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progVisions

progVisions is a progressive rock e-zine, published in English and made by an international group of members. Our objective is to become a centre of information that contributes to the knowledge, growth and development of progressive rock.

album reviews

album review

Universal Totem Orchestra - Mathematical Mother - 2016


    
“... a masterpiece ...”
Why should progVisions review a release from 2016? There are several answers to that question. It is an underrated Italian band, it took some time to get my hands on a physical promo copy ... all true, but the most important reason is that the third Universal Totem Orchestra album entitled “Mathematical Mother” is simply a masterpiece. The band takes their time to release an album. Their debut album “Rituale Alieno” dates from the year 1999. The successor “The Magus” is from 2008 and eight years later the Italian label Black Widow Records released this masterpiece entitled “Mathematical Mother”. To give you an indication about the music, their music is often described as Zeuhl, but the Band themselves uses the following description on their FaceBook page; Symphonic Jazz/Rock. The last one is maybe a better one because the music is so much more than Zeuhl or RIO (Rock In Opposition). The band members are masters in fusing musical styles. However you describe it, it remains music for the open minded music lover.
Ana Torres Fraile - vocals; Antonio Fedeli - alto and tenor saxophone; Daniele Valle - guitar; Fabrizio Mattuzzi - keyboards, piano; UTO G. Golin - drums; Yanik Lorenzo Andreatta - bass

Guests musicians:
Adriano Vianini - vocals; Alessandro Andreatta - guitar on Architettura Dell’ Aqua; Francesco Festi - vocals; Gianni Nicolini - tabla on Elogio del Dubbio; Mirko Pedrotti - vibes on Citta Infinite; Oscar Cordioli - vocals; Samia Charbel - vocals on Elogio Del Dubbio
When you listen to the fourteen minutes long album opener “Terra Cava”, you will immediately recognize the remarkable musical and compositional skills of the band. The music is colorful, exotic and has a great diversity. Singer Adriano Vianini uses her beautiful voice often as an instrument and seems to have a classical education. Although most lyrics are in Italian her way of singing in some parts of this composition generates that Zeuhl feeling. But there are many parts that are jazz fusion and symphonic flavored. There is even a small vocal part with oriental and Indian influences. Also the bass work of Yanik Lorenzo Andreatta is remarkable. It is not an easy to understand piece of music but it is definitely one of the highlights of the album. Several spins in your CD player will reveal the real beauty of this fine opener.

The up-tempo and shorter track “Codice Y16” is an overwhelming piece with a lot of Zeuhl influences and the name of the French band Magma crossed my mind. Mainly because of the vocal parts, but it has also a kind of Canterbury flavor. A nice melting pot of Zeuhl and Jazz Fusion music. “Elogio Del Dubbio” follows the same musical path but abruptly transforms into a piece with mysterious Eastern and Arabic atmospheres. In the hectic last part of this composition you will find some impressive guitar and bass parts.

Then the band slows down a little bit with the beautiful sung “Architettura dell’ Acqua”. The first part of this eleven minutes long composition is sung in English. Ana’s beautiful voice is only accompanied by a jazzy and delicate guitar and a sad saxophone tune. This first part is dreamy and melancholic. The next part is typical Universal Totem Orchestra with great vocals and full of rhythm changes. Keyboard player Fabrizio Mattuzzi shines in this track but actually this counts for the whole album.

The album closes with the songs “Citta Infinite” and “Mare Verticale”. The first one “Citta Infinite” shows the contrast that you can find often in the music of Universal Totem Orchestra. The melodic and symphonic parts with the beautiful vocal melodies are placed next to the complexity of the jazzy parts. “Mare Verticale” is another showcase of the complexity of the music that is performed by very skilled musicians. When the music seems to be getting to overwhelming Ana comes with a beautiful vocal part. But then the band goes full throttle again with weird time signatures and rhythm changes¬†
The complexity of the compositions are sometimes a little bit overwhelming. But the whole album is a showcase of progressive and innovative rock music with jazz and Zeuhl elements. Don’t be alarmed about the terms Zeuhl and RIO (Rock In Opposition). Universal Totem Orchestra has developed their own unique style of music that is more accessible for the (open minded) music lover. This is a real accomplishment because the music has often that complexity that deters the ordinary music lover. Mathematical Mother” gets the full 5 star rating here on progVisions ¬†.... and therefore is highly recommended. Get out of your comfort zone and enjoy the music.
Douwe Fledderus - May 2018
rating - Black Widow Records

 

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