Following up a career-defining release is always a challenge. France's One Shotinitially conceived as a one-off by some then-members of art-rock group Magmahas clearly developed a life of its own. Ewaz Vader
(Le Triton, 2006), the group's third following One Shot
(Self Published, 1999) and Vendredi 13
(Soleil 06, 2001), consolidated and made definitive the core markers present from the beginning: patient use of repetitive patterns to create hypnotic and compelling grooves; an inherent lack of excess that doesn't supplant clear virtuosity when the music demands it; and powerful yet subtle interaction, especially between drummer Daniel Jeand'heur and bassist Philippe Bussonnet.
The evolutionary Dark Shot may not be as immediately striking as the revolutionary Vader, which represented a significant leap forward. Still, it's just as captivating, with the same fusion trademarks supplemented by a slightly more progressive rock attitude, especially on guitarist James Mac Gaw's "Downwards," where a series of arpeggiated guitar lines lead into a series of overdriven chords over a powerful bass line and tribal rhythm that preface a consolidation, with Mac Gaw mixing legato lines and harmonic passages played synchronously with keyboardist Emmanuel Borghi. One Shot does solo, but with compositions that are both detailed and open-ended, it's sometimes difficult to know what's form and what's not.
But it matters not. Borghi's "Automate" is a trance-inducing piece at a slow but persistent tempo, largely revolving around a potent, slowly evolving bass riff, atmospheric swelled notes from Mac Gaw and carefully placed Fender Rhodes chords from Borghi. A brief, dark melody breaks the hypnotic intro, driving the dynamics forward into a synth solo that provides one of those rare instances of virtuosity that makes clear One Shot's less-is-more philosophy is guiding but not immovable.
Dark Shot is a CD/DVD combo although, being in PAL format, most North Americans will have to watch the DVD on their computers. It's a perfect adjunct to the CD, a combination of live and in-the-studio footage that, in addition to five tracks from the studio disc, includes an ever-so-slightly brighter take of Ewaz Vader's title track that's even more remarkable for its interlocking melodies and punctuations. Bussonnet's brooding "Urm," which closed Vendredi 13, is also played with greater energy, pushing the metal-tinged center harder, where the bassist and Mac Gaw play in remarkable unison before Jeand'heur ratchets up the heat for a textural solo from Borghi. A bonus look at the recording of Bussonnet's "Blade" only cements the more progressive leanings of Dark Shot, while a subtitled and unhindered interview sheds light on a group whose music may be serious, but whose offstage personality is anything but.
As complex as the writing is, as dark-hued the playing, the aptly titled Dark Shot continues to support comparisons to Mahavishnu Orchestra Mark I. Raw, relentless and unfettered energy meshes with finessed writing to create a progressive fusion that makes clear the genre is alive and well. Not for the faint-at-heart, One Shot also possesses a certain alt-rock sensibility that should expand its appeal beyond hardcore fusion heads and progressive rockers.
Track Listing: CD: Black P; Opus 12; Def MK1; Blade: Automate; Downwards; Nosh Partitas. DVD: Automate; Black P; Downwards; Def MK1; Ewaz Vader; Urm; Opus 12; Blade (bonus studio); Interviews.
Personnel: Personnel: Emmanuel Borghi: keyboards; Philippe Bussonnet: basses; James Mac Gaw: guitars; Daniel Jeand'heur: drums.