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Roine Stolt - Hydrophonia CD (album) cover


Roine Stolt


Symphonic Prog

3.97 | 158 ratings

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4 stars Back in the mid to late Nineties and the early days of Swedish retro symphonic proggers The Flower Kings, there was none of the unofficial hiatuses and several year breaks in between releases that befall the band now! Founding member and ex-Kaipa guitarist Roine Stolt was a flurry of activity, which included putting out this hugely charming sixth solo work in 1998, the frequently aquatic themed `Hydrophonia'. An all instrumental affair, the album is impossibly optimistic, colourfully playful and, most of all, deeply romantic symphonic prog, unsurprisingly frequently driven by Mr Stolt's grand guitar runs (although he does double on keyboards, percussion and bass here too). Stolt is ably backed by early Flower Kings drummer Jaime Salazar and frequent collaborator Ulf Wallander, who's wind instruments of flute and sax were great standouts of the early FK albums, and together here they create a grand aural canvass of colour and taste.

Looking at some of the highlights, `Cosmic Lodge' sets a template for much of the disc with Roine delivering slow-burn grandiose soloing and triumphant fanfares full of regal majesty, slinking bass, magical mellotron bursts and booming church organ. `Shipbuilding' is whimsical and dreamy, there's folky sophistication by way of drowsy weeping guitar throughout `Little Cottage by the Sea', and `Wreck of HMS Nemesis' is full of majestic fanfares with plenty of striking saxophone themes, big grumbling bass runs, dramatic Mellotron blasts and alternating acoustic and electric guitar passages. `Bizarre Seahorse Sex Attack' (Coolest. Title. EVER!) bristles with psychedelic quirky playfulness (and has a lovely ambient outro too), and `Oceanna Baby Dolphin' is a lullaby-like reflective and gentle symphonic theme.

`Nucleur Nemo' attacks with brooding King Crimson-esque clanging jagged noise and maddening ascending guitar bite with gloomy dark jazz, and the title track offers classic-era Genesis reaching Steve Hackett-like guitar strains. Parts of `Lobsterland Groove' reveal a jazz/fusion diversion that could have easily come from any of the classic spiritual era Santana band releases of `Caravanserai', `Welcome' and `Borboletta' (just listen for that glistening electric piano), and Stolt even delivers some fiery guitar in the easily recognisable style of Carlos in the final minutes. `Seafood Kitchen Thing' is a spirited, up-tempo and frequently cheerful reprise of themes from throughout the album to end on, meaning the listener leaves in a great mood with a big smile on their face!

It might perhaps be a little repetitive and samey in just a few spots, and it isn't nearly as complex and varied as many of the Flower Kings album would eventually become, but if you enjoy proudly symphonic and retro-styled instrumental progressive rock, then this is the disc for you. `Hydrophonia' skilfully marries Roine's vintage prog influences with his epic guitar flights of fancy, and it's sure to be welcomed fondly by fans of both Mr Stolt himself and the early albums by the Flower Kings.

Three and a half stars, rounded up to four.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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