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Kotebel - 2009 - "Ouroboros"

(72:06, Musea Records)

TRACK LIST:                   

1.  Amphisbaena 7:28 
2.  Ouroboros 16:07 
3.  Satyrs 7:25 
4.  Simurgh 13:07 
5.  Behemoth 7:39 
6.  Legal Identity V 3:54 
7.  Mysticae Visiones Live 16:22 (b/t) 


Carlos Plaza  keyboards, pianos
Cesar Garcia  el. & ac. guitar 
Jaime Pascual  bass
Carlos Franco  drums 
Adriana Plaza  keyboards
Carolina Prieto  vocalizations (7)

Prolusion. Led by Spanish composer and keyboardist extraordinaire Carlos Plaza, KOTEBEL is one of the most innovative symphonic progressive acts on the genres modern scene. Released by Musea Records six months ago, Ouroboros is their fifth album to date, following "Omphalos" (2006), "The Fragments of Light" (2003), "Mysticae Visions" (2002) and "Structures" (1999).

Analysis. Previously an octet, Kotebel appears as a five-piece on this recording. Singer Carolina Prieto, flutist Omar Acosta and cellist Miguel Rosell all quit within a year after the band has issued Omphalos, hence (not counting Structures which was planned as Plazas solo outing and is largely his all-alone effort indeed) Ouroboros is their first album not to feature any chamber instruments or vocals either. There are also certain changes in their style, and although Im not sure whether those are directly linked with the above fact, the groups turn to a less academic approach is more than just evident. This time their inspiration comes from both symphonic Art-Rock and what would probably be or at least can potentially be labeled as the genres most avant-garde manifestation. Their new creations, Amphisbaena, Ouroboros, Satyrs, Simurgh, Legal Identity V and Behemoth, run for 55+ minutes and are all excellent, albeit varying in the level of progressiveness, and also in structure. Regarding the first two of these (the most advanced compositions here, particularly the latter): in both cases the main reference points are Genesis and King Crimson, both circa 1973-74: so think purely art-rock arrangements alternating with mixed ones (which bring together symphonic and more avant-garde at times even Present-evoking musical constructions) and a jazz-fusion twist in some occasions. Both also contain a lot of solos by analog synthesizers as well as mellotron patterns, generally standing out for their lush vintage colorations, whilst most of the rest of the material finds Carlos playing pianos much more frequently than other items from his keyboard arsenal. The only exception from that rule is the relentless, heavy Satyrs the most intense composition here, full of manic energy of a sort. While listening to it I often get much the same feeling as on Anekdotens Nucleus (not only due to the instrumentation, of course) and therefore King Crimsons Red, too, though I think Genesis shouldnt be written off in this case either, as their The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is also rather rich in pronouncedly heavy bass lines, albeit those arent as brutally aggressive as the ones on the first-named disc. Legal Identity V and Simurgh (a mythological bird symbolizing wisdom, justice and happiness one of the central features of Uzbekistans National Emblem) both seem to have quite a good deal in common with Satyrs, and yet each is less and much less heavy, respectively, the latter additionally revealing several quietly-atmospheric intermezzos. Well, I must admit I find it difficult to define either of these otherwise than as avant-tinged Art-Rock. As all the already described pieces do, Behemoth (a demonic creature hailing from the Old Testament Book of Job) also evinces highly skilful compositional as well as performance craftsmanship, no matter that it is basically slow-paced almost throughout. Finally, the live version of the title track of the bands second disc, Mysticae Visions, was recorded in 2007 and is quite impressive, too, even though it is twice as short as the original one. Besides its mid-section where Carolina Prietos vocalization hovers over what reminds me strongly of symphonic Ambient, the epic moves back in forth between quasi Jazz-Fusion and classic Symphonic Progressive, very much in the style of mid-70s National Health and Rick Wakeman, respectively.

Conclusion. If my memory doesnt let me down, Ouroboros is the first Kotebel effort to reveal distinct outside factors thankfully not to the detriment of its overall quality, besides which the groups original voice is still present and is instantly striking, also. Either way, this is a masterwork one of the most compelling 2009 releases that I have heard so far. Unlike most of the other modern art-rock and related bands, these Spaniards have been climbing the ladder (in terms of creation of course) all over their period of activity, paving their own special way to the golden throne of the genre. Very highly recommended!

VM=Vitaly Menshikov: November 22, 2009
The Rating Room

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