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Apogee (Germany) - 2003 - "The Garden of Delight"
(71 min, Musea)


******(!)
                 
TRACK LIST:

1.  The Garden of Delights 16:24
2.  To Keep the Balance 15:52
3.  The Cassini Division 2:45
4.  Paying the Bill 13:40
5.  Swallow the Illusion 21:26

All music & lyrics: by Schafer.
All arrangements: by Schafer, except those of drums: Wollmar.

LINE-UP:

Arne Schafer - vocals; keyboards; electric, acoustic, & bass guitars
Uwe Wollmar - drums & percussion

Produced, engineered, & mastered by Schafer. 
Executive producers: B. Pourcheron & A. Robert at Musea Records.

Prolusion. Arne Schafer presents his regular album under the vehicle of Apogee being this time (finally!) backed by a drummer, who, moreover, is none other than his Versus X band mate, Uwe Wollmar. Thus, now, I think I can allow myself to unite the Apogee albums and those by Versus X into one unofficial discography (not for publication, of course). Just like in the case of Van Der Hammill, it will be titled Versus A; regardless of some contradiction with the original meaning of that Latin conception. On Progressor are available the reviews of all albums by Versus X, Apogee, and Arne Schafer. For those interested to look into some or all of them, please choose: >Apogee-OV, >Arne-OV, >Versus X-1, >Versus X-2, >Versus X-3, >Versus X-4.

Synopsis. The track list of "The Garden of Delights" reminds me of that of Yes's double "Tales from Topographic Oceans" - with the only exception, which, of course, concerns the presence of the third track here. This is the only instrumental piece on the album with brilliant, constantly developing interplay between passages and solos of classical guitar. So indeed, Cassini Division is really somewhat a division between the long tracks, all four of which, like in the case of still the same "Tales", were created within the framework of a unified stylistics. By that however, any resemblances between "The Garden of Delights" and "Tales" are final. As well as all the other Apogee and related albums, the new one is the product of a genuine inspiration and is free of any influences. The music is not only very original, but is also richer in heavy and Classical Music-related textures than ever before. Undoubtedly, long epic compositions still remain the dainty dish for most, if not all, of the 'classic' Prog-heads, so here they are, in all their glory. Each of the four epics: the album's title track, To Keep the Balance, Paying the Bill, and Swallow the Illusion (1, 2, 4, & 5) is filled with a really vast number of different musical pictures and has everything necessary to be on par with most of the best side-long suites from the heyday of Progressive. The music is exceptional, and its development is full of unexpectedness: from Classic Art-Rock, through Symphonic Cathedral Metal, to a lushly-orchestrated Classical Music in almost a pure form and being mixed with Rock textures, etc, again, and over, yet, almost always within different dimensions. Being a real multi-instrumentalist, Arne uses his large instrumental arsenal in the most effective way. I am impressed by the parts of each instrument here, but especially by those of acoustic and electric guitar, organ and piano. Besides, it must be heard how masterfully Arne uses the possibilities of modern synthesizers to reproduce the sounds and solos (including very specific: such as pizzicatos, for instance) of varied string, chamber, and wind instruments. The vocal and instrumental arrangements are filled with dramatics and eclecticism, which is like honey to my soul, bringing me a wonderful, all-absorbing sense of my unity with music and inspiring me to write music, too. Uwe's drumming is outstandingly diverse and masterful as well, though most of the Classical Music-related arrangements feature only light percussion (mostly cymbals etc) and no proper drums.

Conclusion. When talking of originality and magic in music, I always imply that such a charisma is the main trump of any true artist of any genre. Well, I only wanted to say that Arne Schafer is a really charismatic composer and musician. Thus, there is probably nothing special in the fact that he was never a victim of stagnation during his long musical career, and "The Garden of Delights" has become the best Apogee album to date. Don't miss >it at any rate.

VM: February 8, 2004


Related Links:

Musea Records
Apogee
Versus X
Musea Records


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