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U Totem - Strange Attractors CD (album) cover


U Totem



3.98 | 29 ratings

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Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer
4 stars For those who don't know, U TOTEM were a super group of sorts in the Rio / Avant world as it combined 5UU'S with MOTOR TOTEMIST GUILD. This was their second and so far final studio album. Their self titled debut is somewhat of a classic in the genre and my favourite of the two but All Music Guide has this to say about this second recording."Of all James Grigsby's productions,"Strange Attractors" is the work he will be remembered for.This album, weaved on a complex story line jumping back and forth from 1957 to 1985 to 2012, contains some of the best music Avant-progressive had to offer in the 1990's...a classic." Wayside Music suggests that this album's complexity is more subtle than the debut's which makes this even more impressive when these pieces finally "click" in your brain. And I can vouch for that as it took many listens to finally start to appreciate what was going on here. The short story that Grigsby wrote to which this album is based on is included in the booklet which is cool to say the least. So James wrote all the lyrics and composed all the music here. Emily Hay adds vocals and flute, Grigsby plays guitar and bass, Dave Kerman on drums, Sanjay Kumar on keyboards, Eric Johnson on bassoon and Steve Cade on guitar.There are many guests helping out as well.

"No Mo Ippon" gets us started and this song changes tempos a lot. "Daikon Batake" features horns, flute and outbursts of piano and percussion. "Ginger Tea" introduces us to the vocals for the first time from Emily. I like how the vocals and instrumental parts work together. She ends the song with the words "I doubt i'll see her again". "Another June Sky" opens with a very interesting soundscape. I like it. Experimental with keys and horns (I think). It picks up before 2 1/2 minutes as the drums join in. "Karucha Shokku" opens with lots of piano then the vocals come in after a minute and they're almost spoken. Horns a minute later.

"January Sky" has these spoken male words and avant music. Female words come in as they converse. "Purple Smoke" has so much going on and to be honest I have no idea what i'm hearing (haha). It settles 2 1/2 minutes in as it turns eerie. It's building. Great sound here. "Tipps' 911" is a short but amazing instrumental. "Agent White Fox" opens with the sound of a helicopter then we get a celtic vibe briefly. It turns dissonant then that vibe returns. "Chen's Gate" has the sound of frogs before a minute with atmosphere. It turns haunting followed by chamber music. "Postcard" has vocals and a brighter mood and it's upbeat as well. "Redskin" is a really cool sounding tune as drums, piano, horns and other sounds come and go. "Another Ginger tea" is dark and intricate Chamber-like music. What an incredible way to end this album.

A solid 4 stars for this challenging affair.

Mellotron Storm | 4/5 |


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