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Album Review: Bruno Karnel – Evaporation des Voix Off (Live) (2020)

Buno Karnel is a French multi-instrumentalist that writes, performs and records his nomadic-inspired music. Over the lockdown period, Karnel assembled a three-piece band to perform his music live in studio. Pana Markides takes a listen.

By The Hard Baroquer

Bruno Karnel recently released his live-in-studio album, Evaporation des Voix Off (Live). The live album is faithfully reproduced performance of his 2018 EP, Satellite 3Après​-​demain, plus three solo performances from other parts of Karnel’s extensive back catalogue – these being, “Îles Espace” from Amra (2019);  “Wetaya” and “En ti Sólo” from Satellite 4: En ti Sólo (2019)) and is released as video (which you can watch on YouTube) as well as an audio-only studio release.

Overview of Evaporation des Voix Off

For this live-in-studio endeavour, Karnel recruits Julien Waghon on bass and Sonia on backing vocals to deliver a stellar performance of the Satellite 4 EP as a three piece. The three bonus tracks are delivered by Bruno Karnel as a solo performance, with the help of backing tracks arranged by Karnel.

All eight tracks are faithful to the original studio recordings with only deviation being the production and the individuality that comes from live performances. The lyrics and vocals – all French – are delivered with conviction in Bruno Karnel’s distinctive but calm style, and complemented well with Sonia’s easy-going soprano. Guitar solo’s are there too (would it be prog rock if there were none?) but Bruno’s style of compositions ensures they are well-crafted, classy and minimalistic, and don’t distract from the bigger picture.

The live album is an excellent showcase of Karnel’s trademark blend of traditional instruments with classical progressive rock rooted in the 60’s and 70’s that harks back to the folk-inspired early days of prog rock, and a track like “Ardour” showcases this especially well. That Karnel, who has noted as one of his inspirations Peter Hammill of Van Der Graaf Generator, continues this style will be appreciated by many fans of early progressive rock – whether they understand the French lyrics or not.

Other tracks showcase the progressiveness of Karnel’s music more, such as “Et Pourtant, Elle Tourne” which begins with an interesting 6/4 with non-symmetric accents, giving the song a very progressive feel, yet familiar thanks to the presence of the mandolin.

Bruno showcases his worldliness further in the closing track “En ti sólo”, a Spanish-language track that adapts Peruvian poet César Vallejo’s Confianza en el Anteojo and brings his verse to life.

 Karnel’s extensive knowledge of ethnic instruments delivers a worldly element to his music – from the charango of the Andes, the mandolin of Europe, the sav of Turkey, domra of Russia and Ukraine and the balafon of west Africa. Using these worldly, experimental elelcments, the musically nomadic Karnel is able deliver tracks that are an amulgamation of influences and wonderfully reminiscent of King Crimson, such as “Wétaye” in particular.

There are some missed opportunities, but only a few resulting from pedantry. To me, the excellent playing on the album is let down a little by a sterile guitar and bass tone. I also would have enjoyed seeing Sonia use the cajón more than just on one track – this would allow the for a musical arrangement that is purely a three-piece.

But that’s all a matter of taste, and the end result is a performance as close to the original recording as possible. And to be sure, the trio’s delivery is definitely tight and professional throughout the recording, so what more can you ask for?

Overall, this live-in-studio album is 38 minutes well spent for fans of eclectic, well-composed progressive rock and huge credit to Bruno Karnel and company for deliving a memorable project suhc as this – I’m looking forward to whatever comes next for the multi-instrumentalist.

Evaporation des Voix Off (live) is available for purchase and to stream on all platforms.

Evaporation des Voix Off track listing

  1. Après-demain (03:52)
  2. Nuit des Olmèques (Olmèques Part V) (03:28)
  3. Adour (05:26)
  4. Et pourtant, elle tourne (04:41)
  5. Au gré de tes planètes (03:34)
  6. Îles espace (09:02)
  7. Wétaye (04:29)
  8. En ti sólo (04:27)

About Evaporation des Voix Off (live)

Run time: 38:54
Released: November 23, 2020
Country: France
Label: Independent

Evaporation des Voix Off (live) album credits

Bruno Karnel: guitar, charango, lead vocals, backing tracks (keys and programming, guitars, occasionnal bass guitar, mandolin, charango, saz, domra, balafon & various percussion)
Sonia: backing vocals, cajón
Julien Waghon: bass

Frédéric Gerchambeau – Eurorack modular synth with analog sequencer on “Îles espace”

Watch “Nuit des Olmèques (live)”

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