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Forgas Band Phenomena - Soleil 12 CD (album) cover


Forgas Band Phenomena

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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5 stars The third release from France's Forgas Band Phenomena, titled Soleil 12, is four songs of rich, captivating, and exploratory Canterbury styled fusion. Led by drummer Patrick Forgas (who recorded projects in the 70's & 80's with members of Magma and Zao), this big band ensemble of eight players will instantly remind you of 70's groups like National Health, Hatfield & the North, Soft Machine, Gilgamesh, Bruford, Caravan, as well as American acts like Frank Zappa and Miles Davis. All instrumental, these songs flow and soar, with biting solos and symphonic full band arrangements that are melodic and instantly memorable. The album was recorded live at France's Le Triton club in early 2005, a venue that now showcases many progressive rock and fusion acts.

The band that Forgas has put together includes drums, guitar, keyboars, bass, violin, two sax players, and a trumpet/flugelhorn player. From the raging fusion sounds of the opening title track, to the more laid back and melodic progressive jazz of the monster epic Coup De Thtre, this is some seriously inventive stuff. The skill of the players is extemely high throughout the CD. The weaving violin/sax/trumpet melodies on Coup De Thtre for example are just scrumptuous, with the busy underpinning of Forgas' drum work and the meaty guitar chords and solos of Sylvain Ducloux providing the perfect foil. Eclipse is more in a progressive rock style, with intricate keyboard textures from Igor Brover laying the groundwork for Frederic Norel's soaring lead violin, which reminded me of Jean Luc Ponty's 70's work, that is until Sylvain Gontard's horn joined the mix for a spot of pure jazz. The dual sax melodies from Stranislas De Nussac and Denis Guicarc'h are the catalyst for Pieuvre la Pluie, a near 19-minute venture into atmospheric prog-rock and Canterbury styled fusion. Here, the rhythm work of Forgas and bassist Kengo Mochizuki work overtime, with guitarist Ducloux laying down some funky chords, while the reeds take center stage. It times the music gets pretty complex on this one, with the whole band really grooving and in synch with each other.

As usual, Cuneiform Records comes up with another winner. 70 minutes of prime fusion is a good reason to celebrate, and the Forgas Band Phenomena deliver the goods in a big way.

Personally One of the best Instrumental/fusion/Progressive rock releases i'v ever had the chance to listent to!.

Report this review (#164900)
Posted Tuesday, March 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Bandleader Patrick Forgas has been described as 'the French answer to the Canterbury scene', and this album of his is proudly marketed as: 'for fans of Soft Machine, Pierre Moerlen's Gong, Bruford, National Health, Passport, Frank Zappa', but such a label is in fact misleading.

True, the music on SOLEIL 12 often resembles THIRD (and BUNDLES) era Soft Machine, and it will remind you of Pierre Moerlen's Gong at their gentlest (especially of the Gong albums that came after EXPRESSO II). Forgas reveals a preference for unhurried, repetitive, riff-driven compositions. His drumming style is close to Pierre Moerlen's, and also to John Marshall's. The sound of three brass players (trumpet and saxes) executing the main themes in unison is unmistakably Soft-Machine like. Also, lead guitarist Sylvain Ducloux tends to sound like an Allan Holdsworth-disciple.

But if SOLEIL 12 resembles (some) Canterbury music, it has to be Canterbury music with a straight face. Do you remember how, when Robert Wyatt left the Soft Machine, and when Daevid Allen left Gong, they took most of those bands' humour with them? Forgas Band Phenomena generally sound bright and cheerful, but I see no trace of Canterbury-style humour (or avant-garde leanings) in their work. (No trace of fuzz-organs either!) For this reason, and because Forgas' tunes are so simple and repetitive (the longest composition takes nearly 35 minutes), it makes little sense to compare this album with the extraordinary National Health or even with Zappa, unless you mean such relatively subdued Zappa albums as WAKA/JAWAKA.

I find it hard to dislike this music, but in my opinion other Europeans have come up with more convincing efforts in the genre of 'Small Big Band Jazz-Rock', most notably Michael Gibbs, Pierre Dorge and the United Jazz and Rock Orchestra, all of whom benefit from more outspoken soloists and more tuneful compositions. (Meanwhile, the greatest masterpiece in the entire genre remains Zappa's GRAND WAZOO.) However, I don't want to end this review without saying a few words in praise of violinist Frederic Norel, whose contributions are outstanding. Whenever Norel started playing, I pricked up my ears. If you're curious about the (non-electric) violin in a jazz or fusion context, do give this album a try.

Report this review (#171237)
Posted Saturday, May 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars It was actually a huge relief for me to read fuxi's review of this album. I had my review written and as per usual I like to check out the various opinions on the Web. All I found was nothing but praise for this live album. I just haven't been getting into this record like I thought I would and I agree with fuxi on so many points that I guess I feel vindicated somewhat.

First of all for an album that's adverised as having a strong Canterbury flavour I didn't taste it at all. No distorted organ ,no avant passages except for some dissonant horns in one place. No lyrics so no humour in that way. Mostly this is fairly tame Jazz with a lot of brass and violin. I wasn't even a fan of the violin playing. Some good guitar but not enough of it. The musicianship is fantastic here and I was impressed quite often, I just wish there were some dark moments or weird secions or some smoking Fender Rhodes, something that turns me on musically. There are 4 tracks totalling almost 71 minutes, the longest is almost 35 minutes in length.

This is really good but I have so much already in this style that I consider far better. Three stars, but remember most will rate this one higher so it's worth checking out.

Report this review (#288669)
Posted Tuesday, June 29, 2010 | Review Permalink

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