Existence - Origins,
I have just taken from my shelves the second Existence album, ‘Small People, Short Story, True Crime’, which was released in 1999. The CD had made a huge impact on me at the time, as not only had I enjoyed playing it, but it came with a 56-page booklet/magazine! That was a hugely ambitious undertaking for anyone, let alone a band that wasn’t known to many within the prog scene, let alone a wider music buying audience (and it tickles me that they advertise Mystery within it, they are both Canadian after all). So, a short eighteen years later, and the guys are back with the third album.
But, in a very many ways this is full circle, as what is represented here is in many ways the roots of the band, hence the album title. When Existence emerged in 1992, their gigs comprised a rock opera, broken into two acts. The first act was recorded and released as their debut album, ‘Fragile Whisperings of Innocence’ in 1994, but the second act was never recorded as the band moved on. By the time Alan Charles decided to record the second act it was 2010, and when comparing the recordings, he realised that the right thing to do was to rearrange and re-record everything to make it a consistent whole. Alan provides piano, keyboards, guitar and bass and returning from the last album is Gérard Lévèque (drums), François Beaugard (violin) and Gaston Gagnon (guitars) and they are joined by Valery Kim Gosselin (vocals) and Richard Ranger (bass).
The booklet may not be nearly as large as the last one, but it has been put together with care and contains all the lyrics with suitable photographs: the focus here is on the music contained on the two CDs. Unlike many progressive bands, the music here is led by the piano. Although turned into a full electric band performance, the piano is always at the heart and soul of Existence, with the lead instrument often being the poignant violin. The hidden instrument in this band is emotion, as the music is dripping with it, from the cracking of the vocals through the arrangements. This makes them very different from other bands within the prog scene, as the approach is towards feelings that are being conveyed, instead of just an aural assault. Complex and complicated, it must have been a compelling experience when the band were performing it live some 25 years ago.
With their two earlier albums released before the advent of the internet and prog sites and forums, back in the day when fanzines like Feedback were the only way to get the news out there as mainstream media ignored or denigrated prog, it is of little surprise that very few people are aware of the existence of Existence. Hopefully the release of this album will gain them many new fans, and we won’t have to wait so long for the next one. Well worth investigation.