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(55 min, Musea)
TRACK LIST: 1. The Curse 10:42 2. Fountains of Dreams 5:25 3. Thoughts Pay No Toll 6:17 4. A Recollection of Dreams 16:49 5. Visitors 10:07 6. Promises 6:26 PERSONNEL: Patrick Kiefer - vocals Alex Rukavina - keyboards Yves DiProspero - guitar Iris Sonntag - bass Christian Sonntag - drums
Prolusion. NO NAME was formed in the quite distant 1988 in Luxembourg. Much water has flowed under the bridges during the next eighteen years, but the two founding members, singer Patrick Kiefer and keyboardist Alex Rukavina, are still with the group. Their discography comprises four studio albums, namely "Zodiac", "Secret Garden", "The Other Side" and "4", which is my first encounter with No Name. According to the CD press kit, this is their first release in eight years. Unfortunately, I have nothing to add here, as the Bio section at their website is extremely brief, only mentioning the fact of the band's formation and explaining why the outfit received the name it received.
Analysis. This album is solid. Hundreds of bands prefer Neo to other progressive styles, but there are not many among such whose music does not evoke anyone else's work. No Name's fourth creation, however, is just such a case. Even more, on four of the six tracks present, the band frequently approach the level of classic symphonic Art-Rock, which seems to be independent of the songs' duration. For instance, the 6-minute Thoughts Pay No Toll is not in the least inferior to The Curse, with which it has much common ground while being almost twice as short. Both are multi-sectional compositions where accessible (normally free of any hard textures) vocal-based arrangements alternate with instrumental sections which reveal much more diversity, their chord progressions being often accentuated by heavy guitar riffs. But while on The Curse the group allow themselves to periodically return to a previously paved furrow, Thoughts Pay No Toll contains few repetitions, so all in all, it develops much more dynamically. The same considerations become instantly obvious while examining another 'nice pair', Visitors (10:07) and A Recollection of Dreams (16:49). These are also related compositions, both featuring many relatively difficult movements. However, the shorter song is richer in its different thematic storylines, as well as in purely instrumental maneuvers. Anyway, a relatively steady progression is typical of each of the four, the themes always adequately connecting and evolving, so that the picture is never monochromatic. Well, some idiomatic cliches can be found, but as mentioned above, no direct traces of anyone's influences. The resourceful instrumental performance is equally effective at providing a dynamic background for the vocals and at realizing the full potential in the instrumental sections. Keyboardist Alex Rukavina alternates between synthesizer and piano, doing his job effectively throughout, now providing blistering solos, now concentrating on an ensemble sound. Patrick Kiefer is a dedicated and, what's especially pleasing, self-respecting singer, who is fully aware that it's really worthless to be an imitator, thus never following the line of least resistance. In his turn, Yves DiProspero is a gifted guitarist, soloing both masterfully and tastefully, avoiding any flashy things. He is somewhat less impressive when playing riffs, Visitors being the only track where he really shines in this field. Bassist Iris Sonntag's performance isn't notable for any particular virtuosity, but it is more important that she doesn't idolize any of her 'brothers in arms'. The drums are electronic, but while Christian Sonntag does a really decent manual job on most of the songs, the sound of the drums is the weakest spot in this creation. The concluding track, Promises, is interesting too, even though it is less intricate than any of the preceding pieces. Its first half stands out for piano passages which move diversely, regardless of whether they flow alone or alongside the vocals, and at times revealing really unpredictable turns. The rest of the piece involves the entire quintet, but is plainer, steering towards mellow guitar-laden Art-Rock, which though is still original and tasty, having its own merits. Fountains of Dreams is the only track I disliked while giving the CD a second listen. This is a straightforward, totally song-based number, which in addition has a disappointing instrumental background. In the final analysis, my favorite tracks would be Visitors, Thoughts Pay No Toll and The Curse.
Conclusion. This is a very good Neo Prog album, and would've been excellent within its category had the poppy song not been included. Recommended to all fans of the style, unless some of you prefer exclusively derivative stuff.
VM: September 19, 2006
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