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Ache - De Homine Urbano CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.47 | 68 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
3 stars 'De Homine Urbano' - Ache (64/100)

As the album cover might go to imply, Ache's De Homine Urbano was intended as a ballet. With the advent of the first major rock opera the year before (The Who's Tommy) I suppose it wouldn't have been such a surprise for a rock musician to want to appropriate another classical format; of course, while the notion of the rock opera soon evolved into a codified genre of its own, a rock ballet still sounds like a novelty affair. Somehow I've never contemplated the potential association between progressive rock and dancing young women in tights; though I would have met the idea with cynicism at first, Ache have managed to make it work to their benefit; De Homine Urbano is a fine piece of early symphonic prog that gracefully adopts the delicate finesse of a ballet into its stylistic mainframe. It's perhaps a tad unpolished when compared to later works of symphonic prog, but Ache's debut is nonetheless an impressive work, worthy of attention in retrospect.

Like many of the more ambitious progressive rock LPs to come out during the 70s, De Homine Urbano offers up one 'epic' per side, with the music's only interruption being the presumed time taken to flip sides. Of these, only one is the ballet proper; the first side is the album's primary focus, whereas the second piece "Little Things" offers an appetizing-but- less-so second round. Although Ache only intended the first of these compositions to be interpreted through the lens of a ballet, both pieces have lot in common as compositions. Although the title piece is more explicitly stated as being a suite, both consist of a series of micromovements. The organ is the flagship of Ache's sound, with the guitars taking a secondary role, most often as a counterpoint. Although Ache have clearly intended both the title track and "Little Things" to be approAched as epics, they ultimately lack the scope and structure consistent with the better-known prog suites. Instead, the music unfolds often as a series of individually contained ideas; this is especially true with "Little Things", as the title ballet offers a stronger sense of control and focus.

There's absolutely no doubt as to which half of the album impresses me more. De Homine Urbano can and should be checked out for the merits of its ballet centrepiece. As I've mentioned, I find the idea of a prog rock ballet somewhat hokey, but De Homine Urbano goes a long way to make a believer out of me. If you close your eyes, you can imagine the sort of choreographies that may have been set to the music; the fuzz of the organ and distorted guitars seem very out of place in a 'ballet', but the composition itself could have been set to stage quite nicely. There's a notably lessened attention to detail and flow with "Little Things", but it's a fairly satisfying way to conclude the album. The introduction of vocals to the mix is well-intended, but doesn't serve to help the music much. Vocal comparisons to The Nice are aplenty when speaking of Ache, and the reference doesn't go without merit; Ache's second track seeks to blend 60's pop sensibilities with classical repertoire in a similar manner to The Nice. Personally, I might draw comparisons to the would-be sound of Van der Graaf Generator; Ache have a dark and brooding undercurrent running through their sound, and it doesn't feel like Ache have managed to tap entirely into that potential. Musical motifs not-so-subtly drawn from The Beatles' "Every Little Thing She Does" and Led Zeppelin's "How Many More Times" haven't gone unnoticed either.

Like so many progressive, and prog-related albums from the turn of the decade, De Homine Urbano sounds like it's torn between the 60s and 70s with its sound. Compared to what else was coming out that year in prog, Ache were pretty forward- thinking for the time; it would be a year before the rest had really caught up to them. As such, De Homine Urbano has earned fair recognition even in recent years. Even so, I cannot help but feel the album is lopsided- the title 'ballet' is excellent, whereas the second half is merely decent. Had Ache put the same time and care into "Little Things", there may have been the workings of an early classic in progressive rock. Still, the album's quite impressive, and comes recommended to any with a penchant for the style.

Conor Fynes | 3/5 |


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