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Sontaag: Sontaag

Sit down, plug in, space oooouuuutttt… Sontaag are here to whisk us back into a Space Opera era that decades have oft ignored, with the vocals of Ian Fortnam a disinterested spoken word retelling of a sci-fi tale where a planet needs harmony (the musical kind, as well as the balance of) to maintain its own power and ultimately avoid complete Armageddon. Will they survive, will that harmony be maintained, will anyone care? Well the answers are simple. I'm not telling you, I'm not really sure anyone knows and yes they will; for what instrumentalist Richard Sontaag has crafted here is a remarkably dated, yet current stab at an out and out concept album the likes of which are seldom heard these days. And yet the most involving arc of this story is musical, with a huge swathe of synth and guitar attacks employed to suck you into the story whether you want to engage in the interesting, yet at times overbearing, vocals or not.

Oddly time improves Fortnam's contributions, the vocal's initial clever-clever feel wearing off as you get under the skin of an involved, yet topical storyline which can be a bit obvious in places, while being almost abstract in others. However with the opening to this album being purely instrumental for its first five and a bit minutes, the clear message here is to lay back, and simply allow the music to remove you from the everyday humdrum and introduce you to an oddly engaging fictional humdrum. Now that may sound hard going, but washes of atmospheric Blade Runner-esque rain sequences where guitars fade out and into earshot, as synths build and recede in intensity, leave a lasting mark, the overriding notion being of craft and skill over indulgence and self interest.

Attacks are altered and intensities intensified, yet diminished when the flow of the concept requires, as drummer Milo Venter beefs up certain songs, bringing an up to date Hawkwind vibe in places. Yet the crisp mix from Youth (Killing Joke) sits the album quite expertly between 60s Floyd, Gilmour era-Floyd and something more akin to Sound Of Contact; hopefully allowing a whole host of Progressive fans from throughout the eras to fully immerse themselves in this album. Vocalist Amanda Cross also adds interesting, if occasional, vocal aspects that Fortnam's key, yet at times cold, spoken sections simply can't provide and yet without the lyrics and concept they convey, the power of Sontaag really wouldn't be as vibrant as it is.

For a debut offering, this continual piece of music split into parts that can't quite be called songs is an immense achievement and while there are a few rough edges (and a few too many smooth ones as well), the question already has to be, how do this pair follow such an ambitious piece? As we and they ponder that conundrum, prepare to be transported to a glorious, yet dangerous world and fully interact with a tale which feels just as otherworldly as it does earthbound.


Track Listing
1. Empyrean
2. The Great Harmodulator
3. Spaceshifter
4. Harmodulation
5. Minor Keys Of Anguished Weeping
6. Serena Serenarum
7. Sorush
8. Interstellar Genocide
9. Chokuto
10. Glissandor
11. The Skull-Scraping Caterwaul
12. Aftershock
13. Memoria Tenere

Added: October 3rd 2014
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: Sontaag at Cherry Red
Hits: 780
Language: english

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