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Alcāntara - Solitaire CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.78 | 18 ratings

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Steve Conrad
4 stars Canary in the coal mine:


'Elegy (which may be traced to the Greek word elegos, 'song of mourning') commonly refers to a song or poem lamenting one who is dead; the word may also refer somewhat figuratively to a nostalgic poem, or to a kind of musical composition.'-Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

When handsome, vibrant, talented young musicians invest themselves with whole-hearted passion, in crying out for the right to LIVE freely, wholly, without fear of despots, environmental ruin, and spiritual degradation- then we are witness to the proverbial canary in the coal mine.


This debut album, released April 2019 by Alc'ntara- a progressive/psychedelic quintet from Catania, Italy- figuratively fleshes out the life-and-death songs of those canaries, many of which were fated to die if they encountered lethal fumes.

They lived and they died to warn others of danger.

Solitaire, part 2

Solitaire is of course a game, played alone, with the cards that are dealt.

It can also denote gems set singly, and to my surprise can refer to several types of thrushes, and now-extinct large flightless birds.

This elegiac conceptual album seems meditative, deliberate, and melancholy- the laments, the rage, the agony, and the hopes are all quiet, muffled, and muted.


Band members explain that the concept driving Solitaire is resistance. The music, the lyrics, the effects chosen (often spoken words, or sounds of children, or water flowing) all cohere and interact to address the mortal danger, and the way the sensitive person can and must respond.

The Piggy Person

This revolting, riveting image portrays the heedless, self-absorbed, mindless consumer, the one with spaghetti stuffed into one's orifice and dangling from one's greedy fingers.

It's an image of destruction, of hiding oneself from reality, refusing to see what IS, focused solely on selfish pleasure, gorging while the world burns.

The music

In contrast, the music is deliberate, sometimes gently dissonant- as when a solo guitar picks a delicately jangling chord, and sometimes soaring. At times there are massive walls of keyboards- the Hammond organ and mellotron and synthesizer, students perhaps of Pink Floyd, as we hear the Stratocaster slashing and soaring and singing over the sustained keyboards.

Artfully interwoven effects Within the framework of these at times quiet, gentle passages along with the majestic keyboard-driven ones, there are interwoven snippets of sermons/diatribes/warnings/dirges.

These are in the background, and if carefully tracked add an edge to the menace, the sense of desperation, and the urgency of the message in the concept here.

The labored breathing that opens the album, the eerie, nightmarish sounds give way to electric piano and the vocal reverie: 'Oh, what is love? What is love''

The natural world

We hear bird songs, flowing water, children at play, people going about their lives. Lyrics address the cosmos, the vastness of the universe/multiverse, the ocean.

'The solitary man is blessed', we hear in 'Bad Bones'. Yet, 'We are tired to be alone.'

All the while we are rocked, lulled, stabbed, and quietly shocked by the at times melancholy sounds, or the elegiac passages.

''As if we deserve to be loved''

As if we deserve to be loved There is a note, a touch, a motif of grace and of love and of faith- despite a strong repudiation of organized religions ('Faith')- most clearly heard in the final two tracks of this album.

'The Resistance' opens with ominous sustained chord sounds, with spoken words denouncing violence, human greed, and xenophobia/isolationism.

The melancholic lyrics challenge us to choose to be alive, to fully BE.


In the closing track- gentle, mournful, reflective- the song builds into the majestic, elegiac, unhurried climax, that then fades'

And we hear a single indigenous, tribal singer. What is he saying? It evokes the dancing native in wonder and in harmony with life, the sound of chimes or bells, and fading out to stillness.

Two caveats

This is a thoughtful, well-reasoned work of art.

I do suggest to those non-native English speakers who choose to write and sing in that language, to consult with a native English speaker/writer. For me, sometimes these lyrics didn't all make sense, powerful as they are, and as much as I wanted to fully grasp their meanings.

Secondly, the pace and timing of the album was mostly slow, reflective, and deliberate. I wished sometimes for more passion, more energy, some changes of pace.

In conclusion

Well worth your time and your money in support of this talented young group of 'canaries in the coal mine.'

My rating: 3.5 cautionary canaries, rounded up to 4 because of the import of their message.

Steve Conrad | 4/5 |


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