Dear progVisions readers, this is a review about the third release of the French band Saens. A band that in my opinion is underrated by the press and progfans. Saens is a band that concerning their music is making no compromises. This is a necessary condition for making real progressive music. Some reviewers think that Saens is a neo-progressive band, but their music goes far beyond the borders of that genre.
Line-up of the band:
Pascal Bouquillard – Lead & Backing Vocals, Bass, Classical Guitar, 12-strings Guitar and additional Keyboards. Vynce Leff – Electric, Acoustic & Classical Guitars, Keyboards & Synths, Vocals, Recorders & Tin Whistle, additional Mandolin. Benoit Campedel - Electric Guitar. Stéphane Geille – Drums.
Brigitte Alexandre Bernardi, Marine Campedel, Isabelle Poinloup – Soprano & Alto Vocals.
“Prophet in a statistical world” is the successor of “Escaping from the hands of God” and “Les regrets d'Isidore D.” The first 1000 copies of the album include the bonus CD “Dodecamania”. I shall come back to this later on.
The new album is divided into two parts. Part A is called “Dystopian Dreams” and attempts to give a personal interpretation of some aspects of (the earlier mentioned) famous anticipation novels. The first track “xx84” (7:52) is evidently related with “1984” by George Orwell with its quite oppressive mood and dark tones. A typical Saens composition full of rhythm changes, complex and melodic parts next to each other. Sometimes the tension of the music builds up to a climax with emotional sung lyrics and a soaring electric guitar.
Then follows “Suite no2” (Prelude) from J.S. Bach (1:04). The classical guitar of Pascal Bouquillard call forth associations with the classical guitar work of Steve Hackett. “Lenina” (10:16) is a character of “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley. Classical themes are delicately interwoven with the passionate character of this track. Next to the melodic synth parts, soaring guitar and passionate vocals you will find delicate classical guitar parts and choral music.
“Time machine” (12:49) takes you for the "wildest trip of your wildest dreams"... but who knows where the Machine will take you? I like the instrumental part where first the classical piano theme is pushed away by the darker sounds of the church organ and later on the music become complex when chaos rules. The contrast in the conclusion is big when the melodic electric guitar solo in “Forbidden dreams” (6:36) re-expose some xx84 themes and introduces some of the most important themes of Part B – “Prophet in a statistical world”.
The main idea behind Part B is that the hero (is it me, is it you?) may actually be living in the Statistical World without even knowing it... and that getting back his freedom may be simply impossible. “Welcome” (1:29) is an introduction piece, a kind of advertisement for the Statistical World. A short piece with several rhythm changes. “Statistical World” (8:58) gives a kind of description of this world. Several times the colors of the musical themes change drastically. Beautiful symphonic prog with soaring guitar solos next to delicate music with Arabic influences. “I wanna be free” (2:15) expresses the cry of despair of our hero. The cloth of your loudspeakers is dripping with emotion! The classical choir in “Libera me” (1:44) is a religious transition. In “The prophet” (11:40) the hero is praying to his god to set him free from this kind of eternal death. He is a Prophet in the Statistical World: but no one listens to him. There is no room anymore for real dreams or prophecies: "words and verses cannot rival with numbers". “The prophet” is one of the highlights of this wonderful album. There is so much emotion in the melodic guitar parts and the passionate vocals. Also you will notice the beautiful classical themes which are played on the keyboards. The classical guitar returns and you even can hear some mandolin. Here the classical training of the musicians is showing off. Many years’ later people finally realize how tired they are of this "Statistical World". In “Revolution” (6:05) the guitars are played in a heavy and aggressive manner. The classical choir in “Freedom” (2:39) closes this remarkable album.
Especially for the people who couldn’t get their hands on a copy of their debut album “Les regrets d'Isidore D.” (Mellow Records MMP370) the bonus disc “Dodecamania” is a must. The band re-recorded its two most progressive songs “La béte du Gévaudan” and “Jeu de patience” with new English lyrics and new sounds and arrangements. The tracks are now called “Game of patience” (12:25) and “The Gevaudan beast” (23:34). Also did the band persuade their record company Cyclops to include “Dodecamania” (based on a 12-tone tune) a composition the band had been working on for years but which didn’t fit on one of their previous albums. It was renamed into "Les Souffrances du Jeune Pierre" (15:47).
First track of the bonus disc is "Les Souffrances du Jeune Pierre". The first thing that you will notice is that the lyrics are sung in French. (The English translation is in the booklet) I have never made a secret of my opinion that I prefer it when a band sings in their native language, but I respect the opinion of a band to write English lyrics to reach more people. But you will notice that there is atmosphere in this track. It is the most extreme piece of music that the band ever wrote. Sometimes you think that the music is out of tune, but that is only because the band choose to use a basis of a 12-tone tune. For me it is one of the highlights of the album. I just love those emotional pieces which slowly are working towards a climax. Slowly the piece becomes more melodic.
Then it is time for the songs of “Les regrets d'Isidore D.” First we have the track “Game of patience”. A track rich of variation and beautiful melodic guitar work. Of course the quality of the sound is much better than the original. “The Gevaudan beast” has much more power than the original. It was the epic and the highlight of their debut album. But I’m sure that if you can get your hands on one of those first 1000 copies, the one with the bonus disc, you will find this track also one of the better compositions of this album. There is no room for an extended review of the bonus disc but let me tell you this; the bonus disc includes music of the same quality as on the first disc with the new material.
If you like the more progressive side of our genre and like your prog with loads of keyboard sounds, melodic electric guitar solos and are open to enjoy classical structures in the music, you must try “Prophet in a statistical world”. The music of Saens is adventurous, progressive and not comparable to any other band. If you take your time to listen several times to this album it will reveal its intense beauty.