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Frogg Cafe - Creatures CD (album) cover

CREATURES

Frogg Cafe

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.98 | 52 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars With their sophomore album "Creatures", Frogg Café, one of the most prominent USA bands nowadays in the prog circles, realized their musical maturity in a most splendorous way. Their style conquered a major level of cohesiveness while giving room to diversification in a cleverly administered fashion. I anticipate that I regard this album as an authenric masterpiece of contemproary prog rock. 'All the Time' kicks off the album with uneasy keyboard layers that eventually give way to an excellent exercise on robust art-rock. The same layers serve as a intriguing epliogue for this track. A very good way to get started, preserving no mystery about the whole band's creativity or each individual musisican's skills. Then comes the namesake track, which is more obviously focused on the archetypical swing of jazz. The main motif follows a solidly sustained series of patterns, all of them elegantly adorned by Zappaesque ornaments that keep things refershingly surprising. The instrumental jams, while full of virtuosity, are sufficiently costrained as to keep the track right on track (ha!). In fact, there is an ethereal aura to the instrumental textures and phrases that come and go. This feeling only gest increased by the emergence of a dreamy marriage of guitar and keyboard layers all through the track's final minute: weird yet delicate this epilogue is, making you want to pinch yourself to check if your listening experience is not a beautiful delusion bue an amazing reality. These are moments when the family air shared by Frogg Café and Echolyn comes to mind (but of course, we are talking about two band with a distinct personality). 'The Celestial Metal Can' shows the band at their most bizarre. This is an inscrutable instrumental in which the casual and the formelss seem to jointly reign supreme in the kingdom of musical creativiy. The avant-garde post-modernist chamber thing that invades this track is not out of place since it is dedicated to the memory of musique concrete pioneer Charles Ives. Percussions based on iron pieces, random notes on guitar over-recycled through lots of tape effects, hermetic recitations, brass and violin sounds floating freely in a Dadaist structure created by machine-like sounds, and even some sonic lines emulating the topics of Middle East folklore, all of them create a powerfully challenging kaleidoscope where sound and image seem to converge into one source. This flow ends up landing solidly on a brief beautiful chamber section influenced by the likes of Varese. All this in a 8 1/2 minute span: a delicatessen for all true lovers of musical rebellion a-la Henry Cow. After this exhibition of cerebral trends, comes a catchier set of sounds, an exciting instrumental titled 'Gagutz'. This track sorts of combines the heritages of Pastorius-era Weather report and 70s Jean-Luc Ponty: a special mention has to go to violinist Ayasse, whose polished leads are really unbelievable... and they remain so with further listens. Not that guitarist Camiola should get ignored, a real Holdsworth thing he does in this one. All in all, it is the 21 minute suite 'Waterfall Carnival' which takes center stage in the album's repertoire (although not literalilly, since it is in the end). Starting with a melancholy mood led by the acoustic guitar, gradually things begin to get more explicitly intense while the synth and the violin gain a bigger relevance. The band behaves in a much relaxed way through the mood and tempo variations, which definitely helps the various motifs to join together in a complete whole. However, it would be fair to note down that below the variaion lies a recurrent evocative candor, only interrupted occasionally by the most abrupt shifts, but these ones are so well done that never get to break down the suite's fluidity. The final section finds the band turning things into their most patently Zappaesque side. "Creatures" is a real great recording. Although its follow-up "Fortunate Observer of Time" comprises a higher degree of sonic strength, "Creatures" surpasses it and its predecessor in terms of diversity, muscular vibe and compositional genius. So far, this is Frogg Café's finest hour (each and every hour of theirs is fine per se), and concerning the value of the album in itself, this is a genuine masterpiece. No good prog collection should skip this gem.
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |

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