Universal Totem Orchestra
Mathematical Mother


4.5
superb

Review

by e210013 USER (167 Reviews)
April 12th, 2021 | 26 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An amazing modern prog album. This is transcendent modern music.

“Mathematical Mother” is the third studio album of Universal Totem Orchestra and was released in 2016. The line up on the album is Ana Torres Fraile, Antonio Fedeli, Daniele Valle, Fabrizio Mattuzzi, Uto Giorgio Golin and Yanik Lorenzo Andreatta. The album had also the participation of Adriano Vianini, Alessandro Andreatta, Francesco Festi, Gianni Nicolini, Mirko Pedrotti, Oscar Cordioli and Samia Charbel.


According to the band’s biography, Universal Totem Orchestra is a musical project from the Italian Zeuhl band, Runaway Totem. Runaway Totem is an Italian progressive rock band that uses a rich instrumentation to create ethereal and romantic climates with deep singing and grandiose backing vocals. Their overall sound has many common points with progressive rock bands like Magma, Area, King Crimson and Gentle Giant. However, the music of Universal Totem Orchestra is in general considered much lighter, fun and inventive than the music performed by Runaway Totem.

So, Universal Totem Orchestra is a very risky proposal, full of quality, details and technique, whose originality and concept are really impressive. But, which kind of music does Universal Totem Orchestra play? It’s really very difficult to explain. What I can tell you is that their music is an explosive mixture of sounds with modern rock camera, krautrock elements, psychedelic space rock influences, the power and crudeness of hard rock, opera and folk touches, and influences from the most avant-garde Magma. The music presents also influences from jazz, rock and medieval music.

But, probably the most unique attribute of this band are the vocals performed by Ana Torres Fraile and various male performers. You will hear choirs, operatic, tenor and soprano, and traditional male vocals, all very well done. There is too, so much happening instrumentally that the listener really needs to pay attention. This wouldn’t be good background music as it’s one of those albums that demand your full attention. Odd time signatures and sudden stops and starts, allowing that for different movements to take place, are the norm, not the exception. It’s clear these musicians know how to play and a tremendous amount of work has gone into this piece of music. After all, there aren’t many albums just short of 60 minutes long. So, you know you are getting your money’s back. Sometimes, with albums this long, the music gets tiresome and boredom starts to set in prematurely. But, that isn’t the case on here. I never got the sense they made a long album just for the sake of it. All of the pieces here fit the musical puzzle and nothing seems excessive or irrelevant. What makes this more rewarding are nice melodies provided by piano, guitar and saxophone.

In reality, “Mathematical Mother” is an album influenced by many and varied musical styles by a truly quixotic Italian band. We can hear soaring classical vocals, the perfect piano accompaniment, the amazing bass, or the move between jazz, fusion, funk, classical, Arabian and progressive styles. I can see why they’re considered a zeuhl band due to some bombastic and hallucinating influences from Magma, such as the arrangements hover from bombastic Wagnerian explosions to jazzier climes, again a Kobaian characteristic. But, in reality only Magma sounds like Magma. I can also see occasional forays into Arabic, Gothic and Gregorian chants. It seems that “Mathematical Mother” is Universal Totem Orchestra’s most successful album and represents a union of zeuhl, symphonic, and other progressive rock styles, yet, creating a thoroughly original sound which any fan of avant-prog will find a joy to digest. It just blows me away to think of the time and talent that was put into this album. Finally, the instrumental arrangements are perfect. It’s an album with a strong Italian feeling. What are my favorite tracks? I don’t can say that. The entire album is amazing. It supplanted my expectations. “Mathematical Mother” mined blow my mind with a symphonic Italian flavored Zeuhl.


Conclusion: Since the first minute I listened to “Mathematical Mother”, I was deeply impressed by it. Despite it suffers so many and different musical influences it remains for me a truly impressive work. And curiously, they continue the old and great Italian tradition of using Italian lyrics. The album is characterized as Zeuhl, a genre on which I’m not very well familiarized. But, I can also see on it, influences of Gothic music, Gentle Giant, Dead Can Dance, and of course of the classical music, especially from the bombastic sound of the classic Wagnerian operas. The music is amazing and with great complexity. We may say this is an example of how the modern prog rock music must sound. There aren’t many new prog albums that can impress me most than this one. Universal Totem Orchestra must be commended for making an album of such magnitude and scope. While this will not appeal to everyone, those of you who like to take musical adventures outside of the norm, would do well do give this a shot. I found this to be a fascinating album and a truly enjoyable listen to. This is really an amazing album. It’s highly recommended for all lovers of sophisticated prog.


Music was my first love.
John Miles (Rebel)



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user ratings (16)
4.2
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
e210013
April 12th 2021


3281 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

So, let's go to another Italian modern progressive work. This time I choose an album of Universal Totem Orchestra, their third and last studio album from the band, till now.

So, Universal Totem Orchestra released three studio albums, "Rituale Alieno" in 1999, "The Magus" in 2008 and this one in 2016. These three albums are all great but probably this last one is their best. The music is very hard to describe, as I mentioned on my review, but it's amazingly good and very original. It must be heard to completely catch all its richness.

I hope that some of you have an open mind and enough guts to check this album. This was one of the albums that impressed me most in the last years.

Digging: Ingranaggi Della Valle - In Hoc Signo

Divaman
April 12th 2021


10316 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Another good one, e.

Digging: Grouplove - This Is This

e210013
April 12th 2021


3281 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks Diva. We need to keep our prog work alive, as long as we can, on Sputnik. This is what I think my friend. Cheers.

TheIntruder
April 12th 2021


515 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah, another one from a tournament of Friday 13th, and another great one too. I remember that it defeated yours album of Quarteto 1111 and that it was the final winner of that tournament. Two great albums of a great tournament. I will read your review later when I have some free time.

e210013
April 12th 2021


3281 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks Intruder. That's true. It defeated my knight, the album of Quarteto 1111, in one elimination round. And yeah, it was the great winner of that tourney. And, I must confess, that it was a fair winner. It's without any doubt, an amazing work.

By the way, did you know that Jethro published a very interesting prog list? Since there are so few prog comments about prog albums on Sputnik nowadays, as you can see on my reviews, that I'm sure that he will be pleased with your comment too.

TheIntruder
April 12th 2021


515 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I did not know that. I am going to take a look of it, as soon as I have some free time. Thanks for the info, pal.

e210013
April 12th 2021


3281 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

You're welcome buddy. It's always a pleasure to talk with you.

LeddSledd
April 12th 2021


4950 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

lovin the prog coverage here, man. great album too, one of the better modern zeuhl-ish works I've heard

Digging: Coroner - No More Color

e210013
April 12th 2021


3281 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks Ledd. I completely agree with you. This is an amazing zeuhl work in every perspective. It's always a pleasure to see another supporter of this great album.

farmerobama
April 12th 2021


443 Comments


Sounds hella interesting, going to my list!

Digging: The Vintage Caravan - Monuments

Jethro42
April 12th 2021


16397 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks for the reference you gave to Intruder, e21. So you liked the surprise from my list?

I loved this album the very first time I listened to it, and nothing have changed today. I ask for more each time. Sometimes, when I instantly like an album, I finally get bored of it. But not in this case.

An eclectic album of my taste, with different styles and influences and they master them all. They are really inspired and are true magicians. Thanks to give this a review (a good one), and as you said, this is an happy coincidence with my list. But hey, these synchronicities can happen between two progheads.

e210013
April 12th 2021


3281 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

You can bet on it, farmer. Thanks.

e210013
April 12th 2021


3281 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Of course, Jethro. I loved the surprise. Another amazing album. And I remember that you wrote, at the time, that my album of Quarteto 1111 was the second best album of that tourney, right after UTO's album.

About "Mathematical Mother" I have the same opinion as you have. I never get tired of hearing the album too. It's really an amazing album.

Yeah, coincidenses can happen, especially between two progheads. I'm very curious about your reaction about my next review. I think you'll be very happy too. I think it can be a ver pleasant surprise for you. We'll see it then.

Thanks bro, for the comment and pos.

Jethro42
April 12th 2021


16397 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah Quarteto 1111 is washed by good keys, mellotron and synthesizers, with emotional vocals. It's smooth with occasional up-tempos reminiscent to Marillion (that came after of course) at some point, and it's funny to listen to. I remember the hard decision to take between your nominee and Mathematical Mother. I almost had to toss a coin.

I'm looking forward to your own surprise. I guess it's Fabio Zuffanti. It's true it doesn't have many votes...It's just a feeling.

e210013
April 13th 2021


3281 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nice shot. Maybe. We'll see it than.

TheIntruder
April 13th 2021


515 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I finished to read your review. Nice work pal. This album deserved a good one. Have a pos.

e210013
April 13th 2021


3281 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks, my friend for the compliment and pos.

Asdfp277
April 23rd 2021


23314 Comments


this makes me feel like i'm watching one of those discovery channel documentaries for kids that they show for when they skip school cuz they're sick

but then there's some action sprinkled in

Asdfp277
April 23rd 2021


23314 Comments


petition to rename prog rock to discoverycore

e210013
April 23rd 2021


3281 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nice and interesting thought Asdfp. Thanks for the idea. In prog, most of the time, we usually discover new things.



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