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(35:34, Azafran / Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Leo 1:23 2. Celestial Ghost 5:21 3. Night Ambience 1:53 4. Sisters 2:30 5. Phantasm 0:50 6. Rendezvous 2:24 7. Entering the Lost Village 1:41 8. Confrontation 1:44 9. Doom 2:23 10. Going Home 1:23 11. Ouija 1:57 12. By the Shore 2:21 13. Chase 2:09 14. Purgatory 1:05 15. Grand Finale 3:31 16. Home 1:05 17. Beach Girls 1:50 LINEUP: Niclas Barker – Mellotron, synths, bass; theremin Martha Barker – cello Karolina Bergstrom – violin Peter Nordins – drums, percussion
Prolusion. Here is "El Ultimo Fin De Semana", an album by Swedish multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Niclas BARKER (of Anekdoten). Sending discs for review without info sheets is mauvais ton, as a Frenchman would say.
Analysis. In fact, this is a soundtrack for the (Mexican, I believe) film of the same name which, at least judging by the music, seems not the kind of movie that attracts mass attention. There are seventeen tracks here, using a variety of musical textures to evoke different moods, albeit most of those suggest drama of varied shades, at times even gloom. Besides Niclas himself, three more musicians are listed in the CD booklet as the project’s official members (see lineup above), but they only play on a few of the pieces. The album begins with a cut titled Leo. It portrays several women, who are loudly making a raw ‘alongside’ a synthesizer layer and some piano chords. There are twelve more tracks that also are performed without drums, many of those Barker’s solo pieces. Three of them, Phantasm, Ouija and Purgatory, are purely electronic in nature, only using sequences and synth effects. The other ten, however, are all real compositions with a few instruments involved. Sisters, Confrontation, Doom, Going Home, Grand Finale and Home all evoke nothing except merely symphonic music, although definitely interesting in its own way. Apart from traditional synthesizers, most of these deploy either a string synth or real Mellotron, and it’s obvious that the string arrangements have been well thought out to provide adequate support for lead keyboards, those sounding not unlike organ and piano in particular. Rendezvous, Entering the Lost Village and Night Ambience are pieces of space music, the latter highly impressive, almost as beautiful and touching as At the Gates of Dawn from Eloy’s “Planets”. Two of the four compositions with a full-band sound, Celestial Ghost and Chase, are somewhat reminiscent of the German band too. In style, both of them are symphonic Space Rock of the first water, the latter good in all senses. One of the two really diverse tracks here, it wanders through several twists and turns, using lush Mellotron patterns to accentuate them. Another winner, By the Shore, is a Chamber Rock/RIO monster, performed by all four of the musicians, of whom Martha Barker and Peter Nordins are particularly notable. Martha’s emotive violoncello phrases brush through a few courses within the piece, in all cases perfectly accentuated by Peter’s – eccentric – drum beats. (The man has been playing with a few well-known Scandinavian bands; I don’t remember with which ones exactly, and am in too lazy a mood to ‘recall’ via the Internet, sorry.) Finally, the album’s concluding item, Beach Girls, is a folk rock tune and is the sole track here referring directly to the positive side of the human emotional specter. It seems the heroes of the movie have achieved a happy ending in spite of anything, et cetera.
Conclusion. That being said, Niclas’ keyboard playing seems at times severely underplayed, and the album’s overall palette severely undercolored in places, all of which was expected, though: this is a soundtrack, after all. Anyhow, those details aside, the recording is overall good, full of melodic elegance, and so on.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: July 14, 2012
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