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Taproban - Strigma CD (album) cover

STRIGMA

Taproban

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.83 | 122 ratings

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ExittheLemming
Prog Reviewer
2 stars Guilty of charges of Prog Aforethought... Prepare the kindling

My sister once dated an Italian back in the early 80's and it turns out I actually quite liked him even before I learned he was a massive ELP fan. 'Marry him sis!' I begged, 'he's perfect'

She didn't and they went their separate ways around the same time that Keith, Greg and Carl started battling over custody of the bootlegs. He was also a karate black belt so I encouraged him to visit our local sport centre to tutor the locals who were way below his level

'I cannot do that' he said firmly

'Why not?' I asked

'Because they might harm me'

Coming from a city (Glasgow) where retaliation before you are even attacked is very often the best form of defence, this struck me as decidedly suicidal health care until I learned what the ultimate aim of such a discipline is:

Victory is not the ultimate aim. Karate is an art of self-defence which uses only the human body in the most efficient way. The goal is to cultivate great human character of a higher class that prevents any violent attack before an actual fight occurs

This rather tenuous intro only serves to illustrate why this album reminds me of my potential brother in law, that it was composed, performed and recorded by Italians and that teaching martial arts to the Scots is about as sensible as arming toddlers.

One of the overriding features of much 1st Gen Prog is that it can only be described as such after the fact i.e. none of the likes of ELP, Yes, Genesis or Camel et al appear to have set out to compose premeditated 'Symphonic style Progressive Rock' music. It just turned out that way in the same way that Thelonious Monk never sat down at the piano and said to his collaborators:

'I'd prefer us to play some Jazz today innit?'

That said, unshackled from the previous commercial constraints on track lengths, unconventional structures, dissonant harmonies and odd meters they would certainly have been given free rein to their creative instincts. All this begs the question: More than 30 years hence, can musicians who create music transparently inspired and derived from such early 70's sources right down to the textures and compositional features deployed, be considered original or even progressive?

reductio ad absurdum: or are they just tribute bands who play all their own material?

If proof is required that particular types of Prog Rock are alive and well or at least thriving in aged care homes in the 21st Century, the viability of Wobbler, Black Bonzo, Big Big Train, Flower Kings, Transatlantic (the list goes on) are proof that a demographic exists who will pay good money for what Kelefa Sanneh of the New Yorker very perceptively described as the 'shock of the old'

Have we reached the stage where our technological advances, if capable of time travel, would have the futuristic vehicle stuck in reverse with shiny antiques stored in the trunk just in case we have to pass ourselves off as worthy of an artistic legacy to which we were bequeathed?

Cringe-worthy cribbing is evidenced throughout Strigma that no amount of insouciant posturing is going to disguise as referential homage. The safety in (long) numbers inversion is exploited mercilessly here with just three tracks, none of which are anything other than overlong medleys of rather slight linearly sequential musical ideas. These are not 'through composed' or develop much beyond strophic form throughout the entire 40 patience sapping minutes. Practically everything is overly repetitive and simply sounds unfinished like their singer had been indisposed due to an unfortunate karate related accident but they pressed ahead with the backing tracks regardless. Off the top of my 58 year old balding head, I can discern clear stylistic debts to the 7/4 pivot of ELP's Infinite Space, a (Four Wives) Rick Wakeman circa Six Wives, Genesis' Cinema Show and the Camel of Snow Goose. To be clear, there is no actual plagiarism involved here, just a stifling and crippling lack of creativity, imagination and originality.

The playing, although hardly virtuosic or containing any memorable themes, is unfailingly professional and the production faultless but despite my best efforts, trying to fluff the cushions on this threadbare couch just comes across as damning with faint praise. The attention to detail of the prominent Piano and authentic 'Tron, Hammond, Moog and Rickenbacker sound palette is impeccable so you get all that retro 70's goodness but without the commensurate noise-floor that made Crimson's vinyl Moonchild sound like a knitting circle in a wind tunnel.

Word to wise lads with regards distancing yourself from potential charges of Regressive Prog forgery: Having 7 Samurai and Spaghetti Epic on your resume is a bit like ex Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn reassuring a prospective employer that yes, he was once in the Baader Meinhof Gang and Khmer Rouge but found them both a bit too 'pussy liberal' for his liking.

There is nothing objectively 'bad' about this music just that it's symptomatic of a nostalgia for something that never happened in the first place. None of the musicians involved have used their undoubted talent to arrive at a destination where their own unique and inimitable voices can be heard above the clamour of an untraveled past to which they are clearly still in thrall.

The cover art depicts witches writhing in the flames of hell and no, it wasn't the work of my jilted brother in law but that of Daniela Ventrone and references the subject matter as the element of fire. I think it's a bit sh*t but I have corrected vision and I ain't an art critic. You would expect the music to be suitably creepy and sinister given the titular references to Witches Sabbaths and Dark Portals etc but this is about as terrifying as a pair of Tim Burton's discarded Yoga pants. Let's have the aforementioned Keleefa Sanneh have the final say from 2017:

But contemporary listeners might find the genre's optimistic spirit more exotic, and therefore more endearing, than it once seemed. Of course, Prog Rock was not the future, at least, not more than anything else was. Nowadays, it seems clear that rock history is not linear but cyclical. There is no grand evolution, just an endless process of rediscovery and reappraisal, as various styles and poses go in and out of fashion. We no longer, many of us, believe in the idea of musical progress. All the more reason, perhaps, to savor the music of those who did.

ExittheLemming | 2/5 |

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