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TAO - 2006 - "The Abnormal Observations"

(45 min, Unicorn)


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TRACK LIST:

1.  Shruti 7:02
2.  Forget It 6:54
3.  Semanei 5:07
4.  Rhythm of Silence 6:25
5.  Run Away 4:43
6.  Ifot 7:41
7.  Hereabouts 7:31

LINEUP:

Adam Jurewicz - guitars; vocals
Robert Sztorc - drums, vibes
Lukasz Adamczyk - bass
Kamil Urbanski - keyboards
With:
Marek Burda - percussion

Prolusion. According to the press kit, the history of Polish quartet TAO begins in October 2003 when guitarist / singer Adam Jurewicz and drummer Robert Sztorc, being inspired by the work of artists like Planet X, Tower of Power and some others, decided to play their own music. Keyboardist Kamil Urbanski and bassist Lukasz Adamczyk joined the duo a few weeks later. It seems the title of their debut album, "The Abnormal Observations", is destined to demystify the band's full name.

Analysis. As you can see above, the seven compositions that this recording consists of are all moderately long. But while they are quite comparable in duration, some of them are much less progressively saturated than the others. When listening to the first three tracks I had time to be inspired with the thought that the album is brilliant throughout, but it was a hasty conclusion, as the fourth one has forced me to come down to earth. What a strange beast this Rhythm of Silence is - not a mere black sheep, but a truly abnormal one! No keyboards or electric guitar either in this container of Funk, Reggae and Rap (really), though to be more correct, these three components never merge with each other. Instead, each corresponding section is repeated twice, one of these reminding me strongly of Another One Bite The Dust from Queen's "The Game". Well, I always try to begin with weak tracks when inspecting an album which is good on the whole, and this is just such a case. Before describing the remainder, I'd like to mention that Adam Jurewicz has a very original low-pitched voice, his vocal style and singing as such both well suiting the music. However, purely instrumental arrangements cover more than a half of each of the other tracks, the 'boundary' ones, Shruti and Hereabouts, featuring only vocalizations. The latter has a strong acoustic feeling, which is partly because Adam pays much attention to the acoustic guitar this time around, rarely switching over to the electric one. The cut begins and ends with a classically-inflected interplay between piano and acoustic guitar, otherwise drawing a picture of quasi Jazz-Fusion with only occasional standard jazz features, such as joint syncopated movements with unison solos. Unlike most of the yet-unnamed tunes, the music here is never intense or highly intricate either, but nonetheless there are still enough twists and turns to keep it interesting. The first track and the next-to-last one, Shruti and Ifot, have much in common between them. Chasing through labyrinthine rhythms and time signatures, the group now plays Techno Thrash-based Prog-Metal, now quasi Jazz-Fusion, now blend both the idioms into one single whole. The singular, contrasting combination of growling, aggressive guitar riffs and fragile electric piano solos is one of the essential features of each of these, making both sound really one-of-a-kind. Only with a lot of reservations, I would dare to label this music as a cross between Pain Of Salvation and Planet X. It's keyboardist Kamil Urbanski who is the main purveyor of jazz elements in the group, but although Forget It and Semanei are both quite poor in keyboard patterns and, therefore, improvisations too, musically each is not in the least inferior to Shruti or Ifot, either. Sophisticatedly arranged and splendidly performed, these still have almost nothing to do with conventional Prog-Metal, one of the instrumental interludes on Semanei bringing to mind the Grindcore style. Each of the four songs described last demands much effort from the listener to be comprehended. Well, Run Away is less tangled, usually simply alternating Doom Metal-like textures with softer ones, but still sounds fresh and compelling.

Conclusion. It might be very difficult nowadays to make a progressive rock creation with no direct relationship to the genre's past, but these young musicians have successfully fulfilled that intention. While certainly not a masterwork, "The Abnormal Observations" is more than a merely good effort overall, and is one of the last year's strongest Prog-Metal-related debut albums that I was lucky enough to get hold of and listen to. Recommended.

VM: February 10, 2006


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