Sontaag is a brand new act named after the New York instrumentalist Richard Sontaag. On their eponymous debut album, he was responsible for the compositions, most instruments, concept and co-production. His partner in crime is UK rock journo Ian Fortnam who was responsible for the story, lyrics, voice, and overall concept. On the album, which was co-produced by Youth (Killing Joke, The Fireman), they were assisted by Milo Venter on drums and Amanda Cross on vocals.
Sontaag is a modern-day concept album. The storyline is based in the distant past, when giant harmonic machines were used to bring dead planets back to life. This was done in order to remain alive. At the same time, inhabitants were forced to create music to continue the harmonies. The music displayed on this release is probably not the music the inhabitants were forced to create. If this was the case, they certainly came up with some entertaining material, because the almost one whole hour of music on this release is certainly worth listening to, especially if you're into progressive rock, space rock, ambient music and electronic music. All those styles work very well throughout the entire album. As on most releases, you can also hear the possible influences in Sontaag's music. Right from the start it was obvious to me that Pink Floyd is one of the bands that inspired them. Good examples are the tracks Empyrean, Aftershock Cacophony, Memoria Tenere and Glissandor; songs on which most of all the electric lead guitar parts move towards the style of Dave Gilmour, but also a track such as Serena Serenarum could be labelled as a Floydian piece of music. Here, the awesome female vocals, next to the fabulous electric guitar parts made me think of this band as well. On other tracks the name of Vangelis comes to the surface, and in particular his album Albedo 0.39 (1976, see review), on which a male voice narrates over the synthesizer parts too, and this reminiscence was the case on many of the tracks on this album. Just listen to pieces of music such as The Great Harmodulator, Harmodulation and Syn And Phonic, and you'll know why I compared them to the music of said Greek musician and composer. At the same time, the same songs made me think of the ambient music someone like The Orb creates on it's albums. Finally, another important influence was Hawkwind. Their space rock music could mainly be heard on the tracks Spaceshifter, Interstellar Genocide and The Skull-Scraping Caterwaul.
To anybody who loves the music made by acts such as Pink Floyd, Vangelis, The Orb and Hawkwind, it is advised to check out Sontaag's debut album. I suspect you, just like me, won't be disappointed by what you'll hear. A strong first effort of which they certainly can be proud.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Esther Ladiges)
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