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Sylvaine Hélary - Glowing Life

Nick Ostrum, The Free Jazz Collective


Ayler has been experimenting with less-conventional line-ups since Stéphane Berland took the reins in 2009. On Glowing Life, composer, leader, flutist, and vocalist Sylvaine Hélary is joined by Antonin Rayon on Hammond organ b3, Moog synth, piano, clavinet, Benjamin Glibert on electric guitar, electric bass, and Christophe Lavergne on drums. A perfect storm of musicians for a weltering of progressive freak rock fusion.

Somehow, I prefer this to Sylvaine Hélary’s deeply inspired Spring Roll|Printemps, which was conceived and recorded in response to the waning of the Arab Spring. Glowing Life has a stronger art-rock vibe, channeling, as the liner notes aptly attest, Henry Cow, Robert Wyatt, Arto Lindsay, and Stereolab. Add Zappa and whoever pioneered minimalist contact mic gargling to the list, and I think we are almost there. Naturally, there are jazz elements, but, again, this reaches far beyond that tradition. Hélary’s compositions are catchy and jumpy, and as much as the instrumentation drives the music, her vocals shine. Most of the lyrics are French and, therefore, sound sweet but inscrutable to me. The final track, Where It Begins, however, derive its lyrics from the PJ Harvey poem of the same name. What is not to like?