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(62:11, Progressive Promotion Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Vanishing 3:39 2. Divergence 4:04 3. Silent Corner 6:32 4. Silver and Gold 4:26 5. Lifeboats 6:02 6. Not in This Picture 12:33 7. A Seasonal Affair 4:18 8. Forbidden City 5:21 9. Stormland 6:21 10. Killer 2015 Version 5:16 (b/t) 11. Black Cat 2015 Version 3:39 (b/t) LINEUP: Thomas Klarmann vocals; bass, guitars; flute, keyboards Robert Gozon vocals; keyboards; guitars Ulf Jacobs drums; vocals Rico Florczak guitars With: Marek Arnold saxophone Andy Tillison keyboards Andy Wells keyboards
Prolusion. The German band ARGOS can trace its history back to 2005, initially a two-man project that has grown into a trio and then a full quartet over the years that have passed since then, releasing a new album every other year or so ever since they released their self-titled debut album back in 2009. "A Seasonal Affair" is their fourth studio production, and was released through the German label Progressive Promotion Records in 2015.
Analysis. If one aspect about this CD can be established straight away, then it is that this is a band rather fond of the music from yesteryear. And while they enjoy a multitude of bands, as firmly documented on their debut album and the homages to different bands and styles there, Argos appears to be increasingly focused on a subsection of the progressive rock universe connoisseurs, generally described as the Canterbury Scene. "A Seasonal Affair" continues that trend, although the band has developed their take on that sound a bit this time around. Initially, the album opens up with songs that would have been a nice fit for any of their previous excursions, with fairly light of heart and tone, whimsical affair with plenty of room for pastoral sequences, wandering instrumental patterns and other archetypical English mannerisms you will find plenty of in the back catalogs if bands like Caravan and Hatfield And The North, at least if my memory serves me well, flavored with occasional lapses into layered keyboard arrangements arguably closer to the likes of Genesis on occasion. The talk-like, subtly stilted vocals provides an effective contrast to the more fluent instrumentation, and the vocal style itself is also used in a subtly whimsical manner at times, which adds to the charm of these compositions. But as the album unfolds Argos takes us into darker landscapes, foreshadowed by second track Divergence and with the epic-length Not in This Picture as the transitional border, a creation that combines the whimsical and pastoral tendencies from the earlier parts with the somewhat darker material to follow. The next three compositions still maintain that fluent, whimsical touch admittedly, but now very much toned down, with a stronger emphasis on darker tones and arrangements with a brooding edge, and a name like Van Der Graaf Generator is one that comes to my mind as the rest of the album unfolds. To my ears, these songs lack that elegant charm of the opening cuts though, and don't quite manage to make the darker atmospheres as tantalizing. I do like music that explores darker moods, but for me, there's a slight edge lacking on some of these pieces, so to my ears the darker aspect of this CD doesn't manage to sway me as much as the ones with more of a lighthearted tinge to them. The band has chosen to include two bonus tracks on this CD: reworked versions of songs from their debut album. Both of them are just as charming in their slightly new guise as they were in the original, but to my ears, the songs aren't substantially altered as such, and if my memory doesnt let me down, the mix has been fine tuned, possibly the vocals lifted a bit, and there may be some instrumental details added as well. I haven't compared them to the originals though, but note down that both songs in their reworked form are as charming as I remember the originals were.
Conclusion. For me, Argos is a band I associate with the Canterbury Scene. They may not be a purebred Canterbury band in terms of all aspects of their material, at least not in the ears of those who subscribe to the notion that this scene lasted from 1970 until 1975, but if you tend to enjoy bands exploring material inspired by that movement, then Argos is a band that merits a check. For this latest album of theirs I'd suggest that it might be an advantage to have a soft spot for the likes of Peter Hammill and Van der Graaf Generator as well.
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