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Qumma Connection - 2008 - "Arabesque"

(71:30, СF-43-2Т)


*****+

TRACK LIST:

1.  Deja Vu 7:24
2.  After Before 8:14
3.  Kuma No Yume 7:05
4.  Caleidoscope Brainstorm 7:48
5.  Arabesque 8:18
6.  Paranoia 2:04
7.  Panic Attack 10:05
8.  Jamais Vu 14:35
9.  Petite Mort 5:57

LINEUP:

Qumma Ц warr guitar; programming
Pate Kivinen Ц keyboards; programming
Pasi Rupponen Ц drums, percussion
Tuukka Helminen Ц cello 
With:
Maikki Liuski Ц vocals (9)

Prolusion. The Finnish band QUMMA CONNECTION is based around composer, musician, photographer and graphic artist Qumma, and the foundations for this part of his musical expressions was laid following a jam session he had with drummer Pasi Rupponen in 2005, the ideas improvised there soon demanding to be given a creative outlet. This has resulted in two albums so far: "Arabesque" in 2008 and "Unique" in 2010.

Analysis. This initial effort by Qumma Connection is one that will lead to some scratching of heads by those who find great joy in placing a band inside a closely defined genre definition. Progressive rock without doubt, but finding a suitable subcategory the musicians conform to is another matter entirely. Thankfully we don't adhere to the principles of creating a new genre whenever a band comes forth that makes something slightly different from others at this website, and of the main directions in this universe I'd think that art rock with elements of avant-garde is a good indication of the stylistic expressions covered by this act. Initially the compositions indicate a band with inclinations towards the symphonic part of the art rock realm, with cello, keyboards and Qumma's Warr guitar crafting some nice but unspectacular layered harmonic pieces at the onset, not in the manner of the great symphonic acts of yesteryear though, but not truly adhering to the Neo-Prog universe either. But as these efforts by and large focus on atmospheric rather than compositional qualities, the sound explored on these tracks will arguably feel closer to home to fans of the latter I'd guess. With title track Arabesque, this album takes a left turn though and while still retaining multiple textures and certain symphonic qualities on the landscapes visited, the guitar in particular now provides motifs with a distinct dissonant edge to them, and frequently utilizing drawn-out notes. Those familiar with mid-С70s as well as early 80's King Crimson will most likely find this sound appealing in its different incarnations, from the tranquil, slow moving 7 minute introduction and the following bombastic sounds of Panic Attack to the darker, distorted, aggressive and majestic themes given a good airing on the following Jamais Vu. The brief, laid back, electronic and industrial-tinged Paranoia adds a bit of variety to the proceedings, while final effort Petite Mort is another hard left turn in terms of styles explored; a slow moving, lush symphonic creation of the kind deserving to be performed by a real-life symphonic orchestra, crafting a dark underscore for the light, melodic pipes of Maikki Liuski.

Conclusion. "Arabesque" is an eclectic creation that provides plenty of musical joy for the sophisticated art rock fan. Although the initial efforts may not be the most daring nor inspiring, this is a CD that steadily grows better and more interesting as it unfolds, and it does explore stylistic territories featuring details not too many others have tried investigating, the role of the cello and Warr guitar most notable in that respect, instrumentally and compositionally. Art rock fans who fancy a slice of music made with finesse and a sense of adventure above the ordinary might just want to take this on, and if you like King Crimson there's a good chance that you'll find the material at hand to be interesting.


Qumma Connection - 2010 - "Unique"

(55:56)


*****

TRACK LIST:

1.  Hysteria 5:20
2.  Euforia 5:50
3.  Control 5:20
4.  Unique 5:13
5.  Hanabi Teien 6:11
6.  Shining Bright Black II 6:43
7.  Ra Sole 8:18
8.  Demonia 7:26
9.  Hymn of the Extinct Volcano 5:35

LINEUP:

Qumma - warr guitar, stick; programming
Pasi Rupponen Ц drums, percussion
Pate Kivinen Ц keyboards; programming
Tuukka Helminen Ц cello 
Marika Liuski Ц vocals 

Analysis. The sophomore release by Qumma Connection, issued two years after its initial effort, is a rather similar production in many respects. It's an album hard to categorize within a limited subgenre description, covering many and at times rather different expressions, and the distinct sound created by the cello and Warr guitar often sees to it that the end result is difficult to compare with the household names in the progressive rock universe. The symphonic aspects are at times much more a part of the proceedings here, as the cello, organ and Mellotron combine quite nicely with additional keyboard textures to create motifs adhering to vintage symphonic art rock as well as the more atmospheric Neo-progressive genre. Dissonant qualities are slightly less utilized this time around, and the Frippian tendencies frequently appearing on the first album have more of a minor role on "Unique". My personal highlight is a track that doesn't conform to any of these aspects of the release though, as the one-off space-tinged Shining Bright Black II is by far the most intriguing creation here to my ears. From the drawn-out, spacey textures and spoken vocals that cover the initial two and a half minutes and the following ominous-sounding chamber rock-inspired theme dominated by the cello, this is an enthralling experience for those with a fancy for the darker areas of the art rock universe. And while space-tinged textures are very much a part of the proceedings, it can't really be described as a good example of that direction, which at least for me makes this piece even more interesting. The fragile cello and keyboards arrangement that forms the foundation of title track Unique is another fine effort, featuring majestic full instrumental inserts of a more distinct symphonic nature as an invigorating feature. The quirky, sprawling Demonia is another composition worth mentioning, slightly at loss for an identity but exploring a number of different themes and motifs in a very nice manner, with a recurring folk-tinged one featuring backing vocals and eastern-inspired textures as the arguably most inspired.

Conclusion. If you have a general taste for art rock and a fancy for becoming familiar with a band making their musical journeys into some of the less populated parts of this realm, Qumma Connection might have crafted an album you'll appreciate with "Unique". The album is aptly named, and while perhaps not adhering to the principles of the most adventurous progressive rock bands, their sophisticated, eclectic approach should have a general appeal to liberal=minded art rock aficionados.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: April 15 & 16, 2011
The Rating Room


Related Links:

Qumma Connection


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