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17 Pygmies - 2015 - "Isabel II: Abaddon Rising"

(39:57, Trakwerx Records)


1. Isabel XII 5:30
2. Isabel XIII 4:17
3. Isabel XIV 4:13
4. Isabel XV 4:48
5. Isabel XVI 4:29
6. Isabel XVII 2:54
7. Isabel XVIII 2:33
8. Isabel XIX 1:34
9. Isabel XX 5:46
10. Isabel XXI 3:53


Meg Maryatt – vocals; guitars; synthesizers; accordion
Jackson Del Rey – guitars, bass; synthesizers; vocals
Dirk Doucette – drums, percusiion
Jeff Brenneman – guitars 
Julien Imstepf – bass 
Lea Reis – synthesizers; vocals
Jean Sudbury – violin, viola; mandolins; accordion

Prolusion. The US band 17 PYGMIES started out back in 1982, and at least in the initial phase of their career, which lasted into sometime in the ’90s, they were regarded as a post-punk band. The band revived in 2007, and has since then released a handful of conceptual albums, exploring a style much closer to what many would describe as progressive rock. "Isabel II: Abaddon Rising" is their most recent outing, released towards the end of 2015through the US label Trakwerx.

Analysis. Dream-laden, elegant music is something of a specialty for this US band, at least as I have experienced them and as I recall them. Rarely opting for dramatic effects, but rather using much effort to create and establish compelling and often striking atmospheres, their brand of music is one that, perhaps, needs to be approached slightly different than many other bands often found described within a progressive rock context, as this is music that speaks to the heart and soul to a much greater extent than the mind and the intellect. The second chapter in the band's ”Isabel” saga is an intriguing and rather captivating experience on many levels. The compositions and arrangements are often of the type I'd describe as sparse, with relatively few elements used to create striking moods and atmospheres. Textured, layered keyboards, accompanied by violin and accordion, are used extensively in the first half of this album, combined with Meg Maryatt's lead vocals and some tasteful vocal harmonies to create cold, but beautiful moods of the kind that does bring the word celestial to mind. Strikingly beautiful at that, and also with something of a mournful yet naive vibe to them. Metallic-sounding percussion is used extensively in this half of the album, while more regular rhythms – when they do appear – are kept subdued and unobtrusive. At the halfway stage the album undergoes a striking transformation, and the next quarter of material handed us to showcase a different aspect of the band altogether. No more celestial invoking associations or cold moods and atmospheres either. Instead, the songs revolve around what I'd typically describe as an Earthen sound. Roots music of a kind of Americana, with careful plucked guitars accompanied by just as careful violin and accordion details, and where the lead vocals, when present, have an altogether much warmer sound and presence. When this short but effective album concludes with the 21st part of the story, it is with a different sound and style altogether again. Partially Earthen and partially futuristic in general mood and atmosphere, with a striking exotic timbre running throughout that adds an exotic tinge to the proceedings. Kind of Aladdin in the 23rd century, if you catch my drift. The layered instrumentation is back again here, with a vibrant, dark rhythm based one as the vibrant engine and foundation, and with most notes of the kind that come across as subtly odd in an exotic manner, World Music and the sounds of the Middle East my main associations, as explored in a futuristic general context.

Conclusion. Those fond of dream-laden, subtle moods and atmospheres and the elegance of beauty explored and delivered in a more subtle and careful manner should delight in the material found on this CD, as well as with most, if not all, of the other productions that have come courtesy of this US band. Those who feel intrigued by music that is actually described as celestial in such a context should take note of this CD for further inspection.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: February 5, 2016
The Rating Room

Related Links:

17 Pygmies
Trakwerx Records


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