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L' Herba D'Hamelí - Inversa Visual CD (album) cover


L' Herba D'Hamelí


Prog Folk

3.94 | 31 ratings

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usa prog music
4 stars Formed in 2001, L'Herba D'Hameli (Hamelin Herb) is part of the Catalan contemporary prog landscape that includes Gurth, Urban Trapeze and RC2. If Gurth was influenced by King Crimson, Urban Trapeze by ELP, and RC2 crossed the pond from Venezuela, well, this Hamelin Grass seems to be the Catalan version of Camel. In fact, in the liner notes of Inversa Visual (Reverse Visual), the band even gives thanks to, I think, Jordi of Urban Trapeze, for guidance and support. This is the fourth release of the band. The previous three were: La dansa de les rates (The Dance of the Rats, based on the popular story The Pied Piper of Hamelin) 2001, Cançons de casa sons de carrer (House Songs and Street Sounds) 2004, L'aplec dels bojos (The Pilgrimage of the Crazy) 2006.

At slightly over 40 minutes, it would have been a reasonably long album back in the '70s; at least longer than a Gentle Giant album. But nowadays it's just more than half of a full-length CD. Each of the previous three releases had between eight and eleven tracks. This one has only four. If you miss one of the bands that kept the prog flame alive in the '90s, Finisterre, you may find some of their style in this album. And it's a real pleasure to hear the lyrics in a language that swings between Spanish and Italian.

"El Llarg Revolt" ("Along the Curve") is a 17+ minute long exploration of a cycle that could be a phase or even an entire life. An opening flute (Guida Maymó) and piano (Carles Pinós) slow duet is joined by bass (Dani Fabré), electric guitar (Valentí Pinós), drums (Guillem Roma), and vocals (Ricard Rius). Two and a half minutes later, the tempo becomes slightly faster, an instrumental pattern emerges and a vocalisation is added a la The Snow Goose. Two minutes later, the flute laments along the mellotron and the vocalisation, only to make room for the Camel's typical gallop. By the start of the second third of the track, the opening funky theme is reprised. It changes into another Camelism about halfway through the track. The lament resumes in the last third of the track. It gives way to a miniature acoustic guitar solo by Ricard Rius. Guida Maymó was part of the band in 2007 and rejoined recently, which was good to enrich their musical expression but the sometimes shy flute parts and the backing vocals of Dani Fabré and Carles Pinós do not always feel, do not always follow or counterpoint the fluidity of Valentí Pinós's electric guitar's discourse.

The 6.5 minute long instrumental with vocals, "Noves Construccions" ("New Buildings"), contrasts a bit with its very title and intentions of reinvention. Fast but repetitive with the exception of a drums'n'bass solo, it reminds me of Finisterre, Camel and Solaris.

"Fel-lacions del Mediterrani" (pun on "Mediterranean Facilities/Plants/Fellatio"?) was inspired by a song of another Catalan group, Iceberg, "Les alegries del Mediterrani" ("The Joys of the Mediterranean"), from the album "Sentiments" 1977. This 8-minute long instrumental mixes jazzy feelings with Iberian harmonies, Camelisms, and a theme that reminds of Corte dei miracoli. Halfway through the song, Guillem Roma delights the listener with a cascade of drum rolls that turns the song into almost a pavane.

The only other song with vocals on the album, "Picant Pedra" ("Hot Stone") is an 8.5+ minute long philosophical reflection on human existence. A mellotron curtain and a rhythm section flirting with a bolero prepare the entrance of the lyrics, at which point you think you hear early Premiata Forneria Marconi. A bass riff leads into tension building but the song ends in the same pop style.

The graphic artwork of Josep Ventura, reminding me of famous Catalan artist Salvador Dali, should help sell this album. I don't know if it marks a step back in the group's career or if the music has always been like this on the group's past releases. I'm now more curious about those and especially about the very first one.

usa prog music | 4/5 |


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