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Argos - 2009 - "Circles"

(59:29, Musea Records)

TRACK LIST:                   

1.  Sammel Surium 2:49
2.  Closed Circle 4:36
3.  A Thousand Years 8:12
4.  Lines on the Horizon 5:48
5.  Sun and Moon 3:36
6.  Custody of the Knave 6:04
7.  The Gatekeeper 7:51
8.  Willow Wind 3:13
9.  Total Mess Retail 3:47
10. Lost on the Playground 8:17
11. Progology 5:16


Thomas Klarmann  bass, guitars; flute; keyboards; vocals
Robert Gozon  vocals; keyboards; guitars
Ulf Jacobs  drums; piano; vocals
Rico Florcak  guitars 
Michael Hahn  guitars 
Dieter Guntermann  saxophone 

Prolusion. The German band ARGOS was formed back in 2005, and four years later its self-titled debut album was issued by Musea Records. Since then the band has expanded from a trio into a quartet, new material has been written and recorded, and their label connection was upheld as their sophomore effort "Circles" was released in the start of 2010.

Analysis. The initial effort by this up-and-coming German outfit was by and large a homage to their musical heroes, with Genesis, Gentle Giant, The Beatles and the Canterbury jazz-fusion scene given a liberal amount of nods throughout. This time around Argos has started seeking out a niche of their own, at least to some extent. One might say that on this occasion they do indeed walk in circles around the territories they explored first time around, and seen in that context the title of this production is an apt one, although I do presume that the members didn't exactly have that in mind themselves. What is provided this time is an amalgam of various influences. The drums and bass in particular deliver for the jazz-fusion-inspired moments, and a variety of different tangents provide the symphonic textures that indeed do have references towards Genesis on this occasion as well, but also head into darker moods and atmospheres that might or might not take their cues from the likes of Van Der Graaf Generator. And there's room for quirkier and more folk-inspired moments too, with the aforementioned Canterbury jazz-fusion scene and Gentle Giant as the most obvious references. On this album all of these elements, and probably quite a few others connoisseurs of 70s art rock will discover with a certain glee, are mixed together in a rather vital gumbo. Tranquil atmospheric motifs are followed by richly-arranged symphonic excursions, laid-back jazz-tinged sequences follow melancholic string-driven symphonic affairs, punchier guitars and organ-driven themes are inserted in between organ and string-driven explorations rarely predictable as such, and always with a concern for a good melody and strong atmosphere. And while the dominating traits are easily categorized in terms of styles, the subtle details defy the genre conventions more easily. In particular, the addition of contemporary sounding instrumental details, like the electronic sounds utilized on Sun and Moon or the wandering picked neo-prog guitar motif in Closed Circle, alongside more modern sounding synth textures appearing on a few occasions. And while I can't really say that Argos' members have crafted themselves a masterpiece on their second attempt, it is a strong creation without any obvious weaknesses to point the finger at either. Their chosen stylistic ground may not be the most innovative, but as long as they explore it with the charm, wit and thoroughness displayed on this disc, they should start winning themselves quite a few fans at the current moment and more so in the coming years.

Conclusion. As on their initial effort, the members of Argos have crafted themselves a charming retro-oriented CD with their sophomore effort "Circles". This time around they seek to carve out their own niche in the universe of retro-oriented symphonic bands, and while arguably not among the most adventurous of these outfits, their thorough approach and obvious passion for the type of music they explore make them well worth seeking out by fans of 70s oriented art rock.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: December 12, 2010
The Rating Room

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