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(45:10, AltrOck Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. A Child & a Well 4:46 2. The Fall 5:25 3. Man and Angel 5:30 4. Little Town 5:31 5. Run Free You Idiot 4:12 6. Empty Promises 4:41 7. The Postman 6:21 8. Fantasy 8:41 LINEUP: Udi Horev – guitars; music; lyrics Yuri Tullchinsky – keyboards Julia Feldman – vocals Dvir Katz – flute Avi Cohen-Hillel – bass Michael Gorodinsky – drums
Prolusion. Led by guitarist and songwriter Udi Horev, MUSICA FICTA (Fictitious Music?) was formed in 2003 in Jerusalem, Israel, although the names of most of the band’s members assume that they hail from the former USSR. It’s unclear whether “A Child and a Well” is their debut album, as its press kit doesn’t say anything on the matter.
Analysis. The recording consists of eight tracks, dynamically evolving compositions strictly alternating with more laid-back (the evenly-numbered) ones. I think I should begin with those belonging to the former category: the title piece, Man and Angel, Run Free You Idiot and The Postman, especially since the first three of them are creations of almost the same compositional approach. Although the style is nominally Symphonic Progressive in all cases, the band probably spends as much time (in total) flirting with progressive hard rock and folk rock idioms plus acoustic interludes, focusing equally on instrumental work and vocal passages by Julia Feldman – an exceptional vocalist, singing in Yiddish rather than Hebrew, as I suppose. The music is just fine, with a high standard of musicianship and many varying sections, including a couple of ‘quantum jumps’ to explore some really unexpected areas, resulting in the form of a prog-metal romp. Organ, guitar and flute in the Jon Anderson vein make comparisons to Jethro Tull circa ’72-’73 pretty obvious on each of these three, at least within some of their instrumental sections. However, this isn’t a copy of the English group’s manner. The musicians are up to the task, and the arrangements show a lot of their own musical discoveries apart from the above influence. Things are mixed up further when they additionally deploy avant-garde and classical elements in the vein of Gentle Giant and Gryphon (think “Red Queen to Gryphon III”) respectively, as on the instrumental piece The Postman, at times soloing within really unique chord progressions. All the players get their time to shine, but it really is the group as a whole, rather than any individuals, that makes this music work, since the arrangements feature many nice touches like organ, piano, flute or acoustic guitar behind synthesizers, electric guitar, bass and drums. The compositions are mature and highly polished; it seems the band has developed them during years of performances. Although they don’t feature complicated harmonies or countermelodies, Julia’s vocals are also strong throughout, and while it’s certainly beyond me what she is singing about, I do really enjoy her soprano. As for another category of tracks, they’re all brilliant too, at least in their own way. One of those, The Fall, although basically slow-paced, is classic symphonic Art-Rock of the first water – in terms of purity of style and overall quality alike. Coming with a couple of acoustic passages containing only piano and either guitar or flute in the arrangement, Little Town has a certain balladic quality to it, but is still abound in elements that are determinants in the previously named genre. By the way, I don’t sense any outside vibes on either of these tracks. Finally we get two purely acoustic pieces, Empty Promises and Fantasy, the former another – and the last – instrumental here. Both of them are based on passages of acoustic guitar, some of which are as complicated and beautiful as those by Steve Howe on ‘Mood for a Day’ from Yes’s “Fragile”. The instrumental is almost entirely in the manner of Howe, whereas the other tune only begins like the said composition, later on evoking ‘The Shadow of Hierophant’ from Steve Hackett’s “Voyage of the Acolyte”, only with higher vocals than Sally Oldfield’s and with different lyrics, for sure.
Conclusion. “A Child and a Well” is one of the best classic sympho-prog efforts of the last few years, and its creators are really a group of musicians that fans of the genre can enjoy. That being said, the child should not be afraid of diving into this well of high-quality progressive music. All of us are children in some ways, regardless of how old we are.
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