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(68 min, Musea)
TRACK LIST: 1. Ra 13:10 2. Excellent Meat 8:51 3. Prolog 1:36 4. Sun Pentacle 5:20 5. Mercury Pentacle 7:26 6. Venus Pentacle 4:22 7. Mars Pentacle 6:38 8. Epilog 4:49 9. MetroMnemo 4:15 10. Joropo 4:53 11. Omphalos 6:57 LINEUP: Carlos Plaza - keyboards Adriana Plaza - keyboards Cesar Garcia - guitars Omar Acosta - flutes Carlos Franco - drums Jaime Pascual - basses Carolina Prieto - vocals With: Miguel Rosell - cello
Prolusion. KOTEBEL is a Spanish band led by keyboardist (multi-instrumentalist in fact) and composer Carlos Plaza. "Omphalos" is their fourth offering, following "The Fragments of Light" (2003), "Mysticae Visions" (2002) and "Structures" (1999).
Analysis. Three years separate Kotebel's new studio CD from its predecessor, but it was worth the wait - an understatement. The album opens with its longest track, the 13-minute Ra, which sounds like as if it has arrived right from the heart of '70 Progressive, possessing all possible hallmarks of the genre, beginning with the notorious feeling of magic, which runs all through the material by the way. Some movements in general and the astonishingly-ubiquitous:-) Mellotron, organ, string ensemble, piano and flute in particular may evoke some of the best compositions of some of the best sympho-prog bands, but only in a general way. Besides, the epic's other components don't arouse associations even on a subconscious level, and these include full-blooded classically-influenced Art-Rock arrangements, numerous acoustic and semi-acoustic interludes referring either exclusively to Classical music or to Opera, and more. Carolina Prieto's vocals and vocalizations are a truly essential part of Ra, even though her participation here is relatively limited, compared to some of the other compositions. The picture changes literally kaleidoscopically, but despite the striking diversity of this piece, as well as its genuinely epic magnitude, the music remains to the highest degree consistent throughout, never losing a sense of purposefulness, the melody being always a featured attribute. Striking are the mastery and the completeness with which Carlos sculptured the architectonics of this work. Amazing is the absolute adequacy of the connection between the whole and the separate, between the cascades of sound and the subtle nuances. All contrasts are scrupulously accentuated; all transitions are delivered with a maximal vividness. The performance and the musicianship are excellent as well, with everyone standing out, enjoying equal parts in the action in most cases. Well, it's the right time to say that all these remarks and assertions are relevant to the entire material. The instrumentals Sun Pentacle and Mars Pentacle follow the lead of Ra, although these contain even more arrangements that are designed in a way to combine symphonic Art-Rock with the aesthetic of Classical music - a matter carried to perfection on the remaining three tracks which feature not only the vocalizations, but also the vocals of Caroline Prieto. These are Mercury Pentacle, Epilog and the title track, each reminding me in a way of Steve Hackett's "Voyage of the Acolyte" blended with "St. Matthew Passion" by Johannes Sebastian Bach. In the brightness of coloration, in the variety of shades and touches and in the flexibility of interactions between different textural layers, each of these surpasses all the analogous experiments in the field of uniting Symphonic Progressive, Classical music and Opera I've ever heard. Three more instrumentals, Prolog, Venus Pentacle and Joropo are all festivals of chamber instruments and vintage keyboards, steering towards Classical music, the former, although short, sounding much like an Eastern fairy-tale. It also features Carolina's wonderful wordless singing, as well as the aforesaid Sun Pentacle. The remaining two tracks, Excellent Meat and MetroMnemo, are also instrumentals. The only two penned by Cesar Garcia (not by Carlos Plaza as are the others), these reflect the guitarist's passion for heavy progressive music, though he occasionally provides provoking improvisations as well. Both are excellent in their own way, each featuring a couple of really brilliant acoustic guitar interludes. The music is saturated with sharp dramatic accents and is quite picturesque, many episodes drawing a picture of menacing forces advancing into a land with a relatively serene existence.
Conclusion. This is an Event! My great enthusiasm about the work of Kotebel isn't ephemeral. In my honest opinion, this is the best Spanish band of all time, their success with Symphonic Progressive being unattainable for most of their contemporaries from all over the world working in that field. Besides, I'd like to paraphrase my own expression from the review of "The Fragments of Light": The music on "Omphalos" is so profound and impressive that any Titans of Prog would've been happy if they'd created something like this, after their heyday had become a thing of the past.
VM: Agst 9, 2006
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