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Gargamel - Watch For The Umbles CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.75 | 77 ratings

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4 stars This debut album by Norwegian band GARGAMEL could not fascinate me right from the beginning as did the one by their country fellows WOBBLER. Though absolutely appealing to me due to its dark atmosphere and VDGG-reminiscence initially I dismissed it as just another one of those second class clone products. Right away I've to say repeated listening to this work have proved me wrong. Certainly it's quite obvious where these guys got their inspiration from but actually VDGG is just one of their influences albeit the strongest one, due to the similarity of the lead singer's voice to Peter Hammill's alone. And in fact Tom Uglebakken's vocal capability is almost the only point of criticism to be found on this excellent debut. By no way he's a bad singer but overall I've to say that to some extent he seams trying to emulate PH's intonation a bit too hard and I dare say he must fail. But anyway there are only minor points apart from that in this piece of work to niggle about. This album presents an excellent blend of old school prog from various influences (next to VDGG i.e. GG, FLOYD and CRIMSON) with frowning Scandinavian folk music. But let's come to the actual music presented in these five compositions none of them being a complete failure by the way.

First track "Tics" is one of the two shorter tracks on here, the only one without any vocals and as well the darkest and heaviest one. Dominated by a dark Hammond sound and Crimson-esque guitar it's spreading an extremely somber atmosphere which is even reinvorced by a mumbling bass play. After some tempo shifts during its eight minutes running time some bubbling synths and short pads of e-piano are rounding up the sound characteristics to an overall quite appealing impression.

"Strayed Again" is the most odd one I'd say containing a section filled with some chamber music-like improvisations on cello,flute and keyboards. This middle part is certainly something of aquired taste and needs repeated sessions. The initial part starting in a more sluggish vein with cello, Mellotron and Hammond really conveys very well an atmosphere of angst and Uglebakken's depressed and angry vocals are fitting quite well to the music here. Then after the pace has changed to a more up-tempo one there is this cello/flute improv which I found actually quite enjoyable and well done after a couple of listens. But after a short section of "normal" keys and guitar play we get exposed to another quite dissonant keyboard section lasting from 7:00 to about 9:30 which I honestly find rather redundant and even disturbing. Thereafter the more furious finish dominated by cello and saxophon is again brilliant. Without the mentioned sequence this track would deserve to be called the best one of the album. But still after substracting these 2 minutes it has more than 10 min of excellent music to offer.

"Below The Water" is the shortest, maybe the most memorable but probably as well the weakest track here. Mainly dwelling in a quite slow pace and dominated by cello and Mellotron with lead vocals that sound here a bit too much rigid I've to say it does not exhibit too many inspiring moments.

"Into The Cold "is at least in my view the best and most divers compositions. With its several tempo and mood shifts and varied usage of instruments it reminds me in some way to second album by Italian band GERMINALE (where they had a VDGG-song as bonus BTW, so this association is not that far away ). After an intro with Mellotron we have some rather cheerful (!) flute, then it changes into a more upbeat pace and some multi-layered vocals are brining GG into mind. Thereafter a really amazing cello/flute interplay follows, then lead vocals are entering and a distinct cello is added up to keys and flute play. Later on a saxophone part is starting and after the pace is changing suddenly into a quite furious one reminiscences of VDGG are becoming even stronger here.

The final "Agitated Mind" is with almost 18 minutes the longest, most mellow and together with the previous one my favorite track on this album. This is also the place where reminiscences to 70's psychedelic/space rock bands like FLOYD, ELOY or NEKTAR are becoming very obvious. It starts in a rather sluggish pace with e-piano and Hammond and Uglebakken's depressed vocals filled with angst fit perfectly here I've to say. After an interplay of cello and flute it switches into a more up-speed pace with flute play (is that Focus playin'?) and some keyboard padding leads into a part where Uglebakken is sharing lead vocals with Morten Tornes. "My mind is filled with storms from the past as they try to push me over again." That's only a short citation of the fascinating lyrics in general on this album. The final part spreads a nice dreamy atmosphere with floydian type of keyboards.

Finally I'd like to say that GARGAMEL's debut certainly did not become a masterpiece but a very interesting and after a couple of spins enjoyable album in the spirit of 70's classical Prog. I'm quite sure that there are still bigger and more innovative things to come from these highly talented musicians and I'd recommend this album to any fan of 70's Prog and especially to those who love more the darker side of it.

hdfisch | 4/5 |


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