The balance between the rough and the pleasant
Starting with a lovely violin lead tune, the music sides on the more folkloric side, but also has a certain formal elegance. The vocals accompanying the music are sung in a female fronted lead backed up by male voices. The entire amalgam of sounds takes from so many styles that it is a challenge to try and decipher their whole influences; however it is a delight to listen to. In a way it reminds me of the way that Le Silo took so many influences in their debut album 8.8 and made a fabulous mix out of it. The music here doesn’t sound at all like Le Silo but the exercise done is similar in that they take from many sources and combine it into one, with such elegance and easiness.
To emphasize my point and to give you a point of reference to their sound, here’s how the band describe what they’re like in their website:
“The new album goes a long way further: it is the outcome of uncompromising and consistent search for eclectic and recognizable sound idiom that fuses rock, modern music, jazz and literature.
Kotegarda features compact, meticulously thought-out compositions that use techniques usually associated with jazz and chamber music (dissonance, frequent changes of odd rhythms, polyrhythms, mixed meters, unorthodox harmonies, altered chords and polyphony). Careful listener will detect affiliations with contemporary music rock (Stravinski, Reich) i rock experimentation (Fripp, Firth, Univers Zero, krautrock).”
This band is doing a very good work at playing a frisky folk, intertwined with complex rhythms and elaborate compositional structures without neglecting melody. At times they are blunter in their approach, going for a sharp sound while at other times the tune is less abrasive and more “ear-friendly”. This playing around is part of their special trait, it partly shows their abilities and broad range of influences. What I also appreciate here is the interplay of the vocal parts; the female vs. the male who counteract them, not only in tone but also in style, i.e. sharp and short vs. extended.
It is not a relentless album; not to say it is relaxed, but not a hectic one; rather it reminds me more of the intensity of older bands like Begnagrad, and recent bands like Yugen, which are cheerfully energetic but not as chaotic the way several more recent bands are. In this sense, Gargantua have more in common with Begnagrad, Yugen, Olive Mess and Rational Diet than with other types and flavours of avant-rock of today.
The music presented on this album has an interesting mix of pleasant music with rougher and harsher sounds; it is well balanced and is one feature that kept my interest and focus while listening.
This album goes further away from their previous release, in that they are somewhat less derivative sounding; it feels as if they’ve let themselves go wilder and farther away, as if they allowed more freedom while composing. Moreover, the album sounds better, fuller, with a more space-filling musical volume (if that makes sense). I feel the musicians are definitely striving to change, improve, explore and try new ways of composing their songs. This is why I am optimistic with regards to their future album; I am sure it will be different in a way that it will follow the footsteps and along with incorporating new elements, it will also be a natural continuation of what is heard here.
A word of caution: for those who dislike non-English lyrics, take into account, that the songs are in Polish. I personally have no problem with each language and prefer bands to sing in their native tongue but I know there are listeners who find this hard to digest.
Kotegarda is a highly enjoyable listen; it is a varied sounding album (in styles and in instrumentation), well played, and intelligent in a sense that it is intriguing and a compelling listen. It is a definite improvement from the first effort as I see it.
Gargantua is comprised of a talented bunch of musicians that deserves more attention from the avant-rock crowd as well as from the more wide range group of listeners of progressive and adventurous forms of music.
Here's another review, surprisingly a favourable one from DPRP.