Amarok is the project/band of Spanish composer and multi-instrumentalist Robert Santamaría who on this new album is accompanied by singer Marta Segura, Manel Mayol (flute and recorder), Alán Chehab (bass), Pau Zañartu (drums) and Xavi Saiz (electric guitars). Since the band's first demo in 1991 they have released a couple of albums, some of which I have heard and left a positive image of their folk/prog music in my mind.
The new CD Hayat Yolunda is packaged in a nice looking gatefold mini-LP sleeve that to my pleasant surprise contained an additional disc. I expected that it was a compilation of earlier work, and so, before starting with the new album, I thought it wise to listen to the Archivos 2009-2015 bonus CD, just to freshen my memory. Quickly found me playing that disc several times over. What a great mixture of Spanish folk, progressive rock and Mike Oldfield-like music! Just fabulous. I think I really have to dig up some of the band's CD's that should be stored away somewhere in my music room... And then just go figure that all of the tracks haven't been used - instead of a sampler it's a collection of unreleased material. The first six pieces were intended for a follow-up to the 2007 album Sol De Medianoche but discarded because the band felt that they were in a dead end. These were supplemented with some other archive recordings.
Just picking out some songs from the Archivos disc: Opener Imdhalaia brings Spanish influences (especially thanks to the strong vocals) into a fine combination of prog and folk. Touts And Frogs reminds of Minimum Vital, but with flute and violin. La Vintoya's Jig is indeed a pure folk-rock jig, while La Edad Avanzada brings some awesome organ. This is purest prog, but with emotional Spanish vocals. Truly fun is the ethno-flavoured version of the Beatles classic Norwegian Wood with Celtic pipes and violin. The bonus disc closes with a wonderful cover of Tangerine Dream's Stratosfear which was played by Robert Santamaría with Pau Zañartu and Victor Estrada at an electronic music festival just before Edgar Froese passed away.
And so on to the new disc that is at least as good. I will not describe all tracks in detail, because I very much want you to get the album and listen for yourself. Opener Universo treats us to a wonderful neo prog widdly keyboard solo. The Spanish influences and vocals set the music clearly apart from other neo prog bands. The varied and symphonic Despertar is a definite highlight with wandering flute, great vocals, widdly keys and Mellotron. Incertidumbre draws more on the folk roots with introspective flute and recorders, acoustic guitars and a vocal main role for Marta. One of the longer pieces on the CD is Rubicón which has a cool groove, rhythmic flute and awesome keyboards. Also closer Principio is a long track and a highlight. It's a wonderful, classically flavoured piece with flute, piano and acoustic guitar. Then there is a sudden shift in pace for an upbeat and energetic part until we end up in a majestic climax clocking at almost 9 minutes. Wow, let's press replay!
**** Carsten Busch (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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