A web columnist and author, A-J Charron is no stranger to the world of music, so it's almost surprising thit it has taken him this long to release his own album. Initially composed as a classical suite for orchestra and two guitars, the album is a rock interpretation of the work, using lots and
lots (and lots!) of guitars, along with keyborads, bass and effects. The final product is strangely siilar to an orchestra and just as powerful. The operatic grandeur is not lost and as you listen to mellow portions fading into louder, angrier passages and back — which are meant to tell a story from Greek mythology of a woman transformed into a horrid creature as punishment for being seduced by a God — you can't help but be taken into a different state of mind, one that is almost transcendental.
Skunk Magazine, vol. 8 iss. 6
A-J Charron is well known web-columnist from Montreal, Canada. He is known for his contributions in songwriting, CD and concert reviews, equipment reviews and interviews. He has contributed to such sites as guitarnoise.com, dprp.net, guitar9.com and many others. He is also the author of the book “So You Want to Be a Songwriter?”. A-J Charron is also a guitarist, musician, and composer, and has a penchant for Progressive Rock. His main influences are bands such as “Emerson, Lake & Palmer”, “Steve Hackett”, “Pendragon”, “Genesis”, “Mike Oldfield”, “Yes”, and “Jethro Tull”. In 2010 he began to record a bunch of songs that would be later reunited on a self-produced debut album titled “Humouring Gods”, which was only released in 2012 under the independent label Azimuth Records (Canada). “Humouring Gods” features a classical composition divided in 8 tracks, performed with guitars, keyboards, bass, and programmed timpani. The compositions are all instrumental, but represent a story, a voyage into the mind of a beautiful young woman, unjustly transformed into the most hideous of creatures, a harpy. As the tracks unfold, the listener follows her quest for revenge, her failure and her ultimate dive into insanity. Although lacking resources of production and a refined technique, the music of A-J Charron is strongly impressionist, evoking in the mind of the listener images of ancient architectures, pastoral landscapes, exotic places; also causing different sensations – of relaxing, fear, doubt, curiosity, or introspectiveness. The music is basically a collage of delicate orchestral sounds that are arranged in a loosely symphonic pattern. The main instruments are the diaphanous guitars, followed by the timpani that are reminiscent of medieval times, a deep imposing bass, and frequent sonorities produced on keyboards that recall flutes and strings of the times or the Renaissance, but also electronic sonorities of the future centuries that are still to come. “Humouring Gods” begins with “Transformation“ (5:27) – a song that evolves through the dialogue of two guitars, one echoing the other, their vitreous sounds recalling the stained-glass windows of a cathedral, ricocheting on the baroque bass lines and medieval timpani. “Sorrow“ (4:45) follows bringing an acoustic Spanish guitar, and albeit its simplicity, we realize that Charron has a talent to drive the song with sensibility, weaving delicate tunes. The imposing “Aftermath“ (7:00) combines the deep sounds of the timpani with soaring keyboards that are lost on the far horizon, brings back that glassy guitar sound again, and includes segments driven by martial drumming and folk moments, ending with a crescendo of guitar chords. “Phantasmes“ (6:49) employs sounds of vibraphones to produce a melody that sounds vaguely Chinese, and turns to different directions, bringing folk parts with renaissance flutes, violins, and mandolins. One of the best tracks, “Revenge“ (8:49) begins with an impressive choir of monks, irradiating a religious aura. Ethereal sounds of guitars are conducted by timpani amid ghostly synthesizers and electronic noises. The darkness on “Revenge“ is cleared by the shiny rays of candlelight on the soft “Nostalgia“ (3:59), a slow medieval dance in honour of some nameless king hidden in his forgotten palace. The weird “Insanity“ (7:48) is an interesting track for containing several influences. The song begins with sounds reminiscent of the Mellotrons of the “Genesis” song “Watcher of the Skies”, being followed by electronic keyboards that recall “Mike Oldfield”, and a segment of crazy unorganized random sounds that recall the experiments of “Pink Floyd” on their album “Ummagumma”, and the mystic Krautrock of “Popol Vuh”. The album ends up with “Oblivion“ (5:56), which brings back the deep bass sounds, more timpani and space-rock sounds. With his patchwork of Electronic, Ambient, Medieval-Folk and Progressive Music, A-J Charron is especially recommended for fans of “Mike Oldfield”, “Steve Hackett”, “Echo Us”, “Changing Images”, “Philip Glass”, and so on. Band members and collaborators involved in A-J Charron are: A-J Charron – Guitars, Keyboards, Bass, and Programmed Timpani. Vocals on “Revenge” performed by A-J Charron and Sylvie St-Amand. Produced by A-J Charron; Mixed by Henning Pauly; Artwork by Chantal Ouimet; Recorded at Azimuth Studios, Montreal in 2010, released in 2012 under Azimuth Records, Canada.
Progressive Rock Brazil
Out of Canada’s French Canadian province of Quebec comes another prog offering entitled Humouring gods from A-J Charron. Long known for his on-line contributions in regards to songwriting as well as authoring a book on being a songwriter, Charron has finally completed this self-produced and performed project that sees him performing on guitars, keyboards and programming. It’s a true one man band. Musically this is something that will certainly appeal to fans of the symphonic side of prog.
Humouring gods is a set of compositions based on Greek mythology. The 50-minutes of music contained on the disc falls clearly in the classical side of things the only difference is that instead of traditional classical instrumentation we’re treated to guitars of all shapes and sizes, both electric and acoustic as well as some keyboards. But make no mistake the prime instrument here is the guitar. Not that this is a “rocky” disc, far from it. The classical structure is very strong and the arrangements are equally complex. The eight compositions each portray an element of the story line; some are lush and more orchestrated others depending on the story are more angular and dissonant. Six of these compositions are six-minutes or longer, which allows for a fair bit of musical change-ups, some more dramatic than others. Included are all manner of musical atmosphere, this is telling a very dramatic story of seduction, horror and revenge, so there’s bound to be lots of ups and downs.
It strikes me that there are at least three distinct musical fans that will appreciate the music of A-J Charron. First would be fans of guitar and here I’m thinking Steve Hackett fans, they’ll find much to enjoy. Then there are followers of bands such as The Enid who will enjoy the more classical structure of these tunes. And then last but not least the wider symphonic prog fan, especially those who feed off the classical influence. While the music on Humouring gods, may not be everyone’s cup-of-tea, kudos to A-J Charron for taking the time to craft a fine album.
Normally, musics from rock critics are highly dubious affairs. I put my own cassette, 11 Constructions, out in the DIY 80s and, though it received excellent press nation-wide, the beast was in truth a pretty mediocre affair. I'm no musician, I just wanted to try my hand, but the result? Didn't sell worth a shit. Rightly so. And there are a number of reviewers who have attempted similar works (I won't won't cite any names for the moment) and met with the same end phenomenon. But then there are guys like Jon Tiven who craft some way cool primitivo rock, among other modes, and are properly successful. Well, A-J Charron's a crit, has published the So You Want to be a Songwriter book, heads up the wryly cognomened God Inc. progrock band, and this solo CD, Humouring Gods, is a very interesting classical work along the lines of The Enid, Craft (an Enid offshoot), Sky, Rick Wakeman, and Dave Greenslade.
In fact, it's much more in line with what had been expected when Greenslade issued his marvelous white elephant The Pentateuch of the Cosmogyny. A very hard item to locate in its original book/LP format, the intent of the work, a solo classical try by Dave that fell far short of expectations but is nonetheless cherished, overpowered the jazz/prog/rock composer's talents and wound up antithetical to its apocalyptic intent. Quite acceptable on far less sturm und drangy merits, Pentateuch still causes fans to scratch their heads. Enter A-J Charron.
Though in aspect the guy looks to be a refugee from the old Outlaws band, nothing could be further from the truth: he is in fact a progrocker from the git-go, from the soles of his feet up. So, to the gents and acts just mentioned, you might want to add Jan Akkerman (Tabernakkel, Profile, Focus' Eruption, etc.), Thijs van Leer & Roger Otterloo (the Introspection series, Focus' Eruption), Banco, and even a generous sprinkling of Renaissance. The story line here is of a woman seduced by the gods and then transformed to a harpy for 'her' transgression (yep, women tended not to come off too well in elder days either, especially whenever it came to fairness in male domains), and Charron's concentrated on the protagonist-turned-hellion's doomed succession of emotions rather than the overtly Stygian nature of the entire incident.
This makes for a lot of thoughtful passages far more in line with elder classicalism and later Impressionism than prog's oft thunderous neoclassicalism (think King Crimson, Art Zoyd, Univers Zero, that sort of stratum as contrast). Working mainly with guitars and what appears to be guitar-triggered apparati, and lots of both, but also layering in keyboards and programmed timpani—not, I hasten to add, drum machines—the eight movements wend through alternatingly rich and spare tableaux reflecting the titles (see below) and evolving situations and often informed in turns by Mahler, Holst, Debussy, Stravinsky, and various hoary estimables.
Humouring Gods is not music for putting on and ignoring or relegating to background amusement, as the literacy and degree of almost semantically luminous effects require involved active listening. A-J Charron is serious as hell in what he's doing, and the disc is damned near a new wrinkle in the canon. For a debut solo effort, it's indicative of a coming career of top-notch craftsmanship of intellectual savor and vivacity.
Mark S. Tucker
Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
"The opening notes put you in the mood of early Genesis (Watcher of the Skies), before veering into guitar psychedelia à la Syd Barrett. It almost sounds as if Syd got his hands on David Gilmour’s slide. It’s a spacey and trippy sound, almost like very early Pink Floyd with some of their later finesse, especially later in the song when the Babicz acoustic guitar comes in. This is definitely a song you’ll want to listen to on headphones. “Insanity” is like a trip to the inner spaces of outer space."
About Insanity, Paul Hackett of Guitarnoise.com
Humouring Gods is a suite in 8 movements that delves into Greek mythology where you often find the typical story of Zeus falling in love with a mortal woman. Of course, when his wife Hera finds out about it, she endeavours to transform the poor human woman into some lowly creature. For example, Io was changed into a cow.
Hera takes her wrath on the woman as Zeus would surely kill her if she took it out on him. Question is, how does the woman feel? This suite answers it.
From awaking in a new, strange body, to planning an impossible revenge which leads into inevitable insanity, all the way to death.