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(67:17, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. We are the Light 17:42 2. The Awaken Dreamer in the Soul Garden 4:39 3. Toward the Adventure 6:12 4. There’s a Place Not Faraway 5:12 5. Jagannath Orbit 11:44 6. Rhythm of the Spheres 16:29 7. Sanctuary 5:20 LINEUP: Roberto Diaz – el. & ac. guitars; lead & backing vocals Virginia Peraza – keyboards, organ Yaroski Corredera – bass Carlos Sosa – lead & backing vocals Ariel Valdes – drums, bongos Osvaldo Vientes – drums With: Anaisy Gomez – bagpipes, flute, clarinet Javier Mauri – recorder; percussion Donna Betancourt – bassoon Jacobo Garcia – didgeridoo
Prolusion. ANIMA MUNDI is a Cuban ensemble, whose history already counts thirteen years. Nonetheless, “Jagannath Orbit” (a Musea Records outing) is only their second album to date, following “Septentrion”, which was released by Mellow Records in 2002.
Analysis. As is proven by the history of our beloved genre itself, it is by no means an everyday occurrence that a progressive rock release opens with the main corresponding trump card its creators have up their sleeve, but this is just such a case. Made up of seven tracks, “Jagannath Orbit” begins with the longest (17:42) and, at the same time, most intricate and compelling creation here, We Are the Light. Combining the band’s own musical discoveries with mid-‘70s Yes-inspired avant-tinged Art-Rock, this is an absolutely mind-blowing composition, worthy to be entered into the Red Book of the progressive rock killers (whose creation, in turn, is already a demand of the day, to my mind). This is also the sole track on the disc that has pronouncedly heavy arrangements, suggesting symphonic Prog-Metal of a Kansas variety, additionally standing out for its richness in chamber colorations (kudos to the four guest woodwind players who, sadly, otherwise only appear on some of the shorter tracks), and also for some Indian motifs, which are most likely provided by didgeridoo. Furthermore, there are a few sections where all ten of the musicians involved come together in a captivating interplay, and those are the most sonically saturated ones to be ever found on the album, to say the least. The 12-minute title track and the 6-minute Toward the Adventure both fall squarely into the vintage sympho-prog idiom. These still find the band paying a lot of attention to details and, therefore, reveal enough twists and turns to keep them interesting. On the other hand, both instantly bring me back to the Yes LP “Close to the Edge” (side B), the English legend’s influence being equally striking in the sextet’s general approach to the arrangements and in the players’ soloing parts, the vocal ones included. All in all, however, although highly compelling compositions in an overall musical sense (particularly the former, since it additionally incorporates some space-fusion elements into the basic style), none come across as masterworks, at least as unconditionally as the epic disc opener does. Another ‘sidelong’ piece, the purely instrumental Rhythm of the Spheres, is more impressionistic in nature. It begins and develops still in the classic Yes manner, but later on goes through several phases, not all of which fit comfortably together – now entering a symphonic space rock landscape, now turning to what appears as something merely spacey, and so on. Thankfully, in the epic’s finale the band once again shows itself as a solid, plus this time truly original, forward-thinking unit of the art-rock genre. The remaining instrumental, The Awaken Dreamer in the Soul Garden, leaves a bit better impression, despite being quite short and more conventionally melodic – a slow symphonic space rock piece with some fine acoustic guitar, recorder and bassoon passages. The interplay between the woodwinds is also part of There Is a Place Not Far-away, which, in turn, is a slow art-rock song, fairly beautiful on all levels. The only really weak point here is the closing track, Sanctuary. Strictly moulded upon Yes at its poppiest (think Open Your Eyes rather than Owner of a Lonely Heart – got an idea?), it probably possesses the power to exert an instant effect on some listeners, but not on me: being abundant in repetitions, it loses all of its – hypothetical – charm already upon the first spin.
Conclusion. Displaying such a wild – sorry – wide range in both composition and style that, IMHO, should never be used within the same recording, the 67-minute “Jagannath Orbit” can easier be labeled as a typical contemporary prog-rock CD release than an elaborated concept album of the genre. Nonetheless, it will certainly please most of those into Symphonic Progressive, and fans of Yes in particular.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: June 5, 2010
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