The French instrumental progressive fusion quartet Priam was founded out of the ashes of the late-eighties progressive rock group Arlequin, which featured guitarist and composer Chris Casagrande and keysman Laurent Lacombe-Colomb. To complete Priam's lineup, Bertrand Hulin-Bertaud was recruited on bass guitar, along with the mysterious Emma M. on percussion.
The members of Priam have widely varying interests in playing and studying music. Casagrande is currently a music professor at University of Toulouse, teaching and researching the concept of energy in contemporary music. He has studied guitar and jazz composition in prestigious music schools in France. Lacombe-Colomb studied jazz at the same music academy as Casagrande. He is investigating the effect on composition techniques due to computers and other modern technologies. Hulin-Bertaud also attended music school with Casagrande. His influences are exceedingly diverse, ranging from classical giants like Bach and Mahler to prog rock luminaries Yes, Anglagard and Magma to fusion pioneers Miles Davis and Mahavishnu Orchestra. The drummer incorporates influences of modern techno music such as The Future Sound of London, Aphex Twin and Kraftwerk, into his playing, while staying true to the progressive tradition.
Priam has played many European music festivals during the past couple of years, most notably the Corbigny ProgLive event. They have also performed at the Toulouse Jazz Festival, where they related the audience's shock when a progressive rock band hit the stage. "That night the club was bursting (200 to 250 people). After five minutes about a third of the public ran away wondering what had hit them. Obviously some of them were shocked to see four guys playing a very percussive music, with a loud sound and jumping all around the stage. They probably thought aliens had landed. It was brilliant and we even managed to sell a few albums!" Priam is not satisfied to rehash old prog clichés. Hulin-Bertaud explains, "perhaps the fear to fall for what has already be done prompts us to push some of our ideas to the extreme." As a live act, Priam uses their studio compositions as launching points for some improvisatory explorations.
Priam's debut record for Musea Records, Three Distances... Irregular Signs, features extended melodic guitar-led progressive fusion excursions, with alternating soaring and biting licks, along with an atmospheric sensibility. There are some shorter, more acoustic, tracks as a break to the more frenetic proceedings. Their second album, which is expected to be released around the time of NEARfest 2000, will bring the band's passion for improvisation and electronic music to the fore. A 30-member choir will be involved, as well as a string quartet and clarinet and saxophones. The sampler, groovebox and other electronic machines will also appear, managed by composer Casagrande.
The members of Priam are close friends who play intricate compositions with energy and passion.
Rob La Duca
(originally published in the NEARFest 2000 Program Guide, edited for Gnosis 11/3/01)
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