Friday, April 22, 2011

Review: Senogul - Senogul (2007, Mylodon)

That is one keyword that describes Senogul’s s/t album.
There are other words, but I’ll let you read the review for you to discover them.

What is special about this album is that the use of the variety of styles and sounds is done in such a flowing natural way, as if we were never used to it being different than this, without sounding weird or out of place. It’s not that it is a multi-genre record, but there is a clever assimilation of styles in the tunes that Senogul plays, making it their own sound.

The music sounds to me as being “free, open, without barriers”, and not as a wall of sound or any other type of dense and thick sound. While not exactly a light-spirit album, it’s one that is characterized by an “airy”, fresh and “spacious” sound and mood. Senogul creates music that is tender and mellow alongside more dynamic and vibrant tunes. The diversity of the album is manifested in the styles played, tone and ambiance of the tracks (both within and between tracks), instrumentation and musical themes that are presented in each tune. What more, is that since the music is the way it is, I don’t feel “drained” at the end of the album, as I do with some other albums that can be an exhausting experience. With this album, I feel that I can listen to it again once I finish listening to it, despite it being quite long. The Senogul sound is highlighted by the keyboards (usually taking a piano sound), their particular guitar sound and their groovy rhythms. Though they are Spanish, there is no strong Spanish sound in their music except for several parts in the tracks that go that way. The guitar does take (though not all the time) a Spanish “accent” that I can also recognize from other Spanish bands.

I will not do a track by track but I’ll point out some of the main aspects of the different tunes here and mention what I liked about them (or not) and what I found impressive or noticeable. The first two tracks in the album are connected making them sort of a one piece. In the first track is also a nice feature the band added in the form of the angelic sounding Coro Melsos (Melsos Choir). The choir comes in late in the first track and they link between both tracks. This choir should have been used more throughout the album. In the second track comes the more dynamic form of Senogul, in contrast with the dreamy, ethereal aspect of the opening track. What I like about the band in particular is the use of various instruments to create that lively atmosphere, a free spirit feel. But even when they use a “basic” rock instrumental lineup, they manage to create a delicate form of power in their music that doesn’t sound forceful. With Tango Mango, Senogul present their version of an epic track. At over 12 minutes, there is much going on here in terms of musical ideas, different moods, tempo’s, styles and instruments. This is to me the highlight of the album (there are others, rest assured). Opening with a delicate “open sound” guided by guitar and accordion, the music goes on to a more “closed sound” that the keyboards create. There is shifting from a propelling rhythm to laid back parts and then back to a different type of energetic component. There is some tango here, some rock (and some good old symphonic rock bits), some innuendos of Spanish music, and them some… There are several musical themes that the band plays and goes from and back to, all mingling naturally. Even when the band seems to be going over the top (around ~9:10) they still contain themselves, never loosing control and self discipline. La Verbena Hermetica goes on to a Spanish flavoured tune, very groovy and bouncy and along the way “visits” other parts of the Senogul musical map, such as some jazz-rock territory. Microcosmos Blues is slightly more aggressive due to the heavier guitar distortion used (occasionally, not throughout the track) and although the name suggests it, it’s not a blues song (although some elements of it can be found) yet the ending of the track is a classic blues ending. Track 7, Gotas De Cristal En Tu Vaso De Iluvia starts mellow with the guitar and flute and they are joined in for a mid-track peak by the rest of the band. From then the music is more structured with the drums being more “present” and the accompanying chords of the keyboards (with a typical organ sound). This and the previous track, Dr. Gull II, are somewhat of a good middle section, giving a “well deserved pause” in the middle of this rather long musical journey. La Maha Vishnuda contrasts the previous two tracks as it goes for a more rock style than other tracks, with more poignant guitars, and drumming. this track maybe short (4:44) and yet they manage in this short time to create a piece that doesn’t repeat itself, progresses from the start all the way to the end, by changing and evolving the theme, and the nice vocal line which should have been used more. Agua, fuego & porexpán is a great jazzy tune (at times I thought of Secret oyster, don’t know why…), again bouncy as some previous tracks, rich in sound, powerful in its execution. But just when I thought that I figured out the whole track, then at ~2:00 the tempo and whole music theme change and they start a new part, with the same bouncy style but different which in itself has a twist within it. This track shows how Senogul take something that might have otherwise been a rather usual sounding piece and made much more exciting, thrilling, interesting, complex and compelling. Not once does it sound forced to me, it’s all perfectly natural sounding, as if playing like this is something everyone does and they are just playing along with the flow. All I can say about this piece – Fantastic! Up there with Tango Mango and La Verbena Hermatica). Travesía de las gaviotas is a nice short mellow tune, rather minimalist compating to the other tracks with regards to the instrumentation used. La Mulata Eléctrica starts strong, with the bass, keyboards and drums playing a tune together, repeating it and then moving on to play another part ending with something that has a slightly Spanish flavour. This track is where Senogul reveal more fully their origins with the clapping in the middle and the Ole and the guitar playing with a Spanish “accent”. This track is another fine example to the variety of the band in terms of instrumentation, sound, style and a fine example of how they develop musical ideas and progress from start to end. It is another highlight of this album. This could have been an excellent closer of the album. Dr. Gull III is the longest of those similarly named tracks, and the only one that is really dynamic and probably the one with the most developed musical theme. It also brings back some of the motifs that were used in other tracks (unless I imagine it…). It is a bit more with a sinister mood, but still not overtly dark. I wouldn’t have ended with this track and rather use it in the middle like the second part but it is not something detrimental and they chose to end with that for a reason I suppose, so I respect that.

Another thing I think they should have done differently is make more use of the Melsos Choir. It could have given more “colour” to some of the tracks. I said their music is colourful as it si with all the instrumentation, but the choir was a good addition when it was used.

All in all, this is a magnificent release, one that I recommend highly. If you like varied music, enjoyable, well written, rich in sound yet not dense, music that progresses within each track and doesn’t stagnate, then this should please you. Give this a chance, go buy it!

Official website
Prog Archives

A teaser from the upcoming album:

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