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Argos - 2009 - "Argos"

(54:51, Musea Records)


*****+
                 
TRACK LIST:                   

1.  Killer 4:38
2.  The King of Ghosts 5:09
3.  Black Cat 3:37
4.  A Name in the Sand 4:22
5.  Core Images 5:09
6.  The Hat Goes North 2:45
7.  Young Person's Guide To Argos 3:56
8.  Ten Fingers Overboard 3:11
9.  Norwegian Stone Shortage 3:05
10. Further Apart 2:22
11. Time for Love 3:51
12. Meet the Humans 2:27
13. Elektro-Wagner 2:46
14. Passing Through 5:24

LINEUP:

Thomas Klarmann  bass, guitars; keyboards; flute; vocals
Robert Gozon  vocals; keyboards; guitars
Ulf Jacobs  drums, percussion; vocals

Prolusion. The German band ARGOS was formed in 2005, initially as a solo project for Thomas Klarmann. Pretty soon Robert Gozon from Superdrama got involved; as he and Thomas both are members of that outfit he got to know about this solo project fairly quickly. As they worked on material, the duo decided to post their progress on a MySpace page, and shortly after they were contacted by drummer and composer Ulf Jacobs, who wondered if his services could be of help. The now finalized band was signed to Musea Records in 2008, which subsequently issued their self-titled debut effort in January 2009.

Analysis. Debut efforts from bands are always intriguing experiences. Some bands have toiled for years, slowly but surely exploring material to find their own niche. Others set out to explore a certain stylistic expression without adding much to it, while some more or less deliberately try to replicate the sound of one or more specific bands. Few manage to create something truly original the first time around though, even if the band has tried hard to achieve just that. In this particular case, the group doesn't try to achieve something never heard before. They are very much aware of the artists that influenced them and have chosen to create an album honoring that fact rather than shying away from it. Rather than mimicking one or more outfits, they have chosen to focus on certain aspects of the sounds explored by the heroes of yesteryear. The end result is lacking in originality, but with lots of charm instead. Argos has divided this disc into three parts, each honoring a specific subset of their influences. Nursed by Giants (which covers the first five compositions) blends musical elements from Genesis and Gentle Giant. The sound of the former is the dominating one by far, but a few select vocal passages and some quirky, mellow and primarily folk-tinged sequences are unmistakably elements from the sound of the latter. The next four tracks are sorted under the heading of Canterbury Souls, and those familiar with the stylistic subset of progressive rock referred to as just Canterbury will find lots of familiar sounding material. I'm not an expert by far on this particular movement, and will have to trust the verdict of others when they claim that Caravan has been the main inspiration for these efforts. It is the most charming part of this CD as far as I'm concerned, while the instrumentation is often much more sparse in these compositions, which come across as rather sophisticated ones, at least compared with the other parts of the album. The five songs ending this debut effort are placed under the heading From Liverpool to Outer Space, and while I can't seem to find much space rock inspired material here tracks pretty similar in sound to the more mellow and laid-back parts of the back catalog of The Beatles are easier to find here. For me these efforts are also the least satisfying, mostly because Argos lacks the vocal capabilities of the fab Four the vocals are somewhat on the weak side throughout, and when performing Beatles-type ballads weakness in that department tends to get highlighted. I presume the outer space reference pertains to the track Electro-Wagner on this part of the disc, where the title of said track reveals quite a lot about the content. And on the song ending this production, Passing Through, the influence from Genesis is audible again, taking this disc full circle.

Conclusion. Charm and atmosphere alone have made many an album more intriguing than what you'd expect, which this first release from German trio Argos is a good example of. Those looking for innovative, groundbreaking efforts can safely leave this one behind, but those with a more than passing interest in 70s progressive rock as they made it in England might want to become more familiar with this venture, especially if they are familiar with the bands and stylistic expressions mentioned above.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: December 5, 2009
The Rating Room


Related Links:

Musea Records
Argos


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