Monsieur Quevedo, who lectures on Current Music at the Conservatory in La Rochelle on the west coast of France, releases his third full-length studio album packed full of influences from the bands on his syllabus, including Magma, King Crimson and Zappa. Bet you wish you’d had a music teacher like that.
Centrepiece is the four-part, 39-minute epic 2nd Life, which packs in tricky-dicky time signatures, pounding drums, heavy electric guitars, funky bass, saxophone, flute, violin and nimble keyboards.
Lyrically, it’s all about opening your eyes, shrugging off bad advice and carving out a new future for yourself – a second life, if you like.
Musically, it channels the hypnotic repetition and operatic jazz-rock drama of Magma – the guitars crunch, the drums thunder and the keyboard notes growl. But there are also moments of gentle melodicism, with long violin notes, wistful flute and melancholy piano.
Part One opens with a repetitive guitar note and sparse stabs of mysterious keyboard chords before crashing into a galloping 5/4, with bouncing bass and occasional heavy metal guitar thrashing. Part Two is mostly in 7/4 but with loads of stops and starts, crashing chords, funky bass and a quieter section with sax over gentle guitar picking, building up into a maelstrom of sound and some fantastic keyboard soloing.
Part Three follows a similar pattern – big intro, quieter middle section building up into big finish from the keyboards. The final part opens with gentler guitar picking, bowed double bass before, once again, building up into a Magma-ish dramatic climax.
It’s all played with energy and expertise – these players can switch from heavy, lightning-fast Crimson-like riffs to jazzy funk in the blink of an eye, and effortlessly handle shifting, challenging time signatures and moods.
I have, however, two reservations. One is that vocalist Eloise Baleynard can sometimes sound a bit shrill and some of the notes she tries to reach seem to slip out of her grasp.
The second is the perverse decision to interrupt the four parts of the composition with reworkings of earlier Quevedo tracks, most of them from his 2012 EP OniZ. So the first three parts of 2nd Life are each separated by two unrelated songs – only parts three and four sit together.
That would work if the interlopers were sufficiently different – for example, bookending Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here with the two parts of Shine On You Crazy Diamond doesn’t damage the album – but they cover very similar musical ground so it’s difficult to distinguish between them.
I re-order the tracks so the four parts of 2nd Life are together and I can listen to it as one complete piece, which is really how the album should surely have been programmed in the first place.
There’s no denying the quality of the writing and performances here – Quevedo has a great ear for melody and the playing is uniformly excellent. But your enjoyment may depend on how much the track order irritates you and how much Ms Baleynard’s vocals please or offend your ears.
Personally, they affect me just enough to rank 2nd Life as a missed opportunity rather than a major triumph. Sorry, teacher.
01. 2nd Life Part 1 – Awakening (10:38)
02. Any 2.0 (7:30)
03. Yuki (6:27)
04. 2nd Life Part 2 – Journey (12:11)
05. No Soy Breton (4:59)
06. Ekinox 2.0 (5:24)
07. 2nd Life Part 3 – Inner Demons (8:08)
08. 2nd Life Part 4 – Hindsight’s (8:23)
Total Time – 63:40
Arnaud Quevedo – Guitar, Vocals
Anthony Raynal – Drums
Noe Russell – Bass, Backing Vocals
Marin Michelat – Keyboards
Eva Tribolles – Double Bass, Backing Vocals
Julien Gomila – Saxophones
Lucille Mille – Flute
Eloise Baleynard – Lead Vocals
Arnaud Houpert – Additional Keyboards
Record Label: Self-released
Country of Origin: France
Release Date: 2nd July 2023