l’augmentation

I think I may well have gone on record previously stating that one release we were eagerly looking forward to was a much deserved retrospective of the much missed and (criminally) largely forgotten L’Augmentation. Emerging from a particularly fertile Birmingham scene in the late 90’s that saw the likes of Magnetophone, Avrocar, Pram, Plone and Broadcast cut their musical teeth, the sound of ’L’Augmentation crucially drew the dots between the space bachelor pad vintage of Stereolab and the noir shadow plays of Keenan and Co (none more is this the case than on the beguiled lunar lilted ‘Rich’ – the best thing committed to wax by the band – with its peculiarly affectionate pop savvy and demurred baroque sub layering), adoring of Gainsbourg and Dutronc their 60’s dappled Francophile fashioning earned them the support of John Peel (‘Soleil’ would feature in that years Festive 50) and courted the attention of both the formative and newly established Pickled Egg and Kooky Disc imprints. Several keynote 7’s and a long out of print album (mistakenly referred to as ‘Pigalle’) announced their passage upon indie immortality before the band called it a day (sightings since have seen members appear as the Bee Men and Betty and the ID – the latter of whom crop up later). Out via the esteemed Reverb Worship imprint ‘L’Augmentation’ seeks to redress the balance and bring back the band’s sound and creative relevance / influence into deserved common musical parlance by gathering together that elusive debut full length along with the aforementioned 6 single sides, their one and only Peel session from November 1999, a rare cut from the St Dunstan Experiment compilation and a previously unreleased version of ‘rich’ pulled from an appearance on BBC’s day time magazine show Pebble Mill. Lush with glockenspiels, accordions and swirling keys ‘L’Augmentation’ blends a delightfully out of step cocktail of pastoral winter-scapes speckled in lounge montages and 60’s beat cool, kookily kaleidoscopic at times waltzing carnival mirages spiral and freefall amid lost soundtracks for Gauloises tooting private eye noir films sadly never scripted or visited upon to a cinema (for vital clues and evidence see both ‘Accident scene’ and ‘the switchboard operator’ – the former arrestingly tripping into the shadowy backwaters of John Barry / Barry Gray / Roy Budd environs with the latter hiccupping and stuttering amid fairground flurries and the insistent flight of flute florets), the moods teeter between the cheery (the irresistible sun dewed lightness and perkiness of the regal-esque woozily waltzing ‘Soleil’ which aside revealing a sprightly psych sub text would have been hailed something of a freak beat happening had it attached to its hide the autograph of Gane / Sadier) and abandoned  melancholy whilst the musicality is vibrant and vivid in its (for the most) wordless prose. Here amid these 18 cuts you’ll be serenaded to the slightly wiring and playfully quirky Mancini obsessed ‘Lunar Eclipse 1961’ – the Peel session version being the preferred version here whilst likewise Van Cleef’s re-tweaking of ‘Cartoon Strip’ is one of many listening port of calls though of the three available versions on show the Peel version takes some beating being looser and decidedly more funky and free than it studio compatriot. Elsewhere both ‘Glacial’ here possessed of a thoughtful beauty and poise and ‘D is for Dum Dum’ with its reflective phrasing both emerge from a melodic place that once attached to the work of both Astley and Gamley. Recommended without question or quarrel.

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