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Roine Stolt - Hydrophonia CD (album) cover


Roine Stolt


Symphonic Prog

3.97 | 158 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars This album really is something! Once again, Roine Stolt shows off his ability to compose catchy, fluent and inspiring music with what seems like minimal effort. Unlike his previous record, the magnificent 'The Flower King', this is a totally instrumental album. As before, Stolt handles all guitars, basses & keyboards himself, and some percussion too. Jaime Salazar is again in charged of the drum kit, and acquits himself splendidly. (I rate Salazar highly, but all The Flower Kings drummers are superb.) Ulf Wallander again appears on soprano sax. But the main man is Stolt. There isn't a weak track here. 'Cosmic Lodge', which opens proceedings, is powerful stuff with an almost anthemic beginning and end, whilst inbetween his playing is simply superb. His bass playing shows that he did indeed start out as a bass player, and his keyboards are not to be sniffed at either. But his lead guitar work is stunning. He is surely one of the greats on the instrument. The chord changes behind the lead lines are interesting too, I find. This is almost an emotional instrumental, yet at the same time precise and technical. 'Shipbuilding' has a ridiculously catchy melody with some nice Howe-like touches and flourishes, whilst Salazar shines particularly well here. 'Little Cottage By The Sea' slows the whole thing right down. It is gentle and atmospheric, and you can almost hear the waves lapping against the shore on this one. This track doesn't sound particularly complex, in fact it sounds quite repetitive in a way and simple, yet it manages to build in soft layers throughout the song, guitars flitting here and there like butterflies, little fills and gentle strumming combining to produce an almost ethereal effect. Wonderful stuff! 'Wreck Of The HMS Nemesis' lasts for almost 12 minutes, yet never flags or lets you lose interest. There seem to be more keyboards on this one, whilst the guitar work at times is almost used as a background instrument, not flashy yet well played. Around the five and a half minute mark, however, comes some super refined and beautiful playing, laid over an almost waltz-like rhythm. More keyboards follow, with the guitar playing all sorts of counter lines. This track, near the end, brings to mind The Flower Kings, but that is not surprising, is it? 'Bizarre Seahorse Sex Attack' is another beauty that grows on you. (I love the titles of the tracks on this album, all are to do with the sea, all are weird, and all are memorable!) This seems to start off with some type of marimba playing. I don't know why, but the melody and tone here reminds me of a children's piece, maybe involving teddy bears! Also, the composer/musician Tomita comes to my mind. But that may just be me. Lots of instruments are in action here, crossing over and through each other with ease and sounding quite captivating. When the guitar kicks in, with some nice wah wah, it does so in a most effective way, and at the end Wallander's sax helps the song wind down to an interesting halt. 'Oceanna Baby Dolphin' is probably, if I had to choose, my least favourite track, but there is certainly nothing wrong with it. Some background acoustic guitar work on this one overlays an almost laid back military drum style. The lead guitar is nicely played, as are the keyboards, whilst the bass is interesting. But the song doesn't quite hold my attention as well as the others do. Still not bad though. 'Nuclear Nemo' drifts in, explodes a little, then settles down to a menacing style, as the title might suggest. Driving bass and intricate drumming mix powerfully with Stolt's biting guitar. Three and a half minutes in the piece slows down, and guitar, bass and keyboards, along with the sax, provide a suspensful mood. The track ends in this slightly surreal way. 'Hydrophonia' begins gently, sweeping in on string synths, following which appears a brief snatch of female chorus effects, and then Stolt's guitar kicks in for another anthemic piece. The melody snarls and howls, before something strange happens at the two and a half minute mark: Steve Hackett appears! Yes, Stolt's guitar almost becomes Hackett, as he plays in a very similar style here. And breathtaking it is too. One of my favourite tracks this one. The main melody, along with the female-like chorus reappears at the five min mark, and the whole gels together seamlessly, before the Hackett-like guitar work fades out, accompanied by some sax. 'Lobsterland Groove' is another stand out piece. For some reason, this sounds to me very retro. The sort of track you may hear in a disco or nightclub in the '70s, but in a good way. The guitar almost sounds like the brass section at the one and a half minute mark. Percussion is wonderful here, both Salazar and Stolt in fine form. Wallander supplies some tasty sax from the two minute 20 mark, before the main guitar melody re- emerges. From four mins fifty five the guitar just takes off, with some almost jazzy playing, again with a touch of Howe, before supplying some searing lead lines as the track fades out. Brilliant. Finally, 'Seafood Kitchen Thing' ends the album. This, at nine minutes twenty five, is the second longest track on offer. An uptempo piece, it is classic Stolt/early Flower Kings in texture/composition. Salazar is again wonderful here, leading the line with some driving drumming. From the five minute mark, the whole thing seems to almost pause, allowing Stolt to supply some simply superb guitar work, bass work, and even some nice piano touches.The entire track builds up again to a fitting climax before winding down from the seven and a half minute mark to end with some short, tasty licks. Water is heard at the end, then footsteps and the impression is given that someone is approaching the recording equipment to turn it off. For Stolt fans, this is a must. It is a little different from The Flower Kings, but still recognisable as from that stable. It again showcases his talent for songwriting, and is a cd all lovers of instrumental guitar albums will love. The guitar work is inspiring, yet the melodies are never bogged down in a sea of overplaying, unlike a Steve Vai album. Easily four stars.
chessman | 4/5 |


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