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(59:37, Altrock Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. On The Brink 0:59 2. Brachilongia 3:09 3. Catacresi 6:39 4. La Mosca Stregata 0:57 5. Overmurmur 5:30 6. Industry 7:50 7. Cloudscape 10:38 8. Ice 1:55 9. Becchime 12:38 10. Corale Metallurgico 9:19 LINEUP: Francesco Zago – guitars Maurizio Fasoli – ac. piano Paolo Ske Botta – organ, el. piano, synthesizer Valerio Cipollone – saxophone, clarinets Jacopo Costa – marimba, vibraphone Michele Salgarello – drums Matteo Lorito – bass
Prolusion. The ten-track “Mirrors” is the fourth outing by Italy’s YUGEN, released at the tail end of 2012. I won’t be verbose here, as the band is widely known already, many considering it a living legend. Besides, its section on this website lists all of its albums along with links to corresponding reviews, of which this one covers its history pretty well.
Analysis. It is not quite what I expected from the band, namely a new studio effort, but they are back in a big way with a stunning live album, proving to be one of the best and most important modern outfits on the international chamber rock scene. While the pieces used are taken from "Labirinto D'Acqua" and "Iridule", their first and third album respectively, the overall sound of “Mirrors” instantly brings me back to the former, revealing no free-jazz escapades that are part of the latter. What is more, while the exquisite compositional structures and web-like arrangements that typify the group’s debut are all here, they’re now conjoined with a more mature and sophisticated approach to sonority and color. That being said, Brachilongia waxes nostalgic a lot for its original RIO sound, but does so with a much heavier orientation on the one hand and more classical harmonies on the other, on quite a few occasions evoking a kind of collective image of Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition”, as also does Catacresi. Involving the timeless Hammond, this piece throughout suggests classical music by means of Symphonic Progressive, and wouldn’t be out of place on one of the most classically-influenced albums by ELP, such as their interpretation of the above creation by the Russian composer or “Brain Salad Surgery”. There are more surprises on “Mirrors”, however. Yugen’s version of Industry, a piece from “Western Culture” (the most cohesive/least jazzy album by Henry Cow), considerably differs from the original one, largely appearing to be a blend of RIO and vintage-style symphonic Art-Rock with bits of classical music interspersed between the moves of a full-band sound. The properly titled Cloudscape contains a lot of moody atmospheric soundscapes. However, about one third of the piece is classic Symphonic Progressive of the first water. On Overmurmur, Becchime and Corale Metallurgico, all of which are the most eclectic tracks here, the melody often breaks forth through chaos (thankfully, systematic), with the frenetic energy, delivering on the brutal, savage force and explosive power found in early-2000s Finnegans Wake, which I call Metal-In-Opposition. These three have all of the other hallmarks of Yugen at its apex, including biting harmonic sequences, irregular, frequently changing meters coupled with unexpected and highly imaginative rhythmic accents, and outstandingly varied arrangements. There are plenty of minor key workouts for reeds, mallets and keyboards, with leader and primary songwriter, guitarist Francesco Zago, masterfully controlling the level of density of the music, switching off from heavy riffing to fluid soloing, etc. There are also three brief pieces-cuts on the disc, On The Brink, La Mosca Stregata and Ice. The first of them begins and ends with effects, while its core part-theme also evokes something from “Pictures at an Exhibition”. (There are generally many moments on the album that will sink into the mind of those who like dark unsetting melodies reminiscent of Mussorgsky.) The other two are something halfway between classical and ambient music in style, the latter featuring a saxophone solo instead of the female singing I’ve heard on its original version.
Conclusion. A must for any connoisseur of complex, full-blown Progressive, “Mirrors” is an absolute masterpiece. It’s only because the album is comprised of compositions that have been published before that I haven’t added it to my Top-10 chart of the year.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: March 14, 2012
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