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Sotos - Sotos CD (album) cover





3.61 | 21 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars SOTOS was one of those under-the-radar avant-prog bands that followed in the footsteps of Univers Zero and Art Zoyd, released a couple albums and then disappeared from the scene. This all instrumental ensemble emerged from Bordeaux, France in 1996 and was composed of five musicians. Nicolas Cazaux on violin, flute & tambourine; Yan Hazera on guitar and djembe; Bruno Camiade on bass and djembe; Nadia Leclerc on violin and cello; Michael Hazera on drums and flute. Both Hazera brothers would later play together in their next band Zaar a decade later. All members attended the French National School of Music and required little time in finding a common thread to create their first eponymous album released on the French Gazul label.

Just like many in the more obscure corners of the avant-prog world, SOTOS marries myriad musical disciplines and drives them together with angular rock riffs, chamber rock atmospheres, post-rock compositional styles along with classical sensibilities in this case from the likes of Bela Bartok and Igor Stravinsky. While avant-garde is the first thing that comes to mind when a Univers Zero or Art Zoyd connection is made, SOTOS were disciplined enough, despite creating only four monster tracks all clocking in over 13 minutes, to encapsulate a roller coaster ride of interesting hooks that are allowed to play out and add the proper amount of tension before climaxing and shifting to another complex instrumental arrangement.

While the near 22 minute opener "Tango" may have elements of Argentina's favorite dance music, it's only a small part of the overall sound and fairly obscured with a healthy dose of violin and cello sounding more like a classical folk composition taken from the Hungarian countryside of the 19th century but also offers the angular rhythmic rock approach of the avant-prog tradition with a healthy dose of twists and turns that allow more energetic percussive segments than usually heard in this subgenre of prog. The second track "Gilgamesh" sounds as epic as the Akkadian poem from which the name derives. It begins with a rather Steve Hillage "Fish Rising" type of guitar riff accompanied by folky violin but turns into a more energetic rocker and also displays a fair amount of energetic tribal drumming along the way.

"XXVIIIeme Parallele" exudes a jazz guitar intro but is also quite classically inspired and then drowned out by a lamenting violin before spiraling off into a more upbeat parade of folk led flute and drums. As it ventures forward it sounds more like an early King Crimson type of eclectic jazz rock that becomes more progressive as time goes on with the angular rhythms becoming even more so and avant-guitar solos joining in with burst of bubbly zeuhl bass lines that climaxes with one of the most energetic outbursts on the entire album. "L'espoir Du Clan Des Huitres" at almost 17 minutes is the most frenetic track with insane echoey guitars, chugging zeuhl bass rhythms with less of the angular avant-rhythms but they do occur as it all slowly ratchets up into furious guitar frenzies. Like all the other tracks, there is plenty of time for it to breathe and take the time to build up the momentum.

SOTOS is fairly unique sounding. Not as scary as Univers Zero or Art Zoyd. Not as heavy as Thinking Plague. More varied than bands like Nebelnest but not as ambitious as 5uu's. SOTOS utilizes just enough of several different elements to make it feel balanced with a lot of time paid to repetitive patterns that linger with subtleties joining in. Just a tad of rhythmic zeuhl alongside avant-garde angularities as well as the King Crimson proggy rock mixed with the Bartok classical folk elements. The music is definitely dense and complex but it is fairly easy to follow if the listener is actively engaged. Segments proceed in a logical manner and nothing really jumps out of the blue. Excellent music for those who love a more focused form of avant-prog that also offers a few twists and turns along the way.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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