Barrock — Oxian
(SI Music Simply 53, 1994, CD)
by Rob Walker, 1995-07-01:
Barrock is a band I want to like very much. Their music is strongly reminiscent of classic early 70s Banco (one of my favorites), both in the fluid contrapuntal writing and creative orchestration, as well as in the predominantly dark and melancholic moods which are evoked. So why the tinge of hesitancy in my affection for this newcomer to the Italian prog scene? To put it bluntly — the drums! Though I tend to prefer actual instruments to imitations, I probably could deal with the sampled piano and organ, with the audible loops in the orchestral samples, and even with the sampled acoustic guitar. But the completely amateurish rhythm tracks really make this a difficult listen. The drums on Oxian, if actually live, have the life gated out of them, or if electronic, are quantized into robotic doldrums. The sounds are what you would expect from a $200 tone module, and the drumbeats are so basic and annoying that the best parts of this disc are universally the parts without drums. I hate to pick so much on one small aspect of this album, but the point is that the music is so rich and varied that the drums just don't even come close to fitting in, and the electronic nature of the entire performance detracts from what could be a superb album. Oxian is musically even stronger than Barrock's 1990 debut L'Alchimista, which featured the same strong classic Italian prog influences and deserves similarly favorable Banco comparisons. Unfortunately both albums suffer noticeably from the same percussive and sonic maladies. If you can ignore the horrible drumming and the lifeless nature of some of the sounds, there really is some fantastic music here.
by Dan Casey, 1995-07-01:
Two things should immediately give this one away: (1) it's on the SI (Sans Identity) label; and (2) the cover art featuring a mighty sea serpent, a large and fantastic castle, and a wizard king with glittering jewels for eyes. This is clearly neo-prog territory, and it won't take more than a minute of this disc to understand what subtle variations on the already formulaic themes Barrock will use to define their sound. First is the fugue, with its quasi-classical baroque minor themes played proudly by clammy symphonic synths. Most all of the music is composed by Victor Poles, with no less than three apparent kin helping out on drums, bass, and vocals (female). But with music so synth heavy, and with Victor taking on guitar roles as well, it is obvious that he is the whole band really. As is far too typical in this brand of music, the drumming is beyond lifeless, an effect made even more unpalatable by the awful electric drum sounds. Then, miraculously, when the female vocals enter, your ears will perk up. The gorgeous, almost operatic belting out of simple melodies is almost elegant enough to make you forget (for a brief moment only) about what is (or, rather is not) going on in the background. The overall attempt by Barrock to incorporate this approach, this structure, fails in its execution more than anything else. While fundamentally it may not even seem worth the effort, bands like Halloween (Merlin) have proven that it can succeed if professionally done. And that's the essential ingredient that is missing here. But, since the (infrequent) vocals are so well done, Oxian is worthy of the highest honor yet to be bestowed on an SI (Shelflife Infinitesimal) release: two out of five stars.
by Peter Thelen, 1995-07-01:
Like their name seems to imply, Barrock's music combines elements of Baroque and rock. The rock, in this case, is a modern Italian symphonic progressive sound with a clear allegiance to the classics of the 70s. Plenty of growth and refinement has taken place since their first album (L'Alchimista, 1990, reviewed in #4) which hinted at what they could do. Oxian delivers on the promise. The band is a six-piece led by Valter Poles and Pino Vendramin, both of whom share keyboard and guitar duties, and fronted by two female vocalists Paola Polese and Graziella Vendramin. The vocals are, for the most part, used very judiciously so as to not overwhelm the ornate and lush arrangements. This gives the musicians plenty of room to work through the many shifts in style and dynamics. The tracks alternate between the louder, more rock oriented pieces, and the quieter baroque, impressionist, and classically inspired pieces, although these flavors are interspersed throughout the album, giving an overall cohesive feel. In contrast with the 70s, though, Barrock's instrumentation is definitely modern: digital synths, gated drums, and the overwhelming presence of the electronic age. One won't find any swirling Hammonds or Mellotrons here, but you will find plenty of inspired compositions embellished with well-thought-out arrangements. By comparison, due to the modern instrumentation, vocal arrangements, and the mix of contemporary and classic expression, Oxian probably bears more in common with some of the current and recent Japanese symphonic bands like Teru's Symphonia and Mugen. Overall, a very good album indeed, and one that I'm sure most would enjoy thoroughly. It also sets a new standard for the SI label... hopefully there will be more like this to come.
Related artist(s): Barrock
Legendary Co-Founder of The 13th Floor Elevators Passes Away at Age 71 – Sadly, Roky Erickson passed away on May 31, 2019. Known as the father of psychedelic music and co-founder of the ground breaking 13th Floor Elevators, Roky had a profound influence on music from the 60s to today. Plagued by his own personal demons, Roky had a difficult life and is now free of these burdens. » Read more
Help MoonJune Bring Great Music to Life – Like many music lovers around the world, we’ve been thrilled and amazed to hear the recordings that have been released by MoonJune from sessions at La Casa Murada in Spain. Such label stalwarts as Mark Wingfield, Markus Reuter, Asaf Sirkis, Tony Levin, Dusan Jevtovic, Vasil Hadzimanov, and many more have gathered in various combinations at the studio to produce some of the most creative music in recent years. Now, label head Leonardo Pavkovic is offering a compilation, La Casa Murada - MoonJune Sessions, Volume One, as a fundraiser for upcoming sessions. » Read more
The Pineapple Thief to Tour North America – November and December of 2019 will see The Pineapple Thief bringing their music to Canada, Mexico, and the US, and famed drummer Gavin Harrison will be on board. The band has been touring extensively in Europe, but North America will be new territory for them. » Read more
Scott Walker RIP – Noel Scott Engel, better known as Scott Walker, was one of the most intriguing and enigmatic musical figures in the second half of the 20th Century. His strange career started with The Walker Brothers, an American pop group that featured no one named Walker and no brothers. After moving to England in 1965, they had a series of hit singles. Scott's solo work started with Scott in 1967. Starting in the 80s, his work took an increasingly avant-garde turn. » Read more
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more
Cobweb Strange - The Temptation of Successive Hours – Atlanta power trio Cobweb Strange is led by singer / songwriter and bassist Wade Summerlin. Together with Jonathan Burke and Derik Rinehart, they've shaped forty-five minutes of guitar-based... (1997) » Read more