[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS
(51:30, Trakwerx Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Celestina XXIII 2:25 2. Celestina XXIV 5:46 3. Celestina XXV 3:56 4. Celestina XXVI 3:13 5. Celestina XXVII 9:46 6. Celestina XXVIII 5:09 7. Celestina XXIX 3:53 8. Celestina XXX 4:43 9. Celestina XXXI 3:03 10. Celestina XXXII 4:59 11. Celestina XXXIII 3:17 12. Celestina XXXIII-II 1:20 LINEUP: Jeff Brennerman guitars; synthesizers Dirk Doucette drums; synthesizers; guitars Meg Maryatt vocals; guitars piano, synthesizers Jackson Del Rey synthesizers; guitars, bass; vocals With: Claire Chenette oboe Larissa Fedoryka cello Heather Lockie viola Robert Mora bass Erik Stein vocals Lea Reis b/v
Prolusion. The US outfit 17 PYGMIES was formed back in 1982, and in their first spout, lasting until the early 90's, they established themselves as a post punk band. Since they reformed with a new line-up in 2007 they have deliberately sought out progressive rock however, first and foremost through the theme album series Celestina. "CIII: Even Celestina Gets the Blues" is the third instalment in the series, and was released in January 2012.
Analysis. It's always interesting to listen to the results of a band more well-known for their mainstream oriented material seeking out and exploring inside the art rock universe. Often because they may bring fans along for the ride that is on a journey of discovery too, but also because their approach to composing and performing in the art rock universe often will differ from those who have their roots within it. And while 17 Pygmies doesn't expand the musical palette of art rock per se, their journey along the outer borders of the progressive rock realm is an enticing one. The theme explored on this CD, as well as the previous instalment in the series, is based on a science fiction story. And to emphasize that aspect of the CD, cosmic sounds are a just about ever-present feature throughout this disc: futuristic sounds, ethereal voice effects, cold but dampened fluctuating synthesizer textures a nice and effective manner in which to add a distinct identity to this production, a gentle effect that at least I learned to appreciate. As far as the songs themselves are concerned, slow-paced compositions are the name of the game here. Carefully assembled creations utilizing symphonic backdrops extensively, and while digital strings can be found aplenty many pieces also include what sounds pretty much like the real deal: old fashioned violin and the occasional cello. The glockenspiel and piano are both used to good effect too, as is the acoustic guitar. The end result is in most cases creations of a kind I'd describe as cosmic symphonic pop, with dampened but majestic arrangements of a symphonic nature, generally light in tone in a manner that makes pop rather than rock be a suitable description. Mood and atmosphere tend to be melancholic, and all along inserts, pauses and intermediate sequences are generally used to hone in on the aforementioned cosmic sounds and effects. And a special note is merited for the lead vocals: Meg Maryatt comes across as an accomplished vocalist, whose delivery certainly elevates many of the gentler efforts into territories of a higher interest. 17 Pygmies may not be the most innovative act around as seen from a progressive rock perspective, but as far as making beautiful music is concerned their expertise is undeniable. I do have a slight negative concern about the CD itself, however, and then first and foremost the packaging. The frail plastic, cardboard and wax seal and all the other small, beautiful and stunning details makes me rather hesitant about actually pulling out the CD itself to play it. The package is so stunningly beautiful that I'm actually afraid to destroy it, desiring instead to maintain this frail beauty which, I guess, is why we have services like iTunes.
Conclusion. Beauty is a key word for 17 Pygmies most recent production "CIII: Even Celestina Gets the Blues": from the exquisite packaging to the gentle, cosmic flavored and richly layered symphonic oriented compositions themselves, as well as mix, production and performance. An album that merits a check by those who find such a description tantalizing, and one that deserves a far wider audience than what a limited edition, numbered CD apparently has prepared for.
[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS - LIST | BANDLISTS ]