French singer/guitarist Jean Pierre Louveton has been producing quality, guitar-led prog rock under the JPL name since 2002. Along with albums from his now disbanded group Nemo, and the heavier output from Wolfspring, he has managed to release 22 studio albums. He continues to carry the French progressive rock torch as a recording artist and touring musician with JPL, and this latest album maintains his high standards.
Sapiens, Chapter 3/3: Actum is the third album in the ‘Sapiens’ trilogy, following on from Exordium (2020) and Dues Ex Machina (2021). An ambitious musical journey through the history of humanity, the French lyrics reveal an epic sci-fi narrative of mankind leaving Earth for a new home amongst the stars – but for the likes of myself, it is the music and his vocal phrasing that impress, with progressive rock worthy of Nemo’s best moments, but mixed with influences of symphonic rock, jazz, metal and even electronica. Supported by a quality roster of fine musicians, including his old Nemo colleague Jean Baptiste Itier on drums, it is a very satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.
Starting with Paradis Perdu (Paradise Lost), pulsing electronica is joined by progressive themes and then powerful rock-orientated guitar chords and vibrant ensemble playing. Expressive vocals enter midway before a dynamic conclusion and some nice acoustic guitar.
Mon Cercuell (My Coffin) starts with downbeat vocals and a more lethargic strolling beat with electric guitar lines before Florent Ville’s drums pick up the pace. The sound of synthesised pipes give poignancy to the melancholia before Jean Pierre delivers a well-pitched solo over a hypnotic keyboard patterns.
Alias (La Machine2) enters with bursts of prog metal guitar and more urgent vocals, with driving drums and forceful bass (from Didier Vernet) pushing the rhythm. Another former Nemo member, Guillaume Fontaine adds subtle keyboard sparkle and the track concludes powerfully. Dansez Maintenant (Dance Now) begins with tribal drumming and yearning vocals before some classic rock-style guitar chords, with a funky rhythmic feel before guitar, keyboards and even a folky hurdy-gurdy combine expressively as the track ebbs and flows.
All this is just an aperitif to the main course, which is the 5-part, 23-minute epic Momento Mori; a reminder of the inevitability of death. Led by a chiming percussion theme, Marche vers l’inconnu (March into the unknown) soon builds upon the symphonic, orchestral instrumentation and bass, drums and guitar defiantly march forward. Tempus fugit (Time flies) is the second instrumental piece and has a dark, grandiose character with a keyboard and synths-led foundation over which Jean Pierre adds a variety of guitar styles and themes. The heart of the epic is La mort du Roi (The death of the king). Over flowing instrumentation, initially hushed vocals spit out anger and reluctant acceptance and the intensity grows over throbbing bass into some lovely, lethargic guitar soloing. Piano from Stéphanie Vouillot begins Paria (Pariah) with the music gaining urgency. This is a real progressive rock showcase, with Sylvain Haon’s saxophone adding a freshness before the music gallops – all over Jean Baptiste’s confident drumming. Nice to hear the Mellotron appearing here and there as well. The closing Acta fabula est brings the trilogy’s story to an end. Beginning with Neil Peart-style percussion and acoustic guitar, the music steadily builds, and following a reprise of the opening theme, Jean Pierre’s guitar, so often playing an unselfish supportive role rather than starring one, is finally allowed to soar high before a satisfyingly proggy crescendo ends proceedings.
JPL have produced a rousing conclusion to the ‘Sapiens’ trilogy – possibly the best of the three – and shows that a lack of French language skills should not be a barrier to enjoying some impressive French progressive rock with symphonic, neo-prog and prog metal elements. It is definitely worthwhile tracking down the previous two chapters or even purchasing the newly released 3-CD box set. The work of Jean Pierre Louveton certainly deserves a wider audience than his native country.
01. Paradis Perdu (5:53)
02. Mon Cercueil (6:08)
03. Alias (La machine²) (4:50)
04. Dansez Maintenant (5:12)
05. Memento Mori (23:01):
– a) Marche vers l’inconnu
– b) Tempus fugit
– c) La mort du roi
– d) Paria
– e) Acta fabula est
Total Time – 45:04
Jean Pierre Louveton – Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Virtual Instruments
Jean Baptiste Itier – Drums (1,4 & 5)
Florent Ville – Drums (2 & 3), Keyboards & Programming (3)
Guillaume Fontaine – Keyboards (3)
Didier Vernet – Bass (2 & 3)
Stéphanie Vouillot – Piano (5c & 5d), Vocals (2)
Marguerite Miallier – Hurdy-gurdy (4)
Sylvain Haon – Soprano Saxophone (5d)
Record Label: Quadrifonic (CD, Digital, Vinyl)
Country of Origin: France
Date of Release: 25th March 2022