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.
3 of 3 thought this review was well written
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.
Ok. First, my apologies for my so so English: Review is well written and all, but spoiled by too many contradictory ideas and it has a fanboyish nature. Your eagerness to denigrate classic progressive rock is baseless, and all your praise for Bubu turns your points very bipolar and paradoxal. While excellent classic prog act, Bubu has not reinvented the wheel, and they took their influences from the good old prog from wich you continually miss love and respect. Also, progressive rock didn't kill himself. External pressures did.
I never said Bubu "reinvented the wheel" or revolutionized anything in the genre. I also properly drew comparisons and elements this band takes from older acts. What I tried to emphasize is that where most prog groups aren't very consistent (try comparing 73-73 KC to any other era, Pre-Topographic Oceans Yes to everything they did afterward and you'll notice a rift in quality), "Anabelas" takes most of the good qualities of prog with very little of the bad ones, if any. For anybody who wants a definitive document of all that is good about progressive music, they should look here.
And in my eyes, progressive music failed because of growing alienation between fans and the bands themselves. You look at "Thick as a Brick", "Tales from Topographic Oceans", and "Welcome Back my Friends to the Show that Never Ends" and you'll see a growing emphasis placed on excess, pretension, and banal concepts. Progressive music eventually became just an exhibition for technical ability without any strong songwriting or substance. Some bands escaped this fate, but many indulged and became the target of backlash from music fans.
But if you want to condense my ideas about prog, let me just summarize things by saying that I find progressive acts lack the ability to discern between a good idea and a bad one. I really can't name a single progressive band that has been consistent throughout its entire life span. This can not only be attributed to the high value these band's place upon their material (great example would be the endless archive live releases and tossed together albums by King Crimson), but the fact that most progressive groups have a revolving door lineup. The talent fluctuates. If Bubu made more albums, I'm sure they would hit a dud sooner or later, so in a way, I'm glad they made just this one.
You have a big chunk to digest about the true nature of progressive rock it seems. There's not only black and white you know. Progressive Rock stayed true to itself until it was victim of the advent of the New Wave /punk era. Bands were forced to get conformed to the mould, and reducing their epic nature to a restrained radio-friendly crap prog. Every progressive bands, classic or not, have experienced the ruthless Dark Age caused by the increasing disinterest of the market, and also the press and all media started to dismiss and making laugh about the movement. So then sadly, there were no more Bubu to come.
I will agree with that, I mean, it's obvious by releases like Yes's "90125", or even *shudder* "Love Beach" by ELP that prog bands were either consolidating their sound, or, dying out.
I can't claim to have an encyclopedic knowledge of prog, I will admit. I've heard and own the discographies of nearly every "big" prog band out there, but I'm just starting to dig deeper into the obscure. I'm liking French prog quite a lot, but I'm a bit directionless as far as my continuation into the genre.
It's all fine dude. Just try to stay open minded about the wonderful non perfect prog world. On that way, your arguments are gonna be still more justified, there my two cents. You have the talent to write great reviews, so keep it up.
k. It's not quite a masterpiece for me but it's damn close. I'll rate this 4.5/5. I really like the way they combine a judicious blend of King Crimson/Maneige/Deus Ex Machina/Van Der Graaf Generator, tinted with a little of Miriodor.
Edit: woops kinda triple post
Nice review, but it seems a bit hypocritical. You criticize bands in the prog scene for "waging an arms race to see who can create the longest, most complex, and overly self-indulgent albums in the genre." and yet you give praise to this, which, frankly, is as self-indulgent, complex, and long (two ten-minute long songs and one that lasts for twenty minutes) as anything else in the genre. Album is, so far, decent. Looking like a 3.5 atm.
I think I should've written it to say that those bands seemingly ONLY cared about seeing who could create the longest, most complex, and overly self-indulgent albums. "Anabelas" is long, complex, and self-indulgent, but it doesn't focus on being just that.
Glad to see you liking that album vander, bro. It's getting better and better with each new listens, really.
@Sloppy; The main reason why I've let you these links above, is to highlight examples on how epic some classic prog music can be without never being 'overly self-indulgent'. And of course, list can go on and on.
Oh yeah, I definitely agree, and I did dig the songs you linked me. I think the worst offenders come from the Yes and ELP ("Topographic Oceans" is so overly bloated and pretentious in its concept that I've only sat through it once or twice, and don't get me started on ELP...I really can't stand them. Though "Tarkus" kicks all sorts of ass)
I totally agree with you on ELP. About Yes, the double album TFTO should have been condensed in one and then you might have something of Fragile or Yes Album quality. Also tensions were increasing between Howe and Wakeman, both disputing wich of the two would grab some more rooms, causing (partially) eventually the departure of the latter.