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Mike Oldfield - Amarok CD (album) cover

AMAROK

Mike Oldfield

 

Crossover Prog

4.07 | 412 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Shakespeare
3 stars As Mike says himself, this is in a way an Ommadawn 2. It picks up on the World music allusions that Ommadawn made, and still contains the buoyant symphonic edge. However, Amarok is much more experimental than Ommadawn. It is also a bit more electronic, modern, and precise. It shifts, evolves, swifter than Tubular Bells. It has some melodies as emotionally packed and surreal as Hergest Ridge, and NO pop elements la Discovery. Sometimes, things shift so quickly: even before you begin to see where a melody was going. The huge list of different instruments (and unorthodox ones: toothbrush?) increases the too big to comprehend factor.

Some of the transitions and shifts come suddenly enough to make me jump (quite literally), and in a way, that often ruins the emotional experience of the album. However, there are plenty of great melodies - and most of them are intact. Unlike Tubular Bells, there is absolutely no sloppy playing, and no messy editing. Instead, we have a perfectly scripted, masterfully edited, flawlessly timed wave of perpetual noise, evolving totally in mere moments. A beautiful symphonic moment morphs in a split second into a folk jam, then to a percussion circle, then to who-knows-what, to electronic droning (or something near it) to ethnic Zulu percussion and chant-like vocals. It never stays anywhere long, but despite that, I'm sure many cloth-eared nincompoops will find it boring.

Musicianship is high: feel and (surprise) virtuosity both. There are no programmed instruments, and every sound you hear is played by hand (or foot [seriously]) by the great Oldfield himself. (The exceptions being, of course, comedian Janet Brown doing her Margaret Thatcher impression [another silly, cheesy idea like the MC concept of Tubular Bells], Paddy Maloney playing Uillean pipes [which is a sort of Irish bagpipe] and Bridget St.John and Clodagh Simmonds covering the vocals.) Julian Bahula's African drums arrangements are a huge part of the album, and Mike owes Julian a lot!

In the end, Amarok is a bit of a crazy album: a hodgepodge of sounds, with some really ridiculous notions and absurd concepts, but is delivery masterfully and with majestic accuracy. This is certainly not for everyone, and even fans of this strange avant-garde, yet straight-forward type of music will have to listen to it fully many times to totally understand.

Shakespeare | 3/5 |

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