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Yugen - Labirinto d'Acqua CD (album) cover

LABIRINTO D'ACQUA

Yugen

RIO/Avant-Prog


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Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars 4.5 stars really.

This is a brilliant debut album from an Italian band which revolves around guitarist/composer Francesco Zago's and producer Marcello Marinone's singular vision of a fusion of chamber music, symphonic prog and RIO/Avant prog. The name of the band is Japanese; it has no easy translation, but an approximation would be an awareness of the universe that triggers feelings too deep for words (according to the book The Meaning of Tingo). The sleeve contains quotations from Erik Satie (2 of whose compositions are included), Wittgenstein, Umberto Fiori, Liebniz and Jorge Luis Borges, among others. This is a band that is ambitious in scale and scope, and it is to the credit of all concerned that the music more than lives up to the ideals which inform it.

The album starts with a lovely, rippling piano piece by Satie before the first composition proper arrives in the shape of Catacresi. This sets the tone for what is to follow; woodwinds and tuned percussion that recall the austere modernism of Univers Zero and Art Zoyd, washes of keyboards that recall Gentle Giant and Genesis and guitar that touches base with Zappa, Frith and Fripp, the whole sounding totally fresh and contemporary. Rather like some of Univers Zero's recent albums, the 14 musicians involved play in different permutations on different pieces, which makes for a highly varied sonic palette but which also means that it doesn't always feel like the work of a band in the traditional sense of the word. The standard of writing, arranging and playing is astonishingly high throughout, and credit must be given to Udi Koorman for his mixing skills. A particular highlight is Corale Metallurgico, a percussion driven piece featuring Dave Kermann of 5UUs fame, with the manic twists and turns of Zappa's 'serious' music and a truly fabulous percussion arrangement. Later on, Quando La Morte Mi Colse Nel Sonno opens and closes with a synthesiser line that PFM would have been proud to use on one of their early albums, although they would probably not have included the ghostly shakuhachi part which leads into the rather darker middle section of the piece, and the mellotron quartet Skellotron is a wonderful fragment that could be explored further on subsequent recordings.

RIO/Avant prog sometimes distances itself from 70s symphonic prog, although the two genres share some common roots and emerged from the same scene. Yugen draw successfully on both styles in a similar manner to Japanese bands like Koenjihyakkei and Bondage Fruit. This album isn't quite a 5 star masterpiece but it comes close - there will be high expectations for their next recording. Recommended to anybody with a taste for the adventurous, and especially to those who usually find avant prog heavy going. Splendid stuff.

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Send comments to Syzygy (BETA) | Report this review (#113512)
Posted Sunday, February 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
avestin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Much like the cover art of this album the music here is a mixture of various genres, making this possibly more accessible to those who are not usual fans of the RIO/Avant camp. Several tracks have them being what Univers Zero had sounded, had they taken a much lighter approach towards life/music. And in other tracks there is clear (to me at least) symphonic prog references (tracks 1 and 8 for instance) which is may be understandable when you consider Francesco Zago background and previous band (The Night Watch). This reminds me of Le Silo in the broad influences of past RIO/Avant sounds that they have and also some non-R/A influences (but not at all the Le Silo sound).

As with some other reviews I've made, I won't go into song-by-song interpretation, but tell about the overall feeling and impressions I get from this record with some specific examples to illustrate better to what I refer and give a slightly clearer point of reference as to what this album is like.

There are several layers of music going on at the same time. Your job as the listener is harder here and you need to distinguish between them and make out what is going on and what does each part play (that is you don't need to, but then most of the pleasure of listening is unfulfilled). You have to decipher the code while listening and repeated listening are required for this one to sink in properly and be "decoded".

To continue this, for one to hear those various layers so well as to be able to discern each instrument, means that the production must of high quality and standard. And here the praises must go to Udi Koomran, who has worked before for example with Ahvak and Present among others.

The sound is very rich as you would expect from such a vast lineup filled with rock and classic instruments playing together. The lineup is quite impressive. Among others are: Dave Kerman (track 4), Paolo Botta (various keyboards), Markus Stauss (saxes and bass), Tommaso Leddi (mandolin), Peter Schmid (various wind instruments) and there are the other classical instruments players (you can read in the bio I wrote who they all are).

The music heads in so many directions at once and with each passing second that it's easy to lose track of it. But should you keep close attention to it, the main theme and directionality of the composition become clear and admirable. There are moments that sound as if the musicians have been freed from a prison where they were not allowed to play and they now unleash their skills and express their joy of their new found freedom and set free all their wild musical notes that have been going on in their head. What's also fascinating to hear is the incorporation of several influences in a short period of time within one track. You can hear traces of Univers Zero, Thinking Plague, U Totem and then some non-RIO movements alongside or in a row, like in the second track, Catacresi.

Each odd-numbered track is a short track (around 1 minute long) sone of which are without any rhythm (no drums and percussions) in which the musicians seem to play freely, without form and structure a sort of chamber music gone insane. 2 others are interpretations/excerpts of compositions by Erik Satie (sévére réprimande & danse cuirassée). Others are experimentations and a blend of noises and instruments "yelling". Those provide linking between tracks or a pause or "rest" for the mind of the listener.

Track 4 starts out with full thrust, filled with energy and sounding like a happier Univers Zero on steroids. it calms down a bit into an eccentric chamber music part in which several instruments sound like animals trying to break loose from their cage..

Track 8 quando la morte mi colse nel sonno is perhaps the best example here of the merge of symphonic prog and avant-prog. It starts as if Yugen were an Italian symphonic prog band. And this develops nicely inside the realm of avant-prog and free- form style. Yet they come back to the style of the beginning towards the ending of the track. At several points throughout the track, you might be fooled to think you are listening to some new symphonic prog from Italy and not a RIO/Avant band, which I find great and refreshing.

Track 10 Le Rovine Circolari has a nervous and wacky vibe to it. There is a part at the beginning with great guitar riffs and the required demented sounding wind instruments. They then mingle into a unified "entity" and play smoothly together and fade out. This track will test your patience and probably be too much for non-RIO fans who stumbled on this. I love it! Here is a good example of the various layers of instruments playing one atop of the other.

Aside from the variation within each track there is also a distinct sound for each individual track. And all in all, this is pretty relentless music with some occasional places to "rest" from the mania. What more, is the nice combination of acoustic instruments with the electric ones (guitars and organ/electric piano/moog/mellotron). The music lets all players here express themselves appropriately. Each has its moments to "convey" their contribution to the composition.

I read some not so positive reviews about this record, and while I understand their criticism, I perceive this album differently from these other reviewers. I agree there can be flaws here and also that this is not for everyone, but all in all, I find this to be an impressive release with a great blend of styles and superb musicianship. It might be too much to absorb for some, but for those willing to go into the adventurous side of prog, then this is a good choice. For ZAR fans, this will be a great experience and I highly recommend it.

BUT, I urge all prog fans to get this one. I urge to not stick to one or two genres you like and remain safely there. I listen to all genres represented here in PA and have favourites from all (and not only prog obviuosly). Try something else, new, exciting for a change (doesn't necessarily have to be RIO/Avant, it can be anything new you haven't tried before). At first it might seem weird, incoherent, noisy and unlistenable (so I've been told about what I listen to), but as you go deeper and get into the spirit of things, you will have a more indepth insight, and will "see the light" and the hidden "meaning" in this music. There are better genre-initiation albums than this one for sure, but make sure you get this one after you've done so.

A fantastic release, which makes me hungry for more. With each listen you discover something new, you hadn't noticed before. Highly deserving of praises and should be a great addition to any progressive music collection.

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Send comments to avestin (BETA) | Report this review (#113523)
Posted Sunday, February 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This music is not for the faint of heart as YUGEN offers up some complex, challanging music that Avant fans will love. There are 14 musicians listed as taking part in this recording as bands like STORMY SIX, THINKING PLAGUE, PRESENT and others are represented. I found it interesting that the former guitarist for the now disbanded THE NIGHT WATCH is one of the main composers of this work.

"Severe Reprimande" is less than a minute long and fills the air with piano melodies. "Catacresi" changes tempos at the drop of the hat. An uptempo collage of sounds comes in before settling right down 2 minutes in. "Omelette Norvegese" is just over a minute of violin and horns. "Corale Mettallurgico" is complex and wild ! These guys shift gears more than Mario Andretti did in his prime. There is a spacey and haunting atmosphere 4 minutes in and the song ends with keys and mellotron. "Danse Chirassee (Periode Grecque)" made me say "What the heck ?!" "Brachilogia" is "What the heck ?!" to begin with. This is bombastic and controlled choas. I think they need a new transmission by now ! "La Mosca Stregata" is less than a minute of eerie and haunting sounds. "Quando La Morte Mi Colse Nel Sonno" is one of my favourites. Synths and drums lead the way to start with. 3 minutes in we get some flute before you would think you were listening to a horror movie soundtrack. The mellotron is incredible here ! Drums,synths and mellotron really lead the way on this the longest track on the record.

"Skellotron 003" seems like a tip of the hat to MORTE MACABRE as it is a mellotron storm. "Le Rovine Circolari" is the third fantastic song in a row ! This one is heavy and dark with percussion and mellotron before drums come in as the pace picks up.These guys have to be from another planet. The last minute of the song is pastoral. "Anastomosi" is a short song of various sounds. "Danze Corazzate" opens with outbreaks of drums and violin as piano arrives 2 minutes in. Mellotron and various sounds follow as well as heavy drums. "Labirinto D'Acqua" is another short tune with slow paced piano and violin melodies. The final song "Incubi Concentrici" opens with piano melodies as drums come in before a minute as the tempo picks up speed.The drums stop as the violin becomes more prominant with piano. Flute comes in 2 1/2 minutes in.

As both Avestin and Syzygy have mentioned this is for the adventerous listener who likes some variety. Thanks to Avestin for another great recommendation.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#130280)
Posted Thursday, July 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Is it really possible to make original, inspired and complex prog nowadays? Answer : YES. I've been searching for the answer during years. So many bands only copy the 70's or just don't go far enough in the domain of composition. So many bands pretends to be prog but just use the old vocabulary established by the giants from the seventies.

Yugen is a band that understood the most important things : i) the term prog means progressive in terms of advancement of the music ii) music cannot exist without emotions (technical skills must be used for real compositions) iii) the world has changed since the 70's. The Compositor is Francesco Zago (guitar) : his compostions should be described as chamber music mixed with prog rock grooves and superb keyboards an guitar arpeges a la steve reich. The palette of coulours developped by the instruments seems infinite. The complexity of the compositions is simply outstanding some pieces are oubviously rythmically composed but parts are harmonically improvies on serial music modes. The presence of Dave Kerman is a gage of quality. Fans of Bartok, Univers zero, Art Zoyd, Steve Reich and King Crimson will more than appreciate!

But classic prog listeners too, because touching moments with typical italian touches a la Picchio dal Pozzo, classical piano moments and mellotron leaded symphonic parts! This album is a masterpiece of Modern prog throwing bridges between old and new generations and making the prog music progressing! A MUST!

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Send comments to pwawrzyn (BETA) | Report this review (#200793)
Posted Tuesday, January 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
DamoXt7942
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP
Moderator / Psych Team
4 stars First I wanna say thanks to Logan for his recommendation of YUGEN.

YUGEN was born as an avantgarde-progressive rock project in Autumn of 2004 by 14 musicians. Francesco Zago and Marcello Marinone are said to be the key persons of the project. They're trying for the mixture of chamber music and rock. Absolutely I see their sounds are not scattered but well-figured. Labirinto d'Acqua is one of their works and all of 14 songs included are really avant- progressive gems.

From the beginning (sévére réprimande) lyrical, melodious, and powerful piano sound can rumble and let us have a superb expectation. On catacresi, immediately hard-to-theoretically-understand melody by keyboard, rhythm section, and synthesizer should jump out massively. Somehow the melody I can recieve easily...why? I suggest the reason is, basically most of all songs have a great balance of static and dynamic states. This album has a characteristic that there are long songs and short ones by turns. omelette norvegese's mixture of violin concerto and horn should invade into us, and push us to the next stage corale metallurgico. Electric and percussive, complex and speedy sound can hit us aggressively. And, surprisingly the sound can let us jump and run without our intention! Some intervals have quiet percussion echoes...very impressive. Eh? danse cuirassée (periode grecque) is a funny short piece with cembalo. We can get relaxed for a bit...but... Ouch! brachiologia can start with images of opera with tenor singers and then eclectic + eccentric section follows. Wonderfully such an avantgarde melody can make us quiet...shhhhh...and bring us into la mosca stregata smoothly. The longest piece in this album quando la morte mi colse nel sonno includes vibraphone's melancholic and streaming waves, with SHAKUHACHI sound...whoa, Oriental flavour! On quiet place are such a flavour and crazyness mixed together. I think this song should be the highlight of this work. And go! into skellotron 003, the solemn short piece with shout of synth. Following after that, le rovine circolari has darker sound with guitar, xylophone and so on...we should be pushed and hit away by glittering violin and cello sound. Earthquake of sound, electric noise is anastomosi. Rampantly violin play can rapidly-run and crush on danze corazzate. Run & stop, like actin' out a pantomime...with strict rhythm section together. The album-titled track, labirinto d'acqua is another keypoint with piano sound. Slowly and sadly the short song can pass us by. Strong incubi concentrici can blow us with keyboard, xylophone and synth's refrained sound. The last YUGEN world should be finished by sound explosion in our brain!

Regretfully I can't evaluate this project as a complete story, but I can see various faces in it. Very glad and happy to meet the chandelier!

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Send comments to DamoXt7942 (BETA) | Report this review (#200997)
Posted Thursday, January 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Neo Prog Team
3 stars From Milano, Italy, Yugen was an idea of former The Night Watch'es guitarist Francesco Zago and drummer Diego Donadio.After a first demo in 2005 Donadio would leave his place to Mattia Signo and a huge-line up was constructed for the band's official debut: Paolo ''Ske'' Bota, who had played also with French TV, on various keyboards, Markus Stauss on sax and Stephan Brunner on bass, both from Avant-Fusion act Spaltklang, Giuseppe Olivini on cemballo, percussion and theremin, Elia Mariani on violin, Tommaso Leddi, who had been a huge force in the 70's with Avant-Folk act Stormy Six, on mandolin and flute, Avant-Rock veteran Dave Kerman on drums, member of 5uu's, Ahvak and U Totem, Peter Schmid on bass clarinet/bass flute, Massimo Mazza on marimba, glockenspiel and vibraphone, Maurizio Fasoli on piano, bandmate of Zago in Nichelodeon, and Marco Sorge on clarinet.All arrangements of the debut ''Labirinto d'acqua'' were credited to Zago, an album recorded between June 2005 and January 2006, released in 2006 on AltRock Productions.

''Labirinto d'acqua'' is a fresh, extremely rich and deeply fascinating effort of combining R.I.O., Jazz and Classic Prog into an attractive amalgam, characterized by an exclusive, instrumental sound full of quirky moves, abstract orientations and tricky interplays.It's a bit like HOWEVER or FRENCH TV with emphasis on complex twists and turns, powerful breaks and inventive interactions between the musicians, trying to link the ground between chamber orchestrations, Fusion craziness, symphonic keyboards and loose Jazz.It is one of these albums that reveals such a musical depth so numerous listenings are required to pinpoint even its last detail.The music is often bombastic, schizophenic and powerful with tons of changing tempos, interrupted occasionally by cinematic soundscapes and orchestral textures.Lots of Classic and Italian Prog references are evident throughout the album, a bit of MAXOPHONE and GENTLE GIANT vibes can be traced in many pieces.The majority though follows a Progressive/Fusion style with retro R.I.O. stylings, updated to the modern era due to the heavy use of synthesizers and the measured appearances of harder, electric guitars and adapting Mellotrons and organs from the vintage times in a highly complex mood.The dense and crazy instrumental parts remind me also of Americans BIRDS AND BUILDINGS, challenging, intricate and furious stuff with complelling musicianship, while the sporadic clarinet and violin scratches unleash a nice, folky taste in separate occasions.

Great debut by an experience leader such as Francesco Zago, who developed himself over the years to a composer of extremely adventurous music.Strongly recommended to all fans of R.I.O., Avant Prog or ultra-complex Progressive Rock...3.5 stars.

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Send comments to apps79 (BETA) | Report this review (#1178464)
Posted Friday, May 23, 2014 | Review Permalink

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