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(45 min, Metal Mind)
TRACK LIST: 1. Bar Wah Wah 5:00 2. Bonnie's Eyes 4:08 3. Pinocchio's Dream 4:11 4. Waltz for Barbara 6:11 5. Color Impressions 14:54 6. New Century 5:41 7. Back to the North 5:05 LINEUP: Apostolis Anthimos - guitars; synthesizer, piano Marcin Pospieszalski - basses; synthesizer Paul Wertico - drums
Prolusion. Apostolis ANTHIMOS is a Greek musician who has been living in Poland since birth and who is above all known as a permanent member of one of the oldest and most famous bands ever to have come out of that country, SBB. Anthimos also has three solo albums to his credit: "Days We Can't Forget" (1994), "Theatro" (2000) and "Back to the North", which was brought out just recently, via the Metal Mind label.
Analysis. On "Back to the North", Apostolis not only appears in his habitual role of guitarist, but also plays grand piano and synthesizer. Apart from Anthimos, the cohort includes his SBB band mate drummer Paul Wertico and bassist Marcin Pospieszalski, whose name I haven't encountered until now. The recording is not over-produced with studio values and features only well-considered, truly essential overdubs (always two guitars in the picture for instance), due to which the trio sounds normally either like a quartet or a quintet. Apostolis is equally masterful and inventive when playing the guitar and piano, so I regret slightly that the latter instrument is only featured on two of the seven tracks present. Well, this is merely remarked on, as the matter doesn't affect the overall value of the material at all. The synthesizer is present on about half of the pieces, but unlike the piano it is used exclusively as a supporting instrument. A classic Jazz-Fusion aesthetic is obvious throughout each of the compositions, four of which however present the primary style in combination with a pronouncedly heavy Blues Rock. These are Bar Wah Wah, New Century, Pinocchio's Dream and Back to the North, though on the title track the heavy component openly manifests itself only in the finale. The opening number is somewhat less complicated than its brothers in style, as well as the other pieces. The music is anchored by the guitar and bass setting syncopated rhythms in tandem with the drums, played with quite a few repetitions, yet maintaining a very compelling sound throughout. All in all, this is a driving jazz-rocker, full of fervent energy and dynamism. There is something in common between it and the Hymn to the Seventh Galaxy from the eponymous album by Return To Forever. The other three are quirky, yet totally intelligent compositions made up of complex structures, with constantly shifting themes and many original chord progressions. All players are at the top of their form throughout, although of course, Apostolis much more often shines in a primary solo role, his guitar taking center stage unless his studio double:-) switches over to piano, which is eloquently documented on Pinocchio's Dream and the title track - the most multicolored compositions in the set. A cross between "Birds of Fire" by the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Allan Holdsworth's "Metal Fatigue" can serve as a rough point of comparison. Bonnie's Eyes and Waltz for Barbara are more laid back and reflective, referring to atmospheric Space Fusion, though still with a strong improvisational component and rare returns to a once-carved furrow. Each of the musicians finds some place to show their solo performance skill on the 15-minute Color Impressions, but the epic's greater part is occupied by the trio's joint improvisational jams, most of which are fast, intense and (which is especially striking) highly eclectic all at the same time. Overall, the piece has a strong free jazz feeling, which makes me think it was created extemporaneously and was performed live in the studio. The remembrance of "9 Eleven" by Taylor's Free Universe, Soft Machine's "V" and Holdsworth's (jazziest in my view) "Atavachron" may help give you some idea of these Color Impressions - in case you ever venture to imagine this music without listening to its bearer:-).
Conclusion. "Back to the North" is a strong and very listenable Jazz Rock album, full of intricate maneuvers and dynamic contrasts. The sound is normally thick and rich and is very rarely restrained or muffled. Those who like Allan Holdsworth, early David Torn or even late Brand X (think "Xcommunication") will find plenty here to be pleased about. Recommended.
VM: May 16, 2006
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