[ KEY REVIEWS | SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS
Tracklist: 1. En algo... 1-58 (Naranja Mecanica) 2. Liturgia 4-57 (Garcia) 3. Desnudo (Historia en un acto) 6-01 (DelValle) 4. Abraxas 5-36 (Urquiza) 5. En la fiesta 5-14 (DelValle) 6. Ficcion rural 2-53 (Urquiza) 7. Cronica dela cobardia 4-31 (DelValle) 8. Rosa de corcho 5-54 (Urquiza) 9. El muro de las lamentaciones 5-17 (Garcia) 10. La rueda de la fortuna 8-28 (DelValle) 11. La ciudad jardin 6-22 (Garcia) 12. ...En nada 5-13 (Naranja Mecanica) Line-up: Alejandro DelValle - acoustic piano, analog & digital keyboards; vocals Ernesto Garcia - bass & Spanish guitars; vocals Igor Urquiza - electric & acoustic guitars (later - in Perfume De Mujer) Manuel Clua - flutes & woodwinds Alden Del Toro - drums & percussion Jorge L. Barrios - various percussive instruments on 2, 8, 9, 10 & 11 With a special guest: Abel Omar Perez (of Perfume De Mujer) - vocals on 5 Produced by Francisco Gonzalez & Naranja Mecanica. Recorded by Alejandro "El Valvula" at "La Casa de las America" studio, Havana, Cuba, in 1995, except tracks 10 & 11: recorded by Alejandro "El Transistor" at the same studio in 1993.
Prologue. So, with the arrival of another new CD released by Central America's Premier Prog-Label "Luna Negra" (based in Mexico), the only Overall View on the Label's creation(s) is on the (Progressively-Aggressive) road again. Those of you who have listened to the very first CD released by "Luna Negra" under the title "Variaciones en la guerda, part I", that presented for the first time in the history of Music the Cuban Progressive Rock movement, should remember that one of the four Cuban bands that feature the CD, was Naranja Mecanica (they must have seen that self-titled English movie of 1971 with young *Malcolm McDowell in the lead role, at least; *please don't confuse the name of that great actor with AC/DC's guitarist Malcolm Young). "Variaciones" is a series of CDs, dedicated exactly to Cuban Prog-performers, who create their in many ways unique works not only without any support from their government, but quite on the contrary most often, to keep them secret. Naranja Mecanica's CD is already the 7th part of the "Variaciones" series and this is the third Cuban band whose full-fledged album has been digitally remastered by Juan Jose Salas at "Luna Negra" before releasing it on CD. Another two Cuban bands whose CDs were also released by the label thanks to the Luna Negra people's truly creative (progressive) approach to their work, that has nothing to do with commercial aspects at all and* in general, are Musica D'Repuesto with so far the only CD of 1998 and Perfume De Mujer (Smell of Woman) with three long CDs of 1996, 1998, & 2000. Finally, back to creative and other activities, I am sure that most of small Prog-labels are among those few Earthly (mainly creative, of course) companies, where true Love lives. I am sitting here and thinking, it wouldn't probably be bad to add to ProgressoR the words that were used in the late USSR more often than not, Tony Stratton-Smith Site.
The Album. If you read (or re-read) the reviews on all CDs ever released by "Luna Negra", you'll find that while I regard about a half of these albums as masterpieces or excellent works, more than a half of the second half (that is, more than one fourth of all "Luna Negra" CDs) consists of the works of Cuban bands exactly. (I hope you don't think that I, as an ex-citizen of the late USSR, just sympathize with them?) In any case, I highly recommend all the fellow brothers in ProGfound (profound Prog) reason check them out - of course, not only to compare our opinions on them, but to discover these Pro-Gems. More than that, frankly, Naranja Mecanica is not only the best Cuban band, but... (later). This time I won't drag out with letting you know the main character (ace of trumps!) of this album. All the twenty compositions on the album have in common the same united approach in making instrumental arrangements. No matter if these arrangements stand alone as instrumental parts of the songs or as separate instrumental pieces, or those that 'work behind the back of the singer', they're in constant development, and there are no repetitions nor returns to the parts or themes that already sounded before. Despite the fact that the music of "Naranja Mecanica" sounds as true, outstandingly original and highly complex Progressive Rock, composed and performed in the best traditions of Classic Prog of the first half of the 1970s, it reminds me of Classical Music very much, thanks to the said constant development of arrangements. I used to have occasion to feel the same impression, of course: it would be enough to recall at least Univers Zero. Most of the RIO and RIO-related music performers (I mean people) normally have at least primary musical training. I doubt, however, that the masterminds of such Titans as, for example, Univers Zero or Absolute Zero, among some others, had just primary musical training, which is equal to the same Zero, because some (if not the most) of these bands' musical works were composed with the use of 12-tone rows (this very complex method of composing, also called as "dodecaphony", was created by German composer Arnold Schoenberg in the first half of the 20th century, - historically speaking, just a few days ago). One way or another, the guys of Naranja Mecanica composed music (no, not by as if a turned inside-out 12-tone method, everything here was done according to a usual, 'academic', worn-down way), whose instrumental development too, yet in many ways reminds me of Classical Music. Bearing in mind that "Naranja Mecanica" is a distinctly original musical work, I am going to tell you this. Despite the fact that the musical spirit or atmosphere (only!) of this album can remind at times of Genesis at their most impressive period in the early 1970s, compositionally Naranja Mecanica is way closer to Yes of the same period, all told. By the way, for all I know, Yes were the only Classic Art / Progressive Rock (i.e. not a band of RIO or some of the Progressive's Fifth Element (in this regard you can begin to familiarize yourself first with Absolute Zero, who tried to compose by a 12-tone method (that's why, I think, some episodes on "Close To the Edge" and "Relayer", but especially on "Tales From Topographic Oceans" also remind of Classical Music). Of course, there are lots of kaleidoscopic changes of musical events, complex time signatures (like 7/4 or 11/8), again and again, in the music of these unique Cubans, but I think there's no need to list down "all the essential progressive ingredients", as you already may have a picture of the album on the whole. Now I'd better describe its content thematically. Officially, there are equally six songs (Liturgia, Desnudo, En la fiesta, Cronica dela cobardia, El muro de las lamentaciones, La rueda de la fortuna,: tracks 2, 3, 5, 7, 9 & 10) and six purely instrumental pieces (En algo, Abraxas, Ficcion rural, Rosa de corcho, La ciudad jardin, & En nada: tracks 1, 4, 6, 8, 11 & 12) on, sadly, the only Naranja Mecanica album. El muro de las lamentaciones (tracks 9) contains, however, just a couple of vocal lines (distich, actually), while the remaining 5 minutes (of 5:17 at all) are filled with mind-blowing instrumental 'battles' between all instruments in the game. Both Liturgia and La rueda de la fortuna (tracks 2 & 10) have also a little of vocals parts, especially in comparison with the large-scaled instrumental canvases. So, only three tracks on the album can step up as real songs (all lyrics are in Spanish) - Desnudo, En la fiesta, and Cronica dela cobardia, though only the first of them is played by the band as a whole, while the last two are kind of acoustic songs, where all instrumental parts are performed exclusively with acoustic instruments, as well as in a real instrumental piece Ficcion rural, standing exactly between these songs (thus, the album's "nucleus" is made up of acoustic instruments only). Generally, the main soloing instruments on the album are piano, flute, electric, acoustic and bass guitar, while analog and digital keyboards and, of course, drums & percussion (though the latter stand out more or less significantly (in soloing) on Ficcion rural, track 6) play mainly supporting parts as chord pillows-backgrounds, etc (if not to count several outstanding drum solos, performed, as always in such cases, within the frame of joint instrumental arrangements).
Summary. Naranja Mecanica's only album is not only the best CD "Luna Negra" has ever released (all right, until now), this is in my view the album of the year (of 1995), one of the three to five best CDs, released to date in the new millenium, and one of Top-20 albums of Classic Progressive Rock for all times. I never expected that such a strong, unique and intriguing work could be created on the lands of such a proud prince of such a poverty line. You can order "Luna Negra" CDs via e-mail-to: email@example.com
VM. September 13, 2001
[ KEY REVIEWS | SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS - LIST | BANDLISTS ]