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erik neuteboom
4 stars After their album QuentadharkŽn from 2004, here is the new CD by Spanish progressive folk formation Amarok (which means wolf in Eskimo language). The musical brainchild is Robert Santamaria who played in Venezuolan symphonic prog band Tapobran but later moved to Spain. He is the main composer, writer and he plays an impressive range of instruments, from keyboards, accordion and Turkish saz to Iranian santur, dulcimer, xylophone and glockenspiel, this is the second coming of Mike Oldfield on Tubular Bells!

On the new album entitled Sol De Medianoche he is assisted by five other band members and a serie of guest musicians on instruments like electric - and Spanish guitar, violin, trumpet, Tibetan chant and cymbals. The sound of Amarok is firmly rooted in folk/ethnic music but it scouts the border with jazz, fusion and symphonic prog. The climates are often Eastern sounding, due to the great vocals by Marta Seguar (powerful and expressive), she carries you away to Arabia, Turkey and Iran! The huge array of (often ethnic) instruments gives the music an extra, very captivasting dimension like the assorted woodwind, brass and percussion instruments. Some examples: a sultry atmosphere with varied woodwind - and flute isntruments, a piece with sparkling piano and jazzy guitar (by the known jazz guitar player Andres Oleagui) and a final part with organ and saxophone in Hermits, lots of dynamics (from swinging Hammond organ and soaring violin-Mellotron to dreamy piano and powerful trumpet) in Wendigo, swinging violin, electric guitar and fluent synthesizer runs in Eight Touts and a cascade of shifting moods in the intricate Xiongmao II (longing vocals with sensitive guitar, an accellaration with organ and brass and Spanish guitar with lush Mellotron and Hammond). I was also delighted about the very special rendition of Keith Emerson his composition Abaddon's Bolero featuring assorted percussion, accordion, didgeridoo and a final part with organ and trumpet. I am curious what the master himself thinks about it!

If you like adventurous progressive folk that blends with jazz, fusion and symphonic prog, this CD is captivating and exciting musical adventure!

Report this review (#120108)
Posted Sunday, April 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars The last album to date from this Spanish fully embraces the prog folk roots. The music here (as in previous records) is rather complex and is far from this syrupy ballads that most of the bands referenced in this category are often playing.

What I don't like are the global vocalizing effects of Marta Segura (with some exceptions), and this throughout the album. It is quite difficult to bear for such a long work. They are most of the time quite embarrassing and resemble more to lamentations rather than enjoyable and melodic parts.

Musical influences are many. Medieval and traditional the first long piece of this album: "Hermits" is quite conventional for the genre and leans here and there on Tull.

Obviously, the Oriental ones (remember that Spain was conquered for several centuries) like during the long and languishing "Ishak The Fisherman" are pretty remarkable. Flute, mellotron, violin and surprising vocals make it a quite successful track.

Another highlight from "Sol De Medianoche" (midnight sun) is "Wendigo". It is a strange mix of flamenco, jazz and symphonic prog. It is quite well achieved actually. Great work on the organ as well.

The title track is another long and complex piece of music. Maybe too complex? It mixes jazz, and Eastern influences again. There are some fine piano parts as well, which conveys some tranquil feeling in the midst of this "heavy" track. Needless to say that the (too) few mellotron lines are beautiful and quite pleasant to my ears.

In all, this is a good album; in my views somewhat behind their excellent "Quentadharken" which remains my preferred "Amarok" album. Three stars.

Report this review (#307269)
Posted Friday, October 29, 2010 | Review Permalink

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