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(56:41, Luna Negra / Azafran / Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Good Night Robots 4:21 2. WDHS 7:50 3. Cliness Matter 5:28 4. Beau a Jouer 4:52 5. Regenbogen Flote-Tropfen 7:03 6. Turkey 9:56 7. Screamed the Queen 10:19 8. New Furniture 6:52 LINEUP: Mano Leen – guitars; lead vocals; flute Ibis Ortiz – synthesizers, organ, piano L Marin – bass; backing vocals Gerardo Muzquiz – drums; b/v
Prolusion. The Mexican quartet SWEET FINGERS presents their self-titled debut album. Co-released by Mexico’s labels Luna Negra and Azafran Multimedia with the support of the French recording company Musea Records, it saw the light of day in the fall of 2011.
Analysis. There are eight tracks here, and – with the exception of disc opener Good Night Robots – all of them contain singing with English lyrics, although not too many – even only a few in a couple of cases. Anyhow, the vocals are done fairly well (at a quality level higher than many, if not most, of the other Latin-American bands I have heard), evoking nobody when only one of the musicians sings, whereas most of the harmony vocals are patently Beatles-que in delivery. The music as such is largely in the vein of vintage Symphonic Progressive with a lush and mellifluous sound that now echoes early Camel, now – albeit much less frequently – King Crimson of the same, mid-‘70s, period, then appearing as avant-garde Art-Rock. All of this is most evident on such compositions as Cliness Matter, New Furniture, Regenbogen Flote-Tropfen and Turkey, the last of which probably best of all recaptures the spirit of the former genre in its compositional approach and use of organ and guitar timbres. Screamed the Queen and WDHS both operate in a slightly different mode, with emphasis on moves that are clearly symphonic Space Rock in style. The most notable influence here is early-to-mid-‘70s Pink Floyd, though there is also a quasi modern feel on some occasions, referring to mid-‘90s Porcupine Tree (who are themselves influenced by the genre’s originators, though). It also needs to be mentioned that the core of the latter piece is more fusion-oriented and brings to mind Steve Hillage’s “Fish Rising”. On each of these/above compositions the group very often strays into instrumental passages, focusing on finessed performances from individual soloists, of whom Ibis Ortiz is particularly notable – for his excellent keyboard work. Still full of a vintage aura, Regenbogen Flote-Tropfen is a Pink Floyd-inspired ballad – by far not a trivial one yet, as the band not only succeeds in reproducing the spirit of “Dark Side of the Moon”, but also creates a very specific mood (of beauty, I’d say) that runs all through the piece. Finally, the above Good Night Robots is a stand-out in style. Almost fully belonging to avant-garde Art-Rock, it evokes both mid-‘70s and early ‘80s King Crimson, circa “Red” and “Beat” respectively, although comparisons with Gentle Giant are valid too, at least in places. This one comes with simple instant likeability, revealing a lot of inventive acoustic as well as electric guitar leads, some swirling piano passages, refined bass lines and a diverse drumming style.
Conclusion. Although not a masterpiece with a capital “M”, this is one of the – two or three – best debut albums I’ve met with after 2010. Apart from a few electric guitar leads (which seem to be a bit awkward), the performances are quite masterful, up to the standards set by ‘70s art-rock bands. I see fans of Camel and suchlike outfits composing a sort of target audience in this case, so they should be the first to try the thing out. Don’t worry folks, you won’t be disappointed.
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