ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL offer us ‘a celestial climax’ in this collaborative project that draws on the Bordeaux and Rouen scenes, and all else asidethe album stands as a powerful statement for the creative activity of those two towns. Though they may be separated by 600km or more, members of at least two bands have got together in some form to record an uplifting and ambitious piece of music. For now let’s just go with ‘prog-doom’ as a shortcut to what it might sound like.
With that in mind, the two bands highlighted in the press info – Greyfell and Endless Floods –both have an audible influence on the record. Some of the grandeur and ambition can be heard in Greyfell’s 2018 album Horsepower. ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL is however less harsh and more stately, where Greyfell lean back into groove and swing, ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL are more concerned with a steady progression. Horsepower finds its way in journey form to some very heavy material, calling to mind at times 11paranoias and their weirdo black doom psych.
There’s also a journey in ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL, but Endless Floods offer a more obvious point of reference, both in tonality and their patient minimalist harmonic sequences. The 2019 album Circle The Gold stripped back some of the brutality of their earlier music and got good write-ups, but passed me by. Its approach is echoed here in the balance of tonal weight without stepping into blown-out dooming. I’m curious about the creative process behind ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL as however the collaboration took place, they’ve found a way to draw on the strengths of the musicians involved and produce something more than just ‘stoner band plus doomy band’.
It is difficult to convey the emotional tone of ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL, from the outset it’s somehow gentle and epic, mournful at times but bright and optimistic. Part of this is the confident use of clean and harmonized vocals that call to mind both Yob and Slomatics in the way they’re set against the riff. There are some heavy sections, but heavy in a way that is open and affirming, rather than claustrophobic or oppressive. Indeed ‘some heavy sections’ suggests that most of the album is not heavy, which by most measures is definitely not the case. ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL clearly want to offer more than just heavy however, and achieve this in part by expanding the sound palette beyond the standard heavy-band instrumentation.
from the outset it’s somehow gentle and epic, mournful at times but bright and optimistic…
The second track .Carré is an extended noise piece, and electronic sounds make themselves heard throughout the album, tying the material together and offering a broader range of suggestion and associations. We’re not talking about some wild piece of far-out experimental music – readers of this site will probably find the core format broadly familiar – but ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL are not tied to your basic drums-and-strings. This expanded instrumentation is incorporated naturally, and with confidence, rather than feeling like a bolt-on novelty, to the extent that when church bells and brass instruments (trombone?) make an appearance,it sounds as it should – a part of the musical expression of the players’ vision.
This feels like an album that will stick with me for a while. Better still, I now have a couple of other bands to dig into, and a bunch of French scene-connections to follow up. If ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL were to be a one-off collaboration, the album stands as a great achievement, I hope that they can build on this as a beginning since I find myself intrigued and inspired, as well as satisfied by the nod. I’ve found the vocal hooks and melodic interplay with the guitars popping into my head at odd moments as I go about my day, and despite being a jaded old fool, I can’t help but be impressed by how assured and well-realised it is, despite the reach and ambition the music displays.
‘Let’s raise the glaives to the stars and salute the Woman in her light Armor. Let the apes play their celestial music, for at night, we all enter into the ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL while caressing the Great Square one last time.‘
Scribed by: Harry Holmes