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Sintesis - Sintesis [Aka: En Busca De Una Nueva Flor] CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.80 | 37 ratings

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3 stars There aren’t a lot of opportunities to hear progressive music from Cuba (unless you live in Cuba I suppose). Sylvio Rodriguez, Anima Mundi and Sintesis are about the only examples I’m aware of, and only Rodriguez has put out anything new in the last several years. Too bad, because like most Latin musicians all three of these acts offer an opportunity to here music which, like that of other Caribbean artists, shows the influences of the Latin, native, African and European roots of the people there.

But we’re talking about Sintesis at the moment, and this (their debut release) is an interesting collection of Cuban music with the rare twist of showcasing European-leaning sounds much more than the areito, rumba and related styles that one tends to associate with Cuban music. Or perhaps the influences aren’t roots at all, but simply a reflection of the stuff the band members grew up listening to. The broad strumming of guitar (three or four of them on most tracks) calls to mind American west-coast folk, while the pensive piano and harpsichord and chamber-like harmonizing vocals seem as rooted in classical European music as they do in anything from the western hemisphere.

The range of instrumentation here is surprising limited for a Latin band. As I said there are several guitars, both acoustic and electric as well as an electric bass. Vocalist Silvia Acea also plays a Hammond organ while Ele Valdes adds a moog, and Jose Maria Vitier (one of the few non-singers in the band) mans the piano and harpsichord. Add conventional snare drums and that’s it. No marimbas, congas, shekerés, maracas or anything like that. Like I said, except for the fact the vocals are in Spanish you might think this record had come out of England or Canada. Hopefully if someone from the band reads this they don’t consider that a disparaging remark or anything; it’s not meant to be. It’s just surprising to hear a band full of Hispanic musicians sound so European.

The opening “Nueve Ejemplares…” is easily the outstanding track on the album, with a promising intro of piano and moog mixed with layers of harmonizing vocals that gives way to an extended instrumental foray of soft, fat bass, brooding moog and intricate piano offset by some more of that west coast acoustic guitar strumming. This is a long track that doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to get to the point, which of course is something almost all progressive music fans award style points for. And I’ve no idea what the point is, except maybe to simply celebrate the fact that they have the talent to put out such a well-articulated piece of music. Bravo for it.

“Ven a Encontrarnos” is a bit of a letdown after the opener, although there’s nothing necessarily wrong with the track. It just emphasizes the female member’s vocals over the music, and comes off sounding a bit like and eighties soft-rock tune that just happens to have decent keyboards. “Primera Noche” is marked by maybe a bit too much in the female vocal department as well, but here as in the opener the harpsichord, moog and organ are dominant and provide a lengthy passage of great keyboard-driven music. It just gets diluted slightly by the ladies singing in my opinion. This would have made an exceptional all-instrumental piece.

“Somos la Flor” gets back to the prog music again like the opener with a long and wandering guitar/ organ passage that is well accompanied by Valdes’ moog experimentation. Again toward the end the vocals come in, but here there is more of the multi-voice harmonizing that seems to fit this music better than the all-female vocals.

“Poema” seems to be just that – a poem set to music. Not my kind of thing really but if you’re into soft, subdued and largely music with folk vocals (some a capella) the you might take to this one.

The original release closes with the title track, which has lots of keyboards again but all male vocals for a change and some of the moog passages don’t quite seem to fit the music. The vocals are folk or even pop while the synth sounds more like space rock, which ends the album on kind of an odd note. Not quite sure what the band was trying to accomplish with this one.

This is a very interesting album from a country whose progressive music isn’t all that accessible to most of the world, so in that respect it is worth listening to if you get a chance. But I think the band shows its lack of experience in the rather uneven offering. The opening track shows great potential and “Somos la Flor” is also very strong. But the over-emphasis on female poppish vocals from time to time and some of the gratuitous keyboard noodling are examples of a lack of experience in putting together a tight sound. I’m assuming the band improved over time since they went on to put out several more records, but this one doesn’t rise quite to the level of being excellent. It’s pretty good though, so three stars and a recommendation to most fans of prog music (as long as you’re not looking for something heavily Latin).


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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