Saturday, March 10, 2007
Philippe Besombes - Hydravion, 1977, Cobra
After the ‘Besombes-Rizet/Pôle’ album, Besombes returned to working with Luc Ferrari and making music for contemporary ballet and the Groupe de Recherche Théâtrale de l’Opéra de Paris, when he could find the time. But, tiring of this, he bought some new synths and formed Hydravion (‘Seaplane’) in 1977, with the intention of going in more of an electronic rock direction. This group met with great commercial success in France, and they played live frequently, although the group line-up changed a lot. One memorable gig for Besombes was at a sky station, backed by classical musicians! Hydravion made two albums – ‘Hydravion’ [Cobra, 1978] and ‘Stratos Airlines’ [Carrere, 1980] – the first of which was the best, but still nowhere near as good or radical as his earlier work...
It’s easy to imagine some bits of the Hydravion music being used for French television in the late 70’s, as much of it was, oddly enough (all tracks were used, according to Besombes – generally for sports, current affairs, news themes and the like – though I have to doubt whether they used the entire tracks, but rather the more accessible sections of each). Some of the cheesy synth rock sounds very dated and immediately reminiscent of the era in which it was born (oddly far more dated than Besombes’ more vintage music, which has barely dated at all), but dedicated synth music fans and hardcore Besombes worshippers will be able to lap it up with an amiable grin, as the whole album is by no means a commercial affair, and even the accessible bits are weirdly catchy. Many of the tracks still exhibited Besombes’ madcap unpredictability, and there are some great tripped-out diversions to be enjoyed that are hard to imagine encountering on mainstream television of the time! I do really like the first Hydravion album despite it not being as great as Besombes’ classic stuff; I haven’t yet heard the second Besombes album, which is reputedly not as good.
Another great document of 70's French avant-garde by Besombes; a bit different than his Pole stuff: