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Tracklist: 1. Silently Drifting 5:20 2. Blue Frozen Flame 4:03 3. High On Hopes 3:30 4. Aura Fiducia 4:24 5. No Peak To Pass 3:56 6. Compromised Space 7:13 7. Healing Skin 5:31 8. Breath Messages 5:33 9. In the Spiral 4:34 10. Ode To the Undone 5:23 11. The Tunnel Inversion 5:18 12. Baby Gaia 6:06 13. Tombola 8:17 All tracks by: DarXtar. Line-up: Soren Bengtsson - vocals; electric & classical guitars; (+ e-bow - on a few tracks) Marcus Pehrsson - slide & electric bass guitars Patric Danielson - drums & percussion; vocals; (+ flute, bagpipe, & harmonica - on a few tracks) Soren Mertensson - organs & synthesizers Bjorn - electric guitar; electric & acoustic violins; mandolins (+ balalaika - on a few tracks) Produced by Soren "Commander" Bengtsson & DarXtar. Engineered by Commander at "Studio Terra", Earth.
Prologue. I have to admit that until now, I was not acquainted with the creation of DarXtar at all, though I was eager to hear their music for the last few years. According to the Gibraltar Encyclopedia of Progressive Rock, there were four albums in the band's discography before they released "Tombola" (2001): "DarXtar" (1991), "Darker" (1993), "Daybreak" (1994), and "SJU" (1996).
The Album. Judging by the contents of this 70-minute album, DarXtar is a contemporary branch of a classic, established Space Rock, the roots of which can easily be found in the first half of the 1970s. One of Progressive's most significant sub-genres is a combination of Spacey Psychedelic Rock either with Classic Symphonic Art-Rock and Jazz-Fusion, like in the case of Gong and Clearlight, or Classic Symphonic Progressive and Prog-Metal, the brightest representatives of which are Clear Blue Sky, Hawkwind, and, as I see now, DarXtar. (Saying so, I mean Classic Space Rock, and not Electronic Space music, etc.) This is a serious band, since only five out of the thirteen tracks that are presented on "Tombola" contain episodes revealing the source of inspiration of these guys, which is Hawkwind. Surprisingly, apart from Baby Gaia (12), this Five includes all four of the first songs on the album: Silently Drifting, Blue Frozen Flame, High On Hopes, and Aura Fiducia. However, it's clear to me (and, as I think, should be clear to anyone who is acquainted with "Tombola") that the Hawkwind-influenced arrangements, all of which appear on the album only episodically, were done by the guys just automatically. Nevertheless, the contents of each of the said five songs are more accessible than those of any of the other compositions on the album. All eight of the remaining tracks: No Peak To Pass, Compromised Space, Healing Skin, Breath Messages, In the Spiral, Ode To the Undone, The Tunnel Inversion, and the album's title track, Tombola (5 to 11, & 13), have a very distinctive sound and don't contain any traces of influences at all. DarXtar are somewhat greater than even true followers of the legacy of Space Rock Kings. Which is not only because of there are no such complex and diverse albums as "Tombola" in the discography of Hawkwind. All eight of the aforementioned compositions are not only highly intricate and, often, amazingly eclectic, but also very original and in many ways innovative. What's especially interesting is that the music that is present on each of them features more of the Classic Symphonic Art-Rock structures than that of any other of the Space Rock bands. Certainly, there are no elements of Jazz-Fusion on "Tombola" at all. And, back to the album as a whole, I must note that the contents of only six out of the thirteen tracks on the album conform to the unwritten laws of one of the two main categories of Classic Space Rock. In other words, a combination of Spacey Psychedelic Rock with Classic Symphonic Art-Rock and Prog-Metal is featured on the following six compositions: Blue Frozen Flame, Aura Fiducia, No Peak To Pass, In the Spiral, The Tunnel Inversion, and Baby Gaya. Five of them are songs (tracks 2, 4, 5, 9, & 12 respectively), and The Tunnel Inversion (11) is the only instrumental piece on the album (though it features vocalizes). There are enough of the heavy guitar riffs on Baby Gaya, but all the vocal parts are here based on a real Rock 'n' Roll instead of the structures that are typical for any of the predominant genre constituents of the album. The stylistics of all eight of the other songs on "Tombola" represents a blend of Spacey Psychedelic Rock (and there is enough of a positive hypnotism on this album) and Classic Symphonic Progressive. The musicianship of each of the band members and their joint performance are top-notch, as well as the sound of the CD. Finally, the main soloing instruments on the album are electric and bass guitars, organs and synthesizers, violins and mandolins, drums and hand percussive instruments, and vocals. The parts of wind instruments (see line-up), e-bow, and balalaika appear on "Tombola" only episodically.
Summary. There are not many Classic Space Rock bands on the contemporary Progressive Rock scene: Spirits Burning (a new project by Gong's D. Allen), Living Wreck, Escapade, Jugalbandi, and Solar Project, to name but a few. Among them, only Solar Project could've been on par with DarXtar if only their music would not have contained so many ideas that were borrowed from a few of the famous Space Rock bands and not only. So, it's practically obvious that DarXtar is currently the best Space Rock band on Earth. Which sounds simple, yet, topical.
VM. October 3, 2002
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