François Puzenat is a rather unknown French multi-instrumentalist. In 2009 he started Puzzle King, a solo project dedicated to his love for progressive rock. Under this moniker he started to work on the concept album called Anna. For this concept he wrote both the script and the lyrics. Moreover he composed the music, programmed the drums and recorded the guitars, keyboards and the vocals. Finally he added some sound effects to the recordings. He got some additional help by Nathalie Prost (bass), Yannick Thinon (trombone) and Pierre Fournier (clarinet). Guillaume Ninon, known for his work with Nemo and Wolfspring, was responsible for the mixing and mastering of the album that saw the light of day in May 2012.
On his website Puzenat wrote that the theme of his debut album has been situated during the Russian Revolution in 1917. The two main characters in the story are Anna and Anatoli who are struggling for their love at a time that was favourable to extreme situations, behaviours and feelings. They tried to preserve their love in spite of the revolution. Puzenat chose the Russian Revolution, because back then his paternal grandfather was thirteen years of age and he was already a young worker. His maternal grandfather was a modest, eighteen year old farmer. In France they experienced the revolution as a great relief for all peoples. They supported with sincerity this fragment of humankind in search of dignity. Today, this has fallen into disgrace and is easily condemned without further ado. To balance this situation Puzenat decided to write Anna, a piece of music lasting for almost eighty minutes.
Puzenat mentioned quite a number of acts that influenced him, amongst others Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, Saga and King Crimson, but also contemporary acts like Anathema, Pain of Salvation, Sylvan, The Mars Volta, Blind Ego, Lazuli and Nemo. However while listening to Anna I clearly noticed the latter three names throughout the album. Because of the singing in French and the use of the same kind of musical elements in their music it reminded me of Lazuli and Nemo. The guitar parts sometimes sound a bit in the vein of Blind Ego. Fragments of Pain Of Salvation, Sylvan and Anathema are audible as well. All the other names mentioned surely have left their marks on the compositions, but never reached the surface. However, Puzenat also mentioned other French speaking acts like Jacques Brel, Jean-Jacques Goldman and Téléphone as influential and they can be noticed as well. Even hints of the music of classical composers like Erik Satie and Edvard Grieg can sometimes be heard in the music.
All those influences resulted in a nice musical melting pot that is enjoyable to listen to! People who got nothing at all with the French language might have a problem with this album. Therefore an English version of Anna has been released as well, but unfortunately I couldn't lay my hands on Anna's Revolution. However, personally I think it's nicer to listen to a Frenchman who sings in his mother tongue. This way he can express his emotions much better.
After listening to Anna by the French project Puzzle King I could only draw one conclusion. This album is worthwhile listening to if you like the music recorded by bands like Lazuli and Nemo. If you really do then I would like to advise you to check out this album as well.
*** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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