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(57 min, Unicorn)
TRACK LIST: 1. Hypothese A 6:44 2. Maintenant 6:02 3. Destination 6:10 4. Tunnel 7:11 5. Hypothese B 11:02 6. A-0-14 5:10 7. Epilog 6:35 8. Hypothese C 7:56 PERSONNEL: Simon L'Esperance - guitars Maingan Sauriol - keyboards Dominique Blouin - basses Thomas Brodeur - drums
Prolusion. "Kaleidoscope", the second studio CD by the amazing Quebec quartet KARCIUS, contains eight tracks ranging from 5 to 11 minutes, all being instrumentals as usual. The first album "Sphere" was initially brought out by Karcius themselves, but was reissued by Unicorn Records shortly after they signed a long-term contract with that label earlier this year.
Analysis. Already on their debut outing Karcius appeared as a highly skilled, truly professional group, having instantly found a niche in the upper echelon of contemporary Progressive. It is a norm for such artists to be in a state of continual quest for new ways for the development of their work, so one expecting to find these Canadians still following strictly a path they have once traversed will be mistaken. No matter whether they turn towards the further complication of their music this time around or vice versa, what is really important is that Karcius show themselves as adherents of a forward movement, having made another album of a high artistic value, and still no analogies with anyone else. So, "Kaleidoscope" differs from "Sphere". It is noticeably less rich in highly intense avalanche-like arrangements, although most tracks are still abundant in sudden transitions, and all such have Prog-Metal (rather progressive Doom Metal though) as one of their integral parts. Hypothese A, Destination, A-0-14, Tunnel and Hypothese C embrace jazzy, symphonic, heavy and, sometimes, classical influences, the latter two each having an episode with a Flamenco-inspired tune in addition. All these are more than merely multi-sectional compositions, full of labyrinthine passages, representing just what the offering's title suggests. However the opening piece, Hypothese A, is one that features a veritably classical piano interlude, as well as a couple of organ-driven movements in the 'pure' symphonic key. On all the other compositions, the distinction between symphonic and improvisational harmony is eliminated almost entirely, which results in a really unique quasi Jazz-Fusion sound (in the corresponding sections, heavy structures are less liable to invasions on the part of the other genres). Beginning with the second opus, piano takes a personal leadership in the keyboard department, sharing the lead with electric and acoustic guitar, bass and drums everywhere on the album. Really, all four musicians remain always in the spotlight, soloing endlessly, almost always independently from each other, yet never to the detriment of the overall picture, which retains an absolutely cohesive shape even when the band ventures upon pleasingly asymmetric maneuvers, which happens rarely on this release though. Hypothese B is similar and is highly diverse too, regardless of the prevalence of atmospheric landscapes. It also stands out for a very memorable joint guitar-piano solo, which reminds me a bit of The Flight of a Bumblebee by Rimsky-Korsakov. The remaining two tracks, Maintenant and Epilog, are free of heaviness, in places lacking dynamism (which however doesn't compromise their compositional evolution). Maintenant is quite rich in reflective arrangements, while Epilog can hardly be viewed otherwise than as the band's variations on Flamenco. Anyway, in both cases the music is very challenging without being too cerebral.
Conclusion. Overall, "Kaleidoscope" is another winner from one of the best groups to have come out of Canada in the new century. While personally I like their first CD a bit better, this doesn't mean its follow-up is inferior to it: it's just different. Tastes differ too. In any event, this is nearly a masterpiece.
VM: Agst 10, 2006
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