Taproban was formed in the year 1996 in Rome, Italy by keyboardist Gianluca De Rossi. Besides Gianluca De Rossi on keyboards the band exists out of bassist Roberto Vitelli and drummer Ares Andreoni. As a guest Antonio Marangolo is playing the saxophone on one of the tracks. “Per Aspera Ad Astra” is the fifth studio album of Taproban. The name of the band comes from the ancient name for the island of Sri Lanka. “Per Aspera Ad Astra” is a Latin expression that means “through hardships to the stars” With this new album the band wanted to recover several compositions that were previously recorded. With new vitality and the technical possibilities of today. The band also tried to give them a more vintage sound by using several instruments of the early '70s (Hammond, Mellotron, MiniMoog, Moog Taurus, Rickenbacker bass etc.).
Gianluca De Rossi - Minimoog Model D, Hammon C3 organ, Mellotron SM400, Sequential Circuits Prophet 5, Roland JX8P, Nord Electro 3 HP, EMU Vintage Pro, acoustic Grand piano, Glockenspiel and vocals; Roberto Vitelli - Rickenbacker 4003 Jetglo, Geddy Lee Fender Jazz, Moog Taurus I & III, Gibson Les Paul Gold Top, E-bow, Fender 6 string acoustic; Ares Andreoni - Gretsch Catalina Maple Drums, Zjildjian Sabian and Paiste cymbals, Rototoms, Cow bell, Darabouka, Windchimes, Vibraslap
Francesco Pandico - drums and percussion on Agata
Antonio Marangolo - tenor saxophone on Nexus
“Per Aspera Ad Astra” opens with the suite “Outside Nowhere” which is divided into the 5 movements “At The Nineteenth Orbit”, “The Mission”, “The Launch” and “Outside Nowhere”. The suite is inspired by the tragic death of the Russian cosmonaut Vladimir Michailovic Komarov who was boarding the Sojuz 1 spacecraft which crushed to the ground on April 24th 1967 after 19 orbits around the earth. This track is dedicated to him and to all the martyrs and heroes of space exploitations. The first movement “At The Nineteenth Orbit” of this 15 minutes long suite sets the atmosphere of the album with a delicious mini-Moog solo and the great vintage sound of the Rickenbacker bass. In “The Launch” you can hear of course a countdown sample and old school Marillion like synth parts. Further on the sounds of the keyboards reminds me of the wonderful albums the German band Eloy made. The “Outside Nowhere” suite with it's vintage sounds is the first highlight of the album.
“Fragments Of Life” s a short and delicate interlude about the poetry of stellar dust. The short song has a beautiful synth melody and the band uses an acoustic guitar and glockenspiel. “Il Difficile Equilibrio Tra Sorgenti D'Energia” (“The Difficult Balance Between Energy Sources”) is a musical metaphor about conflicts among people. Besides the great keyboard work the vintage sound is highlighted by the delicate use of the Moog Taurus bass pedals and the Rickenbacker bass. I love the sound of that Rickenbacker bass and the combination with the Taurus bass pedals reminds me of the sound of bassist Gijs Koopman when he played in the Dutch sympho band Cliffhanger.
“Ves Ml' Tahghach” is Klingon (Star Trek) for War Dance. This song is about the Cold War and the then feared Soviets. After an uptempo opening a little organ parts reminds of early Genesis but later on the music has more influences of Emerson Lake & Palmer. The last part includes a nice combination of Hammond organ and Mellotron. The next track “Nexus” has also a science fiction theme and describes the desperate desire for more life by the Nexus replicants (Blade Runner). In this melancholic song guest player Antonio Marangolo plays a nice saxophone solo and in the last part of this song you can listen to the original recording of the last words of commander Komarov who cursed those who had sent him to die in deep space. Those little details in the music strengthen the concept of the album.
“D.I.A.N.A.” Is an acronym that means “Domotic Interface Artificial Neurological Android”. A song about the perfect female robot. Instead of a real vintage sound this little song has a modern sound that is nowadays sounding a little bit outdated. Mainly because of the use of the Roland drum machine. Some synths give the piece a Jean-Michel Jarre feel. Somehow I don't find that this song fits very well on this record. The atmosphere is completely different. The next song “Agata Lost In The Mirror Whale” is about teenager Agata who is lost in the depths of the great whale made of mirrors. Inspired by a shopping center in Budapest that is shaped like a whale. A nice short track with melodic synths and a nice e-bow guitar part and guitar solo. The short interlude “Entwinings” describes the loving entwining of two sea-horses during their mating ritual. A lovely piece with piano and Mellotron choirs. It seamlessly flows into the last track of the album entitled “Octopus!” The most powerful creature of the sea is not violent and dull like a shark, but smart and rational. One day however, a small jellyfish will draw him in deceit and by her poison he will experience the burning pain of a rejected love. This is one of the three vocal tracks of the album. The album closes with a nice synth solo.
Although “Per Aspera Ad Astra” is the fifth studio album of the Italian band Taproban, for me it was an introduction to the band. The music can definitely categorized as vintage progressive rock with it's roots in the seventies. The use of classic instruments like Hammond organ, Mellotron, Moog Taurus pedals and the Rickenbacker bass with the technology of today gives the album a fresh seventies sound. The music of Taproban is drenched from lovely keyboard sounds. Fans of seventies bands like Emerson Lake & Palmer will love this album. But also the lovers of a band like Eloy will probably like the album. The space and science fiction themes fits this kind of music very well. I enjoyed listening to this album very much. For me it was a positive introduction to the music of Taproban.