Carpe Diem was a rather short-living French band with (unfortunately) not more than two albums and though they are considered in general by Prog fans of minor significance compared to i.e. Ange, Clearlight or Pulsar they are in fact my top favourite one from that country having quite an unique sound and (at least for me) the perfect blend of progressive rock music. Actually they’re quite difficult to categorize because they revealed elements of symphonic Prog, jazz-rock fusion and space rock. Due to the latter two components of their music I’ve seen reviewers relating them in the broadest sense to the Canterbury and Space Fusion scene which might be a bit misleading. There isn’t any similarity to bands like Soft Machine or Gong in their music and I guess this tag comes from their frequent use of saxophone which has been played by them though not that much in a typical free-form jazzy vein but more based on classical symphonic music. Even to their country fellows Pulsar they’re often compared with I don’t hear much of similarity, they had a much more lively and less somniferous sound than that band. Also there’s little resemblance to Ange or Shylock since Carpe Diem revealed only occasionally (and very pleasant) vocals and a high degree of harmony in their compositions. Closest comparisons coming to my mind actually would be Clearlight, Atoll or the Franco-Canadian band Maneige in some way but Carpe Diem mainly sounded like Carpe Diem. I really prefer them to many other symphonic Prog bands not only due to the adorable combined use of flute and sax but also because they managed to never sound overblown or sappy at any moment despite all harmony in their music.Both of their albums are pretty much in a similar high quality and honestly I’d rate each of them with 90 percent. Their debut here in review opens with the short “Voyage du Non-Retour” in a rather quirky and up-tempo vein and here in fact the jazz-rock classification still fits quite well. But “Reincarnation” reveals already very obviously a sound typical for this band starting with slow e-piano which reminds of harpsichord, gentle flute play and spheric synths. The composition continously gains momentum and develops into an excellent and wonderful symphonic Prog piece with both a jazzy touch (due to the saxophone) and a slightly spacey one (due to tone modulated vocals). “Jeux du Siecle” reminds much more of classical music than of jazz and offers a very warm, gentle and harmonic sound dominated by saxophone, tasteful keyboards and Camel-esque guitar play (actually the only element this band comes to mind) with nice contributions by flute. Most of the track is kept instrumental, only in the final minute there are some vocals. The closing all instrumental one “Publiophobie” is like the introduction again more lively and represents a highly appealing hybrid between symphonic and jazz rock. Especially in its second half there are nice sections where the guitar’s coming more to the foreground for the first time.As a conclusion I must say that Carpe Diem presented on their debut a felicitous mix of traditional Prog and jazz fusion in a very dense and highly intriguing sound that fascinates the prone listener in a mesmerizing way.
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