Malguénac: a festival of mergers

Concerts 26.08.2023

On this second evening of the Malguénac festival, Friday August 18, the intensity goes up a notch: more people, more noisy music. We've chosen to devote this final column to Sarāb, one of this year's most celebrated ensembles in the jazz world, and to !GeRald! a prodigious experimental rock band with unbridled energy.

The pieces of Sarāb draw on the sources of oriental music, Syrian in particular, which the group deploys in a baroque setting, designed with lively, variegated touches, blending jazz, techno, funk, rock and more. Sarāb denies itself nothing, and its mosaic of styles, played with irresistible enthusiasm, hits the nail on the head: a catchy, infectious alchemy. Ornate melodic lines, maqâmat and youyous rub shoulders with frantic electronic beats, groovy bass lines and sharp metal riffs.
In Malguénac, the musicians are particularly generous, dancing to their own tunes and getting the audience, who didn't need much to get fired up, to react. Their concert is a concentration of energy and shared joy, palpable in the large Résonnance hall, which vibrates to their music. Their well-structured program includes moments of intimacy, ecstasy, cathartic climaxes and bursts of energy.

However, Sarāb, which means "mirage" in Arabic, does not only sing happy lyrics, far from it. Climène Zarkan evokes the nostalgia of exile, the horrors of war and the hardships of migration. The penultimate song is dedicated to Nahel, the recent victim of an unjustified police shooting at point-blank range. The Franco-Syrian singer sometimes calls on other songwriters, drawing on the verses of poet Maram al-Masri, for example. The volutes of her voice intertwine with Robinson Khoury's trombone in a spellbinding lyricism, often in a perfect unison linked to classical Arab tradition, sometimes also in a counterpoint of Western tradition, while Timothée Robert's bass and Paul Berne's drums provide a solid rhythmic foundation, on which Thibault Gomez's keyboards and Baptiste Ferrandis's guitar alternately breathe ethereal sonorities, passionate romanticism, unbridled energy, electric madness and even a few delightful noisy episodes. There's kitsch and pop in Sarāb, but always handled with good taste, in a balance of flavors, rich in spices and perfectly mastered. An unforgettable concert!

!GeRald! claims to be experimental rock. The band was formed in 2018 with four musicians from France and England: Marin on keyboards, Marvin on guitar, Thomas on bass (Quentin now plays bass) and Teddie on drums. !GeRald! is a rock band: it rocks, it saturates, it grates, it screams, but not only that... It also hovers a lot, and then it grooves! The band specializes in long instrumental pieces, well-structured but also a little crazy, where the listener never knows what's around the bend.

In concert, the sensation is delectable: the tracks, of considerable richness, seem never-ending. Indeed, they're sprinkled with hints of psychedelic rock, metal riffs, jazzy piano or ecstatic synthesizer, trance-like climaxes, but also with a lot of weirdness and zaniness, in the distortion of a well-weighed rock.

The concert's frenzied nervousness is maintained from start to finish. At either end of the stage, absolutely mesmerizing, Marin throws himself at his keyboard, while Teddie, animated by jerks and with a fiery look in his eyes, shuffles his drums in all directions, sparing no end of rhythmic breaks, starts and restarts. In the middle are Marvin and Quentin, less feverish in their gestures, but ensuring noisy sound textures of phenomenal intensity. Moreover, the richness and density of the effects on the three electric instruments contrast sharply with the dry sound of the almost acoustic drums (just amplified): it's a happy effect.

In an interview, the band confirmed their (obvious) love of Naked City, but also of King Crimson, Nirvana, Tool, noise and so many other references (including Debussy, some of whose harmonies actually emerge on Marin's keyboard). You don't come away from a concert like this unscathed, where the music corresponds to the age of zapping and even more to that of the Internet, a universe where a simple click can take you into a totally different universe, from the gloomy to the sublime, from the banal to the horrible. One thing is certain when the last note rings out and fades away: rock is not dead!

Guillaume Kosmicki

You can listen to Guillaume Kosmicki's interviews on RBG (Radio Bro Gwened):
- Sarāb, The ultimate alchemy
- Gerald! Rock isn't dead!

Photos © Ysa Gudule


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