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(41 min, ‘Octoberxart’ / Azafran Media)
TRACK LIST: 1. Erosive Forces of Wind and Water 5:14 2. Lead Poisoning 5:13 3. Boots-Nails-Watches 5:25 4. Thermokarst 5:15 5. Trapped in the Sea Ice 4:00 6. Books-Saws-Silk Handkerchiefs 3:52 7. Graves of the Crewmen Buried on Beechey Island 6:16 8. Two Double-Barreled Guns and 40 lbs of Chocolate 5:32 LINEUP: Angel Ontalva – guitars Victor Rodriguez – keyboards Vasco Trilla – drums Amanda Pazos – bass
Prolusion. OCTOBER EQUUS is a modern Spanish outfit, formed in the first half of the last decade, and “Permafrost” is their fourth album. Following “Saturnal” from 2011, which was issued by the avant-garde Italian label AltrOck Records, this one was self-released by the band and distributed by Azafran Media. As you can see above, there are eight tracks here.
Analysis. Previously a septet, October Equus appears to be a quartet (of guitar, keyboards, bass and drums) on “Permafrost”, the three members who left the band all being chamber musicians, who played saxophones, flutes and cello. Not surprisingly, the sound of this album strongly differs from that of its predecessor. If the music on “Saturnal” was RIO somewhere in the vein of 2000s Univers Zero, on this one it represents for the most part avant-garde Art-Rock and is obviously influenced by ‘80s King Crimson, even though its creators are an all-instrumental outfit, additionally using keyboards: synthesizer, piano and – most notably – organ, all of which are the most original voices here, maintaining an equally dominant presence with guitars. Another difference is that the music on the album never gets real heavy; it’s just clever, mobile music with often angular guitar and keyboard leads. In other words, October Equus never does sound like a King Crimson clone, but, nonetheless, their debt to the English band is considerable. In fact, appearing in one or another form, the legend’s stuff is almost all over the recording, the influence most evident in the guitar, whether it’s in the “Discipline”-style soloing of the tracks that form the album’s prevalent style (to be named a bit below) or in the “Three of a Perfect Pair”-like dark, disturbing ambience of the others. The primary-style tracks are Erosive Forces of Wind and Water, Two Double-Barreled Guns and 40 lbs of Chocolate, Thermokarst and Trapped in the Sea Ice, on the first two of which guitarist Angel Ontalva at times additionally elicits specific effects that instantly bring to mind those in ‘Elephant Talk’, the opener of the previously named King Crimson album. Additionally, the music on all of these pieces recalls bands such as Belgium’s Present on some occasions, but especially so Spain’s Dificil Equilibrio (whose album “Trayecto” is nearly a 100-% clone of “Discipline”). But, don’t forget: there are also keyboards here, and it occurs rather frequently that each of the said pieces equally emphasizes the lush attributes of symphonic Prog with the forward-looking ambitions of an avant-garde one, at times creating a really unique whole. In other words, the idiom of avant-garde Art-Rock with elements of symphonic can also be used as an apt description of this music. The tracks Boots-Nails-Watches and Books-Saws-Silk Handkerchiefs are both collages of spaced-out soundscapes that call to mind such King Crimson pieces as ‘Industry’ from “Three of a Perfect Pair”. The creative use of ambience infuses the compositions with a solid deal of depth – an intelligent complement to the challenging music. While the material is dang good from the get go, of most potential interest is the track where the band most often deviates from the King Crimson vibe, namely Lead Poisoning. The music on here, while similar to that on the primary-style pieces, has a couple of Jazz-Fusion-related moves with piano passages at the helm of those.
Conclusion. Fans of avant-garde Art-Rock and King Crimson in particular will be totally satisfied with “Permafrost” by October Equus. This is not a lighthearted effort, containing as it does musical crossword puzzles almost as dense and complex as we’d expect from the band’s benefactors.
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