Now, this one's a real treat for music lovers. It's not for those who perhaps only enjoy certain musical genres, such as heavy rock or jazz, or world music and it's definitely not for those who don't enjoy totally instrumental music. Sure, there's plenty of music on Karcius's third album Episodes for lovers of those specific genres to enjoy but if their tastes are limited then there will also be passages on this superb album that will not gel with them. For those of us, however, who enjoy music across a number of genres, who enjoy music just for the love of music, then Episodes is an absolute delight.
It is stunningly well played: the musicianship is of the highest calibre. All four members received college and university musical training and, more significantly, have put it to great use in this fabulous music making. All four get the chance on Episodes to display their own technical virtuosity but thankfully without detriment to the music - this isn't showmanship for its own sake but is perfectly integrated within the musicality of the compositions. Canadian band Karcius are Dominique Blouin on bass, Thomas Brodeur on drums and percussive instruments, Simon L'Esperance on electric, acoustic guitars and synths and Mingan Sauriol on grand piano, Hammond, Fender Rhodes and synths.
Karcius come billed as a "progressive rock and jazz fusion" band. Well, you certainly get rock-jazz fusion but that specific label would only tell part of a bigger and much richer story. Read that label and you'd have no inkling of the wonderful classical flavours of Mingan's grand piano playing that adorn the compositions throughout the album- a joy! - or of the infusion of world music flavours that bring colour and spice to "Racines" and, especially so, to "Incident". "Incident" is marvellous: totally infectious, you'll be playing it in your mind long after the CD has stopped spinning. It's Spanish in flavour, stunning acoustic guitar introducing the flamenco rhythms and also features beautiful string arrangements by Simon, danceful handclapping and percussive instruments and various variations (and improvisations?) on these themes on grand piano and acoustic guitar. It's as if the sun-kissed girls were dancing in your own living room, twirling in their bright dresses and stamping their feet in that happy rhythm. Olé!
The music is just as dazzling elsewhere. A rock edge is never very far way, driven by Simon's snazzy guitar playing: yes, you can even head-bang to sections of Episodes. As early as "Elements I: Submersion" you get some serious hard-driving rock: "Elements II: Sol" and "Purple King" are other compositions that feature this gutsy sound. Another little "sound nugget" is Mingan's playing of a super riff on the lowest octave of the grand piano during "Purple King": it's so rare that musicians venture down there! It works a treat and shows the adventurousness of the band. This is the real "progressive" spirit.
It is wrong in a sense, however, to pick out particular moments for praise. Karcius have carefully blended these compositions by the use of segue sections into one effective piece of music. Their group objective "to develop different musical ideas and explore styles to generate a surprising and diversified music" has been met with great success. Episodes is a spectacular musical journey that will be enjoyed by many who are lucky enough to come across it. I can find no fault with it at any level and it fully justifies my first ever 5-star ranking on this site.
I recommend it highly. Perhaps if you have a real aversion to purely instrumental music or if you are quite conservative in your musical niche tastes then you should stay away but, for everyone else, Episodes should be a high priority on the purchase list for the year.
1) Elements I : Submersion (9:45)
2) Elements II : Sol (8:38)
3) Elements III : Combustion (12:23)
4) Incident (8:39)
5) Levant (2:26)
6) Purple King (7:35)
7) Racines (8:54)