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Sotos - Sotos CD (album) cover





3.61 | 21 ratings

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3 stars This is the debut album from a French group which formed in the mid 1990s. They operate in a similar territory to Univers Zero, Art Zoyd and Present; dark chamber rock which uses orchestral instruments alongside a rock rhythm section and which exists somewhere between RIO and Zeuhl. There is also some resemblance to Godspeed You! Black Emperor and A Silver Mt Zion in the sound, although the compositional style is very different - there is a little too much rhythmic complexity for post rock.

There are just four long pieces on the album, three of them composed by guitarist Yan Hazera and one by bassist Bruno Camiade. While they have a good grasp of dynamics and a real sense of adventure, the writing of these pieces often lacks the focus and sense of urgency that is found in albums by the RIO/Zeuhl bands which are their most obvious inspiration.

The opening piece, Tango, is a 22 minute epic that could probably have been slimmed down into an effective 12 - 15 minutes, with lengthy passages that fail to develop in any significant way. This is a pity, because there is also some superb interplay between the strings and electric guitar, with intelligent support from a flexible and imaginative rhythm section.

The next piece, Gilgamesh, is a big improvement on this, with an imaginative interlude on percussion featuring the guitarist and bassist on Djembe, an African drum, before leading into a violin-driven climax that briefly recalls King Crimson circa 1974.

XXXVIIIeme Parallele is Bruno Camiade's contribution and includes some very nicely scored flute, percussion and cello parts, with Yan Hazera switching to acoustic guitar for the quieter interludes. The contrasting acoustic/electric, quiet/loud interludes could have been realised with a greater sense of drama, but this is a minor quibble and has more to do with the production than with the composition.

L'espoir Du Clan Des Huntres closes the proceedings, and begins with one of the most uptempo passages on the album, Camiade briefly taking the lead on fuzz bass. This then settles into a similar style to the opening track, with a rhythm that owes more than a little to Magma's Kontarkohsz. As with the opening track, some sections are a little drawn out and repetitive, although again there is also some superb playing to be heard here. The track closes in a manner that recalls the end of Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh, inviting further Magma comparisons.

Sotos is the work of a relatively young band - one member was only 16 when they formed, and apparently this was recorded only a year or so later - and shows a lot of promise. With a stronger willed producer and more disciplined writing, this would have deserved four stars and a strong recommendation. As it is, this is still a worthy addition to any RIO/vant prog collection.

Syzygy | 3/5 |


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