It was only recently that I began a review of Riveryman's Magic World album by decrying Musea's normally fine judgement for releasing that artist's music. Luckily, with Raimundo Rodulfo's Mare et Terra, the record company are back on track in my book, doing what they do best: Rodulfo may be resident in Florida but his musical roots lie in the country, in the continent of his birth – Venezuela, South America – and the label's speciality is unearthing these musical gems from around the globe.
Mare et Terra is a gem: its brand of multi-style fusion eclecticism incorporated into single compositions reminds me of the fabulous Karcius and in particular of their Episodes album, which remains only one of two to which I have given the full 5-stars on SoT. Mare et Terra is not quite up there yet with Episodes but I suspect that's perhaps because I haven't yet heard it often or loud enough for it to really hit home. Episodes took a few more listens to get to the 5-stars than I've yet given Mare et Terra but my judgement is – and I could be wrong! – that it will just fall short, even after some months. I note, however, that young Pete Pardo did assign the full sheboodle to Rodulfo's previous album The Dreams Concerto.
What marks this out as outstanding music is the high standard of musicianship and the joy in the music making, together with melodic writing of the highest calibre and a similar high standard for the rhythmic element. The arrangements are rich and diverse: I cannot recall hearing so many different instruments/sounds – both traditional and modern - on one album: Rodulfo himself plays acoustic and electric guitars, bass and mandolin but he calls on twelve other excellent musicians to assist in unfolding his sonic visions. We get an array of keyboards including minimoog, violin, cello, flutes, saxophone, clarinet, trumpets, flugelhorn, and a variety of drums and percussion; as well as recordings of sounds from nature when appropriate. Unlike Karcius's music, Mare et Terra is not totally instrumental; "Blue" being the only composition not to feature singing. Peculiarly, this may weigh against it because – and I prefer sung and vocalised music to instrumental music – the singing is not to the extremely high standard set by the composition and musicanship. The music itself is, well, it's music! Composed entirely by Rodulfo, it is a fusion of all of the elements that he enjoys, and the man has eclectic tastes! So, you will find elements of the South American music with which he inevitably grew up, you will find rock, you will find jazz, you will find classical, you will find reggae: often quite a few of these elements are mixed into the same composition – the album's major opus, for example, "Náufrago", has the time and space to showcase a few of these elements in a dazzling display of compositional and technical skill. Astonishingly, the fusions do not jar; they work together: there are few composers able to bring this off successfully. Having said that, the eclecticism on offer isn't going to be to everyone's liking, not even amongst all progressive fans.
The 36-minute "Náufrago" (translated = Shipwreck") opens with an instrumental suite of nearly 15 minutes: initially some beautiful Spanish style guitar. Flutes and keyboards are introduced, there are mellotronic sounds; then some electric guitar; variety in tempo etc. The singing is in Spanish and continues for a while before the piece becomes quite rocky in its latter phases. What makes the composition work through all these various moods – equating to the various moods of the sea - is the overall beauty of the music, it is that which cements the eclecticism together. The fusion is of predominantly classical, rock and South American styles. "Libertad" ("Freedom") is boppier, more upbeat as though a celebration of freedom from tyranny, and relies on the South American rhythms to create the party effect: again a multi-instrumental arrangement has been written to great effect. "Blue" is the jazziest and most experimental piece but never becomes unpleasantly so; in the latter half the composition sounds almost like some of Santana's music. The last two pieces are parts of the "Thoughts" composition; the first part ("Seeds") has English singing, some beautiful harpsichord sounds at the start, before turning rocky and featuring more South American rhythm courtesy of castanets etc. "Moments" is instrumental and goes through a reggae phase before developing into a rockier electric guitar led extravaganza; the album then eases out on the same relaxing mood it came in with, courtesy of the flute and Spanish guitar.
Overall, it is music that you can both concentrate on and relax to, depending on your mood and sounds far better than I can express it in words. If you enjoy this type of eclectic style-mix from first-rate musicians then you may well love this.
1) Náufrago (36:34)
2) Libertad (9:01)
3) Blue (11:30)
4-5) Thoughts (19:45)