Sotos - Platypus

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Cuneiform Records
Catalog Number: Rune 164
Format: CD
Total Time: 64:35:00

RIO is one hell of a risky venture for any band to undertake. Not only does it form part of the mostly underground culture known as progressive rock, but it also constitutes one of its most defiant sections and is probably the least accessible to the general public. In other words, you're never going to hear about a RIO Nelson or Linkin' Park, 'cause the probability of massive commercial success would be about 0.0000005467 - scientifically calculated, of course. Thus, one invariably feels obliged to commend the integrity and honesty of outfits exploring this musical avenue, among which one French act by the name of Sotos is to be found and its sophomore effort Platypus to be reviewed as of now. Integrity. Honesty. Check. So far, so good. So what about the actual music? Ah, you caught me there, little tyke. Good job.

Well, the members of Sotos have the chops to play RIO, share the genre's extensive penchant for ostinato patterns, and know their extended techniques pretty well. All good, were it not for the fact that compositional prowess went right out the window and is nowhere to be found during the entire hour of music that these Frenchmen provide, except for literally a couple of moments with some bright ensemble ideas. After a few minutes, the seven-part ?Malstrøm? begins to show itself as nothing more than an amateurish hodgepodge of dissonance, angular melodies, and frantic drumming with barely any respite. And the thing lasts about forty minutes. Nadia Leclerc and Nicolas Cazaux simply abuse sul ponticello playing, and further changes in tone color, such as the move to pizzicato, seem more arbitrary and whimsical than anything else. Nicolas Cazaux's guitar tone becomes so jarring after a while that it simply gets to be annoying, musical ideas are carried out way beyond their usefulness, and the overall structure of the piece makes it seem as if Sotos just went ahead and pasted tidbits of dozens of jam sessions together. In all fairness, the group is together at all times, and Michael Hazera's drumming is a veritable powerhouse, yet that is not enough to lift "Malstrøm" from pointless chaos.

So what about the other one, "Wu," you ask? Well, while it certainly is more coherent and keeps Hazera's abilities in top form, it ends up being an exercise in wasted momentum. The sparse introduction lasts so long that it simply ceases to be interesting after a while; the ensuing torturously ascending sequence that becomes an ostinato harmonic pattern creates an amazing flurry of tension that once again loses meaning due to overextension; and there is just no point to the jokingly brief abrasive burst at the very end. It must be said, however, that Sotos has some uniquely interesting characteristics that perhaps could be put to better use in the future, the most important being the existence of passages that recall the slightly dissonant psychedelia of a Red-era King Crimson. Yeah, yeah, I know that reviewers say that all RIO albums sounds like King Crimson and they never do, but take my word for it, such instances do exist on Platypus. That, the fact that Sotos does have its own style drenched in RIO and Zeuhl, and Hazera's frightfully intense drumming could be token cards for this band in the future, and whether or not that potential can be realized remains to be seen. Let's wait and see.

Malstrøm, Part 1 (5:20) / Malstrøm, Part 2 (4:30) / Malstrøm, Part 3 (4:19) / Malstrøm, Part 4 (5:01) / Malstrøm, Part 5 (9:59) / Malstrøm, Part 6 (7:18) / Malstrøm, Part 7 (4:31) / Wu (27:37)

Nicolas Cazaux - violin
Yan Hazera - guitar, metallophone
Nadia Leclerc - cello
Bruno Camiade - bass
Michael Hazera - drums, percussion

Sotos (1999)
Platypus (2002)

Genre: RIO

Origin FR

Added: August 29th 2005
Reviewer: Marcelo Silveyra
Artist website:
Hits: 848
Language: english


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