(All Album Reviews by avestin)
It is astonishing what Aranis can accomplish with what seems to be simple music and a lineup of seven musicians. They create music that can be as intense and as powerful as full-fledged rock with a lineup of classical instruments alone. Not only that, but their compositions are as intricate, complex and intriguing as any prog-rock music done by other bands.
One of my first reactions listening to Aranis’ music was that their music sounds like the hybrid of Clint Mansell’s soundtrack for Requiem For A Dream and Yann Tiersen’s soundtrack for Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amelie Poulan. Indeed, this is a valid reference point if one cares to pinpoint the band’s sound. A classical setup that plays music that is as intricate, powerful and poignant as rock (or prog-rock for that matter).
They play with their lovely and catchy tunes, combining the harmonious and melodic with slightly disharmonic tones; they are highly skilled musicians and their playing is not only striking and admirable, it also shows how they must have fun playing since it sounds so… well, playful.
Lovely, compelling and magical, their music captures me, the listener, and at the same time sets me free to wonder in their musical realm, with a guiding instrument, which changes between tracks and within a given track, whether it is the violin, accordion or flute.
Moving, daring and occasionally jovial it is a kind of music I can’t seem to let by unnoticed. Take for instance the tune “Looking Glass” with its wonderful bass playing that sets the tone of the track, the violin and the flute which compete and complement each other, creating tension and resolving it thereafter; the piano then comes in with a lovely solo, introducing “air” into this dense piece; all of the instruments together reach a synergistic effect, such a powerful achievement that I am dumbfounded each time I hear it, bewitched by its beauty and its purity. A brilliant and simple composition that manages to capture the essence of this band in this sole tune and show their whole potential and capabilities. Not only are the tunes beautiful, but the arrangements, the part written for each instrument are such that the potential of each is fulfilled; everyone gets their deserved spotlight, their abilities and ‘usefulness’ reached. Listen to “Kitano” and how each instrument sits well with the others while playing their individual part, mingling perfectly with the others and being well heard over the entire ‘mini-orchestra’.
The tracks on this album vary from the dynamic and fast (“Walk In One’s Sleep”) to the slower brand, more calm and relaxed, yet still as emotional and effective (“Waris”). Their compositions are as dynamic in their structure and intensity as the music is. Going from loud to quiet, from fast and furious to slow and delicate, they cover a wide range of emotions and moods.
Direct, precise and strict, their style can be upfront as in “Turbulentie”, but it is never devoid of emotion and certainly not of passion. Moreover it doesn’t stay that way for the whole piece, as I mention above; the music shifts from climatic to peaceful, from exhilarating to sluggish and sensual. Aranis know very well how to intermingle all these opposing sentiments and atmospheres, make them into a coherent and naturally flowing whole. Nothing sounds forced to me, there is an innate vigor and drive in their music that makes me wish the music would never end. Whether it is in the uplifting segments such as the ‘chorus’ of “Trog”, the gripping theme of “Looking Glass”, the naïve sounding yet elaborate “Lovey-Dovey” or the intensity at the opening of “Kitano” and the ending of “Mythra”. There is always the want for more, the after-taste that begs for more; this is how music should be – compelling you, making you want more, having repeated listening, trying to quench the ‘thirst’.
Playing rock with a classical lineup –this has been said about them (and other contemporaries and country mates such as DAAU). This is a true phrase, but for me it misses the emotional impact that Aranis achieves with their compositions. This album is following in the line of its predecessor and in my opinion is as brilliant if not more. It boils down to a matter of what are the melodies you prefer. Here, there is none that I dislike; each one is wonderful. I absolutely love this album (even more than their first one, but only because I love the tunes here more, no other reason than that). A personal favourite of mine, not just due to its beauty but for all the reasons mentioned above. A must!