Label: Crammed Discs.
Release Date: ‘27th’ April 2018.
One of the hardest things for a new band is coming up with a name, and often, it takes long and fruitless debates before someone plucks a name out of the ether. After this eureka moment, the band is belatedly christened and they can get on with the important thing…making music. However, when five musicians from Toulouse, in France founded a new experimental pop band, they had already decided that it would be called Aquaserge, which was a play on words, which meant “aquatic Serge” and “what am I for?” This was the start of a musical adventure that began over a decade ago, and since then, Aquaserge have toured the world and released five albums. Soon, five will become six when Aquaserge released their first live album Deja-Vous? on the Belgian label Crammed Discs, on the ‘27th’ of April 2018. It’s the latest chapter in the Aquaserge story.
The Aquaserge story began in Toulouse, France when, drummer Barbagallo Julien, bassist Ginestet Audrey and guitarist Glibert Benjamin joined forces with clarinetist Glibert Manon and keyboardist, guitarist and vocalist Gasc Julien to form a new band. Its raison d’être was to explore what they saw as unknown and oft-overlooked areas of rock.
This included Krautrock, and especially the music of Neu! and Faust which had influenced the members of Aquaserge. So had the music of Soft Machine who emerged out of the Canterbury Scene in the late-sixties, and the freeform improvisation and sound experiments of Frank Zappa. These were just a few of the bands and musicians that influenced Aquaserge as they made their first tentative steps onto the local live scene.
By June 2008, Aquaserge had already made their live debut, opening for Bertrand Burgalat and April March. Little did the members of Aquaserge know that this was the start of ten years of touring, which would see them play all over the world and rub shoulders with the great and good of music.
Before that, Aquaserge’s recording career began when hey released their debut EP Tahiti Coco in September 2008. It featured a mixture Krautrock-influenced experiments and the progressive funk of La Femme De Tahiti. Tahiti Coco showcased an innovative band, and record buyers wanted to hear more from Aquaserge.
They didn’t have long to wait, with Aquaserge releasing their much-anticipated sophomore Un and Deux in January 2009. It was an ambitious, innovative and experimental album which featured an array influences and genres. They played their part in the sound and success of Un and Deux, which won over critics and music fans.
Fifteen months later, in April 2010, Aquaserge returned with their sophomore album Ce Très Cher Serge, which built on Un and Deux and showed the different sides to Aquaserge’s music. Especially the Frank Zappa inspired Un Soir De Tempête and the beautiful, understated and mellow sounding Le Néant, which musically, are polar opposites. However, both tracks showcased Aquaserge’s versatility, and their ability to create innovative and imaginative music.
Over three years passed before Aquaserge returned with a new album. This time it wasn’t a solo album, and instead, was a collaboration with American singer and songwriter April March who Aquaserge had opened for in June 2008. This was the start of five-year association, and in May 2013, April March and Aquaserge was released to plaudits and praise.
Ten months later, and Aquaserge released a new EP Tout Arrive in March 2014, which featured a trio of tracks from their forthcoming album À L’Amitié. Arrive was a tantalising taste of Aquaserge at their innovative best.
When À L’Amitié was released to critical acclaim in May 2014, was also hailed as Aquaserge’s finest hour and also their most eclectic album. À L’Amitié featured elements of art rock, experimental music, jazz, progressive rock, psych and even long-forgotten film noir soundtracks. Five years after Aquaserge had released their debut album À L’Amitié, they had recorded a career-defining album.
By then, Aquaserge had spent part of the last six years playing live, and had already played at the Klangbad Festival and at the Siestes Electroniques in Toulouse which also featured Kawabata Makoto and Keiji Haino. Aquaserge had also appeared alongside Gong and Art Bears when they took to the stage at the third Rock in Opposition event in September 2010. However, when their schedule allowed, the members of Aquaserge also collaborated with other musicians.
This has included Makoto Kawabata and Acid Mothers Temple, Kinski, Monade, Moodoïd and April March. Members of Aquaserge have taken to the stage alongside Laetitia Sadier, Stereolab, Tahiti80, Tame Impala, Melody’s Echo Chamber, Jef Barbara, Dorian Pimpernel and former Can frontman Damo Susuki. Still, much of Aquaserge’s year is spent playing live or recording.
On ‘16th’ November 2015, Aquaserge recorded the final track for their third EP, Guerre. It built on the music that had featured on their previous album À L’Amitié, and was another genre-melting release from Aquaserge. When Guerre was released in September 2016, it was their first release on Crammed Discs.
Just five months later, in Aquaserge returned with their fourth solo album Laisse Ça Être which was released on Crammed Discs in February 2017. It was one of Aquaserge’s most ambitious and eclectic albums, and finds them drawing inspiration from alt-progressive rock, art rock, avant-garde, experimental and psychedelia. The result was another innovative album, and a fitting followup to À L’Amitié.
After the release of Laisse Ça Être, Aquaserge returned to the live circuit, where they were they were augmented by a three-piece horn section. The horn section had been part of Aquaserge’s live show since January 2016, when they started taping concerts for their first live album, Deja-Vous? This Aquaserge continued to do right through to November 2017. By then, Aquaserge had toured ten countries and had plenty of recordings that would provide them with material for their first live album Deja-Vous?
Eventually, after listening back to the recordings of the various live shows, the members of Aquaserge settled on two concerts which they decided would provide the basis for their first live album Deja-Vous? It features a total of eight tracks, including four tracks from the 2017 album Laisse Ça Être. This includes the album opener Virage Sud, L’ire Est Au Rendez-Vous, C’est Pas Tout Mais and an extract from Tintin On Est Bien Mon Loulou. They’re joined by the intro to La Ligue Anti Jazz-Rock, Travelling and Je Viens from the 2014 album À L’Amitié. The only cover version that Aquaserge have included on Deja-Vous? is Rogers and Hart’s My Funny Valentine. It’s reinvented by Aquaserge, who are regarded by critics and concert goers as one of the most exciting live bands.
Proof of that is Deja-Vous?, which not only shows another side to Aquaserge, but their music. They’ve reimagined and rearranged the eight tracks on Deja-Vous?, and take the three tracks from À L’Amitié and four from Laisse Ça Être in a new direction. In doing so, they show another side to what are familiar tracks for fans of Aquaserge, who hear another dimension to the genre-melting music on Deja-Vous?
Helping take Aquaserge’s music in a new direction is the three-piece horn section, who augmented the band during the tour in 2016 and 2017. The horn section sometimes join Aquaserge when they take to the stage. They certainly made their presence felt on Deja-Vous?
As Virage Sud unfolds, just Ginestet Audrey’s bass takes centre-stage, before horns announce their arrival and join with the Hammond organ as the rhythm section power the arrangement along, and soon, Aquaserge is full flight. By then, the music is rocky, progressive and jazz-tinged, before washes of swirling Hammond organ, flourishes of flute and psychedelic guitar are added. So is a searing guitar, as drums pound and the tempo ebbs and flows. Later, the music veers between experimental, progressive and rocky before Aquaserge seem to draw inspiration from early seventies fusion, playing with a fluidity and then freedom. All the time, they showcase their talent and versatility, and set the bar high for the rest of the set.
Guitars and the rhythm section open L’ire Est Au Rendez-Vous before braying horns, set the scene for the vocals. Already, there’s an element of drama and darkness, although a jazz-tinged guitar adds a contrast. Then when the vocal drops out, Aquaserge’s rhythm section and guitars take centre-stage, and soon, are joined by the clarinet during a genre-melting jam that includes the horn section. They’re a welcome addition as elements of rock, jazz, funk and fusion are combined as Aquaserge play with speed, fluidity and freedom seamlessly switching between and combining genres. Later, when the vocal returns the music becomes dramatic, rocky, cinematic and progressive as a flute and blistering guitar are added, Soon, the arrangement becomes urgent as the guitar, drums and flute play leading roles as Aquaserge embark upon another jam while scatting melodically before reaching a crescendo.
My Funny Valentine is then given a makeover by Aquaserge who slow this standard down, as the drums provide the heartbeat, and are joined by the bass while washes of feedback soar above the arrangement. Soon, washes of weeping guitar and horns enter and play leading roles. So too does vocalist Gasc Julien who delivers a tender, heartfelt vocal, against a backdrop of shimmering guitars. Along with the horns, they play starring roles as Aquaserge reinvent a classic song.
When C’est Pas Tout Mais unfolds, the rasping, blazing horns and rhythm section that take centre-stage and set the scene for the harmonies and then Gasc Julien’s soliloquy. It drifts in and out, as Blaxploitation horns soar above the arrangement which is driven along by the rhythm section and features bursts of sci-fi sounds. Soon, the arrangement becomes cinematic and dramatic, Especially as a searing guitar cuts through an arrangement that features soaring harmonies. The result is a melodic and memorable live track that is also cinematic and dramatic.
Aquaserge then play the introduction to La Ligue Anti Jazz-Rock, where the clarinet, keyboards and horns combine and create a mesmeric backdrop. Eventually, the rhythm section join the frae and Aquaserge start to stretch their legs. A shimmering post rock guitars provides a contrast to robotic clarinets, before braying horns are later joined a rocky guitar. They all play their in a captivating and carefully crafted anti fusion track.
Straight away, Aquaserge move through the gears on Travelling, with the rhythm section powering the arrangement along, as bursts of guitar are unleashed. So too are futuristic and sci-fi sounds, before the horns enter and help drive the urgent genre-melting arrangement along, and sometimes seem to head in the direction of free jazz. Later, the arrangement almost grinds to a halt, before it rebuilds with the rhythm section powering it along, as free jazz horns and futuristic sounds play a part of this glorious wall of sound. Soon, it grinds to a halt and Aquaserge throw a curveball, and fuse elements of avant-garde, experimental, free jazz and rock to create what’s akin to a post rock soundscape.
An extract of Tintin On Est Bien Mon Loulou finds Aquaserge at their hard rocking best. The rhythm section and searing guitars burst into life, as a trail wailing free jazz horns combine with the urgent, punchy vocals. When they drop out, Aquaserge embark upon a freeform jam where the horns and woodwind combine with the rhythm section and scorching guitar. What follows is Aquaserge at their innovative best during a track that sounds as if it’s been inspired by Frank Zappa who has always influenced the band.
It’s Je Viens that Aquaserge close Deja-Vous? with. Just a lone keyboard plays, before bass, horns and Gasc Julien’s vocal enter. It’s tender and sensual with harmonies playing their part in accompanying the understated arrangement. By then, Gasc Julien is delivering one of his finest vocals during a sensual sounding song that seems to have as if it’s been inspired Serge Gainsbourg. It seems that Aquaserge have saved one of the best until last.
For anyone who saw Aquaserge during their 2016 and 2017 tour, their forthcoming album Deja-Vous? will be the perfect reminder of this groundbreaking group at the peak of the powers. Deja-Vous? which will be released by Crammed Discs on ‘27th’ April 2018, is Aquaserge’s sixth album, and their first live album. It features eight tracks, and finds Aquaserge concentrating on songs from their two previous genre-melting albums 2014s À L’Amitié and 2017s Laisse Ça Être which are the finest of their career.
Just like on À L’Amitié and Laisse Ça Être, Aquaserge seamlessly switch between and sometimes combine disparate musical genres on Deja-Vous? In doing so, Aquaserge showcase their talent and versatility, during Deja-Vous? as they reinvent songs. This they do with the help of three-piece horn section who joined Aquaserge during their 2016 and 2017 and added a new dimension to their music and help them to reimagine and reinvent songs. Especially Rogers and Hart’s My Funny Valentine, which is the only cover version on Deja-Vous?, and takes on new meaning in the hands of Aquaserge.
They’ve come a long way since making their live debut in June 2008, and nearly ten years later, and regarded as one of the most exciting live bands. Proof of that is their first ever live album Deja-Vous? which features Aquaserge at their innovative best and at the peak of the powers during an eight song set of captivating kaleidoscopic music.