Architecture Of The Absurd
(Martian Sheep Records)
a nice surprise! Here's a CD featuring creative music which sounds fresh and
full of life - a combination that's quite uncommon these days -, said album
coming all the way from Spain (will wonders ever cease?).
not only for reasons of simplicity and brevity that I am of the opinion that
this album by Beluga - their first as a group - should be filed under
"Zappa-related", given the fact that it's very easy to detect many
affinities, both in terms of style and attitude, as we'll see in a moment. It's
also possible, here and there, to find traces of Mike Keneally, which is in no
way surprising, given the close relationship between Keneally and the
mustachioed Maestro. There are also a few "Prog" elements, for
instance odd time signatures that reminded me of Gentle Giant - there's also
something that to me sounds like an accurate "simulation" of Kerry
Minnear's Hammond organ complete with Leslie and vibrato. I also appeared to
detect a strong influence of "Black Music" when it comes to vocals -
voices being one of the key ingredients here - and of course one has to be
reminded of Zappa's front line featuring Ray White and Ike Willis. But I
believe that thinking about world-famous hits like One Nation Under A Groove by
Funkadelic is definitely not an exaggeration.
we have a look at what is the "list of ingredients" proper, we see
that Architecture Of The Absurd is the fruit of the efforts of two musicians -
Razl, on guitars and vocals (lots of them); and Lorenzo Matellán, on keyboards
and synths - whom I assume to be in their late thirties. Both composed and
arranged the music. Also the lyrics, with the help of Carolina Mateo.
album was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Lorenzo Matellán at Headroom Studio.
I'll immediately say that from a technical point of view the album is quite
brilliant, all sound layers being quite detailed and easy to perceive: guitars,
vocals, keyboards, a rhythm section that's "heavy" but never "in
the way" and which is masterfully displayed in the stereo spread. I think
that the Hammond is not "a real one" - maybe a poly synth by Clavia?
- while to me those filter modulations sound as coming from a real Moog.
it comes to vocals, as a point of reference I'll mention the Zappa album titled
You Are What You Is, featuring brief songs that are vocally quite dense. Here
and there, I was reminded of albums which highlight the instrumental side, such
as Roxy & Elsewhere and One Size Fits All - I thought that at times a few
bass parts were quite similar in feel to what Tom Fowler played on the
tracks for a total length of 42', it's possible - and quite fun - to listen to
this album as a whole. Maybe, on first listening, the music will sound a bit
too dense and relentless - there's a moment where the cumulative listening
effort could bring the listener dangerously close to sensory overload, but as
we'll see in a moment this particular danger was averted by a clever arranging
solution - but I think this to be due to one's infrequent exposure to complex
music in the "rock - vocal" dept., not to any "faulty
engineering" work on the part of these guys.
time has come to talk about the rhythm section, with a splendid teamwork of
Damian Erskine on electric bass and Marco Minnemann on drums. Though Erskine is
a famous musician who's held in high esteem, I have to admit this is the first
time I've listened to him. His work here is simply superb, with a masterful
touch - just check the "release" of the notes - which goes
hand-in-hand with a prodigious versatility. Minnemann I know quite well, and I'd
say that, more than in the past, here he sounds quite influenced by those
figures played by Chad Wackerman in his Zappa days.
say it loud and clear: Without Erskine and Minnemann this album could not be
what it is. But it's also true that this album made it possible for Minnemann to
play at his best, avoiding the empty "bravura" virtuosity that always
awaits drummers in those "Fusion"-related sessions, also the
"generic" recipes that are encouraged by those "Prog
summaries" like the ones narrated by Steven Wilson.
album is played by a rock group that avoids any longueurs, all solos being
being nothing to shout about, all lyrics are included - they're quite
understandable, I'd say, though they are open to interpretation.
has a spoken intro - funny thing, vocals here reminded me of Ray Manzarek's
spoken parts in his solo album The Golden Scarab - then there's a
"Prog"-flavoured instrumental section, enter the vocals, then there's
a "funky" mid-tempo, moderato, not too far from Frank Zappa on such
albums as Roxy & Elsewhere. Fine "Hammond" plus electric guitar
played arpeggio, excellent bass and drums. There's an instrumental interlude ŕ
la Inca Roads, a fine guitar solo.
Ragtime has a funny introduction, then a group sounding halfway between Mike
Keneally and Gentle Giant. Very user-friendly chorus. Fine vocals,
"Hammond" played vibrato, more than a pinch of "Zappa"
vocals, then a fine timbral mix of keyboards and vocals. Fine drums, then it's
time for a brief, vivacious guitar solo. Clever mix of vocals/"Hammond".
To Be A Court Clown opens - "la la la" - with a jokey-sounding motif,
then a "spoken" "Zappa" part. "Hammond" ŕ la
Gentle Giant, "up-tempo" verses, a chorus that reminded me a bit of
Mike Keneally. Mid-tempo interlude. There's a repetitive, obsessive, part,
followed by an instrumental "jig"-flavoured intermezzo in a odd-time
signature sounding halfway between Gentle Giant and Jethro Tull circa Thick As
A Brick, highlighting bass, and "Hammond". Again, nice keyboard work.
A Black Cloud has an instrumental palette ŕ la Roxy & Elsewhere/One Size
Fits All. Treated vocals, quite paranoid-sounding, excellent bass. Interlude
for "vibraphone/marimba", new sung section, fine guitar solo,
"Minimoog". There's a long sinister vocal part, then a second guitar
riff, melody, keyboards, all very sinister-sounding (as per the song title?),
very "monster movie". I appeared to detect a "Minimoog +
Mellotron" coupling. Choral voices, bass, propulsive ride/hi-hat. Sing-along,
a brief "Prog"-flavoured guitar solo. This is the point I talked
about earlier, where I think impatient listeners could risk "sensory
overload", so... here we have an instrumental section sounding not too far
from "circus music" as a change of pace, lotsa keyboards, a clever
has vocals and laughs, as per the song "theme". Instrumental intro,
then mid-tempo with "backward tapes". Fine hi-hat figure, fine tom
passages. Tempo becomes steady, and after a long instrumental intro that gives
listeners time to breath, here come the vocals, with a captivating,
swing-flavoured, chorus. There's a fine, melodic, phrase on guitar, coupled
with a filter modulation on a Minimoog. There's a fine "Prog" coda
with "Hammond", and an excellent bass part.
View (For Douche-Bags) has a "ring-modulated" intro, a fast ride
cymbal, enter the bass. There's a "jazzy" mid-tempo, stacked
R'n'B-flavoured vocals. In closing, a "Fender Rhodes" (a real one?)
through a "ring modulator".
© Beppe Colli 2014
| Jan. 26, 2014