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Pochakaite Malko - Laya CD (album) cover

LAYA

Pochakaite Malko

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.19 | 24 ratings

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Pnoom!
4 stars Rating: A-

Without a doubt, Pochakaite Malko's Laya CD is the second best example of violin playing in all of prog music (not counting jazz-fusion, where violin is common). While their debut was almost entirely keyboard driven (often to it's detriment, as it got bogged down in unseemly, topheavy keyboard passages), Laya sees a violinist replace the lead keyboardist, and the result is fantastic. The violin lines are energetic, engaging, and relatively accessible (especially given the far more inaccessible base around which the violin works). Whereas "Peasant's Revolt" would've sagged if played with the instruments of their debut, it explodes because of the violin, and that's far from the only example.

Of course, having mentioned that Laya is merely the second best violin CD in prog, I probably ought to name the true best, and that is Magma's phenomenal Live/Hhai CD (which also is the best live CD and best Zeuhl CD, among other bests, I'm sure). That's important to mention because Magma is a huge influence on Pochakaite Malko, though not because of the violin. The entire core sound of Pochakaite Malko (which carries over from the debut) is loud and heavy zeuhl, complete with manic drummings, pounding bass, and oppressive atmospheres (no vocals except on "Laya" though). "Death by Hanging", for example, has a similar atmosphere to "Kohntarkosz", upon which Pochakaite Malko add brilliant violin work.

I could name highlights from Laya and discuss them in more detail, but that would be futile, since every track truly is a highlight. As such, I'll focus on just one, "Hallelujah", which is my favorite. It is dominated by ever-building violin, but it's impossible to ignore the volatile background. This zeuhl backdrop is very percussive, with both rock drums and tribal percussion. The rumbling bass is, of course, a given. On top of this is the aforementioned violin, which never stops gaining in energy, starting oppressive, then ending joyous. It truly feels as if the violin is religiously wailing, "Hallelujah," as the song approaches its end, so effective is the songwriting (and the playing, I can hardly imagine the level of technical proficiency needed to play the violin on "Hallelujah"). The result is a masterpiece that is one of the greatest pieces of music I know.

Now imagine an entire CD full of songs equally as good as "Hallelujah" and you've got Laya. It manages to filter its Zeuhl influences well, allowing them to have an original sound that is entirely captivating. Back in the 1970s, when Magma was busy inventing and defining zeuhl (and in the aftermath of MDK and Kohntarkosz), France was easily the zeuhl capital of the world. Now, however, with the surge in Japanese bands playing original takes on Magma's creation (far more original than any of the original French imitators, good as those were), Japan has stolen that title from France. Koenjihyakkei, Ruins, and Bondage Fruit (and, to a lesser extent, Happy Family) are easily the biggest names of the JapaneZeuhl revival, but Pochakaite Malko is every bit as good as those, and, I would argue, better. Their debut showed potential, but drowned in wave upon wave of keyboards. Laya is far more balanced, with even stronger songwriting, and the result is a masterpiece built around the zeuhl framework but which is truly so, so much more.

Pnoom! | 4/5 |

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