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(43:24, Unicorn Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Introssimo 5:13 2. Basse De Fou 2:15 3. Ibliss 3:56 4. Iseult 4:42 5. Quelque Part 3:01 6. L’Aube 5:28 7. Od 4:26 8. Astromuz 2:31 9. Modale 2:30 10. Cassiopeia 9:00 LINEUP: Donald Fleurent – bass, guitars; keyboards Martin Vanier – el. guitars Mark Di Claudio – drums Alain Boger – drums Marc Filiatrault – el. & ac. guitars Florence Belanger – vocals; piano
Prolusion. The history of Canada’s TALISMA began in 1993, but only ten years later did the band officially join the international progressive rock movement with “Corpus”, which was then their first full-fledged album to date. “Quelque Part” is their third outing, following “Chromium” from 2005. Originally a trio of Donald Fleurent on bass, electric and acoustic guitars, synthesizers and Mellotron, Martin Vanier on guitars and Mark Di Claudio on drums, on this recording the outfit appears to be a sextet. I have no idea on which of the disc’s ten tracks Marc Filiatrault and Alain Boger each double for Martin and Mark, respectively, but I can tell you with confidence that the remaining neophyte, Florence Belanger, sings (at least provides lyrics-based vocals) only on two of the pieces. Traditionally, it’s Fleurent who penned all the music for this creation, too.
Analysis. Two recordings on now, the latest Talisma release shows a higher degree of refinement, above all in terms of compositional and stylistic cohesion, the band having brought to perfection everything that concerns the melodic constituent of their music. In a way, “Quelque Part” appears as their most symmetrical album to date and although instantly pleasing (which is usually a disturbing sign for those who, like me, are mostly into highly complicated Prog), it is so charming overall that I would likely play it again now, for the third time if, figuratively speaking, I weren’t encased in the shell of yesterday’s tomorrow which, moreover, only lasts for 24 hours and not at least for 48 of them as I would like it to. Okay, what Talisma occupies this time is a well-covered yet still desirable terrain in the field of orthodox Symphonic Progressive, and while the music relatively often suggests a combination of the style’s classically-vintage mode and some of its more modern manifestations, the latter quality is only linked with the band’s approach to the arrangement. Regardless of the musicians’ desire to accent their belonging to the French-speaking nation by correspondingly titling the compositions and so on, the album itself has a striking English feel to it, and while most of the pieces arouse no doubts about their source of origin, namely Talisma for sure, on four of them, Introssimo, L’Aube, Cassiopeia and Quelque Part, we get somewhat of a want of original ideas. All these reveal quite a heavy influence from Steve Hackett’s late ‘70s work (think “Spectral Mornings” rather than “Please Don’t Touch” or “Defector”), and – not surprisingly – the connection is particularly obvious in the parts of both electric and acoustic axes :-), some of which, in turn, are not dissimilar to those of Steve’s several characteristic styles of playing the guitar that find him plucking multiple strings at once – the approach used by bouzouki players, hence a strong similarity with that instrument in sound. As for the specific peculiarities of the pieces, the first three of them are full-blown symphonic art-rock creations where tight group maneuvers alternate with more reflective arrangements – save Introssimo which is both intense and fast-paced almost throughout. As well as on a couple of other tracks, there are also some female vocalizations on the opening tune, though I wouldn’t assert that those are delivered by Florence Belanger, especially since I’m not sure whether they’re generally natural. Revealing a lot of dramatic as well as distinctly dark colorations on its emotional plane, L’Aube additionally stands out for its lush string arrangements, those being beyond comparison. Contrariwise, the last track on the disc, Cassiopeia, is for the most part aurally light and even pastoral in places, such as in its finale, for example. The title track and Iseult are acoustically-driven compositions dominated by Fleurent’s acoustic guitar and Belanger’s vocals. These are quite fascinating pieces, too, and although basically slow-paced, both are much weightier than ‘your’ typical art-rock ballads, particularly the latter whose guitar passages are at once surprisingly intricate and original. Unlike any of the previously described compositions with a full-band sound, Ibliss and Od never explore introspective realms. Both are notable for their massive keyboard, mostly Mellotron-laden, landscapes with the electric guitar leads from time to time hovering over those like the mews over the dark and disturbing waters in a way. Each reveals a digression from its basic, symphonic, style: Ibliss (which is Devil in Turkish and perhaps in Arabian too) in the form of Industrial, while Od has a sort of chamber rock movement which is remotely reminiscent of early Univers Zero, though since the time signatures are almost exclusively odd there, some avant-garde eccentricity permeates the piece throughout. This is my favorite composition in the set. The three cuts that are yet to be named (none of those exceeding two and a half minutes in length), all are build around simple developing themes that often recur and yet are quite compelling, at least in their own way. Basse De Fou and Astromuz each can be defined as a piece for electric and acoustic guitar histrionics, respectively, the last of these being inspired by Flamenco. Finally Modale offers us a few sets of spacey effects before transforming into a dark symphonic tune with only Mellotron and slow, drawn-out, guitar riffs in the arrangement.
Conclusion. So, what you get on Talisma’s latest release is overall late-’70-stylized symphonic Art-Rock with plenty of attention given to colorful melodies and majestic grandeur. The lesser variety of styles as well as the elegance and the beauty of the compositions make “Quelque Part” a more immediately likeable album than its precursor, “Chromium”. There is not even the smallest trace of the band’s stagnation on this recording, let alone any flaws in the compositional or performance departments, either, but nonetheless I feel my final verdict should be expressed as follows: Recommended with minor reservations, to symphonic prog fans only.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: March 7, 2009
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