ÁNGEL ONTALVA - Angel On A Tower

Ángel Ontalva - Angel On A Tower

12 songs
45:16 minutes
***** ****
octoberXart

Bandpage

Spanish guitarist Ángel Ontalva made a first global impression in the beginning of the new millennium with his avant prog band October Equus. This Madrid based band received universal acclaim with their idiosyncratic take on progressive rock music, but that has never been enough for Ontalva. A few years ago he recorded a couple of collaborative albums with Russian psychedelic rock band Vespero, and because that was still not enough, he created a sub-ensemble with two Vespero musicians under the name Seaorm. And then there are his countless other projects and of course solo albums, the latest of which, titled Angel On A Tower, has just been released on his own label octoberXart.

This is not a true solo album in the way where one person performs all the music. Ángel Ontalva has assembled seven musicians, many of whom were also present on the last October Equus album from 2019. It is therefore no surprise that there are certain parallels between both records. While most of Angel On A Tower is rather mellow music, you will encounter occasional upbeat moments, beginning with the opener Paradise Flying Snake I which sounds like Henry Cow teaming up with Frank Zappa’s progressive classical side. While Ontalva is in charge of guitar playing and composition, his accompanying band also adds a lot of colour. There are a lot of woodwinds, with flute and bassoon weaving a chamber prog atmosphere, while the saxophone adds jazz touches here and there. The other musicians play bass, drums and keyboards, more regular rock instruments that build a nice contrast for the more classical instruments. Especially the bassoon, which is not that common in rock music, often made me think of the late Lindsay Cooper of Henry Cow. On Deep Low we even get to hear a contrabassoon, something possibly unprecedented in the history of rock music.

The songs are generally quite short, always very playful, and the panoply of instruments makes for a colourful range and an unpredictability where you never know what will happen next. Instead of just relying on a single genre, Ángel Ontalva is conjuring a wonderful mix of progressive rock, jazz, chamber music and rock in opposition. Especially fan and friends of the latter genre should be delighted by how authentic this all sounds. Every song also comes with its own artwork, culminating in the incredibly beautiful cover, a watercolour painting courtesy of Mr. Ontalva himself, because he is also a hugely talented illustrator and painter. A veritable Renaissance man, if you ask me!

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