[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS
(48:51, AltRock Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. On the Brink 0:50 2. The Scuttle of the Past out of Cupboards 6:38 3. Iridule 3:08 4. Overmurmur 8:50 5. Scribbled 1:43 6. Becchime 6:29 7. Ice 1:46 8. Ganascia 4:12 9. Thaw 1:40 10. Serial Killer 5:44 11. Cloudscape 7:55 LINEUP: Francesco Zago – guitars Mauricio Fasoli – pianos Michele Epifani – harpsichord Paolo Botta – Hammond, el. pianos, synthesizers Simone Beneventi – vibraphone, marimba, glockenspiel Valerio Cippoline – clarinets, saxophone Alberto Roveroni – drums Dave Willey – bass With: Giacomo Cella – bassoon Enrica Di Bastiano – harp Elia Mariani – violin Elaine Di Falco – vocals Mike Johnson – el. guitar Giuseppe Olivini – percussion Markus Stauss – saxophones, tubas Peter Schmid – contrabass clarinet
Prolusion. “Iridule” is the third outing by Italy’s YUGEN. Besides the eight official members of the ensemble, the album features eight guest musicians on string, brass and woodwind instruments. Click here to see the band’s entire discography, which in addition features links to reviews of its other releases.
Analysis. As I’ve been watching the band’s work since their appearance on the international progressive rock scene, I have an impression that one of their creative goals is to endlessly change their style, as they have from album to album (albeit not as sharply as their compatriots – as well as former label mates – Finnegans Wake do). Nonetheless, it seems that there is something in common between “Iridule” and their first outing, “Labirinto d’Acqua”, at least the band explores as many different musical directions – or options, if you like – here as they did on that release, though it is also obvious that quite a few of those are different in themselves (no sympho-prog architectonics this time, for instance). Musically, the album’s eleven tracks fall into two categories, the matter being strictly linked with their length. I’ll begin with the longer ones, ranging from 4 to 9 minutes in duration. These are Serial Killer, The Scuttle of the Past out of Cupboards, Ganascia, Overmurmur, Cloudscape and Becchime, all of which are instrumentals, save the former piece. Overall, the sound of the first four of these can be defined as Chamber Prog leaning towards the RIO side of things (with strong influences from King Crimson, less obvious ones from Henry Cow and hypothetical ones from Gong – due to the fairly massive use of mallet percussion), though there are also plenty of elements of classic as well as purely improvisational Jazz Rock, as well as jazz ambient-like landscapes appearing in places. All of them are brilliant creations, indicating that the ensemble has a shrewd sense of when to burst into an RIO passage, when to improvise, when to slow things down, and so on, keeping the listener interested throughout. Serial Killer additionally stands out for its effective use of vocals and is one of the best chamber rock songs I’ve heard in years. Another winner, Cloudscape, has a lot of assonant (see PS below the review) features too, but since the guitars as well as some other rock instruments are more crucial to the piece’s sound than the chamber ones, its style appears as avant-garde Art-Rock with elements of RIO. Most of the jazzier moves are located on Becchime, the musicians improvising too frequently on the one hand, but not too diversely on the other. I mean the band isn’t loose (as a free-jazz outfit would be, for instance), and the implying moments only seem to be done spontaneously or even chaotically, whilst in fact all of them are sets of prepared improvisations, and each of the following ones is played in a manner similar to its predecessor. In short, not everything went off smoothly on this track, and it leaves an impression of being artificially complicated. Albeit separated from its follow-up by a pause, On the Brink (a very short instrumental piece which opens the disc) comes across as its intro. As for the remaining four compositions, Ice, Scribbled, Thaw and the title track, each of these, besides vocals, only features acoustic guitar, piano, harp and electric guitar respectively. All of them have their own merits, but the former piece is definitely the best of them: a classic art-rock ballad with a strong vintage sense.
Conclusion. AltrOck Records hosts a variety of RIO and related artists, some of whom don’t use jazz improvisations, while others do, so any connoisseur of the genre will find something that suits his/her taste in the label’s catalog. Yugen belongs to the latter category. However, it also clear that the band has a will to go beyond the genre standards, which is still at the core of their music and is a great merit already in itself. Recommended.
PS: From now on, I refuse from using the term dissonant in my reviews at all. It suggests that the musicians attune their instruments while – or rather instead of – playing music as such. The one of assonance (a partly incomplete rhyme in poetry) seems to be much more appropriate for describing RIO and related creations, especially since even the most avant-garde music, Dodecaphony, is by no means devoid of harmony, etc.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: March 5, 2011
[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS - LIST | BANDLISTS ]