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L' Herba d'Hamelí - Inversa Visual CD (album) cover


L' Herba d'Hamelí

Prog Folk

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4 stars A change of style and a massive surprise.

L Herba d Hamelí had some changes of members before the recording of this album and the end result was a change of direction. Only time will tell if this change of direction is permanent or not. Anyway; L Herba d Hamelí ditched the jazz/folk rock vibes and their affinity to Jethro Tull and harder rock. This old sound was replaced with a mix of homage to both the Italian Symphonic Rock bands (RPI) like PFM and Le Orme. In addition to the RPI influences, L Herba d Hamelí also drew in influences from Yes and Genesis. The Katalan folk music influences are still here though, but toned down a bit. Most of all, we get four wonderful songs here.

The opening track El Llarg Revolt is well over seventeen minutes long and include passages both similar to Genesis and PFM. This is a pastorial song with a lot of flutes, excellent vocals and some heavy guitars too. It is very RPI and is the best song of the album. The next song Noves Construccions is somewhere between Yes and Le Orme in feel and construction. The use of Moog here is excellent throughout and the Katalan folk music feel is very evident through some flamenco like guitars. Both electrified and acoustic. An excellent song ! The third song Felacions del Mediterrani also have some Genesis and Katalan folk music vibes and is an excellent song too. The album is wrapped up with the eight minutes long Picant Pedra which combines Yes, Le Orme, PFM, Genesis and their Katalan roots in one lingering piece of music.

The quality is excellent throughout. No wonder this album beat of a lot of competition when it was shortlisted to the best foreigner album in the biggest Italian prog rock awards last year. This album is by far the best Spanish prog rock album I have ever heard in my life. I am still missing the real killer track which could had set both the band and this album firmly on the map. But I am not complaining too much. This is an excellent album, bordering to being a masterpiece.

4.5 stars

Report this review (#270627)
Posted Tuesday, March 9, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Formed in 2001, L'Herba D'Hameli (Hamelin Herb) is part of the Catalan contemporary prog landscape that includes Gurth, Urban Trapeze and RC2. If Gurth was influenced by King Crimson, Urban Trapeze by ELP, and RC2 crossed the pond from Venezuela, well, this Hamelin Grass seems to be the Catalan version of Camel. In fact, in the liner notes of Inversa Visual (Reverse Visual), the band even gives thanks to, I think, Jordi of Urban Trapeze, for guidance and support. This is the fourth release of the band. The previous three were: La dansa de les rates (The Dance of the Rats, based on the popular story The Pied Piper of Hamelin) 2001, Cançons de casa sons de carrer (House Songs and Street Sounds) 2004, L'aplec dels bojos (The Pilgrimage of the Crazy) 2006.

At slightly over 40 minutes, it would have been a reasonably long album back in the '70s; at least longer than a Gentle Giant album. But nowadays it's just more than half of a full-length CD. Each of the previous three releases had between eight and eleven tracks. This one has only four. If you miss one of the bands that kept the prog flame alive in the '90s, Finisterre, you may find some of their style in this album. And it's a real pleasure to hear the lyrics in a language that swings between Spanish and Italian.

"El Llarg Revolt" ("Along the Curve") is a 17+ minute long exploration of a cycle that could be a phase or even an entire life. An opening flute (Guida Maymó) and piano (Carles Pinós) slow duet is joined by bass (Dani Fabré), electric guitar (Valentí Pinós), drums (Guillem Roma), and vocals (Ricard Rius). Two and a half minutes later, the tempo becomes slightly faster, an instrumental pattern emerges and a vocalisation is added a la The Snow Goose. Two minutes later, the flute laments along the mellotron and the vocalisation, only to make room for the Camel's typical gallop. By the start of the second third of the track, the opening funky theme is reprised. It changes into another Camelism about halfway through the track. The lament resumes in the last third of the track. It gives way to a miniature acoustic guitar solo by Ricard Rius. Guida Maymó was part of the band in 2007 and rejoined recently, which was good to enrich their musical expression but the sometimes shy flute parts and the backing vocals of Dani Fabré and Carles Pinós do not always feel, do not always follow or counterpoint the fluidity of Valentí Pinós's electric guitar's discourse.

The 6.5 minute long instrumental with vocals, "Noves Construccions" ("New Buildings"), contrasts a bit with its very title and intentions of reinvention. Fast but repetitive with the exception of a drums'n'bass solo, it reminds me of Finisterre, Camel and Solaris.

"Fel-lacions del Mediterrani" (pun on "Mediterranean Facilities/Plants/Fellatio"?) was inspired by a song of another Catalan group, Iceberg, "Les alegries del Mediterrani" ("The Joys of the Mediterranean"), from the album "Sentiments" 1977. This 8-minute long instrumental mixes jazzy feelings with Iberian harmonies, Camelisms, and a theme that reminds of Corte dei miracoli. Halfway through the song, Guillem Roma delights the listener with a cascade of drum rolls that turns the song into almost a pavane.

The only other song with vocals on the album, "Picant Pedra" ("Hot Stone") is an 8.5+ minute long philosophical reflection on human existence. A mellotron curtain and a rhythm section flirting with a bolero prepare the entrance of the lyrics, at which point you think you hear early Premiata Forneria Marconi. A bass riff leads into tension building but the song ends in the same pop style.

The graphic artwork of Josep Ventura, reminding me of famous Catalan artist Salvador Dali, should help sell this album. I don't know if it marks a step back in the group's career or if the music has always been like this on the group's past releases. I'm now more curious about those and especially about the very first one.

Report this review (#382592)
Posted Tuesday, January 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars I really have enjoyed this one over the last week or so. This Spanish band is listed under Folk but this particular album has very little to do with that. The music is just so enjoyable and the flute is a nice touch too. I thought of RPI especially during the last track and also the Brazilian band VIOLETA DI OUTONO on the opener which is my favourite song on here.

And speaking of that opener "El Llarg Revolt" it's also the epic clocking in at over 17 minutes. The opening is so beautiful and then it picks up and gets fuller followed by vocals. So good ! It kicks in before 3 minutes to an uptempo instrumental. Then it settles back to that beautiful sound before 5 minutes. Nice bass 6 1/2 minutes in. It settles again to a vocal led piece before picking up 7 1/2 minutes in. Themes are repeated and it sounds like mellotron before 10 1/2 minutes. Check out the guitar 11 1/2 minutes in then the flute comes in a minute later reminding me of some of my favourite Swedish bands. Vocals are back. Acoustic guitar only before 15 minutes then it kicks back in with vocals. Great, great sounding tune.

"Noves Construccions" hits the ground running as we get this uptempo instrumental. The guitar and synths trade solos then the bass and drums lead around 3 1/2 minutes. The guitar leads 5 minutes in then the flute takes over. "Felacions Del Mediterrani" is really catchy then the guitar comes to the fore 3 minutes in followed by synths. It settles some with percussion but not for long. "Picant Pedra" along with the opening track are by far my favourites of the four songs. Marching styled drums and a powerful soundscape early on before it settles a minute in. Vocals follow. Man this sounds good. Flute joins in then we get this excellent instrumental section after 4 minutes. Nice. Vocals are back 5 1/2 minutes in then we get this strong RPI flavour 7 1/2 minutes in.

I can't recommend this high enough. Everything is just so well done. A solid 4 stars.

Report this review (#771133)
Posted Thursday, June 14, 2012 | Review Permalink

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