[Review] Vangelis: L’Apocalypse des Animaux (1973)

Soothing music for the savage breast perhaps, but also a great introduction into the musical world of Vangelis.

Kronomyth 1.0: Parlezoo francais?

Seven sculptures of sound, some large, some small, all of them drawn from the six-episode television series directed by Frédéric Rossif in 1970-71 titled L’Apocalypse des Animaux. Rossif was a well-known director of documentaries who had previously worked with electronic composer Maurice Jarre; Vangelis was an up-and-coming artist living in Paris. Although he had garnered some notoriety with Aphrodite’s Child, the soundtrack to L’Apocalypse des Animaux was the first record to be released under his own name, and ensured that it wouldn’t be the last.

First, set aside whatever preconceptions you have about soundtracks. This is an album of self-standing music and functions as such. The song titles refer to the series and may have been influenced by specific scenes, but there’s no doubt that Vangelis was composing music when he wrote this and not simply providing background music to moving pictures. (Note: The series itself did contain a lot of incidental music, which does not appear on this album.) Vangelis plays all the instruments himself, which include synthesizers, percussion, trumpet and guitar. The styles range from African drum music to minimalist jazz. The music is symphonic in scope, yet ambient in the sense that it exists in a specific space and time. This is something unique to Vangelis; you won’t hear it exactly the same way in the music of Jarre, Tangerine Dream, Brian Eno or Kitaro, although there are similarities among them.

The album opens with “L’Apocalypse des Animaux – Generique,” a suitably portentous beginning filled with Africanized sounds that runs slightly over a minute. The second track, “La Petite Fille de la Mer,” is quintessential Vangelis: a melody of simple but unearthly beauty that pierces the conscious and touches something in our subconscious like a dream remembered. I can only imagine how exciting this must have been to hear in 1971. “Le Singe Bleu” (the blue monkey) appears to draw its inspiration from the minimalist music of John Coltrane and Miles Davis, and confirms that Vangelis is making something much more important than incidental film music. The short “L’Ours Musicien” (the bear musician) and “La Mort du Loup” (the death of the wolf) are smaller studies that have been switched in order over the years. Both are wonderful and wonderfully distinct, and have more in common with the Carnival des Animaux approach you might expect from such an enterprise.

The second side of music contains two larger works. “Creation du Monde” points forward to the later “space” albums (Albedo 0.39), “La Mer Recommencee” (the sea re-begun) is six minutes of excellent ambient music. Vangelis would revisit these styles over his next few albums, but he wouldn’t better them. I would approach L’Apocalypse des Animaux as the introductory work of an important artist and not as an obscure collectible from his past. Vangelis clearly poured himself into the creative process and this appears to be much more a collaboration of visual and audio art than one supporting the other. Rossif’s discovery becomes our discovery, and the first of many musical treasures to come.

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Original elpee version

A1. Apocalypse des Animaux – Generique (1:25)
A2. La Petite Fille de la Mer (5:53)
A3. Le Singe Bleu (7:30)
A4. L’Ours Musicien (1:00)
A5. La Mort du Loup (3:00)
B1. Creation du Monde (9:51)
B2. La Mer Recommencee (5:55)

All music composed, arranged and directed by Vangelis.

The Players

Vangelis (instruments). Artistic direction by Vangelis Papathanassiou; sound engineered by Didier Pitois.

The Pictures

Photos (taken from the film): Tony Kent.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in 1973 in France (Polydor, 2393 058).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1975 in the UK (Polydor, 2393 058) {w. 1975 publish date}.
  2. Re-issued on elpee in 1976 in the UK (Polydor, 2489 113) with unique cover.
  3. Re-packaged with Opera Sauvage on 2-for-1 cassette in the UK (Polydor, 3574 140).
  4. Re-issued on elpee in 1978 in Japan (Polydor, MPF 1313) with A4/A5 switched.
  5. Re-issued on elpee in 1981 in the UK (Polydor, 2393 058) {w. 1981 publish date} and Germany (Polydor, 2417 349).
  6. Re-issued on elpee in the UK (Polydor, SPELP 72).
  7. Re-issued on cassette in Poland (Euro Star, ES 1836) with A4 now appearing as B1.
  8. Re-issued on compact disc on August 24, 1987 in the US, Canada, France and Germany (Polydor, 831 503-2) with A4/A5 switched.
  9. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee in 2016 in Europe (UMC, 536 823-6) with different track order.

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