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Elfonia: This Sonic Landscape

The power and beauty of Elfonia's elegant music mostly lies in Alejandro Millan's keyboard work and the emotive voice of Marcela Bovio. They already proved their talents on their debut release, which is a successful blend of gothic, rock, pop and prog. Their new sophomore output This Sonic Landscape, however, finds them growing into a more mature band with a heavier focus on songmanship and taking considerable input from their band mates. The drumming of Javier Garagarza is a huge step forward on this disc, not to mention the bass and the eloquent guitar work. As a whole, Elfonia has grown and progressed into a more experienced act with a more defined sound and musical approach.

Anyone who attemps to label Elfonia as a fully gothic band is being senseless and unfair. As a matter of fact, besides the darkness factor that permeats their songcraft, I'd be hard-pressed to find a completely gothic rock song on this album, except perhaps "... de los libros del tiempo", a tune filled with heavily atmospheric keyboard sounds. Shortly after its start, the song does stray away into a much different territory though. Brief bass rhythms secretly drive the piece towards a more symphonic area, with glistening cymbal splashes enhancing the song quality. The song's resolution is reached when a somewhat bluesy guitar solo is delivered by Roberto Quintanilla, destroying any gothic references this band has been tagged with.

Repeat listens will reveal that the album is very varied in nature. Not just stylistically, but Marcela Bovio has also penned some English lyrics for a couple of songs, which should gain the band some international success. The music presented on this release is very cohesive throughout; but at the same time, the band opts for much-welcome jazz stylings and touches of avant garde. Granted most of the songs vary from slow to mid-tempo pieces, the band will surprise with various shifts of rhythm, mostly rendered through rhythm guitars and drums. "Desaciertos" is one of these tracks. It has a very slow piano intro but slowly picks up in pace as it borrows some bluesy guitar lines, symphonic elements, and sweeping keyboard arrangements. Huge guitar chords weave themselves into the song delivering fluctuating rhythms for a while, only to be replaced by a sad violin melody played by none other than Marcela Bovio. The jazzy side of the album is particularly to my liking, as it lends This Sonic Landscape a progressive flair. From the off-time jazz drums and guitar on "Maquina" to the heavily fusion-inflected "Camaleon", also sporting a guest appearance by Arjen Luccassen on lead guitar, the songs are coloured with jazz piano and dark guitar riffs. They both feature breakdowns for Pablo Gonzalez' delicate bass guitar, which is further explored during Lucassen's solo. The arrangement of the bass and the way it is layered over the guitar chords is truly inspiring. "Letargo" is an instrumental that is built around dark keyboard textures, folky acoustics producing sparse yet effective guitar notes. "Manana" sees them playing a more upbeat cut with classic rock tendencies with a playful solo. The song does end with distinct jazz licks in order to stay true to the general flow of the album though. Pink Floyd similarities could be drawn on "Traveling", one of the three English-sung tracks featuring a beautiful drum fade-out.

The last three tracks comprise the album's epic "Gigantes", a trilogy that breaks the 15-minute mark. A bit different from the individual tracks, this trilogy is punctuated with rich keyboards that build on until the atmospheric apex is reached, where crushing guitars are introduced laying down avante garde sludge-like riffs heavier than a ten-ton hammer. The middle piece, also the longest on the album, simply titled "II", is Alejandro Millan's shining moment, not just as a keyboard and concertina expert, but moreso as a songwriter. This track is mostly instrumental save for some very sweet wordless vocal melodies hummed by Marcela towards the end. The song is fed through lush keyboards and vivid drums that become more audible with each beat and speeding the piece up. By the time the song nears its end, we're experiencing a thick wall of sound with perfect harmony among each instrument. "III" is not only the album's finale, but also Marcela's third song with English lyrics. It ends with her otherworldly vocals that eventually give way to another forlorn violin piece offering segments of folk music. It is a very beautiful ending to a very beautiful album. The fact that Marcela Bovio has already made a great name for herself with Ayreon and (together with Alejandro Millan) Stream of Passion, Elfonia is bound to have some serious following from European prog music fans as well as establish them as a more solid band. Watch them - they're going to be big.

Track Listing

  1. IV (02:21)
  2. Máquina (04:01)
  3. Soundscapes (05:20)
  4. Desaciertos (05:45)
  5. los libros del tiempo (05:29)
  6. Camaleón (05:21)
  7. Letargo (03:22)
  8. Mañana (05:00)
  9. Traveling (03:41)
  10. Gigantes I (04:54)
  11. Gigantes II (07:03)
  12. Gigantes III (04:56)

Added: November 5th 2005
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Related Link: Elfonia website
Hits: 10515
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Elfonia: This Sonic Landscape
Posted by Keith Hannaleck, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-11-05 07:46:30
My Score:

I discovered one of the most beautiful and entrancing voices in progressive rock music a few weeks ago while listening to another out of this world Arjen Lucassen project called Stream Of Passion. The vocalist is Marcela Bovio from Mexico. She has her own band called Elfonía.

They have a fantastic album, their second, ready for release. The music fits the title of this CD in a literal sense. This Sonic Landscape is a diverse array of musical persuasions.

This music did remind me of Stream Of Passion because of Marcela's vocals and some of the music; however, Elfonía certainly makes an impression as an original band with their own unique style and sound. They combine a mix of prog-rock, jazz, and classical influences that creates, well, need I say it again-a sonic landscape. Ms. Bovio's vocals are the kind that you find yourself enamored with immediately, she sings in Spanish and English throughout the recording and at times stretches out and sounds like an opera singer, her range and command is quite impressive.

On my favorite tracks is "Camaleón" and it does not surprise me why it was, one the most respected and world renowned artist stands in to play guitar, Arjen Lucassen. It is one of the most powerful songs on the CD; featuring hard driving guitar lines backed by a solid backbeat from the rhythm section. They have some of their most spectacular moments of transition in the three-part suite "Gigantes." Each part is extensive and leads you into each progression with a balance of elements and subtle yet obvious nuances throughout your journey. This musical omnibus is comparative to taking several cans of paint and splashing it on a huge canvas, what you get when it is complete looks like a montage of bright colors spectacularly clashing with each other. In a musical sense, this process encourages creativity and exploration, which ultimately ends in the beauty of each individual composition.

The 70s Latin jazz fusion band Caldera came to mind a few times while listening to this music. They were one of the first bands I discovered while I was discovering jazz fusion in the early 80s. I can hear influences from bands like that in their sound. The most difficult thing for any band to do is to take that cornucopia of influence and come up with an original sound that has a recognizable stamp on it. They most definitely succeed in that process on this recording. Bovio is one of the most distinctive female vocalists I have heard in years and her contributions are extremely important to this band's sound. I would not be surprised if she becomes an international star within the next few years.

This is a fantastic collection of recordings, the sound mix is superb and the musicianship excellent, what more can I say…this is one great band. Even when Bovio sings a song in Spanish, and I do not understand a word, I love it. The music and her voice have this effect on you that you will have to experience for yourself to understand. As 2005 is ending, discovering Elfonía has been one of the many joys I have had the privilege to hear coming through my speakers.

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