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(77:37, ‘Puzzle King’)
TRACK LIST: 1. Anatoli 6:24 2. Au Bord de la Riviere 8:05 3. Le Soviet 5:51 4. Anna Moi et le Guerre 5:53 5. Vivre Ensemble 6:45 6. Aveugle et Sourd 5:07 7. Sur le Front 6:05 8. Une Belle Matinee 7:01 9. Sergei 6:05 10. Petrograd 2:47 11. L'Assaut 6:55 12. Les Paves Ruisselants 5:41 13. Le Grand Soir 4:58 . LINEUP: Francois Puzenat – vocals; instruments Nathalie Prost – bass Pierre Fournier – clarinet Yannick Thinon – trombone
Prolusion. The French project PUZZLE KING is the creative vehicle of composer and instrumentalist Francois Puzenat. The project was instigated back in 2009, and following a three year creation period the debut album "Anna" was self released in 2012.
Analysis. One of the advantages of being a reviewer is that you more often than not will find yourself in the situation where you receive an album to write about, make yourself familiar with it, and then put it away again for some time before you listen again and write about it. A process that gives you a certain distance to the first impression. And while a frequent effect is that productions that came across as exceptionally interesting first time around scale down a bit when revisited, the opposite will also be the case fairly frequently. And the latter is very much the case for this production. "Anna" is a CD that needs time to find its place. You need time to get familiar with the sound and scope of it all, and time to manage to listen through the album in one go too, clocking in at just under 80 minutes this is a demanding affair in more ways than one. Musically we're not dealing with an innovative, genre defying entity though, as the material by and large explores familiar territories. A few touches of neo progressive rock here, a touch of pomp rock there, frequent flirts with symphonic art rock throughout. It is the manner in which Puzenat has chosen to assemble his pieces that takes a bit getting used too. A general tendency is that any vocal passages tend to be fairly subdued instrumentally, the typical verse sequences more often than not opting for a mainstream-oriented construction with instruments backing the lead vocals without adding too many additional facets to those themes. But in between the vocal dominated parts, as well as in a fair few cases of the recurring chorus segments, the soundscape will flesh out into fairly sophisticated and, occasionally, adventurous escapades. Layered keyboards aplenty, cello and violin occasionally applied, while sound effects are liberally added to the proceedings throughout. In style the music doesn't really have a distinct orientation to my ears, although the symphonic parts of the art rock realm will perhaps be the best overall fit. The nature of the lead vocals does have something of an impact for making that call, emotionally laden with a distinct theatrical delivery that invites associations to bands like Ange. But the overall character of the album is a diversified one, with relatively easygoing pomp rock constructions sitting side by side with numbers sporting a more cinematic approach as well as pastoral efforts and symphonic rock oriented creations. As the album is a conceptual one to boot, the end result is a creation that demands a certain time and dedication of the listener.
Conclusion. Francois Puzenat has made himself an interesting and fairly intriguing debut album with "Anna", an elongated conceptual creation that is hard to place within a set categorization of the art rock universe. The symphonic and cinematic musical tendencies combined with the theatrical lead vocals lead me to believe that fans of French bands such as Ange might make out something of a key audience for this CD however, and as the story is told in French those who enjoy conceptual productions will need to be familiar with that language to follow the proceedings of this particular specimen.
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