Coda are a French outfit who class themselves as progressive post-rock with influences cited that include some familiar names such as Yes, Pink Floyd and King Crimson. Certainly the opening track proves that they’re wearing their influences on their sleeve as it builds through swirling walls of synths to a frantic guitar solo and driving rhythms. We fade out on more of those synths and a slightly muted kick drum pattern emulating the “lub dub” beat of a human heart.
RELEASE DATE: 20 March 2015 LABEL: Self-released
The title of the record, “Rêve d’un monde en apnée”, means “Dream of a World in Apnea”. Apnea being a state where you are not breathing. It sounds a fairly serious title and Eric Barbieri, guitars and backing vocals, explained a bit more for me. “It’s a concept album about the human nature. The capacity of the humans to make such great and horrible things. In the album we follow the dream of a man which talk about this. He sees in his dream mostly the dark side of humans.” Not understanding French, I am unable to follow this story but the music is so expressive I feel able to flow from song to song and emotion to emotion with ease. The voice, of Stephane Mougin, is not the strongest voice I have heard but it is certainly expressive. During the latter part of title track, Rêve d’un monde en apnée (part1), emotion drips from his voice.
The form of the album is, more or less, longer song followed by shorter song/interlude. After the intro we have a short track that really wears the band’s post-rock heart on their sleeve and first introduces the voice. Pounding drums, keyboards and chiming guitars all lead into a soaring vocal that is both angst ridden and yearning. After the title track (part1) we are treated to a short interlude masquerading as track 4 that introduces some real tension to proceedings. This might be the first point in the album I felt a shortness of breath, in sympathy with the album’s title. A melancholy solo piano is buffeted by radio static and some wild discordant noises before breaking down to noise and eventually what sounds like the beeping of a heart monitor.
As may be expected, the prog influence really comes across more fully on the longer tracks. For the most part, Coda handle this really well. There are hugely different movements within songs that flow healthily from one to another and changes of mood and instrumentation that really keep the interest flowing. “Orage Mécanique” for example really lives up to it’s name (mechanical storm according to Google translate) with hyper rhythms and heavy discordant guitar parts before flowing into a really soothing dream sequence and out again on the other side into lively, more familiar post-rock territory again.
Coda sound like a band comprised of members who have played music for some time. The music is clever without being overly complicated and as I mentioned earlier in the review, it has real feel to it. The highs are high and the lows are low. At no point do I sense this album coming too near to hopelessness though. This isn’t some depressive album about the state of the world. It is one man’s reflection on his dream and while they might have a bleak outlook at points, there is always hope.
There’s a lot to take note of on this album and some delightful surprises in places (fancy a bit of heartbreaking saxophone solo anyone, it’s on here) but there’s always the danger with a very long album (this is 73 minutes long) that some wood may obscure the trees. I think one or two of the tracks outstay their welcome a little (oddly enough not the longest song on the album) and unless you’re perhaps able to follow the vocal story more than I was able to, I feel a couple of the tracks started to stagnate musically. And then, I was thinking I had noticed an “experimental” tag on the band’s bandcamp page. I was wondering where they had thought to lay claim to this tag until I hit track 9, “s.e.e.p” – What this track is doing on here, I simply don’t know. I think separately there are some wonderful parts to this song, it is clever and experimental but musically and sonically, it broke the spell of the album for me to the point that I struggled to get back into it.
I did get back into it though because of the last two tracks. They weave a tight note of closure and resolution into this sprawling smorgasbord of music. To say the concept is about mankind’s capacity for making horrible things, it’s a beautiful piece of work and it ends with lighter feelings. According to Eric Barbieri, “The album ends on a positive way with the wake up of the man. His “wife” makes him see hope in the humans.” Well Coda make me continue to hope that there will always be musicians willing to indulge and make challenging, enjoyable music. It doesn’t matter that there are a couple of points that don’t work so well for me as overall, Coda have produced a solid concept album with some really standout moments that I would certainly recommend to the more progressive post-rock fans out there.