Amarok — Hayat Yolunda (Path of Life)
(Azafrán Media AP1527, 2015, 2CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2016-02-24
It’s been around eight years since we’ve heard anything really new from Amarok, one of Spain’s finest progressive bands going all the way back to the early 90s. The last release with new material was Sol de Medianoche from 2007, then around a year later we got Canciones de los Mundos Perdidos – Cintas Originales, which was a rescue job of the band’s second album from 1995 using the original tapes, and patching in some new vocals and instrumentation along the way – and a splendid job they did on that; then in 2011 Azafran released a live disc of the band’s performance at the 2008 Gouveia art-rock festival. So what happened over all those years? This 2CD release Hayat Yolunda / Archivos 2009-2015 attempts to answer that question with a brand new album on disc one (Hayat Yolunda = Path of Life), and a collection of recordings the band made in the interim years on disc two, some intended for a follow-up to the 2007 release that never happened before the band went on hiatus, and some interesting covers that may have seemed out of place on a new Amarok album. The core of the band remains intact (singer Marta Segura, composer and multi-instrumentalist Robert Santamaria, and flute player Manel Mayol; bassist Alan Chehab – who played on Sol de Medianoche, plays on disc one but is absent from the archival material). Sax player Mireia Sisquella is gone, drummer Pau Zanartu returns, and electric guitarist Xavi Saiz is new to the band since 2007. The music now has retreated from an overt progressive rock sound (although there is some of that) to the more gentle and satisfying folk-rock meets ethnic with classical overtones that graced the early 90s releases like Canciones, although now with better production, sometimes a bit reminiscent of early 70s Genesis or vintage-era PFM, with the beautiful female voice of Marta Segura gracing the proceedings throughout. I really can’t imagine anyone not liking the nine newly recorded tracks on disc one. Unlike some previous albums, there aren’t a lot of extra players here; I think Robert Santamaria can play just about any instrument one can throw at him, but keyboards and 12-string guitar seem to be his primary duties as a player.
The first six cuts on the Archivos disc are tunes the band was working up in 2009 for the aborted follow-up to Sol de Medianoche, and dispay a stronger ethnic folk bent that reaches out in many directions (Middle Eastern, Celtic, and more) along with extra players on violin and additional percussion; the opener “Imdhalaia” is particularly potent on many levels, but there are many other gems herewithin. Also noteworthy on the Archivos disc are instrumental covers of The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood” as well as a cover of Tangerine Dream’s “Stratosfear” recorded in 2014 by a four-piece lineup featuring guest Victor Estrada on theremin, with an interesting acoustic introduction. So, in summary, it’s great to have Amarok back in action again; of their ten-or-so releases this one certainly ranks as one of their very best.
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more
Neil Peart RIP – One of rock music's defining drummers has died at the age of 67. Neil Peart's work with Rush provided one of the templates for percussion in rock, and he certainly ranks in the top ten most influential drummers of the 20th Century. Peart retired from playing in 2015 due to health issues, and succumbed to brain cancer on January 7, 2020. » Read more
Joel Vandroogenbroeck RIP – Word has reached us of the death of Joel Vandroogenbroeck, best known as one of the founders of Brainticket, He also recorded electronic music under a variety of names. He was born August 25th, 1938 in Brussels, Belgium and died December 23, 2019 in Arlesheim, Switzerland, aged 81. » Read more