Forgas Band Phenomena and Spinal Tap have something in common: they both "go to 11." Of course, Spinal Tap's "11" refers to the extra kick derived from Nigel Tufnel's guitar amp, capable of being turned up "one louder than ten." In FBP's case, "11" signifies the number of beats per measure in a typical piece of music written by bandleader/drummer/composer Patrick Forgas, whose own extra kick might be delivered to the kick drum itself, right before each bar line in the score. Nobody can nail the groove in a time signature with a seven, nine, 11, or 13 in the numerator like Patrick Forgas, who is (for the most part) seemingly allergic to mundane four-on-the-floor rhythms, and Acte V (the fifth album by Forgas and ensemble under the FBP moniker and third FBP release on Cuneiform) is a fine place to immerse oneself in his rhythmic world. The CD portion of this CD/DVD set is quintessential FBP, with the same septet lineup featured on 2009's L'Axe du Fou, including, in addition to Forgas himself, saxophonist Sébastien Trognon, trumpeter Dimitri Alexaline, guitarist Benjamin Violet, violinist Karolina Mlodecka, keyboardist Igor Brover, and bassist Kengo Mochizuki. Forgas' layered compositional approach is in evidence from the start of opening track "Corps et Âmes," as he taps out a stop-start cymbal pattern over Brover's pausing figure on the keys; the drummer fills in the rhythmic gaps as bass and guitar enter, soon joined by violin and trumpet -- and yes, FBP are "going to 11," and actually have been from the first cymbal tap.
There are so many rhythmic changeups in the remainder of the piece -- and throughout the album -- that one could begin thinking about the music mathematically instead of just sitting back and enjoying it. But enjoyment is unavoidable as the band's engaging themes, punchy riffs, timbral variety, harmonic shifts, and inspired solos are ingeniously integrated into the rhythmic framework, with results that are truly enveloping at every possible level, never seeming needlessly tricky or complex. And while the signature horn riff and lovely violin part (seeming to flirt with Gershwin's "Summertime") in "Ultraviolet" and the extended solo showcases in the concluding 13-and-a-half-minute opus "Midi-Minuit" (featuring an uncharacteristically even-tempoed heavy and spacy slow fade at the end) might be considered highlights, the album's uniform excellence makes singling out the "best" tracks a futile exercise. Likewise the concert DVD recorded at the 2010 NEARfest, a thrilling set featuring selections from all three Cuneiform CDs (and one pre-Cuneiform album), expertly captured by six camera operators and bookended by split-screen behind-the-scenes footage. It's a pleasure to watch the young bandmembers -- obviously inspired by the music of the elder Forgas in the drum chair -- navigating the kaleidoscopic changes as the compositions ebb and flow while always locking into the leader's clean, crisp, and unflashy forward momentum. Rating 21st century jazz-rock bands on a scale of one to ten, Forgas Band Phenomena merit a clear...you guessed it...11.