This is Andy Emler’s ninth album with his MegaOctet (if we put aside Présences d’esprits with the Archimusic ensemble and a recently released live album) in more than twenty years of existence: a longevity that commands respect, all the more so as the orchestra retains its coherence. In fact, the cast is unchanged for this new repertoire and the guitarist Nguyen Lê, who was part of the adventure of the very first recording, even returns to play his guitar on a track. Everyone is therefore aware of the role assigned to them and plays it with vigour.

Still relying on a groovy rhythm section as a solid base, the band deploys a compact and flexible sound that allows for the acrobatics that are their trademark. Unsurprisingly, the listener is taken on a rollercoaster ride of shifting accelerations, although this striking force is arranged differently here.

More space is given to the solo performances (Laurent Blondiau’s muted trumpet or Claude Tchamitchian’s double bass) which benefit from a space that the MegaOctet was not used to until now. The band plays with nuance with a delicate restraint that evokes the great orchestral classicism and invites us to discover a moderate character, still elegant but more polite.

However, it’s in the more convoluted tracks that one takes pleasure in diving. On “Just a Beginning”, the different voices intermingle with virtuosity, answering each other in echoes sprinkled with rhythmic punctuations; when Nguyen Lê’s long, flamboyant solo is interwoven into this complex machinery to the point that each element tends inseparably towards the same jubilant efficiency, the orchestra confirms once again its place among the best formations of the moment.

-Nicolas Dourlhès