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CANTUS FIRMUS

Advent

 

Eclectic Prog

3.44 | 47 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
4 stars Attempting to tackle the wondrously complex legacy of Gentle Giant is a lofty ideal that few have endeavored successfully because it requires capturing not just a bygone spirit but also the polyrhythmic techniques that make it so unique. These New Jersey amateur musicians remain highly qualified after an initial debut album that had many amazing ideas but was marred by a tinny production that did not really do full justice to their talents. "Cantus Primus" is their sophomore release and adequately irons out the previous creases, while encased in a gorgeous Michael Phipps cover artwork that enlightens their medieval rock leanings. After a brief multi-part counterpoint vocal hors d'oeuvre, the improved mood comes straight to the forefront on the splendid "Awaiting the Call", a sweeping dual keyboard instrumental adventure that has an immediate highly symphonic appeal, intricate guitar weavings that recall jazzier pastures not too far removed from early Stealy Dan and a dreamy climate that is ear candy of the highest order. "Parenting Parents" has the first "normal" vocal (à la Minnear) within a gentle preamble, a slowly flourishing semi-pastoral piece that exudes a delicate charm within its nearly 7 minutes, with serene mellotron wisps that mystify and enchant. "Utter Once her Name" is another slow bloomer, very close in style to the previous track, but it frankly somehow fails to grab me as it remains highly ambient and fragile. "Remembering When" is another instrumental story, an Alan Benjamin acoustic guitar piece that incorporates some suave lead guitar, slippery Stick musings and a placid overall atmosphere. "Ramblin' Sailor" as the title implies is a more robust affair , clocking in at a whopping 18 minutes + with a mellifluous recorder leading the charge, a welcome addition that adds a little welcome melody to the complex vocal niceties that immediately recall the Giant. The epic colorations are at times exuberant, baffling and astute, a labyrinth of sound and composition that will certainly require many spin throughs before being completely assimilated. There are broad contrasting sections that keep things interesting, mostly led by a jovial electric guitar and some splashy drumming from new member Drew Siciliano, occasionally fleeting and then suddenly upbeat (generally the recorder is the prime motivator). The 8 minute "Your Healing Hand" gives a Gregorian echo to the proceedings, a soothing ode to fatherhood that has intense lyrics and dissonant/ambient leanings that are truly stimulating, with splendidly emotive chanting vocals, certainly one of the hallmark pieces here. "Firmus Finale" is another instrumental that closes out the recording, paving the way for 2 bonus tracks which are the equal of the prior tracks. It is a fanfarish number that has great merit and an ideal initial closer. The Ptak brothers on keys really give a stellar performance. The 2 bonus tracks are 1987 compositions that combine nicely with the mood with the short and dreamy "Rear View Mirror", a playful ditty that jingles nicely along, while "Alison Awaits (a Ghost Story)" is another epic piece clocking in over 10 minutes. A church organ "entrée en matière" blends well with some classic vocal work, brooding guitar jangles and elaborate drum patterns from Ken Serio. This is a fine selection that was lovingly reworked from their original (and faulty) demo cassette and displays all the inspiring Gentle Giant/Symphonic influences that fuel the band's muse. While I enjoyed their debut a lot despite the crappy programmed drums, "Cantus Firmus" is a valued second step in their evolution. In no way a necessity to a collection, I still deeply admire unpretentious music lovers who record only for the "Thrill of it All". 4 Turnpike Panurges
tszirmay | 4/5 |

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