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CD & DVD Reviews •

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Issue 2004-026

Reviews in this issue:

Magenta - Seven
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:F2 Music
Catalogue #:P200403A
Year of Release:2004
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Gluttony (12:04), Envy (9:42), Lust (12:22), Greed (13:49), Anger (5:11), Pride (12:09), Sloth (10:06)

Tom's Review

Magenta first arrived on the prog scene in 2001 with the double album Revolutions. Heavily influenced by the likes of Genesis and Yes (something they were quite happy to admit to!), the album was none the less a fine work, and was greeted with enthusiasm by the progressive rock community. In the meantime, band leader Rob Reed (known for his work with Cyan, amongst many others) decided to make Magenta into more of a band, and has recently taken Magenta out on to the live circuit.

Seven was recorded over a period of 18 months, preceding the formation of the live band, which may explain the fact that Reed handles the majority of the instrumentation, bar the drums which are played by long-time Reed collaborator Tim Robinson. The other members of the live band who have a leading role on Seven are vocalist Christina and lead guitarist Chris Fry, with second guitarist Martin Rosser also contributing. It is also worth noting that, in something of a coup, Reed has managed to enlist the services of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra to provide strings, which really does benefit the album's sound - and brings home just how much better the real things sound compared to their electronically generated equivalents.

As you will no doubt have surmised from the album name and song titles, Seven has as its lyrical concept the seven deadly sins. The lyrics (penned by Rob Reed's brother Steve) generally take one aspect of each of the sins, and in some cases approach the subject matter from a less than obvious angle.

Although this theme certainly links the album, there's no links between each track - the seven songs are all stand-alone efforts. After Revolutions, where the majority of the tracks weighed in at over 20 minutes each and sometimes seemed to suffer from a certain lack of cohesion as a result, here most of the tracks are in the 9 to 13 minute range. Its immediately obvious that this sort of length suits the band to a tee - the running time leaves plenty of room for all the prog-rock staples (there are plenty of well-worked changes in pace and mood, and scope for the band to indulge in lengthy instrumental passages) without the songs having the feeling that they are merely a series of separate parts that just happen to be linked (the Supper's Ready syndrome, if you will!) - the tracks on Seven feel much more cohesive and 'whole'. There is the odd exception (parts of Greed seem somewhat thrown together, for example), but even here the quality of the individual pieces is rarely less than high.

Musically, whilst Reed's love for seventies prog and classic rock come shining through (with the likes of Genesis, Yes, ELO and Pink Floyd being the most obvious influences), Seven feels far less like a homage to this scene than did its predecessor, and certainly sees the development of a distinct Magenta sound. There are still moments where the influences are perhaps a little too overt - the instrumental break on Envy, combining Hackett-esque acoustic guitar with keyboards, is very reminiscent of Genesis' Entangled, for instance -but generally they remain just that - influences.

All the musicians come out of Seven with flying colours. Rob Reed coaxes a wide range of sounds and atmospheres from his banks of keyboards, and his bass playing is also well above standard. In addition, Reed plays a variety of other instruments to help flesh out the sound, including grand piano, recorders, acoustic guitar and even harpsichord - the latter heard to good effect on the uncharacteristically sombre Anger. No lead vocals from Reed this time, bar a rather strange, semi-spoken word section on Gluttony (where he sounds like Peter Gabriel through a vocoder!) but his vocal harmonies are excellent in both construction and delivery, providing the perfect foil to Christina. The latter is, in my opinion, up there with the likes of Mostly Autumn's Heather Findlay and Karnataka's Rachel Jones as one of the best female vocalists currently working in the genre, and puts in a superb performance here. Mention should also be made of Chris Fry who puts in some quality lead guitar work, including a number of fine solos. Guitar solo of the album, though, has to go to guest guitarist Martin Shellard, whose extended, Gilmour-esque solo on Sloth will have the hairs standing up on the back of your neck.

Production is good, with all the instruments crystal clear in the mix. Occasionally I feel that the sound appears too 'held back' and that some of the music should be more bombastic, given the material they're working with, but that's a minor criticism.

Overall, then, an excellent effort, with all the things you'd expect from a good prog album - fine musicianship, strong songwriting and plenty of variety in terms of pace, mood and instrumentation. Magenta probably aren't the band to listen to if everything you hear has to sound completely original and fresh, but if you want a strong album of traditional progressive rock, look no further.

Bart's Review

Three years ago I reviewed Magenta's debut album Revolutions. An album which showed promise, but somehow missed the splendour I remembered from Robert Reed's previous band, Cyan. Most of the album just sounded like a collection of themes and ideas from other bands, all tied together.

Upon my first listen to their new album, Seven, I feared this would become another one of those affairs, as opening track could better be called a 'prog-quiz' rather than a 'song'. It borrows various themes from Yes and features a guitarsolo which seems to come straight from the kitchen of Mike Oldfield, while towards the end there is an almost exact copy of Genesis' Fly On A Windshield.
Now don't get me wrong, I don't see any problem in a band acknowledging their influences, that's what this genre is all about after all, but an influence should not be an exact copy.

However, fortunately the other six songs are in a completely different league, as the 'influences' here are far less conspicuous. In fact, through the rest of the album we are treated to some of the most breathtaking music that has been released in recent years!
The second track Envy for example, is one of my favourites. A strong Steve Hackett style guitarsolo drives the song, while vocalist Christina shows the full range of her impressive vocal talents during the catchy chorus. 9 minutes of pure beauty!

Another one of my favourites is Greed, the longest track on the album. This song feels more like a song from a musical, partly because of the extensive use of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra on this particular track. This song also stands out through its clever lyrics. As Tom already stated above, each of the songs are based on one of the seven deadly sins, though not always from the angle you'd expect. The lyrics of Greed tell a story of an actress on the rebound and the symphonic music adds to the theatrical concept of the lyrics.

Anger is a welcome track as it is relatively short (only 5 minutes), and it is just a beautiful serene resting point in between the long epics. Very Mike Oldfield-ish.

But as usual the best is saved for last, with the tremendous song Sloth. Once again entirely backed by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra it is a beautiful song about the repression of Native Americans (still need to find the relation to the sin though), which finishes with a truly stunning Pink Floydian guitarsolo, courtesy of guest guitarist Martin Shellard. An excellent way to end this excellent album.

With Seven Magenta have released a very good album and prove that this is a band to be reckoned with. The crisp clear production is another big plus point. All layers of instrumentation can be clearly heard and the warm, rich sound of the album is a real treat for the ears.
Like with Revolutions the lyrics are from the hand of Rob Reed's brother Steve, and once again he's taken biblical themes as a starting point. Where his lyrics for Revolutions somewhat naive, the lyrics on Seven are in fact a lot better and people fearing very religious lyrics need not worry, apart from a somewhat overly happy "confess and save your soul"-chorus in Lust, this is no preach 'n pray release.

A highly recommended release to any fan of the genre.


Tom de Val: 9 out of 10
Bart Jan van der Vorst: 8.5 out of 10

Magenta - Broken
Magenta - Broken
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:F2 Music
Catalogue #:200406S
Year of Release:2004
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Broken (4:03), Call Me [2004] (4:56), Lemminkainen's Lament (4:18), Opus 3 (2:33), Sloth [String Mix] (10:10)

Magenta have made huge steps forward with their second full-length release Seven; in tandem with this is the release of the band's debut single (or more strictly speaking, e.p.), Broken. Currently this is available from F2 Music as part of a double-pack with Seven, but its due for release as a stand-alone item in June.

The title track sees the band going for a straightforward pop-rocker, far unlike anything you'll find on Seven. It also sees the debut on disc of the full Magenta live unit (bassist Matthew Cohen and drummer Allan Mason-Jones having not played on Seven). The sound is mid-tempo, reasonably contemporary (although Rob Reed's keyboards still retain that 'prog' feel), and the hooks quite strong, although personally speaking, it's far from my favourite Magenta track. It was a wise move to release this song separately, as it certainly wouldn't fit in with the flow of the album.

Call Me is a new version of an old Cyan track, and in my opinion is superior to Broken. A strong ballad with a wonderful outro guitar solo, Call Me shows off Christina's fine vocals to maximum effect. Elsewhere, Lemminkainen's Lament is another, more subdued ballad with a pronounced Celtic feel, whilst Opus 3 is a short instrumental piece, majoring on a church organ-like keyboard sound - its very Wakemane-sque, and served well as a piece of intro music when I saw the band live recently.

The e.p. closes with a version of Sloth (from Seven, reviewed above) which strips down the instrumentation to just piano and strings, a move which gives Christina's vocals more room to make their impact. In many ways this works as well as, if not better than, the original, although I do miss the soaring guitar solo on the album version.

Overall then, a slightly difficult one to rate. The music's fine, although it doesn't necessarily serve as a representative guide to Magenta's sound. I think it's best seen as an additional purchase for those who already have the album, and its certainly worth snapping up as part of one of the 'combination' deals available from F2 Music at present.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

Tom de Val

Peter Hammill - Incoherence
Peter Hammill - Incoherence
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Fie!
Catalogue #:FIE 9129
Year of Release:2004
Info:Peter Hammill

Tracklist: Note: Although the CD is divided into individually titled tracks, the piece is intended to be taken as a whole and listened to in one continuous sitting. When Language Corrodes (2:46), Babel (4:36), Logodaedalus (2:18), Like Perfume (1:32), Your Word (1:09), Always And A Day (2:08), Cretans Always Lie (3:25), All Greek (4:14), Call That A Conversation? (3:13), The Meanings Changed (1:57), Converse (2:09), Gone Ahead (5:39), Power Of Speech (2:41), If Language Explodes (3:46)

Even the 'inconvenience' of a heart attack doesn't seem to be able to put the irrepressible Peter Hammill off his stride. A mere three months after his unexpected cardiac troubles and a brand new CD is ready for release! Fortunately, all of the recording and a tentative final mix of Incoherence had taken place prior to the enforced sojourn in the cardiac care unit of a Berkshire hospital. Hammill, somewhat philosophically, now views his medical condition as a message from his myocardium that the work on the recording on his 48th album was complete. (As an aside I remember reading in a Hammill newsletter of the past that he considered a lifes work of 50 albums to be reasonable. His total output to date, if you include compilations and the VdGG box set, has now exceeded this figure which I hope doesn't mean that retirement is in sight!)

Avoiding constancy (but never consistency), the welcome return to acoustic explorations on Clutch have been left behind. Instead we get a 'long-form' piece, a continuous piece of music that should, in Hammill's own words, "simultaneously hang together and fall apart both musically and lyrically". However, as ever with Hammill, the piece was not deliberately intended as such but grew, almost organically, as the artist came to realise that language was going to at the centre of the lyrical 'message'. It started when one song was cut in half and an intervening section was added. The number of such sections then grew until the two halves (When Language Corrodes and If Language Explodes) were 35 minutes apart!

Although the CD does feature individual 'tracks', as noted above the album should be listened to as a whole. Taken out of context many of the individual sections don't stand alone, nor were they intended to. Although there are elements of traditional songs in some of the sections, the overall feel is more akin to a work like The Fall Of The House Of Usher, particularly as like the (in my opinion, superior) re-recorded version of that piece Incoherence does not feature any percussion instruments. What the album does feature is two of Hammill's long-standing collaborators Stuart Gordon on violin and David Jackson> on saxes and flute. Hammill himself largely limits himself to electric pianos although there are a smattering of other keyboards and the occasional guitar part. Of course, the vocals play an important role and much greater use of backing vocals has been utilised compared with some of the more recent releases which is reminiscent, in places, of the choir in Usher.

Given Hammill's mastery of language, the topic is an apposite one for him to tackle, and he doesn't disappoint: "I don't think he's got it but he's insistent that we're going to understand his complete precision; in the end he's certain that we'll all agree with his obsolescent word from 1663. That says it all for me" (Logodaedalus); "All Greek to me, all in double Dutch phrases, cacophony of linguistic dismay, orotund talk and the sound of my voice is fractured and forced" (All Greek); " 'Cretans always lie' claims the Cretan: 'Of Cretan stock am I, am I Cretan?'" (Cretans Always Lie). Even the sole instrumental section cleverly deals with language by having the ambiguous title Converse: is it converse as into talk (remember, it's an instrumental!) or converse as in opposite? Or event both?

It is not appropriate to single out individual tracks from this album, it was conceived to be listened to in one piece and, as such, should be reviewed as one piece. It is also inappropriate to measure up Incoherence against other Hammill long-form pieces such as Flight or even A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers. Incoherence should stand (or fall) entirely on its own merits. And of those, there are many. Clever word-play is mingled with some lovely melodies (Gone Ahead being a prime example) and expert arrangements - Gordon and Jackson are used with restraint but are always effective. Incoherence continues the long line of completely satisfying releases by this most peculiar of English artists. For long-standing Hammill fans, I suspect that Incoherence, as with Clutch, will be warmly welcomed following some of the perceived 'disappointing' (or should I say 'not entirely satisfying'?) albums of the late 1990s. However, those not so au fait with his oeuvre may be a bit cautious about jumping straight into 41 minutes of continuous Hammill, particularly on something where 'the song' is mostly absent. I present my ratings accordingly!

Conclusion: 7 out of 10 (8 out of 10 for Hammill fans)

Mark Hughes

Cast - Nimbus
Cast - Nimbus
Country of Origin:Mexico
Record Label:Mylodon Records
Catalogue #:MYLOCD020
Year of Release:2004

Tracklist: Ladrona de Sueños (part i) (5:26), 911 (a. 911 [9:31], b. Next Day [3:16], c. My New Home [2:03]), Volando En Uno Mismo (5:01), Sucio Nino Bien (a. Sucio Nino Bien [5:55], b. Suenos De Platino [5:53]), Dias De Sol Y Luz (5:02), Ladrona de Suenos (part ii Puerto Prohibido) (2:39), Ladrona de Suenos (part iii Tragiccomedia) (3:58), Un Siglo De Invierno (a. Cataclismo [6:23], b. Esperenza Austral [5:10]), En La Cueva Y El Bosque (3:20), Reunion 2003 (5:16), Hojarasca (5:28), Extension 17 (4:34)

I think that Cast are not letting the rest of the world in on a major scientific discovery they have made. Surely the only way they could have managed, in a mere ten years, to have released 20 CDs (many of which are double or packed to the limit of a single CD), organised eight successful Baja Prog festivals, maintained day jobs and still have a family life is for them to have unravelled the mysteries of time travel! Nimbus, the follow-up to 2003's double CD Al-bandaluz, continues the prolific output of this finest of Mexican bands with another eighty minutes of (mostly) new music. The ranks of the group have recently swelled with the addition of sixth member José 'Pepe' Torres who broadens the group sound by supplying saxophone, flute and clarinet. The other five musicians (Alfonso Vidales on keyboards, Francisco Hernández on vocals and guitars, Kiki King on drums and percussion, Carlos Humarán on lead guitars and Flavio Jiménez on bass) remain constant from the recording of Al-bandaluz.

The album opens with intent; the menacing, insistent keyboard riff, chunky guitars and wailing sax of the first part of Ladrona de Sueños captures the listener's attention and draws them into the album. There is a lot going on in this track that rewards repeated listenings. Two further parts to the song are sequenced further in the CD. Part two (subtitled Puerto Prohibido) is mainly keyboards and vocals while the rest of the group join in for the final part, the instrumental Tragicomedia. Both continue the somewhat menacing tone and a consistent theme is heard in each of the sections. I don't know why the three sections have been split up, they would have fitted together perfectly well as one piece (as programming the CD player to do just that proves!) However, I suppose if I understood the lyrics (all but two of the lyrical pieces are sung in Spanish) that may have been become evident!

Second track, 911 is also split into three parts but sequenced to run consecutively. The opening four-and-a-half minutes effectively combines keyboards, piano, guitar (acoustic and electric) and Spanish vocals building into the main part of the narrative, which is sung in English. A tale of death (the 911 refers to the US emergency services telephone number) this section didn't quite live up to the opening for me. However, things dramatically improve with the two instrumental sections Next Day and My New Home. I've always found Cast to be more expressive, and more adventurous, in their instrumental music and these two piece don't disappoint. The acoustic nature and flute of My New Home brings in echoes of Jethro Tull, although the ending seems to evaporate into thin air!

There are four other vocal pieces on the album: Sucio Nino Bien features some complex melodies and a nice guitar solo; Dias De Sol Y Luz is a slower number with the female vocals of guest singer Guadalupe Acuána contrasting nicely with those of Hernández; En La Cueva Y El Bosque is rather an anomaly coming across like a mediæval - classical cross; and Reunion 2003, is an acoustic reworking of a track from their 1994 debut album Landing In A Serious Mind which works well, particularly the layered vocals.

The instrumental tracks are what we have come to expect from Cast, lots of interplay between the instruments, dominant keyboards and an abundance of changes in time signatures. The addition of José Torres has provided an extra dimension and his role, particularly as a flautist on tracks such as Volando En Uno Mismo provide a more jaunty, lighter slant to proceedings. The opening to Cataclismo, the first part of Un Siglo De Invierno, is almost like Dream Theatre with its heavy guitar and bass drum onslaught but things soon settle down although the heavy offensive is resumed at the end of the second part of the song (Esperenza Austral). The CD ends with the more refrained, plaintive and acoustic Hojarasca and the altogether more jolly Extension 17.

I am full of admiration for this Mexican band. What they have achieved in their time is little short of outstanding. With Nimbus they have added to their already impressive catalogue of releases. However, although filling the CD provides good value for money, I feel that maybe the album is a touch too long. At the end of the album I felt I had heard enough for the time being and there was no reason to immediately play the album again. Maybe that is because it didn't suit a particular mood all the way through or because it lacked an exceptional track that immediately sent 'prog alert' messages to the appropriate sensory areas of the brain. Still, a good album of the consistent quality we have come to expect from these fine musicians and composers.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

Mark Hughes

Hyacintus – Fantasia En Concerto
Hyacintus – Fantasia En Concerto
Country of Origin:Argentina
Record Label:Viajero Inmovil Records
Catalogue #:HYA011VIR
Year of Release:2003

Tracklist: Intro Terra Hoxe (0:47), L’over (3:27), Passage Terra I (0:28), Antique Song (5:09), Passage Terra II (0:53), Geomelodysong (3:36), Passage Terra III (0:54), Relmu Tromen (4:40), Passage Terra IV (1:01), Desir Du Liberte (5:18), Passage Terra V (1:05), Intimo (3:40), Passage Terra VI (1:39), White Mind (6:47), Terra Hoxe Final (2:33), Quien Eres Tu (6:45)

Fantasia En Concerto is the second album from Hyacintus, primarily the work of Argentine multi-instrumentalist Jacinto Miguel Corral, and follows his debut CD Elydian from 2002.

Fantasia… is a grandiosely imagined concept piece of classically inspired symphonic rock. The story is of a lonely man who attends a concert and finds his dreams and reality merging as he listens to the music. The odd numbered tracks feature the highly orchestral sounding Terra Hoxa Suite and the even numbered tracks represent the man’s dreams and experiences as he listens. The tracks all neatly flow one into another, making this a satisfying listen when taken in one sitting.

There are several guests, contributing bass, keyboards, melodica, cello and vocals, but they are largely confined to two tracks (Desir Du Liberte and Quien Eres Tu). Interestingly, a drummer is credited, but the drums sound almost entirely electronic, which is the weakest link on this otherwise excellent album. Corral therefore carries most of what you will hear on this album, consisting mainly of keyboard and guitar led symphonic rock, mixing bright upbeat pieces (the bouncy opener L’over) with some slower, slightly darker tinged tunes (Relmu Tromen). Always, though, the material is very melodic with many enjoyable tunes and motifs running through each and every track.

Underpinning the sound is the synthetically simulated orchestra conjured up by Corral on his keyboards (occasionally veering towards the synthesiser symphonies of Wendy Carlos or Tomita) making this a work that may also appeal to fans of The Enid – though it doesn’t really sound like them - but where Jacinto really shines is as a guitarist. His playing throughout the disc is immensely enjoyable, with uplifting melodies flowing from his guitar at every turn. Occasionally the sound takes a spacier turn, drifting almost into Pink Floyd territory. Although immediately accessible, the multi-layered structure ensures that there are many nuances waiting to be discovered on subsequent listens, making this a disc that will surely have lasting appeal.

The first fifteen tracks are entirely instrumental, with only the closer Quien Eres Tu featuring vocals. This is a rockier tune than the preceding pieces, though it starts off all moody and emotional, with the vocalist leaning in the direction of many a metal shouter as the song gathers pace in its second half.

The only gripe I have with this disc is that the overall enjoyment is brought down a notch or two by the electronic percussion, but the melodies are usually engaging enough to divert your attention away from this. The production on the majority of the disc is bright – and occasionally shrill - but this mostly suits the style of the music.

I would have liked to be able to program the disc to play the Terra Hoxa Suite in its entirety, making for a nine-minute plus symphonic suite, but as the fragments of the suite are designed to segue with the other tracks, it prevents this from being practical. This doesn’t detract from the disc but would have been a nice bonus.

This is another fine offering of South American Progressive rock from the wonderful Viajero Inmovil label, and the cardboard gatefold mini album sleeve design is up to their usual high standards.

I think this work could have a wide appeal amongst fans of symphonic rock, particularly those favouring more melodic and accessible material.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

Dave Sissons

Ahvak – Ahavak
Ahvak – Ahvak
Country of Origin:Israel
Record Label:Cuneiform Records
Catalogue #:Rune 185
Year of Release:2004
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Vivisection (8:28), Bertha (8:22), Moments (2:36), Dust (16:20), Cement (2:49), Yawners (13:27), Ironworks (0:55)

Ahvak is a new group from Israel. That its CD is released on the Cuneiform label, and that its ranks include Dave Kerman (5 uu’s, U Totem, Present etc) should give you a clue as to the kind of thing to expect. Ahvak sit squarely in the RIO inspired Avant Rock genre and follow such luminaries as Univers Zero and Thinking Plagu. They are no imitators, though, and achieve a distinctive sound through the extensive use of keyboards (played by both Udi Susser and Roy Yarkoni), which lends a strong, though sombre, symphonic feel, together with elements of ethnic Middle-Eastern traditional music provided by Susser’s flutes and darbooka. Kerman provides a vibrant and often menacing bedrock of percussion, driving the pieces with a manic energy.

A glance at the song titles (Vivisection, Dust, Cement, Ironworks) should warn you that this is no joy ride. The prevailing atmosphere is dark and eerie, from the juddering, fragmented start to Vivisection, right through to the musique concrete collage that is the brief closer Ironworks. Aside from two tracks (Moments and Cement) the pieces are lengthy and all have their moments of exhilarating brilliance, but they also contain dissonant, jarring moments and surreal, spine tingling ambience created by chaotic percussion and strange (computer-generated?) effects. It does sometimes all fall apart, into a noisy mess, though these moments are brief.

Although my extensive prog collection contains relatively few works in this genre, I do like to expand my horizons occasionally, and the Rio/Avant genre is one area that I like to explore when the mood takes me. I found this CD to be, for the most part compelling and fascinating, though it did manage to creep me out on more than one occasion. It does have some sections where the sound becomes a little too chaotic and fragmented for my tastes, but this is balanced by long passages that are positively thrilling. The flute playing of Udi Susser particularly impressed me, and I also liked the folky vibe that can be discerned in places. At times, it sounds like the twisted soundtrack to some strange silent movie, with discordant piano. I also caught whiffs of Gentle Giant (a medieval touch or two) and King Crimson (some Frippish guitar).

My favourite tracks are; Bertha, which has some lighter folk elements mixed in with the furious riffing; Cement which features acoustic guitar; and Dust with its funeral opening and spooky sound effects, building to a work of considerable power.

The only tracks that disappoint are Moments, which might better be titled - "Too busy playing the flute to stop the cat walking on the piano keyboard", - though the random plinks and plonks do coalesce into something more structured towards the end, and Ironworks which is barely musical at all, but is so brief as to be no trouble.

I would think that this CD will have high appeal to fans of the above-mentioned bands, and may appeal to fans of Canterbury scene bands like National Health, looking for something more edgy. Fans of The Cardiacs may also find something to like here, but there is none of the humour (but plenty of the menace) that riddles their sound.

In conclusion, this may be a good crossover disc that helps listeners find a whole new area of music to enjoy.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

Dave Sissons

Ariaphonics - Ariaphonics
Ariaphonics - Ariaphonics
Country of Origin:Russia
Record Label:iGram Music
Catalogue #:-
Year of Release:2003
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Divine Light (5:26), Summer Moon (6:19), Sposa Son Distrezzata (5:50), Intermezzo (5:08), The Knight Errant's Song (5:17), Lullaby 2030 (5:06), A Dulcet Spell (5:31), Nausica (4:44), Divine Light [Remix] (4:51)

Ariaphonics serves as yet another example of the diversity of material that impinges on the boundaries of Progressive Rock, further pushing out the envelope. Written and conceived by Dmitri Silnitsky the album is termed as "A Classical Crossover Breakthrough" (or so it says so on the cover), therefore I entered the album with more than a little apprehension, fearing something akin to some of the dreadful material to be found on Sky's Classic FM channel. The concept of having great pieces of classical music bastardised into some sort of accessible music form for the masses.

Fortunately this is not the case here as in the main the music is written by Dmitri himself and the lyrical content by Elena Corsino. Perhaps this is as good a point as any, to look at the basic musical structure of the tracks, which derive much of their sound from the lush bed of traditional analogue synth sounds, mellotron-esque textures, pianos and organs used. Added to this are gently blended guitar tracks and the resulting canvas of sounds is at times reminiscent of Jean Michel Jarre or Vangelis, whilst at others a lightweight Pink Floyd. The pulse is provided by bass synths, distinctly programmed sounding drums / percussion, with the analogue synths and slide guitar supplying the lead sections. Timely point also to mention the other musicians contributing to the Ariaphonics album. Sash Protchenko (drums, bass and slide guitar), Slav Protchenko (keyboards - pianos, Hammond organ, mellotron & violin) and Pavel Pavlov (guitars). The final ingredient is the dulcet, operatic voice of Gloria D'Amos whose vocalisation are always delightfully controlled and never excessive.

All the tracks have a similar overall sound and production, although the music is more diverse covering subtle mood changes with liberal helpings of classical, opera, jazz and prog blended together. Gloria D'Amos' vocal sections are disected by gentle instrumentals which, on closer listening, proved more complex, with subtle odd meters evident. Favourite tracks were the Floydian Intermezzo, Divine Light [Remix] and Summer Moon.

Considering that I have no love for the operatic voice Ariaphonics proved once again that an open mind can be a blessing, as yet again an album that on the surface had little to offer, proved to be a pleasant treat. The combination of warm analogue keyboards and Gloria D'Amos soprano voice forming a splendid partnership. Therefore if you have an inkling for something completely out of the norm with a relaxing nature then the first port of call must be the samples at the iGram site.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

Bob Mulvey