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Kotebel, Spain




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Kotebel - Structures. 1999 Tritono
Kotebel - Mysticae Visiones. 2001 Musea (France)
Kotebel - Fragments of Light. 2003 Musea (France)
Kotebel - Omphalos. 2006 Musea (France)
Kotebel - Ouroboros. 2009 Musea (France)
Kotebel - Concerto for Piano and Electric Ensemble. 2012 Musea (France)

Kotebel was formed by Venezuelan keyboardist Carlos Plaza in 1999, and 13 years and 6 albums later, could be considered the premier symphonic progressive rock group from Spain. And one of the top groups for all of Europe.

The bands origins were far less lofty in scope, starting out primarily as a solo vehicle for Plaza. Eventually more ensemble members were added. By the time of "Fragments of Light", there is clearly a sense that there is true synergy amongst the band, and many more ideas are brought forth with increasing complexity.

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"Omphalos" is the album that catapulted Kotebel into a more formidable full band progressive rock operation. The addition of full-time soprano female vocals and flute greatly contributes to an entire new dimension of their sound. And while there's a bit of "progspotting" throughout the disc (in particular ELP, King Crimson and Mahavishnu Orchestra - they all get a day in the sun), the overall package still comes across as entirely original. This is a dense work, that isn't afraid to rock out, and one that will require many listens to fully comprehend. The female vocals, piano and flute definitely adds that Bacamarte meets Gotic esoteric reference that hardcore progressive rock fans tend to cherish. I'm guilty as charged.

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"Ouroboros" is the middle child between "Omphalos" and "Concerto for Piano and Electric Ensemble". The eldest is the capricious, vivacious one who draws you to her mysterious ways. The latter is the class Valedictorian who also happened to be the class favorite. But "Ouroboros" is more serious. Studied longer and harder than its siblings, but perhaps doesn't mesh well in social circles. In musical terms, gone are the female vocals and preponderance of flute, and in its place are more jagged rhythms, cold synthesizer sounds and angular guitar solos. Of all the Kotebel albums, "Ouroboros" comes closest to the avant progressive sound of October Equus, or Belgium's Present by extension. A fine record that set the stage for an even better followup.

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"Concerto for Piano and Electric Ensemble" starts with the four part, 43 minute title track - and despite the name - this isn't an academic exercise in compositional studies. Nope - it's pretty much a combination of good old fashioned early 1970s progressive rock and modern avant progressive. The abundance of acoustic piano points to the classic Italian scene like Banco del Mutuo Soccorso or Metamorfosi, whereas the constant counterpoint and modern production qualities recall anyone from Japan's Machine and the Synergetic Nuts to fellow countrymen October Equus. Concerning the latter, this is no doubt a similarly dense and complicated work, though not quite as impenetrable as October Equus can be at times. Oh, and let's not forget that Kotebel is here to rock, so this isn't some charted sheet music chamber styled tedious snoozefest. The omnipresent Fripp styled guitar leads will certainly keep you awake, if not the persistent rumbling bass and energetic percussion. The "electronic keyboards", as they are credited, certainly like to emulate the mellotron as often as possible. 3 other tracks totaling 16 minutes plus a bonus from 2008 round out the disc in similar fashion.

And it's Dad who plays those fancy thing-a-ma-jigs. And he's also the group's founder and main composer. And who's that playing the piano? None other than his 22 year old daughter. You know he is beaming with pride. And he should be.

Attention progressive rock freaks: Don't miss this one. It's what you're looking for.

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