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Lethe - Lethe CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.68 | 41 ratings

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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.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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