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viernes, 12 de febrero de 2016

Curved Air - Phantasmagoria (1972)

Rock progresivo clásico y puro, con un toque particular en la voz de Sonja Kristina y un abordaje inteligente de temas históricos, revisitaciones barrocas y luminoso romanticismo. ¡Imperdible!

Artista: Curved Air
Álbum: Phantasmagoria
Año: 1972
Género: Prog sinfónico / Folk / Experimental
Duración: 37:55
Nacionalidad: Inglaterra


Lista de Temas:
1. Marie Antoinette
2. Melinda (More or Less)

3. Not Quite the Same
4. Cheetah
5. Ultra-Vivaldi
6. Phantasmagoria
7. Whose Shoulder Are You Looking Over Anyway?
8. Over and Above
9. Once a Ghost, Always a Ghost

Alineación:
- Sonja Kristina / Voz, guitarra acústica
- Darryl Way / Violín, teclados, campanas tubulares, melon

- Francis Monkman / Teclados, guitarra eléctrica, percusiones
- Mike Wedgewood / Bajo, voz, guitarras eléctrica y acústica, percusiones
- Florian Pilkington-Miksa / Batería, percusiones

Músicos invitados:
Annie Stewart / flauta (2)
Crispian Steele-Perkins, Paul Cosh, Jim Watson, George Parnaby / trompetas
Chris Pyne, Alan Gout, David Purser, Steve Saunders / trombones
Frank Ricotti / xilófono, vibráfono
Mal Linwood-Ross, Colin Caldwell, Jean Akers / percusiones
Doris the Cheetah / voz (4)


Curved Air es una de esas bandas de la era clásica del progresivo inglés que alcanzaron quizá menos reconocimiento del que merecían (aunque en su momento llegó al número 20 en las listas británicas). Claro, era (y es) imposible distinguir y poner atención en todo cuando hay tanto de donde elegir, pero en el caso de Curved Air, como sucedió también con Renaissance, la presencia de una mujer vocalista marca una diferencia que podría haber dado motivos para poner más atención. Y no solo por eso, sino porque en Sonja Kristina hay una fuerza creativa y expresiva sorprendente. No solo es una estupenda cantante, con un timbre particular y un estilo propio, sino también compositora, escritora y actriz (antes de integrarse a Curved Air fue protagonista del musical Hair durante más de dos años). Le sumamos a eso su belleza y tenemos en ella a la Grace Slick de las islas del Atlántico Norte.

Phantasmagoria es el tercer álbum de estudio de esta banda (que tomó su nombre de una de las obras más importantes del minimalista Terry Riley, A Rainbow in Curved Air; habrá que postear también ese material). Aquí encontramos tanto el coqueteo con el folk en "Melinda (More or Less)" como la experimentación sobre música clásica ("Ultra-Vivaldi") que son dos de los caminos creativos que Curved Air desarrolló durante su existencia, además de la reflexión poética sobre asuntos que van más allá de los temas comunes en el pop de la época, como la introspección en la soledad o la visita histórica (con ácido y negro humor).






"Marie Antoinette" es una crónica de la Revolución Francesa desde la óptica de quien trata de comprender a la reina que fue a la vez motivo y víctima de la furia popular. Cita la rabia del pueblo que corea "¡Revolución, viva la nación!" con "fuego en los ojos y acero en las manos". La poética realmente fabulosa y la solución musical, extraordinaria.

"Melinda (More or Less)" explora el sonido acústico (quitarra, violín, flauta, voz), mientras "Not Quite the Same" se va a lo orquestal (ensamble de vientos) con un sonido casi medieval o juglaresco que recuerda algunos momentos de Gentle Giant, y despliega además una impresionante vesatilidad melódica para plantear el asunto de la soledad con denso humor negro.

En "Cheetah" el protagónico violín vuelve sobre un enérgico intercambio armónico que juega con los tiempos y la duración de los compases. Todos los instrumentistas hacen gala de un virtuosismo espectacular. Este tema instrumental da paso al brevísimo "Ultra-Vivaldi", puente sinfónico hecho con sintetizadores que usa la velocidad de la cinta humorísticamente (todavía no había secuenciadores, así que supongo que es cinta, aunque Curved Air es una de las bandas pioneras en el uso de instrumentos electrónicos novedosísimos a principios de los 70).

"Phantasmagoria" (título del disco, tomado de un libro de poemas de Lewis Carroll) vuelve a la tesitura del primer tema, pero con el sentido del humor de los otros: la pregunta es sobre esa presencia que a veces sientes detrás, miras y no hay nada: "No llames un taxi / ni a la policía / no vayas al médico / sólo te dará pastillas / No te escondas en el sótano / tal vez no lo creas / quizás sea amigable / sólo está solo como tú".

"Whose Shoulder Are You Looking Over Anyway?" se adentra en el noise electrónico a la manera de las experimentaciones de la música concreta que por esos días ya era establishment pero en el ámbito popular solo se le permitía a Pink Floyd. Además aquí hay un poema leído por Sonja Kristina a través de un procesamiento electrónico realmente vanguardista si tomamos en cuenta que es ¡1972! Desemboca directamente en "Over and Above", que sigue con el asunto fantástico pero de un modo más dramático (ya sin humor). Musicalmente hipercompleja, la rola viaja de lo sinfónico a lo acústico, nuevamente con el violín en primera línea, a ratos folky, a ratos jazzy (sobre todo el bajo).

El disco cierra con otro tema relacionado con lo fantástico (por lo que casi es un disco conceptual; al menos el lado B): "Once a Ghost, Always a Ghost"; este fantasma es a la vez metáfora de eso en lo que te conviertes cuando tus planes maravillosos no alcanzan la realización.

Alta complejidad musical, originalísimo sonido a través del violín, la voz, la orquestación y tremenda profundidad poética: un discazo. Junto con el anterior Second Album, quizá lo mejor de Curved Air.





Wikipedia:

Phantasmagoria is a 1972 album by Curved Air. It reached No. 20 in the UK Charts[3] and is notable for its early use of the EMS Synthi 100 synthesizer to process lead singer Sonja Kristina's voice on the second side. Unavailable for many years, the album was reissued on CD in April 2007.
Allmusic called Phantasmagoria "the culmination of all that Curved Air promised over the course of its predecessors" and "the band's grandest hour by far". Their review praised the vast majority of the individual tracks, especially complimenting the blending of musical styles and absence of pretentiousness.

Sean Trane en Progarchives (hay más reseñas ahí):

Again another pleasant album from a pleasant band , isn't it pleasant? This is one of their better effort but it doesn't approach the master group of the times. Curved Air was always seen as second line of prog bands and this their finer album gets only three stars, so I think that everything has been said. Their "soft" prog is always pleasant (especially for the proghead wanting to get cosy with the girlfriend), will never offend ears (more likely to bore them), well made, produced by good musos, but they will never set the crowds ablaze.
Worth a spin and if you like Camel or B J H with female vocals (quite fine , really ), you should enjoy this.

Proghead en Progarchives:

Amazing followup to "Second Album", the final album with (more or less) the original lineup (the band had trouble keeping bassists), the difference here, of course, the band was on to their third bassist, Mike Wedgwood (later of CARAVAN, for the albums "Cunning Stunts" and "Blind Dog at St. Dunstans"). A more elaborate album than before thanks to the inclusion of strings and horns, not to mention a jazzier album.
The first two songs, "Marie Antoinnette" and "Melinda (More or Less)" are stunning ballads that's firmly in familiar CURVED AIR territory. These two songs gives more fuel in the fire that I feel Sonja Kristina was one of the best female vocalist around! "Not Quite the Same" is a rather dirty number about masturbation, while "Cheetah" is an instrumental piece dominated by Darryl Way's violin. "Ultra-Vivaldi" is Francis Monkan's time to shine, where he gives an electronic take on Vivaldi on his VCS-3 synth (of course this wasn't the first time the band explored Vivaldi, as demonstrated on "Air Conditioning", their debut).
Side two finds the band being more experimental. For example, a Monkman experiment called "Whose Shoulder Are You Locking" which involved Sonja Kristina electronically modifying her voice in to a synthesizer and computer, which ends up sounding like a vocoder (I understand this experiment also involved one of the guys who worked for Electronic Music Studios, the same company responsible for the VCS-3/Synthi "A" synthesizers), and I'm sure this gave Electronic Music Studios (EMS) an idea to develop a vocoder. "Over and Above" is a wonderful jazzy number, dominated by vibraphones, with lots of horns and strings. There are some quirky passages that brings to minds Frank ZAPPA or GENTLE GIANT. "Once a Ghost Always a Ghost" is the closing number, another quirky number, with more jazzy passages and horns. What a great album that I should have tried so long ago, it's not even funny!

Dave Thompson en Allmusic:

The sonic caveats which accompany Collector's Choice's other Curved Air reissues remain in force; the historical truth that what sounded timelessly groovy in 1971 is not necessarily so finger-snapping three decades later remains unimpeachable. But still, Phantasmagoria is a fabulous album, the culmination of all that Curved Air promised over the course of its predecessors; the yardstick by which all rock/classical hybrids should be measured. The opening "Marie Antoinette" sets the scene with lovely melody, impassioned vocal and a terrifically understated band performance which complements every syllable uttered by vocalist Sonja Kristina. The bridge into revolution ("the rabble have gone insane") is breathtaking -- history lessons should all sound this good, and the amazing thing is that the album has only just got started. The gentle "Melinda More or Less" is swirling, sweet folky psychedelia, while "Not Quite the Same," a somewhat self-conscious ode to masturbation, disguises its proggy inclinations with a barrelhouse 6/8 rhythm and a genuinely catchy hook. "Ultra-Vivaldi" updates the first album's "Vivaldi" by, apparently, letting the Chipmunks have a go at playing it. And the four-part, side-long title track switches moods, effects, and even genres (jazz, mariachi, and the avant-garde all get a look in) to create an dazzling soundscape which allows every members a moment to shine -- without once stepping into the treacherous swamps of solos and virtuosity. This was the original Curved Air's final album -- by the time the accompanying tour was over, only Kristina and bassist Mike Wedgwood (himself a spanking new arrival) remained to carry on the good work. As farewells go, then, it is magnificent, the band's grandest hour by far. And listening to it all these decades later, one cannot help but wonder how much grander they might have become?

George Starostin (¡le gustó!):

Yes! 'Marie Antoinette'! Boy do I love that song, an epic to be heard by everybody. The only other song about the French Revolution I can remember right now, off the cuff, is Rush's 'Bastille Day', and that one's absolute shit compared to Curved Air's romantic tale of the poor French queen. I can't gush enough at how all the parts of the track are so dang perfect. This lush baroque atmosphere of the main part, with the faraway dreamy smooth synth riff and the chimes and the steady gentle bassline, and Sonja singing as if she were standing in the middle of a ballroom all dressed in whatever she liked to dress in onstage... I don't even really need a handy-dandy accompanying video or anything, the imagery of the decadent, ceremonious, starchy high society is painted so impeccably. And then the rocking mid section, rousing and exciting but still actually presenting the whole picture from the point of view of the scared high society - 'they're over the balustrades! defying the cannon fire!' There are no special effects (strange enough, I actually expected such a gimmicky band as Curved Air to decorate the setting further with crowd noises and gunshots, but apparently they decided to let the listener's imagination paint all those things by itself), but that doesn't matter a single bit. And then it all reverts back to the original melody, but this time taken at a faster and more 'decisive' tempo, as if all the starchiness and forced majesticity were gone. Almost mathematical precision, if you ask me.
And that's not all - just as you catch your breath, you're subjected to perhaps the most beautiful acoustic ballad in the entire catalog of Curved Air, 'Melinda (More Or Less)'. Actually, did I say acoustic? That's not an acoustic in the background, sounds more like a harpsichord to me... oh, well, now I hear there IS an acoustic AND a harpsichord, and a lovely flute rhythm as well and a lovely violin solo. Romanticism at its loveliest. Why the hell is nobody doing songs of such pure and unclampered loveliness nowadays? Sadly, they have passed away together with the charming naivete and almost childish sincerity that characterized the epoch. Today, you'd probably be afraid of being dissected in Rolling Stone if you did something of the kind. Today, what we need is serious and competent music that fully meets the advanced needs of the time. Like 'N Sync, for instance.
Okay, don't let you catch me on this harmful nostalgic trail. Too bad the album never really ascends again to the height of the first two tracks - which prevents me from hailing it as Curved Air's best album, like many fans do, but there's still a lot to be said about the other songs. Hmm, let's see, the "dirty" side of Curved Air is well manifested on 'Not Quite The Same', a song dedicated to masturbation of all things; too bad the melody is nowhere near memorable, it almost sounds like a hurriedly penned account of an unlucky guy who constantly "busied himself, quite amusing himself, by abusing himself" set to a squishy musical background. It's still fun, nevertheless. And the song ends with a rather lacklustre instrumental (Way's violin spotlight 'Cheetah') and a stupid return to the Vivaldi topics in 'Ultra-Vivaldi' where they substitute violin for synthesizer and play the main theme accelerating it all the time. Gee, and there I was complaining about lack of gimmickry. Somehow this reminds me of the coda to 'Karn Evil 9', you know.
The second side is pseudo-conceptual, a four-song suite that constitutes the very 'phantasmagoria' - a story of ghosts and the occult that has its moments of glory as well as its moments of glut. 'Phantasmagoria' as such (the first track of four) I like; it has a funny boppy poppy melody in the best of music hall traditions; the 'don't ring for a taxi, don't call the policemen' chorus is catchy, isn't it? It should be. 'Whose Shoulder Are You Looking Over Anyway?' is worse, another gimmick consisting of a few minutes of gloopy synthesizer noises and electronically encoded vocals; kudos to the band for fiddling around with electronica, of course, but that's a strictly intellectual, not an emotional, decision of mine. 'Over And Above' is just a bit overlong at eight minutes; I mean, yeah, it tells us the entire life of the ghost (does it?), but the experience of Genesis tells us it's perfectly possible to economically squeeze a huge line of events into a three-minute song if the need arises. My favourite part is definitely the fast 'n' energetic jamming at the end, especially when the draconic wah-wah solo enters and the track falls apart in a shower of redhot electric sparks. And then 'Once A Ghost, Always A Ghost' ends the song on a positively, heh, hilarious note. What's that, Latin influences? A funny and inventive way to go out, somewhat reminiscent of the Stones' 'On With The Show' with its drunken noises in the background.
Mumbo-jumbo! That was a boring review, wasn't it? Sorry, I'm a bit ill today and my brains are clogged with infection. In case I missed some particularly shining moment, please excuse me. Oh wait! Did I mention yet how much I love the album cover? Doesn't the luvverly font fully reflect the very nature of Curved Air? Now here's truly a band fit for the English queen. And singing about masturbation, too.


Marco Salzano en Debaser (en italiano):

Nel nuovo film di Sofia Coppola "Marie Antoinette", che propone una colonna sonora pop-rock con brani dei New Order, Strokes ed Aphex Twin (tra gli altri), non sarebbe stata fuori posto la bella canzone dedicata alla sfortunata regina dai Curved Air, brano di punta dell'album "Phantasmagoria".
Il brano, uno dei più noti del gruppo inglese, esemplifica bene lo stile dei primi Curved Air, con Darryl Way all'organo a tenere il filo della melodia e Francis Monkman alla chitarra a punteggiarla con in suoi sapienti riff di stampo blues. Emozionante il crescendo finale cantato con distaccato pathos da Sonja Kristina ("The people are in arms, marching on the town; They rise chanting 'Revolution! Viva la Nation!'; Fire in their eyes, steel in their hands; They rise chanting 'Revolution! Viva la Nation!': Clamouring in the square, the rabble have gone insane; They're over the balustrades, defying the cannon fire; They're into the garrison, they murder the noblemen; Marie Antoinette, Marie Antoinette). Segue il sognante folk acustico di "Melinda", scritto dalla cantante Sonja Kristina (con liriche come: "Lovely lady falling laughing down the glory of a rainbow; Lovely lady reaching crying for the comfort of the day-glow; Melinda more or less, Melinda more or less in dreams ", che sembrano uscire, invece, dalla penna di Peter Sinfield) col misurato accompagnamento di flauto, violino e di un impercettibile clavicembalo. Solenni trombe introducono l'ironica "Not Quite the Same" in cui si canta di un disperato erotico che, in mancanza di meglio, "busies himself, quite amusing himself, by abusing himself". Chiudono il primo lato, "Cheetah", nuovo tour de force al violino di Way sulle orme del primo Hit "Vivaldi" ed una inutile quanto fastidiosa rilettura al sinth VCS3 proprio di "Vivaldi" a velocità accelerata.
Il secondo lato presenta un Suite di Monkman, una sorta di "Ghost's progress", ispirata a Lewis Carroll, che, pur non convincendo del tutto, tenta di uscire un pò dal seminato, avvicinandosi a territori surreali Genesis-style, e, stilisticamente, alle strutture articolate dei Gentle Giant.
Momenti di interesse: il divertente chorus alla Rocky Horror Picture Show della title track ("Don't ring for a taxi, don't call a policeman, Don't ring for a doctor he'll just give you pills. Don't hide in the cellar, you may not believe it It's probably friendly, just alone like you"), l'esperimento di "Whose Shoulder Are You Looking Over Anyway" con la voce d'oltretomba della Kristina filtrata al Vocoder; il latineggiante lounge finale di "Once a Ghost, Always a Ghost", con fiati, percussioni e vibrafono, piuttosto inedito per un gruppo Prog.
Chiaramente a questo punto la formula originaria si è esaurita ed il gruppo, per rinnovarsi, proverà prima a virare verso l'hard rock (Air Cut, Love Child), con l'ingresso di Eddie Jobson e Gregory Kirby al posto di Way e Monkman, poi, riacquistato Way e perso Jobson, con un pop sofisticato ad alto tasso erotico che esalterà la carica sensuale della Kristina (Midnight Wire, Airborn).
Alla fine della fiera restano i primi tre dischi a testimonianza di un sound fra i più originali dell'epoca.

Kill en Sputnik Music:

Sometimes late at night when you've been thrashing all day to rattlehead and superconductor, thrash can be too heavy and awesome for your tired ears, so when you just wana chill to smooth bass lines and sexy female vocals..you listen to this ***. If you dont already know (well you wont cos this is sputnik) Curved Air were a prog rock band from sunny england. What set these dudes apart is that the vocals are sung by Sonja Linwood who is a girl and a hot one at that, Renaissance were similar in this regard too. Apart from being hot, Sonja can sing real good too. Her voice sounds like an angel who doesnt care about the bad things in the world, she just sings her heart out and shows her true passion for music. The thing is she is really hot and i would *** her if she'd let me. The opening track Marie Antoinette is a classic, featuring great guitar leads and soft keys that make you feel fuzzy inside. The album flows very hard, after the epic opening track we are welcomed to Melinda (more or less) where we hear the soft acoustic sounds of Sonjas fingering skills, and thanks to great and crisp production you can almost taste it. After that short acoustic track we are slapped in the johnson with the wacky track titled Not Quite the Same, featuring a great walking bass line and trumpets of power. The title track is short and sweet, the chorus is probably the most catchiest thing ive ever heard, and its not gay either. Over and Above is the epic of the album, and while its not quite Songs of Scherergehreredaze level, its ***ing close. The trumpets go hard, and the drums go balls out and best of all the time sigs dont give a *** about your ***ty brain comprehending the brilliance.
Overall this is Curved Airs best album although Air Cut is very close. Basically this band is like Renaissance but not as good, which is awesome. The fact this album has 4 votes shows how gay this site is, but maybe you can help change that? Heres why you should: the instrumentation is top notch, the vocals are as beautiful as Sonjas mug and most importantly of all, the songs rule, very hard indeed.


Botones:

"Melinda (More or Less)" en vivo, para que se enamoren de Sonja Kristina



Clip de "Marie Antoinette"


Clip de "Phantasmagoria"





1 comentario:

  1. Acá! (flac + cue + log + scans):
    http://pastebin.com/y3RSiVTG

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