Though Antoine Fafard’s newest album was released in October of 2014, I’m sorry to say I wasn’t able to get this review done until the end of the year. I’m sorry because after enjoying his previous collection, Occult Tramitis, I knew I’d savour the new work with just as much enthusiasm. Waiting until the end of the year was suspenseful, but now that I’ve had the chance to soak it up, I feel good, and I can safely say Fafard has done it again; he continues to create with skill and imagination. My ears have been sated, indeed. I think they call this delayed gratitude.
Ad Perpetuum is a collection of distinctive numbers that weave in and out of Jazz, Prog, and full-on experimentation of technique. Time signatures that change mid-song; the application of synthetics in unexpected ways and places; smoking hot guitars, drums and sax (not to mention Fafard himself on that seriously monstrous bass) - it all serves to create this rich mosaic of tunes. At times, I feel the songs merge into each other to form one mood; other times, they butt heads, defining their differences and claiming territory as they lead the listener down a new path of meaning. This is the Prog side - all about theme and the discovery within.
The Jazzy side rises from the composition, structure, and presentation. As I read the liner notes and gained insight into the musicianship - the serious craftsmanship - that went into the compositions, I knew I was not only privy to the beauty that is the SOUND of music, but was also being treated to the mastery of the work from the composer/musician point of view. Astounding.
Fafard’s co-sculptors in this endeavor: Vinnie Colaiuta on drums and Jerry De Villiers Jr on guitars and synth guitars, are almost hard to believe, skill-wise. I’ve already come to admire Fafard as a bassist, and the solos he lays down are nothing short of amazing, but after hearing what these other men have brought to the project, I am even more impressed! Fafard knows how to pick ’em, for sure! Guest appearances by Gerry Etkins on keyboards, Gary Husband on drums, and Jean-Pierre Zanella on sax, only serve to notch this entire project up by more than a few degrees.
The ten tracks amount to 49 minutes of musical treats.
01 - The wonderful opener, Shuffle It!, is an atmospheric, dark piece that feels at odds with its title, since a shuffle is often anticipated as a livelier, happier type of tune. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? Contrast. Off in its own world. In nobody’s hurry. A beautiful song and one of my faves for mood.
02 - Riff & Raft fires off in another direction. It’s a faster, more intricate number. About a minute in, it slows down for a sweeping synth section, and then fires up again for the ending. You’re definitely getting the idea that the musicians are working well together and apply passion to their work.
03 - PolySeven is a drummer’s dream. No, wait, a bassist’s dream. Okay, maybe both. With the guitar singing out in passionate calls, and the synth playing its musical games between the beats, this is a serious musical effort. Alright. It’s a drummer’s dream, but I’m still going to play favourites with the bass.
04 - Same but Different is a slow respite from all the action so far, and is definitely the guitarist’s dream. Fafard’s bass creates a bottom soft as a newborn baby, but it’s the guitar that’s running the show this time.
05- Five Course Meal. Did I say slap-bass? I think I should. Wow. This one definitely focuses on technique, and it teaches the lesson well. Fafard has what...? Eight fingers on each hand? You’d think so after hearing this one.
06 - D-Day, according to the liner notes, features drummer, Vinnie Colaiuta, on the left channel only, and guest drummer, Gary Husband, on the right channel only. To me, it combines the idea of EACH and BOTH. Listen for the differences as well as the teamwork. One man HERE and one man THERE, and the result is a THIRD entity, neither solo nor combination. Just... music. With the sax up front, singing a highly melodic tune, this is a song to be remembered!
07 - Eternal Loop is another moodier piece with bass and drums working together to feed the guitar and keyboard. To my ears, the keyboard feels “Bach-ish.” Intricate.
08 - Slash One starts out slow and atmospheric, then rises in intensity as the instruments solo and play off each other. I very much enjoy all the solos in this collection; they give me a chance to get close up and personal with the musicians.
09 - The Egg is another fave. Intense bass beneath that sassy sax. Jazzy and fun to listen to. The sounds play everywhere in your head. A zesty number to keep the mood going all the way to the finale.
10 - PreSilence slowly winds down to an introspective conclusion. As I listened, I found myself going back to the previous tracks and thinking about the collection as a whole. We started with a darker than usual shuffle number than nonetheless made me smile. The ride then coursed through highs and lows of mood and technique. Exciting solos, expressions, experimentation; this ended up being an album of great complexity behind the scenes, and listener-friendly music up front.
As with all instrumental music, you can put it on as background while you have dinner, or you can take a seat in the audience to watch the musicians play. Ad Perpetuum fits both categories. There are parts of it that fit perfectly into the ambience of a room of wine and soft conversation; for other parts, you MUST be in the audience to watch how the music is laid out before you. I picture very appreciative applause after the solos, and even cheers as the song ends and the people realise what a treat it’s been.
I don’t know much about the masterful creation of music in all its complex wonder, but I am a good listener. I recommend this album to all who enjoy the sounds as well as the composition itself. Music is indeed a gift, and I thank Antoine and Company for this very generous offering!