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Sotos - Platypus  CD (album) cover





3.85 | 33 ratings

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4 stars The second and final album from Sotos saw them on a new label, Cuneiform, and with a new producer, the brilliant Bob Drake (5UUs). Platypus is a big improvement on their promising but patchy debut, at least partly due to Bob Drake's production skills. The King Crimson/Magma/Present/Univers Zero influences are still in evidence, but there is a sharper sense of focus and a more distinctive compositional voice to be heard here.

The album is in two parts, beginning with the 41 minute, 7 part Malstrom. This piece could, and perhaps should, have been an album in its own right; in the good old days of vinyl it would have been about the right length for a single LP. Reviewers elsewhere have rightly pointed out that, while each of the 7 parts works well as a stand alone track, it's not immediately obvious how the pieces form a coherent whole. This is a minor quibble, however; while there may not be any great thematic unity, there is a consistent and compelling atmosphere throughout. The dynamics are much more effectively managed than on the debut album, with the acoustic/electric and quiet/loud contrasts being used to sometimes spectacular effect. There are also some electronic treatments of the instruments, but the effects are used sparingly and add to the generally brooding atmosphere. At times their influences become extremely obvious - in part 6 there is a passage which recalls Robert Fripp's one note solo on the studio version of Starless, used in a similar way to build tension - but they never fall into the trap of simply copying from the artists who inspire them.

Having crafted an album's worth of dark, atmospheric, RIO-tinged chamber rock, Sotos felt the need to add another epic, this time a 27 minute epic called Wu. Rather like the 22 minute Tango which opened their debut album, it has plenty of atmosphere but rather too little content to justify its epic proportions. It's not particularly bad, but compared with the clarity and concision demostrated for most of Malstrom it's a rather vague, formless piece which outstays its welcome. There are some powerful moments, and Michael Hazera turns in possibly his best performance to date on drums, but the piece could probably have been edited to half its length and been far more effective for it.

4 stars for this album, mainly for Malstrom. Anybody who loved the 73-74 incarnation of King Crimson will find plenty to enjoy here, and for those disappointed that Sotos broke up after this, the brothers Hazera went on to form the excellent Zaar.

Syzygy | 4/5 |


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