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Present: “Ram ram va faire ‘pif paf’”

From the album Le poison qui rend fou (1985)

Beginning in 1969 with the founding of the groundbreaking “concept band” Magma, France and Belgium became the breeding ground for a distinctively continental take on the originally Ango-American phenomenon of progressive rock. Ditching operatic vocals in favor of a primarily instrumental mix and integrating contemporary influences from jazz and metal to contemporary classical, groups such as Univers Zero and Art Zoyd forged a unique sound that is to my ears among the most valuable contributions to the music of the late 20th century.

One of the second-generation manifestations of the Franco-Belgian “avant-prog” movement was Present, a group founded by guitarist Roger Trigaux, in 1979. After contributing to the first two albums of the pioneering chamber rock group Univers Zero, Trigaux broke off in order to pursue a more electrified, guitar-based sound. Present has released 10 albums over three decades of existence and remains active to this day. 

The opening track of the band’s sophomore release, Le poison qui rend fou, shows the group in prime form. While the rhythm section hammers out short, syncopated riffs whose sudden juxtaposition recalls the ostinato patterns of early Stravinsky, Trigaux’s guitar and Alain Rochette’s keyboard unfold a melodic polyphony at once jagged and elegant. The track also features a rare vocal element in the first few minutes, with singer Marie-Anne Pollaris belting out an angular atonal melody over a tripping funk groove. While the band’s hectic interplay at times approaches a state of collective noodling, at their best they display the exhilarating potential of rock-influenced music freed from the shackles of conventional song form.


Played 189 time(s).

October 29, 2012, 4:47pm

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