Intro: Paris Gravouniotis
Hailing from a country with an exceptional history in progressive rock, especially in the 70s with bands such as Magma, Ange, Clearlight and many others, the French Alco Frisbass started in 2015 as a duet consisting of Fabrice Chouette and Patrick Dufour. Their self-titled debut album had left the best impressions as it sounded like an ideal mix of symphonic prog, Canterbury and fusion. Then, with the addition of Frederic Chaput, they became a trio and released their second album, Le Bateleur, in2018, proving that their artistic success three years ago was not just a coincidence. This year’s Le Mystère du Gué Pucelle is one of the most anticipated releases for the fans of retro-prog sound and it remains to be seen if their route to recognition will continue.
Strong return with some questions
From the very first notes of Le Mystère du Gué Pucelle it becomes clear that Alco Frisbass continue exactly where they left off with Le Bateleur. Their influences include a fairly wide range of classic as well as some contemporary forms of progressive sound, for example in the opening title track one will hear symphonic elements from Genesis and Clearlight, the Canterbury approach of National Health and the absolute character of Änglagård. The melodies once again play the most important role as they flow with a linearity without any particular change in rhythm, while their angles are smooth enough regarding the pluralism that characterizes the band. Overall, the instrumental jamming element and their technical perfection are the two most basic elements that mark the 45 minutes of the entire album.
Although they do not elude compositionally, there are moments such as the first two minutes of Histoire Diffuse that manage to tickle the palate of the brain, but also the pulsating groove of Pulsar, where Jean-Luc Payssan participates as a guest (guitar, sitar , mandolin). Among the other compositions, Sélénite is probably the most mediocre moment of the album as it doesn’t justify its almost ten-minute duration, while Alchemical Corpus that closes Le Mystère du Gué Pucelle has some elements that deviate from the usual, especially its almost rock ‘n’ roll finale.
The production of the album, although not as warm as one would expect for the specific sound that Alco Frisbass honors, serves its purpose quite satisfactorily. Although, as mentioned above, their musicality and technical level cannot be questioned, I consider that these guys are capable of many more things compositionally. They can jam perfectly, however I would love to hear them testing their strengths more within prog rock limits and compose more structured pieces with beginning, middle and end, without of course falling behind in either complexity or duration. Their return can only be described as enjoyable. Οverall their third full-length job is really impressive, and I hope what will follow will meet our high expectations.
7.5 / 10
The third album of Alco Frisbass continues where Le Bateleur had left off, with a deep faith in the Canterbury prog sound, symphonic elements and a jazz twist that is expected and important for the pluralism of an instrumental album of the genre. The biggest surprises here are the impeccably structured Pulsar with the important contribution of Jean-Luc Payssan (Minimum Vital) in the acoustic parts, the amazing introduction of Histoire Diffuse, and the rock ‘n’ roll elements in Alchemical Corpus. As predictable as the 10 minute self-titled epic track may sound, it is another great track by the French trio and perhaps the only weak point of the album is Sélénite which would work perfectly with a shorter duration.
Overall, Le Mystère du Gué Pucelle is a really enjoyable album that sounds better every time you listen to it, aimed exclusively for the 70s progressive rock fans, and is also another proof that the Canterbury sound never gets old.
7.5 / 10