It has been a while, but at last I have found some time to write a review for progVisions. I was caught up in graphic design for the new CD "I me myself" of the Cuban progressive rock band Anima Mundi. So I have a good excuse because it is also Prog related. This review is about the fourth studio album “Death By Water” of the Italian formation Yugen. The band of guitarist Francesco Zago and keyboard player Paolo "Ske" Botta. The big man behind the compositions of “Death By Water” is Francesco Zago. Not an easy job ... Even for a Prog reviewer.
Stefano Ferrian – 8-string Guitar, Tenor & Alto Sax, Chapman Stick; Francesco Zago – Electric & Acoustic Guitars, 12-string Guitar, Mellotron; Dalila Kayros – Vocals; Elaine Di Falco – Vocals; Alessandro Cassani – Electric Bass; Matteo Lorito – Double Bass; Paolo “Ske” Botta – Electric Piano, Hammond Organ, ARP; Maurizio Fasoli – Piano; Michele Salgarello – Drums; Carmelo Miceli – Drums; Jacopo Costa – Vibes, Marimba, Glockenspiel, Zymbalon; Giuseppe A. Olivini – Percussions, Theremin, Toy Piano; Valerio Cipollone – Soprano, Piccolo & Bass Clarinet, Soprano Sax; Peter Schmid – Tubax, Contrabass Clarinet, Contrabass Flute; Fedele Stucchi – Trombone, Euphonium; Taiko Lecco – Taiko Drums Ensemble
Taiko Lecco are: Chiara Codetta, Gabriella Imbergamo, Giacomo Micheli, Giorgio Galimberti, Tobia Galimberti, and Samulele Galimberti
Simone Quatrana – Piano (tracks 7 & 9)
Massimo Dolce – Electric Guitar (track 3)
Dave Willey – Portuguese Guitar (track 10), Accordion (track 5)
The album opens with the most difficult track “Cinically Correct”. It's a nightmare for the reviewer to give an adequate description of this complex but brilliant piece of music. If you are familiar with the music of Yugen you will know what I mean. The music of King Crimson and Frank Zappa sounds in comparison to this song like pop music. This is definitely Avant-garde / RIO music with countless rhythm changes and strange time signatures. But if you are open minded and listen to it a couple of times you will come to the conclusion that it is simply brilliant.
The following piece “Undermurmer” is not so extreme but it is in the same vein. The music has a lot of influences of jazz and classical music.
And then the band comes with the most beautiful melodies in the title track “Death By Water”. Sometimes the music reminds me of the Pat Metheny Group and the solo work of their keyboard player Lyle Mays (period of the Metheny-Mays album “As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls”). The music is relaxed and brooding at the same time. Amazing and very beautiful track. Well this is also Yugen.
The next short track “Ten Years After” reminds me more of the work of Robert Fripp's King Crimson. Francesco Zago plays here some very aggressive guitar parts.
The contrast is big when you hear the next track “As It Was”. A slow and delicate track with beautiful female vocals, ambient piano parts, marimba, Mellotron and keyboard strings. And again you can hear the most beautiful melodies. For me this is the most beautiful song of the album.
The next short piece “Studio #9” is again a complex one in which you can hear some fine jazzy influences. The contrast of styles on this album is remarkable. In this piece you can hear a variety of instruments like marimba, clarinet, sax, trombone etc.
“As-Matter-of-Breath” is the longest track of the album. This is a very diverse piece of RIO music with some amazing drum and percussion parts. In the last part the complex music abrupt ends and is followed by a delicate and ambient section with melodic piano and Mellotron parts. Love this mysterious and beautiful section.
This is followed by the short composition “Drum'n'stick”. Well the name of the piece tells precisely what you can expect. Drums and Chapman Stick ... But of course in the Yugen style.
“Der Schnee” is a short piece with German vocals and minimal piano parts. The vocals are sung by Dalila Kayros and the text is by Duns Grünbein.
The beautifully sung little composition “A House” ends this remarkable album.
This album is an album with great contrast in styles. A melting pot of complex structures, strange time signatures and the most beautiful melodies. You have to take your time to absorb the music. If you do you will be rewarded. The open-minded and adventurous listener will recognize it as an album with brilliant music.
I want to thank the guys of the AltrOck label ( Francesco Zago and Marcello Marinone ) for sending me the promo and the courage to release this kind of music that is not easy to comprehend.