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Xinema - 2006 - "Basic Communications"

(50 min, Unicorn)

TRACK LIST:                    

1.  Colours 5:07 
2.  Train to Nowhere 4:49 
3.  Talk 5:53 
Speak to the World (4 to 7)
4.  Awakenings 1:57 
5.  Newton's Cradle 4:57 
6.  At the Hovel of Eddie's 0:51 
7.  Basic Communication 4:48 
8.  Life the Way I Knew It 3:40 
Ghost of a Memory (9 to 13)
9.  Nothing to Fear 4:00 
10. Grapes of Wrath 0:43 
11. The Passage 1:18
12. Black Pigeon 5:22 
13. Deus Ex Machina 1:25 
14. Dust in Your Eyes 5:40


Mikael Askemur - keyboards; bass; vocals
Jonas Thuren - drums; vocals
Sven Larsson - guitars 

Prolusion. Four years after the release of their debut creation, "Different Ways", Swedish trio XINEMA present their second CD, "Basic Communications".

Analysis. I hate to build my reviews on the basis of comparisons, but sometimes I have no choice but to follow this course. Since "Basic Communications" is just such a case, I feel free now to command myself: "Make your eyes squared:-) and go!" The album is built in a way that its first and last third both sound unmistakably like its makers' tribute to Saga, down to the smallest details reproducing the distinctive and instantly recognizable trademark sound of that widely respected collective. To be more precise, the first three tracks, Colours, Train to Nowhere and Talk, recall the Canadians' late work (from 1999 to nowadays), and the last two, Ghost of a Memory and Dust in Your Eyes, classic Saga (from 1978 to 1983). In other words, the first three are progressively a bit more laconic and concise than the others, with the keyboards being still lush yet playing mainly a supportive role. The 13-minute mini-suite Ghost of a Memory is in all senses the culmination of the album, especially its fourth segment, Black Pigeon, on which some excellent bass solos are brought to the fore along with those of synthesizer. The middle section of the program is another story altogether, excepting Newton's Cradle, which is as if accidentally lost among the soft-sounding pieces there, following as it does in the footsteps of the first three tracks. The two instrumentals, Awakenings and At the Hovel of Eddie's, both begin and continue scored only for 'strings' and piano, steering somewhere between light classical and ambient music. Later on, the picture is complemented by the addition of an unobtrusive rhythm section, at times in conjunction with some fluid guitar solos. Both sound fresh and are generally rather pleasing despite their brevity. The title track and Life the Way I Knew It are musically just like twin brothers, so I wonder why they are placed immediately next to each other. The first two thirds of each find Mikael Askemur singing (very much like Steve Hogarth of Marillion) over slow synthesizer and guitar, the final stage revealing instrumental landscapes reminiscent of those to be found anywhere on the latest two Pink Floyd recordings. It should also be mentioned that Sven Larsson, who plays guitars, was clearly the most scrupulous amongst his fellow band members in learning and absorbing the music of Saga, particularly the style of Ian Crichton.

Conclusion. On most of their new album, Xinema sound like a clone of Saga, so it's difficult to regard them as a Swedish 'answer' to the Canadian legend. Thankfully, these are professional musicians, playing with ease and absolutely on a par with their teachers in absentia, otherwise I would never have been as guardedly positive as I am here. However, I'd be much happier if I'd hear another fully-fledged 'King Crimson' or 'Yes' than 'Saga'.

PS. In one of the already available reviews of "Basic Communications" its author says something like this: "The only flaw of this CD is that Xinema pay more attention to bombastic arrangements than to those in their traditional AOR style, this time around". How this can be published on a site which is dedicated to Progressive Rock?

VM: November 11, 2006

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