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Hoelderlin - Clowns & Clouds CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.57 | 66 ratings

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3 stars Vocally and aesthetically there is a whole lot of Genesis influence here; musically it’s a bit closer to Camel; either way these guys sound more British than German in my opinion. Turns out for me at least that’s a pretty good thing, as I’m not at all a fan of Krautrock and don’t even like the harsher-sounding German folk bands. Those sorts of bands have their fans of course, but I’ve always thought the prototypical German sound often lacked a melodic ambience that I sort of like in my folk and symphonic music. There are exceptions of course – Carol of Harvest, Amenophis, maybe Parzival. And these guys. Their music seems sort of mildly irreverent to me; intricately excellent, involved, but ultimately almost tongue-in-cheek. In that respect a little bit like Fruup or even a bit like the stuff the Tangent puts out sometimes (although not quite as instrumentally ambitious I suppose).

The two-sided theme approach to the album (Cloud side versus Clown side) is one of those things that was sometimes clever back in the days of albums, but is all but lost on today’s raised-on-CD audience. I think Joe Jackson’s ‘Night & Day’ was probably the last such disc I ever bought on virgin vinyl and it too seems to suffer from being recast on a 4-1/2 inch slab of whatever CDs are made of.

No matter, what’s important is the music and that is pretty good here. Slightly less folksy and more symphonic than the band’s ‘Hölderlins Traum’ CD, which is the only other disc I have from them. And the last two songs (the Clouds side) is much less animated than the Clowns side, but both are equally appealing in their own ways. I can appreciate the slowing building beauty of “Phasing” at the end almost as much as the rather hyper extended “Madhouse” that opens the record, and the bouncy “Circus” makes for a nice transition between the two.

Unlike the debut the vocals are in English here, which makes following along on what is essentially a loosely-coupled story album a bit easier for the likes of monolingual dullards such as myself. Thanks to the band for that.

And although there isn’t a hit single to be found anywhere (or probably even a single at all – or at least not one that I know of), this is in the end a decent piece of work. Nothing memorable, nothing spectacular; then again, nothing overly pompous or ponderous either. So all things considered since this is a prototypical progressive rock album coming right on the heels of the most self-absorbed period of progressive music, that in itself is a compliment.

Three stars for being quite good and worth listening two more than three decades later, even if this is a mostly forgotten record. Recommended to symphonic prog fans as much, or even more so, than prog folk ones.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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