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Brother Ape - Shangri-La CD (album) cover

SHANGRI-LA

Brother Ape

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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erik neuteboom
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This is a Swedish trio, rooted in 1979-1980, they made their debut CD in 2005 (as a four piece band) and now Brother Ape has released their second effort entitled Shangri-La.

The first piece New Shangri-La starts with beautiful acoustic guitar, then a fluent rhythm with a tight beat an sensitive guitar work that reminds me of neo-prog band IQ and Pendragon, worked out very tasteful and melodic. Before you could get the idea that this is just another fine but obviously IQ/Pendragon inspired band, Brother Ape surprised you with varied songs that sound very pleasant: from dreamy with wonderful acoustic guitar play in Umbrellas, Beams (including a strong electric guitar solo), Monasteries Of Meteora and A Reason To Wake (delicate piano) to powerful and bombastic in Lunatic Kingdom (harder-edged guitar riffs and flowing guitarplay) and Inside You (fiery and howling guitar licks). The track I'll Be Going starts in the vein of Eighties Rush but suddenly the atmosphere becomes mellow with a spacey synthesizer solo. In the instrumental Tweakhead the strong guitar work has echoes from Allan Holdsworth, another composition that prooves the fine compositional skills by Brother Ape. My highlight on this CD is the final song, a short one but very elaborate and varied: first twanging acoustic guitars and soaring keyboards, then a mid-Genesis like beautiful piece with a great keyboard and guitar sound and finally mellow acoustic guitars.

A wonderful album, full of harmony and melody and with lots of variation and pleasant climates!

Report this review (#87697)
Posted Saturday, August 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars If this is a "wonderful" album, and surely it is fantastic, why did it get merely 3??!! For me, it's a strong candidate for the album of the year. In my opinion, Shangri-La, next to an amazing "Kaleidoscope" by Karcius, is the most intriguing prog-fusion effort this year. Overall, the sound is really good and the musicians' technical skills are certainly the envy of many young impatient instrumentalists... I enjoy listening all the tracks on the album so I'm not going to highlight any of them. They are all brilliant! No doubt, it's five!
Report this review (#98855)
Posted Wednesday, November 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Well produced album with a 70's vibe to it; it's obvious that these guys have listened to their fair share of bands like Genesis and Yes.

But still, they have managed to create an identity of their own, and with a seldom heard happy mood conveyed in their songs.

In other words, this isn't the album to get if you're heavily into the darker side of prog, or if melancholy moods is what you are looking for.

But if you like 70's sounding prog, or if you like positive and "happy" prog, this record is a must buy.

Report this review (#104797)
Posted Thursday, December 28, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars During the new millennium, Sweden was consecrated as a prolific land for Progressive Rock fans, and some particuliarly loved acts such as Beardfish, Gungfly, Carptree, Agents of Mercy and Nightingale can show this. Brother Ape belong to this large array of bands: they formed in 1981, but they made their debut in 2005, with the great On the Other Side album, followed in 2006 by the object of this review, Shangri-La.

The trio, formed by Stefan Damicolas (guitar, vocals), Gunnar Maxen (bass, keyboards) and Max Bergman (drums), is author of a soft and catchy Prog Rock, clearly influenced by Camel and Genesis and characterized by energic rhythms and solar harmonies, enriched by the particular voice of Damicolas, who also makes a great figure as a guitarist; the fantastic opener "New Shangri-La" is there to show it, as it is a real blaze of sparkling and coloured melodies. There are some Jazz/Fusion digression, as you can notice by listening "Lunatic Kingdom", in which the trio makes foray in Methenian territories. The following track "Umbrella" is an acoustic ballad with a psychedelic flavour, while with "Inside You" Brother Ape travel on Hard Rock binaries, giving us a killer track thanks to triumphal melodies and an unforgettable refrain, that make this song one of the best on Shangri-La.

"Beams" and "Monasteries of Meteora" are two unusual tracks: the first one starts as a delicate composition full of mysterious and nocturnal atmospheres that hardens more and more until the final, while the second one is an instrumental episode with more intimist solutions, once again near to what Pat Metheny did in the '80s (Still Life/Letter from Home period).

"I'll Be Going" is a little masterpiece which thanks to its graceful and dreaming melodies brings the listener on a journey through pristine nature, in an explosion of warm and enveloping colors that draw unique and evocative landscapes. This quiet moment is destined to last very little, with the technique of the three musician which blasts in the acid Jazz of the short "Tweak Head", in which we have to signal the dynamic performance of the drummer Max Bergman. The calm is brought back again by a new, touching acoustic composition, "A Reason to Wake", in which the beautiful voice of Damicolas shines on an incredibly sweet web made of guitars and ethereal strings.

We are getting to the end of the album and the funky guitars of "Meatball Tour" have the job to bring some frenzy in the listener's ears, but once again this frenzy is suddenly damped by the marvellous ballad (with a Pink Floyd touch in it) "Timeless for Time Being", pearl of touching intensity filled with heavenly choruses and suggestive pompous keyboards, crowned by a guitar solo, whose value should be diminished by defining it as astounding. In the end there is the title track, revisitation in symphonic key of the themes of the opener "New Shangri-La".

Brother Ape with Shangri-La manage to create one of the most beautiful and well-played albums of the 2000s, a masterpiece that alternates exciting and light-hearted moments to more relaxed ones. A wonder to rediscover, by a way too underrated band.

Report this review (#836158)
Posted Wednesday, October 10, 2012 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
3 stars Since the release of their debut album singer Peter Dahlgren has left the band so composer Stefan Damicolas (guitars) has now taken on that role. The band is completed by Max Bergman (drums) and Gunnar Maxén (bass, keyboards, harmony vocals). Still very melodic the album has seen a movement in some ways more into the progressive field, and the change in singer has certainly meant that the band have lost the Styx element that was visible on the debut. Although the album is quite guitar oriented, the keyboards play an important part as does the bass playing ? this is because the bass sound is quite deep like Chris Squire but it is on a fretless bass which gives the sound quite a different tone.Since the release of their debut album singer Peter Dahlgren has left the band so composer Stefan Damicolas (guitars) has now taken on that role. The band is completed by Max Bergman (drums) and Gunnar Maxén (bass, keyboards, harmony vocals). Still very melodic the album has seen a movement in some ways more into the progressive field, and the change in singer has certainly meant that the band have lost the Styx element that was visible on the debut. Although the album is quite guitar oriented, the keyboards play an important part as does the bass playing ? this is because the bass sound is quite deep like Chris Squire but it is on a fretless bass which gives the sound quite a different tone.

This album does take a while to get into, just because there are different elements being used and I am not always sure that they are working as well as they could. The band are at their best when the guitars are rocking and the keyboards are riding right in behind, being driven on by the rhythm section. The vocals are still strong with loots of layered harmonies and the production (where the band have been assisted by Hansi Cross) is very strong. Highlight is probably "Lunatic Kingdom" where the vocals and music are spot on. I don't think that this is an essential prog album, but is one that should at least be heard.

Report this review (#906880)
Posted Tuesday, February 5, 2013 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Exactly at a time when Brother Ape were finding their way into the prog map with the first official release launched and a good contract with Progress Records, the band had to face the departure of Peter Dahlström, who quit for personal reasons.His bass and keyboard duties were entirely taken over by Gunnar Maxen and the lead vocals are delivered by Stefan Damicolas, heading for a second album.''Shangri-La'' was released in summer 2006, supported again by Progress Records.

The abscence of Dahlström fortunately had not a big impact on the band's inspiration, which continues to be a fantastic amalgam of vocal-based Art Rock, pastoral Symphonic Rock and powerful Fusion.The choice of the remaining trio was to offer short but very rich compositions with mind-blowing changes between sounds and styles, working extremely well with the presence of some lovely vocal harmonies.The album is full of clever compositions, ranging from energetic rockers with polyphonic arrangements in the vein of A.C.T., smooth symphonic soundscapes heavily influenced by 70's GENESIS and tremendous and viscious Fusion pieces with ALLAN HOLDSWORTH-like guitar work and big time keyboard exercises.What makes ''Shangri-La'' so unique though is that this demanding musicianship is presented with a strong sense of melody and a nice amount of accesibility to make all tracks fairly memorable.The fantastic guitar riffs, the jazzy interludes, the symphonic keyboards and the excellent vocal work, all combined result a work, where melody meets complexity in a beautiful way.

Another winner from Brother Ape.It is sad the group has not gained the fame it trully deserves but do yourself a favor and chase this magnificent release.Highly recommended for all fans of fascinating Art Rock.

Report this review (#934866)
Posted Sunday, March 24, 2013 | Review Permalink

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