Having reviewed French Canadian prog-jazz-rock fusionists Karcius’ debut album, Sphere, I was intrigued enough to put my hand up as soon as the follow-up appeared on the review pile. Whilst rather uneven in quality and somewhat rough around the edges, the album nonetheless showed promise, and thankfully much of that promise has been realised on what is a much improved sophomore effort.
Just from a cursory listen of the opening track Hypothese A it’s clear that the two main problems I had with Sphere – the rather disjointed nature of some of the songs and the rather jarring use of a harder-edged guitar sound – have clearly been addressed. Opening in a mellow style, the track gradually integrates some heavier guitar work in a far slicker and appropriate manner than before. The song flows well through a number of mood and tempo changes, and is graced with some fine elongated melodic solo’s from guitarist Simon L’Esperance, plus a particularly well executed breakdown and consequent build-up towards the end of the song. Elsewhere, variety is the spice of life as far as Karcius are concerned. Maintenant is a languid, very chilled out number which has a bit of a lounge-jazzy feel to it but fortunately strays the right side of descending into Kenny G style muzak; Destination is a heavy track that has a slightly middle-eastern flavour to the rhythms and features particularly good interplay between L’Esperance and pianist Mingan Sauriol; Tunnel groves along in a 70’s hard rock style, with the prominent use of organ putting me in mind of Deep Purple, whilst Epilogue manages to blend a Latino feel into the jazz fusion framework. Ultimately Kaleidoscope is a far more dynamic and cohesive collection than Sphere, and Karcius have gone a long way to establish a signature sound from their still fairly apparent influences (Brand X, Pat Metheny, Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra etc). Occasionally the band still seem to lose focus and the material therefore drifts aimlessly in places, with some unnecessary noodling around dominating some sections (such as on the rather over-extended latter half of Hypothese B). Thankfully such moments are the exceptions rather than the rule, and Kaleidoscope can go down as a much improved effort. I imagine that Karcius’ third album will be something worth waiting for, but in the meantime fusion fans can invest with some confidence.
01.Hypothese A (6:45)
05.Hypothese B (11:03)
08.Hypothese C (7:56)Kaleidoscope
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