[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS
(62:52, Unicorn Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Tout ce Que j’Ai Reve 8:43 2. Les Arbres 10:16 3. Cache au Fond Plus Haut 7:10 4. Source Infinie 4:56 5. In Vitro 2:55 6. Dans la Peau d’U Autre-I 7:39 7. Dans la Peau d’U Autre-II 4:31 8. La Fontaine 0:43 9. La Cage des Vautours & Liberte 15:24 LINEUP: Syd – vocals; bass; percussion Jean-Francois Arsenault – el. & ac. guitars Eric Plante – keyboards; programming; saxophones With: Mathieu Bergeron – drums Vanessa Caron – pan-flute
Prolusion. The press kit of this release isn’t too informative, only saying that “Tout ce Que j’Ai Reve” is the debut outing by JELLY FICHE, a young band from the Canadian city of Montreal and that they play retro Progressive Rock reminiscent of some classic ‘70s Quebec acts, such as Maneige and Harmonium (both of which are overall closer to Chamber Rock than to conventional Prog in my view).
Analysis. It happens fairly often that the ‘press-release’ reference points turn out not to be adequate to the real state of affairs, though in this particular case the matter is fully relevant only regarding the first of the bands cited. Jelly Fiche’s first outing contains almost nothing that would evoke Maneige, but has in some ways quite a good deal in common with Harmonium’s self-titled debut recording which has French musical folklore (whose clownish manifestation, in turn, is well reproduced on the 43-second cut La Fontaine) as its basis, not showing too many progressive tendencies. Here is a more precise description of the first Jelly Fiche effort’s overall appearance, though. Bearing influences from Pink Floyd, Harmonium, Ange, Mona Lisa, Marillion and Arena plus – partly – from Deep Purple’s “Machine Head” and Gong’s “Shamal”, the band offers us quite an unusual mix of French Folk, AOR, quasi Space Rock and conventional, theatrically-symphonic, Neo Prog of both the French and English schools of the style with occasional leanings towards progressive Hard Rock and a couple of strong jazz-fusion injections, so to speak. Of the nine tracks presented, the fourth one, Source Infinie, is the grooviest and the most simplistic and repetitive. Overloaded with vocals, it sounds very much like an AOR hit single and so should have been used as an opening song, in my opinion. The alternation of progressive hard rock and reggae-like moves on Cache au Fond plus Haut makes this song appear as another standout compared to the rest of the material, although musically it surpasses any of the three pieces where the Pink Floyd influence is striking throughout. Following each other in the core of the disc, these are In Vitro, Dans la Peau d’U Autre-I and Dans la Peau d’U Autre-II, all representing several variations on the same theme, and it’s only Syd’s theatrical vocals, suggesting something halfway between Ange’s Christian Decamps and Marillion’s Steve Hogarth in delivery, that somewhat contrast with the landscapes that instantly evoke the English band’s most unhurried explorations of “The Dark Side of the Moon”. Except for its – relatively lengthy – mid-section, which finds the band at its most progressive (think a highly eclectic, sax-driven, jazz rock jam), the 10-minute Les Arbres is totally inspired by Pink Floyd, often sounding as if it’s Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason themselves who play here a light variation on their own, only singing “The lunatic is on the grass”, etc, in French. As it is, that jazzy segment looks in many ways like a foreign body here. Instead, if it had been used as a separate track it would have been a brilliant piece, a real embellishment of this, otherwise progressively pretty scanty, output. In the final analysis, only the disc’s ‘boundary’ tracks, Tout ce Que j’Ai Reve and La Cage des Vautours & Liberte, are rich in texturally dense arrangements, held together by Syd’s bass and Mathieu Bergeron’s drums. Keyboards include classic organ and piano sounds (which are the most widespread on the recording, meaning its corresponding department), Mellotron in places, and also a kind of string ensemble – on the concluding piece. On the whole, however, it’s still guitars, both acoustic and electric ones, that dominate here, too, this time out their parts being mostly reminiscent either of Marillion’s Steve Rothery’s or Arena’s John Mitchell’s (within the sections with at once heavier and faster arrangements). The opening song falls squarely into the neo prog idiom, in its entirety, whilst its track-list counterpart reveals a few fine digressions from that style along the way and, as Les Arbres also does, includes a wonderful jazz-fusion move, still with the sax at its fore. The sole track here that is, say, progressive almost from top to toe, this 15-minute composition comes across in some ways as being the same for this CD as the sidelong epic Histoire Sans Paroles is for the Harmonium second LP, “Si On Avait Besoin d'Une Cinquieme Saison”. Although I’m not a lover of song-based music, I must admit I’m pleased with the vocals here, perhaps most of all as regards the disc as a whole. Syd, while shining as a multi-instrumentalist also, is especially impressive as a vocalist. He is a powerful singer who can really belt out soul (as well as wear out the listener’s one in a way), deriving benefits from the basically simple material that typifies most of this music as such. Generally, the album sounds in many ways as a platform for his vocal histrionics – in the positive sense of the term.
Conclusion. It is obvious that these young musicians are really fond of what they do and are both inspired and maturely skilled as players, rarely using ‘square’ measures in their compositions. However, their brand of blending various, yet mostly simple, musical forms in conjunction with their unwillingness to change their basic pace (often within the same track) offers not too much in a classic progressive sense, making the corresponding listeners wish for more from what they hear, generally speaking. Nonetheless, regardless of my attitude towards the progressiveness of Jelly Fiche’s “Tout ce Que j’Ai Reve”, I realize that it’s a strong debut effort and am assured of its wide popularity.
[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS - LIST | BANDLISTS ]