I always love coming across bands that I can’t classify, bands whose sound is so unique that they don’t fit into any readymade and labeled box. It is even more special when it is a group of brilliant musicians as I found in the Canadian product Karcius. Comprised of bassist and vocalist Sylvain Auclair, guitarist Simon L’Esperance, drummer Thomas Brodeur, and keyboardist Mingan Sauriol , four musicians all with university musical training who all hashed it out on local scenes until forming the band in 2001 and releasing their first album in 2003, Sphere. Following two more releases, Kaleidoscope and Episodes comes their 2012 album The First Day.
From the opening notes of the title track, we are let known that this will be something very different. The low didgeridoo like tone, the sultry guitar strumming, the soft piano and hushed yet powerful vocals set a mellow atmosphere. But just as we get settled into it, Karcius breaks loose with the first of many brilliant instrumentals on the album. This is where these guys shine, and brightly they do. The combination of the progressive rock elements with the fusion jazz flair, all performed by incredible instrumentalist, do not disappoint at any time on the entire album. It has the air of a structured jam band, in that they are jamming, but with such precision that it couldn’t be improvised by any mean, there is purpose here.
Usually I like to point out the individual talents of the band members, but these guys blend and mesh so well that it would be a crime to single out one part from the whole. One song where this shows well is The Word. Starting off with a muffled piano and a deadened drum roll, it quickly opens into a cacophony of riffs and tears, which settle into Auclair’s vocals that set the base emotional tone of the song. From there, the rest of the band takes the listener on an emotional trip. We are at the mercy of the band. Tension builds to anger builds to rage only to settle into resignation. Incredible.
The only thing that is predictable about this album is its sheer unpredictability. Karcius use every element in their vast musical toolbox to impress and entertain the listener, even including a brilliant soft piano piece in Number Ten. Just the piano with the wispy, ethereal back tones, sets up a veritable state of hypnosis. In the final song, the eight plus minute Water, they mesh all the elements together. There are no distinctive movements, it is almost a stream of consciousness type of song that carries and carries, never really giving the listener a moment to catch his breath. Simply brilliant.
In my listening to this album, I also checked out some of their live videos, and the same tone carries over to the live set, only magnified. The sheer talent of the members of Karcius is on display in all their myriad formats. This album is definitely music lover’s music, a true wonder from beginning to end.