their usual eclectic mix of sounds and styles.
Trying to describe what one
hears really requires an audio play-by-play...which one doesn't really
need. Nevertheless, I can't say that this track is any one thing, or
that track any one thing. French TV make music as random and convoluted
as a person's thoughts, flitting from one idea to another, but neither
lingering too long on one thought, nor giving them short shrift. It's
like James Joyce... or Tristram Shandy (an obscure reference for you Brit Lit majors) ... Slaughterhouse Five...
'"That Thing On The Wall" begins
in a very low key manner with what sounds like a xylophone (to me) but
is not credited... then things kick into a higher gear with guitar
(Chris Smith), keys (Warren Dale), drums and percussion (Chris Vincent)
. It is whimsical, cool, colourful, serious ... Dale's woodwinds honk
and snort (I think a little bit of Herb Alpert and John Coltrane) ...
at another point, it's down-home Americana that makes me think of Bear
Country at Disneyland (no, not the movie) - that is, plucked banjo and
rolling piano-like keys, like something out of the saloons of the 1800s
(the band is based in Kentucky).
"Viable Tissue Matter" is a
soft, breathy, atmospheric piece, that slowly becomes ever more solid.
A gentle flute (Greg Acker) plays, bringing forth images of a life
slowly coming into being. You've seen the footage on PBS or in your
biology class - cell division, that keeps multiplying, becoming an
organism... as the organism matures, we see that is it becoming...
well, something not quite human, not quite alien, not quite anything,
just a entity... what we hear is a mix of jazz and 50s cinematic music
... more angular horns with Acker on sax ... the swelling strings of
Cathy Moeller on violin... this entity becomes a hipster, Las Vegas
bound with lots of cash... first guitar, then bass leads over swirly
keys and a crisp, quick drum beat -- that is, now we're leavin' Vegas,
on the lamb... only to return to our ethereal state... perhaps it was
all a dream...
"Partly The State" is a cover of a Happy The Man piece that appears on Beginnings,
penned by Cliff Fortney, who sings on it here, as well. It is even more
subtle than that which preceeds it; in fact, it is so very subtle you
might think the CD has ended, at least when listening via speakers
rather than headphones. A throbbing bass (Mike Sary) brings things out
of this suspended state, a few ELPisms along the way, relatively brief
and impressionistic... along the way we get chimming percussion,
recorder, flute, mandolin...and beautiful, but haunting backing vocals
from Karen Hyer. As complex and avant garde the arrangement is, it
seems a bit conventional for French TV...which only serves to mix the
album up, showing different sides to the band. Well, I say this, but
that excludes the funky, 70s proto-disco passages, the rocking fusion
passage, and the Yes like passage ... guests also include Shawn
Persinger on acoustic guitar and Kirk Davis on percussion.
"One Humiliating Incident After
Another." We start in a smoky jazz club in the 1940s, leave there for a
stroll through Vegas (again) with the Rat Pack, duck behind the Sands
Hotel, only to find ourselves in a small town in the 1800s...come to
find it's Texas, just near the border with Mexico... get abducted by
aliens... leaving out the the humiliating incidents that have caused
our time jump, of course...something to do with the dame at the club,
Frankie, the mob... Of course, we could simply roll tape of many a
speech by Quayle, Bush, Dole... falls by Ford (Gerald, that is, not
Henry)... etc. "Under The Big 'W'"... yes well, if the beginning
ceremonial-like drum tattoo that opens the track doesn't sound a bit
presidential, then well,... maybe it's just me. The music takes on a
circus like theme, including a few gentle oomp-pa-pas -- Pam Thompson
on tuba. But, you know, with the title, could you have expected
anything else? The piece goes from this circus like atmosphere to
sleepy jazz (with some terrifically warm sax from Acker) and points in
between... and a point way at the very end, we get a light phrase that
sounds a bit like "My Favourite Things" and "Carol Of The Bells."
After all that, as much as I like this release, it didn't grab me as much as The Violence Of Amateurs
did. It's good, don't get me wrong; the performances are fabulous, but
it is, perhaps, a little too eclectic for it's own good. Given the
uncertainty of the band during the recording of this album, though, it
is quite cohesive.