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Nodo Gordiano - H.E.X. CD (album) cover


Nodo Gordiano

Rock Progressivo Italiano

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Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Nodo Gordiano's latest work will take no prisoners with 2 tracks both exactly 26 minutes long (how Swiss of you!), no silly pop music from this group, a trio of the most gifted musicians Rome has to offer. Andre de Luca is a slick multi-instrumentalist, providing monster bass lines, assorted keyboards and electric guitars with great skill and gusto. Drummer extraordinaire Davide Guidoni (also known as 'Bruford di Roma' (an internal joke) is considered as one, if not the champion of Italian percussionists, having a superb career already with numerous prog bands and a long list of recordings. Filippo Brilli handles the saxophones as a true student of the legendary Mel Collins. The spirit of King Crimson is firmly entrenched in their artistic vision, and we are the happy audience for it. Experimental prog is always a joyride when done at this level of commitment and creative juicing. Both tracks are fully developed, taking their sweet time to lay the foundation and build up the crescendo. Deliberate, mature, structured and self-confident.

"Heng" sets the general tone effectively, slowly but surely ramping up the frenzy with unabashed vision, until the maelstrom becomes outright explosive (around the 16-minute mark), with a plethora of short sax blasts to spice it up. Throughout Davide keeps the sounds and notes in line, effortlessly marshalling the beat. Howling synthesized winds serenely put this lavish piece to bed and a little suspended reflection as a "lights out".

"Kou" begins even more ominously, a crystalline flick of the wrist on the guitar, flowing over an eerie synth cloud, percussive raindrops of sound, building deliberately into a clearer definition of the road ahead, as the musical fog lifts. At the 9-minute mark, the mists have parted, and the furious saxophone enters the fray, like a crazed tornado, doom-laden and disturbing. Filippo does not content himself with a brief appearance, preferring to really blow like it's the end of the world. Ominous, dense, almost creepy, this is quite an achievement. Crimson fans will soil their pants out of pleasure, for sure! By the 15-minute mark, the storm has passed and the ozonated keyboard swells indicate the calm ahead. The mellotron choir outro is to die for, unsettling and otherworldly! Amazing track.

52 minutes of creative instrumental prowess, one of those recordings whereby each audition will divulge new sounds, new feelings, and new interpretations, thus never growing bland or taken for granted. A perfect soundtrack of our current times.

5 bewitching spells

Report this review (#2601284)
Posted Sunday, October 10, 2021 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars [Originally Published At The Progressive Aspect]

In my review for Nodo Gordiano's fifth album, Sonnar, I mentioned in my introductory paragraph that it had been six years since we'd last heard from the band. I ended with the thoughts that 'between [Natalia Surovina's] vocals, Brilli's stunning sax, de Luca running all over the place on bass, guitar and keys, and the powerhouse of Guidoni on the stool, Nodo Gordiano have what seems to me to be their best line-up yet, and have what seems to me to be their best album yet. I sincerely hope that not only does de Luca retain this line-up, but that they manage to follow up this album with another - and hopefully one that we don't have to wait quite so long for.' With the exception of the absence of Surovina, it would appear I have my wish, as almost exactly a year later the same line-up have released Nodo Gordiano's sixth album - appropriately titled Hex. Or, rather, H.E.X. (which is revealed to stand for 'Hic Erant Xoana').

H.E.X. is a very different album from Sonnar, however, consisting of only two tracks, each exactly 26-minutes in length. Their names, Heng and Kou are two hexagrams from the I Ching (specifically the 32nd and 44th). On the other hand, 'Hic erant' within the album title is Latin for 'here were' (as in 'hic erant leones' - here were lions). Xoana were primitive statues carved or scraped from wood, and I'm not sure what they have to do with the album, although I'm sure their presence is deliberate, rather than simply something esoteric beginning with 'X' to fit the title. Perhaps it's a play on the Zhou dynasty, given their use of the I Ching. As for the lengths of the song, well they must mean some-thing too. I'm going to guess that it perhaps refers to how old the band might be? Looking on the Bandcamp page, the debut album was released in 1999, so it's not inconceivable the band had its beginnings 26 years ago. There are no vocals, so there is nothing really to help decipher the mysteries of the album and song titles, but ultimately it doesn't really matter - at least not to me. The music is so magical, I don't need meaning for it to be meaningful.

As for the music, well anyone who is familiar with the band, or who read my Sonnar review, will know that Nodo Gordiano make music in the great tradition of King Crimson. While those Krimson tones still abound in H.E.X., it opens with sounds far more reminiscent of Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream. Fillipo Brilli almost sounds like he is caught between channelling Mel Collins and Dick Parry. In fact, while 26 years would take us back to 1995, the music of Heng takes us back a further 20 years, to 1975 ' sounding somewhere between the albums released that year from Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream. I may well be reading too much into it, but I can't help but note that Rubycon is comprised of two tracks of almost equal length, and that Shine On You Crazy Diamond is split into two parts that add together to a total length of exactly 26-minutes. Keeping in mind Rubycon, or perhaps rather the Rubicon, Heng begins suitably with some wonderfully watery sounds, before the synths emerge in a manner of those aforementioned bands on their 1975 albums. In the I Ching, Heng stands for perseverance, duration and constancy. And this seems entirely appropriate for the sixth album from a band that has been around over twenty years.

After some squalling sax, in the fourth minute we've transitioned to a more industrial and mechanistic sound, which is an almost Krautrock bridge to the next section, and the return of the sax. This time the sax is less tempestuous, and more sublime - and we're taken on a dreamy and spacey journey redolent with the muzik of the kosmische and psychedelia. Davide Guidoni injects some jazzy energy when the drums kick in, but as much as his drumming was almost impossible to ignore on Sonnar, on H.E.X. it's very much a seasoning for an already incredibly tasty dish. In fact, as much as I've singled out the sax, it is the synths, along with some very meaty bass licks from band leader Andrea de Luca, that provide most of the enjoyment, expression and impression here. Watery sounds return around the ten-minute mark, dreamlike and languid, floating and calm. Perhaps it's worth noting that Xun is also associated with the lotus, but we don't dwell with the lotus eaters, and soon make a spirited break from this island of tranquillity.

Interestingly, neither hexagram 32 (Heng) or 44 (Kou) contain the trigram Kan, which represents water in nature; but both have Xun as their lower trigram, representing wind in nature. The other trigram that makes up Heng is Zhen, which represents thunder in nature. The thunder appears around the 15-minute mark, as Nodo Gordiano finally let loose the Crimsonesque tendencies that they are known for. The payoff is amazing. Even though I've thoroughly loved Heng up until this point, the explosive nature of this section definitely has more impact because of how long it took to reach this point. It's just as impressive and impactful when it drops away. It's no surprise either that when it drops away is when the wind sounds make their appearance. As well as being appropriate in terms of Heng's composition (as either a hexagram or musical piece), they're once more reminiscent of Pink Floyd, bringing a nice bookending feeling to the piece. Though it never sounds like either, Heng's beginnings are reminiscent of Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Parts 1-5, and it's endings of Parts 6-9.

Perhaps coincidentally, while Xun is wind in nature, it is wood in element (which I can't help associating the wooden Xoana). Kou begins with some percussion which has a wooden sound. Well, perhaps not wood, but given how electronic so much of H.E.X. sounds, the percussion has a decidedly more organic and natural resonance. Kou has a very different feel to Heng, and is more reminiscent of the avant stylings of Art Zoyd. While Heng still sounded, for all its differences, very much recognisably Nodo Gordiano, Kou is less so. Even when Brilli brings in the sax, it's less Krimson than Van der Graaf Generator. The only way I could attempt to find a common reference point between Heng and Kou is that Kou reminds me at time of Art Zoyd's Le Mariage du Ciel et de l'Enfer collaboration of sorts with Roland Petit, and Pink Floyd, too, worked with him. Where Heng is of wind and thunder, Kou is of wind and heaven - and there is definitely something stately and majestic about this piece. It is full of ominous grandeur, that recalls the common etymology of awesome and awful. Kou is the meeting point between the hauntingly beautiful and horrifyingly ugly. While Heng will be an easy listen for most Nodo Gordiano fans, I suspect Kou may be harder. Personally, I love it, and in a way the dichotomy between Heng and Kou works like the yin and yang of every hexagram in the I Ching. Given that Kou is the hexagram for coupling and meeting, this makes it even more appropriate.

One final note, in the I Ching, Heng and Kou are the hexagrams that appear in Xun (wind) on either side of Sheng. Sheng represents ascending and pushing upwards. And with H.E.X., Nodo Gordiano are certainly pushing upwards. Even though I was wishing for a new album from this line-up of the band after Sonnar, I did wonder how they could follow up the brilliance of that album. H.E.X. answers that, and more. It exceeds every expectation I had. So' how does the band follow this? Oh well, anyway the wind blows, doesn't really matter, to me, to me'

Report this review (#2655203)
Posted Thursday, December 23, 2021 | Review Permalink
4 stars What an authentic heavy jazzy tighty creation massively flavoured with mid-70s King Crimson essence but little texture of orthodox native Italian progressive vibes, it's kind of a common opinion by a progressive rock fan though. "H.E.X." was released in the last month of 2021 as the sixth full-length album by an Italian virtuoso combo NODO GORDIANO. I'm very glad that I can have such a fascinating album this yearend, and additionally that the frontman of NG Andrea has notified me of this release (thanks Andrea!). Mixed feelings can be seen even deeply in the sleeve pic, which remind us of such tough circumstances all over the world, especially for lots of artists. However, this opus filled with their strong intention to beat the current situation out and to produce 'ultimate' artistic explanation also makes us happy. It's another moment for us to be on the same ground with them.

This album consists of two long (26 minute) suites. The first shot "Heng" gets started with a brilliant scene of sound in the similar vein to Close To The Edge, that express us their energetic potentiality saturated with progressive rock pioneer colours. The following powerful heavy metallic sound appearances would be solidified by their 'British' progressive roots like Genesis or King Crimson. Anyway let me say we cannot easily grab any 'native' 'unsophisticated' Italian flavour but can slightly feel some touch of Italian jazz rock vanguard like New Trolls or Area, although I don't know if they have got into such an Italian jazz rock scene. Crazy deep tight rock representations (leaning towards the masterpiece Red) on the latter phase stimulate our inner heart drastically but the last dark ambience like Roger Waters simultaneously cools our heated brain down smoothly and softly.

"Kou" involves more of diversity than the previous gem. The departure vision reminds us of the similar atmosphere to Discipline King Crimson, full of tribal, oriental modalities by xylophones or percussion. The middle part features dramatic, theoretical sound disclosure fully utilized with saxophones, bass, or drums. Filippo's saxophone playing tastes crazy awesome and definitely gives their soundscape and themselves incredible thickness and depth. The latter synthesizer-oriented quirky quietness strictly lures us into mystic temptation. It's sorta surprising for the audience that even such a non-essential component for them should be created and produced in a precise, elaborated manner. In the last part we can witness their impressive ethnicity drenched in a repetitive, hallucinogenic sound organization deeply in the surrealism. They would say such a tough reality must be over in near future, just by every single progressive rock fan all over the world.

Thanks to all NODO GORDIANO members for providing a fantastic dream like "H.E.X." on behalf of

Report this review (#2655504)
Posted Saturday, December 25, 2021 | Review Permalink
5 stars H.E.X. (Lizard, 2021) marks an even more radical departure from the clich's of the group's music, totally renouncing the use of the voice as in the previous Sonnar, and showing a spiritual and inner tone very rare in today's music.

Inspired by the timeless contents of the Book of Changes, the work, entirely instrumental, consists of two suites by Andrea De Luca and Davide Guidoni, assisted by the eclectic saxes of Filippo Brilli.

The first suite, "Heng", a sonorous story of hexagram 32, describes the concept of duration through the widespread use of arpeggiators, in order to decompose the vertical harmonic structures into sequences of individual events, the presence of numerous sections in polyrhythm and the appearance of natural flow backgrounds (water and wind), so as to depict the complexity and synchronicity of existential dynamics, suspended between duration, fragment, contrast and simultaneity.

The second suite, "Kou", expression of hexagram 44, reproduces the experience of encounter and relationship in its various moments, from the remote and unconscious approaching, to communication and contact, recreating the flow of connected emotional and vital energies to the experience of the other. In the second part it opens up to the dimension of the temporal perspective and panic illusion, characterized by transport into a dreamlike and forgetful collective universe, in which, in the end, the individual experience is shattered and reabsorbed.

Both are a masterpiece of atmospheric and mysterious spiritualism !!

We start with the spectral electronics of HENG (**** /) which simulates ethereal and timeless landscapes. The sense of mystery is not used to generate fear in the listener, but, on the contrary, to encourage a communion with the forces of the infinite and the eternal. Electronic instruments embrace a form of spiritual and solemn, but rather interior music. than external, which is introspective rather than spectacular. The sound is sometimes inert and sometimes infinite: there are no usual melodic references, the mood is dramatic and infinite.

It is surprising that it is a three-person line-up: The deus Ex-Machina Andrea De Luca (bass, guitars, synthesizers), is accompanied once again by Filippo Brilli (Sax) Davide Guidoni (drums, Percussions), and together they embroider a dense emotional carpet at times galactic, soaring high up to touch the clouds.

KOU (*****) distorts even more the stylistic coordinates of the group: The intro proceeds slowly, to the millennial rhythms of the cosmos, in a disturbing sense of emptiness. The music of the group explores metaphysical caverns, reaching out towards the essence of things, in search of the inner sound of which the oriental gurus say. the listener is anxiously awaiting a divine response for the first few minutes of the suite, which punctually arrives with a riot of Crimsonian Saxes from Poseidonian memory. The frantic noises of the percussion get louder and louder still, but they are only a passage towards the end of the record, a cosmic turmoil, a spiritual orgasm that slowly fades ...

... at the end the quiet has been restored ...

H.E.X. it's a journey into the super-human world. With this work, Nodo Gordiano try to condense and push to extremes the stylistic and expressive characteristics of the previous five albums, proposing a work that opens up new perspectives in the future creative activity. In my personal 2021 top five!

Report this review (#2655661)
Posted Sunday, December 26, 2021 | Review Permalink
4 stars The crew for the Nodo Gordiano has been renewed once again, with the entry of Davide Guidoni from Daal (Drums, percussion and keyboards) who joins the veteran Andrea De Luca (vocals, bass, acoustic and electric guitar, synthesizers e saz) and by Filippo Brilli (Sax) H.E.X. it includes all the musical experiences that over the years have allowed the Roman group to produce, in over 30 years of career, six works (including the present one) very different from each other. We therefore find the solid Crimsonian foundations of the beginnings, as well as the many derivations with an experimental flavor collected in subsequent works that now represent a further starting point for new shores. The sensations that arise from listening to this album are many and surprising, precisely because the elements involved are so many and the structure of the two suites "Heng" and "Kou" is anything but predictable. It almost seems to sail at times from the parts of certain cosmic couriers, only to end up in the most consonant and reassuring waters of the crimson king.

H.E.X. is a compendium of elements that make it grandiloquent: orchestral symphonic colours, psychedelic smokes, electronic and ambient elements, ethnic colors, some touch of dark, Floydian landscapes and sounds that are sometimes square and robust and at other times still delicate and melancholy, all also set within a single track.

So here is "Heng", still the highest expression that the group has ever conceived, futurist and electronic, with its dark and enveloping synths and with its long Crimsonian shadows. 26 minutes of chasing electric sequences and majestic, seasoned with a nervous Jacksonian sax, which makes the song even more eclectic and with a thousand facets ... now meditative, now energetic, now incredibly slow, tense and icy and still intensely romantic at the end, with the synths of De Luca in the background that draw dreamy landscapes.

Equally disturbing and iridescent "Kou" which opens with the reassuring sound of chimes, and then leaves room for a first meditative, ethnic part, with Mellotrons in the distance that draw disturbing clouds that creep between the acoustic guitar chords. soon the sounds are strengthened and give life to angular and jagged musical structures thanks to the interaction between the electric guitar and the drums and the Sax. The second part of this immense suite is perhaps the most attributable to the classic styles of progressive, with the Crimson King in the foreground, however, has always been one of the reference points of this band.

H.E.X. Perhaps more than in the past it has an experimental face but at the same time "reassuring", leaving little space for form and much for substance.

The album, as you may have understood, is a work of high value, made up of continuous fluctuations, always in search of something elusive like a kind of labyrinth full of symbols, abstractionism and dejà-vu. I was very happy to get lost in the maze of this record.

Report this review (#2669901)
Posted Friday, January 7, 2022 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars My first exposure to the cinematic music of Nodo Gordiano! After this experience I am sure to backtrack into the band's discography to hear other releases.

1. "Heng" (26:00) blending several styles together including VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR, TANGERINE DREAM, GENESIS, ART ZOYD, RICHARD WRIGHT/DICK PARRY--sometimes multiple times, each--this epic is reliant on a blending of excellent bass, drum, and saxophone playing all seamlessly and impeccably mixed in with computer programmed keyboard washes, sequences, and percussives. The journey the listener is taken on is truly epic, with many cinematic twists and turns, however, the ending is quite odd: as if the story-teller leaves us at the edge of a cliff; we're left with a beautiful view but a dead end to our forward progress and no hint as to where we're to go from there. Excellent and very satisfying blending of all of the elements and motifs. (47/50)

2. "Kou" (26:00) the first eight minutes of this piece bring to mind so many famous pieces of progressive rock music-- all from the 1970s and 1980s--yet the music is totally new and unique. The journey one is taken on over the course of these 26 minutes is far less segmented than the previous one, with each motif only gradually and subtly sneaking into one's consciousness as being "different" from the one that was playing just two minutes before. The long, plodding, heavy motif that "sneaks in" during the ninth and tenth minutes is so VDGG! Organ, sax, and lumbering drums plod along as if we're slaves pulling massive slabs of stone up long ramps to the next highest layer in the construction of a Wall or Pyramid. Unfortunately, the similarities here to much of the long, drawn out music of one of drummer DAvide Guidoni's other projects, DAAL (with ALfio Costa) are so strong as to rather annoy me (as some of DAAL's music has done). These are the times that I wish there were vocals in Davide's music. The next motif, which has somewhat taken over by the 17th minute, has a more Eastern, almost Tibetan or Buddhist, vibe to it. I like some of the more melodic parts to the soloing guitar part: it gives the underlying droning singing bells and strings a nice human contrast (as opposed to serving as just a meditative trance dissociative experience). The next motif is less subtly faded in as the Tibetan drones fade out: some industrial or post-industrial Blade Runner-like soundscapes that fall directly into the realm of sounds used by the Belgian electronic master that goes by the working name of BATTLESTATIONS. As a matter of fact, the similarities are so profound that were I to hear this music out of context, I would automatically assume that I was listening to the latter band instead of Nodo Gordiano. However, as the EDGAR FROESE-like guitar ramps up his speed and intensity and the drum play becomes more human and less computerized, a distinction between the two bands becomes more evident. In the end, the journey of "Kou" is far less exciting, far less satisfying, and far more tame than the one "Heng" took me on. (43.5/50)

Total Time 52:00

The end of the album always leaves me wondering whether or not the two epics on this album were meant to be sequential--that is, part of one journey--or even part of a continuous circuitous journey--like a Möbius strip. This wondering is fueled mostly by the somewhat-dissatisfying hanging ending to the opening tune. I think, however, that there is a much stronger case to be made that the two journeys are totally separate and unconnected (besides having been composed and rendered by the same artists).

A-/4.5 stars; a minor masterpiece of instrumental prog--with two very different epic journeys to choose from.

Report this review (#2945178)
Posted Sunday, August 13, 2023 | Review Permalink

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