Quidam - Quidam

Year of Release: 1996
Label: Ars Mundi
Catalog Number: AMS 005R
Format: CD
Total Time: 67:01:00

Quidam are one of a number of quality bands emerging from behind what was the Iron Curtain. Quidam come from Poland and this, their debut album, was my Christmas pressy from Kev Rowland, editor of Feedback [Thanks Kev!]. Most of the CD cover is in their native tongue but luckily the back page is a translation for those without linguist skills. Sadly though this does not extend to a translation of the lyrics - these as well as the song titles are all written, and sung, in Polish so you are left to only guess at what the songs are about. However I was sent a translation of the song titles by Piotr, the band's manager.

The band have been around since 1990 under the name Deep River.?They were originally a four-piece all-male instrumental band. This expanded by the addition of female flautist Ewa Smarzynska, and in 1993 with stunning female vocalist Emila Derkowska. At the same time they changed their name to Quidam (it's Latin, by the way) (nope, look it up yourself!), and moved away from main-stream rock to a more proggy feel.

Enough of the background, what about the music? Well, in a word, it is, well, beyond words. Imagine a word that combines my usual descriptive adjectives - "excellent" and "brilliant" with "evocative," "haunting" and "beautiful" - and that comes closest to describing this album. The GFT catalogue simply describes it as "stunning" - that comes close, too. Yes, you might say I quite like it! The whole album has a ethereal feel about it. This is possibly produced by Emila's voice which is straight from the Annie Haslam and Judie Tzuke school of excellence. Or is could be the combination of flutes that Ewa and Emila both play and Zbyszek Florek's keyboards giving hints of Camel at their very best. Whatever it is it works for me!

Straight from the opening chords of "Sanktuarium" (Sanctuary) to the dying bars of "Ptone" (I'm Burning), this is an album which drips style and class. There are echoes of progressive rock bands through the ages, a hint of the Pink Floyd's "The Great Gig In The Sky" in "Chocbym..." (Even I Were To...), a quasi-Genesis riff in "Bajkowy" (Fairyland) and occasional tastes of Camel circa The Snow Goose in the use of keyboards and flute. But they are no more than mere echoes. This is all original stuff; the sound, the feel, the atmosphere - everything. The lyrics, of course, are totally incomprehensible to a non-Pole like myself - but that is no real problem. Rather than listening to the actual words, the lyrics merely become another instrument rather in the way that the Cocteau Twins used voice. True, this is a rather unusual facet of the music when you are used to having the lyrics in English. I would rather like to be able understand what Emila is singing about but it is not essential. It is a little disconcerting though when you have a song in your head humming along, only to find that you cannot sing along with the words!

I suppose all this use of wimpy words like ethereal, atmospheric and beautiful will give the impression of an album lacking any power and strength.?Nothing could be further from the truth. The second track, "Chocbym...", for example has a keyboard and cello build-up to an excellent two-guitar duet with all the power you want without losing the atmosphere. Okay, this is not heavy rock but it does not lack power and glory.?It stands up to comparisons from the good and the best.

My favourites track is probably "Sanktuarium" which opens the album with its powerful opening evolving into catchy and evocative melody. Or perhaps "Gteboka Rzeka" (A Deep River) with an Eastern European-cum-Celtic folky feel to its opening before it launches into a guitar-driven rocky section with the best sounding melody of the album.?Wish I knew what she was singing about - loads of gteboka rzekas all doing what gteboka rzekas do best, I suppose! Or perhaps its the nine minute epic "Niespentnienie" (Unfulfillment) - a tremendous track full of all kinds of everything which winds up to a complex climax worthy of a final track. Or the ballad "Warkocze" (Plaits) which would I suppose could be the single off the album. It might even be "Nocne Widziadla" (Phantoms Of The Night) or "Bujace Serca" (Beating Hearts) but my crappy CD player keeps missing them out so they have not had the necessary airplay to hit the spot. A new CD player is high on the "essential purchases" at chez Blades! The only track that doesn't make the grade is "Bajkowy" and that is because the Genesisy riff is a little too intrusive.

But as the album comes to a close it is the last track "Ptone" which emerges as best track off the album. Actually it's a close run thing between that and "Gteboka Rzeka" but "Ptone" in all its fourteen minute glory just about takes the plaudits. It has a catchy melody to rival "Gteboka Rzeka" but obviously with loads of ptones rather than gteboka rzekas of course. And an excellent instrumental section that must last an age but flows so smoothly that it is over before you realise where all the time went.

All in all, Quidam is a most excellent album. I cannot rate it highly enough. To me this is everything that classic progressive music should be. I suppose more cynical critics might say that Quidam hardly break any new innovative ground. But that it not always necessary. Their music is still original and of a style and quality that it stands on its own merits. Quidam know what they are doing - and they do it very well.

Quidam (AMS 005R) is available on the Polish Ars Mundi label. It is priced up at œ-50 in the GFT catalogue. If you have trouble getting hold of it, you can contact Ars Mundi directly [Frank originally included a mailing address that is no longer current so I've excised it -ed 8/05].

This review courtesy Frank Blades of Alternate View, an ezine that has disappeared sadly (as of August 2005) -ed.

Sankuarium (Sanctuary) (8:57) / Chocbym (Even I Were To) (7:05) / Bajkowy (Fairytale) (3:42) / Gleboka Rzeka (A Deep River) (8:03) / Nocne Widziadla (Phantoms Of The Night) (7:21) / Niespelnienie (Unfulfilled) (9:44) / Warkocze (Plaits) (4:07) / Bijace Serca (Beating Hearts) (1:53) / Ptone (I'm Burning) (14:09)

Emila 'Iza' Derkowska - vocals, cello, flute
Ewa Smarzynska - flute
Zbyszek 'Zibi' Florek - keyboards
Rafal 'Makow' Jermakow - drums, percussion
Maciek 'Maciecz' Meller - guitars
Radek 'Tysy' Scholl - bass

Quidam (1996)
Moje Anioly (1998)
Sny Aniolow (1998)
Live In Mexico '99 (1999)
The Time Beneath The Sky (2002)
SurREvival (2005)
Halfplugged (2006)
Alone Together (2007)

The Fifth Season (DVD) (2006)
Strong Together Live (2010)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin PL

Added: July 25th 1999
Reviewer: Frank Blades

Artist website: www.quidam.pl
Hits: 2109
Language: english


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