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Phaesis - 2005 - "Puzzle"

(49 min, M-Parallele)


*****
                 
TRACK LIST:                             

1.  Overture 0:40
2.  Liberte 4:08
3.  Animalite 4:15
4.  Rubens Regina 5:35
5.  Aura 4:07
6.  Speedoux 5:10
7.  Ravsody 5:20
8.  Notre Monde 5:29
9.  Communication 6:36
10. Passage 1:54
11. Oriens Exalto 6:19

All tracks: by Phaesis.
Produced by J-P Boffo & Phaesis.

LINEUP:

Dominique Vassart - guitars, guitar-synth
Eric Herbillon - bass; vocals
Gautier Lombart - keyboards
Hugues Masson - drums

Prolusion. PHAESIS are veterans of the French progressive scene. But while the band was formed about 20 years ago, "Puzzle" is only their fourth release thus far. I haven't heard any of their previous output, namely: "Reminiscence" (1989), "Labyrinthe" (1991) and "Nero" (1997).

Analysis. The album consists of eleven tracks, with the average duration ranging from 4 to 6 minutes. The sound is a pretty original one, not easy to describe by using comparisons, particularly those with Pink Floyd / David Gilmour, sited in the CD press kit. There is nothing of that kind here, and Dominique Vassart's style of playing guitar does not remind me of Gilmour's. There are some influences, but they're indistinct and none affects the strong melodic sensibility that permeates each of the tracks. Five of them: Liberte, Animalite, Rubens Regina, Notre Monde and Oriens Exalto are songs with French lyrics. Although the vocals are delivered mainly in a theatric fashion, the overall sound is mostly based around guitars, working in the vein of progressive Hard Rock, though with frequent symphonic Art-Rock-related maneuvers. Almost all of the songs begin with quiet interactions between passages of acoustic guitar and those of either piano or synthetic strings, but soon the music gets a full-band sound with harsh, up-tempo and pretty bombastic arrangements. Only Notre Monde develops with the alternation of mixed and purely symphonic textures and is notable for the frequent (and really effectual) changes of theme and tempo, while Rubens Regina is the one that, apart from traditional vocals, features brutal ones, as well as elements of Doom Metal. The music isn't abundant in unexpected turns, but the band successfully eschews falling into a commercial category, not to mention a Neo banality. Among the instrumental tracks, prevail light Classical music-like pieces-sonatas with passages of acoustic guitar and those of piano and/or a string ensemble being usually at the fore. These are Overture, Ravsody, Communication and Passage, all being extremely original and impressive. The latter two were partly performed with the rhythm section and have a strong medieval sense in places. Here, I'd like to note that the very short Overture is, nevertheless, a full-fledged, excellently thought-out and well-executed composition. Speedoux is structurally close to the vocal-based tracks, but is more diverse and changeable than most of them. The 4-minute Aura is a straightforward, absolutely featureless pseudo Jazz-Fusion opus, whose inclusion in the CD would have hardly been justified even if the band had lacked material to have a full-length album.

Conclusion. Released through the 'jazzy' division of Musea Records, Parallele, this material, however, much better suits the label's principal strategy. This is a kind of music that appeals to many people, and I only wish that guitarist Dominique Vassart would accomplish his performance skill at long last.

VM: June 14, 2005


Related Links:

Musea Records
Phaesis


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