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Mindflower - Little Enchanted Void CD (album) cover



Rock Progressivo Italiano

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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Do you like Karda Estra?

"Mindflower's philosophy is based upon the intention of getting back to the basics, to the true essence of simple things. It's a difficult mission to uphold when the world keeps on trying to follow standards, to be quicker, to be more technological. Even music is part of this. Its substance is often lost in rich arrangements that overwhelm the senses and make one forget the experience of slow and deep listening." [Band statement excerpt]

I wanted to begin with part of the band's "mission statement" because it really does offer strong clues about the journey you will take with them. This is not a typical RPI band nor is it even close to the typical "prog-rock" bands that get so much buzz on the big prog sites. Mindflower is a rather unique Italian band blending some RPI influence with a delicate symphonic prog, classical music, minimalist approach, electronica, and perhaps a bit of neo-prog. They have released two previous albums in a mostly similar style, though I recall the second having a bit more rock guitar.

I know the Mindflower are big fans of Le Orme as I interviewed them some time ago. But in describing the Mindflower sound I do not start with traditional RPI groups. Rather, the most obvious reference point I can think of is Karda Estra: if you enjoy Karda Estra there is a good chance you will enjoy Mindflower. Think of "Little Enchanted Void" as a long piece of classical music on piano and strings, with an Anthony Phillips flavored concept piece occurring simultaneously. As indicated in the band philosophy it does evolve very slowly (for "the experience of slow and deep listening"). Many parts will be a quiet, spacious piano drifting along accented by the Matrix string quartet. The huge quantity of short tracks flow one to the next to create the experience of one long suite. Both the piano and strings are just exquisite and lovely. To this they add mostly male vocals with occasional female harmony and sometimes by a choir of "fairies." Drums and electronica come and go but for the most part there is not much rock here. In fact the drums, which are mixed quite loud, tend to drop out of quiet spaces for a very jarring effect sometimes.

But aside from these occasional heavy moments the point here is not to rock and roll you, but to allow the listener to immerse in a very subtle, mellow experience that is different from most "prog." The story is told quite softly about the Mindflower character and his/her continual search for enlightenment. "Walking near the line" is a highlight with the female choir delivering on the most beautiful melody, completely relaxing, celestial stuff. In other more avant inspired moments the "fairies" appear chattering in the background, their voices clearly audible and yet your brain has trouble locking in on them. It's really cool because it mimics the magical experience---you're getting messages from another dimension but they're not entirely decipherable to you. That's what really makes Little Enchanted Void so appealing to me: the whole album makes you feel as if you're in some dream state.

My personal criticism is the same one that applies to many Italian bands, not just Mindflower: the insistence on using English vocals. Why people fluent in the world's most beautiful language would choose to use English, which often comes across as quite tentative, clumsy, and with incorrect emphasis when used by Italian vocalists, is beyond me. I'm just being honest folks, it NEVER sounds as good as Italian, despite your best efforts. Sing in the language that you employ best, whatever language that may be. Let your English speaking audience adapt to you, not the other way around. Second, some will feel the album needs some tightening in length and editing of ideas, and I agree to some extent, but these assume Mindflower are shooting for a typical release. You can see from reading their statement above that they are not, and thus the approach here is wide open and patient (perhaps to the extreme for some listeners). You are best to approach the album with a completely open mind, or expecting the chamber-prog experience rather than the prog-rock one.

I truly enjoy Mindflower for the unique experience that they are and I also believe this is their finest album albeit their most challenging. I can put this album on and lose myself completely. People give me grief sometimes because of how much I enjoy Jacula and they just don't get it. Mindflower, while the polar opposite of Jacula in mood, is something I appreciate for the same reason. It's very beautiful and completely unlike anything else I listen to. That means something to me in this day of homogenous prog bands. 3 stars.

Report this review (#253896)
Posted Tuesday, December 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars From what I can understand this is the third effort by this Italian outfit, and it is a remarkable production they've made this time around.

Not because of innovative or new features as such though. It is a low key, subdued effort we're presented with here. Slightly dramatic at times and with enough energetic moments to keep matters interesting, but first and foremost a relaxed, harmonic affair. The pastoral or dreamy sequences far outnumber the dramatic ones.

Clocking in at almost 80 minutes, this composition is divided into 26 different passages that takes us from classical and at least partially neo-classic territories to symphonic progressive rock segments, switching back and forth between rich layers of strings and keyboards to subdued wandering acoustic guitar efforts - with quite a few numbers spiced with space-tinged textures. Think Genesis, Pink Floyd and Phideaux for references, but mostly from the mellower parts of their respective discographies.

And while the end result is pretty remarkeable this isn't a stunning effort. It is an intriguing experience though, and especially those with a fondness for the really long, epic tracks with a great deal of variety should find this album interesting, especially if they don't crave major dramatics in such a production.

Report this review (#259054)
Posted Sunday, January 3, 2010 | Review Permalink

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