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Runaway Totem - Esameron CD (album) cover


Runaway Totem


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4 stars Only listening to the first and most recent albums in a bands discography is arguabally the worst way to listen to a band, however that is what I did with runaway totem. Between Trimegisto and Esameron the band has matured immensally. while Trimegisto sounded avant harsh and fast Esameron on the other hand is spacey symphonic and slow (with bursts of speed). The one element that has stayed consistant between the albums is the drumming sound wich tends to be reminisant of KC and at times the RIO movement.

According to the bands website Esameron is the first in a series of consept albums based around numbers and mathimatical consepts that are spiritual, or some such nonsense. Needless to say I dont understand the concept. (not knowing Itallian dosent help im sure) Consept or not this is a fantastic peice of music, consisting of four songs the shortest at over 8 minutes.

I am not going to describe the songs individually as that would be futile, so instead I will describe the albums feel. The first thing you notice is the spacy textures and atmospheres at times almost feeling like Space Rock or even Kraut. Not as much chanting or operatics as other Zuhl but it is here none the less. However the album has a electronic feel and not always in a good way, sometimes sounding cheezy or overbearing. The composition and insturmentality however is outstanding and allows for the individual sounds to be ignored, after all this isn't postrock the timbres dont have to be great as long as the music is. As for feeling the music is creepy and forboding, feeling more than a little like some kind of ritual, and a druggie/spacy ritual at that.

Overall a good album, well worth checking out. Not a Masterpiece however, and definatally a Excellent addition ---four stars

Report this review (#130474)
Posted Friday, July 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Runaway Totem, an extremely obscure Zheul-ish band (popular here mainly because three of their albums are available for free download on their website) have released one of their better album this year (2007) with Esameron. Production is a step up from other works they've done, though the irritating, dissonant, silly keyboard voices are sometimes still there, and the sloppiness is still a bit of an issue, the melodies/riffs/all that stuff are in great excess, and never been more pleasing. Aggressive riffs are not endangered, either, and the jazzy nuances they've picked up haven't vanished at all. Even the spacey/near-ambient sections have been improved with stellar effects.

Supposedly this is a concept album, and possibly the beginning of a string of concept albums, all based around some mathematical...thing...Well, concept aside, the lyrics are not in Christian Vander's language, but in Italian instead. The vocals sound a little filtered, and are not overly pleasing. Musically, the compositions are extremely progressive, with some really complex sections, the energy is always powerful and driving. Some brief darker, softer sections balance everything nicely, too.

After 2002's release, Tep Zeri, Totem was reduced to 2 members, but often pulled in Susanna Villanova as a guest musician, doing some female operatic vocals for the studio work. Here, there are no guests, and everything you hear was written and played by Cahal De Betel and Tipheret. They still trudged along, though, and have actually done one of their best with this one, and even managed an 'epic' feel that has always seemed to be the aim of their music. Kudos to them.

Report this review (#132267)
Posted Wednesday, August 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Just getting acquainted with this Italian exponent of contemporary Zeuhl prog rock? and loving it!!! Runaway Totem is a band that wears its main influences on its sleeves, yet it doesn't restrict itself to the role of talented clone and takes the assumed standard forward into refurbished sonorities and renewing moods full of stamina and intensity. This album entitled "Esameron" has the peculiarity of being conceived and recorded in a time when the band got reduced to a duo format of Roberto Gottardi and Germano Morghen (or Cahal De Betel and Tipheret, if you will), so it becomes even more impressive that these two performers had to expand themselves beyond their respective guitarist and drummer/percussionist's roles and deliver the keyboard and bass parts - plus some sequenced rhythm patterns occasionally - with grace and skill. This is an amplified merit, indeed. "Esameron" is as a powerful album as Runaway Totem albums ever get, and in fact, the shocking nature of the composition is not as overwhelming as in previous albums: even if it is a peculiar item in RT's history, I recommend it as the starting point for the curious Zeuhl-friendly uninitiated. This album is full of twisted musical elaborations where the kaleidoscopic elaborations and the stylish arrangements create the perfect framework for this catalogue of especially frantic compositions. "Esameron" comprises four pieces, with the first and last ones surpassing the 20 minute mark. 'De Cause Prime' starts very cosmic, in this way anticipating the first main motif's orchestral scheme: a punchy, pulsating dynamics is disseminated through every sonic pore of the musical structure in a sort of hybrid of "Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh"-Magma and "Heresie"-Univers Zero. Some highly impressive guitar leads intrude into the overall framework so the dramatic atmosphere can be madly enhanced. Around the 10 minute mark, a symphonic bolero section settles in and instills an unexpected warmth into the sonic landscape, but it won't be too long before a chaotic section twists the overall thing up and down and draws a nightmarish storm onto the landscape. Later on, a calmer section brings images of soft grey clouds in an autumn afternoon, a chamber moment around which the RT guys first build a jazzy wrapping and secondly create a powerful crescendo. The last section is a solid exercise on avant-prog over a blues- like tempo, going all the way toward a pompous climax. This is an extraordinary opener: I just feel so lucky that this way the first RT track I ever heard. Track no. 2 is the 8+ minute long 'Ombra Alata'. It starts with tympani beats and ceremonious keyboard textures, almost like the background to some pagan chanting (I am reminded of Shub-Niggurath at this point). Some piano-driven passages state some slight jazz-fusion allusions, but mostly they are momentary ornaments among the hyper- neurotic frenzy that makes the most of this piece. 'Lux (L'Albero del Sole)' starts on a quieter note, but you can notice that something sinister is lying behind the veil of mystery that surrounds this not-so- deceitful tranquility. In fact, I find this mood even more terrifying than many passages comprised in the preceding two tracks, something that Ken Russell would have gladly used in his most Gothic movies (especially that great movie involving heretic sexual fantasies, erotically demented nurses and lunatic power-hungry priests). Just when the instrumental development is assuming its central shape, the dynamics created by the triangle of drum kit, bass and piano is completed by tortured guitar solos that create a colorful exorcism and the digital choral arrangements. A few second before the 10 minute mark, the band shifts to a spacey venture that comprises aleatory effects and minimalistic layers. Finally, the main body is retaken for a spectacular coda. The album ends with the other ultra-epic piece, the 24- minute long '0 Infinito 1'. This monster track starts with a sublime, mysterious orchestration that seems to flow all the way up into the valleys of the Purgatory itself, it is that creepy indeed, but also exalted, as if providing the mind with a vision of what lies beyond the pale. At the 3 minute mark, a choral sequence emerges in full Goliard style, craftily completing the tense atmosphere that never ceases to grow in a controlled fashion. At 4'55", the tension is totally established and the guitar takes center stage with its cathartic solos to make it even clearer that the fog of torment has come down to fill the surroundings of the mind. After the 10 minute mark, some caustic piano cadences make the transition toward a calmer pace, in this way giving room to the elaboration of an eerie atmosphere. It is not so usual that RT gets this warm, but when it does, it works beautifully. The digital imitations of woodwinds, cellos and violas work very well: the resulting scheme sounds to me like a reconsideration of the Zeuhl pattern through the eyes of electronic krautrock (77-77 Tangerine Dream, more precisely). Right after the 16 minute mark, some atonal figures emerge in order to construct a new creepy landscape. It isn't overwhelmingly strident really, but definitely it bears a patent amount of sinister darkness, especially when a martial rhythm settles in among the pairing of two pianos, one rhythmic and the other free-form. The sung portion and bell tolls that end this epic complete the whole unearthly concept. Now I'll be level with the reader - this is a Zeuhl masterpiece!! You can still have some of those in the international progressive scene that keeps developing in the new millennium.
Report this review (#282638)
Posted Wednesday, May 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
Post/Math Rock Team
3 stars This band is a new discovery for me. The only modern Zeuhl I am familiar with is the Japanese variety. Runaway Totem is from Italy. These guys are just as good as any Zeuhl from France or Japan. I listened to this album 5-6 times on their website; this was my first introduction to this band. So far, I have to say I am pleased with what I hear. All of the band's albums, except the 2009 one, can be listened to in their entirety for free on their website. You can hear excerpts from the newest album but it's understandable that you cannot hear the whole thing; it is their latest album and they are trying to promote it. I am very thankful that I can listen to their previous albums. For your generosity you may be financially rewarded in the future.

There are only two members here. Since this is the first album I have heard, I don't know if other albums have more members or not. What these two do here is great however. Using PA terminology, the music here sounds like a mix of Zeuhl, RPI, Avant-Prog and Heavy Prog. The sounds of the choirs, violin and flute are done on samplers. They use "real" drums and piano here which is a bonus. The first time I listened to this the sound of the snare drum got on my nerves. On repeated listenings I got used to it. Overall, I enjoyed this album the more I listened to it.

Although the songs are very long they seem to fly by because of the strength of the music. Only "Lux" and "0 Infinito" have actual vocals, sung in Italian. They remind me of that fat guy from Banco. There is a part during "Infinito" where there is double-tracked vocals which sound good. You can hear a crowd laughing at one point. Part of this song reminds me of Univers Zero. There is a part with mainly choir and piano which I think goes on a bit too long. "Ombra Alata" has an interesting dissonant part. "Lux" has a nice guitar-synth solo.

In general I am very impressed. I am going to check out the rest of their discography starting with the first and working my way up. I am being very cautious with my rating. This is my first exposure to this band so I may like some of their other albums more than this. All I can say for sure is that this does not deserve any less than 3 stars!

Report this review (#307992)
Posted Tuesday, November 2, 2010 | Review Permalink

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