ProgressoR / Uzbekistan Progressive Rock Pages


Cast - 2006 - "Mosaique"

(112 min 2CD, Musea)


Prolusion. In my honest opinion, CAST is the best Mexican band of all time and is one of those really keeping the new Prog Rock scene alive and honest. Since I met them the first time a question keeps forming in my mind: How do they manage to combine their titanic physical work (Cast hold the annual Baja Prog festival, play lots of gigs, conduct solo projects, and more) with their truly exemplary mental activity, as they create new, exceptionally high-quality musical material literally every year. "Mosaique" is their fourteenth studio release and is a set of two CDs, each being worthy of a separate review. Once again, it's the band's founder, incredibly gifted composer and keyboardist Alfonso Vidales, who penned all of the tracks here. Cast's studio albums are all listed here with ratings and links to related reviews.

Disc 1 (52 min)


1.  Azteca Imperial 8:49
2.  Signs of Love 11:03
3.  Suenos Colectivos 10:02
4.  Jupiter 7:49
5.  Cruses en el Mar 3:32
6.  Hay un Lugar 7:15
7.  Princes Celestial 3:55
8.  Flaupeppe 0:18


Alfonso Vidales - piano, keyboards
Pepe Torres - flute, clarinet, saxophone
Flavio Miranda - bass, contrabass; cello
Kiko King - drums, percussion
Carlos Humaran - guitars
Francisco Hernandez - vocals
Antonio Bringas - drums 
Dino Brassea - vocals
Lupita Acuna - vocals 
Julio Camacho - percussion 

Analysis. There are not many vocals on "Mosaique", and even formerly permanent singers for Cast, Francisco Hernandez and Dino Brassea, are credited only as guest musicians. The disc opens with Azteca Imperial, which is an unimaginable cocktail of synthesizer symphonic passages, piano and sax improvisations, metal guitar riffs, pulsating bass solos and swinging drums, all singing and dancing a strange ring around the ancient rhythms of Mexican Indians provided by exotic percussion. Mosaic, indeed! So Cast could hardly have done better had they used any other track as an introduction to this album. No pause between Azteca Imperial and the next composition Signs of Love - the only track in the entire set which was previously released (on "Endless Signs", 1995). However this rendition is vastly different from the original. Please draw your particular attention to the finale, where the wild Indian rhythms are accompanied by a melody, which is obviously of Arabic origin. Suenos Collectivos comes with Spanish lyrics. It begins with soft piano passages, but soon transforms into intense Prog-Metal, with the gentle flute solo 'dangerously' crossing the angry guitar riffs as if a butterfly flying inside a running engine. Later on, the band enters the realm of a highly eclectic Art-Rock to further evolve the formula that was first approached on "Al-Bandaluz" and was developed on "Nimbus". The alarming piano comes to the fore, soon giving way to clarinet, synthesizer, electric guitar and flute, which at first follow one another, but soon merge into one ecstatic, positively crazy dance. Jupiter sounds atypical of Cast, more and more destroying my mental image of them, which though has already been strongly shaken, as I've well grasped the highly innovative "Al-Bandaluz" and "Nimbus". This is genuinely classic Jazz-Rock/Fusion, which at the same time is just unique. Only somewhere far beyond Jupiter's horizon loom the shadows of some of the genre's Godfathers, The Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report. Cruses En El Mar is near-academic Classical music featuring the vocal duo of Francisco Hernandez and Lupita Acuna, whose wordless singing, in turn, resembles an academic vocal school. Dino Brassea's vocals on Hay Un Lugar are also full of passion and inspiration, and the composition as such can in many ways be viewed as a variation on the classical line drawn on its predecessor. The excellent Princes Celestial would've been a major hit some time in the early '80s. You might think the previous sentence is just a pack of contradictions, unless you've heard this track already. Finally, the very brief Flaupeppe is just a flute solo with a light Latin American feeling.

Disc 2 (50 min)


1.  Zona de Ilusiones 13:05
2.  Nihos de Cristal 5:18
3.  Nihos de Cristal-II 4:23
4.  Cuerda Floia 8:23
5.  Flapepo 3:00
6.  Adapted to Your Eyes 5:48
7.  Nueva Luz 8:39
8.  Ara Imp 1:13

Analysis. The 13-minute Zona De Illusiones is structurally polymorphous, multi-sectional in construction and is full of unusual features, showcasing the further increase of Cast's ambitions in the field of brave experiments. The quite peaceful interplay between piano and flute in the intro is soon replaced by an atmosphere of dark and cold created by threatening-sounding synthesizers. The next movement is a fuzzed-out guitar attack in conjunction with a wild sax improvisation akin to progressive Jazz Metal, which is followed by some beautiful melodic work in the band's more traditional symphonic style. Further events develop kaleidoscopically, always leaving the listener guessing where the music will turn from moment to moment. Aurally, there is plenty of what the title of this mind-blowing composition suggests, although Any Progressive Color You Like could have also been an apt title for it. Nihos De Cristal-1 finds Dino Brassea's at probably his most heartfelt. The instrumental canvas of the song's first half are painted with colors of quiet melancholy, but later on the music explodes like a volcano, the density of sound and the overall dramatic atmosphere bringing to mind a classic Van Der Graaf Generator, even though they've never played Prog-Metal. (Readers themselves please hit upon what remains unsaid in the last sentence.) The two parts of Nihos de Cristal are located on separate tracks, but there is no pause between them, as well as any significant distinctions. All in all, this is one monolithic work, wholly subsumed in a unified compositionally stylistic concept, which is a complex architecture made up of metal and symphonic constructions. The improvisational instrumental Cuerda Floia has common ground with Jupiter from the first disc, but is closer to modern Jazz-Fusion in sound. It's hard to believe these two came from the pen of Alfonso Vidales and are the works of Cast in general. Flapepo should probably be defined as a little concerto of Renaissance Classical music for analog keyboards and synthesizers. Somewhat similar episodes can be found on Rick Wakeman's "Wives" and "King Arthur". Adapted To Your Eyes is a heavy, yet quite melancholic thing, full of beautiful melodies. It could've been another potential hit, but it's only within the grasp of Prog lovers to appreciate it as it is, because the arrangements in the instrumental section are too complicated for a radio-friendly song. Effectual contrasts between louder passages and softer delicate interludes are the essence of Nueva Luz, a very emotional and affecting symphonic Space Rock instrumental with constantly shifting moods and lots of innovative keyboard and flute passages. Although short, the Arabic music-inflected Ara Imp is just compelling.

Conclusion. I have already mentioned that brilliant albums are presently falling as if from a cornucopia, but it would be ridiculous to merely note that "Mosaique" is no exception to this rule. A Masterpiece with a capital letter, I'd say this is the king of all kings to appear on the progressive horizon this year. Cast are currently flying high, much higher than most of their contemporaries from all over the world. The fact that each of the band's latest three albums have signified a change in their style, and thus was a landmark in their creation, is already something marvelous in itself. I will not dare even to imagine the depth of the new musical dimensions that Alfonso Vidales and his band mates might discover with their next effort.

VZ & VM: May 12-13, 2006

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