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Gargamel - Watch For The Umbles  CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.75 | 76 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars First full record from this Norwegian (Oslo-based) retro-prog quintet, but unlike most Scandinavian groups they do not based their music on Genesis, Yes and Crimson, but rather on a cross of Crimson and VdGG which seems to give them an edge as well as the constant use of the cello (something Anekdoten has lately completely phased out unfortunately). If Norway is known for White Wwillow and lately Wobbler, the country had also seen in the previous decade Ravana's sole album, which had the same kind of dark melancholic and desperate ambiances. And although Gargamel comes close to Ravana, Gargamel fails to match the incredibly moody, doomy and gloomy atmospheres of their predecessors. Why this comparison? Well for one, the apocalyptic and lugubrious artworks of both albums, but also for musical reasons.

Although I can appreciate retro-prog much better than neo-prog, the one thing that we can say is that retro-prog is not trying to be original or even inventive and Gargamel's debut album is neither. But compared with Sinkadus, Wobbler or others, they chose to aim towards a sort mix of Crimson with Hammill's singing, which does give us a rest from the Genesis and Yes imitator. But this does not mean that Gargamel's adventures are flawless either. If the opening Ties (Tics?) is somewhere between Anekdoten's debut and Crimson (Starless' middle section), the next track Strayed Again is more reminiscent of Discipline's Staircase album (the best US retro prog IMHO) and VdGG's Godbluff with an rather brilliant flute-cello duo and the Fender Rhodes improv following it.

So you get the message: not much new under the midnight sun or even under the midday moons. And their third track Below The Water is certainly not my fave and thankfully it is kept short. I am only half enthused by this debut album, because the music is simply too derivative and most tracks, although impressively played and executed, they all fail to convince me except when they are more improvising. There is only one song standing out, Into The Cold, again mostly because of the excellent musical interludes (those excellent flute-cellos-mellotrons "passe d'armes" and a sudden sax break unfortunately a tiny bit ruined by the Graaf-esque electronics effect on both the sax and organ) rather than the actual songwriting. The album closes on a rather sedated almost 18-min Agitated (sound asleep ;-) Mind, which is again interesting if you are not too discerning about derivative music. Another great flute excursion on this track but some clumsy songwritings are the main remarks on this one.

I may sound/read harsh on Gargamel's debut album, but it is also evident that these guys are not debutants anymore (their EP demo is almost four years old, now) and therefore I was expecting a stronger personality that is simply lacking. But let's face it, with retro-prog groups, you simply have to be severe to avoid copycats or plagiarists, and it is not yet certain Gargamel will avoid this pitfall. Definitely one of the better albums of this year along with TMV's Amputecture.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |


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