Igor Wakhevitch, Donc… (Fractal, 1997?)
[originally posted 7Jan2002]
Bet you were happy to see Fractal, a French label who seem to specialize in reissues of out-of-print titles, gather up your complete works and reissue them as a 6CD box set. Price is a little stiff (Forced Exposure sells it for $90 on this side of the pond [ed. note 2014: not anymore, of course]) for six discs, but it’s hard to argue with anyone who says this is seminal stuff, so the price may be justified for the archivists and collectors who are the thing’s main audience.
Put into perspective, and in a collection that allows the listener to travel through the nine years over which the six albums were composed back to back, it does allow for some critical comparison you’re probably not too fond of. I mean, really, what WERE you thinking in the middle there? It becomes obvious that Nagual and Les Fous d’Or (the fourth and fifth, respectively, and both commissioned) were little more than experimentation and practice for what followed. The albums that came before it, where you were still working with prog-psych rockers like Triangle and Soft Machine, are probably what later acts like Yes were listening to when composing their twenty-two-minute synthesizer-noodling tracks, and maybe that’s what you were trying to get away from. (Or maybe you were farther under the influence of Terry Riley than anyone wanted to admit.) Those first albums are pretty straight psychedelic rock, and in that context they’re quite fun. Then, all the sudden, there’s a transition to musique-concrete-for-voice-piano-and-ballerina, and what’s all THAT about? I’m glad that you did eventually resolve whatever issues were on your mind during those years, so you could wrap the whole mess into a proto-new-wave package and call it Let’s Start, which approaches brilliance in many spots. Once again, there’s a lot here that says “early eighties synth bands listened to this album a bunch while in the studio.”
Trendsetter you may have been, but there’s some question as to whether what set trends in music in the seventies is going to be appreciated by the masses today. After all, no one who isn’t making music themselves has ever even heard of Einsturzende Neubauten, and your stuff is probably destined for the same multiple personality: revered by the music-makers and hopelessly obscure when talking to anyone else. Still, for the few who know it’s out there, the box will hold deep and lasting appeal. *** ½
“Taddy’s Dream:Ramallah’s Road” from Let’s Start.