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Universal Totem Orchestra - Mathematical Mother CD (album) cover


Universal Totem Orchestra



4.24 | 182 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
5 stars It's not unusual for modern prog-related bands to attempt to keep up a steady stream of annual albums or constant releases, be they live performances, compilations or limited edition sets, to ensure they retain a momentum, especially when there's so many more options to choose from for your current progressive music listening. Then there's examples where a group has such an esteemed reputation that they're given the luxury of taking their time (read years!) slowly honing their efforts to ensure something very special will eventually be delivered to the fanbase! Case in point is Italian collective Universal Totem Orchestra, an offshoot of renowned Zeuhl group Runaway Totem, releasing only three albums in their near-twenty years active, but each new one being something of a minor event. `Rituale Alieno' was a sumptuous gothic debut, `The Magus' in 2008 added some twisting metallic edge, but 2016's `Mathematical Mother' is their grandest and most lavish artistic statement yet.

What makes the Universal Totem Orchestra so fascinating is the way they cross over into so many styles to make a colourful exotic blend all their own. At any time, they blur aggressive overwhelming Zeuhl intensity with spacey keyboards, angular guitar riffing, tricky jazz-fusion turns, fancy chamber-prog flavours, Rock-In-Opposition experimentation, a mix of near- operatic female voice and even choral elements, all topped off with grand orchestration and pure symphonic pomp - sometimes all in the one track! Brave enough? Then enter...

Opener `Terra Cava' throws in everything that makes UTO so special. Throughout its fourteen minutes, it darts through everything from twitching split-personality jagged spasms, commanding choir arrangements and bombastic theatricality with plenty of jazzy sprints and dramatic orchestration. Ana Torres Fraile's purring near-operatic trills soar, Daniele Valle's guitars move between manic twisting runs and lengthy prog-rock guitar soloing histrionics, and Fabrizio Mattuzzi's sparkling piano brings plenty of classical fancy alongside his hovering deep-space synths. UTO G. Golin's intelligent and dynamic drumming keeps everything on course but still peppered with danger, and just listen to Yanik Lorenzo Andreatta's Magma-worthy mud- thick grumbling n' groovy bass guitar violation that kicks in at about the 8:40 mark!

The five-minute `Codice Y16' might actually make for a good introduction to newcomers to the group, encapsulating many of the delirious direction changes, manic instrumental blasts and searing operatic vocals they offer all inside a shorter compact piece, and there's no shortage of whirring synths, ravishing piano and soulful Magma-like proclamations throughout it. Book- ended with rumbling bass-quaking intensity and whirling-dervish heavy guitar grooves, `Elogio Del Dubbio' drifts into dusty Eastern mystery and spiritual pleading, followed by `Architettura Dell'Acqua'. A multi-part suite that opens as an English-sung melancholic ballad impeccably performed by Ana over Antonio Fedeli's sombre sax and Daniele's dreamy guitars that sounds like they've stepped off the softer moments of the early King Crimson albums, it soon morphs into that classic UTO sound - relentless twisting guitar f*ck-snap twitches over synths that jump between symphonic and punchy spacey blasts, and overwhelming male/female chanting choirs.

`Cittą Infinite' is a multiple-personality blast of darkly jazzy weirdness where devilishly piano pomp, vocal scatting, violent synth stabs, abrasive electronic violations and maniacal percussion tantrums all bleed together, but it still finds a way to keep a spring in its step and an overall sleek gliding coolness. `Mare Verticale' then closes the disc on some nicely strangled and grooving jagged guitar riffing back-and-forth, a breathless jumble of male and female voices and even danger-laced E.L.P-esque symphonic fanfare bluster in the second half.

Despite being initially quite overwhelming, constant replays will be necessary to grasp the complexity of the material and to grow to appreciate the attention to detail here, but at least it's also thankfully around single vinyl length at 52 minutes! Lovers of the most grandiose of Italian symphonic music, and fans of Zeuhl and R.I.O bands as well as schizophrenic eclectic groups like Area will likely be captivated by the intricacies, intensity and barking madness that permeates `Mathematical Mother, a masterpiece that will likely be most appreciated by musical listeners with a slightly bent mind that view the world in a multitude of skewed ways!

Five stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 5/5 |


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