AQ&F (or Arnaud Quevedo and Friends, to give the full name of the group) are a French collective who “fuse jazzy troposphere, improvisation, funky grooves, powerful rock-metal riffs along with progressive elements”, all of which is a way of saying this album has several strands and approaches that are merged to make something that is really quite interesting and even captivating at times. It is an album of realised ideas and concepts, all delivered in an appealing manner. The album has eight tracks, four of which are new and the other four are revisitations of earlier concepts and ideas that have been successfully reworked for this album.
There are four phases to the album which, in total, is an interpretation of life phases, from Awakening, Journey and Inner Demons through to Hindsight‘s, these are punctuated by the reworked sections that are receiving a ‘Second Life‘. This is a different approach but I actually think this works here, it makes for some great music.
Everything begins with 2nd Life Part 1 – Awakening which opens with keyboard notes and what sounds like brass sounds with a low sounding bass, possibly fretless, sliding around the music. This turns into a more standard groove with drums and vocals, sung by Eloïse Baleynaud, in a breathy type voice. It’s actually rather a good vocal with great nuances, in addition the bass of Noé Russeil also impresses. There is also a guitar interjection by Arnaud that adds great dynamics. With the saxophone of Julien Gomila and sturdy drums from Anthony Raynal, the whole band gel together really well to create a great composite sound. The element of distinct heavy add something extra to proceedings. All in all, it’s a very respectable opening track and one that bodes well for the rest of the album. This continues with the first reworked piece, Any 2.0, which begins with a delicately strummed acoustic guitar and an adventurous bass line before the stylish vocal comes in. This is quite an atmospheric track and it gains in intensity as a edgy violin introduces funky urgent jazz with free rein saxophone flurries being added, along with flute from Lucille Mille. There is also good guitar syncopation going on before Arnaud plays a fiery solo. The song has some fine bass towards the end which helps you understand that this is a very musically rewarding track. Yuki shifts dramatically through softer, more urgent tones, the lyrics are shown but the ones in the song are very different for some reason, no explanation is given but still this doesn’t detract from proceedings especially. There is a further excellent guitar solo from Arnaud that takes the track into an urgent sprint or so it seems. Either way, it is a great track and one the really grips the listener .
2nd Life Part 2 – Journey from the off has powerful rock riffs front and centre and has a more rock focused approach, although it also has quieter moments of plucked arpeggio guitar lines and bass that underpin the sound. There are also some great saxophone lines, I really like this track, there’s a lot happening during its twelve minute plus running time. There’s a wonderful palette of sonic colours here and great vocals, you can really hear the various styles used here very well. An urgent synth solo from Marin Michelat and great bass and guitar sections take the track to the chorus before a brief guitar solo draws the song to its end. No Soy Breton is next and this track is a bit of a mystery to me as I have no idea what it is on about at all. It begins innocently enough with a soft flute before the vocal begins, once again these don’t match those in the booklet but, still, interesting enough, it’s just confusing to me, there are good bass parts in this song though.
2nd Life Part 3 – Inner Demons has good bass at the start, it’s an interesting track, asking questions of what’s happening amid some great guitar lines and unison playing between the vocals and the guitar that really impresses. It’s all very fluid and jazzy improvisation led. The final track of the album, 2nd Life Part 4 – Hindsight’s, opens with a deep double bass from Eva Tribolles, this gives way to electric bass as Eloise’s vocals begin, she sings of being the best version of you and to live without letting the comments of others stopping you from achieving that goal. The track has more heavy riffs, all offset by the flute which floats over the top of it all. There’s a great synth solo too, the song is good and works well giving a great ensemble sound.
This album may be a difficult one for many prog fans, especially if they are not jazz music lovers, but listen with open ears there is a lot of very enjoyable, thoughtful music offered here. Okay, lyrically it might be a bit odd but, if you accept that and listen, I think you will enjoy and appreciate it’s undeniable charms.
Released 10th July, 2023.
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