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Phaedra - Ptah CD (album) cover




Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.56 | 24 ratings

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3 stars Italian octet Phaedra originally formed in 1993 so their recent debut album has been a long time in the making. The band went through some changes of personnel around the turn of the millennium and the present line-up has subsequently spent the past ten years honing the material on ''Ptah'' through their extensive live activity. The long-awaited ''Ptah'' is a rock opera (veering towards chamber opera) that takes its inspiration from mythology and science fiction, with the Egyptian deity of the title symbolising mankind. The concept will be academic to non- Italian speakers like myself of course.

The musicians in Phaedra have created an accomplished and individual sound world courtesy of the instruments at their disposal. The line-up includes two violinists and a flautist, all with a background in classical music, and the album is festooned with their colourful contributions. In fact, acoustic instruments form the backbone of the disc with mandolin and 12-string guitar adding to the intrinsically unplugged feel. However there's a general lack of textural variety between tracks and although there are occasional bursts of activity and aggression, things overall just seem a bit too tame with very little electric guitar or keyboards to light up the fire on the mountain. There's not much to attract non-RPI diehards, and there's none of that famous Italian fervour that the band must have left behind in the studio.

''Ptah'' is certainly an ambitious and visionary tableau, but with 14 tracks and a running time of 75-minutes it's very long, perhaps too long. I hate to be critical about the album, especially as the band has clearly invested a great deal of time and effort in its creation, but someone really should have separated the sonic chaff from the wheat. It's not all bad news, mind you. The album has moments of calm beauty and an overall atmosphere of quiet intimacy, while my favourite pieces are the intermittent instrumentals that intersperse the longer tracks. Although graceful and well crafted, ''Ptah'' just seems to lack spontaneity and something of an edge. Phaedra is undoubtedly a band with great potential, although if it's a further ten years until the band's second release I'll consider myself lucky if I'm still around to listen to it.

seventhsojourn | 3/5 |


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