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Aranis - Aranis CD (album) cover





3.64 | 44 ratings

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4 stars Soothing, Yet Still Musically Stimulating, Chamber Rock

Aranis is a Belgian alt.classical group consisting of 2 violins, accordion, piano, guitar, double bass, and flute. Their 2005 debut album features a slightly more user-friendly and "classical" sound than RIO pioneers Univers Zero, but clearly the two bands would sit comfortably on the same playbill. UZ is listed first in a long list of influences on their myspace page, but also included are a host of post-rock outfits, noise jazzmeister John Zorn, Neil Young, Bach, Bartok, and even my favorite double bass player of all time Edgar Meyer.

Before I go too far and give the impression this is muzak, I must emphasize that this is still challenging music. For example, "Vuur" begins with a "Flight of the Bumblebee" flurry before alternating between a minor, looming UZ-like theme and an accordion-led European folk feel. There is plenty of dissonance, a little odd time signature, and certainly a good dose of adventure. Perhaps what makes this clearly easier on the ear is that the melodic themes remain strong at all times. Never do I feel like the musicians are treading into free-form avant territory. Though there are solo sections, they fit into the structure of the overall pieces.

"Yosu" features female harmony choral vocals over a slow minor pulse, but for the most part this is instrumental music. The flute (courtesy of Jana Arns) is especially compelling, ranging from idyllic melodies to quick, almost virtuosic solo spots. The string arrangements are have a little less energy, and in fact the biggest weakness in this album is that some of the songs don't develop that strongly. The stage is set well, the scenes are vividly drawn, mood is created, but then not enough happens or happens too slowly. Perhaps this is the post-rock influence the band claims. A great example is "Zelezi" which is 15 minute piece that employs a loooong slow build of emotion and very gradual changes in melodic ideas that certainly follows the post-rock formula.

One of the strengths of the album is the variety of tempo, mood, and atmosphere. Where a song like "Pantra" is deliberate and medieval in sound (with a few dissonant surprises), "Questosteron" is more swinging and jazzy. Some songs are unassuming and subtle and some are almost overwhelmingly ominous. Folk melodies and rhythms pervade some songs and are barely hinted at on others.

All in all, this is a strong chamber rock album. The musicianship is a notch higher than most any rock n' roll, prog or not. Though the chamber rock concept is far from new at this point, this band is still producing a kind of music that feels very adventurous to at least this American listener. Somewhere between 3 and 4 stars, and given the narrow scope of this genre, I'm going to give 4 stars. This is an excellent modern example of chamber rock, at minimum equaling the modern output of their heroes Univers Zero, and possibly surpassing it.

Negoba | 4/5 |


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