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Jean-Marc Lederman – The Helpless Voyage of The Titanic

by François Zappa

We have been truly surprised with latest Jean-Marc Lederman’s album, based on the famous and tragic voyage of The Titanic. This new instrumental work has been composed, played, arranged and produced almost in its entirety by Jean-Marc Lederman, being the exception “Nearer My God to Thee,” the Christian hymn from the 19th century that was the last song played by the orchestra of the ship during the fateful night of the sinking. It’s complicated to explain who is Lederman in only a few lines, and we would like to leave that for another occasion. Now, we only want to say that he worked with Fad Gadget, has been part of bands like Gene Loves Jezebel or The Weathermen, and has recorded solo albums such as Ode a la Pluie and 13 Ghost Stories. The Helpless Voyage of The Titanic works as a metaphor of these times we are living, where the Coronavirus is the iceberg against which our lives have struck and there are no enough safe boats in which to escape. The album, which has been published in a limited CD edition, can be heard and bought here.

In the first track, a marching band says goodbye to us, as the ship leaves Southampton and starts its way towards the nightmare that all we know well. The album is filled with all kinds of sound effects to create a more immersive experience, helped by the atmosphere Lederman has managed to give to every track that made us think we are back at the beginning of the 20th century. In the first songs, we visit every little corner of the Titanic, starting with the boiler room during the homonym song. Here, an industrial background, suitable for the machine room, contrasts with what sounds like a harp. A heavy rhythm, which also works as a link with the previous track dominates “The Dancehall,” a song with a beauty that can’t avoid having a hint of foretold tragedy. From there, we go to the abstraction of “The Fireman’s Passage” and the unrest of “The Captain Quarter,” another of the best tracks of the album. Quite different is “Dreams of the New World in the Lower Decks,” where we can almost touch the little dreams and hopes of the youngest of the crew in the most luminous song from the record. From the lower part of the ship we ascend to the first class, as we can see the ship sailing inexorably towards its destiny. The tragedy starts in the short and industrial “Newfoundland, April 14 1912” where we can feel how the ship struck the iceberg. A SOS in Morse code can be heard in the background of “Save Our Souls,” one of the most disturbing pieces of the album, which manages to transmit us how the passengers and the crew could have been feeling at the time. “The Lifeboats,” instead, is an elegant electronic track whose intensity grew us the number of boats gets smaller. “White Star/White Heat” is a pun on the name of the shipping company owner of The Titanic and the famous song by The Velvet Undergound and “The Piano Room” is a solemn track that plays with repetition and old sounds in a way that reminds me of some Leyland Kirby’s albums. The album finishes with the sound of an old vinyl recording of “Nearer My God To Thee,” that is slowly dying.

Jean-Marc Lederman has taken us in a wonderful trip that, not like The Titanic, had a good ending.

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