Fred Colombo - Memoria

16 songs
78:47 minutes
***** ***


I never got around to reviewing the last album by French progressive metal band Spheric Universe Experience, but somehow the first solo album by their keyboard player Fred Colombo instantly caught my attention. As a solo artist, he has of course more options to venture into different styles, making Memoria thus a much more varied effort. But that alone would not be enough to capture my attention. Not quite yet thirty years old, Fred Colombo has already mastered all the subtleties of keyboard techniques and sounds, and is furthermore a truly gifted songwriter.

The sixteen tracks on this solo debut are partly instrumentals, partly come with vocals, and altogether make it to nearly eighty minutes of music. It would be an exaggeration to say that every song stands out on its own, but there is certainly enough greatness around to make this an astonishing masterpiece. Let’s start with the instrumental opener The Sacred Hill, a mellotron driven piece of smoothness that reminds the early progressive days of Genesis, apart from the programmed beats that add a welcome modern layer. The following Nothing Can Stop You does completely without any retro prog elements and turns out to be a well thought out pop song that manages to fit in some surprising funk elements. Time puts more emphasis on regular piano sounds and works perfectly well as another simple yet effective pop song. It would be too much now to continue describing every single track, but I still want to point out certain moments to underline the artist’s incredible wide scope. Away for instance is another very modern funk pop song that comes with a beat that forces your feet to move. Midgar’s first half once again reminds of early Genesis, before the second half adds a heavy metal guitar, courtesy of Vincent Benaim of Colombo’s band Spheric Universe Experience. This is also the only track that is a reminder of the artist’s metal occupation. Nissa is pure jazz fusion bliss with warm electric piano notes, meandering synth leads and an ongoing guitar solo that recalls the legendary Allan Holdsworth. I wonder if it is any coincidence that the piano solo on Like A Cat is very similar to the one in King Crimson’s Cat Food. Eyes Closed sees Fred Colombo dabbling in electronic dance music, and like so many other French artists (Daft Punk, Justice,…), he is very adept at it. This is by far not the only time that he completely strays away from rock music. Breathe In and the concluding Memoria – The Final Journey are two further explorations of this genre. Don’t be afraid that this is only a gimmick, because I can guarantee that Fred Colombo is a very competent electronic music producer, and I would not be afraid to listen to a CD full of these tracks.

Although usually I rather prefer vocal music, in this case I have to admit that I am fonder of the instrumental material, since Fred Colombo uses such a wide variety of piano, keyboard and synthesizer sounds that vocals sometimes seem to stand in the way. It happens too often that solo albums leave the listener with a certain feeling of disappointment or at the very least denouement, but Fred Colombo is the rare exception who grows exponentially once freed of the confines of the band space. Fans of modern electronic music will find a lot to like on Memoria, and even though the array of genres includes nearly every conceivable genre (pop, rock, house, techno, electronica, prog, funk, fusion, jazz,…), I am still convinced that open-minded people won’t have a problem to get the most out of this truly surprising album. One might want to switch the tracks around into a different order to prevent too much style hopping, but in the end I do pay my greatest respects to such an adventurous sonic explorer!

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