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(125:10 CD+DVD, Cuneiform Records)
Prolusion. The French unit FORGAS BAND PHENOMENA was formed back in 1997, with drummer Patrick Forgas as the principal member. Following two initial productions in the 90's they signed to the US label Cuneiform Records in 2005 for their third studio album. "Acte V" from 2012 is the band's fifth outing, and their third on Cuneiform Records.
TRACKLIST: 1. Corps Et Ames 6:26 2. Loin d'Issy 7:14 3. George V 10:27 4. Ultraviolet 8:18 5. Feu Sacre 6:50 6. Midi-Minuit 13:30 LINEUP: Patrick Forgas – drums Sebastien Tregnon – sax, flute Dimitri Alexaline – trumpet, flugelhorn Karolina Mlodecka – violin Benjamin Violet – guitars Kengo Mochizuki – bass Igor Brover – keyboards
Analysis. Forgas Band Phenomena is one of those bands that is hard to accurately describe in terms of style. In general progressive jazz-rock/fusion is probably accurate enough, as just about all their compositions feature quite a few details that herald an origin in jazz, but these tendencies are less dominant than in many other bands I've come across described as such. Or to put it that way: you don't have to enjoy or even appreciate jazz to be able to enjoy the endeavors of Forgas Band Phenomena, but those who do so will get more out of the music presented than those who don't. This is undeniably progressive rock, of a type and nature that should satisfy most people with an interest in music described as such – as long as you prefer your music to be instrumental that is. A high-quality drummer will always elevate any composition, and Patrick Forgas documents this quite nicely throughout this album. He knows when to provide gentle and fairly unobtrusive rhythms that allow the contributions from the other instrumentalists to shine, is skilled and experienced enough to know when subtle sophisticated details are called for, and when some more flamboyant and virtuous patterns are called for: he provides them with ease and elegance rather than with dramatic panache. I really enjoy drummers of this kind, who don't have the need to be up front and dominating with their contributions. A class act through and thrugh, and presumably an instrumentalist many would like to work with due to that approach alone. While the drums are at the heart of just about everything here, gentle wandering piano motifs paired off against subtle wandering bass motifs are just about as essential, this toned down contrast adding a constant, gentle tension to the compositions that to my mind and ears are a vital detail that elevates the listener experience substantially. On top of this base the different instrumentalists have a field day. From gentle, sparsely arranged movements with a sole violin, saxophone or guitar supplementing the core foundation to elaborate, complex arrangements with multiple instrument motifs and an ongoing solo or two to boot. Rarely massive or majestic in expression, but fairly smooth and melodic on a superficial level with plenty of more challenging details for the attentive listener to enjoy. Occasional dramatic eruptions of the brass rock inspired variety pops up now and then, but this is most of all a production that appears to hone in on the somewhat more careful side as far as arrangements and developments go. Nicely flowing shifts and transitions rather than high impact and overly dramatic ones, with what I'd describe as a natural and organic development. All compositions are fairly similar in key elements, the most marked differences in the specific types of arrangements chosen, as well as some compositions somewhat more typical jazz-rock oriented in style than others. A high quality production through and through, where personal taste will dictate how much or not you enjoy the end result. Performance, mix and production are impeccable, and the individual compositions don't leave much to be desired either, if anything at all, just about as close to perfection as you can get I guess, as long as you enjoy this particular type of music.
TRACKLIST: 1. Ultraviolet 8:34 2. L'Axe du Fou 16:06 3. Feu Sacre 6:53 4. Soleil 12 9:09 5. Double Sens 13:38 6. Extralucide 10:20 7. Eclipse 7:45 LINEUP: Same
Analysis. Accompanying this latest studio album of Forgas Band Phenomena we find a live DVD, recorded when the band played at the legendary and now disbanded NEARfest progressive rock festival. Just over an hour worth of material, with some miniature film snippets of members at or around the festival area to set the mood before we're treated to the concert itself. As one would expect in this day and age, the audio part of the package here is excellent. Audio capture from live events tends to hold high quality in this digital age, and this concert is no exception to that. Material of good enough quality to release as a live audio-only album at some point. The performance as such is an excellent one as well, just listening to this concert reveals that this is a high-quality live act. Live DVDs are about more than performance and audio quality however, and these additional aspects are ones that aren't quite up to scratch in my book. That the band are performers and musicians first and foremost, with little crowd interaction and not to much going on between the band members on stage either results in this concert to fall a little short in the entertainment department. This is a band focusing on their music and playing it to perfection, and if you expect anything more or else you just won't find it here. Image quality and color balance is another aspect where this DVD isn't quite up there, using the excellent Metal Mind series of DVDs as something of a benchmark in that department. This DVD has somewhat lower resolution I suspect, at least for the full band shots covering the entire stage, and the colors are somewhat washed out also on the close-up shots. Much better than just about anything released on VHS way back when to compare backwards, but a notch or two down in quality from the best comparable indie productions of today. Mix and editing of the video footage are of a reasonable good quality however, the footage available have been put together quite nicely with enough variation to maintain interest and featuring a good balance between close-ups of the different musicians, partial stage shots and full stage shots. We're even treated to a few scenes of the audience; personally I think the DVD might have included a few more of those. After all, seeing yourself in a crowd does make for a good excuse to buy a DVD. In the context of a standalone product, this live DVD does have some shortcomings. Not many and not serious, but details that would limit its overall appeal beyond fans of the band. But as a supplemental feature to a new studio album, this DVD is an excellent addition to a product. A bonus feature that will give fans in particular more reasons to purchase, and to opt for the physical release rather than a digital one.
Conclusion. Forgas Band Phenomena has made a strong, coherent and high quality album with "Acte V". Instrumental progressive rock residing somewhere within the jazz-rock universe, but of a kind that will give it appeal also beyond aficionados of that particular style. Fairly challenging but accessible progressive rock, as excellently made as performed, and with a live DVD attached that adds quite a lot in the Value-for-Money department. Obviously a production that comes with a high recommendation attached.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: Agst 1 & 2, 2013
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