Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Yugen - Death By Water CD (album) cover




From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Francesco Zago's avant baby puts together another amazing collection of experimental/exploratory songs-- their first studio album since 2010's wonderful masterpiece, Iridule. Percussionists and a percussion-mindset seem to rule the day with YUGEN work, and Death by Water is no exception. The ubiquitous JACOPO COSTA (NOT A GOOD SIGN, THE LOOMINGS) and Giuseppe A. OLIVINI practically steal the show--though the wind section, piano of Marcus FASOLI (NICHELODEON, NOT A GOOD SIGN, EMPTY DAYS), and rhythm section of Stefano FERRIAN on 8-strings guitar & Chapman stick, Francesco Zago on electric & acoustic guitars, Alessandro CASSANI on electric bass and Matteo LORITO on double bass are the glue that hold it all together.

1. "Cinically Correct" (7:48) This song, from its opening notes, makes me laugh. It is pure Yugen as only Yugen does it. Each musician contributes their individual lines as if to a conversation, a heated debate, a street brawl. Even the 'heavier' stuff that begins at 1:13 serve to move the development of the song along quite nicely. A relatively calm and predictable electric piano based section of about 90 seconds occurs in the third and fourth minutes, but then Dalila KAYROS begins to spit out rapid fire some odd vocal ejaculations (in Japanese?) Wow! That was unexpected! At 5:04 Dalila and Paolo "Ske" BOTTA team up to create a freaky space melody using voice and synthesizer, respectively! Awesome. More! The 'alien' conversation that occurs soon after is so funny--coupled with Dalila's machine gun spray of Japanese-sounding syllables. This is amazing! So creative! I don't know how these guys could/would ever replicate this in concert--it's seems so free form and diverse! They throw every thing at you but the kitchen sink! The final minute or two fall under the sway of the heavier rhythm section while all of the incidentalists throw in their epithets over, under, and in between the flow of the rhythmists. (9/10)

2. "Undermurmur" (1:31) is a jazzy excursion in which playful piano, double bass and drum interact before horn hits and synth whizzes are added to the mix. Fun. A song that could be developed further. (9/10)

3. "Death by Water" (5:06) is an awesome jazz fusion exhibition--like a PAUL WERTICO-led PAT METHENY GROUP song. I don't which drummer is working this song, Michele Salgarello or Carmelo Miceli, but they do an incredible job with the cymbal play. (10/10)

4. "Ten Years After" (1:12) (8/10) is a brief foray into djenty-heavy metal territory that gradually fades into:

5. "As It Was" (4:58) one of the two showcase pieces for the always precious Fancesco ZAGO-Elaine Di FALCO collaborations. I do think, however, that Elaine's voice is mixed just a little too loudly into the mix on this song. Her sonorous meanderings are a little too dominant, making it sound as if she is above or separate from the band and music. I'd like to hear this song in which her vocal line is mixed in, embedded within, the beautiful, intricately rendered, musical weave. It's still a great song--with an odd vocal melody that stays with you for days. It just . . . could be better! (9/10)

6. "Studio 9" (2:36) is an odd little jazzy piece that sounds like a warmup exercise for a big band lineup from a 1960s jazz combo--or a Broadway pit orchestra warming up at the end of intermission. Fun and funny, loose and impromptu. (9/10)

7. "As a Matter of Breath" (9:27) uses the more familiar YUGEN style of experimental jazz "un-forms." Though the drummer keeps a fairly steady rock backbeat for the rest of the instrumental dancers to tip-toe and riff and play over, the song is never what you would call 'danceable' as in social club dancing. These are for professionals! Piano--both grand and toy--have a grand time playing with time and interjection as does synthesizer, while horns play some of the more straightforward riffs--repeatedly. After a choir 'hit' at 5:26, the song takes a turn into a more eerie ambient or soundtrack of the macabre section. At times feeling as if the A Trick of the Tail GENESIS lineup were ready to burst out into the finale of "Los Endos," this song plays out with tremendous pent-up energy, waiting to burst forth, but then, instead, peters out and fades. Weird. But brilliant! (9/10)

8. "Drum'n'stick" (2:12) is little drum and Chapman stick duet with all kinds of ghostly spacey sounds parading around in the wings. Really quite cool! (9/10)

9. "Der Schnee" (6:05) is the album's real oddity in that vocalist Dalila KAYROS intersperses the music with all kinds of abrasive and aggressive vocalizations much like a combination of BJÖRK, NINA HAGEN and fellow AltrOck stablemate FACTOR BURZACO's lead singer, Carolina RESTUCCIA. The song opens with an eerie space synth weave over which lower register brass play long notes. Dalila begins throwing her voice around in the second minute. The final 90 seconds are quite ambient, even peaceful--in a 2001: A Space Odyssey-kind of way. Interesting--to say the least! (8/10)

10. "A House" (1:25) opens with acoustic guitars being picked in folk song style as Elaine Di FALCO sings front and center and ethereal male and female vocalists whisp and willow in the wings. Quite beautiful! This is one I'd love to hear go on for five or six minutes: the vocal arrangements alone are beautiful and interesting in a Josquin des Pres kind of way. (10/10)

The most curious thing about Yugen productions, to me, is that they are truly the brain-child of visionary FRANCESCO ZAGO, and Francesco is primarily a guitarist, and yet we rarely get to see/hear the guitar showcased! Is that selflessness or is it more attributable to the reality that Francesco is truly more of a conductor than an instrumentalist? Still, there is no doubt that when Francesco and his Yugen-mates get together to create music, they are fearless. On Death by Water the listener is treated to artistic expression of the highest order: modern in that dissonant, discordant way, yes, but still highly engaging and interesting. I find it mesmerizing.

Five stars; a masterpiece of progressive rock music.

Report this review (#1552496)
Posted Saturday, April 16, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars Yugen assemble a small avant-prog army to unleash Death By Water, a journey that takes the listener through pulsating rhythms echoing from the borderlands of Zeuhl, unexpected moments of ambient placidity, and the occasional gentle folk guitar moment and visits yet further diverse territories in between. A particular treat is Der Schnee, on which Dalila Kayros' vocal performance puts the listener in mind of such voice-as-instrument works as can be found in the output of the Cocteau Twins or Bjork, and couples this with some of the most beautiful instrumental playing the album has to offer.

Avant-prog groups can sometimes get too caught up in the technicality and experimentalism of what they are doing, forgetting along the way to invest their compositions with emotional resonance. This isn't the case here, where Yugen offer an emotional journey just as intricate as their technical execution.

Report this review (#1560652)
Posted Tuesday, May 10, 2016 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl & Eclectic Team
5 stars Yugen's return in 2016 is very welcome given the extended gap from their outstanding masterpiece Iridule from 2010. I had worries that Francesco Zago's baby was on permanent hiatus given the large number of side projects he has been working on over the intervening years, Zauss, Not A Good Sign, & Spaltklang. As with previous efforts this is not an album for the faint hearted. Some of the music is extremely angular & dissonant with turn on a dime acrobatics while focusing on instrument interplay rather than individual melodies. There are also many more relaxed serene tracks that more heavily rely on Paolo Botta's keyboards. The balance between this dark heavy angular music and the more traditional Italian keyboard lead beauty can be quit jarring but that is part of the dynamic energy of the album. Extremely good
Report this review (#1599968)
Posted Sunday, August 21, 2016 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Yugen is an Italian R.I.O/Avant-garde chamber prog collective formed back in 2004 who cite Henry Cow, Univers Zero, Frank Zappa and Thinking Plague among others as initial influences, with a large ensemble of players present on their latest recording `Death by Water', arriving four years after their intense and defining live instrumental recording `Mirrors' in 2012. The current line-up boasts the participation of musicians and singers from a diverse range of (mostly experimental) Italian projects such as Nichelodeon, Not a Good Sign, Ske, Homunculus Res and Gran Turismo Veloce, even French group Loomings and Greek band Ciccada, and it not only contains all the maddening, splintering musical spasms that race about in endless directions of their past works, but a few welcome thoughtful and moody unhurried ruminations to break up the frantic energy.

From the opening seconds, Yugen founder, composer and guitarist Francesco Zago (a complete universe away from the I.Q/Genesis-modelled Night Watch band that he initially played in long ago, although the album is hardly guitar-dominated) and his musical friends tear into the schizophrenic `Clinically Correct', a grinding and playfully malevolent noisy f*ck-snap explosion that sounds like a bomb going off, but it's also deliciously and completely delirious! It's a storm of violent guitar splinters, pounding drums, manic vibraphone, unravelling synth spirals, Zeuhl-ish bass grumbles, creeping sax, twitching female vocal ticks and skittering programming, with every musician offering demented little fills throughout this addictive free- form mental disintegration! The nightmarish and gleefully wicked `As-Matter-Of-Death' somehow lurches into fleeting dirty grooves amongst deranged operatic trills, shadowy gothic piano doom, crashing percussion stabs, wild drum tantrums and a lengthy dark-ambient drone in the second half that all together sounds like the Devil's symphony, but the aggressive senses- shredding female vocal convulsions of `Der Schnee' are likely to engage and enrage in equal measure!

There's also several little interlude pieces that run from 1-2 minutes - `Undermurmur' is a breakdown of infernal tinkling piano, pumping horns and runaway synth ripples, the brief but snarling `Ten Years After' comes the closest to a heavy metal blast, `Studio #9' is loopy and psychedelic jazzy playfulness, sure enough `Drum N' Stick' is a Chapman stick and drum musing over droning soundscapes, and `A House' is a fragile reflective acoustic ballad to close the disc in a gently melancholic manner.

Yet for all the musical multiple-personalities leaping about, it's the pieces that are more focused and slowly build a careful atmosphere that deliver some of the most striking moments, such as `As It Was', a pristine piano and plaintive vocal reflection with a searing Mellotron rise. But perhaps best of all is the sumptuous title track, grand and deeply emotional with Post Rock echoes, a melancholic instrumental of tense acoustic chiming and reaching early Pink Floyd weeping guitar strains over haunting piano and subtle percussion that grows and falls back and forth with restrained power.

The musically discordant, impeccably-performed experimentation of `Death by Water' will ensure it's another divisive release as always for Yugen. If your preferred idea of Italian progressive music only extends to the melodic RPI groups that perform in a theatrical and symphonic manner such as Le Orme, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso and P.F.M, then it might be wise to avoid this disc. But if your brain is wired in a way that responds to the challenging, genre-shattering music of groups from that country like Area, Stormy Six and the works of Claudio Milano, `Death by Water' is waiting to destroy and test your understanding of the term `progressive music', and it's an essential purchase for the R.I.O/Avant crowd and lovers of demanding and ambitious music.

Four stars.

Report this review (#1669807)
Posted Monday, December 19, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars Magnificent! There, I wrote It. That's the only word that capture what is hidden inside one of the best recordings in 2016, and boy, this was a good year for prog. Whenever i hear RIO/Avant Prog I run because most of the time the music is just plain boring and repetitive but, here is just plain beautiful and original rich in sounds, textures and colour and the vocals are one of the fine points here. There is no filler material here, every single one of the songs just feel necessary so if I have to choose a favorite one It would be hard but, if You must know I find the haunting "Der Schnee" a masterpiece. One of the must to purchase this year.
Report this review (#1670295)
Posted Wednesday, December 21, 2016 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
4 stars After a six year long wait the avant-prog collective YUGEN led by the professor of complexity Francesco Zago, at long last release their anticipated followup to "Iridule" with all those avant-prog gymnastics that have become expected of them. Despite having formed all the way back in 2004 in Milan, Italy, they have been quite conservative and are now only on their fourth album. DEATH BY WATER does an excellent job at not only delivering all that complex progressive rock meets chamber rock yumminess but cements their position as one of the most celebrated outfits in the esoteric realms of what has become known as brutal prog, which is the type of progressive rock that is absolutely unapologetic and relentless in its pursuit to create the most convoluted and bizarre roads to the promised land. If Occam's razor is the principle of reaching a goal by the paths of least resistance, then YUGEN has stubbornly taken the road that bifurcates and twists and turns through unforeseen complications only to arrive at the same conclusion, but a more interesting journey indeed. While this sort of avant-prog can test even the most hardcore prog rock lovers, YUGEN is one of those rare acts that has found the perfect way to balance their intense and demanding musical visions with an underlying swing and avant-groove that keeps the whole thing from collapsing. Therefore this is not complexity for complexity's sake but rather controlled chaos with tension so thick that you could suffocate an entire urban center.

YUGEN waste no time cutting to the chase. Upon the very first millisecond of the opener "Cinically Correct" the sonic frenzy slaps you in the face with each instrument existing in their own universe and somehow coordinating their whereabouts in the musical spectrum as to arrive in bizarre syncopation so interspersed in frenetic time sigs that you will be going WHOAH! There's music where there should be silence and silence where there should be music! And all in strange time sigs that change at super challenging speeds in perfect unison. Pianos, guitars, woodwinds and brass all dance around as if a voodoo ritual that had been crashed by zombies with chainsaws and all the rules had suddenly collapsed in a heap of fight or flight response. My impressions are immediately that this indeed channels the spirit of Zappa but takes it further and enters Mr Bungle territory only in a more disciplined way. I hear all kinds of references to the avant-jazz snippets from the first Mr Bungle album where jazzy chaos swirls around like an imploding gas line and the guitar and glockenspiels reminds me a lot of "Platypus" from the Disco Volante album. Also reminding me of the very same album is the crazy scatted female vocals that pop in randomly when least expected. Perhaps it even reminds me a bit of the first Steve Vai album "Flexible" and YUGEN makes me think that this is what Vai would have sounded like had he continued his virtuosic development more into the realms of avant-prog a la Zappa rather than down the metal shredder path as the virtuosity is stunning.

While much of the album is instrumental and where the magic lies for the most part with one cartoonish musical frolicking session after another with a rotisserie of no less than 17 musicians leapfrogging over each other while playing Twister, there are a few vocal surprises on here as well. While the instrument parts range from chaotically frenetic ("Cinically Correct" being the most explosive), others have more of a spacey and post-rock type of feel such as the title track. The three vocal tracks starkly contrast with the frenetic instrumental pieces and are all quite different from one another. "As It Was" doesn't sound anything like the rest of the album as it takes on a more Maudlin Of The Well type of spacey post-rock and reminds me very much of Toby Driver's projects but not quite reaching his level of otherworldliness. "Der Schnee" is the best of the vocal tracks and delivers a very Nico meets Björk type of feel. Nico in the spacey surreal music department but sounds like an operatic version of Björk as the singer can venture into post-punk mode and then leap to high diva notes that could shatter glass. The final closer "A House" is a surprisingly uneventful folk song that only lasts over a minute but seems totally out of place.

Overall YUGEN have released yet another top notch assemblage of complex art rock that only THEY could unleash with the precision timed complexity that weaves the web of progressiveness that purple proggy dreams are made of! The instrumental pieces on this one are magnificent and vary greatly with some providing staccato attacks, some over the top metal leaning distortionfests and others simply using melancholy and atmospheric manipulation to create startling emotional contrasts. If not for the vocal tracks i would find this to be a masterpiece of extreme experimental music but unfortunately two of the vocal tracks just don't work for me. As stated "As It Was" brings Toby Driver's project too much to mind and the closer just sounds like a rather mediocre indie folk song with nothing much to add. I can understand the intent of adding these as i'm sure they are meant to pacify the riled listener after such brutal prog attacks on the senses and i'm not even against the idea of such. I simply find that YUGEN doesn't come close to pulling off these avant-ballads in an original way like they have with their choppier outstanding instrumental assaults. Still though, despite these quips, this is one of my absolute favorite prog releases of 2016. For the most part, uncompromising prog that still manages to keep an inner groove that keeps it all intact. Bravissimo!

4.5 rounded down

Report this review (#1676552)
Posted Thursday, January 5, 2017 | Review Permalink

YUGEN Death By Water ratings only

chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of YUGEN Death By Water

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.