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(78:25, Metal Mind Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Piwnica 7:00 2. Niemen 4:36 3. 74 5:24 4. Bunkry Wiedenskie 3:05 5. Zwatpienie Lakisa 4:02 6. Aries 2:31 7. Urodziny w Roskilde 6:55 8. Rozstanie 2:22 9. Ameryka 4:59 10. Nowy Wiek 6:01 11. Lot Nad Chicago 2:37 12. Seged 3:55 13. Memento 3:50 14. Muzy 6:46 15. Zaufani 3:19 16. Requiem 11:03 LINEUP: J?zef Skrzek – bass; piano, organ, moog; vocals Apostolis Anthimos – guitars; drums
Prolusion. The Polish act SBB has been around in one form or another for 40 years or thereabout at this stage, and even if they've had their pauses along the way this is still an impressively long career for a band. They have an extensive back catalogue at this point, with about 50 more or less official releases in various formats. "SBB" is the most recent of these, the studio album released by Metal Mind in the spring of 2012.
Analysis. While the members may not agree to this or feel like it, I guess it's time to start describing SBB as the elder statesmen of Polish art rock at this point. Because that is how they come across now in the later days of their career: a band sure of themselves, and not to keen on showcasing their extreme abilities or compositional cleverness. Dramatic contrasts and flamboyant use of technically challenging and difficult to perform instrument maneuvers aren't present, given any dominating spot whatsoever. Instead it seems like they hone in on the subtle details and finer moods, with carefully crafted nuances and dampened, smooth and partially contrasting motifs as something of a common denominator for the compositions at hand. SBB can still throw some punches, as documented on the intense, majestic and cleverly constructed piece Niemen, a clear highlight on this disc and a brilliantly made and performed piece of music. The manner in which the guitar and keyboards switch from dominant to supporting roles is an intriguing detail that in itself warrants close and repeated inspections. There are a few other compositions of a similar nature and approach to be found too, and although none of them as enticing as that composition they generally make up the most interesting parts of this album. But the greater majority of this production hone in on a softer, gentler breed of art rock, and mainly symphonic in character at that. Creations that explore the subtle differences between Apostolis’ gentle, wailing guitar soloing and drawn out, subtly reverberating guitar notes and Skrzek's smoothly flowing, elegant and dampened virtuosity at the tangents, songs with distinct atmospheres, occasionally with a distinct blues or jazz oriented expression. In approach and intensity they’re close to cinematic in character, and describing them as mood explorations isn't too far off I guess. Not always of an accessible kind however, as best documented by the epic length, fragmented final piece Requiem, a creation that comes across as at least partially improvisational in nature. I presume opinions about this disc will differ, depending on points of view and personal taste. But I suspect all will agree on a few details: mix, production and instrumental performances are all of the highest quality. And that this is a welcome return to art rock territories for SBB following the more mainstream oriented 2010 effort “Blue Trance”.
Conclusion. Gentle, dampened details and carefully explored themes with partially contrasting expressions are the dominating traits of this self-titled production by Polish veterans SBB. A few pacier, energetic excursions showcase a band that still can produce the unexpected and more adventurous breed of music if they feel like it, but at least at this stage it would appear that exploring careful nuances is more at the heart of the band's current inclinations. A well made piece of art rock to be enjoyed by existing fans and those who prefer their art rock to be of a dampened, refined nature.
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