Year of Release: 2002
Label: Castoro Entertainment (self-released)
Catalog Number: n/a
Total Time: 28:11:00
Stumbling upon this debut EP was one of those fortuitous accidents that happens to one from time to time. The introductory effort by Zoltabrane, an emerging young band from New York, is really something. Utilising a great brass section to augment their solid prog rock base, it's not quite like any band I've heard before, with a truly original sound. I think I've found something special.
On this EP, the core musicians are a pair of brothers, Jason and Damon Castoro. Damon is credited with drums and percussion; Jason does much of the rest (bass, guitar, keyboard, songwriting, artwork and producing). Also assisting them are Jorge Lopez on trumpet and Jeff Arzberger on saxophone. The music oozes pure retro groove, with a distinctly seventies feeling; it is imaginative, interesting, and utterly stylish. Even the artwork is retro, with a stark red/black bi-colour theme and chunky, choppy fonts. I loved this music straight away. The performers are skillful, the songwriting complex but not pretentious, and it's musically diverse, crossing a number of different styles with ease. Self-financed and produced, this is an impressively created independent release.
As each track runs into each other, it's a little hard to make the distinction between them, and it's more like one long song divided into four movements. The main styles evident throughout are prog rock, jazz, and brass-band. There are some other things thrown in as well, such as the beautiful Spanish acoustics in "Mystery Meat" (I'm still yet to work out where this name came from), and several metallic guitar solos throughout the album. Also, forgive me for mentioning the wind section so much, but I really love the way they used the trumpet and sax on this album - it's so well done. As I write this, I'm somewhere near the end of "Mystery Meat" and the trumpet line right here is one of the best parts.
"The Way" is the album's opener, an upbeat and cool intro for the band's first ever published material. World, meet Zoltabrane. My favourite track is the second, also the longest, "Mystery Meat," a diverse piece which crosses most of the styles on offer. Track three, "Zaga," is a short but lovely keyboard solo, knitting together several lines to make a beautiful end product; it leads into the nonchalant groove of "Kiss Of Death," which has some great melody lines in it for the guitar and brass particularly.
Though I think I've made my approval clear, I've got to offer the other side of the story, which is kindly provided by a good friend of mine who happened to hear this disc while I was listening to it for review. Her opinion was, and I quote, "ugh, this is like listening to a seventies cop show soundtrack!" While I fail to see how this is bad (Hawaii Five-O, anyone?) I will have to concede that it might not be everyone's thing. It's definitely my thing.
The word on the street is that Zoltabrane's got their first full album due in October 2003, featuring some new band members and a couple more changes. I'm looking forward to it eagerly, and highly recommend them as an interesting new group to keep an eye on. Instrumental prog rock fans must check them out, as must jazz fans, brass-band fans, and anyone who watches old cop shows just for the theme music. Just in case there's anyone like that out there.
[This review originally appeared July 2003 at the ProgPower Online review site; doesn't appear as if a full-length album ever materialized. -ed.]
The Way / Mystery Meat / Zaga / Kiss Of Death
Jason Castoro - bass, guitar, keyboards
Damon Castoro - drums and percussion
Jorge Lopez - trumpet
Jeff Arzberger - sax
Zoltabrane (ep) (2002)
Genre: Progressive Rock