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Cheval de Frise
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Evophonic | Dann Chinn
House Of Stairs label launch concert (evening 2) featuring Cheval De Frise | Stars In Battledress | Miss Helsinki (with William D. Drake also playing) at The Arts Cafe @ Toynbee Hall, Aldgate East, London

Cheval De Frise are... plain remarkable. Bare to the waist and sporting Trotsky glasses, Vincent Beysselance studies his drumkit with a jazz warrior's eye, his lean expression and sculpted moustachios lending him the air of a razor-sharp beatnik. Guitarist Thomas Bonvalet looks as if the Taliban have booted him out for excessive zeal. Sporting an enormous bushy chest-length beard, battered clothes and an expression of sincerely crazed intensity, he's twitching visibly even before he plays a note. His nylon-string acoustic guitar has been modified - or de-modified, with both the sound-hole and the pre-amp controls crudely and defiantly smothered with duct tape. As he plays, biting on a pick, his face seethes beneath his beard.

"Pastoral acoustic mathcore" was what someone wrote on the Cheval De Frise packet. Ah ha, ha, ha - I don't think so. Pastoral acoustic mathcore would be very nice - perhaps a Guitar Craft picking exercise, pared down by post-punk minimalism and softened by visions of green fields. Are Cheval De Frise like that? No. For the first seven minutes or so, Cheval De Frise seem absolutely demented. After that - and once the broken seizures of drumming and the intricate splatterwork of guitar has had time to get to work on your brain and your reflexes - you start to understand. Although your body will make the connection before your mind does. Right from the off, Bonvalet's playing is disturbingly wild; slamming down obsessively on a single note or isolated interval, or spasming music up, down or across the neck of the guitar. Beysselance's drumming is a boiling whirl of ideas and instincts, acted out with a brinksma cefulness, with enough breakneck substance both to keep the duo's momentum and to craze it with brilliant stress fractures. People cram to the edge of the Arts Café's tiny stage, swaying like a wheatfield in a whirlwind, and yelping approval.

Behind the apparent free-scene chaos, Cheval De Frise have serious intentions. The drums have their melodies as well as their upheavals, and although Bonvalet's open-mouthed drooling visage suggests a man in terminal acid psychosis, he frequently rips into hyperspeed, hypertonal spirals of intense picking which John McLaughlin would be proud of. Every now and again, in the midst of a free section, the two Friseurs exchange a quick cue-ing glance and then slam into perfect alignment, calling a rigorous Zappa-style composed music module up out of memory. Bonvalet's playing might often parallels the spewing, disjointed clicking noises of the post-Derek Bailey improv school, but the musician he's really closest to is the iconoclastic lo-fi jazz rebel Billy Jenkins Deliberately or not, Cheval De Frise 's music is a hyperactive flamencoid strain of Jenkins' "spass" approach - a slew of intense musicality in which ugly sounds, wrong notes, anti-technique and smash-ups in timing and phrasing are as part of the great spontaneous inspiration as skill, structure, complex ambition or the beautiful moment.

It is, also, an intensely devotional music, as burningly thrilling as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's qu'waali shriek, a gospel choir tearing the roof off the sucker, or the closer-to-God whirling of a Sufi dervish. Bonvalet's physical abandonment (at points close to ecstatic convulsions) is religious in its intensity. As pieces skid to a halt, he bobs his head thankfully to the audience, smiling and almost moved to tears. If it's like that onstage, it's not that much less intense down here. Being up close to music this inspirationally driven raises the hairs on the back of the neck. When Cheval De Frise finally peel off their instruments and stumble into the crowd, the feel of the aud rhooks is like a dam bursting.

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Sonore website

Stemming from the French post-hardcore scene, these two musicians have since acquired an empirical and sincere technique. Their compositions reveal a contained, almost baroque sense of urgency, restrained by determination and rhythmical rigour. A bee trapped in a bottle? An astonishing duet/duel comprising of amplified acoustic guitar and drums, they develop a unique, peculiar and scheming "avant-rock" musical language.

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Festival mimi 2002(marseille,fr)soiré cutler/greeves/racaille+cheval de frise

There was a time when the modernity of certain demanding rock music was suddenly considered obsolete. Since the market wanted at all cost to create an artificial "generation gap", those courageaous (and modern) explorators were sent to hell. Thus, they are still moving, as Racaille demonstrated when he composed the music for the Decouflé opening of the olympic winter games, or as the active Cutler on his multiple frontlines. Here, with a certain impertinence, they re-compose (sounds, lives, stories ...).AMI commissioned them, hoping for their best juice. And the "generation balloon" suddenly deflates, as the duet Cheval de Frise plays, probably one of the most promising rising-stars of the "young" french rock, hyper-composed, hyper-fuzzed, bared to the bone, cutting away connections with the greasy jazz-rock, and talking (loud and clear) the same language as Cutler-and-friends (even though the accents ...)

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Aquarius records shop-SF

CHEVAL DE FRISE s/t (Sonore) cd
French duo of acoustic (but not quiet!) guitar and drums that play in an instrumental 'post-rock' vein -- a shorthand description would be to call them a cross between Don Caballero and Gastr del Sol (but better!). Complex, dynamic, and full of that delicate post-rock beauty...although we can't figure out why bands like this, with musicians this good, don't play metal instead. On the same label that brought us the last two Ruins releases.

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I.T.D.E

Cheval de Frise vant-rock in the style of Chicago's U.S. Maple, or a faster, more intricate (read: less punky) Sonic Youth. Cheval de Frise put listeners through the uncomfortable realization that moving your ass doesn't necessarily require keeping a set time signature. From odd percussion to the now-you-see-it, now-you-don't guitar riffs, Cheval de Frise could easily be a favorite of nearly anyone interested in fun, unique music. Call your local radio station, ask them why they don't play this. Seriously.

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allmusic.com

"st" sonore 2000
Instrumental music duo created by Vincent Beysselance and Thomas Bonvalet, Cheval de Frise was noticed everywhere in the French underground circuit as soon as their debut LP was released. Emerging from the Bordeaux rock scene, the two musicians found the opportunity to tour in a more important circuit, thanks to their album. Being on Sonore, the label of Franck Stofer, the ex-drummer of Belly Button, they immediately were to be noticed. But, the eponymous album, recorded in 2000, is not only original but also cranky and innovative. Drums and electro-acoustic guitar are united in the compositions and create a baroque universe, something between experimental music and primitive noisy rock. The band is closed in the spirit to the instrumental experience of Don Caballero, even though their music is not based on rock riffs, but on decomposed melodies.

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Cheval de Frise/Rroselicoeur [Split] [7"] ruminance 2001
No big surprises on this record, but the pleasure of listening to two tunes from two great bands. Cheval de Frise, composed of drums and electro-acoustic guitar, offer an experimentation of their own, which is worthy of the best compositions of their eponym album. Rroselicoeur follows the path they opened with on the maxi 12" 730,000 Dollars, developing atmospheric post-rock. The track "No Twist at the End" is, like their best tunes ("Rźve n°3," for example), based on a piano melody (plus bass/drums), enduring the intrusion of a noisy guitar. Intense and beautiful — probabl split on Ruminance. — Romain Guillou

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Club Play/rec copenhagen (DK) 02/03 -2003 Cheval de Frise & Gorge Trio

This time round, Play/Rec Enterprises had decided to bring in something entirely different. It was a Sunday evening and yet another genre was to be added to the wide range of musical styles which has become a trademark of the club. The stage was set for a venture into the realms of outrageous avant-garde and our guides were two bands well-travelled in these parts, Gorge Trio from The United States of America and Cheval de Frise from France. It was comforting to see people from the two nations actually travelling together and getting along fine at a time when communication between the two countries on a governmental level was suffering what seemed a complete breakdown…But hey, this is about music.

Gorge Trio was the first band to hit the stage. Consisting of two guitarists and a guy on drums, xylophone and a wide variety of knick-knacks and thingamabobs. Together they produced a rhapsody of jazz and disharmony, melody and noise, a polyrhythmic stew of weird twelve-tone, free form improvisation and cacophonic crackdowns. At times things seemed to get completely out of hand, for instance during the first track when the snare drum was whipped to the floor due to outrageous drumming. It was like Sonic Youth taken to the extreme, a display of musical insanity defying explanation by any rational standards. And then again, somewhere among the noise and the nonsense, beautiful and fragile melodies began to grow. Tinkling bells and chimes mixed with the soothing sound of the xylophone and the crisp, clear guitars - the mind was at ease for a while. Then the drummer had one of his convulsive spasms like someone suffering from an epileptic fit and once again we entered the sphere of sonic nightmares. At times it seemed like thousands of little, mani y bones of the listener. These sounds were certainly very effective remedies when it came to altering the stage of mind, for better or worse.

Next up was the French duo, Cheval de Frise, presenting a very extraordinary line-up, namely a set of drums and a nylon string guitar. Entering the stage in a relaxed manner (the drummer dressed in a wife-beater and white tennis socks, the guitarist wore a beard the size of Will Oldham's), the first impression was a far cry from what was to come. Within seconds the air saturated with music of complete tightness, excellent timing and exhausting speed. It was very complex, but never to the point where it gets annoying, mainly because of the enviable technical abilities of the two musicians. The guitarist managed to play bass lines, chords and melody at the same time; the drummer's hands and feet seemed to be everywhere at once. It was like a cross between Fugazi and the Italian band, Zu, transcribed for nylon strings and percussion. Different genres were combined in brand new ways, taken apart, reunited, cut up and turned into something by all means different. The guitarist was tap dancing like a manic leprechaun, shaking all over and stamping his feet, doing the St. Vitus dance. At one point, the vibrations of his body was transmitted to the guitar; the man and the instrument seemed to become one. I would never have expected this untraditional line-up to have such a range, such a potential and I doubt anyone else would. The band was called on to do encores and did so with the same amazing surplus of energy that had characterised the entire concert: Smiling, strumming, drumming and dancing - truly a spectacular act!