From those long ago days on pnf (more than four years ago!)
Dune is said to be the best selling science fiction novel of all time. It was written by Frank Herbert and published in 1965. Those of my age group will remember from childhood many kids carrying the heavy book under their arms in grade school or high school and referencing Paul Atreides or Duncan Idaho knowingly to the annoyance of the rest of us. It had an enormous influence on progressive music in particular, the most obvious being french zeuhl band Dun. A younger cohort will recall the disastrous David Lynch movie version with Kyle MacLachlan released in 1984, often seen in lists of worst movies ever. I never saw it so I can't speak for it. The book (I didn't bother to read that either) is about human struggles set far in the future of the order year 20,000 or thereabouts over control of a desert planet and a spice melange which extends life. I can't resist saying it again, how high our hopes were back then in the sixties and seventies. It seemed so natural to go from landing on the moon to exploring our milky way galaxy. In fact landing on the moon was made possible by the fact that peak oil was only a couple of years away for the United States, it had to do with the cheapness of energy. No human being will ever land on the moon again. We are stuck on this planet now which we are steadily destroying. Many studies have suggested that extended periods of weightlessness adversely affect bones (5% loss of bone per year) and the circulatory system, leading to constant fainting on returning to gravitational conditions. Now an elegant recent study showed that zebrafish embryos raised in microgravity developed cranial defects-- obviously normal embryonic development requires the presence of gravity. Earlier studies had indicated in other species the possibility space travel affects reproduction. How likely is it the same would happen to pregnant women on an interstellar space flight lasting decades? Very likely unfortunately, any cursory study of embryology shows that the complicated timing of development relies on many external signals of which gravity has to be an important though little-understood factor. So appropriately enough, if we sent out a colonizing group of people out for a long space trip to a habitable planet (and how would those be chosen in the first place? through Oprah?) it is likely only deformed mutants would arrive safely at the end of their voyage. And I'm sure that has been written about in a science fiction short story somewhere before.
The group's name is probably from the famous book given its popularity back then (not sure), however the songs have nothing to do with it, they are ordinary-lyricked acoustic pop songs in the very smooth french style, like Chemin Blanc. The quality of the songwriting is very high. The second song, "La fille…" (girl I never held hands with) e.g. starts with a gorgeous 12-string B minor arpeggio progression then moves to a G major stanza, then G minor sust., F major, and quite beautifully the singer sings us down back to B minor, this modulation is worth paying attention to since it's an unusual sequence, F to B minor. The lyrics are about a childhood crush, very poppy puppy-love ultra-saccharine melancholy typical seventies but it really takes me back to my own innocent childhood and the deep deep yearnings of the time -- example lyrics : "she was hiding her face I wonder if she was hiding a smile or tears". Note also the beautiful mellotron strings that accompany the B minor descending progression.
The other standout songs are track 4, "Le fugitif" -- beautiful acoustic guitar intro leads to a chorus smothered in gorgeous mellotron sounds, for 'la chevauchee' (action of a horse running) -- here the effect of the sustained mellotron chords as well as high-pitched electric piano chords is to enhance the feeling of a horse racing, quite amazingly well done. I once again repeat myself about how these songs deserve to be played on the radio for people driving to work instead of the usual Simon and Garfunkel you hear every morning. And track 9, "Le Tableau" which actually has quite poetic lyrics as well, simply the singer with a guitar and a handful of brilliant chord changes. This is as great as songwriting gets, in my opinion. Is it coincidence that it occurred in the early 70s? No way.
In style I would say this album is in the french tradition with acoustic instruments mostly-- like Tangerine, but with highly competent compositions, quite a bit of mellotron and unusual modulations everywhere to keep our interest. Lyrics of course are typical pop stuff. A good example of the surprising modulations is seen in the bridge of the song "Chien des dunes" where it sounds as if they go through twelve different keys. This kind of thing is not often heard on current radio where the average song for sure has of the order 3.6 chords in the whole thing all in same key.
Le Chien des Dunes:
(On the site mentioned below he reveals this song was about a fellow musician.)
The singer and guitarist's name was Christian Jasinski, and he amazingly has his own site where he collected together other songs he has written. Note that he has a new CD out for sale here. The band lineup apparently changed quite a bit over the years, with the only constant seemingly being Jasinski. At the time of this record, the others were Patrick Lattie and Jean-Paul Maeso. A mysterious character called Serge Raffy contributes some songwriting here too.
For me this is still a gorgeous folk record which deserves to be better known, mixing America and chansonnier materials perfectly. And look at the beautiful band photo (of an earlier version of the group) from 1977 (he is second from left):
He goes on to say that the dog is not "le chien des dunes" but there was such a dog and her name was Julie and she had the "color of the reflection of the moon". Note the presence of tons of mellotrons and other progressive effects among the folk tunes.
Many thanks to the amazing songwriters here!!