Astrid Pröll - s/t
(Noisex Records 2006, nsx009)
From Aural Innovations #35 (January 2007)
Although Astrid Pröll hails from Puerto Rico, don't expect to hear any spicey Latin pop from these guys. They play a brand of progressive rock that, in this day and age, is still truly progressive.
Pröll I, their debut album's 9 ˝-minute opening cut starts with nearly 3-minutes of brooding Mellotron choirs and dark atmospheres before a throbbing bassline and restrained but shimmering guitar noise starts to emerge. Drums slowly enter, moving the rhythm forward till about the 4 ˝-minute mark when the band explodes in an assault of pounding, racing guitars. More atmospherics follow, with deliciously spacey synths, before the main heavy theme returns for a hypnotic lead in to a some amazingly creative guitar leads and dark synth work to finish things off. You're wanting to say, "whew" and catch your breath, but Catastrofe kicks in next, with it's frenetic multiple guitar lines and driving rhythm grooves. Things continue on like that.
This is dark, heavy and subversive stuff, mostly instrumental, though there are two tracks with vocals (in Spanish, but again, this is not Latin music). The vocal tracks have riveting melodies; the instrumental cuts feature some amazing and creative playing from all the members. This is progressive rock, but forget about "the winds of time" and stuff like that, this is edgy stuff, full of intensity and fury, experimental noise (like the freaky electronics in Disidente - loved this track!), and gloomy and menacing space textures. It's not all intense though. The band does lighten things up with a few tracks like the exquisite, breezy post-rockish Resistencia. The 15-minute monster, 88 MHz sounds at times like it could have come out of King Crimson's Red era, but that's only on the surface. Beneath, the band continues with their own unique vision. I love the descending swoops of synth set to chunky angular guitar pummelling. It's also full of some truly freaky squonk like noises (vocals, I think!). When the finale arrives, with it's strumming acoustic guitars, edgy organ, and drifting, off-kilter melodies, you're left breathless once again. But the album's not over! A few more intense guitar pieces lead to the album's final surprise, the 8-minute closer, Laboratorio Grotowsky. Atmospherics and horns take this piece in a distinctly jazzy direction as the band grooves to some complex rhythms and soaring melodies. Just when I thought I finally had Astrid Pröll pinned down, they go and shake up my view of things once again.
If you're tired of Genesis clones and bands that seem stuck in the 70's, this is progressive rock that sounds fresh and original. Recommended.
For more information you can visit the Astrid Pröll web site at: http://www.astridproll.com.
Visit the Noisex Records web site at: http://www.noisexrecords.com.
Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald