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(44:32, Cuneiform Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Cave 0:42 2. Droplet 3:49 3. Abyss 5:17 4. Reel 5:27 5. Nugget 4:28 6. Fascination 5:24 7. Ceilings 4:31 8. Shelter 3:21 9. Marianne 4:52 10. Cranny 4:15 11. Lullaby for Anezka 1:25 LINEUP: Miroslav Wanek – guitars; piano; lead vocals Adam Tomasek – trumpet; b/vocals Pepa Cervinka – bass; b/vocals Tomas Paleta – drums, etc Martin Velisek – brushes With: Veronika Jirickova – vocals Petr Zavodil – Spanish guitar Helena Tovarkova – violin Lukas Motka – trombone Tom Hacek – accordion Petr Sury – double bass
Prolusion. UZ JSME DOMA is probably the most well-known Czech band nowadays, at least within prog rock circles. It has eleven official releases to its credit, four of which are live recordings, two of them (the 18-track ”In Tokyo” included) documented on DVDs. “Caves”, their latest studio album, was issued in 2010, but I was offered to review it just lately. As you may know, dear readers, one of the band’s five members, Martin Velisek, is not a musician, but is an artist who paints pictures while/when his friends play, mainly during their live performances.
Analysis. Comprised of 11 tracks, the CD begins with its eponymous piece, Cave, a 46-second cut that only features vocals and which evokes drops of water falling from a stalactite, even though they, most likely, fall from a tap in actual fact. Then follows Droplet, another track whose title instantly calls up the album’s one (as if hinting that the material in hand is a concept creation, whilst most of the others suggest it is a semi-concept one). Here, after the brass rock-like intro the band launches into jazz-tinged progressive hard rock, which could almost be mistaken for Proto-Kaw with different vocals or even classic Kansas with trumpet, later on alternating between funk histrionics and proto prog-metal with guitar riffs half-Kerry Livgren (of both of the said bands’ fame; I believe there’s no need to draw a parallel between them), half-someone from a punk rock band, with playfulness and rhythmic angularity that are akin to Etron Fou Leloublan. There are also East European folk motifs as well as overtly jazzy melodies, whose provider, the trumpet, comes to the fore of the arrangements more often than any of the other instruments deployed. Five more tracks, Reel, Nugget, Shelter, Marianne and Cranny, are of the same compositional approach, all also showing how much the band loves to juxtapose in their writing a distinct sense of contrast between the jovial and aggressive. While the pieces embrace a few different genres, all of those are used as parts of the same musical substance, so there is no shifting between styles, but then there are changes in meter, theme and structure. Delivered in a bit less sophisticated mode than most of the above ones, Abyss and Ceilings are free of any heaviness and are largely quasi-symphonic in nature. On their instrumental level, both of them remind me somewhat of the more temperate pieces by Proto-Kaw. Finally, the last track on the album, Lullaby for Anezka, is an acoustic ballad only containing vocals, bass, flute and – once again – the sounds of drops of the water. As Czech and Russian are kindred languages, I sometimes clearly understand the lyrics. The last-named piece, for instance, includes the phrase “Bring it closer to your eyes”.
Conclusion. For my taste, there are too many vocals as well as jovial trumpet leads on the album, but I can appreciate most of its singularities. Anyhow, a lot less profound than those by the majority of the other avant-garde progressive rock groups that I’ve heard, it doesn’t go beyond the framework of Uz Jsme Doma’s traditional work, indicating that band’s overall sound still hasn’t undergone any changes, at least significant ones.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: December 5, 2012
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