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(58:55 / Unicorn Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Privilege 6:02 2. Meeting Kim 4:46 3. Dream in Am 5:37 4. Mr. Lotto 7:29 5. Did You Say Salmon 8:42 6. The High Muckity-Mucks 3:07 7. Talking to Flowers 7:26 8. It Will be Fine 5:17 9. Fore 5:23 10. Aberrations 5:00 LINEUP: Francois Bernatchez - drums Antoine Bernatchez - guitars Martin Bleau - guitars Didier Berthuit - vocals Guy Brindamour - bass Mathieu Chamberland - keyboards
Prolusion. Their name is legion, meaning progressive rock bands hailing from the Canadian province of Quebec, and here's yet another outfit from there. "Aberrations" is the second album by QWAARN, following "The World of Qwaarn" from two years ago. In the press kit, they don't explain the meaning of their new CD's ambivalent title (if it is not about errors, then aberrations from what?), though there is even no info on the origin of the outfit's name, either.
Analysis. Ten songs, ranging from 3 to 9 minutes, form the content of this CD whose total playing time approaches one hour. While listening to "Aberrations" I have the feeling that its makers recorded every single style of music they have an idea about, of which in turn Alternative, Glam Rock, Hard Rock, Retro, Rhythm-and-Blues, mainstream Prog, Pop, Electronic, Classical, Circus music, Chinese folk music and Flamenco are instantly recognizable, listed in line of descent according to their weight in the recording. Despite its scarcity of elements belonging to Progressive Rock on the one hand and its richness in vocals on the other, there is a certain sense of craziness in Qwaarn's music, which, in combination with the fact that most of the songs contain some clever instrumental interludes, makes the album appear to be a quite eclectic substance, though there are a couple of exceptions to the rule. The High Muckity-Mucks and the title number are both straightforward, repetitive, mono-dimensional musical entities representing conventional Hard Rock and Alternative respectively. Besides abounding in singing, both feature a few phrases narrated in a histrionic way, which are put there without rhyme or reason. Without paying heed to his accent, Didier Berthuit leaves the impression of being a competent, able-minded vocalist with huge 'chameleonic' possibilities. Personally I only regret that he at times indulges in vocal extravaganza (which happens on quite a few of the songs, unfortunately), whilst I'd been certainly happier if he, when diverging from his primary, theatric way of singing, had more often resorted to his operatic potential, such as he does during the organ interlude on Mr. Lotto. Thanks to its poly-stylistic nature, and also due to a piquant Chinese flavor that its first half is imbued with, Mr. Lotto stands at the head of my personal hit parade as concerns this recording. Although it's not a case of extolling to the skies anything else from these "Aberrations", pieces like Did You Say Salmon, It Will be Fine, Dream in Am (which is notable for its excellent acoustic guitar solo in the style of Flamenco), Fore, Talking to Flowers and the same Mr. Lotto are all quite good, carrying enough diversity and taste to balance the weak creations. Containers of most of the aforesaid styles, the first four of those may evoke several of Qwaarn's famous predecessors, such as The Beatles, Queen, Ange and Supertramp, but only occasionally. I can assert that originality is the main trump these guys have up their sleeve, and the only time they somewhat fail in that field is on Talking to Flowers, though this is one of those rare cases when I don't feel any dissatisfaction about the matter. Featuring plenty of lush orchestral arrangements besides sounds imitating a violin and characteristic 3-voice harmony vocals, this song instantly brings to mind Electric Light Orchestra. As to the remaining two tracks, Privilege and Meeting Kim (following each other in the recording's very beginning), neither is a makeweight, but nevertheless only string patches seems to add variety to what is otherwise quite a narrow sonic palette.
Conclusion. Regarding "Aberrations", removing the straightforward tracks would have resulted in a more cohesive collection of songs, while adding a strong metal element to the texture would be of help to Qwaarn as concerns their further work. Overall, this is a decent first effort that many prog-rock neophytes should enjoy and which should become a stage in their further growth.
VM: November 14, 2007
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