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Symphonic Prog • Netherlands

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Lethe biography
After the break up of the band Mirror after only one album (1976's Daybreak) and intensive touring of Holland, three of the core members of that band - Philip de Goey, Kees Walravens and Johan Saanen - formed Lethe in 1978. In addition to de Goey on piano, oboe and flute, Walravens on guitar, and Saanen on bass guitar, Lethe also featured Hans Lambers on drums, percussion, xylophone, vibraphone and strings, and Thuur Feyen on organ, piano and strings. Like Mirror, Lethe too was to be short lived. The band recorded only one self-titled album that was released in 1981. The album consists of four lengthy instrumental tracks whose sound has been compared to that of Camel.

Saanen, Walravens, and Fransen has since played together in a cover band called Looking For Clues. De Goey is active in a large number of musical projects.

Anton Fritz (SouthSideoftheSky)

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3.84 | 39 ratings

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LETHE Reviews

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 Lethe by LETHE album cover Studio Album, 1981
3.84 | 39 ratings

Lethe Symphonic Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Although 32 persons have rated this album, I'm surprisingly only the second reviewer. LETHE was a short-lived band from Netherlands. Most of the members had played together in a band called Mirror, whose sole album Daybreak (1976) is mostly instrumental prog in the vein of Camel and Focus. Likewise Lethe made only one album, which is completely instrumental.

The opener 'Lethe' (5:37) is a very peaceful and mellow acoustic composition that focuses on the brightly flowing melodies of oboe, piano and acoustic guitar, seasoned with some birdsong. As the previous reviewer says, this one sounds quite a lot like the American folky fusion band Oregon, especially due to the oboe. The other three of the four tracks are 9-10 minutes long. 'Avbury Circle' starts in the similar slow-tempo mellowness before it turns faster and jazzier. Electric guitar and organ are involved in this jazz-rock/fusion piece, but the piano and the strong bass of Johan Saanen make me think of the rockier moments of Renaissance (e.g. on 'Ashes Are Burning').

On the two long pieces of the B side the Focus-style, chamber music flavoured symphonic prog elements are mixed with a jazz groove. On 'Cold in Fingers' guitar, keyboards and flute & other reeds step into the light in turns, and 'Le Tombeau II' proceeds dynamically in the early 70's style. Despite being released in 1981, there's certainly nothing reminding of the 80's in the warm, organic sounds of this charming obscurity. A CD reissue has been made, and the whole album can be listened to from YouTube also.

 Lethe by LETHE album cover Studio Album, 1981
3.84 | 39 ratings

Lethe Symphonic Prog

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Formed out of the ashes of obscure yet superb Dutch female-fronted Seventies symphonic group Mirror, Lethe similarly delivered only a single work with their self-titled instrumental LP in 1981, and it's refreshing to find a proudly `proggy' album at a time when the more adventurous qualities from once prog-rock bands were being pared back or abandoned altogether. Three core members of Mirror - guitarist Kees Walravens, bassist Johan Saanen and Philip de Goey on piano, oboe and flute - were joined by drummer/multi-instrumentalist Hans Lambers and additional keyboard player Thuur Feyen, and they delivered a warm and tasteful symphonic debut with some exotic instrumentation, but one that never forgot to rock out in the manner of Camel, Finch and Focus for too long either!

The band actually deliver a self-titled track `Lethe' to open the album, a pretty and elegant folk theme of sweetly chiming acoustic guitars, delicate piano, trilling oboe and the lightest of synth breezes over birds chirping and sounds of nature, and it reminds very much of American folk/fusion proggers Oregon. The longer `Avbury Circle' begins much the same way with a reflective oboe and piano theme but quickly bursts to up-tempo and excited life with pumping jazzy bass, jangling and wailing electric guitars and humming washes of sparkling Hammond organ like a more restrained Finch!

Side B is comprised to two near-ten minute pieces, starting with the sprightly and infectiously groovy `Cold in Fingers'. Often lead by bristling organ and grooving nimble guitars in the style of Focus, it's also frequently whimsical and playful with great extended electric piano runs and darting flute that reminds of the early Camel albums, although some of the horn-emulating synth blasts in the second half are very thin and badly dated! Closer `Le Tombeau II' proves to be the most purely symphonic moment of the disc, full of glorious organ pomp and crisp regal-flavoured guitar lines, with some addictive jazzy sprints and plenty of snappy drumming worked in as well. It's a real showcase for the skilful interplay between all the musicians, as well as simply being a lot of fun!

This delightful obscurity has now been reissued on CD from the Paisley Press label alongside a bunch of other cool prog rarities (the Abraxis, Plat du Jour, Alpha Ralpha, Iron Duke and Mediterraneo reissues should instantly be looked into), so those looking to build their collection with lesser-known but still thoroughly worthwhile `under-the-radar' progressive releases should investigate immediately.

`Lethe' compliments the Mirror album perfectly, but stands as a terrific and very accomplished lightly symphonic prog work on its own that is full of energy and terrific playing from a band that had immense potential.

Four stars.

Thanks to Ivan_Melgar_M for the artist addition.

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