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Motor Totemist Guild - Shapuno Zoo CD (album) cover


Motor Totemist Guild



3.88 | 7 ratings

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4 stars The 'Shapuno zoo' album sound better than its problematic predecessors (IMO), in both terms of the ensemble sound and the materials. Join here Emily Hay on vocals and flute, a significant contribution from this point and furthermore. It's really a treat to listen to her, a fact that could be approved by U totem enthusiasts. Still in 'the guild' is excellent Becky Heninger on cello, in some strong riffs and roles. In fact all players are very creative and talented. Composer James Grigsby is everywhere, but always on the background, with diverse instrument list, mainly on bass that comes and goes in some short riffs. In fact this album is quite acoustic with very few electric and 'rockish' instruments. This is the situation in most of Grigsby's works (I think). The rock is still there, but in the background, on a fundamental level. There is a lot of classical influences (the modern type), jazz (the avant guard type) and a lot of Americana (such as musicals, cabaret, etc). Everything is done joyfully, in a sense of humor. This is definitely not 'dark' music, which is so 'popular' in RIO avant scene. However, this music is not a bit less avant than other efforts in this genre, on the contrary.

The compositions are really good here, but it takes some time to get through of them. Each one is different in terms of structure and atmosphere. James Grigsby frequently moves between the simplistic to the complicate, from the uppermost to the lowest, sometimes in the very same composition.

The relatively simplest and catchiest composition is track 4, 'Indian Bingo'. On a repeated riff appears talking and acting vocals, by Emily Hay and Eric Strauss, that tell a weird story about 'Shapuno zoo', that according to another text on the booklet, is an era in Brazil, or a zoo elsewhere, as far as I concern. There is a constant change between instruments, which comes and goes, complex rhythms and meters, and pleasant percussion play (from Dave Kerman). A lot of grace and enchantment here.

The most complex track is track 6, 'Prisms of Ribbon'. This is a complicate composition that starts with absolutely classic development of two movements, but somewhere in the middle the tight development is neglected and replaced by solo improvisations in avant style, by many instruments: saxophone, flute, tapes, bass and cello, with indirect reference to the opening movements. It ends up with some vague notes that create an odd atmosphere.

As I've mentioned before, these composition may be a hard nut to crack, it was not easy for me either, but it was well worth the time (and needless to say, the money) that put into it. In fact I did like most of it from first listens, but it took some more time to delve into it as a whole. I considered to leave it on 3 stars rating, inspite of my high estimation to this album, because it's not for the 'masses' anyway. But meanwhile, the compositions had grown on me. All other components are excellent, from execution to vocals, overall musicianship, and sound quality. So in these circumstances, I'll put the rate on 4 stars, which I'm doing happily. This album will definitely appeal to U Totem enthusiasts, as an earlier version to this act, and a solid effort on its own.

review #50

ShW1 | 4/5 |


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