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(46:03, AltrOck Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Estructuras Primitivas 4:38 2. El Furioso Despertar 3:19 3. Una Mirada Furtiva 7:04 4. Ingravidez 1:11 5. Llego Como un Amanecer Ardiente 3:29 6. Realidad Ciega 3:00 7. Avanzando Velozmente 3:19 8. Un Mundo de Suenos Abstractos 0:46 9. No Pudieron Detener el Silencio 1:31 10. Sutiles Ecuaciones Vivientes 6:11 11. Ella Era Invisible en la Oscuridad 1:11 12. Abre los Ojos 4:45 13. Ultimo Refugio 5:32 LINEUP: V?ctor Rodriguez – piano, keyboards Fran Mangas – saxophones, flute Alfonso Munoz – saxophones Angel Ontalva – guitars Amanda Pazos – bass Vasco Trilla – drums Pablo Ortega – cello
Prolusion. “Saturnal” is the third full-fledged album by Spain’s OCTOBER EQUUS, but is my first encounter with the band’s work.
Analysis. This release will be a feast to the right ears. With a base in Chamber Rock/RIO, of the genre’s Belgian brand, all 13 of the compositions presented are impressive, and almost a half of those are highly complex creations. There are comparatively few typical jazz improvisations (courtesy of the brass instruments, exclusively), and the whole thing sounds like being almost totally composed. The overall level of complexity on the album is akin to that in 2000s Univers Zero, although October Equus isn’t quite as radical as that band when delivering dissonances. Anyhow, such tracks as Estructuras Primitivas en el Crepusculo, El Furioso Despertar del Homunculo Neonato and Abre los Ojos (all of which are for the most part intense and up-tempo) are brilliant RIO creations, full of turns, twists, and so on. The latter piece is the disc’s sole item that often goes beyond the idiom, sounding like classical academic music (but not like neoclassical one, as is normal otherwise) performed by means of a chamber rock ensemble. On each of these sinuous guitar and sax leads along with intricate piano and cello parts weave in and out of at times repetitive, yet always complex, rhythms. There is also organ in places, complementing the – already dense and lush – sound with its specific sonic colorations. Moods alternate from introspective to dark, albeit they’re never aggressive or really unsettling either – yes, just like those in late Univers Zero (as contrasted with the band’s first two phases of work). What’s noteworthy is that the shorter pieces, Ingravidez, Un Mundo de Suenos Abstractos, No Pudieron Detener el Silencio and Ella Era Invisible en la Oscuridad (none of which exceeds one and a half minutes in length), are musically fairly similar to the ones described first, albeit of course, the number of themes explored is comparatively little in all cases. The remaining four tracks, Llego Como un Amanecer Ardiente, Realidad Ciega, Sutiles Ecuaciones Vivientes0 and Ultimo Refugio, are somewhat mellower, basically slow-paced creations, suggesting a sort of Neo Rio, but nevertheless, all of them are rich in different musical storylines, to say the least. (Once again comparisons to late Univers Zero are inevitable, since each of the albums that the band released after its reformation back in 1999 contains tracks of a similar, if not almost the same, compositional approach.) Piano, guitar, cello and saxophones are still dominant instruments, backed by the rhythm section and a bed of synthesizers, though the bass at times also works as a lead voice, doing so as resourcefully and effectively as the others, and the drums provide really extensive support for, well, it’s clear what. In other words, each of the album’s tracks without exception appears as a genuine group effort – quite an outstanding achievement already in itself.
Conclusion. “Saturnal” by October Equus features some of the best Chamber Rock that I’ve heard in 2011 and will definitely take one of the higher positions in my personal chart of the year. Connoisseurs of the genre – rejoice; neophytes – don’t miss it any rate.
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