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Island - Pictures CD (album) cover

PICTURES

Island

 

Eclectic Prog

4.19 | 171 ratings

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VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Review Nº 195

Island is a progressive rock band from Switzerland. The band was lead by Benjamin Jäger. Island was loosely related to Brainticket, only because the band's vocalist Jäger was with a group called Toad, which featured Cottonwoodhill era members of Brainticket. Toad was supposedly a more conventional hard rock band and they had nothing to do with Island. Island was an unusual progressive rock band from the 70's, perhaps one of the most experimental at the time. We can see lots of wind instruments (particularly saxophones), keyboards (Hammond organ, Mini Moog and piano) and drums, percussion and Moog Taurus bass pedals. But, there aren't absolutely any guitars or bass guitars on the band.

"Pictures" is the debut and only studio album of Island and was released in 1977. "Pictures" is an album influenced by many and varied music styles, such as the Canterbury scene, the jazz rock/fusion and the RIO Avant/Prog. The sound of the band certainly approaches to progressive rock from the darker end of the spectrum. This is also an album deeply influenced for some of the best and most charismatic progressive rock bands of the 70's. The main influence we can find on this album is, without any kind of doubt, from Van Der Graaf Generator. If we take a look to the line up of the band we can clearly see it. They are also four and they have no guitars and basses. And they have saxophones and flutes and the keyboardist also plays bass pedals, which is the usual thing on almost all the albums of Van Der Graaf Generator. But their album is in fact even more complex and disharmonious than even Hammill & Co. were at their most weird. The influences from Gentle Giant are pretty obvious too, especially in terms of vocals. The King Crimson's influences are also evident, especially due to their album "Islands". Perhaps the name of the band wasn't really a coincidence. We can also see some influences from Emerson, Lake & Palmer especially on the keyboards. However, we can't say that Island is a clone of those bands. The band was able to have a very own sound and a truly original identity.

The line up is Benjamim Jager (lead vocals and percussion), Peter Scherer (keyboards, bass pedals and voices), René Fisch (saxophone, flute, clarinet, triangle and voices), and Guge Jurg Meier (drums, gongs and percussion).

The first track "Introduction" is a very short number. It causes an atmosphere which gives the mood to the album which reminds us the soundtrack of "Alien", which isn't really a very strange thing. This is one of the best prologues I know, a perfect prologue to this album. The second track "Zero" is based on a great organ and saxophone theme. It's an instrumental, jazzy track with a darker, long, very complex, and beautiful motif. This is the least complex track on the album in which vocals are used for the first time. This track goes through so many changes, it's not even funny, and somewhere you get treated with a great jazzy sax solo from Fisch. It's the most beautiful track on the album. Then comes the nearly 17 minutes long title track. It contains, perhaps, the most beautiful melody. It sounds medieval and renaissance, accompanied by harpsichord, which emphasizes some medieval atmosphere. In addition we have their very Van Der Graaf Generator's influenced sound where the band uses some very distinctive percussion. The track is loaded with great themes and instrumental parts. It has lots of saxophone and a very powerful organ. Any Van DerGraaf Generator's fan will love it. The third track "Herold And King/Dloreh" is exactly so weird as the title suggests. This is where the band starts singing in reverse. Not by playing the tape in reverse, but singing the words in reverse, such as "Dloreh" which is "Herold" in reverse. It's very energetic and powerful, and as I said, the complexity is unbelievable. This is a very dark and sinister track. The last track, "Here And Now", is more laid back but still is very complex and probably is the least accessible track on the album. It continues the dark and sinister atmosphere of the last track. I especially love the use of bass pedals here. The atmosphere here is a little bit more light and optimistic than before.

Just one more thing! The cover of the album was made by the Swiss artist Giger. He made the cover for "Brain Salad Surgery" and he was the man who made all the sceneries from "Alien". I love this cover. It was perfect for this album.

Conclusion: "Pictures" is an album with lengthy tracks and without weak points. I must confess that I was blown away with "Pictures". It surpassed all my expectations. I listened to the album several times and it never ceased to impresses me and it always grows on me with the auditions. This is almost a perfect album, a real forgotten and hidden jewel that needs to be discovered. It's a pity that they have made only this album. This is, without any doubt, one of the greatest progressive rock albums from the late 70's, and you have no other thing to do than just listen to it. In the punk and disco dominated world of 1977, it's nice and comfortable to see there were still a few progressive rock acts not willing to make compromises. And Island proved that. This is truly not an easy album to get in to it and it easily will have its detractors. But if you'll have patience and if you're a truly progressive lover of its dark side, maybe you can love it.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 5/5 |

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