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Opus-5 - Volume 1: Contre Courant CD (album) cover

VOLUME 1: CONTRE COURANT

Opus-5

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.20 | 42 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Opus-5, here's another example of the kind of great talent that was developed in the French Canadian prog scene in the 70s. Being as unkown as it is (and even more celebrated names such as Maneige, Pollen, Sloche, Et Cetera and Harmonium are mostly accessible in collectors' circles), Opus-5 is a must for all frantic lovers of vintage symphonic prog, and this debut release entitled "Volume 1: Contre Courant" is irrefutable proof of that. The band's style is quite lyrical, giving predominant room to the delivery of soft sonorities, related to the habitual side of Harmonium and the pastoral side of Pollen. The additional presence of heavy coincidences with Mediterranean prog (PFM, Apoteosi, Delirium) and the bucolic side of French symphonic (first album-era Atoll, Carpe Diem) punctuate the aforesaid features in the band's nuclear trend. The album's opener kicks off with a lovely marriage of classicist piano and pastoral flute, then the full ensemble flows in on a very lyrical note. Definitely, Duplessis' keyboards state the guiding lines for the instrumental deliveries through their melodic and harmonic complexity, while Racicot's drum kit fluidly carries the overall framework. The vocal interventions mix the Harmonium and Moody Blues tenures. Regarding the stringed instruments' department, the electric guitar features controlled phrases that never undermine the acoustic guitar's protagonist role. After this 9 minute display of progressive glory, more glory comes in the guise of the 11 ¾ minute 'Il Etait Magicien'. This piece brings musical colors so clean and pristine that they almost sound angelic; but there is also room for energetic interludes dominated by a solid combination of jazzy swings and typically symphonic dynamics. There is a lot of early PFM elements to be noticed here, as well as undoubtedly clear traces of a heritage from "L'Heptade"-era Harmonium, although Opus-5 always manages to keep its own road as an original and peculiar one. The fascinating coda that occupies the track's final 2 minutes start a bit spacey and then go to a mixture of soft fusion and pastoral Renaissance. The album's second half starts with another long number, 'Les Saigneurs', which mostly deepens the musical trend pursued so far. The prologue is a beautiful acoustic guitar sonata (somewhat a-la Anthony Phillips), followed by a brief palace chant sustained on a lightly jazzy rhythmic scheme. The most intense instrumental passages are some of the most complex moments in the album, which to my ears evoke a hybrid of Maxophone and Gentle Giant. On the other hand, the sung section is more relaxed, even showing some upbeat humor with those tongue-in-cheek lines that ask "Is it abnormal that I speak French?", alternately in English and French. Of course, this is a reaffirmation of the French speaking essence of this Canadian province. The album's final two tracks are the shortest ones. 'Le Bal' bears an apparently simplistic framework, but it really states a subtle complexity based on the inventive harmonic variations that go on through the track's scheme. A special mention has to go for the lovely harpsichord intro - this band is really into starting its songs with unseemly preludes, and the same rule applies for the last track, which is also the namesake one. 'Contre Courant' starts with cosmic synth layers and an a capella ensemble, succeeded by a main body that brings the most exciting and extravagant side of the band. Zappaesque vocalizations, bluesy variations and jazzy ambiences are brought in on a polished connection, ultimately leading to a bombastic finale. In conclusion, "Contre Courant" is a genuine gem that shouldn't be missing in a good prog collection.
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |

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