20 Apr 2021 - Gene
Progressive, Jazz, Fusion | Tonzonen Records | Release date: 16 Apr 2021
A Post Rock record with real horns!
You will be forgiven if this, like mine, is your introduction to France’s Bend The Future, hitting now with the cheeky release title of Without Notice (2021, Tonzonen Records) succeeding the debut full length Pendellösung (2019, Sound Effect Records), a sneaky signal of the young band’s exquisitely formed take on a hybrid psych/world fusion sound crested by the likes of UK act Comet Is Coming, Australia’s cerebral Tangents, or fellow compatriots HØST, with their newly released album Kos,to name just a few. You might think to pass this record by, seeing the strange cover art: is it kind of cute? Possibly off-putting? Thematically obtuse, certainly, not unlike the cover on Thou’s Inconsolable, a little trick that belies the elegant emotional journey contained within. And what awaits, indeed, is a delightfully funky puzzle that throws the idea of genre against the wall and takes you on a journey you wouldn’t expect.
The album kicks off with an energetic piano run on Lost In Time, setting the album’s pace, the smokey brass ambles in and you’re sort of lulled into thinking something familiar is happening here. But the record delights in playing with and subverting Standards, working its way into a peculiar gestalt, slipping us into the groove, tripping over our expectations. What Five The Heirophant is doing with free jazz on their latest offering, these guys are doing with funk and psych, too.
The funky follow-up As We Parry gets going with stark piano, then those sultry horns come back, and some synth-driven breaks infiltrated again by that golden sax, building toward emotive ecstasy. The vocals come unexpectedly on one of the most rocking tracks Merely – like something off a Yes or Camel album – against a blooming backdrop of repeating eastern melodies. No skimps on sweet guitar solos, either. The drums bop nicely in the pocket. The sax swings sweetly, bending back into the notes - firing off into a tense wail and back to the melody, back into the swing. Occasional whispy synth sounscapes breaking through uptempo guitar like light through smoke. Two funky voices. All evokes a playful banter between Euro Psych, Western Jazz and Eastern Modes. A driving tempo, building towards that – always evoking – that hazy visage of hope.
Something in the jazzy parts that follow; in cuts like We Aim Higher, Miniature, and Mus, evokes sophisticated fusion act Paradox Trio. Indeed, every outing on the record is perfectly tight and possessed of this outrageously confident bohemian groove. You might close your eyes and see the moving picture unfolding. A sound found live at an ancient café, somewhere the air is thick with Gauloises smoke, in a crowded square, a place you get lost, at dusk, in Marrakesh, maybe. A lone strummer rings out, joined by a horn, keys lilting drunkenly; then just out of sight, your lost love… and this could be it!
Miniature, this strummed little ditty along swashes of synth like Brad Mehldau just stumbled into the room. The repeating guitar line on Mus is like something Åkerfeldt might doodle with at home, thick with Chorus and cool. The whole thing has this undeniable groove and tilt. The title track then rounds out and simply takes you further along on this groove that loops on over itself and you forget your sense of time and place…
And there was never a destination. The trip was everything. And I must say, I was beside myself, uplifted and transported by this album. The whole thing oozes urban cool like I’ve rarely heard. It carries emotion so effortlessly and elevates a side of music rarely seen in Rock. Some very classic sensibilities meet here with a modern touch and mesh seamlessly into something eagerly familiar, yet refreshingly unique. The absolute sleeper psychedelic progressive hit Without Notice is out now on Tonzonen Records.