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Forgas Band Phenomena - L'Axe Du Fou - Axis Of Madness CD (album) cover


Forgas Band Phenomena

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars 4.5 stars really!!!

Latest (so far, the fourth) album from Forgas' troupes, and maybe the best one yet, but it comes after a three or four year silence (Soleil 12 dates from 05) that had us worried. Actually, parts of the compositions were already written a while ago(the next album was originally scheduled in 06), but the line-up suffered a few changes (now a septet), then some tracks were re-written (trimmed down), more added and by the time all of this was dealt with, they were in the summer 08. Just four tracks, all penned by Patrick, packed in an uncompromising fluvial artwork

Opening on one of the older track La Clef that's been on the live repertoire quite while and it shows because the band is really tight on this track, Mlodecka's violin and Alexaline's trumpet on the forefront, the latter distilling a light Spanish ambiance throughout the album. The 16- mins+ title track is the album centrepiece, first as a piano-driven tune where Trognon alternate on sax and flute, then allowing everyone to have its moment in the sunshine. The other cornerstone on which the album is built is the trimmed-down 14-mins Double Sens, a piece that lost over 20 minutes of ideas, most likely to pop up on future albums. What's left is an impressive and tight composition, starting on a strong bass line, but later (the second half) featuring a grandiose exchange of brass, violin and guitar licks, lines and solos over a delightful electric piano. No doubt the album's highlight. The closing 13th Moon starts out as a smooth bass and electric piano-driven mid-tempo on which trumpet, flute and guitar and violin are gliding , but gradually speeds up, gets frantic, than manic ( love these short brass answers between solos and ending up in a wild guitar solo.

Not only is Forgas a brilliant drummer, he's also become an excellent composer (something he wasn't in the 90's), but he's also letting his mates plenty of room for them to express themselves musically. As good as Soleil 12 was, it easy to understand that the FBP has jumped another hurdle and reaches the category of the giant JR/F of the millennium. One of my album of the year.

Report this review (#272418)
Posted Wednesday, March 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Listened to this album's music I hardly believed my ears: how come such excellent Canterbury sound was recorded and released in year 2009? So much time is gone from brave Canterbury era...

Excellent melodies, soft and very tasteful sound (something what associates with best RPI works for me).Just four long compositions. Very warm music, full of violin, drums and horns. All these sounds as it never was this terrible cheese time, 80-s,90-s, 00- . I thought that this great art when music could be sweet, melodic, warm, pleasant, colourful - without being cheese and commercial- is gone long ago without traces.

This album confirms, that miracles are possible. Just they are extremely rare and you must try harder just to find one.

One of the best albums from 2009, very recommended for Canterbury, jazz-rock, RPI fans and for everyone hungry for beautiful instrumental music.

Report this review (#272759)
Posted Thursday, March 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars 4.5 stars. This is much better than the live FORGAS BAND PHENOMENA album ("Soleil 12") I just reviewed. All the issues that I had with that album have pretty much been addressed here. The violin is much better and the songs are more dynamic. Forgas on drums and Trognon on sax and flute are the veterens here while the other five members are young virtuosos.

"La Clef" opens with keys, bass, horns and some excellent drum work. Violin before a minute followed by horns as they continue to share the spotlight. Guitar with violin after 6 minutes as bass and drums support. Violin and horns follow taking turns soloing.The violin is outstanding. Incredible track. "L'axe Du Fou" opens with piano, bass and drums. Guitar and horns join in. Flute follows then violin. Love the guitar before 2 minutes. Check out the violin, horns and guitar 4 minutes in ! Ripping guitar before 7 minutes. It lightens and settles a minute later. I like the rhythm section after 11 minutes as violin and horns come and go. A good rhythm also before 16 minutes with guitar. Fanatastic tune.

"Double-Sens" opens with some atmosphere with keys as violin comes in. Drums and bass 1 1/2 minutes in with horns over top. Nice. Drums and bass standout 3 1/2 minutes in as horns come and go. It settles with violin after 5 minutes. Horns 6 minutes in then the violin returns. More intense and dissonant after 7 1/2 minutes. Beautiful section after 9 1/2 minutes with keys, bass and drums.The guitar lights it up 11 minutes in. Possibly the best track on here. "La 13eme Lune" has a good beat with keys and guitar. Violin joins in then horns. Flute before 2 minutes. Violin is back. The guitar before 4 minutes sounds great. Violin solo then horns 5 minutes in. Guitar 7 1/2 minutes in to end it.

Highly recommended album. This might get 5 stars from me down the road it's so good.

Report this review (#289173)
Posted Sunday, July 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Forgas Band Phenomena is a pretty interesting case in modern progressive music. Not just because Axis Of Madness is the first studio album in nearly ten years to be offered up under that title, but also because (if the amount of ratings and reviews are any indication) hardly anybody here seems to know who the hell they are. Hopefully my review will excite a few people into trying them out. Let me start out by saying that every track on this release is a gem, and it has no weak point. Tough to swallow? Read on . . .

After my first time listening to the entirety of the record, I had a sort of afterglow about me. I knew I had just listened to something very remarkable and beautiful, but I don't think you'll ever be able to realize for yourself just how special of a recording this is until you experience it for yourself. Patrick Forgas, drummer and composer extraordinaire, has brought together an elite group of musicians to create one of the finest instrumental works I have ever laid ears on.

All of the instruments featured on the record have their own role to play, and there is very little overlap. I think perhaps the album's biggest strength is the large amount of instruments against the very small amount of repetition. If you hear a new riff enter the scene, chances are you won't be hearing it again unless it's intentionally done as a recurring theme within the track. This happens once or twice perhaps, but never over long periods of time, and frankly I'm fine with that. It ensures that the music continues to press forward without lingering. The sense of pacing and flow never leaves the music despite this, and it's achieved with such grace and seemingly little effort that as a songwriter it makes me very jealous of Forgas' obviously fantastic abilities as a composer. Never a repetitive moment, yet it still feels accurate and together. I never felt like the music was veering off into left field despite the vast amount of ground each tracks manages to cover.

Something this band is impeccably good at is allowing each instrument their space. In a lineup with so many different instruments present, that is not easy to do. But they somehow pull it off time and again. Never does the music feel crowded, but always does it feel heartfelt and fresh. There is such a risk for the compositions to get carried away with themselves here, yet they simply don't. Everything is as it should be, and the perfect balance is always maintained. Very impressive, especially in current times when instrument-heavy music always seems to lead to senseless wankery and boring guitar solos. Most of the leads are handled by everything but the familiar six-stringed instrument, which is a breath of fresh air as far as I am concerned. Benjamin Violet is no slouch by any means, but his role in the band isn't to outshine everybody else. He takes more of a rhythmic role and when he does in fact solo, it's always very atmospheric and tasteful-- a concept plenty of modern guitarists seem to have no knowledge of.

What this amounts to is basically one of the most beautiful complete records I've ever heard, certainly when it comes to instrumental music. I cannot even begin to describe the way in which this moves me. If you haven't picked up this album yet, you have no idea what a wonderful experience you are depriving yourself of. You may have simply never heard of this music before. If you haven't, there are two things I have to say: 1) Shame on you, and 2) Remain in the dark no longer and pick yourself up a copy of this brilliant, brilliant album.

Just as Pink Floyd, Yes and King Crimson paved the way for forward-thinking music back in the day, Bands such as Forgas Band Phenomena are doing the same in modern times. It is a true shame that my article will only bring this album's review count up to four so far. On a site that houses such a rich variety of creative music, why is it I only see the same handful of bands being recognized in the majority of reviews I read? That tradition needs to halt, as far as I am concerned. Nothing is wrong with favoring the giants of this musical attitude we call 'prog', but to be completely oblivious of such works as this is not much short of a sin. Past artists you may know such as Mahavishnu Orchestra or Jean-Luc Ponty have a few things in common with this group, so if you like them, you should find something to love in this recording. However, make no mistake; just because there are similarities doesn't mean Forgas Band Phenomena lacks originality. On the contrary, this is some of the most original music you'll be likely to hear all year. Just know that they have more in common musically with Maneige than, say, Genesis.

Any serious music enthusiast should not be without this album in her collection, I sincerely mean that. Two five-star reviews in a row for me? Hey, when this brilliant of music is involved, you'd better believe it. Another rousing masterpiece that rivals anything else, in any genre, anywhere. I dare you to listen to this work and not adore it.

Sweet journeys.

Report this review (#292639)
Posted Thursday, July 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album seems a considerable step forward when compared to the band's previous release, the live album SOLEIL 12. There are two main reasons: (1) the tunes are more likable; (2) the soloists seem far more inspired.

I must admit, when I first started playing L'AXE DU FOU, my heart sank. I thought: "Oh no, yet another post-Canterbury album where one unexciting, repetitive rock riff merges into the next (and into the one after that, and the one after that) without too much going on in the way of excitement... Haven't we heard too much of THAT on all the mediocre Gong albums Pierre Moerlen released after ESPRESSO II?"

But my spirits immediately revived when I realised that, this time, Forgas's riffs are rather good, really! His players, too, may not have the stature of Allan Holdsworth or Kenny Wheeler but they give it all they've got. Each single solo makes your heart melt, the wide VARIETY of solos (shared out among saxes, flute, trumpet, guitar, violin and keyboards) keeps listeners on their toes, call-and-response passages within the brass section are remarkably lively, and the album makes you feel better as it goes on. It's old-fashioned jazz-rock, but there's not a whiff of the elevator to it; it really and truly lifts your spirit!

Perhaps the main reason for the band's success is the fact that (acoustic) violinist Karolina Mlodecka operates as the main soloist. Her playing is so sensitive and refined I got a little jolt of pleasure every time she came on.

Yep, since Forgas is a Moerlen-inspired drummer, L'AXE DU FOU actually reminded me (again and again) of all the best passages on classic Gong albums like ESPRESSO II and SHAMAHL. I can't think of any higher praise. I sincerely hope Forgas will keep this incarnation of "Phenomena" together and treat us to many other life-enhancing releases.

Report this review (#294632)
Posted Sunday, August 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Have had this album for several months now,and it is now clear that it is nothing short of brilliant. Is it a 5* album?Definately closer than four,but 4 and3/4 if I could rate it that. There is not more, that I can add that has not already been said,so this is more of a jump on the band wagon thing. Everybody here gets plenty of space to shine ,and all equally excellent.The funny thing is that Forgas gets the least room really.His drumming though is always there keeping everything in place.His style is excellent in a smooth,casual way, but is never over the top.Outstanding drummer you are Monsieur Forgas. After the 4 songs ,things get a little samey though,but it is minor.Also wish that the guitar player had a few more solos,since it is a crispy crunchy catchy sound and beefs up the tunes with his presence. Folks,an album that I am very happy to have purchased,and sits neatly there in the top 5 of albums I have got over the last year or so. There are samples on his web page I believe,or facebook or such thing.
Report this review (#294869)
Posted Tuesday, August 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Relentless jazz-rock from drummer Patrick Forgas and a crack team of six getting right down to business on this follow up to 2005's Soliel 12 and maintaining the fire for nearly sixty minutes. Axis of Madness indeed, and the four-cut Cuneiform release has the kind of hungry intensity usually heard on great debuts only to wane from that point on. Here the ensemble have hit a very satisfying stride as they feed off of Forgas' new material, Karolina Mlodecka's spirited violin on top leading with Benjamin Violet's high-octane guitar, Igor Brover's ivories quietly echoing the violin/guitar interplay, and the weighty rhythms of Forgas and bassist Kengo Mochizuki.

'La Clef' burns as it introduces each member and their strengths, a perfect opener, Dimitri Alexaline and Sebastien Trognon spinning their brass throughout the bends, twists, turns and recesses of Patrick Forgas' work. The longest piece at 16 minutes, 'L'Axe du Fou' [the title] is more varied; quieter at times with space to build slowly and with some traditional fusion on hand. Forgas appears to have been influenced by the RIO movement but brings a refined and deliberate jazz sensibility to his music that helps the project to sound like more than just some rebellious Europeans getting weird. Closer to Mahavishnu in their prime or early National Health. 'Double-Sens' is spidery as it builds its ever-growing web, rocking, funking...just jammin', man, and always from a group with their eyes on the ball, unwilling to let the fine music slip into cacophony. The mark of a superior band of players.

Finishing the set is airy 'La 13eme Lune', the violin returning to center stage interspersed with flute and trumpet lines. I'd think fans of anyone from Phil Miller to Bill Bruford would quite like this release. It'll be interesting to see where they take it from here. World-class stuff and one of the best jazzrock releases of 2009. Maybe the best.

Report this review (#300825)
Posted Tuesday, September 28, 2010 | Review Permalink

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