OMNI El Vals de los Duendes reviews
Review by Cesar Inca Mendoza Loyola @ 9:28:55 AM EST, 5/16/2004
'El Vals de los Duendes' is one of the greatest prog efforts that came out of Spain in recent years. This Andalusian ensemble is highly influenced by their 70s forefathers Cai, Imán and Guadalquivir, as well as by Camel and 'W&W'-era Genesis, adding a notable bunch of latin-jazz fusion touches into their sonic palette (particularly, tracks 4 and 6). The magical and fluid interplay between all six musicians is punctuated by the constant successive soloing of lead guitar, wind instruments and keyboards, but all this soloing remains solidly faithful to the melodic demands of the respectiva themes, not to the logic of mere pyrothecnics; simultaneously, the rhythm section of drummer/bassist/rhythm guitarrist shows its precision and sensibility with ease and subtle proficiency. All in all, the repertoire is elaborate and sophisticated, without being too complex, which helps to highlight the catchiness of the major tunes. In my opinion, the first three tracks are the zentih of this album - special mentions go to the majestic closing section of the title track, and the arabic-like interlude of 'Ronda de las Dunas' - these tracks are simply terrific and compelling. Other notable numbers are the Camel- esque 'Como la Noche y el Día' and the introspective closing track, 'Mexicali', whose serene beauty I find irresistibly evocative, like a homefire that keeps the room warm after a hard day's work. 'Faro de Trafalgar' is a duet of flute and percussion, a world music-like attempt which works as a peculiar intro to the closing number, which I've previously commented on. Overall conclusion: as my 4 star rating points out, this is an 'excellent addition to any prog collection'.
Spanish prog's exalted tradition lives on with this extremely enjoyable opus. Omni has created quite a stir in prog circles , not only with the release of this stunning collection of songs but with their live performances (Baja Prog) as well. It is impossible to argue that the spirit of Camel permeates the spirit of these top-notch "caballeros", the proceedings deeply tinged with the aromas of the humped-one: the main focus is on the electric guitar display of Michael Starry, who has obviously studied the master Bedouin himself, Andy Latimer! With such a talented maestro guiding them, the boys in the band deliver a spirited concoction of hymn like pieces that immediatly grab your senses, liberally spiced with the flute and sax playing of Pepe Torres. The title track "The Waltz of the Elves" is confirmation of the talent here, a soaring ode to the magical tendencies of Prog, combining virtuoso Celtic arrangements with spiraling leads both fused to the musical concept. Muchas Gracias! The next piece, the Floydian" Ronda de las Dunas" nails this one shut, as the sax wails it's plaintive lament and the bass blurts its intentions..... Track four, introduces a worthy synth solo in an otherwise Santanaesque romp with a heavy Spanish flavour. Okay, I give up : end of story, great record, great band, great future! Adios!
'Tras el Puente' is actually a selection of demos recorded in 1993 and 1994. They were recued and compiled under the aforemetioned title in 2000. The band had split up in 1994, but motivated by the release of their old material, they rejoined and nowadays are enjoying some success. Their performance in BajaProg 2001 was very well received by both the crowd and the critics... which led them to be invited back in 2002, as a matter of fact! Because 'Tras el Puente' is basically a selection of demos, the sound is a little sub-par, despite the fact that those demos were remastered. Nevertheless, you can appreciate their melodic sensibilty and crafty musicianship along each and every track. The opening track is a perfect example of Omni's stylings: massive melodic sensibility a-la Camel, Oldfield and 'W&W'-era Genesis, with the inclusion of subtle Southern Spanish folky elements and fusionesque colours. All this is achieved with an elegant sense of texture, and avoiding both pyrotechnics and avant-garde dissonances. It is in the longest tracks where the band feels more comfortable expressing themselves, expanding on their ideas without becoming repetitive or futile: 'Amazonas', 'Viento de Levante' and the title track are other highlights worth mentioning. I must admit that the compositional talent, although evident, is not totally matured, and as I mentioned before, the sound quality leaves much to be desired, but all in all, this is a good prog work, a promise of better things to come (which they did... but that's another story).
Cesar Inca Mendoza Loyola