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Amoeba Split - Second Split CD (album) cover


Amoeba Split

Canterbury Scene

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Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars A greatly anticipated second album from Spanish instrumental Canterbury Style jazz artists whose 2010 debut album, Dance of the Goodbyes, caused quite a stir in this old heart. The music here on Second Split is definitely on the jazzier side of things--much like Dave NEWHOUSE's MANNA/MIRAGE project from late in 2015. At times I'm hearing riffs from the DAVE BRUBECK/PAUL DESMOND age ("Sundial Tick" 4:48] [9/10]) and others more of a jazz- rock mode in the vein of CHICAGO or BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS--especially in the arrangements for the horn section. And then there are the uses of odd/funny-sounding instrumental effects and/or shifts within the music. This is truly a entertaining and mercurial album--as is each song--taking twists and turns that the listener couldn't possibly foresee--yet none are wasted or superfulous, all serve to explore new ideas, new rhythms and combinations of sound and harmony.

1. "Clockwise" (9:03) three songs in one--all three excellent and enjoyable. (9/10)

2. "Sundial Tick" (4:48) opens with a melody line as if from a classic 1950s or 60s Broadway musical (Porgy and Bess' "Summertime" comes to mind before the "Take Five"-like tempo and style take over). Three different melodic themes seem to rotate through the song with different harmonic structures explored by the big band each time. (what is that synth sound at the three minute mark?) Truly an exceptional and intricate though fun song. (9/10) 3. "The Book Of Days" (2:25) opens with chamber string quintet before what sounds like two vibraphones join in. How cool! The double bass and violin morph into more café jazz sound as the vibes continue and, eventually, take over. How clever! (9/10)

4. "Those Fading Hours" (8:34) opens with a dirty electric piano creating some chords and arpeggios before strings engage to add intermittent and constant accompaniment--violin becoming the first main melody maker (alternating with the flute). Has a very MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA feel with a lot of pent up, potential energy feeling ready to explode on us. Incidental "noises" from the organ and other keys only adds to that feeling that at any minute things are going to break loose. The synth solo that begins at 3:30 seems to open this door--and then a fuzzy electric guitar-sounding keyboard takes over and seems to unleash a little of the spirit of the Mahavishnu himself. Despite the loosening up of the belt for the rest of the band, the ensuing horn play seems to keep things in check--but no! the instrumentalists are suddenly all trying to solo at the same time! But what happens! The band shuts down at 6:45 leaving space . . . out of which emerges an acoustic guitar and moog synth making animal (or insect) mating calls as the infant children laugh their end-of-the day laughs. What a marvelously odd song! I love it! (10/10)

5. "Backwards All The Time" (8:22) opens as the most straightforward jazz song yet, but then at the 0:45 mark, it morphs into a classic 1970s jazz rock fusion confabulation--a cross between JEFF BECK's "Freeway Jam," DEODATO's "Super Strut," ALAN PARSONS PROJECT's "I Robot," and CHICAGO's "I'm a Man"!!! Weird and wonderful! The dual alien synth and piano soli in the fifth minute are just too weird for me. Then they're back to jazz with a trumpeter in the lead. (There's that "Summertime" theme again!) Then, at 6:20, the hammond takes over and brings it back into jazz rock territory. Such a chameleonic song! Not sure if it all works but it is brave and adventurous! I think it suffers a bit from lack of a coherent, consistent flow--too many stories being told here. (8/10)

6. "About Life, Memories And Yesteryears" (8:12) opens quite sedately, as compared to all of the previous songs, with long sustained melody solos coming from keyboard 'flute' and 'saxes.' REally horns eventually join in as a bouncy, churchy hammond organ plays in the back right channel. Chunky keyboard fuzz bass takes over as electric piano and drums take front and center at the 4-minute mark. Horn section is soon added. Perhaps the weakest song on the album if only for it's lack of catchy melody. I mean, it's not till the 6:40 mark that the first likable melodic hook is presented, before that it's all about (I think) displaying all of the things the keyboards can do. (7/10)

A 4.5 star album; highly recommended as an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection.

Report this review (#1600562)
Posted Tuesday, August 23, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars Excellent Jazzy Music.

More mature and completely instrumental, this album sees Amoeba Split explore the more inventive and jazzy side of their compositions, which they generally only did on the shorter instrumental tracks on their first album ('Dance of the Goodbyes'). The longest tracks on that first album contained vocals which dominated those songs, requiring them to have a more rock-oriented structure and leaving only a few places in the arrangements where the band could really shine. Here, freed of the need to back up a singer, the organ, flute, horns, and bass can lead, producing a great jazzy freewheeling yet clearly Canterbury-inspired music. My favourite tracks are the longer ones ("Clockwise", "Those Fading Hours", "About Life, Memories, and Yesteryears"), although there really is not a bad moment on this album. Unlike the first album, which was very mixed (even on the same tracks) here the quality is very consistent throughout. There is another great nod to the Softs in one of the titles too ("Backwards all the Time"). Those who know the Soft Machine will be able to hear the influences throughout the album, including some fuzzy organ and bass solos. However, none of the music is derivative, and the band have their own style, which is not at all pretentious. At the end of the album, you want to hear more. So, while there are clear similarities in style of composition between this album and the predecessor, particularly on the instrumental side, this album is the more advanced and a much better listening experience. I give this album 8.6 out of 10 on my 10- point scale, which translates to 4 PA stars.

Report this review (#1843292)
Posted Monday, December 18, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars Without Maria Toro's contributions on vocals, Amoeba Split's second album finds them chasing a somewhat more sober take on Canterbury music than their debut, Dance of the Goodbyes; if the previous album had been reminiscent of the classic Hatfield and the North sound, this is more reminiscent of later groups like Gilgamesh and other such outfits which tried a more serious spin on the Canterbury sound and leaned heavily on the jazz-rock side of things.

The end result is an intriguing, relaxing trip through jazz-rock realms with just a pinch of psychedelic pizzazz. A solid effort all round - I wouldn't put it above the debut album, but it certainly makes me want to keep watching the Amoebas to see where things go next.

Report this review (#2201936)
Posted Saturday, May 11, 2019 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
4 stars Proving that the English Canterbury Scene jazz-rock of the 1970s has long evolved past the geographical location and into a unique nook of the world of progressive rock, Spain's AMOEBA SPLIT has been active since as far back as 2001 but hasn't been the most prolific band since as i write this in the year the 2023, the band is only now about to release its third album. In fact it took nine years for the debut "Dance Of The Goodbyes" to emerge and then another six for this sophomore effort SECOND SPLIT to follow. This band was formed in the Galician city of A Coruña and has nurtured the retro sounds of such acts as Soft Machine, Supersister, The Muffins, Hatfield & The North and Robert Wyatt and carried the torch proudly into the 21st century with only a smattering of other bands following suit.

One of the reasons for these long delays between albums seems to be that the members of this band are studio perfectionists with large swaths of tones and timbres all polished smoothly like a diamond into a sparkling production-rich extravaganza. Whereas the debut featured a lineup of five with a brief cameo guitarist, SECOND SPLIT goes above and beyond the call of duty with a new roster of six band members and another eight guest musicians adding all kinds of supplemental sounds that give SECOND SPLIT a much more robust plentitude of musical fortitude. Of the five members of the debut, only four have returned for round two with the most notable difference between the two albums being that vocalist / flautist María Toro has left the band and SECOND SPLIT features no vocal parts at all. This album is exclusively instrumental which allows for more complex instrumental interplay to unfold.

While the band's primary underpinning centers around the dueling keyboard parts of Ricardo Castro Varela and Alberto Villarroya López, the addition of the new member Rubén Salvador on trumpet and flugelhorn brings AMOEBA SPLIT's sound even further into the world of jazz-fusion and add yet several guest musicians who contribute violin, viola and cello, likewise the already rich musical entourage is fortified by elements of classically infused chamber rock. The other new member Eduardo "Dubi" Baamonde took over Toro's flute duties but also serves as a tenor sax player so in essence with the exception of the vocal parts, SECOND SPLIT pretty much takes the template laid down on the debut release and takes everything to the next level.

Keeping more in line with a classic album's playing time of over 41 minutes rather than the bloated hour plus playtime of the debut, SECOND SPLIT offers a more sophisticated approach that sounds like the perfect mix of classic 70s moog and vibraphone infused jazz-rock fusion and fortified with all the warmth and familiarity of classic Canterbury sounds that range from those unique chord progressions, psychedelic overtones and light, breezy musical passages that offer just enough hooks to keep your senses enthralled but laced with enough hi-brow complexities to give your more intellectual sensibilities a stellar workout. Given the lack of lyrics, SECOND SPLIT doesn't provide the comic whimsical relief that many a classic Canterbury act would excel in and instead delves into the meaty compositional staples that make this subgenre of the world of jazz-fusion so endearing and enduring.

With only six tracks, four of which are more than eight minutes long, the music is on the mellow side with plenty of musical motifs allowed to develop slower and slowly unfold. Tracks like "Those Fading Hours" are light and fluffy like musical representations of clouds slowly shapeshifting in the sky as they hover at glacial speeds above. Other tracks like "Clockwise" and "Backwards All The TIme" are a bit more upbeat with stealthy bass grooves, jazz-fusion grit and robust horn sections that are brass rock in essence only steered into the retro vaults of classic Soft Machine's instrumental jazz classics of the early 1970s. Although i loved the band's debut i think i love this one a tad bit more simply because i find their idiosyncratic take on the Canterbury jazz scene is best suited for instrumental interplay. No sophomore slump here. This is excellent musical mojo strutting itself in full Canterbury regalia!

Report this review (#2904070)
Posted Sunday, April 2, 2023 | Review Permalink

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