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Prog Folk • Argentina

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Bernardo Rubaja biography
Argentinian keyboardist Bernardo Rubaja combined forces with fellow keyboardist Cesar Hernandez (Mexico) in 1987 for one of the better releases on the Windham Hill Records label specializing in new age music. It blended overt Latin folk influences with the new age aesthetic and benefited from production by Mark Isham. Rubaja went on to release another album without Hernandez in 1990 on the similar Narada label. He was subsequently involved in music experimentation and production, but the trail ran cold about 15 years ago.

Bernardo Rubaja's work belongs in progarchives for its blending of ethnic and new age styles and sophisticated production.

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New LandNew Land
Universal Music & VI 1990
$7.00 (used)
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BERNARDO RUBAJA top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 2 ratings
High Plateaux (as Rubaja and Hernandez)
2.00 | 1 ratings
New Land

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Showing last 10 reviews only
 New Land by RUBAJA, BERNARDO album cover Studio Album, 1990
2.00 | 1 ratings

New Land
Bernardo Rubaja Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

— First review of this album —
2 stars Three years after the collaboration with Cesar Hernandez, "High Plateaux", keyboardist Bernardo Rubaja has changed labels to the upstart, Narada Records, and forged ahead on his own, wisely collaborating with a few of the same artists, including trumpeter Mark Isham, percussionist Alex Acuna, flutist and bassist Eduardo Marquez and harpist Stephanie Bennett. Where Hernandez went is not clear, but this production seems to suffer from the lack of that second keyboard player, as it is far less atmospheric and cinematic than the Windham Hill debut. Since the duo's strengths lay in those arenas, "New Land" is at a relative disadvantage, and it fails to compensate with improvements in other qualities.

While the Andean folk influences remain most apparent throughout, at times Rubaja closes in on SCOTT COSSU, MONTREUX, or ANDREAS VOLLENWEIDER territory. An example of the latter is in the opening and best cut, but ultimately these concessions to the new age establishment sound more like a product of that establishment than like an artist sharing his own rooted take on the genre. This tendency is apparent in "Dreamfield" and "Painted Birds", which, while pleasant enough, never attempt to escape their clearly demarcated confines, that of the sprightly flute and piano melody with a few noteworthy percussive touches. Probably the best of the rest is the harp and charango led "Maria", which manages to conjure its lovely namesake while clarifying that neither picture nor musical arrangement could really render justice.

Even as a new age album, "New Land" isn't particularly noteworthy or even challenging, and it's hard for me to recommend unless you are an easy listening fan who doesn't necessarily need or want to remember what you just heard, because you probably won't.

 High Plateaux (as Rubaja and Hernandez) by RUBAJA, BERNARDO album cover Studio Album, 1987
4.00 | 2 ratings

High Plateaux (as Rubaja and Hernandez)
Bernardo Rubaja Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

4 stars Produced by Mark Isham at more or less the commercial peak for the new age genre and its flagship Windham Hill label, "High Plateaux" is something of a different entity. While Windham Hill did tend to focus on solo or duo work, most of it represented a somewhat homogenized Americanized representation of the spiritual search, devoid of any aspect that might offer clues as to the inner nature of the artists. Fans purported to reject of the vapidity of this golden economic era while accumulating all its toys and trappings as enthusiastically as any population before or since. Rubaja and Hernandez hailed from Latin cultures or countries, and were not shy about expressing that connection. It is true that at times they submit to Osterization on this instrumental offering, but fine writing, playing and arranging emerge with sufficient regularity to save this one from ignominy.

As expected, pan flutes are a common part of the mellow blend, and they more than once can't help but suggest "El Condor Pasa" for better or worse, but both of these gentlemen play a variety of keys, chiefly pianos and synthesizers, and Isham's brass contributions add profundity to almost every track, played more for atmospherics than as lead instruments. Harp, acoustic guitar and more traditional charango also weave in and out of the highly visual soundscape. Even the titles conjure nature, color, and fantasy, from the absolutely stunning opener "Puerto Del Sol" to the noble "Indian Woman", the hypnotic "Icebird" and the reflective "Child's Dream". The rhythm section is more than capable and always tasteful.

This may not be the most challenging of albums, but don't let that new age label put you off. In "High Plateaux", sadly the only combined effort by these two gentlemen, we have a first class instrumental prog folk album that is quite on another plain.

Thanks to kenethlevine for the artist addition.

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