JPL (Jean Pierre Louveton), Sapiens Chapitre 3/3: Actum, Quadrifonic Records, March 2022
Tracks: Paradis Perdu (5:53), Mon Cercueil (6:08), Alia (La Mahine) (4:50), Dansez Maintenant (5:12), Memento Mori [a. Marche Vers l’inconnu, b. Tempus Fugit, c. La Mort Du Roi, d. Paria, e. Acta Fabula Est] (23:01)
Over the last several months, Progarchy HQ has received a fair number of CDs from France for review. The first such record is the third album in a trilogy of records about the history of humanity from Jean Pierre Louveton, under the alias JPL. Louveton is perhaps most well-known for his work with NEMO, a now on hiatus French progressive rock band (sort of on hiatus – the band is releasing a re-recorded version of an earlier album later this year). Since the lyrics are in French, much of Louveton’s work is likely unknown to all but the most dedicated of English-speaking prog fans.
Sapiens Chapitre 3/3: Actum is the only album of the trilogy I have heard, but I must say it is quite good. It travels the breadth of progressive rock, with hard classic rock elements, forays into jazz and fusion, and swashes of symphonic rock, especially most prevalent in the album’s 23-minute epic, “Memento Mori,” which is split into five tracks on the CD.
As you might expect, since it is the final chapter of a trilogy of records, the album sounds like it is picking up in the middle of a story. There isn’t really a big build-up in the first song, “Paradis Perdu.” It has an instrumental opening for the first few minutes, but it doesn’t strike me as being any sort of overture. Even though I haven’t heard the other albums, I quite like that this one gets right to the point. At 46 minutes in length, the album lacks the fluff that often gets padded into many progressive rock albums today.
“Mon Cercueil” starts off pretty slowly – perhaps too slowly – but it digs into a nice bass groove in the middle of the track with a brooding layer of synths over the top and complex drumming lifting up the back end. This moves into a faster tempo section with a vocal duet between JPL and Stéphanie Vouillot, who also plays piano on “La Mort Du Roi” and “Paria.” She has a lovely voice which I wish had been used even more on the record. “Mon Cercueil” ends with a great guitar solo that foreshadows the closing of the record.
“Dansez Maintenant” has a bit of an unexpected surprise with the inclusion of a Hurdy Gurdy played by Marguerite Miallier. The Hurdy Gurdy (vielle à roue in French) is a medieval-period stringed instrument used primarily in European folk music (German metal band Saltatio Mortis also have a Hurdy Gurdy player). It is operated by turning a wheel at the lower end. It adds a very distinctive sound, somewhat similar to how a bagpipe might sound if played at a fast tempo.
“Memento Mori” travels through five different movements, and it is heavy on the instrumentation. There are large symphonic elements, along with a heavier guitar sound in parts. “Tempus Fugit” is a particularly strong track in the way it combines the heavier rock sound with the orchestral tones. JPL’s vocals on “La Mort Du Roi” are more spoken in a quick whispered fashion at the beginning of the track before they are sung in a slower fashion. The band takes its most experimental route on “Paria,” with a fast jazz fusion sound and even a saxophone solo featuring Sylvain Haon. The album closes with a stellar guitar solo from JPL that builds along with the symphonic parts to a satisfying ending to the album, and I suspect also a satisfying ending to the trilogy.
The artwork by Stan Decker is another feather in the JPL cap. Somewhat reminiscent of Roger Dean’s artwork, although distinctively different, the album cover has a lot of detail that draws you in for a closer look. Jupiter in the background, Earth in the center, rising columns of green Dean-esque shapes with alien-looking bugs and flying sea rays roaming the skies. And that isn’t even all of it. The CD booklet and packaging contain further art, which certainly adds to my enjoyment of the record.
Awaken your inner Francophile and check out JPL’s Actum. Musically it will not disappoint, and for the ear accustomed to English styles of singing, the French lyrics and style of singing might be a nice change of pace for you.
Stay tuned for more reviews featuring French artists in the near future.
Bandcamp (CD quality): https://jplouveton.bandcamp.com/album/sapiens-chapitre-3-3-actum
Bandcamp (High Resolution audio): https://jplouveton.bandcamp.com/album/sapiens-chapitre-3-3-actum-hr