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(60:57, Cuneiform Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Cosmic Speech from the Imaginary Planet 1:38 2. Washington Sniper 5:23 3. Capture 6:16 4. Biomasa 11:21 5. Black Box 12:10 6. Farandulero’s Theatre 3:15 7. Cosmic Speech-II 0:31 8. Today is a New Day 4:22 9. The Summer 6:56 10. Optical Delusions of a Bipolar Bear 9:06 LINEUP: Marc Nadal – keyboards, piano Jesep Zafra – bass Vasco Gomes – drums Eneco Laskurain – guitars Guillermo Vlades – trumpet, flugelhorn Hermann Bauerecker – alto saxophone Rafa Gomez – tenor saxophone The-Hien Trinh – trombone
Prolusion. PLANETA IMAGINARIO hails from the Spanish city of Barcelona – the hometown of Antonio Gaudi, Salvador Dali and Montserrat Caballe. The band is led by keyboardist and songwriter Marc Capel Nadal and will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year. The press kit suggests that these musicians have been almost endlessly changing their style from the outset, which seems to have resulted in their comparatively low studio productivity: “Biomasa” is only their second release to date, following “Que Me Dices?” from 2004.
Analysis. Planeta Imaginario is an octet, half of its members being brass players, so it is no surprise that the outfit frequently sounds like a little orchestra, particularly and frequently so on the first two full-blown compositions, Washington Sniper and Capture, which are located on the second and the third tracks, respectively. On each of these the music falls squarely into the vintage jazz-rock idiom, referring directly to the American wing of the genre. The movements with a strong ‘brass’ presence are prevalent here and are slightly reminiscent of Weather Report, while the arrangements that are dominated by rock instruments, with guitar, organ and either electric or acoustic piano leads at their fore, may bring to mind Return To Forever. Only two tracks contain lyrical content, the last-named piece containing only one vocal line, though, the melody being delivered in a joking manner. Black Box, Today is a New Day and The Summer (whose first fourth only features a piano) each find the ensemble performing Jazz-Fusion with certain quasi-symphonic tendencies, and this time the music seems to be equally influenced by the American and the British jazz-rock schools, with Soft Machine, Brand X, National Health and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band (at their most progressive) virtually joining the aforesaid two groups as additional – yet still vastly hypothetical – reference points. Each of the aforementioned five tracks is an excellent composition, filled with everything that true, open-minded, progressive souls love their music for, but nevertheless the semi-epic concluding piece, Optical Delusions of a Bipolar Bear, is even better and is just brilliant, coming across as the brightest gem in the crown of this remarkable album. Its overall style embraces both Rock- and Metal-In-Opposition, Avant-Jazz, Zeuhl and – as secondary components – some quantities of typically jazzy as well as quasi-symphonic features. While listening to this composition I at times have the impression that it’s classic Univers Zero, Finnegans Wake, Taylor’s Free Universe, Zao and King Crimson who are jamming together here, though on the other hand, well, I must once again make a reservation that any artists I name in this writing should only be taken as relative points of comparison. I only use them with the purpose to help you, readers, get a sort of collective idea of Planeta Imaginario’s sound, which is in fact very much their own. Two of the tracks, Farandulero’s Theatre and Biomass, are standouts in a way, as they strongly differ from the recording’s quintessential pieces, in composition and style alike. Ranging from almost purely symphonic arrangements to eclectic improvisational jams, the first of these is an amazing little concerto for acoustic instruments, namely guitar, piano, flugelhorn, trombone and two saxophones. There are also some male operatic vocals, but those, while very well suiting the musical storyline as such, still sound somewhat alienated, so I believe they are taken from a different source and aren’t delivered by someone from the band. Basically slow-paced, the title track brings together jazzy, bluesy and African ethnic motifs (which, though, are only striking in the parts of the featured male choir). It’s abundant in unison brass chords and is generally a groovy piece with a certain hypnotic quality to it, but nonetheless it also has some salt which raises it quite much above what we normally regard as a makeweight. Oh, almost forgot: the two brief cuts, Cosmic Speech-I and -II, are intros to their respective follow-ups, both arousing associations with On the Run from Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”.
Conclusion. Overall, this is a highly intriguing recording from a group of musicians whose improvisational skill and creative potential in general are instantly striking and are beyond praise. Jazz rock-oriented progressive music lovers will definitely find this “Biomass” to be very much to their taste, if not in fact a dainty dish. I believe it’s clear from the review why I can’t add an exclamation mark to the disc’s rating, but anyway I gladly invite it to take one of the higher positions in my list of last year’s top 20 releases.
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