The Cuneiform label has long been a bastion of quality prog music; it's one of the few catalog sources that you can order from at random and be assured that you'll get something worth hearing. This year, they've brought us such insane masterpieces as Djam Karet's The Devouring and Happy Family's Tossco. Boud Deun takes its place at the top of that list with Astronomy Made Easy, a complicated and melodic album with layers of depth and imagination.
What jumps out at first listen is the inventive and unusual violin work of Greg Hiser; these are strange melodies, the sort that you never imagined hearing on this instrument, and they pluck unusual emotions within the listener. Of course, whenever such an up-front instrument is unique, it makes the entire recording unique, so the feel of Astronomy has a bouyant newness about it even when the other instrumentation is slightly overdone.
Overdone? Yes, I'm afraid so, but it's only a minor offense, and one that doesn't jump out at the listener the first few times through. But guitarist Shawn Persinger sometimes wears his Fripp influence on his sleeve, as on "Spiders" (the ending is nearly saturated with "Great Deceiver" phrasings). Still, these guitar lines are counterpointed with tremendously creative violin melodies that make the whole mix an entirely new beast. And in most other places, Persinger comes into his own, as in the solo on "Coal Boxes and Daisy Cutters", which heralds a new and profound guitar voice.
The album's high point might just be "Jupiter", a strange piece that never fully tells the listener where it is going next: this is its great gift, the blissful abandon of convention and the willingness to mystify while striving to entertain. It is a savagely creative bit that fully allows the band to show off their considerable chops.
Perhaps not for the casual listener, Boud Deun has given a cherished prize to those of us who are willing to put on the headphones and pay attention. This is literate, intellectual music at its best, and it comes highly recommended.