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Decameron - 2014 - "Ten Days in 100 Novellas II"

(276:33 4CD, Musea Records)


*****+

Prolusion. The Finnish progressive rock appreciation and fan society Colossus has been more active than many other such constellations in their appreciation of progressive rock. With the French label Musea Records as their primary partner they have planned and executed a number of different projects over the years, where artists have made submitted contributions to projects based on a number of different subjects from the arts and art history. Their latest project of this kind is to give musical life to the Decameron. So far this has resulted in to massive box sets of music. This is the second of these, with more than 4 hours of music inspired by tales from the Decameron, spread over 4 full-length CDs. This fairly massive box set was released by Musea Records in 2014.

Disc I (61:15)
*****+

LINE-UP / TRACK LIST:                

1.  Robert Webb  Intro 8:07
IV:
2.  Nexus  Fourth Tale 6:29
3.  Serdimontana  Fifth Tale 5:10
4.  Jinetes Negros  Sixth Tale 6:16
5.  Mogon  Seventh Tale 8:21
6.  Willowglass  Eighth Tale 7:51
7.  Intarsia  Ninth Tale 10:29
8.  Oceanic Legion  Tenth Tale 8:32
Analysis. Just a note on the track list of this box set at first. While the CD cover gives each of the songs rather anonymous names, referencing to chapter and part of the chapter, just about all the compositions have an actual and distinct name as well. Those are revealed in the booklet to this box set, but as the official names on the CD cover doesn't reflect those names, I'll generally not mention those in the review. From what I can see, a few of these contributions have also been included in releases by the contributing artists themselves, so there is a chance that some of the material here will consist of familiar-sounding creations for those considering purchasing this box set. On this first of four discs we're treated to eight compositions that clock in at around one hour of playing time. Robert Webb opens the disc with an Intro, presumably named so for not being a true part of the story and concept explored, and this is a song that is out on a couple of other albums as well. This composition is also known as Limoncello, and is a charming, folk-tinged example of vintage symphonic progressive rock with recurring piano motifs, delicate, soaring violin and keyboard solo runs and some distinct, high-pitched lead vocals. A playful, but also melancholic, opening number. The Argentinian band Nexus' contribution is more of a purebred symphonic progressive rock creation, alternating between gentle piano movements and more fleshed-out, layered, keyboards-dominated sequences with a warm, vintage overall sound. I associate this band with high-quality symphonic progressive rock, and the instrumental track they have contributed here is as good as example as any of that. The Russian band Serdimontana is the first band to deliver a creation that veers a bit outside of the common norm, with a piece that alternates between more of a jazz rock-oriented expression and one with more of a distinct psychedelic orientation, with some beautiful atmospheric lead vocals as the icing on the cake. An unknown entity for me this band, but a worthwhile experience and a quality composition, one that, in terms of style, stands out on this occasion. The Argentinean band Jinetes Negros delivers more of a challenging affair, with multiple alterations in pace, style and intensity throughout, with excursions into both symphonic progressive rock and a more undefined variety of arguably progressive harder edged rock along the way, with plenty of complex start-to-stop moves. Arguably, this is the most adventurous composition in the set. The US band Mogon, a side project of US composer and musician Phideaux, delivers another adventurous affair. My main impression is that this piece has more of a distinct English sound to it, with pastoral details and whimsical, eerie sound and voice effects in between the numerous folk and symphonic sequences, with liberal amounts of vintage keyboards; flute and violin used cleverly throughout, with both male and female vocals used to good effect as single lead vocals and dual vocal harmonies. When Phideaux is involved in something the end result tends to be intriguing, and this track is not an exception. The UK band Willowglass has opted for an instrumental contribution, and hones in on a more atmospheric take on the symphonic progressive rock style here. Associations to the likes of Camel are natural as this one plays out, and arguably The Snow Goose in particular, although Willowglass does incorporate a few firmer and edgier details, reminding a bit more of Genesis in here too, as wel as a few swirling flute details that may be a nod in the direction of Jethro Tull. Still, a charming and atmospheric affair, excellently made and performed. The Italian band Intarsia is the second band on this first CD to take a set away from the norm, with an elongated funky jazz-rock sequence dominating their contribution, book-ended by sequences of a more symphonic nature, although in this case probably closer to neo progressive rock in that context than it is to vintage symphonic progressive rock. A fairly adventurous and varied affair, but also one that does sound somewhat forced at times. As such, I regard this one as a piece with somewhat more of a limited general appeal, with some truly excellent moments, but also some passages that don't quite seem to fit in to the greater scope of the composition. The multinational band Oceanic Legion concludes the first CD, and does so in an excellent manner. A composition that alternates between moods of a more delicate nature, almost ballad-like at times, with multiple instances of warm, vintage-sounding and jubilant symphonic progressive rock, and sporting vocal sequences that also have a few details that come across as a nod in the direction of The Beatles. An engaging ebb and flow ride, with multiple and repeated themes and motifs, and a generally engaging overall mood and atmosphere, among the strongest contributions on this box set.

Disc II (66:02)
******

LINE-UP / TRACK LIST:                
              
V:
1.  The Samurai Of Prog  First Tale 7:33
2.  Steve Unruh  Second Tale 14:35
3.  Ars Ephemera  Third Tale 9:28
4.  The Rome Prog(j)ect  Fourth Tale 5:05
5.  Orchestra D'Oblio  Fifth Tale 6:12
6.  King Of Agogik  Sixth Tale 8:15
7.  Marchesi Scamorza  Seventh Tale 6:06
8.  Playing The History  Eighth Tale 8:48
Analysis. The second disc of this four-CD box set kicks off and continues in arguably an even more unpredictable manner than what we were presented with the initial chapter of this journey. The international project The Samurai Of Prog has the opening track here, and it's a splendid one as well, plucked from their 2013 album. It is book-ended by a medieval music-inspired, playful folk-based theme, and in between the song alternates between quirky jazz rock-tinged sections, akin to some of the stuff Gentle Giant created in their heyday, and smoother, layered sections more in line with vintage, melody-based symphonic progressive rock. A sublime creation, and most certainly a contender as a possible evergreen song in the progressive rock universe. Steve Unruh follows this up with a tall and salty tale told over 15 minutes of mainly progressive folk rock, with some surefire nods in the direction of Jethro Tull along the way, vibrant Spanish-influenced passages and with the violin added in to give this creation an additional and not as predictable style and sound. An excellent follow-up to the brilliant opening track, and a brilliant piece of music in its own right. The Canadian band Ars Ephemera follows up with a composition that alternates between pastoral folk-oriented sequences of a more delicate nature and sequences that have more of a chamber music orientation to them, with some orchestration and keyboard details appearing here and there that add a symphonic progressive rock tinge to the proceedings. Arguably more of a piece rooted in classical music, kind of a folky chamber music piece, one might say. Well made and executed though, a quality creation of its kind. The Rome Pro(g)ject, from Italy, of course, alternates between dark, melancholic moods and lighter toned, floating sequences with their contribution, a composition with references to both Camel and Marillion in the sound of the keyboards and arrangements for the former and the crying guitar solo expressions explored in the latter. More of an atmospheric excursion than a composition perhaps, but well made for what it is and a track those with an affection for 80s neo prog and the gentler side of Camel should feel right at home with. Another Italian contribution follows, from Orchestra D'Oblio, and has a go with more of a challenging, shifting escapade, opening with folk-tinged symphonic elements, then switching over to more of a jazz rock-tinged escapade before concluding on a symphonic progressive rock note, with plenty of playful and jubilant elements coming and going in this adventurous creation. The German project King Of Agogik's contribution is one ebbing and flowing between ethereal light toned and more oppressive dark toned elements, combining flute, organ, Mellotron and plucked guitar in a multitude of different manners along the way. Quite the joyful roller-coaster ride of different constellations ebbing, flowing and contrasting in pace, intensity and moods throughout. Marchesi Scamorza from Italy presents another exercise in ebb and flow motions, with the peaks here being classic riff and organ combinations, alternating with gentler transitions and themes with a lighter toned and more playful character. A tad lo-fi and fuzzy sounding in the guitar department at times, but the sheer fun and charm of this piece more than makes up for that. The Italian project Playing The History concludes the second CD, and presents us with something quite different, introducing us with standalone passages of Mellotron, flute and piano, and then combining these instruments in various combinations following the initial introduction phase. It's an enthralling piece of work if you manage to indulge in the landscapes presented to you rather than waiting for a firmer defined progressive rock creation of some kind, as this is a creation that, at best, resides on the borderlines of that universe, but a well made excursion out into the fields beyond or possibly before progressive rock it is.

Disc III (71:57)
****+

LINE-UP / TRACK LIST:                

V: 
1.  Senogul  Ninth Tale 9:12
2.  Camelias Garden  Tenth Tale 5:26
VI:
3.  Rhys Marsh  First Tale 3:54
4.  Narrow Pass  Second Tale 8:04
5.  Mauro Mulas  Third Tale 9:06
6.  La Bocca Della Verita  Fourth Tale 5:05
7.  Faveravola  Fifth Tale 9:00
8.  Trion  Sixth Tale 4:22
9.  La Theorie Des Cordes  Seventh Tale 10:48
10. Jaime Rosas & Rodrigo Godoy  Eighth Tale 5:00
Analysis. The third part of this four-disc set opens in an intriguing and rather adventurous manner as the Spanish band Senogul takes us on an extended journey with a clear folk-oriented expression, albeit one with more of a tribal expression and alternating atmospheric and joyful escapades, at times with a jazzy tinge to them. Still, the overwhelming impression I'm left with is that this creation has been inspired by African folk music more than anything else, and perhaps in particular in the vocals sequences. A constant association I got throughout this song was the album Stewart Copeland partially recorded in Africa back in the early 80s. My apologies for not limiting the references any further, as music from the African content isn't a section of music I'm all that familiar with. The Italian band Camelias Garden has a much different style on their contribution, with elongated atmospheric sections of keyboards, piano and Mellotron, book-ending a middle section of dampened guitars and spoken words. A charming creation, although one that perhaps will be most of interest to those familiar with the Italian language due to the story told in the mid-section. Norway-based Englishman Rhys Marsh has one of the most compelling tracks on this third disc of the box set, a dark and mesmerizing creation revolving around careful, raspy lead vocals, a circulating dark guitar motif and darker toned Mellotron and keyboard textures coming and going as supplemental features. A tad too repetitive to escalate into the upper echelons of musical magic, but a solid and hypnotizing trip into the darker realms or progressive rock it is. The Italian band Narrow Pass ventures back and forth between folk-inspired sequences and passages with more of a neo progressive symphonic character on their contribution to this box set, all of them sounding pleasant enough, but, at least to my ears, a creation that sounds a bit aimless, a journey that doesn't quite seem to know where it wants to end up or how to get there. Beautiful scenery, but lacking a wee bit in definition, if you like. Italian artist Mauro Mulas comes next and presents us with a mini epic of sorts with four different styles explored from an opening arrangement of piano and mystical Mellotron details, moving on to a bass and organ-driven section with keyboard textures coming and going, followed by a more jazz-oriented sax and organ-driven part, and then concludes with a piano and keyboards-driven sequence that, I suspect, takes this one full circle. Again a pleasant enough ride, but like the previous contribution, one that feels somewhat aimless for me. Another Italian project, La Bocca Della Verita, is next in line. Their atmospheric, vocals-driven neo progressive creation, gaining a darker and grittier majestic expression as it develops, is a creation that will most likely find a lot of favor among fans of Fish-era Marillion. A tad rough around the edges for me though, and the accented lead vocals will make this band more of an acquired taste, especially as a few sections of this song rely rather heavily on the vocals to carry it. In a succession of Italian contributors to this project we then find Faverola, and their composition revolves around a more distinctly early 70s general sound, blending folk-tinged gentler expressions with firmer organ-driven escapades. Liberal amounts of flute solos and vintage early 70s guitar details and soloing are also a part of the proceedings, in a relatively rough-sounding manner that shares similarities withJethro Tull, for instance, but, to my ears, lacks quite a bit in performance and execution on this occasion. A lot of passion has gone into this one though, so those intrigued by such details should find this one to be of interest in that context. The Dutch band Trio has a markedly different take on things, with more careful use of mystical-sounding Mellotron, vintage keyboards textures, organ and dream-laden guitar soloing combining with acoustic and firm, dark electric guitars to explore more of a Pink Floydian atmosphere, with flute solos and echoing psychedelic guitar details as the icing on the cake. Compelling and well made material. The French band La Theorie Des Cordes opts for a dramatically different contribution, with an elongated distinctly jazz-oriented main part, sporting organ, guitar and saxophone alternating in delivering lead solo runs in a relaxed and compelling atmosphere, book-ended by opening and end sequences, dominated by wild guitar riffs and tortured saxophone details. Remarkably compelling stuff, although I found the latter details to be rather more fascinating than the main jazz-oriented section. Chilean artists Jaime Rosas and Rodrigo Godoy conclude the third part of the box set in a different manner again, with more of a dramatic take on the symphonic neo progressive style, a tad too dramatic for my personal taste, but a fine piece of music for those who tend to enjoy material of this kind.

Disc IV (77:19)
*****+

LINE-UP / TRACK LIST:                
              
VI: 
1.  Unitopia  Ninth Tale 20:05
2.  Piccolo Zoo  Tenth Tale 8:56
VII:
3.  Karda Estra  First Tale 7:38
4.  Yagull  Second Tale 2:49
5.  D'Accord  Third Tale 6:49
6.  Ozone Player  Fourth Tale 9:11
7.  The Rebel Wheel  Fifth Tale 8:18
8.  Tommy Eriksson  Sixth Tale 5:47
9.  Robert Webb  Outro 7:46
Analysis. The fourth and final disc of this box set opens with arguably the most magnificent creation at hand here. The Australian band Unitopia provides us with a multi-part, 20-minute long epic that documents rather firmly just how compelling the neo progressive part of the symphonic progressive rock universe can be at its very best, touching base with both firm guitar driven sections and folkier, gentler interludes on this breathtaking epic journey of progressive rock. Kind of a reigned in and tamed version of The Flower Kings in general style, yet retaining the vitality of progressive rock at its finest. With stunning lead vocals and breathtakingly good mix and production as the finer details elevating this creation into a realm of its own. The Italian project Piccolo Zoo alternates between gentler and more powerful sections in their contribution, with male and female lead vocals, vintage organ-given a prominent place, gentler piano and keyboards textures also used to good purpose, concluding with a firm run of hard-edged vintage progressive rock. The UK band Karda Estra provides us with more of a dream-laden and atmospheric take on progressive rock, with light chamber music-oriented details and more dramatic and forceful symphonic progressive rock sections, combining beautifully, a diverse run through multiple sections, but always with a feeling that we're on a defined journey with a precise goal in mind from the onset. Quality material from a quality, well-regarded band. The US project Yagull provides us with a pleasant, wandering acoustic guitar interlude. Not the most striking of contributions perhaps, but as an atmospheric interlude it works very well in this context, adding a breathing space in between the rather more challenging songs that surround it. The Norwegian band D'Accord is another of the contributors here that has crafted a piece that stands out due to exploring territories perhaps a bit more unusual than most others here. In this case a striking, subtly psychedelic affair that should bring a smile to the face of anyone fond of Queen, and with a slight side dish of Slade, The Beatles and late 60s garage rock to boot. Arguably the most English-sounding track in this box set. The Finnish project Ozone Player is another contributor that has opted to go for something outside of the norm, in this case a composition with a storyteller reciting a story in interludes in between sections where vocalists sing the different roles of the story told in a more or less dramatic manner. Not quite a rock-opera style, arguably a bit more theatrical, with a mostly symphonic rock oriented style explored in the vocal passages. The Canadian band The Rebel Wheel is another addition the the part of the roster here that has opted for a contribution with a distinct English sound, in this case with a main dish of Genesis and a side dish of Canterbury in their whimsical, vintage progressive rock contribution, one of many quality compositions on this box set that merits a description as charming. Finnish artist Tommy Eriksson continues celebrating the spirit of vintage symphonic progressive rock with his contribution, with soaring keyboard textures and powerful organ-driven passages at the heart of his engaging instrumental composition. Robert Webb makes a second appearance at the very end of the box set. His first contribution opened it in a brilliant manner and he concludes it on an even higher note with a haunting piece that revolves around stunning female lead vocals, a charming ongoing piano motif and clever orchestral textures, with a brief nod in the direction of the aforementioned opening track of this box set included as a nice touch. An emotional and haunting creation, with a spirited organ and orchestration midsection adding a more fiery vitality to this composition besides the more delicate vocals driven passages that book-end this creation.

Conclusion. The second part of the Decameron project is a real behemoth of a production. Even as a fairly seasoned reviewer, taking on this project was a daunting task, and it took me two full working days to navigate my way through this one. It is a rewarding task though, as there are many intriguing and quite a few spectacular contributions as seen merely from a musical point of view here. As a listener you should ideally spend some days getting familiar with this one, as there are many tracks here that will take some time getting used to, and the diversity of styles at hand may make this one a taxing listen. But take one CD at a time, read the detailed booklet while listening, and spend the time needed to get comfortable with this production. Most that do so will treasure this production then, and more likely than not the affection will grow over time as you get familiar with the more than four hours worth of material here. Recommended to anyone with an interest in progressive rock, and especially those who treasure music of this kind to the extent that they are able and willing to invest the time needed to get familiar with a massive quality production, such as this one.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: October 6 & 7, 2015
The Rating Room


Related Links:

Musea Records
Colossus


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ProgressoR / Uzbekistan Progressive Rock Pages


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