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Universal Totem Orchestra - Mathematical Mother CD (album) cover


Universal Totem Orchestra



4.24 | 182 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Review Nš 179

Universal Totem Orchestra is a very risky musical proposal, full of quality, details and technique, whose originality and concept are really impressive. But, which kind of music does Universal Totem Orchestra play? It's really very difficult to explain. What I can tell you is that their music is an explosive mixture of sounds with modern rock camera, krautrock elements, psychedelic space rock influences, the power and crudeness of hard rock, opera and folk touches, and influences from the most avant-garde Magma. The music presents also influences from jazz, rock and medieval music.

Probably, the most unique attribute of this band are the vocals performed by Ana Torres Fraile and various male performers. You will hear choirs, operatic, tenor and soprano, and traditional male vocals, all very well done. There is so much happening instrumentally that the listener really needs to pay attention. This wouldn't be good background music as it's one of those albums that demand your full attention. Odd time signatures and sudden stops and starts, allowing that for different movements to take place, are the norm, not the exception. It's clear these musicians know how to play and a tremendous amount of work has gone into this piece of music. After all, there aren't many albums just short of 80 minutes long. So, you know you are getting your money's back. Sometimes, with albums this long, the music gets tiresome and boredom starts to set in prematurely. But, that isn't the case on here. I never got the sense they made a long album just for the sake of it. All of the pieces here fit the musical puzzle and nothing seems excessive or irrelevant. What makes this more rewarding are some of nice melodies provided by piano, guitar and saxophone.

'Mathematical Mother' is an album influenced by several musical styles by a truly quixotic Italian band. We can hear soaring classical vocals, the perfect piano accompaniment, the amazing bass, or the move between jazz, fusion, funk, classical, Arabian and progressive styles. I can see why they're considered a zeuhl band due to some bombastic and hallucinating influences from Magma, such as the arrangements hover from bombastic Wagnerian explosions to jazzier climes, again a Kobaian characteristic. But, in reality only Magma sounds like Magma. I can also see occasional forays into Arabic, Gothic and Gregorian chants. It seems that 'Mathematical Mother' is Universal Totem Orchestra's most successful album and represents a union of zeuhl, symphonic, and other progressive rock styles, yet, creating a thoroughly original sound which any fan of avant-prog will find a joy to digest. It just blows me away to think of the time and talent that was put into this album. Finally, the instrumental arrangements are absolutely perfect. This is an album with a very Italian strong feeling. And as almost we know there is amount infinity of amazing Italian prog rock albums.

'Mathematical Mother' needs a careful and gradual metabolization before being grabbed and appreciated. Over fifty minutes of refined and articulated evolutions characterized by counter-tempos and overlaps, epic veins and oriental warps that contain echoes of some of the best Italian prog bands. Starting from the fourteen minutes of the 'Terra Cava' opener, the talents of Torres Fraile stand out, as a vocalist with a soprano extension and an emphatic theatrical verve, a true narrating soul of the entire staging. The technique of the execution and inspiration distinguish the entire line up all over the album. Stylistically, sought after 'Mathematical Mother', undoubtedly stands among the most valid albums of the recent wave made in Italy linked to the jazz-rock prog line, confirming all the excellent impressions that the Trentino orchestra has so far awakened. So, stick to this title and avoid letting it go unnoticed. This kind of prog albums doesn't happen every day. However, 'Mathematical Mother' needs a careful and gradual metabolization before being grabbed and appreciated. What are my favorite tracks? I don't can say that. The entire album is just amazing. It supplanted all my expectations. 'Mathematical Mother' mined blow my mind with a symphonic Italian flavored Zeuhl.

Conclusion: Since the first minute I listened to 'Mathematical Mother', I was deeply impressed by it. Despite it suffers so many and different musical influences, it remains for me a truly impressive work. And curiously, they continue the old and great Italian tradition of using Italian lyrics. The album is characterized as Zeuhl, a genre on which I'm not very well familiarized. But, I can also see on it, influences of Gothic music, Gentle Giant, Dead Can Dance, and of course of the classical music, especially from the bombastic sound of the classic Wagnerian operas. The music is amazing and with great complexity. We may say this is an example of how the modern prog rock music must sound. There aren't many new prog albums that can impress me most than this one. Universal Totem Orchestra must be commended for making an album of such magnitude and scope. While this will not appeal to everyone, those of you who like to take musical adventures outside of the norm, would do well do give this a shot. I found this to be a fascinating album and a truly enjoyable listen to. It's really an amazing album. It's highly recommended for all lovers of sophisticated prog rock.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 5/5 |


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