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Yugen - Iridule CD (album) cover

IRIDULE

Yugen

RIO/Avant-Prog


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Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars So... this is it! Yugen has accomplished the definitive expression of the particular voice that Francisco Zago & co. had been developing since their debut album's release. Yugen's "Iridule" is a must (at least, from where I stand) in any Top 5 prog list of 2010, and not only that, it is a solid reaffirmation of the sort of artistic greatness that Italy has been contributing to the current arenas of RIO and assorted avant-prog trends for the last years. This album bears a meticulously developed epic overtone that enables the band's RIO framework reach levels of magnificence that one can justly expect from a proper progressive masterpiece. This ambition is not only manifested in the compositional endeavors and arrangements present in the tracklist itself, but also in the Parnassus of masters that collaborate in this specific album: various members of Thinking Plague, a historical bass player from Univers Zero who also collaborated in a host of other RIO projects, ex-Stormy Six Tommaso Leddi, Mr. Kerman from 5UU's, an avant-jazz monster like Peter Schmid,... and also the Areknamés leader, who is in charge of some harpsichord interventions here and there. This album is a sonic manifestation of perpetual splendor in the art of noise: the combination of challenging compositions, rich atmospheres, energy and bizarre exquisiteness makes this album an instant classic of RIO and Yugen an equal to its masters (Univers Zero, Present, Henry Cow, Eskaton) and older brothers (Runaway Totem). There are many cases in which a short piece serves as a peculiar prelude to a longer one, starting with the opener 'On the brink', whose minimalistic abstract basis paves a way of growing tension for the powerfully rich 'The scuttle of the past out of the cupboards', which can be described as a playful demonstration of mysterious moods, Dadaistic ambiences and creepy passages, all of them united within a weird yet intelligent musicality. The namesake track is a dreamy song that features soaring woodwinds and synth layers, pastoral acoustic guitar and soft singing by Elaine Di Falco. 'Overmurmur' abruptly settles in and makes things abundantly explosive via a dynamic combination of Crimsonian neurosis and Zappa-esque constant twists fused with your typically Univers Zero-inspired dark chamber-rock. The inclusion of a couple of minimalistic interludes helps the main body to breathe among its inherent tension. 'Scribbled' is a brief interlude on piano-classical guitar-voice that provides a rest before the colorful festival of ordained weirdness that is 'Becchime'. This track lifts off from track 2's demented adventure and recycles it through a more complex architecture. A highlight!! 'Ice' brings peace and calmness once again in a pure manner: you can almost touch the tranquility, but it won't last long: the ruthless logic of mischief, madness and tension returns with infinite vengeance in 'Ganascia', a worthy younger sister of 'Becchime' that actually happens to be less dense than the aforementioned piece. For the couple of 'Thaw' and 'Serial(ist) Killer', the Yugen guys seem to be paying simultaneous tributes to Henry Cow and Thinking Plague; 'Serial(ist) Killer' delivers oppressive dissonances without getting overtly sordid: it is cruel art that is totally obedient to the demands of finesse that art implies in itself. Quite surprisingly, the track that closes down the album is one marked with evocative moods over an extended elaboration of specific motifs: 'Cloudscape' sounds somewhat related to Syrinx due to its combination of ceremonious ambiences and eerie instrumental amalgamations, and also due to the dominant role of the acoustic guitar for the melodic development. On paper, it may sound like an anti-climatic ending, but once you get to know this piece properly after a number of listens, you can suspect that this closer functions as an invocation to emotional repose and spiritual quietness after the revelations of bizarre colors that had dominated the preceding repertoire. Everything is well done and located in the right place for "Iridule": Yugen is a point of reference for excellence and adventure in today's prog world.

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Send comments to Cesar Inca (BETA) | Report this review (#322546)
Posted Tuesday, November 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
avestin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars In Iridule, Yugen continue their musical journey began in Labirinto d'Acqua in 2006. While they retain their sound from their first album, here Yugen are incorporating additional styles, including the addition of (female) vocals, courtesy of Elaine Di Falco (Thinking Plauge, Caveman Shoestore). Yugen offer several shorter, vocals-lead songs, which are focused on creating eerie and odd textures and atmospheres, rather than presenting a tune.

There's a pack of guest musicians on here, including the lineup of Thinking Plague: Dave Kerman (also of 5UU's, U Totem, Present and others), Mike Johnson and Dave Wiley (also of Hamster Theater) and the aforementioned Elaine Di Falco.

If I had to pick a track from here to represent this album's sound the bet, I'd probably pick out the second piece, The Scuttle Of The Past Out Of The Cupboards. It starts out in their usual highly energetic commotion fashion with notes flying all over the place, seemingly out of touch with each other (but really not), breathing with what may seem like a sense of freedom and perhaps even anarchy, but in fact very controlled and calculated. They later on then slow down and descend into a slower and quieter segment, an ambient section conjuring bizarre sounding vibes, eventually going back to the original musical palate that started the piece.

The Yugen musical brand of "organized chaotic chamber rock" is still at play here, with the same livelihood, charm, challenging counterpoints and angularities. The compositions are intense, sounding as if coming from a disturbed mind, which I can relate to easily in my case. While the notes seem to head everywhere and spread all over the place, I take pleasure in listening to them and "piecing them all together" and figure out the theme and order of each piece. I find myself thrilled and in awe of the skill and proficiency of the playing as well as of the compositional construction and layering of the instruments. Also of note is the clarity of the recording and how well each instrument is heard in these high-density notes traffic. However, Yugen also plays a more refined, minimalistic and calmer music in several tracks, yet those are chilling and peculiar. Those pieces are the ones mentioned above with Elaine Di Falco's singing and they provide a short respite from the high intensity levels. Cloudscape, which closes the album, is somewhat different with its subtler approach, diminished intensity and higher accessibility.

A dense album, Iridule is not easily digested (much like their two previous albums), but provides a rewarding listen once fully absorbed. Aside from loving their brand of controlled madness and organized chaos, I am highly impressed with the punctuality and proficiency of the playing, the clarity of the recording and the intricacy of the compositions.

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Send comments to avestin (BETA) | Report this review (#343805)
Posted Sunday, December 05, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars What an album! What a ride! TOBY DRIVER and UNIVERS ZERO pay attention: YUGEN is stepping ahead in the leadership of Avant/RIO/Experimental/Math/Post/Eclectic/Chamber Rock! Having very much liked both and Labrinto d'Acqua and Yugen Plays Leddi I could hardly contain my excitement to see the unexpected arrival of Iridule--and then Cesar's review sealed it: I had to find it. And boy! was it worth it! The clarity and virtuosity of these performances--including that of female vocalist Elaine Di Falco (check out "Ice" and "Iridule" to get a hint of her talent)--is breathtaking. For those of your hard of heart, I recommend starting with the last song, "Cloudscape" (10/10) to get your ears ready for the music that preceeds it. Then go back to the beginning and journey from there.

"On the Brink" (10/10 despite its brevity) is an amazing intro followed by the most accessible of the five wild pieces of 'controlled chaos,' "The Scuttle of the Past Out of the Cupboards." (10/10) A brilliant, bright, cheery, dynamic, clear, and, I can only imagine, very challenging piece of chamber rock. What a ride. What emotional impact! AFTER CRYING eat your heart out!

As mentioned, "Iridule" (10/10) is amazing--one of the most gorgeous songs I've heard all year.

"Overmurmur" (9/10) has a very KING CRIMSON-esque style, sound and structure to it--you almost think ole Dusty Roads himself (Prince Robert of Fripp) were sitting in on this one! A great UNIVERS ZERO meets KARDA ESTRA interlude graces the midsection before the freneticism of the wild rumpus continues. Truly a roller coaster ride to remember!

"Scribbled" (8/10) is the second of four 'vocal interludes' and another gem giving the listener some floating rest (and false hope of order and control) before all hell breaks loose in "Becchime" (6/10). While I truly appreciate the compositional and performance achievements of this song (and this type of music) I fail to find it enjoyable--it goes a bit over the edge; I miss melody. Like the music of FROM.UZ, there are many moments of interest and even beauty but, alas! they are all too brief and fleeting. this rollercoaster is too much for me.

The stunning "Ice" (10/10) is followed by "Ganascia" (7/10) which is a kind of 'son of Becchime' in that the similar feel and style is somehow a little more pretty and enjoyable--sometimes feeling like SCOTT JOPLIN era jazz with a lot of concert hall orchestra warm-up thrown in. Love the harpsichord!

"Thaw" (6/10) is the weakest vocal piece being a bit too contrapuntal/theoretical for me--more like some the more difficult ANNETTE PEACOCK pieces to listen to.

"Seri(alist) Killer" (7/10) only continues the lesson in music theory (and perhaps should be left for music majors and theorists), but it does turn better--signaled by the return of the harpsichord--turning into a very nice piece of 'modern Baroque' chamber music (ŕ la AFTER CRYING and LEO JANACEK).

Phew! It all comes to an end with the beautiful, uplifting, wound-healing "Cloudscape" (10/10).

An amazing album but WARNING: Be prepared for the mental, emotional, psychological, and aural ride of the year. Despite its challenges, this is truly a masterpiece of modern progressive rock music--a definitive step forward, into the future.

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Send comments to BrufordFreak (BETA) | Report this review (#353472)
Posted Wednesday, December 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
TheGazzardian
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars As of this writing, it's the end of the year, and for me that means, in addition to all the holiday shopping and festivities that go on, finally catching up on the music released throughout the year that I had been neglecting. Near the top of my list were the new records released by AltRock Productions, who I fell in love with earlier in the year after discovering both Simon Steensland and miRthkon, both of which I deemed 5 star albums and both of which were released by AltRock.

Yugen was my first experience from this years batch, and I must confess that this is quite an album - definitely a very strong contender, if not a shoe in, for album of the year!

Much like Symphonic prog, Prog metal, and any other sub-genre, the elements that make avant rock appealing can easily become it's greatest downfalls. Where symphonic will suffer from long, meandering keyboard solos, avant can suffer if the madness gets too far out of control. At moments, it almost sounds like Yugen is about to do just that - but just as they are about to reach the brink, they reign themselves back in and switch gears into another direction. At times, the music will seem to grow more and more chaotic, until the bottom end kicks in and suddenly it is all tied together. Really, in terms of taking many of the things I love about the avant sound as far as they can, Yugen have succeeded - in spades.

Complex rhythms, amazing contrast, frantic melodies, dissonance - all combine in some crazy melting pot that is both chaotic and gorgeous at the same time.

By the end of the The Scuttle of the Past out of the Cupboards, the second track and first "full length" piece on the album, you might expect to know exactly what is coming for the album, for all these elements have already been played. But Yugen had another surprise up their sleeves, and "Iridule" starts with the lovely singing of Elaine di Falco, over much more serene and peaceful soundscapes, proving that on top of the chaos they have mastered so completely, this band also completely understands the value of restraint. She will return several times throughout the album, her lovely voice adding a keen, simple beauty to the music, or on one surprising track, take it in a completely different direction.

Compositionally, each song is a maze of different sounds and approaches, yet they hold together wonderfully, creating a complete album full of complete songs.

Reviewers note: I am giving this album 4 stars for the time being, but it may rise even higher after further listens. It is a borderline 5 star album for me right now, but I only give 5 star ratings when absolutely certain.

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Send comments to TheGazzardian (BETA) | Report this review (#359081)
Posted Tuesday, December 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
FruMp
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Particularly overrated modern prog album.

I decided to get this album and give it a shot to see what the fuss is about and why it came out of nowhere to get such high reviews. Having listened to it I cannot understand why people find this music appealing. RIO/avant prog generally has an aversion to interesting melody and structure which is part of what defines it, so I'm not the greatest fan at the best of times. Here what we have are a bunch of guys that clearly worship bands like Univers Zero who in my opinion aren't that great and then they add a bunch of modern trappings to drag it even further down. Things like the ill-conceived metal guitars that are completely unwarranted and out of place and the unspeakably distasteful vocals which are auto-tuned to hell and back (although thankfully fairly sporadic) make for some truly cringe worthy moments.

Best avoid this album unless you're a die-hard avant prog fan, even then there will probably be a lot of things to turn you off.

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Send comments to FruMp (BETA) | Report this review (#377472)
Posted Monday, January 10, 2011 | Review Permalink
SaltyJon
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars With this album, Yugen managed to storm my senses and take me completely by surprise. Before hearing a track from it, I was only marginally familiar with the band. I had listened to portions of the streaming track here at PA from their debut, but wasn't ever overly impressed enough to check out the album. I realize now what a mistake I made not checking them out then, if that album is anywhere near as good as this one is.

Iridule is...complex, dissonant, intense, otherworldly, dark, occasionally beautiful...no matter what the particular mood of a piece happens to be though, it's easily one of the best albums I've heard in a long time. I wouldn't hesitate to place it up with my favorite albums by Magma, Cardiacs, Ruins, Can, etc. The group doesn't sound very similar to any of those groups though - the closest bands sound-wise would be Henry Cow and Univers Zero, as far as I can tell. According to the PA interview composed by Torodd with Francesco Zago and Marcello Marinone, "In Iridule, Ligeti, Nancarrow and Xenakis are the most important references." This interview can be found on the forums if you're interested in reading the whole thing. I'm not very familiar with Nancarrow and only marginally familiar with Xenakis, but I can hear definite shades of Ligeti in some of the pieces. The group integrates the sounds and styles of these composers seamlessly into their own brand of music, though. As far as instrumentation goes, a quick glance at the lineup above will let you know that they threw everything in except the kitchen sink. Sometimes such a large lineup of instruments can play against a group, but on this album it works perfectly. The wide range of sounds creates such interesting musical textures. Several guest musicians play on the album, and the most well known of them are probably Dave Kerman (5UU's, U Totem, Thinking Plague, sometime drummer for Present, etc) and Guy Segers (founding member/bassist from Univers Zero). Each of them contribute to at least one song, and they both do a wonderful job. The real standout for me though, and my favorite discovery from the group, is Elaine di Falco. The first time I listened to the album, her vocals really blew me away, and they continue to do so. The overlapping vocals are incredibly beautiful, even when they're dissonant on some of the songs (Scribbled especially comes to mind for dissonance). Most of the time, Elaine's vocals are untouched by any effects apart from layering, but on Scribbled voice and machine are combined to allow for vocal melodies which would be next to impossible with the naked human voice. That track is one where I noticed the Ligeti influence most by the way, thanks to the atonality of the vocal passages. Along with the vocal pieces, I definitely need to mention the closer, Cloudscape. That track was my introduction to the album, and it's a beautiful end to a complex, chaotic and ultimately mindbogglingly amazing album. It's also the closest to a "normal" track on the album, and I could see it being enjoyed by a much wider variety of people than the album as a whole.

I can't stress enough the musical ability of the musicians on this album. The variety of styles, instruments and sounds explored over the course of 49 minutes is really stunning. This album is without a doubt my favorite of 2010, and could possibly unseat my earlier favorites of the decade. This group is definitely on my short list of chamber/avant rock to watch, because I have a feeling they'll soon be one of the legends of the styles along with Univers Zero, Present, Henry Cow and others. I would be cheating both myself and the group if I gave this anything less than five stars, earned very ably.

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Send comments to SaltyJon (BETA) | Report this review (#378141)
Posted Tuesday, January 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Another excellent release from Italy's YUGEN as they offer up another fine album that recalls UNIVERS ZERO, MIRIODOR, 5UU'S and other Rio / Avant greats.This was recorded in Northern Italy and mastered by Udi Koomran in Isreal. I must admit I prefer their debut but I don't want to take anything away from this one because it's an incredible feast for the ears. Lots of guests helping out including Mike Johnson and Dave Willey from THINKING PLAGUE, Guy Segers from UNIVERS ZERO, Dave Kerman from 5UU'S and others.

"On The Brink" sounds like something off of "Heresie" it's so dark, intense and scary sounding. "The Scuffle Of The Past Out Of The Cupboards" is fairly bombastic early then it settles in quickly. It's intricate with a collage of sounds coming and going. Great sound after 1 1/2 minutes as it turns more powerful and dark. A calm with piano and atmosphere 2 1/2 minutes in. It's dark as a slow beat comes in then it kicks back in before 4 1/2 minutes. "Iridule" is mellow with almost spoken female vocals. "Overmurmer" features crisp drum work and other sounds including mellotron when it settles briefly. An eerie calm before 2 1/2 minutes with sparse piano and atmosphere. It kicks back in before 4 1/2 minutes with intricate sounds. Mellotron 7 minutes in then the tempo picks right up. Great sound. Another eerie calm after 8 minutes with violin.

"Scribbled" is a short haunting piece with female vocals. "Becchime" kicks in quickly with lots of intricate sounds. It turns heavy 2 1/2 minutes in as the intricate sounds continue and fight for the spotlight.This is interesting. "Ice" features reserved vocals with acoustic guitar standing out. "Ganascia" has more of those outbursts of intricate sounds. It's darker before 2 1/2 minutes.Violin later as it picks up. "Thaw" is melancholic with sad female vocals. "Serial(ist) Killer" features these female vocals that are almost spoken but fast paced.This reminds me of the 5UU'S actually. It turns haunting then intricate sounds return. Dissonant horns follow after 4 minutes. "Cloudscape" is my favourite track. Acoustic guitar as other sounds join in, then the piano leads before it kicks in before 1 1/2 minutes. Great sound. It does settle back. Beautiful stuff. It kicks back in before 4 minutes then settles again as contrasts continue.

A great album that Rio / Avant fans must check out.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#382898)
Posted Wednesday, January 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars I finally got a copy of this after reading all the hype about it for the past few months. This is the third album from this Italian group but the only one I have heard so far. I had to play this enough times to digest it all. The music here is generally a mix of quirky avant jazz-rock and darker chamber-prog. A lot of twists and turns in the songs, with great interplay between the instruments. There are guitars, drums and keyboards, but also wind instruments and percussion as well. Nice subtle use of Mellotron in places.

Besides the main band there is a lot of guest musicians from the world of avant-prog, such as: vocalist Elaine Di Falco and guitarist Mike Johnson (both from Thinking Plague); drummer Dave Kerman (5uu's, etc.); bassist Dave Wiley (Hamster Theater); and bassist Guy Segers (Univers Zero). I don't really care too much for the short songs featuring Elaine. Basically these are minimalist pieces that feature either keyboards or acoustic guitar and sometimes overdubbed Elaines singing. I guess these serve as intros to the next songs, but to me they just ruin the flow of the whole album. Not bad at all, just too 'filler' like for my tastes.

Opener "On The Brink" is less than a minute and reminds me of '80s Art Zoyd. "The Scuttle Of The Past Out Of The Cupboards" is a highlight. Starts out very Zappa sounding. Generally a mix of chamber-prog and Zappaesque jazz-rock. "Overmurmur" begins sounding like a cross between Math Rock, '80s Crimson and more Zappa style jazz-rock. Goes into chamber-prog territory later on. "Becchime" is a great example of controlled chaos; sounds improvised but flows like a composition. There is so much going on in this song. Pretty avant except for the main riff/groove that comes and goes.

"Ganascia" has interesting synth and electronic percussion sounds. Great time and tempo changes. "Serial(ist) Killer" is the only song which features Elaine that is not under 2 minutes. Her vocals here sound similar to some of the vocals you would find in some 5uu's songs or even the odd Zappa song. Instruments play in unison with her vocals. The last song "Cloudscape" really stands out. Compared to the other songs, this is more melodic and linear. The closest thing to symphonic prog on the album. In theory, I should enjoy the more avant and quirky songs more, but this is my favourite track on the album. Nice contrast to the rest of the album and a great closer.

I'm interested in hearing what the first two albums sound like. I don't quite share the enthusiasm that others do regarding this album, but it's still a very good album. Maybe a little too inconsistent. The playing and sound is terrific. The songs themselves feature some great moments and not-so-great moments. Overall, I'll give this 4 stars.

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Send comments to zravkapt (BETA) | Report this review (#409894)
Posted Tuesday, March 01, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars There is nothing much I can add to what my highly esteemed collegues in crime has written about this album.

Yugen is an Italian RIO band and this is their third album. Their basis is chamber rock, but their tentacles expands out in other directions too and also drags in elements of symphonic prog, jazz, zeuhl and RPI into their sound which they presents on this album. The result is forty eight minutes of superb music which really twists and turns throughout these far too few minutes. This album should be viewed as one symphony and not as the usual pop/rock formula of songs. Hence; I will not point out any favorite song here. OK, the title track is outstanding though.

This album just proves why Yugen is one of the best RIO bands at the moment. This album is also a good entry point for those of you who want to branch out into avant-garde/RIO. In short; this is a great album and it has got a well deserved reputation.

4 stars

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Send comments to toroddfuglesteg (BETA) | Report this review (#412758)
Posted Tuesday, March 08, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is an album that proves that Yugen are focused, very confident and know excactly how they want to sound like. All these contribute to a high standard piece of work that stands proudly in the realms (firstly) of avant garde and (secondly) of progressive rock music. The production is excellent while the moments of tense and calmness as well as the atonal and more conventional parts follow each other in a magnificent way. It is also nice to hear musicians that do not "force" the flow of their music, although "Iridule" will sound really bizzare to someone who is not familiar with avant garde rock. Though it has a lot of soft passages, this is mainly an energetic and often frenzy -but never noisy- album. The instruments are wisely chosen and there are plenty of them! This is a fresh breeze of modern music. 4 stars as a progressive rock and 5 stars as a RIO, avant garde rock album.

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Send comments to Astryos (BETA) | Report this review (#440935)
Posted Saturday, April 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars I first became aware of this band when they helped out one of my fave Italian band PdP for their A_Live album of the same year, but the least I must say is that you shouldn't expect the same soundscapes, even if there are some passages that are somewhat sonically close. When I first heard this album I was quite impressed and even included it in the top 10 of 2010, as I did with Frogg Café's Bateless Edge. But the least I can sa y is that Irridule has sort of grown irritating after extensive listening, and that almost a year after, I'm now ready to put these albums away for a while. This feeling is reinforced especially after witnessing the band's RIO-fest concert, where their concert failed to impress me much. Indeed, just like on their album, the band tends to complicate their music for the sake of complexity, but it appears somewhat unjustified to these ears.

Indeed, tracks like Decchime, Scuttle (despite a melodic middle section), Ganascia or Serial Killer have been done dozens of time by previous groups (U Totem comes to mind, but they're not the only ones), and Yugen doesn't manage to bring anything new. Maybe I've grown tired of this kind of advanced and sometimes obtuse music, one which doesn't seem to care an iota for the listener. Don't get me wrong, if you've read me in different reviews elsewhere on this site, you'll know I'm generally a fan of this kind of music. So maybe it is related to the fact that this kind of album comes 35 years after Stormy Six, Area or Art Bears, but I don't see in which way Irridule irrigates the fertility of the musical grounds uncovered by their forerunners. Indeed, it's rather hard to make the difference or distinguish where the track begins and end, because the lack of structure. You're always looking at the display of your deck to know where you're standing on the album. Of course the album is balanced with more accessible tracks, like the excellent closing Cloudscape (do I detect a bit of PdP's influence?) or the second section of Overmurmur. Some ten years ago, I might have claimed Irridule as a minor masterpiece (had it been released back then), but nowadays, I find it almost expandable.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#556648)
Posted Tuesday, October 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
Progulator
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Marimba? Check. Harp? Check. Mandolin, tubax, thermin, mellotron, glockenspiel, prepared piano, contrabass, clarinet, hammond, etc? Check. Oh yeah, there's guitars, bass, drums, and a bit of vocals in there too?I mean, Iridule is a rock album, right? Right? but it's a rock album very unlike most. Italy's Yugen definitely does not shy away from being at the cutting edge of progressive rock with their third album which maintains their signature avant-prog approach and RIO aesthetic. Complex meters with jolting time changes, frantic evolution of instrumentation, and an ultra deviant sense of melody and tonality, Iridule does just about everything it can to break the rock music norm, going far beyond where most "progressive" acts would even dare.

I do not hesitate to say that Yugen has perfected their craft with this third release. With little use of distorted guitars, Yugen brilliantly pulls off moments that are dark and heavy enough to more than satisfy the most extreme metal fan's crave for brutality. However, Iridule does not short-change the listener when it comes to beautifully crafted subdued passages; large portions of each song are dedicated to the fabulous weaving of uncanny textures that never allow you to just sit back and passively listen. At other times Iridule can be quite the psychotic mix of 20th century atonality violently blended with jazz fusion and funk.

What impresses me so much about this album is that somehow, in all of its avant-rock glory, Iridule comes off as a strangely approachable album. I attribute this to three key aspects of their music that ensures that the active listener sees the big picture, and thus does not drown in the more "experimental" elements: Iridule is an album laced with tangible texture, strong themes, and discovery. Their constant use of a/polytonal percussion by means of marimba, glockenspiel, prepared piano, and harpsichord creates a dense fabric of texture that transcends your auditory senses. Its effects are often dark, haunting, or dreamlike, as they transform, evolve, and flow in ultra smooth ways that make sense despite the absence of tonal clarity. There exists the sensation of touching this music as its sound waves seem to physically envelop you.

Yugen makes great use of recognizable motifs in most every song on this album. After a couple of listens you come to realize that Iridule has its conventions that make the listener a part of an intricate conversation between instruments, melodies, and rhythms. Yugen tends to take a melody or rhythm and play with it throughout the entire song; it may be a short sequence of note values or a chromatic run, but you will definitely hear it bouncing around and being twisted and torn apart by the plethora of instruments that each song presents. Finally, there is an exciting aspect of discovery in Yugen's music. Although it is initially a bit confusing, I was surprised by how quickly I found myself recognizing distinctive elements of their music. It is chaotic, yet somehow predictable once you begin to get in on their secrets. I often find myself playing the game of trying to seek out and recognize conventions and motifs in each song; Iridule has great replay value; it empowers the listener to discover new things about the music with each listen.

The lyrics for the album, taken from Vladimir Nabokov's postmodern novel Pale Fire, provide insight into the heart of the album. Nabokov's synesthesia somehow serves as an overlying structure for this work of art presented in a medium that is auditory by nature (music), but somehow appeals more to the sense of touch than anything else. Yugen's choice to use Nabokov's words, "We are most artistically caged," at the end of the first vocal interlude, carries a glaring sense of irony. Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to this fine album that Yugen offers us. Iridule successfully manages to transcend genre boundaries; it is somehow a jazz album without being jazz, a metal album without being metal, a prog album without being prog, and even a 20th century classical album without being classical (or released in the 20th century, for that matter). Iridule, while being a hard album to place, is a fantastic musical journey and an essential album for all those who still enjoy sitting down and listening actively to music. Highly recommended!

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Posted Saturday, October 04, 2014 | Review Permalink

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