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(52 min, Unicorn)
TRACK LIST: 1. Patterns 3:34 2. Happy War Holiday 8:05 3. Bird 3:41 4. Grapefruit 8:48 5. Six 4:07 6. Zona 8:06 7. Too Much 4:53 8. Grapefruit Variations 10:54 LINEUP: Arik Hayat - keyboards; recorder; vocals Elad Abraham - guitars; recorder Ori Ben Zvi - guitars Boris Zilberstein - drums Dan Carpman - bass; vocals
Prolusion. SYMPOZION is a young Israeli group, founded in 2001 by Arik Hayat and Eric Abraham. "Kundabuffer" is their debut album.
Analysis. The album is made up of eight tracks, only two of which contain singing (in Yiddish, I believe). These are Bird and Zona. That being said, the latter is more than largely instrumental by any criterion, because there are few vocals, appearing only at the very beginning. The musicians list Gentle Giant, Frank Zappa, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Erik Satie and Igor Stravinsky as their primary influences. Being already acquainted with "Kundabuffer", I feel free to affirm that the first name comes to my personal mind much more often than the others when I listen to the album, while those of the Minimalist composers I associate only with two pieces: Patterns and Too Much. The song Bird is the only instantly accessible number here, much in the vein of Gentle Giant's most melodious stuff, circa "Interview". Throughout the rest of the material it's pretty common to hear several counterpoint melodic lines at once, provided by each of the musicians. But while distinctly contrasting with each other, the lines normally remain melodious in themselves. Does this remind you of Gentle Giant's approach, too? And quite right you are, if so. The formula that the British legend invented and widely used during their creatively most successful years has found its place in the construction of most of the tracks here, Happy War Holiday being the most consistent example of such melodically angular Art-Rock with occasional improvisations. Patterns and Too Much both have common ground with the said track, but there is a rather pronounced rhythmic feel to each, especially the former, with piano and drums setting up a repetitive groove in the fashion of Minimalist music, and the other instruments (guitar, bass, recorder and synthesizer) weaving intricate patterns around that axis and, in the case of the latter piece, beyond. Zona begins and develops similarly to Happy War Holiday until the rebellious guitar terrorizes the other instruments:-) to lead them to the world of Frank Zappa for keeps just before the finale, which finds all the forces intensively jamming. I am deeply impressed with the entire album, but nonetheless, I give even more preference to the remaining three compositions, perhaps because they are at once more original and profound than the others. Grapefruit has much more in common with its follow-up, Six, than with its seemingly fraternal track, Grapefruit Variations, the former two being the entities of angular and atonal, yet still cohesive Progressive, blurring the borders between Art-Rock, Jazz-Fusion and RIO in the presence of features of Neoclassical music. The endlessly evolving Grapefruit Variations is also one of the biggest diamonds in the crown of this album (you see, I'm crowning it already!), one of the most finely structured Jazz-Fusion-related works I've ever heard.
Conclusion. I am not the one to encourage those not even trying to hide the sources that they draw their inspiration from, but I can't resist the power (in a figurative meaning, because the music is never really powerful) of "Kundabuffer". But I'd recommend Sympozion to follow more, in the future, the approach they've used when working on the last three described tracks. In any event, this is a fascinating album and is a welcome addition to my Top-20-2005.
VM: March 17, 2007
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