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Sintesis - En Busca De Una Nueva Flor CD (album) cover

EN BUSCA DE UNA NUEVA FLOR

Sintesis

 

Prog Folk

3.78 | 27 ratings

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jfbaland
3 stars I'd read that this was full-on prog rock, but I didn't believe it until I heard it for myself: with endless running times, classical motifs, and tons of ostinato piano, it really could be Emerson, Lake and Palmer (the ponderous if ornate "Nueve Ejemplares, No Tan Raros"). Except that the band is years behind the times, with loads of grating early 70s synth ("Somos La Flor"), and their instrumental prowess is not overwhelming. And most tracks follow a loose formula of alternating piano-led vamps with mostly a capella choral sections. If you can get past that, there are some indicators of the band's future triumphs: the atmospheric chorus of "Primera Noche"; the controlled tension in the lengthy title suite. And most importantly, vocals from Ele Valdés, who gives the sound some sorely needed distinctiveness and emotional force ("Ven A Encontrarnos"). (DBW)

Aquí Estamos (1981) I've heard two of these tracks: the neo-classical "Variaciones Sobre Un Zapateo," very much along the lines of Nueva Flor, and "Elogio De La Danza," which is jazz fusion a la Weather Report except for a vocal chant and handclaps midway through the tune. (DBW)

Hilo Directo (1984)

Ancestros (1987) Only in Cuba: religious chants and rhythms brought by slaves from Africa (still widely practiced in the country, defying Catholicism and Communism alike) interpreted faithfully - but with synthesizers, guitars and drum machines stacked on top of them. It's an interesting experiment, but the chants are consistently more attention-grabbing than the fusion backing, which tends to sound the same on every track. Santero singer and priest Lázaro Ros watched over the recording, and also contributes lead vocals on "Titi-Laye." Half of the tunes are by Carlos Alfonso, the other half are by Huergo. (DBW)

El Hombre Extraño (1989) All the lyrics here are by Silvio Rodriguez, who also drops by to sing the title track, and as usual for him, they range from totally opaque ("Parte Del Tiempo (Nuevo)") to very straightforward ("El Día Que No Importaba"). Valdés uses her clear, full voice to excellent effect ("Voy y No Es Todo"), and the tunes (all written or co-written by Carlos Alfonso) are effective and cleverly arranged: dreamy synths, cutting guitars, and plenty of open space. (DBW)

Ancestros II (1992) Another volume of santería chants, and the blend is much better realized, with the sophistication of the arrangements a match for the gut-level impact of the chants. Recent arrival Esteban Puebla writes about half of the tracks, and they stand out: they're tuneful and spacious, leaving room for the vocalists. This works best on Valdés's features, particuarly the powerful "Aguanileo," which momentarily makes me wish I weren't an atheist. (DBW)

En Los Limites Del Barrio (1994)

Orishas (1997) Really, this is Ancestros III: same Bat-chanting, same Bat-fusion. But there are some significant differences, such as louder and more distorted guitars ("Asojano Mawe"), surprisingly funky R&B/jazz piano ("Ogun Mariwo"), and a number of guests (mostly percussionists) making for a fuller sound. There's even a rap vocal by Charli 2 Ner, which makes one think of related efforts in African diaspora integrationism by Steve Coleman. Though some of the tunes aren't particularly exciting ("Oshishe Iwa Ma"), this is perhaps the best effort of the trilogy from an instrumental perspective. Unfortunately, all the busy playing detracts from the chanting, which is often reduced to backup vocal status. Only a couple of tracks ("Ayabba," "So Sa So") manage to reach the spiritually moving heights of the previous discs. By comparison to those, this often sounds like a professional but soulless exercise. (DBW)

Yoruba Celebration (2000)

Habana A Flor De Piel (2001) Essentially the same Ancestros approach - vocal chorus and low-key, tasteful synth fusion - is applied to new band compositions (though "Iroko Ma Karere" is based, like Ancestros and Orishas, on Yoruba chants). The more contemplative numbers sound like late 90s Silvio ("Si Yo Fuera..."), while the seductive "Conmigo En La Clave" (with Chucho Valdés on piano) sounds like NG La Banda on downers. Though the band sticks close to its trademark sound - as usual, vocals are split between Ele Valés and Carlos Alfonso - there are experimental moments: successes include wah-wah guitar battling Táta Guines's percussion on "Fifty Fifty," while the Manhattan Transfer-style vocals and trumpet on the title track is a bit on the tacky side. Other guests include Pablo Milanés ("Un Poco Mas De Fé"), Carlos Varela and Mayito ("Dilo Como Yo"). (DBW)

jfbaland | 3/5 |

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