Ouroboros (2009, see review) was the latest studio album recorded by the Spanish progressive rock band Kotebel. The album contained six strong instrumental tracks plus a live bonus track. The music balanced between keyboards and guitars with syncopated and complex rhythms that sometimes recalled bands as Gentle Giant and King Crimson. Even Swedish bands like Änglagård and Anekdoten crossed my mind. However, after this record the band couldn't find the time to write and record a new album. Therefore, in January 2011 they stopped giving live performances in order to fully concentrate on the preparation of a follow-up. In September 2011 Kotebel did a live studio performance of the composition Concerto For Piano And Electric Ensemble. Additional recordings for the remainder of the album and the mixing and mastering were done between October and December.
A couple of months later Kotebel could finally release their next album called Concerto For Piano And Electric Ensemble, named after the longest and most dominating composition on the album. If you buy this record you'll get a bonus-DVD containing a full rendition of the recording of this track. This is a nice gesture because this way you can clearly see in detail and good close-ups how this composition comes together and how the music is performed by Carlos Franco Vivas (drums, percussion), César García Forero (electric, acoustic and Spanish guitars), Jaime Pascual Summers (bass), Adriana Nathalie Plaza Engelke (grand piano) and Carlos Plaza Vega (electronic keyboards).
Right from the start I noticed that the music sounds the same as on their preceding album, only this time they added more classical piano to the overall sound. The musical style is a kind of mixture of progressive rock, avant-garde, classical music and jazz. The album opens with the title track which is divided into four movements. The first movement Adagio Maestoso is probably the most understandable part. It features some strong melodic guitar parts sounding like a mixture of Robert Fripp and Steve Hackett. Also the melodic keyboards sound enjoyable giving the music a progressive rock feel. On the whole the piano mostly takes the lead. The second movement Lento Cantabile is the mellowest of the four movements although influences of Gentle Giant and King Crimson are still present throughout this long composition.
However, not only the long title track is a delight to listen to. Also the other four songs are top-notch pieces with sometimes complex parts, but never too difficult to digest. These other tracks show some influences from bands like Änglagård and Anekdoten, but less than on their previous album Ouroboros. I think this is a positive point because now their own style comes to the fore more often. However, I still noticed other influences in their music. Occasionally the music reminded me of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, SBB, Solaris and After Crying. Sometimes they add some xylophone and saxophone parts to the songs. By doing so they create original sounds in combination with the usual rock instruments. It provides the music with a jazzier touch which leads to references with bands as Return To Forever and Weather Report. The album contains the bonus track The Infant, recorded in 2008. While listening to it you can't hear that it was written in the same period as the material on Ouroboros. The song flows very well with the other compositions on Concerto For Piano And Electric Ensemble.
Kotebel recorded an outstanding progressive rock album that coherently blends progressive rock, classical music and avant-garde. Sure, the album needs some spins to discover and to see through every single note, but in my opinion those albums are mostly the best!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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