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New Release: Xalph by Monster Melodies Records (2018)

Monster Melodies releases for the first time an album from the band Xalph. A band formed in Bordeaux, linked to the Zeuhl musical movement.

Limited edition of 1000 numbered copies only, a transparent vinyl record with inserts and a poster.

 

 

This record has all the studio recordings of this legendary band that had never released records before. Four unreleased tracks, dating from the years 74-75, as well as the track "Gya-Tei" in its entirety. A track which we could only find a part of in the compilation of new Enneade music published in 1987.

XALPH

The story begins in the city of Bordeaux in 1964. Captivated by Hank Marvin's guitar-playing, Jean Pierre Daran teaches himself to play Shadows tunes, working out their intricacies by the unusual method of slowing 45 RPM singles down to 33 RPM. Jean Pierre joins forces with Yvan Blanlœil, Jean Jacques Pouget, and Serge Blachère to form the amateur band Les Franglais, a group of music enthusiasts who play the music of The Spotnicks and The Shadows at local dances and fairs in the Gironde.  

In 1971, a new musical project takes shape when Jean Pierre and Yvan form Lucie Dans le Ciel with three other students: Francis Ferrer, Christian Lassalle, and André Lesgouarres. While the name of the group pays homage to the psychedelic Beatles, the music is more influenced by 60s Beat and Frank Zappa's freakiness. 

Also in 1971 Yvan Blanloeil wins acclaim for the delirious theatricality of "Requiem pour Durand", the first theatre show he has written and composed, which is peppered with caustic and subversive lines.

After playing some local gigs, Lucie Dans le Ciel score the support for Magma, when the Kobaians tour through Bordeaux in April 72. At that show, Christian Vander and his band are won over by the madness of the Bordelais musicians, who close their set with a battle of cream pie. A friendship grows, and contact is established between Magma's professional musicians and the Bordeaux amateurs.

However, Yvan Blanloeil is now more excited by theatre than by music, and he quickly sucks the life out of Lucie Dans le Ciel by wanting to restrict it to providing musical accompaniment to theatre shows. The other musicians, no longer feeling that they are expressing themselves, don't hide their dissatisfaction. When, during the production of "Dracula 73", a harmonium weighing several tonnes has to be lugged around by the band, the demise of Lucie Dans le Ciel is sealed.

Yvan continues his theatre career alone, becoming director, actor and playwright in the Bordeaux collective Fartov et Belcher (named after a line in the Samuel Beckett play Waiting for Godot). 

In the meantime the musicians around Jean Pierre Daran form a new group: Amélie la Sèche. His parents offer a house in Villenave d’Ornon, in the Southern suburbs of Bordeaux, as a rehearsal space for the band, who are now heading towards a more progressive music. As none of the musicians can read music, everything is worked out through discussion; the strong sense of unity this creates yields a number of highly-collaborative musical sketches recorded on a Teac 3300 reel-to-reel recorder. On these recordings Jean Pierre creates his own universe on the guitar, and Christian Lassalle, Francis Ferrer, André Lesgouarres and new bass-player Jean Pierre Alcaïne add their own contributions. After clarinetist and saxophonist Christian Faure joins, Amélie la Sèche play a number of concerts, but never outside the Bordeaux area.

The band's most creative period begins in July 74, while the group (now renamed Xalph) is rehearsing in a house in Pondaurat, a small village in the Gironde. After bassist Jean Pierre Alcaïne leaves the group (for reasons of romance), Jean Pierre Daran buys a bass guitar and writes music on the Fender Rhodes that Christian Lassalle has left in the house. Recordings of accomplished pieces of "dense music full of rhythmic and harmonic twists and turns" are made by the group, with the bass overdubbed onto a reel-to-reel Sony and the ever-present Teac 3300. 

In 1975, Christian Vander suggests to Jean Pierre Daran that he audition for Magma. But with no real motivation, alone with a guitar and amplifier in a small room in a Valbonne studio, the Bordelais turns in a mediocre performance. He is simply not going to leave his own group and abandon his own music.

Xalph continues on its way, replacing musicians as they leave. In 1975 Serge Korjanevski joins on keyboards.

Giorgio Gomelsky offers to organise a tour for the group  - but the project suddenly stalls.

In winter 1976 Christian Vander books the group along with five others (Carmina, Masal, Etron Fou, Au Fond du Couloir à Gauche, and Potemkine) to take part in his Zeuhl Locomotive tour. Each of these local bands are to take turns playing as support act in the towns where they are unknown, giving them the chance to be discovered by a new audience. Xalph would have played in St Quentin, Macon, Grenoble and Clermont Ferrand, but the last-minute resignation of drummer André Lesgouarre puts them out of the game.

Xalph are constantly looking for the opportunity to record an album: Christian Vander wants to produce one for the Utopia label, a recording is touted for Jean Karakos' Tapioca label, then with Magma's Claude Blasquiz at Studio Ramsès. But, while they tirelessly practice with new drummer Xavier Jouvelet and a newly-returned Jean Pierre Alcaïne  - an album is never recorded.

In 1977 France 3 contacts the group to film a session and interview in the studios of FR3 Bordeaux. The resulting twelve minute programme is broadcast on Thursday, 21 July giving Xalph a little extra local notoriety. But the same year, the group is also forced to steal its own gear from a storage depot. Pressured by economic realities Jean Pierre throws in the towel. He starts a family, resumes a career in horticulture, and while continuing to write music, he no longer has the time to perform live. Serge Korjanevski takes over Xalph's leadership alongside new guitarist Patrick Briand, keyboardist Jean Michel Cursan, drummer Maurice Fari, bassist Jacques Tocah, and two newly-added female singers: Claire Laborde et Françoise George. 

On 22 October 1979 Xalph play two concerts at the Ecoutes Musique Nouvelles festival in Paris (organised by the magazine Atem), one of them at the Gâité-Montparnasse with Vortex, Univers Zero, Art Zoyd and Philipe Cauvin.

In 1980 a performance at the Entrepôt Lainé in Bordeaux is filmed. While the quality of the vision is terrible, the film gives an indication of just how impressive the group is in live performance.

Finally, giving in to their fate, Xalph split up in 1981. 

In 1983 the musicians regroup in Roger la Honte, and record an album for the KI Record label. 

Later, Serge Korjanevski works together with Yvan Blanlœil to compose "40 Paysages Fixes pour Piano", a performance combining music and theatre (directed by Carol E. Miles and Bob Wilson). Jean Pierre Daran composes music for some of Yvan Blanlœil's other productions: 1992's La Nuit Prochaine (presented at the Sygma festival, featuring Daran's synthesiser work), and a 1999 production of David Mamet's Edmond (with Bernard Blancan in the lead role). In 2008 Serge and Jean Pierre reunite with Yvan to compose the music for Peter le Meilleur (an opera portuaire) and Dracula (performed at the Theatre Nationale de Bordeaux Aquitaine with four cellos on stage). At the end of 2012 the three musicians reunite once again in a final reincarnation of Lucie Dans le Ciel, but Jean Pierre leaves in 2013. 

Since 2017, Jean Pierre and Serge have worked together with three other musicians in a new project: Dark Zircus.