17 Pygmies - Isabel

(CD 2013, 56:43 Trakwerx Records)

The tracks:
  1- Isabel I(2:48)
  2- Isabel II(3:45)
  3- Isabel III(5:32)
  4- Isabel IV(4:40)
  5- Isabel V(6:01)
  6- Isabel VI(6:34)
  7- Isabel VII(3:38)
  8- Isabel VIII(5:53)
  9- Isabel IX(3:45)
10- Isabel X(3:45)
11- Isabel XI(6:52)
12- Kyrie(3:30)

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In 2011 I reviewed for the first time an album recorded by the American ensemble 17 Pygmies. At the time I wrote that the music on CII: Second Son (see review) could be especially enjoyed by people who liked the music of Tangerine Dream, Karda Estra, Nosounds, Laurie Anderson and Tori Amos. In 2012 I reviewed the follow-up album CIII: Even Celestina Gets The Blues (A Tale Of Love And Quantum Physics) (see review). On that record I also heard possible influences of Ennio Morricone and Kraftwerk. With that album 17 Pygmies ended the Celestina concept in style and I sincerely hoped that the next effort would be as beautiful as their two previous CDs.

Well, I didn't have to wait that long to figure out whether this was the case or not, because only a year after the release of their latest record I found Isabel in my mailbox. Their eleventh (!) studio album has been recorded with the same line-up, namely Jeff Brenneman (guitar, synthesizers), Dirk Doucette (bass, guitar, synthesizers), Meg Maryatt (vocals, guitar, synthesizers) and Jackson Del Rey (bass, guitar, synthesizers). Just like the previous albums this one features several other guest musicians on bass, keyboards, violin, viola, surbahar (a bass sitar) and vocals. Once again this CD has been packed in an unusual paper sleeve that also contains a booklet comprising the whole story written by Jackson Del Rey.

As far as the music is concerned, I didn't hear many differences compared to the earlier albums I reviewed. Again the album contains beautiful music with elements from progressive rock, new age and ambient. The above-mentioned influences again came to mind. However, this time I would like to describe its content as chamber-music mainly due to the use of more violins and violas accompanied by acoustic guitars and layers of synthesizers. It also seems as if the music is mellower and more laid-back than on the previous two albums. Only the track Isabel V is more up-tempo with additional modern dance beats, but still I can say that all of the twelve compositions sound brilliantly, that is, if you like this kind of music.

To fully appreciate and understand this album you have to be in the right mood otherwise you probably won't enjoy it. Isabel is especially recommended to people who enjoy a fine mixture of progressive rock, new age and ambient and who like the music of all the above-mentioned bands and artists.

*** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)

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