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Island - Pyrrho CD (album) cover

PYRRHO

Island

 

Eclectic Prog

3.53 | 13 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars The year 1977 saw two of the greatest progressive rock releases in the nation of Switzerland's entire history. One was "Movin' On" by the Basel based Circus and the other was the now classic "Pictures" released by the WIndlach based ISLAND. This band that donned the famous H.R. Giger album cover art was as dark and mysterious as the album it released and seemed like it appeared from nowhere and then disappeared into the mysterious ethers but due to the fact that this band produced such a staggeringly complex array of progressive rock that took the keyboard prowess combo effect of Van der Graaf Generator with Emerson, Lake and Palmer and mixed in even wilder aspects of Gentle Giant, this band has become legendary.

Having released one sole album in the late 70s, it was impossible to compare this veritable masterpiece of progressive rock with any other works but in 2005 that changed when ISLAND at long last emerged from the shadows and finally gave a little context to the 1977 slice of prog heaven darkness that has enchanted those seeking the wildest rides that the progressive rock universe has to offer. It took near three decades but in the beginning of a new milliennium the archival release PYRRHO finally hit the market. This double disc CD set was released on the small label Z-Records which in reality was only a tiny record shop in St. Gallen, which made this rather unnoticed on the prog scene and still to this day remains a tad obscure.

PYRRHO was an ancient Greek philosopher and even though the disc didn't contain liner notes which kept the band basked in mystery and once again donning yet another Giger cover, it can be assumed that this is a concept album based on the few words that were printed, namely "Based on a story by Akron." Presumably this referred to the Swiss occultist Karl Friedrich Frey and the music has also been said to have appeared as a rock opera at the St. Gallen Stadtheater but none of that actually made it on to these home recordings. The first disc contained 14 untitled tracks that constituted the PYRRHO suite while the second disc was a live version of PYRRHO performed some time in 1976 in St. Gallen, Switzerland. The home recording on the first disc preceded "Pictures" and was recorded in 1975 in the band's native Windlach.

It's quite interesting to hear the evolutionary process that went on in the two years before "Pictures" emerged and while there are many similarities, PYRRHO is less dark than "Pictures" and shows a clearer link to the band's influences which at this point sounds much more like a more adventurous version of Emerson, Lake and Palmer with ample Genesis, Van der Graaf Generator and Gentle Giant influences. There's also some clear references to King Crimson. These guys didn't mess around. They went straight for the cream of the crop of prog and wove their own tapestry of complex sounds that easily stand up to the best of what the 70s had to offer. Despite the two discs showcasing the studio and live versions of PYRRHO, the time differences between 1975 and 1976 are apparent as the two discs have different lineups.

Here's a comparison:

Disc 1 - 1975 Home Recording of PYRRHO 14 Unnamed Tracks

Güge Meier - Drums, Percussion, Vocals Egon Eggler - Bass, Vocals Dani Rühle - Guitar, Vocals Beni Jäger - Lead Vocals, Percussion Peter Scherer - Keyboards, Vocals

Disc 2 Live Version 1976 24 Unnamed Tracks

Beni Jäger - Lead Vocals, Percussion René Fisch - Saxophone, Vocals Alfio Sacco - Bass, Vocals Güge Meier - Drums, Percussion, Vocals Peter Scherer - Keyboards, Vocals

1977's "Pictures" Lineup

Benjamin Jäger / lead vocals, percussion Peter Scherer / keyboards, bass pedals, crotales, voice René Fisch / sax, flute, clarinet, triangle, voice Güge Jürg Meier / drums, gong, percussion

While not as deliciously dark and wrapped in the most obscure and adventurous prog mysteries as "Pictures," PYRRHO doesn't disappoint as a prequel to that album. Keep in mind this is a home recording and the production is inferior but the musicianship is off the charts brilliant and displays that this band was far ahead of many of the more popular European bands of the same era and had they existed in England a few years earlier very well may have been one of the top dogs along with King Crimson and Van der Graaf Generator. Despite the poorer recording quality, PYRRHO delivers the same playful and delirious arrangements that bombard the listener with incessant prog twists and turns.

This is an excellent archival release and one that rightfully should've been released in 1975 when it was recorded since even though the production isn't top of the line it's far better than many other so-called professional produced albums of the era. This is simply a must for those seeking out hardcore keyboard driven prog rock with both classical and jazzy touches stitched into every off-kilter cadence and labyrinthine crazed convolution through a sizzling sonic journey. Both the home recordings and the live performances here are well worth the time even though together they extend to the 84 minute and 27 second running time.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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