Present – This Is Not The End (2024)

Present - This Is Not The End (2024)
Artist: Present
Album: This Is Not The End
Genre: RIO, Avant-Prog
Label: Cuneiform Records
Year Of Release: 2024
Quality: FLAC (tracks+.cue)

Tracklist:
01. Contre 7:58
02. This Is Not The End , Part 2 12:15
03. This Is Not The End , Part 1 26:30

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Personnel:
– Roger Trigaux / keyboard, vocal, composition
– Fran?ois Mignot / guitar
– Pierre Chevalier / piano, keyboards, vocal
– Dave Kerman / percussion
– Keith Macksoud / bass
– Kurt Bud? / sax, clarinet, bass clarinet
– Liesbeth Lambrecht / violin
– Udi Koomran / sound

One of the major players in the world of avant-prog and the movement called Rock In Opposition, PRESENT formed in 1980 after the legendary Roger Trigaux left Univers Zero after that band released two of the earliest chamber prog albums that have become two of the top angular prog classics. The future of the band seemed to be nonexistent after the sad passing of Trigaux in 2021 who died in the middle of recording the band’s eighth album but with the help of band members Pierre Chevalier and Kurt Budé along with sound engineer Udi Koomran, PRESENT has returned with its final chapter at least with Roger Trigaux along for the ride.

Appearing as if the title is letting the fans know that the band will go on, PRESENT returns in 2024 with its newest full-length album THIS IS NOT THE END, the first since 2009’s “Barbaro (Ma Non Troppo)” and although PRESENT has never been the most prolific musical act in the world of prog, Trigaux has always exercised restraint and favored quality over quantity. However 15 years is by far the longest time between albums and it doesn’t appear that Trigaux was engaged in any other musical activity ever since so the emergence of this grand finale of his R.I.O. run is not only quite welcome but miraculous.

Also amazing is that so many of the band members from the previous album are back for more. THIS IS NOT THE END features the return of Pierre Chevalier (keyboards), Dave Kerman (percussion), Keith Macksoud (bass) and of course the godfather of chamber prog guitar, Roger Trigaux himself. The album features a beefier lineup than previous releases with guitarist François Mignot, sax and clarinet player Kurt Budé and violinist Liesbeth Lambrecht joining the team for another slab of knotty angularity and despite all the time that has elapsed since “Barbaro,” PRESENT has lost none of its music mojo. Sounding like the logical next step after “Barbaro, THIS IS NOT THE END similarly features three sprawling tracks but in this case not all are created equal in terms of running time.

The opening “Contre” is the shortest track and runs about 8 minutes long. Seemingly a continuation of the previous “Barbaro,” this album opens with a more bombastic guitar stomp approach and immediately generates a zeuhl inspired rhythmic drive while utilizing complex counterpoints with the violin and wind instruments. Soon following, Trigaux offers something rarely heard in a PRESENT album and that is a vocal tirade where he does his best French speaking version of Captain Beefheart reciting a spoken dialogue with some sort of madman manifesto that finds him laughing hysterically afterwards! The rhythmic drive keeps it pulsating along as it does throughout the entire album but like most knotty angular difficult music section avant-prog albums, it does drift into strange musical motifs that deviate from the incessant zeuhl driven consistency. The violin and guitar parts are much more energetic than on past endeavors with Lambrecht sounding like the avant-prog version of Jean Luc-Ponty while Trigaux unleashes a psychedelic fervor more akin to the antic freak show that Acid Mothers Temple guitarist Makoto Kawabata dishes out at his most frenetic.

Inverting the order of the two title tracks, next up is “This Is Not The End, Part 2” which at just over 12 minutes is the next longest track. The bass heavy intro finds a thumping bass guitar joined by the bass clarinet and piano tinkling that soon offers all the complexities of what makes avant-prog so deliciously dark and doomy. It occurs to me about this point how much Trigaux looked back to his earliest years when he contributed to the first two Univers Zero albums which delivered a similar melancholy dished out by an array of contrapuntal complexity. The track is noticeably less beholden to the stabilizing effects that the zeuhl rhythms offer and offers a more freeform approach with crazy time signatures changing with every cadence. Overall this is the most “restrained” track on the album with the two tracks that bookend it unleashing a wilder ride of frenetic crazy syncopation!

The creme de la creme (well hell, it’s all creme this time around!) is saved for last with the sprawling 26 1/2 minute “This Is Not the End, Part 1” which delivers the darkest ride of the entire journey. Somewhat of a more extreme combo effect of the first two tracks and beyond, the track delivers sporadic zeuhl rhythms but also pure chaotic outbursts and made all the creepier by a buzzing droning sound in the backdrop. Madman Trigaux makes a reprise with more dialogue in French only adding heightened exaggerated enunciations and madcap guffaws. As expected the track wends and winds its way through a series of rhythmically syncopated runs with eruptions of heavier increased tempo segments as well as the more pacified chamber prog approach. The skilled musicians offer an impeccable instrumental interplay throughout with a seemingly endless array of variations on a theme that allow the track to ratchet up the tension much like a well-performed post-rock album. Once again Trigaux offers some of the finest guitar work of his career with knotty guitar licks and angry chord stomps. Intricately designed and the sounds that avant-prog dreams are made of, this massive masterwork delivers all the creeped out intensity you could possibly hope for. It all ends with a big bang and a perceived musical farewell to the great Trigaux as he offers his last cachinnation and then seemingly drifts off in an ambient haze to the great avant-prog paradise on the other side.

Simply WOW!!! This is an outstanding final display of musical mojo from Trigaux and team. He really was one of the most gifted and talented alternative visionaries out there right to the very end. What could possibly be the FUTURE of PRESENT or it this band a thing of the PAST? If the title of the album and the two tracks offer any breadcrumbs then it seems that the band will continue since the musicians on this amazing album are clearly capable of keeping a top notch act like this afloat and go the way of Gong and Yes after losing their founding member. Whether or not PRESENT will continue on is anyone’s guess but it’s a certainty that the only original member who started the band 44 years ago won’t be along for the ride. This album exceeded all expectations but then again PRESENT has been one of the most consistent acts in the truest sense in the most demanding corners of the avant-prog and world of Rock In Opposition. And while many newer acts aim for crossover appeal, Trigaux kept his avant-prog knotty and angular as ever. To my ears this album ranks right up there with the debut “Triskaidékaphobie” and the previous album “Barbaro (Ma Non Troppo).” A great t comeback album and excellent final offering from Trigaux. What a spectacular way to end his legacy. R.I.P., R.I.O royalty. You will be missed.
Review by siLLy puPPy

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