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(50:28 / AltrOck Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Severe Reprimande 0:50 2. Catacresi 6:35 3. Omelette Norvegese 1:07 4. Corale Metallurgico 7:33 5. Danse Cuirassee 1:03 6. Brachiologia 3:11 7. La Mosca Stregata 0:56 8. Quando la Morte Mi Colse Nel Sonno 9:23 9. Skellotron 003 1:23 10. Le Rovine Circolari 6:53 11. Anastomosi 1:28 12. Danze Corazzate 3:49 13. Labirinto D'Acqua 1:21 14. Incubi Concentrici 4:42 LINEUP: Francesco Zago - el. & ac. guitars Paolo Botta - el. piano, keyboards Maurizio Fasoli - grand piano Stephan Brunner - bass Mattia Signo - drums Elio Mariani - violin Marco Sorge - clarinets Markus Stauss - saxophones Peter Schmid - flutes, clarinet, sax Massimo Mazza - vibes, percussion Giuseppe Olivini - harpsichord; theremin With Udi Koomran - extra sounds, mixing Dave Kerman - drums (4)
Prolusion. YUGEN is the brainchild of Italian guitar player Francesco Zago (formerly of The Night Watch) and producer Marcello Marinone. Although based in Italy, this is a virtually international project. Apart from Francesco and his countrymen, it includes some musicians from Switzerland, America and Israel, the names of Udi Koomran and Dave Kerman being well known to anybody with interest in RIO and related styles. "Labirinto D'Acqua" ("The Water Labyrinth", I suppose) is Yugen's first album, released in November 2006.
Analysis. "Labirinto D'Acqua" comprises fourteen instrumentals. As you can see in the track list above, seven brief cuts (none of which exceeds one and a half minutes in duration) all strictly alternate with longer pieces, thus serving as kind of bridges between those. What unites the shorter tracks is that all are performed without drums, so none has a full-band sound, while stylistically they aren't uniform. With only piano in their arrangements, Severe Reprimande and the title track can both be regarded as symphonic pieces, as can also La Mosca Stregata and Omelette Norvegese, but in a more relative way, which is not because these two each involve a few chamber instruments, but is due to the presence of certain avant-garde features. The woodwind- and brass-laden Anastomosi seems to be more experimental than, say, genuinely avant-garde in nature, Skellotron 003 is synthesizer ambient music, and finally Danse Cuirassee finds the harpsichord portraying a melody that would finely suit an advertising miniature or even better a children's cartoon film. On the longer pieces a wide variety of instruments appear, with electric guitar, grand piano, bass, drums, violin, saxophone and clarinet being most frequent, although flutes, vibes, electric piano, Mellotron and Moog are all not always in a subordinate position, from time to time playing a key role too. Catacresi and Quando la Morte Mi Colse Nel Sonno both most often move back and forth between classic Symphonic Progressive (which, though, is pronouncedly heavy in places: think Magnum Opus from Kansas's "Leftoverture") and that kind of singular, rhythmically very complex Art-Rock with elements of Jazz-Fusion which was discovered by Gentle Giant. Apart from those, "Relayer" by Yes, King Crimson's "Starless & Bible Black" and "You" by Gong can also serve as references, but to a much lesser degree, the latter connection being only manifested in some vibraphone lines. Despite their lack of classical-like interludes, Danze Corazzate and Incubi Concentrici both can be related to the same stylistic category as the previously described two compositions, though on the other hand the first piece is too rich in unison and suchlike (eg fourth / fifth) moves-based maneuvers to omit them, while the latter doesn't contain any hard textures in its arrangement. While not without those symphonic melodies adjoining angular ones that have been the trademark Gentle Giant sound since their first LP of the same name, Corale Metallurgico reveals a much more avant-garde approach overall, instantly bringing to mind Belgian RIO and therefore the school's founders, Univers Zero (circa "Ceux du Dehors"), let alone numerous followers of the legend, such as U Totem, Stormy Six, Thinking Plague, Ahvak and so on, while Henry Cow can only be used as a relative point of comparison, since their music is much less structured and, at the same time, much jazzier than Yugen - save for their last LP, "Western Culture", for sure. Le Rovine Circolari and Brachiologia are both kindred compositions, though these from time to time suggest nothing other than Metal-In-Opposition, with the raging guitar riffs evoking Finnegans Wake's "Pictures", as well as "Othello" by Israeli one-shot Tractor's Revenge. Finally I'd like to make the reservation that, while having resorted to various references, I clearly realize that much of the music on this CD is original, inasmuch as the influences are all processed through the band's own prism or, if you will, vision of things.
Conclusion. "Labirinto D'Acqua" is a brilliant, giddily eclectic album which will definitely take one of the highest positions in my Top-20 list of the year. What is more, it happens very rarely that a recording would equally please fans of RIO and sympho-prog lovers, but this is just such a case, you may believe me. Very highly recommended.
VM: September 15, 2007
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