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Apogee (Germany)
Overall View


Discography:

1995 - "The Border of Awareness" (76 min, "Musea")
******

1998 - "Sisyphos" (65 min, "Musea")
*****


1995 - "The Border of Awareness"
(76 min, "Musea")

Knowing well all the three "sides" of Arne Schafer's creation - as one of the two masterminds of the leading German progressive band Versus X and as the only mastermind and musician for both his solo proGjects Apogee and the other of his own name, - I probably can consider him as the most important person of the German Progressive Rock movement of the last decade, at least. With the review of "The Turbulent Zone" (which, btw, is voted the Album of the Year (2000 - see the corresponding Top-20 on the title-page of ProgressoR) I wrote some three months ago, an Overall View on the creation of Versus X (1993 - "Versus X", 1997 - "Disturbance", Versus X - 2000 - "The Turbulent Zone") is now complete. An Overall View on the albums that Arne released under his own name I'll write a bit later, and it's now the turn of his Apogee project to look at entirely. I don't exactly know why, but I love Apogee and Arne's 'full-blooded' band Versus X absolutely equally (though, as for the "Arne Schafer's" albums, I've had no time even to listen to them up to now, so I just can't compare this Name to the both mentioned ones at the moment), despite the fact that the richness of Apogee's works is just a result of repeated overdubbings. Also, working alone on his solo projects (do you love working all alone, Arne?), Schafer uses programmed drums, while playing all other instruments 'live'. Since these synth-drums sound not monotonous, but mostly in a diverse way - with lots of breaks and other tricks typical for a real drummer, - I am almost sure that Apogee's skillful drumming is a result of Arne's manual work. Not too many Progressive Solo Pilots use programmed drums properly, i.e. to beat on the keys with fingers masterfully. Anyway, the main thing, I don't know any other Solo Pilot with a compositional talent comparable to Arne's. If "The Turbulent Zone" in my view is the pick of the overall discography of the musical "conglomerate" Versus X - Apogee - Arne Schafer, then, comparing both the debut albums from Versus X and Apogee, now I find "The Border of Awareness" more interesting thematically and more integral compositionally. Each of the compositions presented on the album is full of wonderful, distinctively original music, that on the whole I wouldn't dare draw comparisons with anything I've heard before. Of course, I know that some "comparison" reviewers (on this matter please read the "TIRED OF COMPARISONS" Key Review) find the music of Apogee strongly influenced by the Titans like Van Der Hammill, et al. But, treading the path of least resistance with writing reviews, using comparisons as the main point to describe a serious artist's creation the same way they employ for 'wannabees', most often they just can't find any really essential points, phrases and words to make their material worthy of that serious artist's work they write about. Knowing that defining musical genres in general and the current musical trend of genre-melding in particular has the same very fuzzy nature, I have to assert my view on these questions quite often. Back to the works of the hero of this material (to depict them in detail), I don't hear any obvious influences in the music of Apogee and, as before, I am sure that any Not obvious influences are not in opposition to originality at all. Listening to "The Border of Awareness" (as well as all the other albums of the "conglomerate"), frankly, I can't find here any significant trace even of those influences that we normally call "not so obvious". As for Apogee's stylistics within the genre, this is the same Classic Symphonic Art Rock, under whose banner work all their units, as well as a myriad other bands. Despite the fact that originally Arne was a guitarist, all alone he plays various keyboards so effectively that Apogee's music has on the whole more powerful symphonic structures than Versus X. If you love Classic Symphonic Art Rock with an intense dramatic subject saturated with diverse events, "The Border of Awareness" will seize your attention from the first notes and keep it in a wonderful state of waiting for new developments till the album's end. Tens of varied, complex, sometimes unexpected arrangements within each song are sure to induce you to listen to the album time after time. Schafer's singing is also very moving and diverse, as well as his highly profound and literary lyrics, - all right, this way influences of Peter Hammill are obvious, but that's a really good thing. Lots of masterly solos from each... instrument (passages of acoustic guitar are 'something special' here in general), and a rich polyphonic sound make "The Border of Awareness" a work of a 'full-blooded' band. I don't know any other album, performed completely by one man, that provokes such a real illusion of a whole band playing. Also, none of other albums I've heard, composed and performed by Progressive Solo Pilots, can live up in terms of quality to "The Border of Awareness" in any regard.

VM. March 20, 2001

Musea Records


1998 - "Sisyphos"
(65 min, "Musea")

"Sisyphos" is the second album of one of the three progressive 'units' of Arne Schafer (see above) that, taken as a whole, represents a real trinity - the most powerful and significant musical force at least on the current German Rock-front line of the Virtual Holy War for the Restitution of Progressive Music as the Mainstream Queen. The 65-minute work consists of three "side-long" tracks and two short, the latter are first and last songs on the album, a kind of introduction and conclusion, and look in place there. Made in the same stylistic formula as all the three lengthy tracks, these just 4- and 5-minute pieces sound, however, progressive - in the truest meaning of the word - too. But of course, the crucial musical events take place in the other compositions with their 55 minute playing time. Compositionally and vocally, "Sisyphos" follows the line of the already recognizable structural base of Apogee laid in the debut album - in terms of the same richness of the sound and even large dosis of lush orchestral arrangements added. But the absence of the wonderfully playing saxophone and of such distinctive wind instruments as oboe and flute, that Arne so masterly called forth from his synthesizers on "The Border of Awareness", makes the sound of "Sisyphos" not so diverse as it was on the debut album. Also, while anyone could confirm that arrangements of Apogee-2 are as interesting and diverse (as well as the level of complexity) as they were on Apogee-1, I don't find here that wonderful magic I hear with every listen on "The Border of Awareness". This magic, if you know what I mean, is an extremely rare thing in the current Progressive movement in general - despite the fact that we have a lot of masterpieces in it. I still wonder how many musical works created in the 1970s - and, of course, by no means only within Progressive genres, - possess that unique magic feel. Still, that's what "A Classic for the Future" means exactly. So, just sorry if some of you don't understand why I "ate" one star from the rating of such an excellent album. Finally, we have too little space (15 MB in all) to make audio clips in addition to our materials and even for the bands whose official homepages we run. But, in case one of the few contemporary ProGjects whose music has magic in it we've decided to add here the most interesting, in our view, fragment of "Sisyphos", especially since originally this one is located at Apogee's web-site. MP3 sample: Cruel Jokes.

VM. March 22, 2001

Musea Records

P.S. Most of the Earthly people know an ancient story of Sisyphus who once toiled vainly trying to roll up a stone to a mountain top, and the Rolling Stones seem to be wiser than that hero, especially if they had the reverse view on the same problem when they made up their band's name many years ago. Sorry, this was just the birth of a Dilemma - as a result of my verbiage, of course. If I had also a daughter, apart from my son Dimmy, I'd name her Dilemma or Dilemmy. Hey, what a wonderful female name I've just devised! Really, since Earthly people are still in a dilemma which of the two Biblical Trees (of Good and Evil) to choose, Earthly men are also in an eternal dilemma - which of the women to choose to marry (and the other way round). It is really sad to know that both sides of an originally united 'medal' of marriage get lost too often. Why did our Creator make marriage just a kind of lottery? Doubtless, it is because our Humanity is still in endless search for the Right Tree (as well as myself, of course). It's a strange yet quite typical thing for our dual world: it is too hard to win the simplest, at first sight, lottery - when there are just two balls (Trees) in the kitty, and the direct way is by no means always the shortest and safest one...


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