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(50:44, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Alone in the Blizzard Dawn 10:27 2. Ruslan and Ludmilla 5:20 3. Salad Bowl 6:24 4. Messiah Hallelujah 4:16 5. Netherland Dwarf 2:34 6. Moi-Moi 1:23 7. Samson and Delilah 7:23 8. Alone in the Twilight Orange 6:18 9. Symphony No-104 in D Major 6:39 SOLO PILOT: Netherland Dwarf – all instruments With: Hans Lundin – keyboards
Prolusion. NETHERLAND DWARF is the name chosen by a Japanese composer and instrumentalist for his creative endeavors. The main man himself prefers to stay anonymous, the line of reasoning being that the person behind the music is unimportant, while the music itself is all that matters. "Moi-Moi" is his debut effort, and was released by Musea Records in 2011.
Analysis. You know you're about to have an encounter with something special when you have an artist that has chosen to use a species of rabbit as his artist name, especially when the CD art depicts said rabbit amidst a plethora of instruments, drawn in a manner that would have been suitable for a children's story book: charming, detailed and realistic but with more than a touch of the naive. And the music itself is something special, although not in a naive manner. Instead, it's a blazing symphonic art rock romp, tight, compact and with many funny moments. Intentionally funny that is. Misunderstand me right (or should that be wrong?), the artist isn't making fun of us or the music explored. I suspect that he's actually pretty serious about this, and suspect that most if not all of these pieces have been planned, recorded and catered for with a firm attention to every little detail. I'm also suspecting that the writing and recording process has been a blast for the anonymous creator. Probably frustrating and challenging, but that he's enjoyed every minute of still and wants to share his joy with the world. And if it's on his own creations or his renditions of well know classical pieces, he takes them all on with panache and bravado. Energetic bass lines and refined drum patters of the less is more variety establish a firm foundation, on which layers of keyboards, synths and Mellotron are given free room to blaze upon, literally. These are pace-filled energetic creations by and large, with surging arrangements and blazing solos aplenty. Calmer sequences do appear when appropriate and where they should be for the cover pieces, but with an added fun factor thrown in for good measure. A sudden brief pause prior to blazing off again, an inserted break with a couple of dampened percussion effects, weird and fun sound effects, all of them effects sparingly used, and to good effect. The cover of Ruslan and Ludmila is a track that frequently made me laugh, due to the creative use of such effects. This is symphonic progressive music with a vibrant, uplifting character to it, in other words. Perhaps not the most advanced, perhaps not the most sophisticated, but filled to the brim with a lust and passion for life and living. Tight, compact, yet also fairly dramatic and occasionally bombastic symphonic progressive rock, but of the kind that invites to dance and jubilation rather than scholarly, theoretical debate. On the downside, a fair few of the samples used throughout are too similar in sound and expression, the frequently used backing vocals first and foremost; some variation in that department would have given the songs a stronger unique identity. And the guitar sound, presumably sampled, does leave a bit to desire in terms of coming across as natural. Still, while these details might exclude some, the total context of this production makes them relatively moot. At least as I regard it, this is a CD to pull out whenever you feel down, are tired or just have a need for a shining ray of positive energy in the form of symphonic art rock. For such a purpose this production is perfect.
Conclusion. Japanese artist Netherland Dwarf has accomplished something relatively unique with his debut album "Moi-Moi": a CD of symphonic progressive rock that is uplifting, positive and filled with a number of fun details. Art rock that invites to dancing and toasting rather than introverted concentrated listen. Not a perfect production by any means, but one of the most vibrant and fun filled albums I have encountered in years. Fans of artists like ELP might want to check this one out, especially those amongst them who enjoy a hearty laugh and music that celebrates life in a joyful manner.
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