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Le Feu Du Tigre, 6/10
Slang, 7/10
Polyglot, 6/10
Where is Tamashii (2003), 5/10
Kudu Bisa Kudu (2022), 6/10

Guigou Chenevier's next adventure after Etron Fou Leloublan was Encore + Grande, documented on Total Bliss (1987).

Volapuk was a trio of clarinet, cello and percussion that draws liberally from Frank Zappa's orchestral scores, Stravinsky's fauve ballet, minimalist techniques, Canterbury jazz-rock, chamber jazz, and crowns it all with bits of circus music. On their debut Le Feu Du Tigre (Cuneiform, 1995), the instrumental pieces, which are essentially fanfares of different magnitude, work a lot better than the songs. What gives credibility to the compositions is essentially the muscular infrastructure of their arrangements. As simple and ordered as the melodic themes may sound, they are soaked in classy gestures from a trio of seasoned improvisers. The more ambitious the style, the more welcome and refreshing a sense of humour is. Funny tempos rule. Counterpoint is comically perfect. Solos are lively and crazy. Parodies of classical and popular music abound. Stravinsky turns into a clown in the title-track, Bach Is Back and Chandelle Verte. Circus fanfares erupt unashamed (We Can and El Sombrero). Dada's philosophy permeates surreal suites such as Des Objects De La Plus Grande Importance. Coca Cola creates a hybrid of the Fugs and the Art Bears. A touch of latin jazz (La 7e Nuit) dispels any lingering doubts that these are serious musicians. For those into more avantgarde endeavours, this progressive sound may come through as a little too traditional, but the sheer elegance of the project is guaranteed to win all hearts.

If English is your first language and you could translate my old Italian text, please contact me.

Con Slang (Cuneiform, 1997) la musica strumentale dei Volapuk eguaglia e forse sorpassa quelle dei loro antenati transalpini (Art Zoyd, Universe Zero) sia in fatto di composizione sia in fatto di esecuzione. Siamo ormai al limite della musica classica piu` forbita, anche se questa e` orchestrata soltanto per violoncello (Guillaume Saurel), clarinetto (Michel Mandel) e percussioni. Il rock strumentale dei Volapuk si discosta dal genere di progressive-rock classicheggiante che e` la tradizione della Francia. I loro temi ricordano un'Art Ensemble Of Chicago senza il jazz, o un Lol Coxhill senza la banda, o il Fred Frith di Speechless senza la chitarra. Sono esperimenti curiosi e spesso divertenti sul modo di organizzare le note.
In questo disco il trio eccelle soprattutto nelle nervose partiture da camera al confine fra Penguin Cafe` Orchestra e Michael Nyman, talvolta (Dunaj) sorrette dalla ritmica piu` bislacca (un frenetico tip tap, droni di didgeridu e acrobazie della batteria), talaltra (Taragot) imbastite stravolgendo rondo` settecenteschi e adagi barocchi, o ancora (Les Enfants De La Guerre) abusando melodie da bistro` intrise di spleen. Gran parte del loro repertorio ha il piglio del teatro dell'assurdo. Apici comici sono la musica per marionette di 2.3.4. e la musica per carovana araba di Machine A Coudre. Il loro semi-minimalismo buontempone si regge sui duetti fra violoncello e clarinetto, ora petulanti ora clowneschi, ora cervellotici ora fanfaroni, e sulle spettacolari invenzioni ritmiche.
Come precedente, il disco e` frammentato (altro fatto che li accomuna a Frith), e molti dei quindici pezzi sono soltanto degli spunti a seguire, che il gruppo rifiuta rigorosamente di seguire, secondo i piu` ortodossi canoni del dadaismo.
Il batterista Guigou Chevenier (ex Etron Fou Leloublan e titolare anche dei Les Batteries con Rick Brown dei Run On) ruba spesso la scena ai compari. La sua statura di compositore e` garantita da piece come L'Esqulve Est Superleure A L'Attaque, tanto sgrammaticata quanto il titolo, dalla quale e` assente proprio la batteria.

Guigou Chevenier's solo album Les Rumeurs De La Ville (Cuneiform, 1998) was actually performed by Volapuk and friends but overdubbed with street musicians. It collects compositions for septet (sax, clarinet, cello, keyboards, guitar, bass, drums) and improvisations by amateur musicians. The result is semi-classical pieces such as Les Yeux Sans Visage, Petit Piano, El Zorro, Les Phoques, Guerre, Poisson Magique. Chevenier also composed the stage music for Le Diapason Du Pere Ubu.

Volapuk's line-up of cello, clarinet, drums and now even violin (Takumi Fukushima, ex After Dinner in Japan, now an Italian resident and performer with French and Czech ensembles) released its most cohesive work yet, Polyglot (Cuneiform, 2000). What sounded like experiments now sound like classical compositions, coldly structured but warmly conducted. Vieux Futur mixes expressionist chamber music, eastern European folklore and Zappa's orchestral Burnt Weeny Sandwich. The combo's imagination flies out to ethnic and medieval fairs with Nusrat and is herded towards Michael Nyman's minimalist laboratory with Des Liens Invisibles. Throw in a little Stravinsky and Ravel, as most of these pieces (particularly the dramatic Tante Yo) could easily evolve into fauve ballets. Furthermore, Chevenier's proverbial sense of humour has developed into a compositional element of its own, that surfaces in countless nods to farcical vaudeville music, two of which stand out: the superbly nostalgic Valse Chinoise (with a nuance of the Bonzo Band's wit) and especially Technovo, their funniest and catchiest composition yet, that sounds like a frenzied version of the Penguin Cafe` Orchestra. As Chevenier's combo increases the emphasis on the orchestral and downplays the rock band, his work does resemble more and more closely the work of Simon Jeffes with the Penguin Cafe` Orchestra. Chevenier conducts masterly, highlighting the dramatic tension between percussions and string instruments.

Volapuk's last album was Where is Tamashii (2003)

Guigou Chenevier also collaborated with Nick Didkovsky on Body Parts (2000) and released the solo albums Le Batteur Est Le Meilleur Ami Du Musicien (2003) and Pieces Musicales Avec Vue (2006).

Guigou Chenevier then fell in love with gamelan and assembled five French musicians and seven Indonesian ones to make Kudu Bisa Kudu (Cuneiform, 2022), recorded live in May 2017 and credited to Balungan. The experiment yields both the expected dada-gamelan fusion (Javanese TGV and The Guy I am) but also the theatrical prog-gamelan of the eight-minute Wewarah and especially the distorted, psychedelic, eight-minute Meet. The twelve-minute Beteng finds a way to balance free-jazz, gamelan and mock-operatic musichall singing.

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