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Moongarden - Voyeur CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.81 | 139 ratings

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4 stars Italian prog stalwarts Moongarden are back with another album, consistently producing new material at a regular pace. Their past discography as revealed a few gems ('Songs from the Lighthouse' was a real cracker) as well as few average ones without any duds, as they have always sought to move beyond the classic RPI mode and vie for a more contemporary style that reflects the 21st century. Keyboardist/stick maestro Cristiano Roversi has reassembled a new crew in Mattia Scalfaro on drums (replacing the supremely talented Maurizio di Tollo) as well as second guitarist Dimitri Sardini, to complement the long-time crew of axeman Davide Cremoni, bassist Mirko Tagliasacchi and singer/violinist Simone Baldini Tosi. The concept here involves the contemplative evocations from a peeping tom voyeur who enjoys observing, through the use of modern technology, on how people live in a typical modern chicken-coop high-rise apartment building. What makes this such a fascinating listen is the stellar musicianship displayed, as all are exemplary performers, albeit not the most technical material ever, it nevertheless possesses a unchallengeable seduction, the guitars brash and courageous, the keyboard work definitely modern symphonic with occasional electronic winks that define the times. The rhythmic foundation is the most overtly hi-tech, both icy and insistent, at times robotic in a good sense, as drummer Scalfaro blends the past with some slick programming touches. Though broken down into 11 tracks, the entire menu just flows into another chapter somewhat seamlessly, providing an almost cinematographic feel, segueing perfectly into a determined whole. Each piece has a variety of innovative sounds and tones that keep things on the boiling point.

Run into the lobby and up the staircase, Vickey the voyeur seeks out new visual pleasures within the tight confines of communal existence, finding victims of analysis and formatting those covert impressions into musical form. 'Voyeur part 1' sets the elevator route perfectly with some delicious sounds, segueing into the ultra-urban cool electronica of 'Vickey Mouse', a swooshing piece that rekindles a smattering of influences, from No-Man, the Underground to RPWL, with Simone's urgent vocals leading the smooth crew forever forward.

The glossy delivery continues on 'Barbiturates Gentleman', owner of a lovely Genesis-like chorus and a great hoarse vocal that enthusiastically becomes appealing, especially when shouldered by some vocoder echoes. The violin enters the fray in timely fashion amid the gargantuan mellotron swirls, combining again the past with the future, followed up a sublime and extended guitar solo, part Hackett and part Holdsworth. Gorgeous stuff. The highpoint arrives with heavier 'Mr. Moore', a crafty piece of pugnacious prog with fashionable sounds, rhythmic pulse that spans the gamut between slick and solid, winking at recent Porcupine Tree, blending cannonading drums and chop-chop riffs that give the meat some muscularity. Roversi adorns this artillery with a fine synthesizer salvo that is all about restraint and experimentation. The axe solo on the other head, is twirling and sensitive to the nth degree.

Next up,'The Usurper' combines classic prog with explorative electronica to a new haunting level, using a multitude of effects and sounds that add anguish, pain and disbelief to the arrangement. Everything is alluring here, the anxious vocals and the delirious guitar solo, all snugly framed by the rhythm section. The shorter 'Shiny Eyes' is perhaps the most immediate song here, though the subject matter is not exactly happy, it is nevertheless pumped by a rather powerful theme that keeps things simple, a bit like current Pineapple Thief or earlier U2, jangling guitars notwithstanding.

'TV Queen' is the polar opposite, as heavy dual guitars carve a sinuous furrow, booming bass rumbles in the foreground while Simone growls the innuendo-laden subject matter. The dense mellotron torrents add confusion and camouflage to the reality of it all, the drums pummeling with unfettered desperation. The flow keeps growing as the band includes a lovely instrumental section as a separate track but without the slightest pause, a neat way the finish off a bruising piece of work.

To complete the deal, 'Message from the Last Floor' has a rather ominous tone, echoing piano and mechanical percussion in the forefront, Simone doing a fine job on the microphone once again. Bassist Tagliasacchi lets his fingers run over his fret board, but the guitars really steal the show, tossing off some delicate licks with little pretense. The mood here becomes slightly more bombastic and grandiose, sweeping upward and spiraling in total control. A terrific piece once again that will confound the skeptical fans.

The churning 'Voyeur Part 2' turns off the lights on this seasoned affair, a delightful addition to any ongoing Moongarden collection and most definitely an icon for those fans looking for newer sounds, while still remaining firmly in the progressive rock camp. This hard-working and consistently likable band certainly deserves a little more adulation from the progressive community.

4.5 Peeping Toms

tszirmay | 4/5 |


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