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TRACK LIST: 1. Elcmar 5:56 2. Inuki 6:26 3. Soma 5:33 4. Lemurya 7:24 5. Premonition 2:46 6. Infinie Gehenne 4:51 7. Thesar 7:21 8. Iles des Mers Ouest 4:08 9. Avalanche 9:00 10. 531 13:23 LINEUP: Damien Herve vocals; guitars Francois Bretaudeau keyboards Romain Emeriau drums Emerson Paris bass With: Pierre-Loic Niol saxophone Aurelien Bucco trumpet David Baylot trombone Vincent Grass voice
Prolusion. The French outfit LEMURYA has been around for a few years now, and while the information about its formation is rather sparse it would appear that the bands first public appearances was held back in 2007. Since then it has recorded and released two EPs. "Soma" is their full length debut production, and was issued on the AMMD label in 2010.
Analysis. One of the charms of the progressive rock genre is that it incorporates a multitude of different sounds, approaches and expressions. Some artists aren't progressive in the literal sense of the word, but opt to explore and continue exploring music that doesn't adhere to the normal principles of mainstream music, but which lost the innovative and groundbreaking edge in the golden decade of the 1970's. Others strive to seek out frontiers either new or ones rarely explored by others, often challenging the perceptions of what may be called progressive music even amongst those who will swear to this style when they seek nourishment from the melodic arts. Lemurya comes across as a fine example of the latter tradition. Their debut production "Soma" is, if my Google translation is to be trusted, a concept album with a science fiction theme story, or possibly a fantasy fiction one. Personally I associate the term Lemurya with Robert E. Howard's swashbuckling tales, but from what I can gather the universe given sound and shape on this disc isn't the one he described in his tall tales. But that is a side issue anyhow, at least for me. Fans of concept productions might just be a tad intrigued by this little snippet of information however, which is why I described it. That, and to guide those who made the same initial associations I did when I first saw this CD. The stylistic approach is one rather difficult to categorize and even harder to describe. But on a superficial level one might say that Lemurya blends fusion and metal. Relatively light and uplifting passages with the piano as a central motif provider, with bass and drums adding a certain emphasis towards jazz is a key feature, with brass and reeds adding additional textures. Dark, compact guitar riff inserts are another feature liberally found throughout, alongside longer sequences featuring riff patterns as the dominating component. Most songs incorporate all three elements, and none of them single out merely one for an extended exploration. The jazzier elements are frequently given a strong Latin edge, and occasionally traces of reggae pop up too. While the metal parts may be massive and threatening or dampened and pulled back in the overall arrangement, frequently with a slight emphasis towards textured motifs giving these parts a slight post metal vibe. Add in calmer parts closer to what one might expect of acts like Radiohead and themes of a wilder, untamed nature as one might expect from The Mars Volta, and most readers may well find themselves slightly confused when trying to shape what this music sounds like with their inner ears. Eclectic is a word that comes to mind, avant-garde another. But if there is one thing that can be said for certain, it is that this is innovative music. Not groundbreaking as such, but compositions exploring territories only rarely visited by others is a statement that should fit the bill quite nicely. The songs themselves are a variable bunch, and personally I found the opening numbers to be rather underwhelming: too much innovation and too little mood and atmosphere for my tastes. But after these two pieces "Soma" is an album that keeps growing. And towards the end the band steps out of the approach described to confusion above and enters other musical universes to very good effect, the highlight of this album in my opinion appearing with the brilliant dark-laden Avalanche, a creation venturing back and forth between drawn out resonating guitar notes, post rock and post metal oriented textured guitar layers and solid, compact riff patterns with a rich array of subtle nuances and minor variations creating a slightly repetitive but highly engaging experience. Final track 531 continues the stylistic break at the end of the disc, opening with silence slowly evolving into an experimental sound collage of sorts with dampened noise, what appears to be sampled radio broadcasts. and finally a countdown until the actual song kicks off at the 6 minute mark, after which a metal/post metal/indie rock creation unfolds. Performance wise it's a good quality creation, but the vocals of Damien Herve might be something of an acquired taste. His timbre and approach isn't one that will suit everybody, and he does have a slight development potential I think. Then again, this aspect might also be one carefully planned and executed to perfection. This is a creative band crafting innovative music after all, a setting that invites experimentation on all levels.
Conclusion. "Soma" is an album that will yield many rewards to those who appreciate music made with innovation in mind and does so whilst blending rock, metal and fusion with a firm foundation in the art rock universe; slightly unwieldy, so to speak, not always perfect, but striving for the unpredictable and unexpected. If music described as avant-garde and eclectic tends to intrigue you or The Mars Volta and Mr. Bungle are amongst your preferred artists, Lemurya is most likely a band you'd want to investigate. Those who have a soft spot for later day King Crimson are another audience that, I think, will have a rather good chance to understand and appreciate the accomplishments of this fine French quartet.
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