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Guignol - Angela, David and the Great Neopolitan Road Issue

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Artist: Guignol

Album: Angela, David and the Great Neopolitan Road Issue

Label: Cenotaph

Review date: Apr. 16, 2004

Records can be intensely personal offerings by private individuals, and not only in terms of subject matter. Angela, David and the Neopolitan Road Issue is one of those albums, though not for the usual reasons of cathartic subject matter or self-referential lyrics. Instead, Guignol’s debut disc’s personality is connected more to the cryptic language in which the music was written. Guignol, made up of members of Bablicon and Volcano the Bear, have a history for making perplexing music, and this trend continues in the work of this collaboration.

Initially begun in France in 2001, Guignol recorded their first album in a rural locale, a fact that plays a large part in how some of Angela... sounds. The recording has an open feel, with background noise and environmental sound sources contributing to the music, something that would have been more difficult, or at least in a strikingly different vein had the disc been recorded in a more urban area.

Though strains of European folk music find their way into much of Guignol’s music, Angela... is too much of a musical mélange to simply use one or two musical signifiers in a succinct description. The trio’s kitchen-sink instrumentation, heavy on accordion, piano, and makeshift percussion, is perhaps the first aspect of Angela.., to draw the listener's attention, but the arrangements of these cryptic tunes and vocal freak-outs are what really deserve a closer look.

Jeremy Barnes, Laurence Coleman, and Aaron Moore have succeeded in crafting music that sounds equally spontaneous and well-planned. There are few moments on the disc in which Guignol’s music is anything close to jarring or upsetting in its movements, but one gets the sense that anything could happen next, that there’s a wide open palate of sounds and styles from which Guingol’s music can be drawn. Music that’s completely singular, which this is, might often seem off-putting, but Angela... is warm, inviting music. Melody and rhythm are never forgotten, though Guignol have very open definitions of each.

Calling an album enigmatic might be an easy way out for a critic, but Angela, David and the Neopolitan Road Issue fits the bill. Despite the feeling of comfort and familiarity the disc sometimes creates, just as often it’s completely perplexing. Luckily, in Guignol’s case, this feeling is a good thing.

By Adam Strohm

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