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Phlox - Vali CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.24 | 10 ratings

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4 stars Canterbury, Kent, Estonia

Phlox was formed in Tallin, the capital city of Estonia, in 1999 by a guitarist Kristo Roots, percussionist Raivo Prooso, drummer Rainer Kapmann, and bassist Priit Holtsmann. Despite numerous personnel changes, since its very early days, the band's sound has been shaped by the Canterbury scene bands such as Hatfield and the North, National Health, Gilgamesh, and even Soft Machine. After four official albums, in 2013, Phlox released the live-cut Vali which as of June 2016 is their most recent album. Vali was recorded and broadcasted live for Areaal, Estonian Classical Radio, in April 2012.

There is undoubtedly something that saves Phlox from sounding like just another Canterbury-style jazz-rock outfit. And yet, there is no other way to describe the band's music. Take the best instrumental elements of the music of Hatfield and the North, mix them with the improvisational qualities of post-Wyatt era Soft Machine and soft, mellow smoothness of National Health's music. The dish that is already tasty is seasoned with straight-up jazz-rock influences of Nucleus and Mahavishnu Orchestra. And voilà , you're being served modern Canterbury sound of the highest order! The music of Phlox is largely improvisation-based, Vali is dripping with lengthy saxophone jams and synthesizer solos. In addition, the band has a great dynamic range. They can go from a delicate, dreamy parts on Fender Rhodes electric piano to heavy, noisy, and wild workouts in a great taste. At times gentle, mellow and calming, at times unsettling, loud, and disturbing - Phlox has got a very wide variety of flavors in store for the listener.

The keyboardist Pearu Helenurm could very well be regarded as the engine of the band, allowing it to go to the Canterbury scene-oriented territories. His virtuosic style shows evident inspiration of keyboardist such as Dave Stewart, Alan Gowen, and Mike Ratledge. His extensive use of electric piano is intermingled with a synthesizer, usually used as a solo instrument. Kalle Klein, a virtuoso saxophonist, handles alto and soprano saxophones with great ease. His playing may remind one of that of John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman, especially on the dissonant, free-form parts. Ravio Prooso with his "thumpy" bass guitar tone provides great grooves for the rest of the band to work on. Madis Zilmer's is characterized by heavy and dynamic rhythms. The band's guitarist, Kristo Roots, rarely finds himself playing rapid Phil Miller-like guitar solos, his guitar most often plays a role of a rhythm instrument, which lays down a theme for the rest of the band to work on. Allan Prooso enriches the group's sound with percussion instruments such as wood blocks or a triangle. All in all, Phlox without a doubt consists of skillful musicians with great amounts of technical know-how.

Vali opens with "80 000 ljööd Maa All", a heavy Canterbury-inspired jazzy jam, which at one point or another displays work of every instrument. Next up, "Almus" begins with an almost pop-like intro on Fender Rhodes, which dissolves into improvisation with a loud distorted guitar, synthesizers, and a high-pitched saxophone. "Küttearve Päikeselt" is another one that opens with a mellow passage on electric piano, this time put through a tremolo effect. Then, drums and saxophones kick in and the track loses itself in improvisational madness and a great interplay of Roots' guitar and Klein's saxophone. Later on in the piece, Pearu Helenurm gets a brief synthesizer solo. "Hülge Hing" is the first track to feature a grand piano - a much-welcome variation. "Paigalelend" opens with a dry guitar riff, which returns in between jams throughout the tune. "Hunt (5 Minutes to Armageddon Version)" starts with a somewhat mellow feel, which slowly descends into heavy, noisy, jazz-fueled mayhem. The last track on Vali, "Kurehirm (Doom Night Ornithology Special)" begins with a quiet interaction between percussion (which sounds a bit like frogs in a swamp), Rhodes, and a saxophone. Being the lengthiest piece on the album, saxophone gets some naked solo parts without any other band members accompanying.

Vali is by far the only live release from the Estonian outfit Phlox, showcasing their energetic, inspired, and vigorous sound. It raises a smile to see a contemporary band play fresh, interesting jazz-rock to a high degree inspired by Canterbury scene bands such as Hatfield and the North, National Health or Gilgamesh. Highly recommended to fans of the Canterbury scene!

ALotOfBottle | 4/5 |


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