Aquaserge’s Deja-vous ticks so many boxes: fearless exploration, stellar sound quality, solid musicianship, and interesting compositions that stay in your head well after the first listen. It’s a deeply rich album, sure to leave a lasting impression 1.
It’s not an easy comparison to, well, anything, but if hard pressed you could point to Norwegian group Jaga Jazzist’s 2013 album Live with Britten Sinfonia. Both dabble in free jazz, but where Jaga Jazzist pulls back to make a more concise statement, Aquaserge goes all-out into avant-garde pop territory. This vast exploration brings us to the best part of free jazz and fusion; it can really be anything it wants to be. Deja-vous makes this point abundantly clear; compare the looping indie-rock-tinged album opener “Virage Sud” to the slow moving, almost hypnotic cover of jazz standard “My Funny Valentine.” They couldn’t be on more opposite ends of the spectrum, but both work effortlessly.
Deja-vous was recorded over the course of two shows, one in 2016 and one in 2017, but fidelity wise everything sounds like it was from the same event. And if it wasn’t for the slight crowd noise from time to time, it could easily pass for a studio release. A song like the mysterious “L’ire est au rendez-vous” showcases this quite well, with moody organ and guitar over low baritone vocal lines. The song has a decidedly dark edge, but also manages the difficult task of moving between up and downtempo without losing any of its power.
The album ends with the slow and meditative “Je viens.” There’s no percussion here, just sparse vocals, bass and horns. It feels like a hybrid of modal jazz and prog, almost as if you mixed Italian rock band Goblin with hard bop era Miles Davis. At the end of the piece the crowd gives a rousing cheer for the group, and I couldn’t agree more; Deja-vous is a wonderful statement by a fearless group of musicians.
For a live album recorded at two different shows (and two different years), Deja-vous sounds wonderful. Outside of some crowd noise and stage banter, I would swear it was a studio release. Listening on Spotify versus vinyl, I didn’t detect any audible differences; no surface noise or cracks and pops were present.
The packaging is minimal but sufficient. The record is housed in a single sleeve, with lyrics in both English and French printed on the back cover, as well as tracklisting and credits. The vinyl itself is approximately 140-gram and played free of warps or imperfections.
Deja-vous is available on vinyl at Bandcamp.