CARPE DIEM – CIRCONVOLUTIONS
Circonvolutions has been on my review to do list for quite some time. However, on the plus side, this delay has enabled me to get to know the album well and appreciate its numerous qualities.
French band Carpe Diem released two albums in the 1970s. They were En Regardant Passer Le Temps, released in 1975, and Cueille Le Jour, released in 1976. Circonvolutions features six studio compositions recorded in 2015 and two live tracks recorded in 1978.
In Circonvolutions, Carpe Diem continues to ply and evolve their unique brand of atmospheric, jazz-tinged progressive rock. The band successfully mixes melodic symphonic elements and fusion.Their style is quite mellow and at times might be compared to Camel and Ange.
The live pieces feature the late Marius David on saxes, flute and percussion, and highlight the band’s ability to confidently stretch things out. The recording quality of the live tracks is excellent and both are thoroughly entertaining, containing some of the finest moments of the album.
The album is characterised by some excellent interplay. There is ample space for the players to express themselves, against the backdrop of a close knit and vibrant rhythm section. Many of the pieces build up a significant and infectious groove. Circonvolutions has many opulent moments, filled with exemplary solos that rise and fall to counteract and enhance the groove created
Circonvolutions is pleasant on the ear, beautifully arranged and always exquisitely performed. The vocal parts add atmosphere, and create just the right choral balance. This gives much of the music a vibrant, cinematic quality. Despite being accessible, the album is neither too complex, nor too straightforward for it to become uninspiring, or uninteresting.
The keyboard work of principal composer and vocalist Christian Truchi is a highlight, and should please those who enjoy a keyboard sound that is rooted in the 70s. During the course of the album, there are occasions when the production values recall the sound of the 80s, and significantly there are also times when a more contemporary sound is adopted. The intense, yet playful duelling between the dual saxophone parts and keyboards in various guises, that is ably supported by an assortment of instruments, is a recurring theme throughout the longer pieces of the album.
Tibetan Monuments‘ strange mix of a Pet Shop Boys vocal style, combined with an intermittent backdrop of a gorgeous, swirling Mellotron effect, immediately stood out. This combination was difficult to pigeon hole, or classify. The piece was also punctuated by some boldly corpulent sax lines, that added another unexpected, but appealing element. The whole incessant, chanted, rhythmic effect created by the blending of these components, had me falsely considering that aspects of this piece were in some ways reminiscent of Magma.
The title track’s memorable main theme could have been plucked from a movie soundtrack, such was its ability to create a colourful soundscape, on which a variety of scenes might be built. The dual saxophone parts in the opening scene were particularly attractive. The main theme is repeatedly shaped, altered and reprised to act as a bridge between each component of the tune. These components feature some excellent solos and ensemble playing by all members of the band. The fast-running bass solo in the middle of the piece was superbly executed, and marks another of the album’s highpoints.
By way of a contrast to the long-running title track, Namire is a short interlude delivered superbly by acoustic guitarist Gerald Macia. It is beautifully constructed and is reminiscent of some of the finest acoustic work of Jan Akkerman.
Wedding Day is a fine example of Truchi’s skilful ability to write a short, whimsical song that acts as a perfect foil to the album’s longer compositions. It is easily digested and can be appreciated on both an emotional, and technical level, such is its quality and subtle appeal.
Overall, I found Circonvolutions a rewarding and satisfying album. This opinion has not changed after three months of ownership, and after numerous plays. It may not have complexity or the relative inaccessibility that some readers might find attractive, but as a well-constructed and melodically pleasant album, with a touch of finesse and flair, it ticks many positive boxes. By Owen Davies ( septembre 2016 )