Although he’s not quite a household name within the world of progressive rock (yet), French multi-instrumentalist Franck Carducci is nonetheless among the most distinctive and striving artists in his field. Having playing with nearly two dozen bands over the years, he’s well versed in combining styles and techniques to yield a colorful and complex result. Case in point: Torn Apart, the full-length follow-up to his 2011 debut, Oddity. Featuring one of Carducci’s idols, guitarist Steve Hackett (Genesis), Torn Apart is a masterful collection of eccentric and impassioned material that bursts with memorable melodies, vibrant textures, and engrossing instrumentation.
At over ten minutes in length, the title track (which starts the sequence) proves to be one of the lengthiest and most ambitious pieces here. After some start/stop rhythmic trickery, a bluesy guitar riff gives way to the proper beginning arrangement. It’s direct but alluring, evoking both prog staples (like Magic Pie) and classic rock legends (like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton). Carducci’s voice is quite distinctive, too, with a high pitch and characteristic phrasing that fits the music well. Eventually the keyboards and guitars share the spotlight with impressive solos before a spacey deviation allows for a moment of calm before the frenzy returns. Packed with biting riffs and dynamic shifts, it’s a stellar way to establish the level of communal musicianship and spirit that radiates throughout Torn Apart.
In contrast, “Closer to Irreversible” is a more straightforward ballad that oozes poeticism and sorrow, and its chorus is among the most hypnotic moments on the entire record. “Journey Through the Mind” is multifaceted and warmer, with female vocals, flutes, and acoustic guitars adding more vibrant layers. In fact, it carries the quirky playfulness of, say, The Flower Kings or Kaipa, whereas “Artificial Love” is brief, intense, and tragic, with an apocalyptic edge and angelic harmonies. It’s here that Carducci truly displays his love for classic Genesis.
Afterward, “A Brief Tale of Time” is a ruthless suite whose sections meld wonderfully. Its initial movement is sparse, but it builds with great momentum as more timbres chime in every few measures. The second half is an intense instrumental showpiece (complete with industrial sound effects and eerie tones) that dissolves into a delicate piano ballad at the end. It’s really a brilliant achievement. Expectedly, “Mr. Hyde & Dr. Jekyll” is a schizophrenic rocker that utilizes every instrument in the band’s arsenal. It’s relentless, driven, and awesome.
The record concludes with its most epic track, “Artificial Paradises.” Actually, it begins as a continuation of “Artificial Love” (so the genre staples of conceptual continuity and reprises are there), and it transforms into its atmospheric next phase (highlighted by more pristine piano work) with seamless emotion. Naturally, the middle portion is another prog rock powerhouse with soaring guitars and intricate rhythms, while the closing minutes wrap things up with even more robust accompaniment and scope. There’s even a choir to complement the closure Carducci and company provide.
(Note: there’s also a cover of Supertramp’s “School” as a bonus track, and its blend of faithful components and new contributions make it a fantastic take on a classic ‘70s song).
Torn Apart is truly an incredible accomplishment, as it never loses focus or confidence. Full of color, vigor, and skill, these tracks feel both vintage and fresh, with clear influences providing a solid grounding on which Carducci’s originality cascades. While there’s an abundance of sophisticated compositional craziness, the focus is always on the songwriting, and at the end of the day, that’s what makes great records. A third effort can’t come soon enough.