Composer and multi-instrumentalist, Patrick Forgas has been making music for the last four decades, and now in the heart of his fifth one, he still has not run out of ideas to put into musical forms. His fourth album with his current band, Forgas Band Phenomena, a 7-piece instrumental ensemble, is a brilliant musical saga entitled L’Axe du Fou, which translated into English is Axis of Madness. Consisting of four individual compositions with each one containing several movements or subplots that transport the listener through a sonic maze moving subtly through transient episodes and passages of lavish décor.
Though Forgas’ first language is his native French, his album speaks in all languages, transcending the barriers that separate nationalities and music genres. His compositions and arrangements display elements of orchestral-jazz, ambient-rock, and progressive-bop with ethnic accents based in Eastern Europe cultures, the Middle East, and the Latin World. It is as if he pulls various influences out of the air, and transforms these bits and pieces that he grabs into magnificent complexes of multi-textured broths. Forgas never lets go of his high standards, making every track elaborate and melodically intriguing for the listener.
Beginning the sage with "La Clef" (The Key), Forgas and his ensemble takes audiences through challenging twists and expansive vignettes which contain taut squeezing in the violin strings performed by Karolina Mlodecka collared by Spanish-style blares in the horns played by saxophonist/ flutist Sebastien Trognon and trumpeter/flugelhornist Dimitri Alexaline. Keyboardist Igor Brover plays a strip of tingling and babbling keys along the base of the title track as guitarist Benjamin Violet breaks through the melodic swirls of the horns and violin with piercing rock-tinged riffs. The rhythm section of bassist Kengo Mochizuki and drummer Patrick Forgas holds the reins of the place as it rises into a whirlwind of ravenous gales which pass and become a mild stroll of twinkling keys garnished in lightly puffing horns. The dynamics in the piece are complex with explosive tossing and intricately woven layers. It requires a mind that can be in several places at once.
The whispery trail of violin strings forged along "Double Sens" (Double Entendre) opens up into a topiary of progressive-bop flora and orchestral-jazz fauna shaded in lovely ambient hues. The piece has a trance-like pull on listeners reeling them in and making them feel like they are floating on top of the melody. It’s very surreal and allows audiences to escape into another world, even as the movements intensify into a series of tightly knotted squeals in the horns and fiery guitar riffs, which are then released just as swiftly as they came into the piece. Sudden shifts are transient and poignant to the melodic composition causing an interruption that brings about another level to the piece. The final number "La 13eme Lune" (The 13th Moon) showcases the slow simmering bass lines of Mochizuki crowned by swiveling violin strings and slinky smooth jazz horns creating a saucy puree. It is an introspective piece with overtones of sorrow and determination to push beyond the blockage of joy. There is an upbeat pulse in the undertow that draws the listener into this piece, and an inner struggling that creates slashing episodes of striking guitar chords and a plumage of horns to emerge and culminate into a grand finale.
The Forgas Band Phenomena create music that is designed to make an impact on audiences. These are pieces that are meant to grab the audiences attention, and hold them in a trance-like state as the ensemble goes through the various movements and transitional shifts. The movements are transient as the musicians make their way through the episodes, always scouring the ground that they just came from so it is permanently changed. The music has a progressive edge that makes it feel intangible to grasp, and yet, its melodic make-up is pleasing. It is an album with no wrong turns, only the ensemble’s ingenuity in its prime.