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PRESENT – THIS IS NOT THE END (2024) (Cuneiform Records)

My first exposure to Present was with the release of “Certitudes” by Cuneiform Records in 1998, reviewed in “Acid Dragon” #22. The original line-up was Roger Trigaux on guitar and keyboards, his son Reginald, also a guitarist, Alain Rochette on keys, Guy Segers on bass and Daniel Denis on drums, and I was particularly impressed by the 15-minute piece ‘Delusions’, which, while my knowledge of RIO (or whatever the music is) was limited at the time, I recognised as a classic of the genre, whatever that is! Subsequently, I have got deeper into, shall we say, music at the more challenging side of the spectrum, and I stand by that judgement.

“This is NOT the End” is tinged with sadness as Roger Trigaux passed away while it was being recorded. It opens with an eight-minute piece, ‘Contre’, a menacing, bordering on threatening maelstrom of an opening, with crashing guitar codes, what I can only describe as ‘Morse code’ guitar notes, an anguished vocal tirade in French from Roger, haunting string sounds, a repetitive bass undertow from Keith Macksoud (a very important instrument in Present’s music), ascending guitar suggesting an aborted lift-off, the odd guitar KING CRIMSON - like interjection resembling ‘Larks’ Tongues’ on steroids; some more sober and reflective moments featuring strings and a single repeated keyboard note before heavy guitar riffing returns.

The second piece is quieter: the title track part 2, with haunting piano, violin and guitar lines (there are two keyboard players, Roger and Pierre Chevalier; François Mignot handles the guitar, Liesbeth Lambrecht is the violinist), and Kurt Budé plays bass clarinet on what might be loosely described as a unique brand of Chamber Rock music.

The third and fourth pieces are part one of the title track, the latter a six-minute extract. This has become my favourite piece, but it takes a few listens, a perfect example of Trigaux’s, and Present’s, approach, weighing in at 26 minutes+ but not outstaying its welcome as it progresses through multiple variations on memorable themes with complex rhythms, counterpoints and syncopations which seem almost impossible to reconcile at first, but all come together in the best traditions of modern classical music; the music is both inspired and possessed, invoking the brave spirits of BARTOK and STRAVINSKY. The exchanges between the violin and guitar, the ‘orchestrations’ if I can call them that, the synth, organ, drumming and percussion (Dave Kerman), are impressive. And Budé’s sax took me back a comment I made once on the classic 27-minute piece ‘Souls for Sale’ on Present’s “High Infidelity” album of how I was taken back to David Jackson’s work with VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR particularly on ‘A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers’.

Roger Trigaux explains Present’s music in this way: “lengthy repetition and polyrhythms to push not only the listener but myself to a paroxysm of intensity.” Let us hope that the group can carry on in the spirit of the great UNIVERS ZERO legacy, as GONG has done since the passing of Daevid Allen.

(A more comprehensive review can be read in the next edition of ACID DRAGON)

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