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(95 min DVD, 'Nekropolis')
TRACK LIST: 1. The Yellow King 2. Heavy Psychedelia 3. Apokalyptische Tempelmusic 4. Heliotrope 5. Sketches of Kadath 6. Nameless City 7. Reanimator 8. Shambling Bear 9. Standard #23 10. Cosmic Break Bonus track: 11. Seelenwanderung LINEUP: Peter Frohmader - basses Udo Gerhards - keyboards Holger Roder - drums Matthias Friedrich - violin Chris Kaffer - guitar; violin
Prolusion. NEKROPOLIS 23 is a band led by the widely known Space Rock innovator from Germany, Peter Frohmader. This DVD, entitled "Tidal Shift", is made up exclusively of their new compositions and, thus, it must be considered their second album. As to Peter's general discography, it's too large to place it in each of the maestro-related reviews :-). Those interested to see it, please check the review of the band's first release, "Nekropolis 23, Vol. 1". About the personnel: On "Tidal Shift" we find the four original members: Peter Frohmader on 5-string and fretless basses, Udo Gerhards on electric piano and synthesizer, Holger Roder on drums and percussion and Matthias Friedrich on violin, plus Chris Kaffer on electric guitar and electric violin. However, the five musicians appear together only on two out of the ten compositions (7, 8); three more pieces (2, 5, 9) feature the performance of Peter, Udo and Holger, and on the remaining five numbers the trio is joined either by Chris or Matthias, Chris playing the guitar in most cases.
Analysis. The performance was documented at the Drum Art studio in Munich, which is a small studio, looking rather like the band's rehearsal room. There are just musicians and their instruments, taking places on the patch, which can only grotesquely be called a scene. No screen behind the musicians, no play of lights, just nothing that would resemble a show, and no even show as such. Well, all the so-called show attributes in themselves aren't of any importance, but they are necessary when the music implies the involvement of the listener's imagination, as is in this case. When I was only listening to the material, the music built grandiose pictures in my mind, but all this magic immediately vanished after I opened my eyes to watch the entire thing. Indeed, it's hard to make up your mind to get into Space Rock and like music while seeing a utilitarian and nearly stagnant picture (the material was shot with two cameras), one of the cameramen walking back and forth in front of the musicians, as if it was intended to be part of the performance, and Chris Kaffer turning the pins of his guitar when the music is in full swing, as if it's just an ordinary rehearsal. As ever, the band was making their new music impromptu, and not everything went off smoothly, either. Two out of the three numbers that the band presented as a trio: Sketches of Kadath and the really aptly titled Standard #23 are just a standard swingy jazz with the set scheme of chords and measures. (This is the trick that some Prog artists resort to when lacking material for a full-length album. While here we have an hour and a half of music in all, both of the said numbers being short, running less than 10 minutes.) Furthermore, the beginning of the former track is just a set of random sounds with no hidden meaning behind them: just like those we can hear when a band tunes their instruments before rehearsal. It's not that easy to turn from criticism to praise, but it would be a sin against the truth to pass in silence over the material's virtues, especially since it possesses much more positive elements than flaws. Just like their previous album, the rest of the disc depicts Nekropolis 23 as a really huge band, a group of highly masterful musicians, who are not only brave enough to create music impromptu, but are also (and which is most important) skilful enough to make it sensible, cohesive, imaginative and, that said, fully prepared for use. No Space Rock and related matters on three more compositions: Heliotrope, Reanimator and Shambling Bear. Each is excellent, purely improvisational Jazz-Fusion or, rather, Jazz Rock, because the basic themes, provided by the rhythm section, are normally fixed. I think the band is at their best while moving within the boundless realm of Space Fusion, as on the first three pieces: The Yellow King, Heavy Psychedelia and Apokalyptische Tempelmusic, and also on the last one, Cosmic Break. From spacey and atmospheric, the music steadily becomes more and more intricate, intense and denser to finally transform into an eclectic jam, which, yet, almost always retains a structured construction and possesses a strong sense of mystery. This is still genuinely improvisational stuff, but it would be often hard to believe in that without the cognizance of the fact. The flight of the band's fantasy never conflicts with their feel of responsibility for the final result, so at least the adventurous will hardly have problems with comprehension and, later, loving most of the music on this album. Nameless City is the sphere of spacey effects and unearthly sounds, elicited from earthly bass, guitar, keyboards and percussion; the one that most of all demands to be heard with headphones and with the closed eyes, at least upon the first spin. The bonus track, Seelenwanderung, is electronically symphonic Space Rock to Peter's experimental film, a distant echo from the far 1983. The dark panorama: gothic cathedrals, frescos, clouds, mountains wrapped up with the mist, etc, combines with a dark and mysterious, yet, very beautiful music, excellently complementing each other.
Conclusion. Although there are certain flaws in this material, "Tidal Shift" is a good guide to the world of Nekropolis 23. I'd only recommend that you have one laid-back listen of the music, without viewing first, as the music far exceeds the visual content. Once you're comfortable with the music, then, and only then, you should dare to see what it looks like.
VM: November 18, 2005
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