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Universal Totem Orchestra - Mathematical Mother CD (album) cover

MATHEMATICAL MOTHER

Universal Totem Orchestra

 

Zeuhl

4.27 | 116 ratings

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BrufordFreak
4 stars A welcome arrival! (It's been a while, UTO!) 2017 finds the Spanish Zeuhl masters in fine form, with some very mature, very Zeuhl-styled musical offerings (the first two) and some odd, unsettling, and, ultimately, floundering meanderings in three of the other four.

1. "Terra Cava" (14:06) I'm especially attached to the piano and voice section in the middle (what an amazing vocalist is Ana Torres Fraile!); it is sublime! The opening section is highly polished, tightly performed, with some excellent guitar soloing. The third section is bass-centric while Indian konokol or 'voice percussion' performs intermittently throughout. (9.5/10)

2. "Codice Y16" (5:21) sounds so much like a Magma opus! Piano, guitars, and voices all performing at breakneck speed with amazingly tight timing. Here we find UTO totally in the pocket, in their element, at their all-time best! Simply INCREDIBLE vocal and keyboard performances throughout, start to finish! One of the best prog songs of the year! (10/10)

3. "Elogio Del Dubbio" (7:54) perhaps a little less Zeuhl-ish while flowing more like a KOTEBEL song--at least until the Arabic vocalizations from guest singer Samia Charbel beginning at the 4:10 mark. Morphing into another stripped down, tabla-based church-like operatic vocal performance by the nearly perfect voice of Ms. Torres Fraile, the song feels suddenly so European and liturgical. Ends with an interesting though tangential instrumental section. (9.5/10)

4. "Architettura Dell'acqua" (11:27) begins with Ana supported only by softly picked electric guitar in an almost-pop performance. This is more akin to the wonderful Neofolk-classical offerings of countrymate Riccardo Prencipe in his CORDE OBLIQUE project releases. In the sixth minute we jump into a full band rock and then prog styled song. An uncharacteristic song from UTO and not my favorite. Still, it is better than 99% of the crap you hear out there. The introduction to the final section (before the guitar solo) is the best part of the song. I much prefer Ana's voice in the full operatic demand. (8.5/10)

5. "Citta' Infinite" (6:19) opens with a Latin jazzy feel with piano-based combo prepping us for Ana's entry. Vocalise with some scatting is how Ana comes in--and continues to perform for about a minute. Were words lacking, or was this composed with the intention of exploring traditional jazz realms? The synth used in the second minute and shift to more rock sounds & stylings (and use of words by Ana's sublime voice) signal that the jazz foray was only temporary. The fourth minute introduces another new style and approach: quiet, low-key singing, unusual non-ethnic musical style--and then we're off to some familiar bass riffing (from The Magus) with some play from vibes, guitar and synths over the top. Solo piano cuts in at 5:30 to end and fade out. Strange song. (8.5/10)

6. "Mare Verticale" (7:38) surprisingly simple song structures over the first two sections. It's as if the band is having trouble deciding who they want to be and so are playing it extra-conservatively. It's not until 3:25 when we finally get to hear Ana back at her most excellent voce. The music feels old, dated, mired in out-dated rock modalities and stylings. Too much of a mish-mash of mush which seems to have no direction or aim. Scatting @ 6:00 and then back to bland hard rock over which Ana tries to soar. This does NOT work. This song is, to my ears, grating; to my mind, utterly disappointing. (7.5/10)

In summary, the first two songs are so much stronger than the more stylistically chameleonic tapestries that make up the the final three songs; Zeuhl with Ana's powerful operatic approach are their strengths. While The Magus showed flaws in over-indulgences and sound quality issues (in the mixes), this album shows flaws in clarity of intent and purpose. More songs and music like the first two, please.

A high four stars; a very good offering of progressive rock music.

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |

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