Nowadays, many musicians start musical projects on which they play all instruments themselves or just ask some guest singers or musicians. In the past we reviewed for instance albums by Cosmograf (End Of Ecclesia, see review), Aeon Zen (The Face Of The Unknown, see review) and Paul Cusick (Focal Point, see review). These albums were worthwhile listening. Recently another project album was released that can be added to the list. Again a single musician managed to get my full attention namely the French multi-instrumentalist and composer Pascal Stevegane. His album When The Time Is A Present appeared to be very enjoyable and it certainly needs a place in the spotlights.
After working with other musicians Stevegane felt it was time to create something of his own. In 2008 he started the Stevegane Project and ever since he worked hard to record an album that eventually saw the light of day in 2011. On this complete instrumental album he implemented his own style of playing and composing. However, his music is also enriched by the influence of bands as Pink Floyd, Yes, Rush, Rainbow and great artists as Jeff Beck, David Gilmour, Alex Lifeson and in particular Ritchie Blackmore for whom he has great admiration and deep respect. On his website he states that his experiences led to the creation of a very personal style of music though still reflecting the richness of all these influences.
Well, I partly agree with that statement, because I didn't notice all the influences he mentioned, but nevertheless he sometimes sounds very original. However, while listening to his music I came to the conclusion that not Mr. Blackmore has been a big source of inspiration, but mainly David Gilmour and Pink Floyd. Throughout the album those influences can be heard especially when he plays on his lap steel guitar, e-bow or other guitars. Add some extra organ and string synthesizer sounds to those guitar sounds and you get the same atmosphere that many Pink Floyd-albums have. Only when he speeds up in order to play some heavy parts he sometimes moves slightly towards the musical style of Blackmore at the time he was a member of Rainbow and Deep Purple. However, I would never label the music of the Stevegane Project as hard rock. On the contrary, from time to time the more ambient passages drift towards acts as Tangerine Dream and Gandalf due to the use of many synthesizers. To avoid that his music gets to mellow or even dull, he uses tasteful drum machine rhythms. Sometimes these rhythms are a bit slower depending on the composition. On the other hand he isn't afraid to speed up tempo in a positive way either. Alongside playing on the guitars, keyboards and programming the drums, Stevegane also plays the bass guitar, but mainly in the background.
By making instrumental music musicians often skate on thin ice, because only a few manage to keep you focused until the last notes of the album. Fortunately, When The Time Is A Present doesn't suffer from this problem. The instrumentals are well-composed with a lot of room for fine passages that include stunning guitar solo parts. Pascal Stevegane avoids remaining too long in the same kind of rhythm or mood. According to Stevegane the album contains a concept as well. This is what he wrote about it: “The album is meant to encourage self-reflection, to plunge the listeners into their personal and existential thoughts, so that they can share their own unique feelings and experiences. These are different from one person to another depending on what a person has lived, lives, wishes to live and will live. That's the aim of this first section. So, maybe the listeners will say to themselves: in fact, I already knew this music and at last I've re-discovered it.”
After listening to the album a couple of times I had a very positive feeling about it. I liked the many Pink Floyd hints a lot and I guess that many prog heads will agree that Stevegane Project recorded a fantastic album after they have listened to it.
***+ Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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