This is a concept album in the truest sense. Ex-Savage Republic member Jackson Del Rey has had a modest but undoubtedly experimental career since he founded 17 Pygmies in 1982. Four years ago he began work on a trilogy when he was inspired by La Celestina – an influential 15th Century Spanish novel. But he didn’t stop there. The multi-talented musician decided to weave in his own science fiction themes into a completely new story. ‘CIII: Even Celestina Gets The Blues’ is the final instalment of this ‘Tale of Love and Quantum Physics’.
During the course of this penultimate journey, we ride through 12 tracks that are all named similarly – distinguished only by numerals. After a first track of weird electronic noise and middle-eastern melody, second track ‘Celestina XXIV’ is introduced. It unfortunately produces a splashy, flat bass line that falls short of delivering that spacey start needed for such a record. But it’s not enough to put off the listener just there. Anyone with an ounce of patience would give a chance to this ambitious project and in hindsight, would reap rewards from some of this album’s finer moments.
It’s when the Floydian harmonies, subtle piano playing and dreamy atmospherics come alive in ‘Celestina XXVI’ that we can truly enjoy 17 Pygmies. The brooding ‘Celestina XXVII’ comes to the boil around the five-minute mark with Kraftwerk-inspired electronic beats and ambient synthesizer to show yet another of these rare but great moments. Although the bass line on ‘Celestina XXIX’ is again repetitive, there’s textures of keyboard, viola and vocals with a psychedelically-charged valium quality that make this a much more engaging track. Pleasantly following up from this hypnotism is an altogether refreshing, folkier track that reveals a definite Mike Oldfield influence.
‘CIII…’ has plenty of ambition and it’s the main reason we can have a great deal of appreciation for it. For all its stunning solitary highlights, it’s a record that doesn’t establish that consistent level of spatial elevation that we find in the classic likes of Floyd or Tangerine Dream.
Reviewed by Calum Robson
CIII: EVEN CELESTINA GETS THE BLUES is out now on Trakwerx
You’ll like this if… you’d rather go blindfolded in the ‘shoot an apple off someone’s head’ competition as opposed to eating the tasty fruit in a slightly unconventional way.