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Universal Totem Orchestra Mathematical Mother album cover
4.25 | 196 ratings | 8 reviews | 34% 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of
progressive rock music

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Studio Album, released in 2016

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Terra Cava (14:06)
2. Codice Y16 (5:21)
3. Elogio Del Dubbio (7:54)
4. Architettura Dell'Acqua (11:27)
5. CittÓ Infinite (6:19)
6. Mare Verticale (7:38)

Total Time 52:56

Line-up / Musicians

- Ana Torres Fraile / vocals
- Antonio Fedeli / alto and tenor saxophone
- Daniele Valle / guitar
- Fabrzio Mattuzzi / keyboard, piano
- UTO G. Golin / drums
- Yanik Lorenzo Andreatta / bass

Guest Musicians:
- Adriano Vianini / vocals
- Alessandro Andreatta / guitar on "Architettura Dell'Acqua"
- Francesco Festi / vocals
- Gianni Nicolini / tabla on "Elogio Del Dubbio"
- Mirko Pedrotti / vibes on "CittÓ Infinite"
- Oscar Cordioli / vocals
- Samia Charbel - vocals on "Elogio Del Dubbio"

Releases information

Black Widow Records

Thanks to leopoldoghost for the addition
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Buy UNIVERSAL TOTEM ORCHESTRA Mathematical Mother Music

UNIVERSAL TOTEM ORCHESTRA Mathematical Mother ratings distribution

(196 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(34%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(33%)
Good, but non-essential (18%)
Collectors/fans only (8%)
Poor. Only for completionists (6%)

UNIVERSAL TOTEM ORCHESTRA Mathematical Mother reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A welcome arrival! (It's been a while, UTO!) 2017 finds the Spanish Zeuhl masters in fine form, with some very mature, very Zeuhl-styled musical offerings (the first two) and some odd, unsettling, and, ultimately, floundering meanderings in three of the other four.

1. "Terra Cava" (14:06) I'm especially attached to the piano and voice section in the middle (what an amazing vocalist is Ana Torres Fraile!); it is sublime! The opening section is highly polished, tightly performed, with some excellent guitar soloing. The third section is bass-centric while Indian konokol or 'voice percussion' performs intermittently throughout. (9.5/10)

2. "Codice Y16" (5:21) sounds so much like a Magma opus! Piano, guitars, and voices all performing at breakneck speed with amazingly tight timing. Here we find UTO totally in the pocket, in their element, at their all-time best! Simply INCREDIBLE vocal and keyboard performances throughout, start to finish! One of the best prog songs of the year! (10/10)

3. "Elogio Del Dubbio" (7:54) perhaps a little less Zeuhl-ish while flowing more like a KOTEBEL song--at least until the Arabic vocalizations from guest singer Samia Charbel beginning at the 4:10 mark. Morphing into another stripped down, tabla-based church-like operatic vocal performance by the nearly perfect voice of Ms. Torres Fraile, the song feels suddenly so European and liturgical. Ends with an interesting though tangential instrumental section. (9.5/10)

4. "Architettura Dell'acqua" (11:27) begins with Ana supported only by softly picked electric guitar in an almost-pop performance. This is more akin to the wonderful Neofolk-classical offerings of countrymate Riccardo Prencipe in his CORDE OBLIQUE project releases. In the sixth minute we jump into a full band rock and then prog styled song. An uncharacteristic song from UTO and not my favorite. Still, it is better than 99% of the crap you hear out there. The introduction to the final section (before the guitar solo) is the best part of the song. I much prefer Ana's voice in the full operatic demand. (8.5/10)

5. "Citta' Infinite" (6:19) opens with a Latin jazzy feel with piano-based combo prepping us for Ana's entry. Vocalise with some scatting is how Ana comes in--and continues to perform for about a minute. Were words lacking, or was this composed with the intention of exploring traditional jazz realms? The synth used in the second minute and shift to more rock sounds & stylings (and use of words by Ana's sublime voice) signal that the jazz foray was only temporary. The fourth minute introduces another new style and approach: quiet, low-key singing, unusual non-ethnic musical style--and then we're off to some familiar bass riffing (from The Magus) with some play from vibes, guitar and synths over the top. Solo piano cuts in at 5:30 to end and fade out. Strange song. (8.5/10)

6. "Mare Verticale" (7:38) surprisingly simple song structures over the first two sections. It's as if the band is having trouble deciding who they want to be and so are playing it extra-conservatively. It's not until 3:25 when we finally get to hear Ana back at her most excellent voce. The music feels old, dated, mired in out-dated rock modalities and stylings. Too much of a mish-mash of mush which seems to have no direction or aim. Scatting @ 6:00 and then back to bland hard rock over which Ana tries to soar. This does NOT work. This song is, to my ears, grating; to my mind, utterly disappointing. (7.5/10)

In summary, the first two songs are so much stronger than the more stylistically chameleonic tapestries that make up the the final three songs; Zeuhl with Ana's powerful operatic approach are their strengths. While The Magus showed flaws in over-indulgences and sound quality issues (in the mixes), this album shows flaws in clarity of intent and purpose. More songs and music like the first two, please.

A high four stars; a very good offering of progressive rock music.

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This is the third offering from Universal Totem Orchestra, a quixotic Italian band that gets criticized for not being pure zeuhl (nothing is really, besides Magma) and thus dividing Progland into outright fans and naysaying purists. Too bad really, as they never claimed to be devoted followers in the first place. Their debut "Rituale Alieno" as well the follow up "The Magus" are both, in my humble opinion, extraordinarily brilliant albums that deserve the loftiest progressive praise. There are some similarities with Magma and some huge differences. First the common elements, namely a furiously talented leader in drummer UTO G. Golin who simply pounds and sizzles throughout all their tracks, pushed along by the reptilian bass of Yanik Lorenzo Andreatta. Definitely near Vander/Top/Paga levels of quality. The arrangements hover from bombastic Wagnerian explosions to jazzier climes, again a Kobaian characteristic. The major difference is Ana Torres Fraile's booming voice that is beyond description, capable of a wide variety of tones, octaves and styles, but much closer to opera than anything else. Occasional forays into Arabic, Gothic and Gregorian leanings only accentuate her stunning brilliance. She is also extremely attractive. Furthermore, guitarist Daniele Valle and keyboardist Fabrizio Mattuzzi can hold their own with the very best the prog universe can suggest, technically hyper-proficient but loaded with gusto, bravado and oomph. Finally, saxophonist Antonio Fedeli adds the sultry instrument at the most appropriate of times, such as one the shining and eloquent "Architettura Dell'Acqua". UTO's style is way more expansive, playful, symphonic, jazzy, retro, bucolic and medieval than anything unleashed by the Destruktiw Kommandohs.

Kick off the Mathematical Mother opus with a 14 minute surge "Terra Cava", a whirlwind demonstration of the various talents at hand, a scat singing opener that quickly evolves into a complex and insistent polyrhythmic explosion with zooming bass, deft stick work, cool piano musings and a hard carving guitar rampage. Fraile's voice seduces immediately, her lung capacity is quite impressive to say the least, extended long series of notes and trembling invocations, a truly impressive diva. The ornamental piano takes over a great deal of the melodic arrangement, sumptuous and elegant as it should be, deepening the reflective emotions and enriching the pace. At the 8 minute mark, the rabidly intense bass guitar rumbles through like a freight train, the dynamic mood turning Saharan and the spirit utterly adventurous. The bass tone is trebly and extremely fluid, a sort of Squire/Entwhistle synthesis that will astound the fans of the mythical instrument. Guitarist Valle then goes on his flowery rant, egging Mattuzzi to take over and rise to the heavens. I find myself slammed right between the eyes by the sheer power of their demanding and virtuous music.

A blistering fury is set with the exalting "Codice Y16", a synth-blasted shorter piece that seeks to underline a kind of a Charlie Brown?like piano motif (you will get it when you hear it), a perfect platform for Mattuzzi's wild synthesizers to parallel Fraile's thrilling and athletic voice. The jazz elements are straight forward here, almost Canterbury-esque in many ways, again muscled along by that impulsion -fueled bass guitar, a joy to follow throughout this splendid disc.

The ebb and flow on "Elogio del Dubbio" will make your head spin, from misty serene to ethereal Gothic as well as out right bull in a china shop, the whole thing just spirals mightily into the celestial heavens. A blizzard of persevering notes, played at breakneck speed, then suddenly, an eerily Dead Can Dance like Arabic lamentation swoops in from the desert, assisted by some cool tablas , meandering into the labyrinths of the mind. Fraile wailing majestically once again, the scimitar-edged pace heightens as the ravaging guitar slashes mightily through the haze. Praise be to the Golin School of drumming, the man is a total beast.

The compelling "Architettura Dell'Acqua" is the masterpiece on this album, a simply incredible piece of music, incorporating the mellifluous soprano voice, lyrics in English and the sophisticated saxophone , unified in an idyllic initial setting, lush with heartbreaking fragility and purest design. Then the alternating themes begin their madcap ballet, the echoing piano treatment giving rise to some furious guitar pirouettes, as well as some dazzling turbo- charged flurries from the band, swift and adventurous. Back to the momentary calm before heading back to the fury. Tons of little details abound, like the squeaky synth wobbles, the heavy rock guitar showcase, the choir additions giving this a Orff-ian bombast that is hard to resist.

Back to jazzier horizons on "Citta Infinite", another perfect platform for Ana Torres Fraile to shine, a mesmerizing vocal display. This is semi-mellow stuff but it does include a snippet from UTO's masterful epic "De Astrologia" off the Magus album, which remains in my humble opinion, a classic prog tour de force. The vibraphone solo from Mirko Pedrotti is eyebrow raising to say the least. Wow! The final track "Mare Verticale" borrows again the disorienting and pounding rhythmic style that is their claim to fame, aided by a devilish bass and drum assault and adorned by some technically astute voice work that never ceases to amaze. I can listen to this a thousand times and still be impressed by the brilliant playing and the technical savvy by each band member.

In recap, this is an album that one can listen to as a whole, then go through it again just listening to one instrument, one at a time. That for me is the inherent attraction of any prog album. To the 19% who labelled this poor and only for completionists , you have my deepest condolences.

5 Measured mammas

Review by Warthur
5 stars Is there such a thing as electronic zeuhl? Apparently, the answer is "yes", and Universal Totem Orchestra's Mathematical Mother delivers a great steaming slab of it. Keyboardist Fabrzio Mattuzzi is the star player on this one, unleashing gibbering synthesisers on an unsuspecting listener. A substantial improvement over the previous The Magus, which I found a bit uninspiring, Mathematical Mother is Universal Totem Orchestra's most successful union of zeuhl, symphonic, and other prog styles yet, creating a thoroughly original sound which any fan of avant-prog will find a joy to digest. Ana Torres Fraile is backed by a range of supporting vocalists to provide crucial additional texture.
Review by Matti
5 stars When the band is categorized as Zeuhl, it seems to trigger a lot of debate and criticism. "Quixotic" is a word used in the band bio here. U. T. O. from Italy started out as an offshoot of a Zeuhl band Runaway Totem. Personally I knew nothing about this group or its origins in advance, when I was asked to review their latest (third) album. I recognize notable similarities with MAGMA - which has been a hard bone for me but which I have learned to appreaciate thanks to my prog friends. But I daresay this music sounds more eclectic and flexible in all its extreme complexity, and perhaps more impressive, than Magma averagely. The excellently produced sound features both eletcricity and acoustic approach (piano, saxophone, percussions), being occasionally slightly jazzy. The bass playing of Yanik Lorenzo Andreatta is marvelous.

The main vocalist Ana Torres Fraile is amazingly talented. She uses her strong and clear voice masterfully, from the operatic and Gothic soprano wailing to more intimate singing. The lyrics are in Italian; I have no idea about the textual contents. Occasionally there are also choir-like male backing vocals, but this music is not vocal-oriented, at least not in the common sense of the word. As with Magma's use of Koba´an language, the voice is pretty much like another instrument, and there are plenty of more or less pure instrumental sections too. The epic opener 'Terra Cava' (14:06) is a good example of that. It is truly gorgeous, actually so beautiful and perfectionistic piece of complex-and-yet-naturally-flowing prog that the expectations for the whole album are dangerously high. 'Codice Y16' attempts to pack a lot of things within 5 min 21 sec, sounding quite restless.

'Elogio del Dubbio' shifts from Gentle Giant-ish funkiness to ethereal Dead Can Dance -resemblance with Oriental flavour (tabla). Well, if there is a problem with this album, for me personally I mean, it's the occasional thought of overblown eclectic complexity. but then I'm disarmed once again by the serene and acoustic beauty in the beginning of 'Architettura dell'Acqua', the second longest track (11:27) that rivals the magnificent opener. 'Citta Infinite' has jazziness, operatic/Gothic flavour and instrumental excellence, for example in the form of a vibe solo by one of the guest musicians. Perhaps the closing track is a bit too restless (especially for the rhythmic complexity), as is the album in general, for my personal taste, but I certainly recognize highly original prog excellence when I hear it. In a word, this album is amazing. If you like complexity, operatic female vocals, superb use of instruments and bands as varied as GENTLE GIANT, MAGMA and DEAD CAN DANCE, you'll love this one.

Review by kev rowland
5 stars

This band was originally formed as an offshoot of Runaway Totem, which probably goes some way to explaining why they released their debut in 1999, their follow-up in 2008, and this their third in 2016. They are often described as Zeuhl within the prog world, but I'm not convinced myself that the term has a great deal of merit outside of Magma, so let's instead keep this simple. However one wants to classify this album, or whatever sub-genre one wants to put it in, it can all be said in one little word, "beautiful".

Whether it is the soaring classical vocals, the perfect piano accompaniment, the amazing bass, or the move between jazz, fusion, funk, classical, Arabian and progressive styles, it really is the only word that matters. This is a delicate album with instrumental passages that are dynamic and powerful, with vocals that can be strident or fragile, with everything always working together in perfect harmony. Some of the guitar on opener "Terra Cava" is sublime, and it shows that even proggers can shred when they wish to, it's just that they often don't want to. At fourteen minutes long, this is an epic song in so many ways, not just in length, but in the sheer complexity and the way that all the passages make sense individually and come together to create a whole that is breathtaking both in its complexity and melody.

'Mathematical Mother' is a very special album, one that is incredibly complex and intricate, yet also very easy to listen to, and totally enjoyable the very first time it is played. Let's hope we don't have to wait quite so long for the next one.

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars It's not unusual for modern prog-related bands to attempt to keep up a steady stream of annual albums or constant releases, be they live performances, compilations or limited edition sets, to ensure they retain a momentum, especially when there's so many more options to choose from for your current progressive music listening. Then there's examples where a group has such an esteemed reputation that they're given the luxury of taking their time (read years!) slowly honing their efforts to ensure something very special will eventually be delivered to the fanbase! Case in point is Italian collective Universal Totem Orchestra, an offshoot of renowned Zeuhl group Runaway Totem, releasing only three albums in their near-twenty years active, but each new one being something of a minor event. `Rituale Alieno' was a sumptuous gothic debut, `The Magus' in 2008 added some twisting metallic edge, but 2016's `Mathematical Mother' is their grandest and most lavish artistic statement yet.

What makes the Universal Totem Orchestra so fascinating is the way they cross over into so many styles to make a colourful exotic blend all their own. At any time, they blur aggressive overwhelming Zeuhl intensity with spacey keyboards, angular guitar riffing, tricky jazz-fusion turns, fancy chamber-prog flavours, Rock-In-Opposition experimentation, a mix of near- operatic female voice and even choral elements, all topped off with grand orchestration and pure symphonic pomp - sometimes all in the one track! Brave enough? Then enter...

Opener `Terra Cava' throws in everything that makes UTO so special. Throughout its fourteen minutes, it darts through everything from twitching split-personality jagged spasms, commanding choir arrangements and bombastic theatricality with plenty of jazzy sprints and dramatic orchestration. Ana Torres Fraile's purring near-operatic trills soar, Daniele Valle's guitars move between manic twisting runs and lengthy prog-rock guitar soloing histrionics, and Fabrizio Mattuzzi's sparkling piano brings plenty of classical fancy alongside his hovering deep-space synths. UTO G. Golin's intelligent and dynamic drumming keeps everything on course but still peppered with danger, and just listen to Yanik Lorenzo Andreatta's Magma-worthy mud- thick grumbling n' groovy bass guitar violation that kicks in at about the 8:40 mark!

The five-minute `Codice Y16' might actually make for a good introduction to newcomers to the group, encapsulating many of the delirious direction changes, manic instrumental blasts and searing operatic vocals they offer all inside a shorter compact piece, and there's no shortage of whirring synths, ravishing piano and soulful Magma-like proclamations throughout it. Book- ended with rumbling bass-quaking intensity and whirling-dervish heavy guitar grooves, `Elogio Del Dubbio' drifts into dusty Eastern mystery and spiritual pleading, followed by `Architettura Dell'Acqua'. A multi-part suite that opens as an English-sung melancholic ballad impeccably performed by Ana over Antonio Fedeli's sombre sax and Daniele's dreamy guitars that sounds like they've stepped off the softer moments of the early King Crimson albums, it soon morphs into that classic UTO sound - relentless twisting guitar f*ck-snap twitches over synths that jump between symphonic and punchy spacey blasts, and overwhelming male/female chanting choirs.

`CittÓ Infinite' is a multiple-personality blast of darkly jazzy weirdness where devilishly piano pomp, vocal scatting, violent synth stabs, abrasive electronic violations and maniacal percussion tantrums all bleed together, but it still finds a way to keep a spring in its step and an overall sleek gliding coolness. `Mare Verticale' then closes the disc on some nicely strangled and grooving jagged guitar riffing back-and-forth, a breathless jumble of male and female voices and even danger-laced E.L.P-esque symphonic fanfare bluster in the second half.

Despite being initially quite overwhelming, constant replays will be necessary to grasp the complexity of the material and to grow to appreciate the attention to detail here, but at least it's also thankfully around single vinyl length at 52 minutes! Lovers of the most grandiose of Italian symphonic music, and fans of Zeuhl and R.I.O bands as well as schizophrenic eclectic groups like Area will likely be captivated by the intricacies, intensity and barking madness that permeates `Mathematical Mother, a masterpiece that will likely be most appreciated by musical listeners with a slightly bent mind that view the world in a multitude of skewed ways!

Five stars.

Review by VianaProghead
5 stars Review N║ 179

Universal Totem Orchestra is a very risky musical proposal, full of quality, details and technique, whose originality and concept are really impressive. But, which kind of music does Universal Totem Orchestra play? It's really very difficult to explain. What I can tell you is that their music is an explosive mixture of sounds with modern rock camera, krautrock elements, psychedelic space rock influences, the power and crudeness of hard rock, opera and folk touches, and influences from the most avant-garde Magma. The music presents also influences from jazz, rock and medieval music.

Probably, the most unique attribute of this band are the vocals performed by Ana Torres Fraile and various male performers. You will hear choirs, operatic, tenor and soprano, and traditional male vocals, all very well done. There is so much happening instrumentally that the listener really needs to pay attention. This wouldn't be good background music as it's one of those albums that demand your full attention. Odd time signatures and sudden stops and starts, allowing that for different movements to take place, are the norm, not the exception. It's clear these musicians know how to play and a tremendous amount of work has gone into this piece of music. After all, there aren't many albums just short of 80 minutes long. So, you know you are getting your money's back. Sometimes, with albums this long, the music gets tiresome and boredom starts to set in prematurely. But, that isn't the case on here. I never got the sense they made a long album just for the sake of it. All of the pieces here fit the musical puzzle and nothing seems excessive or irrelevant. What makes this more rewarding are some of nice melodies provided by piano, guitar and saxophone.

'Mathematical Mother' is an album influenced by several musical styles by a truly quixotic Italian band. We can hear soaring classical vocals, the perfect piano accompaniment, the amazing bass, or the move between jazz, fusion, funk, classical, Arabian and progressive styles. I can see why they're considered a zeuhl band due to some bombastic and hallucinating influences from Magma, such as the arrangements hover from bombastic Wagnerian explosions to jazzier climes, again a Kobaian characteristic. But, in reality only Magma sounds like Magma. I can also see occasional forays into Arabic, Gothic and Gregorian chants. It seems that 'Mathematical Mother' is Universal Totem Orchestra's most successful album and represents a union of zeuhl, symphonic, and other progressive rock styles, yet, creating a thoroughly original sound which any fan of avant-prog will find a joy to digest. It just blows me away to think of the time and talent that was put into this album. Finally, the instrumental arrangements are absolutely perfect. This is an album with a very Italian strong feeling. And as almost we know there is amount infinity of amazing Italian prog rock albums.

'Mathematical Mother' needs a careful and gradual metabolization before being grabbed and appreciated. Over fifty minutes of refined and articulated evolutions characterized by counter-tempos and overlaps, epic veins and oriental warps that contain echoes of some of the best Italian prog bands. Starting from the fourteen minutes of the 'Terra Cava' opener, the talents of Torres Fraile stand out, as a vocalist with a soprano extension and an emphatic theatrical verve, a true narrating soul of the entire staging. The technique of the execution and inspiration distinguish the entire line up all over the album. Stylistically, sought after 'Mathematical Mother', undoubtedly stands among the most valid albums of the recent wave made in Italy linked to the jazz-rock prog line, confirming all the excellent impressions that the Trentino orchestra has so far awakened. So, stick to this title and avoid letting it go unnoticed. This kind of prog albums doesn't happen every day. However, 'Mathematical Mother' needs a careful and gradual metabolization before being grabbed and appreciated. What are my favorite tracks? I don't can say that. The entire album is just amazing. It supplanted all my expectations. 'Mathematical Mother' mined blow my mind with a symphonic Italian flavored Zeuhl.

Conclusion: Since the first minute I listened to 'Mathematical Mother', I was deeply impressed by it. Despite it suffers so many and different musical influences, it remains for me a truly impressive work. And curiously, they continue the old and great Italian tradition of using Italian lyrics. The album is characterized as Zeuhl, a genre on which I'm not very well familiarized. But, I can also see on it, influences of Gothic music, Gentle Giant, Dead Can Dance, and of course of the classical music, especially from the bombastic sound of the classic Wagnerian operas. The music is amazing and with great complexity. We may say this is an example of how the modern prog rock music must sound. There aren't many new prog albums that can impress me most than this one. Universal Totem Orchestra must be commended for making an album of such magnitude and scope. While this will not appeal to everyone, those of you who like to take musical adventures outside of the norm, would do well do give this a shot. I found this to be a fascinating album and a truly enjoyable listen to. It's really an amazing album. It's highly recommended for all lovers of sophisticated prog rock.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Latest members reviews

5 stars KICK-A-- TRANSCENDENT MUSIC! I highly enjoyed Universal Totem Orchestra's first two albums! And although I never critiqued them and it's been a while since I've listened to them (man's time is so finite) they would both have been in the 4 to 4.5 range. Both ... (read more)

Report this review (#1740803) | Posted by HarmonyDissonan | Tuesday, July 4, 2017 | Review Permanlink

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