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Cast - 2008 - "Originalis"

(95:05 2CD, 'Cast' & Musea Records)


******

Prolusion. Formed in 1978 by the composer and keyboardist extraordinaire Alfonso Vidales, Mexico’s CAST is one of the most fruitful and creatively interesting bands on the planet’s modern art-rock scene. Beginning with 1993, they make on average one new recording a year, each of the six ones they have issued in the 2000s exceeding 70 minutes in length, three of those consisting of two CDs, “Originalis” included. Their overall discography is quite large, but at least the fourteen official studio releases they have to date are all reviewed on this site. Yes, they also have one studio album that didn’t get a proper distribution and so an official status either – don’t know why. Finally I’d like to mention that, while credited as full members, Alejandro Tornero and Lupita Acunta supply vocals only to eight of the outing’s fourteen tracks, five of those ‘falling’ on the second disc.

Disc 1 (49:12)
******!

TRACK LIST:

1.  Originalis 4:20 
2.  Pulsar 10:01
3.  Lagrimas de Hielo 10:00
4.  Fuego y Humo 7:55
5.  Vientos de Guerra 4:27
6.  Tierra, Honor y Libertad 4:18
7.  Furia Tracion y Gloria 7:50

LINEUP:

Alfonso Vidales – keyboards
Claudio Cordero – guitars
Antonio Bringas – drums
Flavio Miranda – bass
Pepe Torres – flute, sax, clarinet
Alejandro Tornero – vocals
Lupita Acunta – vocals
With:
Jose Monje – trumpet, horn
Analysis. Already my first acquaintance with “Originalis” has resulted in the conclusion that, after a series of more experimental efforts (beginning with “Al-Bandaluz” and finishing with “ComUnion”), Cast has returned to their roots. However, what they offer us on the first of the discs is not a rehash of their past work, far from it, and is a highly advanced take on the style they had developed in the second half of the ‘90s. Indeed, the music is basically symphonic throughout, but it avoids any neo-prog features, capturing the substance of ‘70s vintage Art-Rock instead, much of it being classically inspired. That being said, the Disc-1 journey begins with the album’s title number. While alternating vocals (most of which have a quasi-operatic quality to them) – sorry, vocals-laden and purely instrumental arrangements as both the other songs here, Lagrimas de Hielo and Fuego y Humo, do alike – this one seems to insist on being described separately from those or rather from the rest of the material in general. The point is that this is basically a piece for Classical music, which, moreover, sounds like it’s performed by a symphonic orchestra with only some assistance from a progressive rock band, but not the other way round as any of the following six tracks does. Okay, Lagrimas de Hielo and Originalis may occasionally evoke each other, since all the lead vocal parts on each are provided by Alejandro Tornero, and also because both appear as a well-balanced alloy of slower and faster passages – unlike any of the compositions that are yet to be named. Just logically, Lupita Acunta is a lead singer on Fuego y Humo. Overall however, this piece can, or rather should, be viewed along with the instrumental ones, Pulsar, Vientos de Guerra, Tierra, Honor y Libertad and Furia Tracion y Gloria. There are some gentle intermezzos to be found on each of these, but most of the time the music is fast-to-rapid and structurally dense. Kinetically, each reminds me a lot of The Gates of Delirium, but is compositionally much less queer and frenetic, i.e. more academic than the Yes piece. In short, I think I have found an apt term to define this music, namely adrenaline Symphonic Progressive with a strong sense of Classical. Of the five primary members, guitarist Claudio Cordero, bassist Flavio Miranda and drummer Antonio Bringas appear as being responsible for providing its rock component (whose harder, at times overtly heavy, features come predominantly from the axeman, for sure), while flutist/clarinetist Pepe Torres and Alfonso himself for creating its chamber part. Since the playing is for the most part highly intense, the arrangements rely not too much upon dynamic contrasts, but then the textural ones are abundant and are really effective, besides which the soloing often bears a multi-vectored character. Obviously, by saying so I mean the bass and drums are rarely in a role that the concept of a rhythm section usually suggests, i.e. in a supportive one. As hinted above, metalloids from time to time find their way into each of the basic-style pieces – along with bits from European folk music and Jazz-Fusion (when Pepe plays saxophone, which he does on each, but only occasionally, in all cases). Sounding very much like a concept creation, the first part of “Originalis” represents a wonderfully high level of composition and performance throughout and is simply brilliant music in the end, no matter that it is somewhat inferior in originality to that on most of Cast’s other 2000s releases. For instance, the connection between it and Rick Wakeman’s work in both 1974 and ’75 is evident here, though classic Yes, Genesis and Camel can serve as reference points as well. Disc-2, however, displays that not everything is as simple with “Originalis” as it may seem to be at the moment.

Disc 2 (44:52)
*****

TRACK LIST:

1.  Renacer 9:22
2.  Llanto de Octubre 2:41
3.  Aqui y Ahora 5:00
4.  Al Final la Luz que Llama 3:07
5.  Ecos def Pasado 3:22
6.  Todo es Un Don 8:17
7.  Medley-I 12:24

LINEUP:

Alfonso Vidales – keyboards
Antonio Bringas – drums
Claudio Cordero – guitar
Flavio Miranda – bass
Pepe Torres – winds
Alejandro Tornero – vocals
Lupita Acunta – vocals
With:
Jose Monje – trumpet, horn
&:
Francisco Hernadez – vocals (8)
Dino Brassea – vocals; flutes (8)
Analysis. Most, if not all, of the seven compositions here flow fluidly one from another as well, but nevertheless – unlike its predecessor – Disc-2 doesn’t come across as a concept creation. Its ‘frontier’ tracks strongly differ from each other, but particularly so from the core ones, all five of which are basically slow-paced and are complicated art-rock ballads in the final analysis, only one of those being instrumental, while the others are vocal-heavy. At least to a ‘classic’ progressive mind, there is extremely little that is intriguing about all the implied pieces (2 to 6: see track list above on wish), even though there is no lack of string, orchestral and, say, merely symphonic arrangements on each of those. After listening to the (so eventful!) above-described musical material it is not a great pleasure to meet with what represents quite a highly simplified take on that and which is only remotely reminiscent of its brilliance. On the plus side, none of the core tracks have an ‘outtake’ feel to them; the melodies are tasteful; the players provide a solid backdrop for Alejandro’s vocals, and although those are delivered in a more conventional manner, lacking in operatic intonations, their provider still seems to remain the most original voice in this act, and by the way only one of the songs here finds him sharing the microphone :-) with Lupita. The last track, Medley-1, is indeed a sort of potpourri of the first disc’s contents-and-styles, but is sung in English – by Francisco Hernadez and Dino Brassea whose pronunciation of the language hasn’t changed since the ‘90s when, besides playing guitars and flutes respectively, they were both behind all the band’s lyrics and vocals alike. Only the instrumental Renacer really challenges the ear, though I must note that it is generally the best track on the output, combining Symphonic Progressive, RIO, Prog-Metal and Jazz-Fusion with elements of Classical and Neoclassical music. Besides, this amazing stylistic cocktail is, hmm, shaken up in such a highly innovative way that I’m just reminded of the Fifth Element – a self-invented genre term which I use as regards what many classify as ‘New Prog’. Oh, almost forgot: there is a hidden track at the very end of Disc-1 and at the very beginning of Disc-2 as well, each being a tiny cut (about 10 seconds in length) with only piano and – in the latter case – voices involved.

Conclusion. It is a complete enigma to me why one of the discs on this release is filled with complex music, to say the least, while another, though compiled of quality creations, seems to be almost wholly designed to please the mainstream progressive rock audience. If Cast had issued “Originalis” as a single CD, on the basis of Disc-1, it would’ve been their best sympho-prog album to date and I would have named it an art-rock release of the year. Either way, the band’s name is already an inseparable part of the Progressive Rock Bible and is written with golden letters there.

VM=Vitaly Menshikov: September 1 & 2, 2009
The Rating Room


Related Links:

Musea Records
Cast/a>


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