I was incredibly curious about the new album of our Cuban friends Anima Mundi, the only progressive rock band from Cuba, as far as I know. In 2016 they launched the beautiful album I Me Myself (see review) which ended second in my year list and which was rightly judged with a rating of 5 stars, the maximum score. What made this album very special to me is the addition of jazz to the sound of Anima Mundi. But not only jazz, but also harder elements caused the enormous variation on that album. For fun, I renamed the title of the album's greatest song 'Guitarsolo To Future' instead of Train To Future. This is because of the most beautiful guitar solo of 2016 for me that seems to continue indefinitely; I have rarely heard such a long solo, wonderful. All songs on the album are striking and varied, so the album really never bores as far as I am concerned.
So I was very curious after I Me Myself if Anima Mundi would continue on the same path or possibly take a new direction with the new album called Insomnia.
In addition, I was also very curious about what the occupation would look like because the lineup has not always been stable. Insomnia is the sixth studio album. In the previous five studio albums Roberto Diaz (electric and acoustic guitars, percussion and loops, fuzz bass guitar, orchestrations, sound effects, lead and backing vocals, vocal percussions and weird vocals ) and Virginia Peraza (synthesizers, orchestrations, percussion and loops, Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Mellotron, Hammond Organ, keyboard, sound effects and backing vocals) always participated. Yaroski Corredera (bass guitar and synth bass) has been there since the second album. Where it has been much more volatile is in the places of drums and vocals. Just like on the previous album Marco Alonso (drums, percussion and saxophone) is still there. On vocals is another newcomer, Aivis Prieto. There is one guest musician and that is Julio Padron on trumpet.
The cover of the previous album was made by none other than Douwe Fledderus and in my opinion it was one of the most beautiful covers of 2016. Also on this album he was allowed to design the cover. It is clear that the covers have many similarities in style. There was an open hand on the previous cover. The cover was completely blue. This time the cover is completely red colored and again a hand appears, this time made into a fist. This cover is also one of the most beautiful covers of the year. In that respect, a compliment to Douwe.
With this new album Anima Mundi has signed with Progressive Promotion Records. The album is mastered by Kalle Wallner and Yogi Lang, whom we know from RPWL as well as from Blind Ego, Kalle's band.
What is more striking about the album is that it is dedicated to Heidi Burgs. Heidi died suddenly last year, while she was still very young. Heidi is no stranger to the prog, everyone knew her from concerts she attended or from Anima Mundi. When they were on tour, she always did the merchandise. I myself had the honor to be allowed to talk to her now and then and what always struck her was her intense smile, a beautiful person as far as I was concerned. Also in the form of the closing track Her Song an ode has been delivered to Heidi, but more about that later.
Then I also have something to say about the music, because that's what it's all about, of course, although I like to give you the opportunity to get some background information about Anima Mundi. The title Insomnia is well chosen. You will not get much sleep during listening to the album. The album opens with the search of a radio frequency where sounds from space come to you. It has a nice bass line and spacey guitar. The music is nice and rhythmic with an unprecedented tight rhythm section, Yaroski and Marco complete each other excellently. There is a lot of electronics coming from the keyboard of Virginia that sounds like prog from the future for me. I find it very daring and successful in that respect. A few years ago, Frost* came with their studio album Falling Satellites (2016, see review) on which they also played in this kind of style, however I experience on Insomnia that they have made a more modern version of Frost*'s style. The opening song, Citadel, which we are talking about, fits well with the previous album, but much more experimental. It sounds different to what we are used to and I really like that. You have to get used to the vocals of Aivis, just like the voice of Michel Bermudaz the previous album. However, I got used to Aivis his voice quicker than Michels on the previous one. He has a very nice, warm voice with a big range. When we arrive at 6:38 in the song, a keyboard solo starts that is so incredibly beautiful that I simply cannot describe what this solo does to me. It is definitely the keyboard solo of the year for me. Fortunately, this solo takes the full two minutes, blissful!
Roberto sings in Nine Swans and he does this very well. It is a somewhat quieter song that takes time to tell what it has to tell, in the end I hear some elements from the Pink Floyd psychedelic era.
Electric Credo is a real 'electric' song, futuristic and psychedelic with beautiful drum fills that add something. It is an instrumental song in which you tend to secretly start to smoke a joint, it breathes such an atmosphere.
In The Hunter you dream wonderfully on the guitar pluck while Aivis sings beautifully. Now and then it gets slightly more threatening after which the song gets a more cinematic character with some bombast in the background. The song quietly ebbs away.
In the title track is a beautiful experimental saxophone solo by Marco. The song has very experimental keyboard parts and programming, I can get used to it I can tell you. Roberto also knows how to create beautiful soundscapes with his guitar, excellent.
After Electric Credo it is Electric Dreams that is an instrumental song. You really have to listen to this song with the headphones on and of course you have your eyes closed to let it in even more, what a beautiful saxophone solo again.
The Wheel Of Day is very much in line with Marco with great drumming and again a very nice saxophone solo. It is a very jazzy song in which Aivis, with his beautiful singing, also shares the leading role with Marco.
New Tribe's Totem then. 'Where....are.....we....going....to...?' is the thought when I hear the drums in the intro in combination with the threatening guitar wall, how scary can you have it? A lot of details in this epic that is difficult to fathom. I hear a lot of emotion in the vocals, spacey keyboards and here too you hear a true drum style from Marco. Halfway through you hear a blissful guitar solo in this oh so exciting track that also includes a spatial, experimental saxophone solo. What a great, great song.
Finally, Her Song remains. This song does not suit the Insomnia concept in my opinion, but of course that is not necessary at all. It is and remains an ode to Heidi. The song is not that complicated, more laid back with a lot of atmosphere and very emotional ending. The song fades away, which belongs to an ode.
In conclusion, I can say that Anima Mundi simply put the style change on the previous album on this one. The album is very spacious, daring and it will have to grow, even after 35 listens I discover something new in the music every time. It has a lot of atmosphere in it, I compare it a bit with the Pink Floyd of 2030, and Anima Mundi can be very proud of that. Maximum score!
***** Michel Stolk (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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