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TRACK LIST: 1. Kitchen Intro 1:02 2. Thin Lips 3:03 3. Holborn Station 5:02 4. Joseph & Me 3:52 5. Cellular Phone 3:13 6. To the Muse 3:19 7. I Know Women 2:35 8. A Charm to Soothe Withdrawal 4:05 9. TV 3:13 10. TV Suite 1:20 11. Try to Remember 3:25 12. Tell Me 3:15 13. Martyrs 3:46 14. The Mad House You're In 1:32 15. Kitchen 2:35 All music: by Yarkoni. Lyrics: Alkalay-Gut. Arrangements: Yarkoni & Sommer. LINE-UP: Karen Alkalay-Gut - narration & vocals Roy Yarkoni - keyboards, piano, & string ensemble; sampling Ishay Sommer - bass, acoustic & electric guitars; programming With: Hadas Goldfarb - violin (on 13 & 14) Sharon Balzam - bassoon (on 15) Timrat Aharoni - flute (15) Boris Martzinovsky - accordion (3) Yatziv Caspi - mallet percussion (4) Produced by Thin Lips. Engineered by Yarkoni & Sommer.
Prolusion. The eponymous debut outing by THIN LIPS is a concept album based on the poetry of Karen Alkalay-Gut, the renowned Israeli poetess, who, by the way, writes more in English than in Hebrew. Some information about the other main creative 'forces' behind the project, Roy Yarkoni and Ishay Sommer, can be found in the prolusion to the >review of Roy's solo album.
Synopsis. Surely, my first reaction to what I've read in the CD press kit was both predictable and understandable. What could I expect from an album where a poetess reads her works to the accompaniment of music? Nothing - before I listened to it. Fortunately, the shortest pieces: Kitchen Intro (1), consisting exclusively of the sounds of mallet percussion instruments, and the classically influenced synthesizer-based TV Suite (10) are the only tracks here that were recorded without Karen's participation. The album is brilliant musically, but it's Karen who made it sound just incredibly unique. Many poets are used to read their works themselves, but Karen's way of reading the poems and rhymes is very atypical, at least on this recording. In fact, she doesn't read them here. Her highly artistic narration is really one of a kind and, what's central, it often borders a singing and, sometimes, transforms into real vocals. Besides, I've never heard until now such a unique combination of music and narration as is presented here. The music is also something very particular, so the fact that Yarkoni and Sommer are part of the Cuneiform Records family doesn't seem to me to be accidental. While not Fifth Element and isn't of a unified stylistic concept, the music just shines with originality and congruence alike. It is both highly complex and intriguing, and even the sound of programmed drums can't mar my admiration about the album. It's enough to use a deductive method:-) while investigating the history of Belgian Progressive to come to the conclusion that, in the context of Progressive Rock, a classic academic RIO and Belgium are perhaps synonyms. Judging by the creation of Tractor Revenge, Ahvak, and this very project, the Israeli RIO movement is represented by proponents of exactly Belgian school of the genre. Well, I only wanted to say that RIO is the basic constituent of the music here. Being supported by Symphonic Art-Rock and Jazz-Fusion, RIO rules on Joseph & Me, To the Muse, Cellular Phone, and A Charm to Soothe Withdrawal (4, 6, 5, & 8 respectively), while the first two are, in addition, filled with flavors of Arabic music. (Though I believe there is little difference between a traditional Jewish and Arabic music). The album's title track (2) represents somewhat of an RIO Minimalism with some old-fashioned feel throughout, and Holborn Station (3) a confluence of RIO and Prog-Metal with elements of Jewish folklore and something reminding me of a French chanson. On TV, Tell Me, Martyrs, and The Mad House You're In (9, 12, 13, & 14) the jazzy constituent is out, while Classical Academic music is in, and this is what Try to Remember and Kitchen (11 & 15) are about in their entirety. The seventh track: I Know Women consist of textures typical for Symphonic Art-Rock and Jazz-Fusion and is also one of those few compositions on the album that doesn't suit its predominant stylistics. More than half of the tracks contain rather long episodes performed without drums, and there are not too many of the rhythmically accented parts in this work in general.
Conclusion. It's quite simple: I find "Thin Lips" one of the very best works of Israeli Progressive that I am acquainted with, and I believe I have heard most of them. But although the album presents a rather wide specter of different progressive genres and styles, I can bravely recommend it probably only to those who feel right at home when hearing dissonances and the like specific features of RIO and the other Avant-garde Academic music-related forms.
VM: May 19, 2004
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