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(110:23, Musea Records)
Prolusion. The French quartet JACK DUPON was formed in 2004, and has since its earliest days been a band subscribing to the Rock In Opposition and avant-garde approach. An active live unit from the onset, but in between concerts and tours one self-released and two label distributed studio albums have been issued too, the most recent of these "Demon Hardi" from 2011. "Bascule a Vif" is their fourth production, a double CD that documents their qualities as a live band.
CD 1 (55:28)
TRACK LIST: 1. Intropression 6:04 2. Le Chateau de l'Elephant 7:21 3. La Marmite du Pygm?e 9:31 4. Jeudi Poisson 13:41 5. Le Labyrinthe du Cochon 9:48 6. La Cousine du Grand Mongol 9:03 LINEUP: Arnaud M'Doihoma – basses, vocals Gregory Pozzoli – guitars, vocals Philippe Prebet – guitar, vocals Thomas Larsen – drums, vocals
Analysis. At the Progressor website we have a more or less defined manner in which we divide the workload. Site owner Vitaly tends to cater mainly for the bands that reside within the Chamber Rock/Avant Metal segment, while I'm catering for artists with a less challenging stylistic expression. A division broadly based on our personal taste in music, which obviously means that I'm not as keen on bands that explore this part of the art rock universe. But exceptions do occur, and Jack Dupon is a band that did charm me with their latest studio release "Demon Hardi". But after inspecting this double live production, I think I can safely testify to one thing: Jack Dupon is a band that is best suited to live performances. In addition, I might note that it's been a very long time since a bad has managed to intrigue me as much as these four guys did on these live performances. The music is generally challenging throughout. Distinct melodies based on harmonies aren't a common feature of their repertoire, but when it comes to dissonant effects and disharmonic endeavors there's no shortage of material to find. The core base of their compositions appears to reside in the rhythms department however, tight and frequently quirky drum patterns as the element uniting the stringed instruments wandering off into various expressions and modes of delivery. Nicely supplemented by the bass guitar, that often provides something of a basic motif even when hitting a streak that might be experienced as improvisational in nature, but most likely is a well planned part of the total whole. The dual guitars cater for the most adventurous parts of the proceedings. Tightly interwoven, but mostly in a non-harmonic manner, and frequently providing some exceptionally enticing contrasts. A common approach is that one guitar will hit off on a dampened motif while the second provides staccato and harder edged riffs; another often used expression is that the latter are used as the foundation for a seemingly improvisational guitar solo, with a number of variations of these three most common modes in terms of pace and intensity. Dissonant, almost jarring power riffs, elegant King Crimson-ian escapades and refined jazz-oriented motifs are all common modes of delivery, psychedelic oriented themes and textured post rock-tinged ones appear from time to time too. Never in a predictable manner however, and always maintaining a high degree of nerve and tension. Challenging music of the kind that drags you into its universe in a manner that makes you want to stay, a final asset is the vocals. High intensity talked and shouted more often than regular singing as such, but also dampened, whispered lyrics that add an especially enticing effect when utilized in brief dampened moments in between the often high energy instrumental excursions of this band. All members contribute in the vocal department, which is used to good effect throughout. And everything is combined into a high energy, high octane package on the first disc of this double entry. This first half collects the majority of their shorter and presumably most accessible material, although with one track that expands beyond the 10 minute range and a further three clocking in at just over 9 minutes, I think it's safe to say that accessible is a relative term in this context. But it is an enticing opening to this double CD, and one that quite frankly blew me away. It's been a long time since a CD grabbed my attention this much, and with a good quality audio capture too there aren't really any major negative points I can find here either. The opening 90 seconds or so with a searching, improvisational sounding sequence is the only part that didn't engage me quite as much just about the only detail I can point out that isn't of a superb standard. In total, this is a stellar opening half of this live production.
CD 2 (54:55)
TRACK LIST: 1. La Secte des Mouches 31:36 2. Cravate Sauvage 9:27 3. Oppression 13:52
Analysis. The second disc of a live recording tends to be pretty similar to the first one, and "Bascule a Vif" is no exception. The inclusion of longer compositions, and especially opening track La Secte des Mouches does reveal a bit more of the band's approach, however. Stretching just beyond the half hour point, this piece gives the band the opportunity to feature lengthier sequences in a less compact context, and their excursions into the psychedelic oriented landscapes are given more of an emphasis for instance, as is their use of brief melodic parts adding an harmonic touch to the otherwise adventurous and ever developing and altering themes. But by and large Jack Dupon continues on in very much the same manner as on the first CD of this dual package: high quality, challenging and well made music of an avant-garde orientation, performed in a stellar manner on stage. It's a thrilling experience, and comes with a natural conclusion with Oppression, a blazing 13 minute run through an ever developing musical landscape, with tight instrumentation, cleverly constructed themes and high energy, quirky arrangements filled to the brim with carefully constructed contrasts of a nuanced rather than starkly dramatic character, unpredictable developments and generally innovative or challenging constructions being the norm rather than the exception. I can easily see why this is a band that has been booked for the Zappanale event, to put it that way.
Conclusion. If you can imagine a vital brew with ingredients provided by the likes of King Crimson, Gong and Frank Zappa given a rather typical French dramatic flavoring, then you're pretty close to what Jack Dupon is all about, enticing on their studio albums, but this double live CD documents rather thoroughly that this is a band that has its very best moments on stage, adding an energy and intensity to their creations that elevates them to a higher level. A production that most likely will have its strongest appeal among followers of avant-garde rock and the Rock In Opposition interested audience, and in particular by those who appreciate strong and well recorded live performances of that nature.
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