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(71:50, Sonus Umbra)
TRACK LIST: 1. Last Train to Kimball 1:10 2. Insomniac Blue 5:35 3. Palestinian Black 6:55 4. Wounded Animal 10:26 5. Let It Rain 4:45 6. Silence Kills 8:54 7. I t's Only Fear 6:18 8. Bar at the End of the World 1:25 9. Haunted 9:49 10.Rebuke the Sea 9:03 11. Adrift 7:30 LINEUP: Luis Nasser bass Rich Poston guitars Steve Royce flute; vocals Tim McCaskey guitars; vocals Andy Tillotson drums; guitars; vocals Roey Ben-Yoseph vocals Brian Harris vocals With: David Keller cello Brittany Moffitt vocals
Prolusion. The US band SONUS UMBRA originated some 20 years ago in Mexico, at first operating under the moniker Radio Silence, if I have understood their history correctly, but since sometime around the Millennium the band has been US based. Their first album under their current name was released back in 2000, and a further three have followed since. "Winter Soulstice" is the most recent of these and was released in 2013.
Analysis. While he does use some space to explain how Sonus Umbra is very much a band effort, an initial description of this band as of 2013 will still be that it appears to be a band that revolves around a certain Luis Nasser. He is credited as the sole composer after all, and he is the only member that has been with the band all along. Luis will most likely will throw a douchebag description towards me due to this I guess, a phrase he's been liberally tossing around on at least one progressive rock discussion forum for a number of years, but with the facts being what they are I do feel that my description is at least superficially correct here. Those who would like to read Luis' more elongated description of why this isn't truly the case can read all about it in the liner notes. As far as the album itself goes, this production appears to be of a conceptual or thematic nature, for those with an interest in creations of that kind. Musically it is undeniably progressive rock, albeit exploring somewhat different territories than the greater majority of bands out there. I think I might describe the sound, mood and atmosphere here as fairly earthbound. This is music that easily warrants a description as sophisticated, and while not overly complicated there's still plenty of fine details to enjoy in terms of arrangements and structural developments. The compositions tend to shy away from flamboyant or dramatic excursions however, and a key word in my notes is actually mellow. Not in a ballad sort of manner, but as in calm, easy going and accessible. My main impression is that acoustic guitar and piano are core instruments throughout, setting up central foundations aplenty, and gentle guitar motifs supplemented by piano and bass guitar are the main foundation for the greater majority of the movements. Lead vocals and drums are, obviously, key elements as well, and there's a fairly liberal use of flute and atmospheric laden solo guitar runs here too, the latter mostly of a careful nature. Smooth keyboards may replace the piano at times, and we are treated to a select few harder edged runs with darker toned guitar riffs and organ in a subtly more majestic sounding arrangements, sometimes adding a bit of grit to the proceedings too, and some melancholic strings make a few appearances along the way as well. All of which does add variety and a bit more bite to the compositions, as do careful but effective surges of keyboards with more of a flamboyant overall expression. But the heart and soul of the music here, as far as my main impression goes, as that these are compositions that are based around a core foundation of piano and acoustic guitar, supplemented with additional instruments and vocals, and occasionally with arrangements flavored more or less liberally with instrumental details of a different nature for variety and subtle dramatic impact. All well made and well performed, apart from a few vocal sections that to my ears were a tad on the weak side, with enough nerve and tension to easily maintain my interest throughout.
Conclusion. Sonus Umbra's fourth full length production "Winter Soulstice" is an album that isn't easy to place within a carefully defined context. There's elements of acoustic rock and progressive folk rock in here, alongside classic hard rock or hard prog elements as well as passages that arguably have more of a symphonic oriented expression. All elements are combined into carefully assembled compositions where subtle details and controlled nuances dominated to a much greater extent than the flamboyant and dramatic. Progressive rock for feinschmeckers if you like, an album to be enjoyed by those who love listening closely and with full attention to an album and find joy in discovering the finer details.
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