Aleph — Surface Tension
(Poor House 600029, 1977/1995, CD)
by Mike Ohman, Published 1997-02-01
What a special album this is, a forgotten rarity that truly is something of a lost classic. Aleph, a sextet based in Sydney, were one of the few Australian bands (along with Sebastian Hardie, Airlord, and Rainbow Theater) making a truly symphonic brand of prog. Aleph's unique feature is its dual-keyboard attack, keyboardists Mary Hansen and Mary Jane Carpenter both displaying a clear classical influence. Witness the graceful Bach-like rapidly descending organ motif in "Morning," or Carpenter's delightful piano playing throughout, but especially on "Mountaineer," which sounds as though it could have been from a lost Beethoven piano sonata. And yes, there's just enough Mellotron to send fans of the legendary keyboard instrument into analog rapture. Singer Joe Walmsley has a high-pitched tenor voice, and is often compared to Jon Anderson in style. To me, he sounds more like Trevor Horn, but with a more impressive range and more powerful emotional depth and sweep.
What a pity, then, that this overpriced, obviously bootleg release is all we're likely to see of this outstanding album. I certainly find no fault with the sound, which was faithfully reproduced. The reproduction of the artwork, however, is definitely sub-Germanofon with its single-panel insert. If only Musea or some other comparable label had done this, complete with band history in the insert. Nonetheless, if you can find it, it is an excellent album, definitely worth the high price you'll inevitably have to pay.
Related artist(s): Aleph
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