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Finnegans Wake


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4 stars The new and 6th album by Finnegans Wake will undoubtedly surprise many! If the previous albums were characterized by an increasing complexity in writing arrangements, the new one will be found at the opposite end: free and contemplating! I am anyway firmly convinced that there still is a continuity in Henry Krutzen's work and it will be found in Brazil, where he currently lives when not in Belgium. The connection with Brazil already started with the 4th album, where quite a few musicians from this country were part of the line-up. Flutist Alexandre Johnson was one of them, that is also present here and provides us with an extra link from "4th" to "The Bird And The Sky Above". If the title isn't enough a cue, then yes, the new album is populated by many birds! Jazzman Eric Dolphy was fascinated by birds and wanted to reproduce their singing through his playing. Kreutzen is obviously more concerned by their attitude and ways of moving, flying. If at times a percussion may emulate the sound of a pecker, the entire record is focusing on birds moves. Birds are free in their nature and so are the musicians in the studio, giving us an incredible free playing sustained by arhythmical moves, atonal phrasings, a fantastic display of dynamics, breath and space, reflective moments and other more agitated with piano clusters. All this seems anyway to be tightly and magically controlled, we're not talking systematical freaky blowing in a wild free jazz sense. Even Swiss saxophonist Markus Stauss seems to restrain himself in his interventions on bass sax (if you know him from his other projects like Spaltklang or Ulterior Lux, you will notice the difference!). No, it seems like we can hear, feel the depth of a forest (Brazilian tropical influence?), the air, the sky and .... the musicians are literally functioning like birds, individually or collectively! There is a lot of place for the peaceful flute playing of Johnson, the trumpet slides of Antônio de Pádua and various outbursts, springs, hops and flights by all the other players. As I said first, I'm pretty sure that some of the band's fans will be shocked by this and even maybe derouted! This album may be a side spring in Finnegans Wake's discography - I will not hesitate to give it 4 stars though - but it presents a fresh and outrageously ambitious challenge in the apparently very simple nature of bird's life. Open your ears and wings and you will be rewarded with a very unusual and strong experience. Enter the world of birds! Forget the tags like chamber prog, RIO or whatever stamp you expect to associate the band to: instead, hear them fly .... now, all around you ..... with you!
Report this review (#263197)
Posted Thursday, January 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Open your mind and let this music take you into their realm!

Is what I would suggest if you happen to listen to this album, because its sounds and colors lead you to another place, it speaks for itself.

Finnegans Wake are a Belgian band which started back in 1993, and so far they have released six albums, being the one I am reviewing their newest effort. During those years, they suffered a sensible lost when Jean-Louis Aucremanne left the band. However despite some changes they continued composing and releasing albums, they have really succeeded.

This album called "The Bird and the Sky Above" has been just released this 2010, though it was recorded in 2009 in Brazil, where Henry Krutzen (who can be named as the ban's leader) lives; and part of it recorded in Switzerland, because there is a new member of the band, new here but a veteran within the progressive realm, Markus Stauss, who adds his bass sax to this new Finnegans Wake album.

So the album is divided in 6 great compositions, all of them make one song (The Bird and the Sky Above) but each part has its own name. The album lasts 44 minutes, so relax, make yourself comfortable and enjoy the music.

Part 1: Still Dreaming A flute appears over there and it is continually sounding, but every now and then there are some other noises that help the song creating a very "nature" sound, I mean you little by little are attracted and swallowed by the music, which leads you to another world. In this first composition, you can also appreciate some piano, a sax, percussion and a trumpet, the instruments are having a chat, it all of a sudden turns into a heavier conversation, but then it slows down and finishes very tranquil.

Part 2: First Flight You may think you are still on part one when a drum appears and turns to the second part. The sound is practically the same but now you can imagine things, you can take the songs titles and create a vision of a bird which was first dreaming but now it is awake and about to fly, you can see that it is trying to fly but maybe there is something that it wants to do before spreading its wings, I don't know, every person can create its own story. The music is beautiful, the instruments used here are practically the same, but there are moments where you listen to them and every single note transmits you something.

Part 3: Walking on the Ground Then like a split second, the music stops and drums make the pass to the third part. This is the shortest song and it is basically led by percussions, there are some strange noises but drums are what really move this track. A very nice short piece.

Part 4: Stealing on the Picnic Table Since the very beginning of this part you will notice a different atmosphere, some sax and trumpet that will bring the RIO term to your mind immediately. Here you can remember your previous story of the bird and continue with your thoughts; the title of the part is the key because based on that, you can manage to reproduce that imaginative story that is being told in your mind. I love how the music can share several colors and textures, and also bring to your mind different feelings, it happens because of its constant changes, it sounds soft, calm and relaxing, but all of a sudden a dramatic mood change appears, the instruments are played faster and louder, but then again they calm down, however this piece ends with a dark atmosphere.

Part 5: Dark Clouds Fly bird, fly as fast as you can! It is what I imagine here due to the tremendous start of this song, it is like a thunder passing when you don't expect it. This fifth part is the longest one with more than 13 minutes of exquisite, weird and challenging music. This same song can also be divided in parts and I would say it would perfectly fit in a short film; the role of the bird and its actions has transformed the musicians, so they are part of the story and what they play is just a resemblance of what they are seeing. You can notice that when a nervous piano starts playing, or when the saxophone produce some thoughtful or reflective sounds, or even when a gentle flute is blowing in the wind, amazing. Then, around 10:40 the music stops and seconds later soft piano notes along with that gentle flute appears, seems that the storm (if it was one) finished and the bird is preparing to something new.

Part 6: Infinite Background The last part of the album and its story, again, let your imagination run and create your own world, and invent the life of that bird who wants to fly and live easy, exploring the world and even exploring itself. In this song there is a strong percussion base, which is also accompanied by piano notes that appear here and there, but also you can appreciate a saxophone sound in different phases, I mean it sounds a bit heavier or stronger, even darker, but then it is the other way around, soft, tranquil and colorful. The last seconds are like an ellipsis, the story may continue.

As you noticed, this album is magical and I feel lucky to have it and appreciate it, though I don't really think it could be considered a progressive rock masterpiece, what it created on me is something special that not any album shares, so my final rating is 4 stars (4.5). Listen to it, I really recommend it.

Enjoy it!

Report this review (#282008)
Posted Friday, May 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
2 stars Well, with the previous two albums, Krutzen & Co had managed their own specific sound and done quality albums, so everything looked good for the following album that was still recorded in Brazil, where the band had relocated. But alas, the group fell apart with only Henri remaining as original member, and TBatSA is released on yet another label (the fifth in six albums), this time the Brazilian Fazzul. But the real surprise is the complete change of musical scope. Gone is the attractive chamber prog of Blue and 4th, and in comes this free-form improvs - at least it sounds like it to these ears, although a musicologist would probably find some composed passages.

In either case, whether written or improvised, The Bird is very much a departure from the usual FW soundscapes. The album consist of of a single piece (the title track), divided in six parts depicting the landscapes of our flying friends. FW was often borderline dissonant in their previous album, but here they might be better described as rarely-sonant, if you get my drift. Indeed while the album starts out (with the Soft Dreaming first part) slow enough to describe an early dawn with Johnson's flute, Henri's piano is directly dissonant, but this is composed music, no doubt even if the trumpet and sax go wildly weird, bouncing around in your room. The second instalment called First Flight is collaboration between Henri and Onofre (who takes over the piano) and sounds even more dissonant. The silde trumpet (?) and the sax are singing out the birdsongs over un-rhythmic percussions. More of the same for the Onofre-penned Walking On The Ground and the following Stealing On The picnic Table, where the group is joined by Strauss' bass sax (I suppose a cross between the baritone sax and the bassoon). As you can imagine, Dark Clouds is much wilder and noiusy as our flying superhero defies and survives the demented forces of nature.

I'm not exactly sure why Krutzen made this album a FW one, instead of a solo album?.. because TBatSA doesn't remotely sound close to anything the group had released so far, despite always having a dissonant facet. Approach with much caution, and I'd even advise to avoid itif you're not that friendly with freer forms of music.

Report this review (#295238)
Posted Thursday, August 19, 2010 | Review Permalink

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