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FORGAS BAND PHENOMENA – EXTRA-LUCIDE (1999/ 2023) (Cuneiform Records)

It was back in 1999, I think, when I reviewed this band’s “Soleil” album for ACID DRAGON, quoting, “For fans of SOFT MACHINE, GONG, BRUFORD, NATIONAL HEALTH, PASSPORT and FRANK ZAPPA” from the sleeve of the CD, as well as “the French answer to the Canterbury scene since Forgas’s debut release ‘Cocktail’ with members of ZAO and MAGMA.”


Forgas was leading an eight-piece instrumental band of relatively young musicians “whose skill and authority within the genre of jazz rock fusion is simply breathtaking.” (My words, this time). Then, “Even the 35-minute ‘Coup de theatre’ is not as demanding on the listener as you might expect and is easily devoured in one go thanks to the versatility of the composition and instrumentation- I really enjoyed the interplay between guitar, organ and violin in its rockier moments and sections reminded me of the great CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY. What’s astonishing about all this is that the superb brass work and rich soloing is all confined within a sound compositional framework.” I thought also that the album’s opener had shades of PINK FLOYD and KING CRIMSON.

 

So, you might have guessed that I was excited by the prospect of some more music from drummer Patrick Forgas as part of a quintet with Mathias Desmier (guitar), Gilles Pausanius (keys), Denis Giovarc’h (sax) and Juan- Sebastien Simenel (bass).

 

The concept behind “Extra-Lucide” was to create five musical sketches depicting, taking the tracks in order, ‘Extra-Lucide’ (crystal ball gazing/ self-discovery/ clairvoyance); ‘Rebirth’ (memories of a first ride on the Big Wheel over 100 metres above Paris); ‘Pleuvre a la Pluie’ (the heart of the fair- the Barnum circus); ‘Annie Raglisse’ (memories of the Alcazar sweer shop selling liquorice and aniseed) and ‘Villa Carmen’ (the location of one of the most famous séance ectoplasm scams).

 

Re-released at the end of 2023 by Cuneiform, the lilting title track is a strong Jazz-Rock composition, with scintillating interplay between sax, synth and guitar; these guys certainly know how to solo! The rollicking and longest number ‘Pleuvre a la Pluie’ gives the band plenty of space to demonstrate the full range of their magic, with more slick soloing, electric piano coming in more, and even a funky passage of play. The Phonomena’s leader restricts himself to a short drum break, and never over indulges; everything is measured and on the nail. ‘Annie Raglisse’ has become a particular favourite of mine - the guitar break is mesmerising, and it is appropriate that the album ends with a shortish ballad of sorts, with slightly more experimental inclinations; I was expecting it to sound a bit spookier though!

 

“Extra-Lucide” stands up well for the most discerning of Jazz and Rock lovers, sounding as fresh and relevant as it did a quarter of a century ago.

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