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October Equus - Saturnal CD (album) cover

SATURNAL

October Equus

RIO/Avant-Prog


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Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This is a band that just keeps getting better.These Spaniards have expanded their lineup to seven including two new members from the band PLANET IMAGINARIO (drums & sax). Udi Koomran mastered this album in Isreal. They've come a long way from their dark and oppressive self titled album which was my first taste of OCTOBER EQUUS. Now there's more light and it's like listening to a world class Chamber music ensemble. I'm not using the full song titles because they are too freaking long and in Spanish.

First up is "Estructuras..." with piano and cello leading early then it kicks in just before a minute. Check it out before 3 minutes. So much going on. "El Furioso..." is a good uptempo track with some interesting guitar 2 minutes in followed by dissonant horns.

"Una Mirada..." is a dark track and check out the odd-metered drum work and angular guitar after 2 1/2 minutes. Nice. "Ingravidez" is a short horn, guitar and drum piece. "Llego Como..." is led by the guitar early then horns as the drums continue.The guitar is back 2 1/2 minutes in. So much going on.

"Realidad Ciega" is more laid back. It's fuller before 2 minutes though. "Avanzando..." has some great sounding drum work on it and lots of guitar too. Cello follows. "Un Mundo..." is short but really good. "No Pudieron..." has percussion, bass, keys and more as these intricate sounds come and go.

"Sutiles..." is dark with cello and sporadic drumming. Horns and guitar too. Great sound 4 minutes in then it settles back before 5 minutes. It's dark again late. "Ella Era..." is a short guitar led piece. Some organ late. "Abre Los Ojos!" picks up and it sounds incredible. It settles back 2 minutes in. Some dissonace before 4 1/2 minutes. "Ultimo Refigio" is an excellent closer with drums, horns, piano and more of course.

I admit this style of music is over my head but I do enjoy it even if it's not exactly my favourite sub genre.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#503901)
Posted Tuesday, August 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
avestin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The Spanish instrumental progressive/avant-rock group October Equus is back with their third full-length (I am not counting the 2004 release, Hydra). October Equus don't rest on their laurels and repeat the same album but rather change things and develop with each release, showing the group's growth and maturation. With their 2006 s/t album (Ma. Ra. Cash Records), the influences of Present, Univers Zero and King Crimson were apparent, whereas in 2008's Charybdis (RAIG) had a zeuhl flavour and sounded more bombastic and daring than its predecessor. With Saturnal the band has signed with Italian label AltrOck, my current favourite label and a treasure trove for all things progressive and mind-blowing. In here the band seems to recall some of their s/t release, with added complexity, density of sound and succinctness. I also would make a comparison, in at least a few songs, to Miriodor's recent albums, in rhythm and spirit, but done in October Equus' unique manner.

The core of the band remains guitarist Ángel Ontalva (or by his real name Ángel Rodriguez Morales, who also created the gorgeous artwork for the album), keyboards player Víctor Rodríguez and bassist Amanda Pazos Cosse, alongside their, by now, usual saxophonist and flautist Fran Mangas. Planeta Imaginario drummer Vasco Trilla and saxophonist Alfonso Muñoz join the lineup for this album, as well as cellist Pablo Ortega.

Listening to the musicians' playing alongside enjoying the music is a fun exercise in any album, and here in particular. Amanda's bass gives a powerful and noticeable undertone, a solid belly to the tunes as Ángel's cold sounding guitar soars in a slow, slightly dissonant and angular fashion, accompanied by Victor's warm chords contrasting the guitar tone. The saxophones and cello add to the band's eerie sound, a sound that seems to be coming from a far away and scary place. Watching the artwork in the booklet as you listen to the music will help understand what I mean by this, as there is an otherworldly quality to their music.

At times, their music would work as a soundtrack to some classic horror or scary movie, in particular the first piece, Estructuras primitivas en el crepúsculo. In other instances the music offers some respite from that atmosphere with a slightly faster pace and lighter mood, such as in the second piece, El furioso despertar del homúnculo neonato. This piece features wonderful drumming performance by Vasco Trilla, providing the piece with a moderately and frantic sounding tempo. The various pieces on here alternate between the somber and sinister sounding to the somewhat lighter and less dense side, though all bear the clear mark of the band. While one may complain of monotony on the album, that would be, in my view, due to superficial listening and not paying enough attention to the individual songs and how they develop.

But what is common to all the compositions is the sense that I've stepped into another realm the minute I pressed the play button. You might feel you've been thrown into a strange and foreign land with rules you do not fully understand and an unnatural and peculiar scenery that seems to come at you from all directions. But the effort is worth it, in my view, as the band's music offers a distinctive experience as well as a fascinating one with a lot to discover in repeated listening.

I will say this, though: the music on Saturnal is (or can be to those unfamiliar with the style) dense, complicated and hard to penetrate. Indeed, this is an album that the listener has to clear his way into, get past the walls of seemingly "unpleasant" and hard to grasp sounds and vibes. This is not to say the music is "bad" or un-enjoyable, but that one has to take the time to have a clear path into the music and be able to feel comfortable listening to it. While I'm quite used to this "type of music", it took me a while to penetrate its thick sound and jam-packed content. With 13 pieces on here, all written by either Ángel Ontalva or Víctor Rodríguez, you're in for an intense and long journey. Perhaps splitting the album into two listening sessions would help make it easier to swallow for those not fully comfortable with the music. But in my opinion, it is a journey well worth taking.

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Send comments to avestin (BETA) | Report this review (#540439)
Posted Sunday, October 02, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars I never thought i would hear such a Univers Zero, Henry Cow and maybe Present influenced band coming from Spain. This is certainly the first (i think) of it's kind in that country. But those RIO groups are more of a reference point as the members in October Equus have (thank god) the sensibilities and taste to come up with something that is also their own. I feel this is a bit less dark approach to the anglo / Belgium originals, which to my ears sends the music to other territories. The musicianship is top notch and the compositions are excellent through out. Highly recommended to RIO enthusiasts and to adventurous/avant thrill seeker.

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Send comments to mhiraldo (BETA) | Report this review (#914969)
Posted Sunday, February 17, 2013 | Review Permalink

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