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(71:44, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Chaos I 2:49 2. Rain 7:00 3. Drowning 4:07 4. Conexion I 0:55 5. Arise 5:49 6. Chaos II 2:42 7. Lights Turn On 7:20 8. Chaos III 2:30 9. Algenia 20:35 10. Serenity 4:33 11. Chaos IV 2:58 12. Becoming 4:22 13. Shape 6:04 LINEUP: Karen Gonzalez – vocals; guitars; synthesizers Miguel Blanco – bass David Cajias – drums Yonder Rodriguez – percussion
Prolusion. Venezuelan outfit PI XPRNC was formed by composer and multi-instrumentalist Karen Gonzalez in 2007 as a new creative outlet for her creations. The 2008 debut album "Algenia" is, according to the info on the band's homepage, the final result of her former project – a more personal venture where musicians were invited to record selected parts of her written material prior to 2007.
Analysis. It is rather intriguing to come across a band whose debut album, according to the description, is a chapter from a past now left behind. I do hope that future ventures from this talented composer and bandleader will continue exploring the same musical territories (stressing the plural) as on this creation, as Miss Gonzalez comes across as a truly creative and inspired person. "Algenia" is a production of many facets, of which the first and foremost is that it doesn't set out to explore one particular sound or style. The songs touch upon a multitude of expressions, but apart from a prevalent darkness in the overall sound there aren't too many elements that ever become predictable on this venture. Five of the thirteen tracks are soundscapes more than songs as such; Chaos one through four and Conexion: dreamy or atmospheric excursions of the bleaker variety, with industrial elements utilized to great effect in places. For the eight remaining efforts, the guitar is the key instrument. Often in multiple layers and with quirky passages the rule rather than the exception. Acoustic and undistorted passages with echoes and slight dissonances are much used sounds on this album, with references to King Crimson's creations in the first half of the eighties. But distorted, gritty riff patterns similar to acts like Tool are a common feature throughout as well – and many of the variations in between these two opposites are more or less frequently touched upon throughout this production. The guitar soloing is mostly of the atmospheric variety – no shredding to be found and elongated notes and timbres are utilized to great effect in these parts. At times the soloing is placed in the back of the mix; used as an additional texture rather than as a dominating element, which works very well in the instances where this occurs. Synths are generally used to add textures to the proceedings. Serving up dark timbres underscoring the guitars, adding ambient sounding or industrial tinged layers and passages or swirling noises to the general soundscape they rarely dominate, but are a constant feature from start to finish on this effort. Instances where the synths can be said to have a prominent placement in the compositions are in the passages where they provide eastern-sounding themes. The percussion work of Yonder Rodriguez adds elements of folk music to the proceedings, and drummer Cajias provides a variety of neat additional elements to the compositions too; quirky drum patterns and jazz-tinged rhythms do add some rather intriguing dimensions to a sonic palette as diversified as this one, and he's skilled enough to know when the extra flourishes are needed and when a more basic drum pattern is the better choice. The overall sound is quirky and dark, and the vocals of Miss Gonzales add a stark contrast to the elaborate soundscape produced by the instruments. Powerful, emotional and distinct, at times reminding me quite a lot of Skunk Anansie's lead vocalist Skin in timbre, her voice soars and beckons, adding life and soul to the instrumental escapades.
Conclusion. "Algenia" is a solid and innovative debut album by PI XPRNC. A few exceptions aside, the compositions are innovative and truly deserving of being described as progressive, and this should be an effort of interest to those who enjoy challenging progressive rock covering several different musical expressions.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: June 11, 2009
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