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Fantomas: Le Faux Magistrat by James Blackshaw
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7/10 Clinton 09 July 2014

Oh how things move on. I enjoyed James Blackshaw’s work whilst he was doing his 12 string guitar thing, not as much as Phil though, who I suspect may have wanted to marry him at one point. But in recent years he has been more ensconsed in compositional type music and from what I’ve heard….well….its not for me.

This is a recording of a concert in France which Blackshaw was asked by Yann Tiersen to perform a live score to the film 'Le Faux Magistrat'. Also featured are Duane Pitre and Simon Scott (I’m contractually obliged to add ‘of Slowdive’ here). Its grandiose, serious, some may say pompous music that is built on doom laden piano, pounding drums and assorted violins and horns. The album is in 13 parts  without titles so I assume its meant to be listened to a whole. The second track contains some particularly gruesome saxophone wailing away which would have led to me covering my ears had I been in attendance. There are some nicely picked piano textures on the the third piece which is much more minimal and therefore to me more enjoyable, Blackshaw plucking away at seemingly random notes with some warm vibraphone being added to create a nice mood-piece full of shimmery textures.  

Some of the guitar playing doesn’t seem to have been played by Blackshaw an instead Pitre taking lead and its hard to say where this ends and where ‘Telegraph Road’ by Dire Straits begins. Nicer is the fourth piece which begins with some beautiful classical guitar picking (by Blackshaw this time). This track is utterly gorgeous and  shows what he can do when he lays off the classical sounding stuff and concentrates on more Fahey esque guitar pieces. Luckily there are plenty more examples of this as the album wears on and at some points the album recalls the doomy and darkness of Matt Elliott's later work. I’m not necessarily sure whether hiring a band helps or hinders Blackshaw. Obviously they can all play well enough, but the superfluous flute trills on the 7th piece ruin what is a perfectly lovely slab of acoustic beauty. It certainly has its moments but probably makes a whole lot more sense when played alongside the film.  


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