The French band Saens was founded in 1996 by Vynce Leff and Pascal Bouquillard and recorded under the name Sens their first album called "Les regrets d'Isidore D." They came from the classic world but were both fond of progressive music. I don't have that first record (released on the Italian Mellow label) but after listening to their second effort "Escaping from the hands of God" I am very curious about hearing that record. Immediately I fell in love with this amazing album. Nowadays this is not happening very often. Maybe you know that feeling that after hearing three minutes of the music you know for sure that you gonna love that album. After my first listening of this album I only wanted to hear it again. Afraid of having missed something in the music.
Line-up of the band:
Pascal Bouquillard – Vocals, Bass, additional Guitars & Keyboards. Vynce Leff – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals, additional MIDI Winds. Benoit Campedel - Guitars, additional Keyboards. Damien Gadenne – Drums.
Marine Campedel – additional female 'lyrical' Vocals and Cello.
Oliver Charmeux – Flute ("Epilogue"). Stéphane Geille – Piano improvisation
Abe Laboriel Jr. – Drum loops.
The album consists out of five long (between 11 and 16 minutes!) tracks and a shorter instrumental "Epilogue" of 3 and half minutes. The best thing about Saens is that the music is adventurous, progressive and not comparable to any other band. As reviewer it is a difficult task to describe their intelligent music but I will do my best. The album is out for a couple of months now but I must share this amazing listening experience with you.
The first track of the album is also the longest one and is called "Babel lights" (16"34). Music and lyrics of this little symphony are from the hand of Vynce Leff. The opening is tastefully done with synths and keyboards and gives the piece a mysterious atmosphere and grabs immediately the attention of the listener. The piano takes over and the first delicate melodic vocal lines are sung. The tension of the music then slowly builds up and before you know it you are listening to a delicious melodic guitar solo. The difference with other bands is that Saens melt the guitars with some female classical choirs of Marine Campedel before the piece burst out into delicious sympho-prog with loads of keyboards and melodic guitar solos and passionate vocals. Those parts are stitched with classical sounding keyboard parts or as in the end of the composition with a beautiful acoustic guitar. Towards the end the music gets again more tension and passionate vocals companies the music, which slowly builds up, to a climax. Often I mention in my reviews other bands as references for you to understand how the music sounds, but I noticed myself that I didn't do that for describing this track. This means that the music is new, fresh and progressive. My definition would be a kind of "classical-progressive-sympho". A very impressive piece of music that will grow each time you listen to it.
The second track "Ayanda" (11:51) is completely instrumental. A synthesizer with the sound of a Hobo opens this track in a classical way. But after this melody the music soon becomes more aggressive and with more complex rhythms and melodic guitar. The first part of this piece is build around a piano improvisation of guest Stéphane Geille. This improvisation gives the music a little bit a RIO atmosphere. But it is at the same time combined with some melodic guitar solos and heavy sympho. The overall sound of the keyboard and sampler programming of Vynce in this track is classical. That classical touch is also accomplished by the choirs and soli of Marine Campedel. After a guitar solo the piano returns once more in the end of this intriguing piece.
"The Crawler" (13:49) is composed by Pascal Bouquillard, Vynce Leff and Benoit Campedel. The intro with the piano sounds of the previous track accomplishes a seamless transformation into this song with some neo-prog influences in the first parts. The vocal melodies are sometimes like a ballad but the music of Saens is always changing and developing into different directions. After nine minutes a voice says, "Let's party" and the music gets a South American atmosphere with a sound more like jazz-fusion. But this is changing again with a melodic vocal line and a passionate guitar solo. As you can see there is also a lot of variation in this more "common" prog piece.
The next track is again a Vynce Leff composition. It is called "Alone" (16:23) and the opening is again a little bit Neo-prog (Pendragon) so that the atmosphere of the music again seamless integrates into the next track. In this way the band creates a real album atmosphere and the music which has a great diversity and variation is hold together by these sections which are at the same time part of the compositions and are not clearly visible when you listen just a couple of times to the album. I didn't recognise this until I was writing this review and in the meantime was listening to the music over and over again. In my opinion the construction of this piece is based on more common and melodic prog. After the church bells of the intro there are also some church-organ sounds in this track. Also the MIDI winds are present in this composition. In the end there are some dual melodic guitar solos.
The last long track is "Requiem" (11:25) and has Latin and French lyrics written by Sophie Grimaut-Michel. In this piece are beautiful classical choirs present which sounds like they were recorded in a church. The church organ sound fits of course also in the more bombastic part of this track. After a synth solo there are again some French vocals, which fits better to the band. You will know my opinion already if you read my reviews. Let the French bands sing in French and the Italians must stick to Italian. In overall this is a beautiful melodic piece with some great vocal parts and melodic guitars.
The album ends with a short instrumental entitled "Epilogue" (3:35). It starts with a beautiful melody played on flute by Oliver Charmeux. He sounds a little bit like John Hackett. The second part has nice guitars on top of the Cello of Marine.
Without forgetting the other members, I think that Vynce Leff is the driving force behind this album. He wrote the music for two of the long tracks and had his part in three of the other songs. He produced the album with Pascal Bouquillard as executive producer. And he recorded, engineered, mixed and mastered the album himself. Artwork and cover concept are also from his hand. And if you hear and see the results it is all amazing and impressive. The construction of the album is very well done and you can hear the band has spent months to get this result in the end. The first two tracks of the album "Babel lights" and "Ayanda" are my favourites. You have to listen to this album a couple of times to see (hear) the beauty of it. Personally I like the album very much. Especially the classical influences in the music and the many keyboards, which can provide all those different atmospheres. It is one of the best progressive albums I have heard this year. Don't miss this one!