Sci-fi fans gaze at the heavens and contemplate the potential myriad life forms out there, and for some reason -- a reflection of humankind's aggressive and warlike nature? -- fixate on the potential existence of malevolent beings bent on Earth's destruction or, at the very least, takeover. Count the members of cheesy French septet Camembert among those whose imaginations have conjured up thoughts of an interstellar invasion, in this album's case by creatures of a most horrible variety: the "Schnörgl," described in the liners as "very nasty small gelatin electrical beings" whose "form is spherical" and who arrive in Earth's orbit in a spaceship made of, you guessed it, "intergalactic cheese." Or maybe you didn't guess it. Regardless, how nightmarish can this tale be if infused with such whimsy and zaniness? The answer is, not much. Schnörgl Attahk is actually a highly engaging instrumental jazz-rock jaunt, for the most part. (And although that spelling of "Attahk," coupled with the album's space mythology, might suggest Magma, Camembert's music is not nearly as impenetrable.) OK, the introduction of "Le Meurtrier Volant," with distant alien screams scattered through a sharp and jarring arrangement of tight ensemble bursts, is not advisable for solitary listening on a stormy night, and sonic touches elsewhere include bizarro electroid martial chanting ("La Danse du Chameau: Batifolade") and a variety of echoing space noises lurking in the mix.
Indeed, whooshes, pings, deep rumbles, and mysterious oscillations begin the album, but this is merely one of the album's short snippet tracks, setting the scene for the 11-plus-minute "Untung Untungan 2.0," a Zappa-esque composition complete with Fabrice Toussaint's xylophone in the quintessential Ruth Underwood style. The tune winds through bright and even carefree themes and maintains a toe-tapping groove through much of its duration, ending with a segment of "Indonesian-reggae" in which the tone of guest guitarist Francesco Zago (from Yugen) sounds close enough to Frank himself to suggest that the head Mother has returned to this earthly realm on the Schnörgl's cheeseship. Throughout much of the disc, harpist Guillaume Gravelin is an important contributor to the radiant sonic palette, sometimes paired up with Toussaint's percussives -- as in "El Ruotuav Ed Sram" -- to produce a clear, ringing resonance that would bring a big smile to the lips of Pierre Moerlen, were he still around. Brass arrangements are another important component of the Camembert sound, as Bertrand Eber's trumpet, Toussaint's tenor trombone, and Julien Travelletti's bass trombone and tuba intertwine -- more warm and deep than shrill and piercing -- through the complex but likable arrangements. And the able rhythm tandem of bassist Pierre Wawrzyniak and drummer Philémon Walter are supplemented by a warehouse of percussion instruments, often played by jack-of-all-trades (and master of them all) Toussaint. Give Camembert a spin and you might start scanning the skies for the arrival of those evil gelatin electrical beings, hoping they might bring along more music like this, should they decide to attahk. ~ Dave Lynch