D Project, The - Big Face

Year of Release: 2011
Label: Ozeta Productions
Catalog Number: OP005
Format: CD
Total Time: 51:00:00

The D Project's third project is a guitar-centric release that in whole owes more to melodic hard rock than to progressive rock. Guitar centric, but not guitar-exclusive, as it's not a... uh... wank-fest. However, having said that about the prog rock element, what strikes me mostly, other than his guitar playing -- more on that in a moment -- is how often very distinct, but not unique, progressive rock influences become part of the music. The more I listen to Big Face, I can comfortably say that we can put Stéphane Desbiens' particular brand of prog in the same category (or pigeonhole...) as Kino, RPWL, etc. It's prog rock that has more than just a toe in the modern/mainstream rock river - energetic, accessible, catchy, but a bit more arty than your standard modern-day rock 'n' roll. This whole prog-pop rock sound most strongly felt in "So Low," the churning rocker "Anger III" (which also includes some orchestral elements and a brief snatch of keyboard that hints at Yes), and "Don't Tell The Kids."

As I said, guitar is very centric to the whole sound. There's the blues-rock section on the socio-political commentary that is "Anger I, II" with a verbose, extensive solo, or the furious fretwork near the end of "They," Gilmour/Rothery worthy guitar solos elsewhere, a warm and studied flamenco to start "Conspiracy." But truly it's not just about the guitar - whether constructed that way or not, it doesn't have the feel of "here's a guitar solo, now fill in around it." Everything's very complete in that regard, and feels very much like a collaborate effort (Mathieu Gosselin on bass, Chapman Stick, and double bass and Jean Gosselin on drums). And there's enough varying character throughout the album, even if that comes in 3 flavors.

The modern rock as mentioned above, then there's the pair of tracks that recall Pink Floyd. If you take a dash of the raw emotion and fragility in The Wall or the contemplative mellowness of "Wish You Were Here," as in the first part of "Anger...," and fuse that with some of the space-rockiness of Dark Side..., you have some idea. "Anger I & II" is the album's epic - in length and sound, with "Anger II" being the showcase for Desbien the guitarist (as said above). It's not all fast fretwork - though there is some of that; but quite a bit of the measured, emotional style of Gilmour.

Part and parcel with that are the guitar bits that seem lifted from Steve Rothery, circa Marillion's Season's End and Brave albums (sort of scraping one's way into a piercing wail - but all in a good way. You have to know that I LOVE Rothery's playing). One example falls right in the opening track, the percolating, churning "They," which also includes a cool, screaming sax solo from Giovany Arteaga (who later trills out some very cool - as in sophisticated - lines that contrast to those above mentioned fiery guitar sparks). There's another Rothery-moment at the 4-plus minute point of title track "Big Face," which is one of those filled-with-expectation type of tracks: a mellow beginning where the very calmness is fraught with tension; something will break, and that tension only builds as the song fills in -- from a single sustained keyboard tone, relaxed drums and percussion, and understated vocals. We then get contrasts throughout, from fragile (vocals and acoustic guitar), to something quite epic (angelic keys, crashing percussion...), to an extended rapturous moment (soaring guitar solo and angelic, choir-like backing vocals)... and so on. And just when you think it will end on an explosive note... it dies away. Tension not truly released.

In this character, we should also place "Poussiere De Lumeire," even as it is more operatic than the others, with Claire Vézina on high, sweet, rich and melodious vocals. Lalle Larson guests here, providing the outro keyboard solo - widdly and very synthy in complextion, it is a bit of the "cold" compared to the "warm" of Vézina's near-whispered vocals.

What's the other character, then? Well, jazz and blues, essentially. There's "Macondo," a brusque, burly, bluesy track, at one moment, where guest lead vocalist Jack Lavoie sounds a bit like Mick Jagger; a spoken-word speechifying piece at another. Add to this is some female background singing (sort of a call/response) that makes Joe Cocker's take on the The Beatles' "With A Little Help From My Friends" come to mind, as these voices declare "I don't know"-- literally, that's what they're singing, not me just plugging in some words. It's a chunkier track than that would suggest, bass and drums pound aggressively underneath an equally aggressive guitar.

And there's "Conspiracy," a jazzy, squonky track at times, funky and super-high energy, leavened with lotsa smooth jazz-like sax at the 3-4 minute mark. Before I looked at the booklet to check, I was certain that this would be the track we'd hear Tony Levin on stick or bass (or his funk fingers), but he appears on "They"

Not just because there's guitar, not just because it references (intentially or coincidentally) Rothery and Gilmour (and more generally Floyd), but I rather like this CD, and recommend it to those who favor unfussy progressive rock.

There are also a pair of videos on the disc as well, one for "Don't Tell The Kids" -- part performance, part arty with overlay effects (it's got a 80s-tech appearance, actually) -- and "So Low" -- straight performance, but not sure it's not a pseudo-stage performance versus "captured live" as there's no sense of an audience.

They (8:46) / So Low (3:40) Anger I & II (9:19) / Big Face (7:47) / Anger III (2:34) / Don't Tell The Kids (3:39) / Macondo (5:15) / Conspiracy (5:36) / Poussiere De Lumoere (4:25)

Stéphane Desbiens - guitar, keyboards, lead vocals
Mathieu Gosselin - bass, Chapman Stick, double bass
Jean Gosselin - drums
Sandra Poulin - violin
William Foy - violin
Myriam Boutin - cello
Isabell Renaud - backing vocals
Claire Vezina - backing vocals; lead vocals (9)
Francis Foy - backing vocals


Tony Levin - bass (1)
Bartek Kossowicz - lead vocals (4)
Lalle Larson - keyboard solo (9)
Jack Lavoie - lead vocals (7)
Giovany Arteaga - saxophone (1, 8)

Shimmering Lights (2006)
Sargarmatha Dilemma (2008)
Big Face (2011)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin FR

Added: December 26th 2011
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.thedproject.com
Hits: 1808
Language: english


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