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SBB - Nowy Horyzont CD (album) cover

NOWY HORYZONT

SBB

 

Eclectic Prog

3.86 | 176 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars After a first live (and botched) improvised album in 74, the SBB trio came back with a much- improved Nowi Horizont (my amazingly perspicacious guess is New Horizons) released early the following year and gained much recognition with it and its live appearances on the other side of the Iron Curtain, and not just at home. Their reputation was such that a then- West German label approached for a record deal, but it fell through after some sessions. Apparently these sessions were the base for the present album, and we should all be glad that it did so, because the album's title is somewhat indicative of the quality of the music on it. With the great Greek guitarist Anthimos and drummer Piotrowski, the group's main focal point is multi-instrumentalist and composer Jozef Skrzek (pronounce "sneeze" or "bless you" ;o))), this trio could sound like a quartet and at times even more.

If you've ever wondered on McL's Mahavishnu Orchestra might have sounded a tad more prog (as opposed to jazzier), then SBB might be a good peek in that direction, at least for the present and the fourth album. What you would find is a slightly more "symphonic" (in the Stravinski sense) MO fusion with a fairly developed cosmic-spacey side. Sounds intriguing enough? Well the four "short" tracks (well, the title track is above 8 mins) are already excellent with Jozef travelling from the Hammond (how did THAT cross the Iron Curtain?) and the piano (and also handling the bass). While Anthimos' guitar takes obvious McL slants but some Blackmore and Iommi as well, while Jozef's moog and piano touches are more reminiscent of Emerson than Jan Hammer. As for Piotrowski's drumming, I'd tend to hear some Paice and Alan White. The longer title track opens brutally (like MO could) before settling down to a guitar arpeggio bed interwoven of Moog threads, slowly crescendoing until reaching an awesome climax with great guitars and Jozef's excellent bass playing, before switching abruptly switching classical piano and segueing cosmically in a spacey Ballada with spoken narratives, which nowadays might sound very cheesy, but it was freaky back then

The sidelong epic gracing the flipside is obviously the pièce de résistance and starts in a spacey-Floydian manner with Jozef's piano adding a romantic touch and once the chants appear on an ostinato piano, we know that the track will take its sweet time to reach its climax. Wolnosc slowly escalates the rung of the energy ladder, through solid drumming, fascinating Moog layers and again some wordless incantations and diving down to a Chopin piano-movement and heading spacey (ala early-TD this time) again. Some loud Stasi-torture-like noises may interfere with a total album enjoyment, but once expected, the bother goes away, especially knowing the there are some McL-like guitar extravaganza and some heavy-duty Sabbath-like chords coming up.

I suppose that the original vinyl albums were sufficiently rare that the Metal Mind CD reissues of 05 must've come as a relief to many progheads, and that the slew of bonus tracks (almost doubling the playing time) must've enchanted most. Whether these bonus non-album tracks enhance the original album is positively debatable in NH's case: certainly Xeni (with some fiery guitar parts) and the 17-mins Penia (actually the CD's best track, filled with spine-tingling dramatics and bravura) are all doing honour to the original album; as they are taken from a Gdansk radio-broadcast from that very year, so the sound- quality is actually better than the album proper, despite the "live rawness". As for the other/last Ogien track, it's coming from a different radio-broadcast from Warsaw and the previous year, it doesn't deface the rest of the CD album, even if not as refined.

OK, there is only so much that one can do from original master tapes if the recording conditions were not optimal (this was Poland in the 70's), so don't expect a 5.1 Wilson product. While being somewhat too evident about their influence (worn on their sleeves), SBB's musical realm bears sufficient personality that they might have been better considered than some Triumvirate or Eloy or many Dutch groups. Essential album on the Polish scale and even in the then-current Behind-the-Iron-Curtain scene, NH is a first- priority acquisition in exploring the Eastern-European scene.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |

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