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(48.70, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. All Yours 7.13 2. Foe 9.02 3. Nowhere 4.59 4. Dissolve Unseen 4.54 5. Beat Me Up 9.28 6. Everything 6.57 7. It’s Still Today 17.32 LINEUP: Jos Commandeur – guitar; backing vocals Hans Baaij – vocals; synthesizers Michiel Van Horssen – drums Cyril Wijte – bass With: Robin Versteegh – guitar
Prolusion. JAEN KIEF is a 7-piece outfit from Medell?n, Colombia, formed in 1999 by guitarist Juan Carlos Cardozo in order to record and stage “Las Hadas No Vuelan Mas” (Fairies Don’t Fly Anymore), a project he had worked upon in the years 1990-1998. However, financial problems prevented the band from releasing the whole work as a single album, so they decided to split it into two parts. The first part, “Vagas Nubes”, was released in 2003, and the second, “El Agua de Frente”, in 2006, after Jaen Kief had been signed by Musea Records. The band’s distinctive name comes from a Spanish variety of grape (Jaen) and the Arab word for ‘absolute rest’ (Kief).
Analysis. A concept album in the best progressive rock tradition, “Las Hadas No Vuelan Mas-II” deals with the inevitable loss of innocence involved in the process of growing up and conforming to societal pressures. Its conceptual nature is evident in the way the nine tracks on the album flow together seamlessly, producing an organic whole. The music, while firmly rooted in the symphonic prog tradition, eschews heavy keyboard arrangements in favour of a gentler, more melodic touch, with an exciting sprinkling of ethnic influences. Besides the obvious Latin flavour, it is not hard to detect the Middle Eastern echoes that run throughout the album – not surprisingly, since the band’s home town of Medell?n hosts a sizable community of people of Arabic descent. Though Jaen Kief’s music may not be groundbreaking, it definitely shows greater originality that the output of the endless contingent of prog-by-numbers bands. While many bands have a sound that is often ponderous and laboured, relying on quasi-operatic vocals or overwhelming keyboard sweeps, Jaen Kief’s has a lighter, at times even uplifting feel, even in the most intense moments. Their music comes across as warm and passionate in a typically Latin way, an impression reinforced by the often beautiful interaction between the male and female lead vocals. Sol Beatriz Jaramillo’s clear, elegant soprano is perfect for this musical context, while at the same time avoiding the cliched feel of far too many bands that employ female vocalists. The band’s extended line-up allows for the presence of different instruments, notably the flute with its lyrical, pastoral character. Two lead vocalists also double up on electro-acoustic guitar, adding a strong Spanish flavour to the overall sound. The album opens with the almost-instrumental Invierno en Atlantis, featuring Sol’s gorgeous vocalising accompanied by Mellotron washes, then a delicate, tasteful guitar solo. The following song, Religio Medici 1643, the only one featuring lyrics not written by a band member – in this case, a sonnet by famous Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges – continues the theme of the previous number, with plenty of Middle Eastern-influenced licks, imperious, flamenco-style singing, and flute parts that inevitably bring Jethro Tull to mind. Spanish and Middle Eastern echoes also abound in “Ilusiones olfativas”, particularly in the guitar solo, and in the 9-minute Tus Suenos de Tul (the longest track on the album, and its centrepiece), a multilayered, strongly percussion-driven offering. As is the case with many South American bands, another source of musical inspiration surfaces throughout the album – classic Italian prog. This is quite evident in El Vuelo del Ave, the first part of the mini-suite El Hilo del Insomnio, which alternates guitar, flute, sax and bass sections with brisk, expressive vocals by Juan Gonzalo Tamayo. Occasional Pink Floyd references appear instead in the clean, melodic guitar lines of La clepsidra, and, especially, of album closer Epilogo, a horn-laced, uplifting number with a beautiful middle section featuring a dialog between the two vocalists over a backdrop of tubular bells. Unfortunately, at present Jaen Kief seem to be inactive, and there is no real information to be found on their website or elsewhere. It is to be hoped that “El Agua de Frente” will not be their swan song, and that they will soon make their comeback.
Conclusion. “El Agua de Frente” is definitely an interesting album, especially for those who like some ethnic flavour with their prog. Fans of female vocals will enjoy Sol’s excellent performance, and the contrast between her vocals and Juan Gonzalo’s. This is a disc that can appeal to most progressive rock fans, and those who know Spanish will also appreciate the intriguingly literate lyrics.
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