Review Summary: This album retains all the flavorful taste and professionalism of progressive music with none of the kitsch, and that’s more than can be said even of the best of their contemporaries.
Progressive music has essentially become the punch line to countless musical jokes, and it’s easy to see why. The genre plotted its own demise with bands such as Yes, Jethro Tull, and Emerson Lake and Palmer waging an arms race to see who can create the longest, most complex, and overly self-indulgent albums in the genre. Revisionists can attempt to debunk the wave of critical backlash that has discredited progressive music all they want, but the fact remains, there was a reason punk music swept up the musical underground in the late 1970’s
. However, I do believe that if more people discovered albums as high of quality as “Anabelas”
, the good name of progressive music can make moves to be unsullied.
The train-track rattle and hum of percussion builds up and bursts into the smoky scene of a dank, seedy, and moody apartment building most likely located within the heart of whichever dispensable, "Lynchian", American city you most desire. The stage is set for the film noir menace of “Anabelas”
, where the finest elements of progressive rock are summarized within the breadth of just three tracks. Sadly, this is the only release from the Argentinean septet Bubu, and since then, it has remained relatively obscure and ultimately unappreciated by a wider audience.
Bubu doesn’t stick to just one mood or idea on this album. They're presented as unstable individuals with chemical imbalances that cause the album to jump back and fourth between moments of beauty, triumph, despair, and violence. It’s in this holistic approach that Bubu manage to craft an album that takes all of the good ideas behind progressive music and leave out all of the bad. From the schizophrenic menace of '73-'74 era King Crimson, to the tightly wound and whimsical feel of Gentle Giant, and even the militant and modal rhythm section and choir of Magma, this album retains all the flavorful taste and professionalism of progressive music with none of the kitsch, and that’s more than can be said even of the best of their contemporaries.
The first track “El Cortejo de un Dia Amarillo” sets the stage perfectly, transforming itself into a lingering, dark and disturbing crawl. The entire band is exposed here; a traditional guitar/bass/drum setup tinged with violins, horns, and woodwinds. Each instrument adds to the unsettling nature of the song as steam is built up propelling it through various mood swings. From dissonant bursts of guitar feedback, the dramatic film stings of the orchestral backing, and the always steady and complex drive of the drums and bass the song evolves at a spectacular pace. And herein lies the essence
of Bubu’s talent; their ability to escape the many pretentious leanings of progressive music. Concepts are never stretched thin, with each song wafting between different shades and moods Transitions are well structured and still come off as spontaneous while lengths of themes last only as long as they need too. "Anabelas"
is never too jarring, too drawn out, or too tedious. Every idea and every track melds together smoothly and every moment is builds up to the next.
The other side to the soul of this album is surprisingly very lighthearted and anthemic. The second track, “El Viaje de Anabelas” (placed promptly in the middle of the album) expresses both sides to the band brilliantly, as it's constantly pulled back and fourth between the album’s “light” and “dark” worlds. Beautiful vocals, tasteful orchestral backdrops, and impeccable production allow the band to achieve emotionally clenching
moments; something that most progressive bands fail to convey due to lack of sincerity. And just before the listener can get too comfortable, the song breaks down into a carnival-esc passages transporting us to the nightmarish world of angular guitar soloing, chaotic drumming, thick bass lines, and abrasive woodwinds and strings. Simply put, the musicians here are simply unmatched in the diversity of their talents. Possibly the one who flaunts this trait the most is violinist Sergio Polizzi, who at one moment creates a backdrop of Frank Zappa meets Igor Stravinsky avant-garde classical, and at another moment, Is giving us breathtaking tenderness, such as in the violin solo near the end of “El Viaje de Anabelas”.
The third, and final track is the most chaotic and gorgeous of the three as it builds up to a whirlwind of tortured strings and dissonant guitar soloing all carried along the back of the panicked rhythm section. The instruments bend and break as tension rises until each tone is hardly recognizable as anything other than splashes of colorful noise. It's truly epic in a manner comparable to that of post-rock acts such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The last two minutes are the most stunning exposition on this record. What begins as an escalating drum and bass attack grow to include atmospheric guitar, dramatic strings, and a triumphant choir. After all is said and done, the album ends alongside with the band’s career in utter chaos as listeners linger on for just a few more moments to gather the fragmented pinches of ash that flutter about. God speed you Bubu...God speed.
With every light there is a dark side, and the forces of which constantly pull and tear at "Anabelas"
. It’s a melting pot of influences, from Latin jazz, to European avant-garde, middle eastern vibes, American proto-metal, and orchestrated classical and folk tinges. Though above all, it may very well be the greatest argument for the recognition of progressive music because it eschews all of the endless wank, tasteless cheesiness, and emotionally cold clichés of prog and leaves us with a work of art that is simply breathtaking. There is a certain Taoist philosophy of balance behind “Anabelas”
that marks it as one of the most stunning and consistent offerings in progressive music. You owe it to yourself to dig up this obscure gem.