Lazuli, a quintet from southern France, has been creating numerous ripples over recent times because of their original musical sound and their exciting live sets. They are talented multi-instrumentalists and one of their strengths is the fact that they can mix up their sound so skilfully through playing different gizmos including the marimba, French horn, mandolin, hand drum and the Léode, an instrument of which there's only one in the world. Having now seen them on their only two visits to the UK, I was simply overwhelmed and overjoyed by the intensity and complexity of their music, and equally important, their close camaraderie and charming personalities that connect all of them with their audience. Their four studio CDs are full of haunting melodies and astounding arrangements that encompass a range of styles and moods.
However, nothing beats seeing them perform the songs and the DVD Live @l'Abeille Rode offers the ideal platform to sample and savour the land of Lazuli. Their prime influences are British bands, especially The Beatles so spot the clever reference in the DVD title. Divided up into three separate sections, the first part is a 'live' performance without an audience. Artistically filmed in the studio, it comprises a performance length showcase for their most widely known songs. It's not just the quality of the music which bowls you over, but also the very candid close-up shots of the five band members.
The key points to look out for are the power and purity of frontman Dominique Leonetti's voice; the fluidity of Gédéric Byar's guitar playing together with the versatility of both Vincent Barnavol and Romain Thorel who, between them, play drums, percussion, keyboards, marimba and French horn. But it's Claude Leonetti's extraordinary Léode which hallmarks the style, this magic stick of sonic fireworks producing sounds that can't be made. Thorel also demonstrates more of his musical credentials by conducting the two stunning arrangements which include brass and string sections.
Switch then to a taste of them live filmed at both the Night Of The Prog at Loreley in Germany and then at the Veruno Festival in Italy with their incredible Nine Hands Around A Marimba, which again shows what a close band of musical brothers they really are. The final section is a delightful rustic country style work-out with the spellbinding Jolieciel that owes much to The Beatles and the close vocal harmonies of L'Essential. Rounding off, Romain Thorel shows off his classical chops with a terrific solo piano improvisation.
No band has ever enchanted me as much as Lazuli. That they sing entirely in French is all part of the overall appeal because it only adds to their uniqueness. This DVD will undoubtedly win them even more fans and deservedly so.
***** Alison Henderson (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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