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(53 min, 'DA')
TRACK LIST: 1. Spirit 4:09 2. Sungoddess 4:31 3. In the Wake-1 2:48 4. In the Wake-2 1:54 5. Blue Lady 5:32 6. Snapshot 3:34 7. Pacis 4:46 8. Promise 5:34 9. He Touched My Soul 4:12 10. Raindrops 3:33 11. Opus Dei 4:26 12. Spanish Nights 3:05 13. 11th Hour 3:55 All music: by Stagg. Produced by C Gaarn. All lyrics: by Stagg, Burstyn & R Kennedy. LINEUP: Dan Stagg - keyboards Ann Burstyn - lead vocals Josef Pilasanovic - guitars; vocals Gary Grey - drums; bass
Prolusion. DREAM ARIA hails from the Canadian province of Ontario, which is notable for good progressive traditions (recalling Rush), but not as much as Quebec is, you know. I received this CD without press kit, so I went my way to the group's website. Their biography is posted there, but it's very brief and doesn't say when the outfit was formed. Nevertheless, it's clear that "In the Wake" is their only album thus far.
Analysis. The band describes their music much more eloquently. According to them, it's an original blend of Rock, New Age, Goth, Prog, Classical, Techno and World music where there is something for every music lover. I can easily agree with that definition, in a general context, though in addition I have also found elements of Metal and Opera. As for originality, while the band's natural inclination for independent compositional thinking is beyond question, there are episodes on the album that arouse quite distinct associations with some well-known female-fronted groups, The Gathering and Nightwish specifically. Well, minor influences aren't a big deal, especially when music is as inspired and attractive as Dream Aria's, for the most part. The first three tracks: Spirit, Sungoddess and In the Wake-1 (the latter being the only instrumental, though there is some male muezzin-like wordless singing), are filled with that abstract phenomenon, perceptible only on a spiritual level, which we used to call magic. Something average between Arabic and Turkic music is the essential part of each, some of the sampled sounds used much reminding me of those of Nai and Rubob, which are a Central Asian flute and a 3-string instrument (played-by-plucking), respectively. These three are brilliant in every respect - compositionally, vocally and by performance in general, surpassing any of the further tracks, to some degree just due to the presence of exotic oriental colorings. Nonetheless, most of the other songs are good and very good. The energetic rockers In the Wake-2, Spanish Nights and 11th Hour, the dramatic blues- and classically influenced ballads Snapshot and Opus Dei, the affirmative Blue Lady and Raindrops, combining the album's primary style with Techno rhythms: each retains the band's rather specific vision of music and isn't devoid of moments of magic as well. The aptly used samples of various string and wind instruments and the involvement of acoustic guitar in the arrangement are typical for most of them. Ann Burstyn is a very gifted chameleon singer with a huge timbre diapason, equally with ease doing powerful and ethereal vocals, often switching over to genuine operatic style, which I like most of all in her singing. Of course, I realize it's Dan Stagg's compositional talent that is fundamental for everything in this material. Nevertheless, although Ann didn't compose anything but vocal melodies, these so much enrich the album's overall palette that she more often appears as the band's central moving force. It was just she who has turned the instrumentally rather unpretentious Pacis into a near masterpiece, somewhat of a Techno Rock Opera. Unfortunately, Ann didn't use her wonderful operatic possibilities on the next two tracks: Promise and He Touched My Soul, having sung traditionally here. As a result, both songs remained straightforward, mediocre pop songs with nothing noteworthy about them. They sound doubtful even from a commercial standpoint, so their inclusion in the album was by all means unnecessary.
Conclusion. The music I usually listen to is much more complicated than that of Dream Aria, but then, it is always a great pleasure for me to hear the stuff, which is accessible and highly impressive at once. For the most part, this album is a thing of beauty, and I am certain it will be well accepted by many different categories of music lovers, Prog lovers included.
VM: May 4, 2005
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