Various Artists — Variaciones en la Cuerda Vol. 1
(Luna Negra CDLN-01, 1995, CD)
by Paul Hightower, Published 1997-05-01
The Mexican Luna Negra label has released two discs as an overview of the Cuban prog scene, under the moniker Variaciones en la Cuerda, Una Vision del Rock en Cuba, Vols. 1 and 2. Volume 2 (reviewed elsewhere in this issue) dealt strictly with the band Perfume de Mujer, who appear here as well, joined by Sebastian el Toro, Narania Mecanica, and Musica d'Repuesto. Each group is given three tracks on the CD and, even from one listening, one will be struck by the variety of styles encompassed by these groups. Sebastian el Toro leads off in a moody and darkly ambient vein, recalling the early work of Tangerine Dream and Brian Eno. Garbled and distorted patches of taped conversation and synths blend with bleating guitar that recalls Crimson's Thrakk improvs. Sound landscapes are broadly painted in atonal colors that are intriguing and mysterious, conjuring up possible soundtracks to a dream.
The CD notes list the next group up as Perfume de Mujer though a comparison with Vol. 2 reveals that they actually appear last on this collection. Unfortunately, this also means that I have no idea who is who between the middle two groups, although both cover a relatively similar style of prog, featuring complex arrangements and sparkling instrumental work. Some of this material reminds me of Peter Banks' Instinct release while some of it is uncannily reminiscent of the more complex instrumental side of Jethro Tull, complete with some great flute / guitar / piano workouts.
Finishing off the collection is Perfume de Mujer, delivering their patent formula of infectious grooves and tortured blocks of guitar / keyboard / violin workouts, all married to Abel Perez' vocal declarations, though these selection find his presence more limited than the two discs covered by Volume 2.
While it may appear that Perfume de Mujer are being given larger recognition over the course of both volumes of Variaciones en la Cuerda, listeners should find that all four groups represented have plenty to offer. Hopefully, we're witness to a blossoming of a new progressive scene in Cuba that's off to a great start.
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more
Jorge Santana RIP – Jorge Santana, noted guitarist, leader of the band Malo and brother to Carlos Santan, died on May 14 at the age of 68. Jorge and Carlos worked together on a number of occasions, though Jorge's career was centered around Malo, solo work, and with Fania All-Stars. » Read more
Shindig Festival Goes Lock-Down – Here's what they're saying: It's A Happening Thing! The Shindig! Magazine Lockdown Festival. In our days of no large gatherings of people, maybe it's still possible to have a music festival. Shindig! Magazine is giving it a go with a multi-artist streaming extravaganza on Saturday April 25. » Read more
Bill Rieflin RIP – The sad news reaches us today of Bill Rieflin's death. Rieflin was best known as a drummer in bands ranging from post-punk to industrial to indie-rock to progressive rock, including work with The Blackouts, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Swans, Land, and King Crimson. Rieflin had been battling cancer for several years, and succumbed to it on March 24. He was 59. » Read more