Forgas Band Phenomena

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Roue Libre (1997), 7/10
Extra-Lucide (1999), 6/10
Soleil 12 (2005), 6.5/10
L'Axe du Fou (2009), 6.5/10
Acte V (2012), 6.5/10
L'Oreille Electrique (2018), 6.5/10

The Forgas Band Phenomena was founded by veteran French composer and drummer Patrick Forgas, who had recorded Cocktail (1977), featuring an all-star line-up of Magma and Zao members and containing the 18-minute suite My Trip, in the vein of Canterbury's melodic jazz-rock, and had played keyboards and drum-machines, besides singing, on L'Oeil (1990) and Art D'Echo (1993).

His next creature, the Forgas Band Phenomena, continued to explore Canterbury's symphonic rock on three creative albums: Roue Libre (Cosmos, 1997) for a sextet with saxophone, vibraphone and keyboards, containing the two lengthy suites Serum De Verite (18:30) and Roue Libre (20:10), Extra-Lucide (1999), containing Pieuvre A La Pluie (19:26), and Soleil 12 (2005), recorded live by an octet (with two saxophones, trumpet, violin and keyboards) and containing Coup De Theatre (34:47) and Pieuvre A La Pluie (18:18). They all share the intense non-stop rhythm of Forgas and whichever bassist plays next to him, while the shifting line-ups gives each album a different personality.

In the meantime Forgas had released another solo album, the instrumental electronic Synchronicite (2002).

L'Axe du Fou (Cuneiform, 2009), that maintains only Forgas and keyboardist Igor Brover of the previous line-up, added the vibrant La Clef, in which the instruments take shifts at singing variations on the main theme at a rabid pace (with a nice contrast between the youthful fibrillations of the violin and the calm meditations of the reeds), L'Axe Du Fou (16:32), in which a neoclassical flute and a hard-rocking guitar form the counterpoint for ethereal saxophone phrases (but the highlight might be the way the leitmotiv gets deconstructed into cascading piano notes) although the piece meanders a bit in the second inconclusive half (almost reminiscent of new-agey jazz-rock), and a "short" excerpt of Double-Sens (13:50), that opens with a violin-driven section worthy of a neoclassical ballet and weaves that strand with hints of Soft Machine's electronic jazz-rock (that prevails in the second half). The sound on this album is almost baroque. Karolina Mlodecka, in particular, takes her place among the greatest rock violinists of all time.

Forgas Band Phenomena's Acte V (2012), which comes with a 75-minute DVD documenting a live performance, is more dominated by Forgas' rhythms than a superficial listen may reveal. The other instruments have to deal with the leader's madcap idea of what beats are for. The miracle is that in most cases the result is pleasant and smooth. Corps Et Ames sounds like a saner version of Zappa's orchestral sendups (imagine Frank Zappa playing Huey Lewis' Power of Love). The hectic buildup of Loin D'Issy leads to a fragile folk melody. The quasi-metal funky virulence of George V is tempered halfway by a moving violin elegy. It is not only the drummer who likes to twist the meaning of music. Ultraviolet is a breathtaking sequence of masterful solos by the reeds and the guitar disguised as exuberant pop-jazz with exotic overtones. The 13-minute Midi - Minuit is a sequence of variations on the same melodic theme used to explore odd timbres of the violin and the guitar at a brisk pace. The piece's last part, when the rhythm finally relaxes, is a psychedelic Miles Davis-ian moment of introversion and cosmic hallucination. Impeccable performances, charming melodies, intriguing counterpoint. Nothing revolutionary, but refreshingly sincere craft.

Forgas Band Phenomena's L'Oreille Electrique (Cuneiform, 2018), recorded with Sebastien Trognon on saxophones and flute, Dimitri Alexaline on trumpet and trombone, Karolina Mlodecka on violin, Igor Brover on piano, Pierre Schmidt on guitar and Gerard Prevost on bass, contains five suites: the dancing and hard-rocking Karmic Delights (10:00), Seventh Heaven (10:04), The Electric Ear (12:01), the romantic jazz fanfare Custard Sauce (9:37), and Corner Stone (12:33), with perhaps the strongest melodic theme.

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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