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(45:37 / Lizard Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. The Curtain Rises 2:06 2. Three Skeletons 3:25 3. Waiting 4:36 4. Dawn 0:37 5. Chaos 0:57 6. Blue Rose 4:16 7. Illusion 1:52 8. Fairy Tale 3:15 9. Leafless 2:00 10. Metamorphosis 6:12 11. Thorns 4:45 12. Ninna Nanna 2:46 13. History of Love Lost In Ice 4:14 14. The Oak 2:33 15. Heaven 2:00 LINEUP: Andrea Vaccarella - ac. guitars, harp Dario Gianni - ac. bass Roberto Gianni - piano Bruno Rubino - drums Simona Minniti - vocals With: Susan Kimbell - cello Antonio Greco - viola Pietro Vasile - violin Giuseppe Severini - violin Claudio Giglio - woodwinds Pierre Di Mauro - percussion
Prolusion. An Italian outfit, ANCIENT OAK CONSORT (AOC hereinafter) was formed in 1995 in Siracusa, an ancient town located on the island of Sicily, which in turn is the most southern province of Italy. "The Acoustic Resonance of the Soul" is their second release, following "Ancient Oak" from ten years ago.
Analysis. There are no sketches among the eight songs and seven instrumentals that form the content of this becomingly titled recording (the music is indeed acoustic and very soulful), even those lasting for less than one minute appearing to be complete, well-conceived pieces. What is also instantly striking is the genuinely symphonic nature of the compositions and arrangements and that most, if not all, of the tracks have a distinct chamber feel to them. It is Andrea Vaccarella's acoustic and classical guitars that are crucial to this band's sound, the music almost always resolving around those, though at least one of the chamber instruments usually takes an equally dominant position. Simona Minniti is a very versatile vocalist, who lavishly demonstrates her 'chameleonic' capability, her natural voice being operatic, in a truly classical sense. I slightly regret that she doesn't sing in an operatic form everywhere on the album, but since she does so on each of the songs (at least here and there), these must be viewed separately from instrumental cuts. I'll begin with the latter category. The only two tracks that find Andrea's guitar to be overshadowed by other instruments (viola, violin, whistle and congas to be precise), The Curtain Rises and Chaos both belong to Adriatic folk music, in its pure form. It would be hard to believe without listening to Illusion that this 2-minute cut with only classical guitar, acoustic bass and a drum kit in the arrangement would be both dynamic and rich in transitions enough to be perceived not otherwise than as a fully-fledged Art-Rock piece. The Oak, Leafless, Ninna Nanna and Heaven are all classical-like compositions, though at the same time, these are to a certain degree associated with Steve Hackett's "Voyage of the Acolyte" as well. The very same feelings I experience while listening to Waiting and Blue Rose: I just can't remember the title of that song from the same "Voyage of the Acolyte" which features Sally Oldfield on vocals - it's definitely a reference in this particular case. The music is slow, but is very well developed, not without the noticeable magic. Unlike these two, Fairy Tale sounds like a cross between acoustic Art-Rock, Classical music and Opera only in its mid-section, otherwise steering in the same direction as the two instrumentals described first. Just like Illusion, the songs Three Skeletons, History of Love Lost In Ice, Metamorphosis and Thorns all plunge the listener into the wonderful atmosphere of acoustically chamber Progressive Rock with a dynamic full-band sound, just enriched with vocals, some of which are relatively conventional in character, whilst others are certainly operatic. The largely instrumental Metamorphosis (the longest track here, lasting for over six minutes) comprises probably a complete set of instruments heralded and is the absolute winner, revealing a relatively enormous quantity of different thematic storylines and, as a consequence, plenty of dramatic transitions. Brilliant. Oh almost forgot: Dawn is a kind of outro of Waiting with the involvement of rhythm section.
Conclusion. "The Acoustic Resonance of the Soul" by AOC is an outstanding listening adventure and is one of the most original albums I've heard this year. I don't add an exclamation mark to the rating just because the two traditional tunes are not ornamented with features of any other genres, unlike Fairy Tale for instance. Hoping there will be more from this band to come in the future, I highly recommended this their debut CD to symphonic prog lovers with a taste for acoustic and chamber sound, fans of Steve Hackett included, for sure.
VM: May 16, 2007
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