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(49 min, Dreaming)
TRACK LIST: 1-15. Second System Syndrome (Parts 1 to 15) 49:34 LINEUP: G Cazenave - vocals; guitars, bass; keyboards N Edrunt - drums
Prolusion. French multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Guillaume Cazenave, who has a few space music-related albums issued under his own name, uses the moniker of THE MEDITATION PROJECT (TMP hereinafter) for his (quoting him) "experimental creations".
Analysis. "Second System Syndrome" is the second album by the project and, as you can see above, is a product of the performance of only two musicians, Cazenave himself and drummer N Edrunt. Since the debut TMP outing, "Worship Scraped", features several more participants (on electric guitar, bass, violins and trumpets), the hero of this occasion is undoubtedly somewhat less saturated in sound than its predecessor, but I wouldn't say I experience any dissatisfaction because of that. Cazenave has put so much creative energy into "Second System Syndrome" that the album doesn't disappoint - despite all the criticisms that follow. Just as is in the case of "Worship Scraped", the music on this new TMP release is more than merely unique and innovative, defying any generalized classification, and is a powerful cocktail of several different styles whose precise recipe is known exclusively to its maker. Well, personally I see it as a complex synthesis of various forms of Metal with symphonic and - to a lesser degree - electronic textures, with the occasional introduction of elements of Industrial and Alternative, as well as some exotic ethnic tunes. The only instantly recognizable (and, therefore, definable) components of this music are Doom Metal and Techno Thrash, but while the maneuvers with the use of 'heavy artillery' are most often ornamented with intelligible string arrangements, the latter are still too unusual in their construction to perceive them otherwise than as just "symphonic", let alone referring them, say, to Classical music. The whole picture does not associate with any known Progressive Rock school and doesn't bring to mind anyone else's work either. All fifteen of the tracks are presented simply as parts (Part 1, 2 etc) of the album's title number which in many ways appears as one long suite indeed, most of the pieces seamlessly flowing from one to another without a pause, each being the logical continuation of its predecessor. By ear, it is often impossible to determine the end of one part and the beginning of another. Although their statistically-average duration is only three-and-a-half minutes, most of the tracks amaze me with their diversity, so I keenly appreciate Cazenave's disposition to put plenty of different themes into the short-format songs, which results in their truly ornate sound. I won't list each of those twelve segments whose content form the album's primary style (I'll pick out the black sheep in due course). All of them are eventful enough to keep the listener's attention. Nevertheless I find it important to mention that the music becomes more and more intriguing as the album unfolds, the parts from 8 to 14 being especially sophisticated, since all the arrangements there, vocal lines included, are highly mobile and changeable alike. The music within the segments 11, 12 & 13 reveals so many sudden transitions that I had little time to dwell on any one theme when listening to these, although from time to time I found myself drawing parallels between TMP and Mekong Delta. The balance between vocal and instrumental sections is approximately equal everywhere on the disc, but the picture usually remains diverse when Cazenave sings too. The man is a genuine chameleon vocalist operating his voice with both ease and the greatest resourcefulness alike. As to the remaining three pieces, Part 5 is an interesting tune, compositionally (at least basically) quite similar to its neighbors, but since it's free of any heaviness it looks indeed like a black sheep amongst them. Part 7 is a very brief synthesizer intro to the next piece. However, the only track whose presence on the album I find to be absolutely unnecessary is the concluding one, Part 15. Nine tenths of its content is a single synthesizer chord 'accompanied' by effects, radio voices and occasional black-metal screams.
Conclusion. This recording is a bit less impressive than the first TMP outing. Gone are elements of Space Rock and Jazz-Fusion; the level of profundity of some of the tracks here is noticeably lower than that, well, actually typical of the entire "Worship Scraped" album. But while definitely not a masterpiece, "Second System Syndrome" is nevertheless an excellent effort, full of astonishing discoveries and paradoxical decisions. Overall, the Great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin's statement, "A Genius is a friend of Paradoxes", is still applicable to the work of TMP.
VM: January 4, 2007
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