RPWL: The Gentle Art Of Music
The Gentle Art of Music celebrates the tenth anniversary of German prog rock outfit RPWL with a 2CD retrospective of their first decade together. The first disc is a straight forward collection of eleven of their best songs and is evenly distributed across the band's five studio albums (the 2007 album 9 was half compilation, half solo work from each group member), while disc two sees a further nine songs from RPWL's back catalogue reworked in an acoustic setting and also adds two new songs especially recorded for this album.
Whilst The Gentle Art of Music is a celebration of the RPWL's first decade together, the band's story actually starts three years earlier when Phil Paul Rissettio, Chris Postl, Karlheinz Wallner, and Yogi Lang (the initials of their surnames spell out RPWL) formed as a Pink Floyd tribute act and a very successful one at that. As happens with many tribute bands the urge to showcase their own music became too strong for the foursome and with 2000's unsurprisingly Floyd influenced God Has Failed, RPWL were born. That moniker isn't strictly accurate anymore, as after a few comings, goings and returnings the line up now comprises of Lang on vocals and keys, Wallner on guitars and Postl on bass, along with Markus Jehle on keys and drummer Marc Turiaux.
The Floyd tag is one that has until recently been tied to the music of RPWL on a regular basis and while it is impossible to deny that especially the later era of Gilmour's outfit can be heard through the eleven songs on show here, it is far from telling the whole story. In fact considering that it is possible to stumble across reference points as varied as The Beatles, Genesis (especially the Ray Wilson era) Porcupine Tree, Radiohead, Coldplay, or any number of neo-prog bands, the overriding impression given is that RPWL combine all these elements into a sound that none of the above bands could actually be mistaken for. It is also interesting that while the music covered on disc one spans 10 years, all the songs come together to make a listening experience that sounds less like a compilation and more like a cohesive album. Whether it's the beautiful restrained strumming that builds itself into a glorious crescendo of "Crazy Lane" from their debut, or the balance of angular guitars and sublime melody of "Silenced" from 2009's The RPWL Experience, there is only one band that this can be. Wallner is an under rated guitarist who delivers stunning solos and considered rhythmical weight to the keyboard themes and in Yogi Lang RPWL have as fine a vocalist as you could hope to find. His voice is powerful, yet poised and his expressive delivery makes the music all the more appealing. The later day Genesis link is confirmed with the inclusion of "Roses" from arguably the band's best album The World Through My Eyes, where Ray Wilson makes an appearance on vocals. The song was a minor hit for the band and has lost none of the catchy bounce that gains the interest from the very first listen. So if the purpose of disc one is to represent all the colours and shades RPWL posses, then it's job done as it displays the talents that committed fans already appreciate and has all the attributes needed to persuade a newcomer to this music that they should delve deeper.
For those that do already own the songs collected here, it is the second disc that will be more exciting and interesting as the songs are reworked acoustically and also in places include steel drums, strings and brass. Starting off with those restrained strings and plucking keyboards, "Bound To Reach The End", from World Through My Eyes, has a surprisingly modern day Marillionesque feel to it both in terms of sound and structure. It is a beautiful way to begin and following that up with the glorious acoustic guitar and piano led "Breathe In, Breathe Out" just confirms how well RPWL's music transfers to this setting. Cello adds even more atmosphere to what is one of the best songs the band have recorded and this new version really is something special. The first of the two new songs, "Cake", is next and after the poised, considered approach that has gone before, the upbeat poppy vibe comes as quite a shock. However what it does do is display how easily and effectively this band can ease from style to style and the saxophone and female chanted vocals that come later in the song, add yet another unexpected swing. "Farewell" and "Fool" have stripped bare arrangements that really allow Yogi's voice to drip with emotion and he takes the opportunity gratefully.
Originally a hidden track on the Stock album, "Moonflower" comes over as easy listening jazz and in truth is the only missed step across the two discs. It just never convinces and falls just on the wrong side of cheesy. The Indian flavour and a cappella section of "Sleep" have us firmly back on track with wonderful backing vocals, sitars and a tremendous display on the drums from Marc Turiaux. Strings dominate on "Start The Fire", before the almost acoustic "Kashmir" like "Trying To Kiss The Sun" heads us Eastwards again with its swooping swirling arrangement. The second new recording, "Watching The World" is another more straight ahead offering that moves along on a slow beat before Wallner peels off a wonderfully emotive solo and as with "Cake", both make for interesting counterpoints to the more considered approach elsewhere on this disc. "World Through My Eyes" closes the album with what sounds like muted steel drums that with the addition of some other metallic percussion gives the feel of a music box. The song ebbs and flows with a mesmerising metronomic rhythm and is a fitting end to a truly excellent set of songs.
In celebrating their first decade, RPWL have put together a fantastic collection of their work that is the perfect introduction to newcomers to the band. However with the excellent reworkings and new songs this set is also a must have for existing fans. In truth the second disc would be a more than worthy release on its own and is as the title suggests, The Gentle Art of Music.
Roll on the next ten years!
1) Choose What You Want to Look at
2) Crazy Lane
3) The Gentle Art of Swimming'
4) Hole in the Sky
5) Home Again
6) I Don't Know
9) Sun in the Sky
10) Wasted Land
11) 3 Lights
1) Bound to Reach the End
2) Breathe In, Breathe Out
8) Start the Fire
9) Trying to Kiss the Sun
10) Watching the World
11) World Through My Eyes
Added: August 30th 2010
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Band's Web Site
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|RPWL: The Gentle Art Of Music
Posted by Jordan Blum, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-08-30 13:38:56
Progressive rock is often associated with grandiose costumes, concepts, composition and lengths (between twenty and thirty minutes). But this is not always the case, as German quintet RPWL prove. Their songs are relatively short and simple for the genre, and they prefer to write lush, catchy and gorgeous pop/rock songs instead of fantastical epics with crazy time signatures. Their new two disc retrospective, The Gentle Art of Music, is a great example of that.
Formed as a Pink Floyd tribute band in 1997, the name RPWL initially represented the last names of its members: Phil Paul Rissettio, Chris Postl, Karlheinz Wallner, and Yogi Lang. Now the line-up has changed a bit, but luckily the music hasn't suffered because of it. The Gentle Art of Music consists of two sections; Compilation features eleven studio tracks from their decade long career and Revisited showcases other classics reworked acoustically and with instrumental replacements and different orchestration. It's a stellar collection.
Compilation begins with a bang in the form of "Hole in the Sky," which is taken from the band's debut album, God Has Failed. Guitar arpeggios and synthesizers build to an explosion of prog rock glory, and Lang sings an addictive melody with the air of David Gilmour and John Wetton. Production wise, sound samples are scattered throughout, and the guitar line and keyboard chord progression announce a call to action. It's a brilliant opener. Other highlights on the disc include the poppy "I Don't Know," the spacey and varied "The Gentle Art of Swimming" (which recalls the earliest years of Porcupine Tree in its industrial sound loops), the elegant male and female harmonies of "Sun in the Sky," the majesty of "Roses" (featuring ex- Genesis singer Ray Wilson) and the dynamic frenzy of "Silenced." Compilation is astounding throughout, which, save for one awkward inclusion, is also true for the second part of The Gentle Art of Music.
Revisited incorporates a lot of female vocals and Indian percussion and strings over another fine hour of songwriting. "Sleep" serves as a striking start because of how the melody and production create a grand momentum. Lang almost whispers his vocals alongside the voices of children, which brings to mind Marillion. It's simply beautiful. "Trying To Kiss The Sun" brings more luscious harmonies and "Farewell" is carried by cascading strings (reminiscent of Magical Mystery Tour). The most commercially suited track is "Cake," though that's not a bad thing, and its saxophone brings an interesting timbre to the mix. The disc closes with "Bound To Reach The End," which, with its sorrowful strings and affective vocals, is just wonderful. As much of a joy it is to hear Revisited in its entirety, there is one track that holds it back a bit.
"Moonflower," a hidden track from Stock, just doesn't fit here. It has a low key jazz quality that you'd hear in a lounge, and actually reminds one of Stan Getz' "The Girl from Ipanema." If RPWL were aiming for the style of 1950s old standards, they succeeded, but even so, it doesn't fit with the pop/rock/psychedelic prog that fills The Gentle Art of Music. Its smooth, mellow nature is appealing on one level, but the way it feels outdated and uncommon in the midst of such unrelated genres makes it an undeniably weird miss in an otherwise flourishing compilation.
The Gentle Art of Music is a terrific introduction and summarization of RPWL's first decade. While pop oriented prog saw some great bands become embarrassing sellouts in the 1980s (obvious names won't be mentioned), today's acts are a lot better at it. RPWL essentially steer away from instrumental wizardry and instead concentrate on emotional, well crafted and expertly developed songs that will stay with you. Honestly, that's just as important.
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