Saturday, March 16, 2019

Tohru Aizawa Quartet - 1975 - Tachibana

Tohru Aizawa Quartet

01. Philosopher's Stone 10:09
02. Sacrament 11:22
03. La Fiesta 9:55
04. Dead Letter 10:11
05. Samba de Orfeu 6:06

Tohru Aizawa: Piano
Kyoichiroh Morimura: Tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, composer
Kozo Watanabe: bass
Tetsuya Morimura: drums, composer

Used as a business card by the man who funded the recording in his basement and after whom the album is named, Tohru Aizawa Quartet’s Tachibana is one of the rarest Japanese jazz records of all time. Featured on BBE’s new J-Jazz compilation, Tony Higgins tells the bizarre story behind this real-life holy grail.

On 30th March 1975, four young college students gathered in the presence of a wealthy local businessman, Ikujiroh Tachibana, in the town of Numata, Gunma Prefecture, about 90 miles north of Tokyo. The four amateur musicians were there to record their first and only album, an album that would remain forgotten for the next forty years. After labouring in obscurity for decades, the record has become one of the most revered and sought after artefacts in the esoteric world of Japanese modern jazz, emblematic of the fanatical culture and desire for perfection that pervades it.

It is a world that has been given a fresh take on new BBE compilation J-Jazz: Deep modern jazz from Japan 1969-1984, which features Tohru Aizawa Quarter’s track ‘Dead Letter’ from Tachibana. This album has all the necessary components of such cultish impulse: mysterious and vague details about its origin, brief existence, superb craftsmanship and skill, and scarcity of the object…

But what is the story of this album, why is it so special, and how has it become a central totem in the wallet-bashing world of Japanese jazz collectors?

Let’s go back to March 1975 and the grand house of Ikujiroh Tachibana in Numata, Japan. Tachibana was a successful businessman and member of a prestigious family who could trace its lineage back to seventh century Japan. The Tachibana clan were, for several centuries, a powerful aristocratic family with close links to the imperial court, and the clan emblem or mon ? is used on the cover to the album.

Not only was Tachibana a respected and well-known local figure, he was also a big jazz fan. He would frequent local jazz clubs and bars and sometimes travel to nearby towns such as Maebashi and Isezaki – as well as Tokyo – to catch visiting American artists like trumpeter Charles Tolliver and pianist Mal Waldron, alongside home grown talent. One such band was the Tohru Aizawa Quartet, a group started in 1969 by two brothers, Kyochiro and Tetsuya Morimura.

Kychiro was a saxophonist and music student who later became a teacher, and Tetsuya was a drummer and law student. A few years younger than pianist Tohru Aizawa, they joined forces after hearing Aizawa perform at a music festival held in the medical school in Maebashi. (Aizawa, born in 1950, had moved there from Tokyo to study medicine. He would eventually graduate top of his class). Suitably impressed by Aizawa’s skills on the keys, the Morimura bothers decided to form a group and were joined by bass player Konzoh Watanabe, a fellow law student of Tetsuya Morimura.

They began gigging at local jazz spots, gaining something of a residency at Mokuba, a jazz spot in Maebashi owned by Kohichi Negishi. It was here that the group built a small but loyal following, among them local businessman and jazz fanatic, Ikujiroh Tachibana. He suggested that they make a record and he would finance it. Moreover, he would use the finished LP as a business card to promote himself and the band.

Quite what the recipients made of this was not recorded, but a few quizzical looks were no doubt shared. According to Aizawa maybe as few as 150-200 copies were manufactured, although nobody really knows, and it’s probably safe to assume several copies were discarded straight after being received. Unsurprisingly, using an LP as a business card didn’t catch on.

In the original album sleeve notes, reference is made to a handwritten note from Aizawa explaining the motivation for the group:

“We just created music we wanted to create. We are aware that music takes a different shape dependent on the ear of the listener. There are people who can appreciate it and others for whom it’s just noise – just a load of notes clumped together. We know it’s not to everyone’s taste but decided to push on and create for it for ourselves.”

The album opens with ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ written by drummer Tetsuya Morimura. For a teenage amateur player to compose and perform such an accomplished and impressive piece is a testament to the talent that the band contained. Testuya’s saxophonist brother Kiyoshiro describes the recording and the influences that went into the session:

“We thought it would be a nice memento so we went to Mr. Tachibana’s hall to record the album. It was recorded by someone from Trio Kenwood Records. At this hall, there was a Steinway full concert grand piano, and Mr. Tachibana invited famous musicians such as Zoot Sims, Eiji Kitamura and others to do concerts there. It was not a recording studio so they had difficulty getting the balance right. Just like any other live show that we regularly did, we had fun doing it. I don’t remember doing re-takes, so I think it was mostly done in one take. It was not commercially sold. I think it was given out by Mr. Tachibana in place of a business card. I listened to a lot of John Coltrane, Sadao Watanabe, Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter. My brother, Tetsuya, listened to a lot of Tony Williams and Elvin Jones.”

‘Philosopher’s Stone’ is followed by ‘Sacrament’, an epic modal composition by saxophonist Kiyochiro Morimura that fans of Pharaoh Sanders and late-era John Coltrane will appreciate. After an extended intro the band drop into a heavy, churning groove, Morimura’s saxophone scorching above the volcanic rhythm section. Aizawa’s own composition ‘Dead Letter’ is featured on the J-Jazz compilation. He says the track “just came out naturally, a spiritual outflow of myself.”

Although he has many other compositions to his name, this is the only one ever recorded. Thus far, all but ‘Dead Letter’ remain unheard outside of the lucky few who saw the band perform 40 years agoas. ‘Dead Letter’ is a performance of great bravura, a propulsive attack of rhythmic power and textural depth, redolent of McCoy Tyner at his most impactful. Aizawa’s own influences range from Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk and Chick Corea (Corea’s ‘La Fiesta’ is one of the two covers on the album) to Japanese jazz piano master, the late Masabumi Kikuchi.

The album finishes with a furious burn through the classic ‘Samba de Orfeu’, at such a speed it’s astonishing the band hold it together. An example of nascent talent, it’s hard not to ponder on the potential in a band that left just a single physical manifestation of their work.

The artwork on the album was designed by Kohichi Negishi, owner of the Mokuba jazz spot in Maebashi where the band often played. A portrait of the band’s sponsor, the avuncular Tachibana himself, leaning with drink in hand, graces the inside of the gatefold sleeve. It is accompanied by a typically polite ‘thank you’ and a greeting in which he remarks at “how polished the record is for a band that rehearsed and played in between their studies”. He goes on to say that “they get better each time he hears them and is always moved by their performances”. Tantalisingly, he also states he “wants to create more records and find hidden gems” but no more recordings of the Tohru Aizawa Quartet were ever made. By the time the record was issued as Tachibana’s business card, Aizawa and the elder Morimura were hard at work with no time to devote to their music.

In the case of Tohru Aizawa himself, he went on to work as a doctor at his family hospital in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, where he continues to work today specialising in diabetes. He still plays piano occasionally but never again recorded. The other members did continue in music to some degree, albeit for only a few more years. Kyoishiroh Morimura played with the groups Sing Out and the Kenji Yoshida Quintet; sibling Testuya released a solo live recording album called Akai Tori Concert (Red Bird Concert) which featured Japanese jazz icon Sadao Watanabe as a guest. But none of their projects ever matched the intensity or mystery of Tachibana.

To Mr. Tachibana and the Tohru Aizawa Quartet, arigatou gozaimasu.

Alux Nahual - 1986 - Centroamerica

Alux Nahual - 1986 - Centroamerica

01. Desde El Aire (4:05)
02. En El Camino (4:53)
03. Cada Noche (4:31)
04. Torres De Papel (5:15)
05. Ven (3:49)
06. Bizcocho Sin Hogar (3:42)
07. Lo Que Siento Por Tí (4:05)
08. Centroamérica (7:14)

- Álvaro Aguilar / Lead & Backing Vocals, Keyboards, Acoustic Guitar
- Plubio Aguilar / Bass Guitar, Lead & Backing Vocals
- Ranferí Aguilar / Electric Guitar, Charrango, Lead & Backing Vocals
- Orlando Aguilar / Drums, Percussion
- Paulo Alvarado / Violoncello, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
- Jack Schuster / Violin, Mandolin, Lead Vocals
- Oscar Conde / Saxophone, Flute, Keyboards, Backing Vocals

This is the last album from the first period of Alux. It probably had something to do with it being the last album with Jack Schuster and Orlando Aguilar. We got five average to boring songs opening the album and 3 really good songs closing the album. The dullness of the first five songs comes from the conventional structures and arrangments. This time their aproach to the 80's doesn't work as well.
Desde el aire: energetic opener with andin instruments which then becomes rocking. The lyrics are about how there shouldn't be frontiers in Latin America as we have much in common. It's ok.

En el camino: slow song about being on the road. Driven by e-piano and vocals, it's quite soothing, but not much more.

Cada noche: For me, Plubio's compositions have always been either normal to weak songs. (Even though his playing is always superb, I love his tone). Weak drums, and keyboard arrangements make this is a poor contribution. Again I agree with jampa, despite all of its wrongs, it's kind of catchy.

Torres de Pape": I think it's supposed to be kind of a proggy song, since it has an unconventional structure, but it doesn't work for me. Again it's very rocking, but quite cliched also in the lyrics department.

Ven: A ballad by Ranferí. Acoustic guitar, cello arrangments (sadly too far below the mix). I like it more than the previous songs, mostly because I like Ranferí's vocals. I like the sax performance as well.

Bizcocho sin Hogar: This is really a surprise, it's a completely unique song in Alux's repertoire. Jack Schuster is an Entomolygist from the U.S. with a love for country and "gringo" (american) folk. He was always the oddest one in the group, since he dressed like a cowboy, as you can see in the album cover. Anyway he's an excellent musician and that is shown in his only composition for Alux Nahual. This song starts with a very dark piano and drifts between charleston, country, rock and blues with having a prog tinge. The kazoo and the fact that Schuster has a strong gringo accent make it sound extremely funny. The first time that I heard I couldn't beleive it (It also had to do with Schuster being my biology teacher). Its sounds maybe something like Steve Hackett has tried to do on many albums with his silly songs (Ballad of The Decomposing Man, etc.). My theory is that the song is about his deceased wife (RIP), but it could also be about nothing at all, since the lyrics are about eating in a bakery and it discusses several baking products. (WTF?)

Lo que siento por tí: A classic Alux ballad. I like it because I'm symphatetic to the subject of the song, since it has happened to me. The lyrics speak of falling in love with a friend and not being able to keep it in secret so you end up telling them. (Almost always it ends up with screwing the relationship.) It has to be noted how with each record they are refining the ballad form, which it would find it's peak (IMO) in "Americamorfosis".

Centroamérica: Like in previous albums, Alvaro Aguilar treats us with this massive and epic song about the political situation in Central America. This is really the central piece of the album, and it overshadows all the other songs (except "bizcocho"). It deserves a detailed analysis. It starts with an intro in electric piano, which is then joined by bass and drums in something that sounds like march. Then we get the classic Alux arrangements with flute, cello and violin. The first verse is then sung only with the company of electric piano then joined by all the instruments, again sounding very millitary like, which is ironic, because the song is a critique to militarization. The chorus is very epic with all the backing vocals and the scales played in violin. Then we're treated what is the last duet of cello and violin (just like the arrangements in the first album). The second verse becomes even more martial, since the snare drum carries it. The song is all a crescendo, and by this point we're joined by all the instruments. For the bridge, an excellent riff is played on the piano and everyone builds on it. As usual, a slower section follows, with the flute on the spotlight. For the closing the final message of peace is sung and we get a reprise of the bridge with plenty of arrangements. Maybe the structure is what you can predict from Alvaro (it is just like Hombres de Maiz and Conquista), but everything is just great that it doesn't matter that is the same structure.

 This is the last formal symphonic album from Alux Nahual. Their next production become a lot heavier and simple, been more alternative rock with very few of their traditional sound on the first four albums. This one is very average for my taste, with just a couple of outstanding tracks. lets see, song by song...
"Desde el Aire" is kind of typical sound from Alux, remains their trademark sound of epic symphonic-acoustic rock assamble... this song in particular is quite less complex but keeps the focus on the lyrics, the union of Central America and the brotherhood of this countries... good song, but not great...

the next song is quite an obscure one... many people do not like it, is one of my favorites of the album, but I guess the arrangments are just meant to fit the song, there's no solos, just a regular assamble of the instruments without any highlight... the lyrics are about leaving your love behind to get on tour... interesting and kind of touching...

"Cada Noche" is a very 80's song, good interesting arrangments, but very bad lyrics. I don't mind about loving an engaged women, but hell... sometimes I find myself singing a long the chorus... jejeje.. it's catchy... and has one of the best sax solos from Alux... average song to me...

"Torres de Papel" is another average song from Paulo Alvarado. His songs have always some kind of a child melodic line... you know, very singnable, very sticky... very 80's still... talking about bad politics... still today, it's a reallity... good song, but not great...

The next song is a love song, dificult to "get it" from the beggining but grows with every listen. The lyric is a poem wrote for someone I don't know who... a regular song for my taste...

Well... track 6 is one raritie... one of their greatest material... "Bizcocho sin Hogar" is the only song compose from Jack Shuster... it has some kind of country-charleston vibe, with great rock fussion... the lyric is quite funny, also the singning because Shuster don't talk spanish well... so, at the end is a funny song... but a huge arrangment that shows all the capacity of arguments that the band had under the sleeve... great song...!!!

The next one is somewhat typical, a very touching love song using just two acoustic guitars and a string pad... one of their best lyrics... one of their classic and must dedicated love songs in last 20 years between lovers... GREAT SONG....

The last one... Centroamerica... is one masterpiece....!!! and epic cleaver song about the war conflicts in Central America caused by URSS and USA in our countries... it has a huge symphonic assamble with violin, flaute, cello, piano an electric guitars... this is an oustanding song... one of the greatest... and gives the album a complete new level... without this piece, the album maybe where less interesting...

Alux Nahual - 1984 - Hermanos De Sentimiento

Alux Nahual
Hermanos De Sentimiento

01. Dime Que Has Olvidado (3:15)
02. Aquí Está Tu Tierra (4:03)
03. Juego Nuclear (4:10)
04. Lejos De La Ciudad (9:21)
05. Mira El Sol Brillar (4:15)
06. Hermanos De Sentimiento (4:41)
07. Al Diablo El Diablo (4:14)
08. El Mensaje (0:19)
09. El Espíritu Del Duende (5:40)
10. Juego Nuclear (Extra) (4:08)

- Álvaro Aguilar / Lead & Backing Vocals, Keyboards, Acoustic Guitar
- Plubio Aguilar / Bass Guitar, Lead & Backing Vocals
- Ranferí Aguilar / Electric Guitar, Lead & Backing Vocals
- Orlando Aguilar / Drums, Percussion
- Paulo Alvarado / Violoncello, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
- Jack Schuster / Violin
- Oscar Conde / Saxophone, Flute, Keyboards, Backing Vocals

"Hermanos de Sentimiento" is probably the album form Alux Nahual that I've played the most. Why? Because it's very diverse and has 3 of my top 5 Alux songs. This album can be considered their most experimental and proggy, but it also has some low points. The first major change in Alux's sound is in this album, becuase the violin/cello duets are gone and replaced by extensive use of synthesizers and sax. This change on the arrangments gives the overall sound a more 80's vibe. Although for some proggers this can mean disaster, this is not the case in "Hermanos". Let's go song through song.

Dime que Has Olvidado: The opener is love ballad, much in the vein of Mujer, from the previous album. The difference is that this ballad is driven by electric piano and the whole band performs it. I like it very much, I've always liked love songs by Alux, I think they are very well executed and get to the point. Plus the lyrics are always a plus.

Aquí Está Tu Tierra: This is a rock song about migration, something that is very prevalent in central american countries. The song driven by acoustic guitar and Alvaro's vocals. A fun song with meaningful lyrics that applied to then and today. I also like it very much.

Juego Nuclear: The much maligned reggae song is the debut of Oscar Conde in vocals and composing in the context of Alux. It's very 80's sounding with synthesizers and that "white reggae" sound, like The Police. I don't mind the song very much, it can be fun sometimes, but it's clear that is a very silly song.

Lejos De La Ciudad: Where did this thing come from? It's the first and only composition by the drummer, Orlando Aguilar, and Alux's song that aligns the most with prog canons. The song begins with a synthesizer intro, and then the first theme is played with acoustic guitar, and some instrument like electric violin. The theme is reprised by the flute with the backing of cello and bass. The drums and bass come in for the second theme with a nice groove. Then the electric guitar plays a very rocking, almost metal, riff. The riff is repeated several times. After every repetition a variaton comes, with flute, sax, or more guitar. Then we get an acoustic guitar solo. After that, there's an atmospheric part, that reminds me of "Posada", from their first album. The third theme is played with electric guitar and percussion. Then comes a denser jam with many instruments. The finale is a reprise of a previous theme. This is surely one of my favorite songs by Alux.

Mira El Sol Brillar: After the behemoth that was "Lejos De La Ciudad", comes a song that used to be my favorite from the "Aluxes" for a long time. It's very 80's sounding, being driven by synths, but what makes it stand out are the arrangements. Piano, sax, violin, bass and all the drum fills give this song another dimension. Ranferí's singing is fits the song quite well. Dynamics are great in this song. Sadly, the violin is only in the background, and we can only feel how Jack Schuster is spending less and less time in the spotlight.

Hermanos de Sentimiento: This is supposed to be a team effort, with very good instrumental sections. Even so, the vocal parts and the guitar tone sound too much like generic 80's latin hard rock for my taste. The subject of the song is also very trivial, which is the preparing for a concert. Only the ending redeems this dull song, because it's a very intense interplay of all the intstruments

Al Diablo El Diablo: Excellent intro with a good bass solo and then a nice guitar/bass interplay. And that's it! The song then transforms in to more of generic 80's hard rock with awful, awful lyrics. The lyrics are about the devil speaking through the amplifiers of a perfomer and the performer responding: "go to hell, devil! I love god!"

El Mensaje: This is just 19 seconds of backwards talking, that's supposed to be a pun on those who used to play their vinyls backwards to try to find "hidden messages" in songs. I've never actually heard what the message is, because I've got the CD version, and I can't play it backwards. I suppose it somehow works after the "diabolical" message of "Al Diablo El Diablo".

El Espíritu Del Duende: This is the most mystical song from the repertoire of Alux, courtesy of Paulo Alvarado. Helped by reverb, folky instrumentation and references and mayan references in the lyrics this song makes is to the one of the greatest acomplishments by Alux. The song starts with cello, and acoustic guitar playing in 3/4. The flute handles the melodic theme beautifully. Percussion is sparse, just some cymbals. Then we are treated with an excellent cello solo. After that there's a small part in 5/4 with something that sounds like a clock for percussion, acoustic guitar and synths. A folkish flute backed by e-guitar comes in. After that, Álvaro and Paulo sing a capella the concept of the song. The counterpoint is extremely beautiful A vocal part is then led by electric piano and folkish percussion. Álvaro and Paulo reprise the concept of the song wiht different lyrics. Then comes an electric piano jam, that I wish were longer. I just wish they would have done something more in this style in their later albums.

Juego Nuclear (Extra): WTF? It's the exact same song as "Juego Nuclear", there's nothing extra at all! Silly songs can be tolerated and even enjoyed once, but twice? This time the song becomes annoying and makes the album fall to its lowest point

The sillyness of "Al Diablo El Diablo" and the repetition of "Juego Nuclar", plus the dullnes of hermanos keep this album from being a masterpiece. Even so, I think this is overall my favorite album by Alux Nahual, having excellent songs and exploring new ground without ever losing the Alux ethos. They would try to reprise the formula and sound for the next album, but it wouldn't work as well.

 Well, This is and outstanding album, but with a little shadows on it... very 80's proggy... and it's great...
The first two tracks are the singles, very conventional and became classics from the band, but this version are way more complex and symphonic than the "new" versions later more popular... Both are beautiful and interesting, with well thought lyrics. Good songs.

Then comes "Juego Nuclear", guess the song sound kind of funny, but still the song works great. Have a great solo from the guitar and Cello and Violin unisons... interesting but the voice of Conde really doesn't fit... so, it's ok... and the subject is the conflict of the Cold War... I don't see nothing wrong with it... It's history now...

The "Lejos de la Ciudad" song it's a great song... outstanding and very prog... with a lot of interesting phrases and very long. The mood on this song always reminds me my trips around the little towns of the country (Guatemala), so, It really makes my feel "Away from the City", that's the meaning of this instrumental track... great journey....

The next two songs, I've always listen to it together... "Mira el sol Brillar" and "Hermanos de Sentimiento" are great group achievements... Both complex and upbeat driven songs... with great arrangements from all the instruments... Raul is right, Shuster became less and less involved in the process through the albums, wich is sad... but the songs are great... not silly... just about having fun while playing good stuff... very proggy still...

The next song, "Al diablo el diablo" is a heavy song, with a great bass intro, suppose to be a little dark... it's about the devil offering success in change of the soul... I don't mind... really... neether you... jejeje... the next song is "El Mensaje", the message, in english, and is Conde speaking "in first place, we are not satanic... and second, if you keep playing the disc backward with your finger you will ruin it... see... you ruin it... you ruin it... you ruin it..." it's a joke about the hidden messages that can be listen in the vynil discs when you play it backwards... funny...

then, the song "El espíritu del Duende" is a very symphonic song, with touching lyrics about the childhood and the dreams. It's kind of a strange but beautiful song. One of my favorites.

The album suppose to end here... but remember it was a vynil album, so, they have about 4 minutes free on one side of the vynil... so they put again "Juego Nuclear" on it as a "Extra Track"... and when the silly guys of DIDECA made the CD version, they just copy it... the way it was... without removing the last track... something very silly honestly.... jejeje..

But well... this album is great about arrangments and performance... creative, fresh, fun and touching... so... why I give it just 4 stars... the sound... hell... some of the tracks sounds so rough... it's the drums... the tums sounds so up in the mix... and sometimes gets saturated... it's sad... because this album with a good recording and mix, must be one of the greatest albums in latin rock history... still rocks... This is one of their best efforts...

Alux Nahual - 1982 - Conquista

Alux Nahual

01. Intro / Passacaglia Maestosa / Bar-Rocko (4:39)
02. Mujer (4:34)
03. El Mensaje Del Mago (6:06)
04. Conquista (Seguimos Vivos) (7:09)
05. Hoy (5:46)
06. Retorno De La Alegría (5:14)

- Álvaro Aguilar / Lead & Backing Vocals, Keyboards, Acoustic Guitar
- Plubio Aguilar / Bass Guitar, Lead & Backing Vocals
- Ranferí Aguilar / Electric Guitar, Lead & Backing Vocals
- Orlando Aguilar / Drums, Percussion
- Paulo Alvarado / Violoncello, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
- Jack Schuster / Violin
- Oscar Conde / Saxophone, Flute, Chirimía, Keyboards

 Alux Nahual's second album is pretty much on the same vein as their debut. Even so, it doesn't sound repetitive. On the contrary, the symphonic passages are on a more developed level and more focused. Nonetheles, parts on the album can be considered the first hints of a change on Alux's style.
Again, we start off with an instrumental, "Barrocko". The title is a mix between the words baroque and rock, which describes the music on the track. The beginning is an ominous piano and violin (electric violin?) playing a "passacaglia", which is a form of composition from the baroque. Then it all ends suddenly and we can hear only the sound of a person drinking. After that we get circa 3 minutes of rock & roll jam with solo spots for every instrument. The jam is very influenced by American music, the influence probably coming from Jack Schuster. This instrumental doesn't work as well as "Cola de Golondrina" from the previous album, but is still much fun to listen.

Then we get Alux's first minimalist ballad written by Alvaro Aguilar (I don't count "La Fábula Del Grillo Del Mar" from their debut as a minimalist ballad because it sounds more like a band effort and is more symphonic) In "Mujer" we only get Alvaro's voice accompanied by an acoustic guitar and cello. This is a love song, which I like, but isn't progressive or interesting. It's just very emotional.

Now, it starts to pick up, because "El Mensaje Del Mago" is the first highlight of the album, in my opinion. Here, the addition of Oscar Conde starts to pay off in beautiful arrangements by the flute and sax. Also very present are the cello and violin by Paulo and Jack. The song itself is mystical and fits well with the voice of Ranferí, which is quite soothing, tranquil and with a higher range, offering a nice contrast to the baritone voice of Alvaro. The only mistake of this track is the ending, with a musical box that is totally out of place.

The apex of the album, for me, is the title track. "Conquista" has a mystical and somber introduction with guatemalan instruments: chirimía (a flute-like instrument) and tun (percussion). After the intro, comes the real start of the song. The brothers Alvaro and Plubio teamed up to write an excellent rock composition, with plenty of symphonic arrangements, an excellent riff and a strong message about how the Spaniards conquered America. The drumming is also very tasteful in this track.

The next song, "Hoy", drags down the album in my humble opinion. Actually it isn't a bad song, not at all. It's nicely arranged like all the other symphonic songs. The thing is that whenever I hear it, I can't help to be reminded of Stairway To Heaven by Led Zep. In fact, I've played Stairway To Heaven in my guitar while listening to this song and it's pretty much the same thing. To worsen things, the structure is also very alike: a quiet intro, a rocking part, a guitar solo (with the exact chords of the rhythm guitar from Stairway) and a quiet outro.

Fortunately, the closer of the album is an original sounding piece composed by Paulo Alvarado. "Retorno De La Alegría" is a piece centered on the electric piano, with Paulo's soft vocals. Actually, the vocals and the whole song makes me feel happier whenever I listen to it, which is coherent with the title (translation: return of joy). Excellent bass and drums on this song, which carry the changes of the song swiftly along with the piano. There's only a minor mistake: the guitar is mixed too loud in one part.

"Conquista" isn't as naïve as their debut, but it has some mistakes which drag down the album. I can see how other people could give the title of symphonic masterpiece to this and not the debut, but I give it four solid stars, a bit less than their first one.

This second album continues the same characteristics from the previous one, with the improve of a better sound in the recording and the aport of Oscar Conde, who'll become one of the most active members of the band. He brings the sound of Flaute and sax in this album, and latter he played keyboards and some guitars also. The albums songs keep the symphonic basis, still with a lot of violin and guitar solos through the whole album. "Barrocko" is a great instrumental song. What shows this album is the good time the have playing some interesting music. You can feel all the freshness of the songs, a lot of good vibe throughout and well written songs as well. The best song of this short album (it only last 33 minutes) is "Conquista", another of their trademarks epic songs, with a great balance between rock of the 80's, Folk-fussion and symphonic phrases. The rest of the album have a lot of diversity and interesting experimentation with a lot of grooves. You should give the album a listen. You will enjoy it. Maybe the only thing that doesn't makes this album better is the short that it is, 'cause only have six songs. Still, the production is great, dinamic and very interesting for people who likes to study music

Alux Nahual - 1980 - Alux Nahual

Alux Nahual 
Alux Nahual

01. Cola de Golondrina (3:59)
02. A Ti (4:06)
03. Un Poco De Paz (3:20)
04. Un Minuto De Ilusión (7:20)
05. La Fábula Del Grillo Y El Mar (5:58)
06. Posada (4:07)
07. Hombres De Maíz (7:23)

- Álvaro Aguilar / Lead & Backing Vocals, Keyboards, Acoustic Guitar
- Plubio Aguilar / Bass Guitar, Lead & Backing Vocals
- Ranferí Aguilar / Electric Guitar, Lead & Backing Vocals
- Orlando Aguilar / Drums, Percussion
- Paulo Alvarado / Violoncello, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
- Jack Schuster / Violin

 Alux Nahual (that's Spirit of the Goblin in mayan language) made their debut in 1981 and quickly became one of the most succesfull bands in the country. Their unique musical style completely separated them from the rest of the bands at the time, but far from getting disregarded by the public they attained a massive following of fans and admirers from all over Central America. Their distinctive approach to music is what makes them so very hard to categorize. Even though they are included in Crossover Prog, I would rather describe their sound as Prog Folk but that's just my opinion. Alux Nahual is really a fusion of different genres and styles blending rock music with mayan folk, blues, flamenco and many others.
The album opens with the instrumental "Cola de Golondrina", a fiery piece filled with violin and acoustic guitar that shows the great talent of all the members. "A Ti" and "Un Poco de Paz" are both sung numbers and both display the folkier side of the band. The first gem of the album comes then with "Un minuto de Ilusion". All the instruments blend togheter perfectly to create great memorable melodies until the very end. The next song, "La Fabula del Grillo y el Mar" is simple in structure but it's beauty lies in the story it tells and the message one can learn from it. Finally, the last two pieces "Posada" and "Hombres de Maiz" bring the album to it's climax. The first one is slower and melacholic but perfectly executed. The later being the apex of the album, with high speed playing, swift tempo changes and wonderfull atmosphere. The best way to close the album. The only thing I regret is the raw sound quality of the recording but even so, it doesn't take away anything from the music.

If you want to get to know the band this would be the ideal place to start. I highly recommend it to Prog Folkers but Alux Nahual has a particular way of pleasing anyone, no matter what type of music they listen to.

 This is a great album. It shows quite well the origins of this emblematic band. Is heavly oriented to the symphonic elements, with a lot of violin solos and usuall unisons between guitars, bass and cello. It's a very interesting album for people who likes to dive into a fresh atmosphere, music with sense and soul without a doubt. The first track, "Cola de Golondrina" is one great effort, mixing folk-fussion elements with symphonic and regular rock phrases. Great instrumental song. Other two standout tracks are "Un minuto de Ilusión" and "Posada". Both, nearly instrumental, 'cause the lyrics are quite short and give just what the song requieres to have an idea of the subject. Posada, speccially brings some interesting concept 'cause is based on a traditional phrase played in the Christmas hollidays with turtle percussion. The songs follows with guitar and violin solos. Maybe the best song of the album is the last one, "Hombres de Maíz", a seven minute song with a lot of symphonic parts. A very thoughtfull song that talks about the social life in Latin America. Great album, way above the average of the most latin rock, well written and with a lot of soul a meaning trhough the whole piece...

Heavy on the strings, which is always something I enjoy in my prog rock.  I have to say that I was somewhat surprised by the relative lack of traditional Central American influence here.  Judging from the band's name I expected something along the lines of Luis Perez' imagined pre-Columbian soundscapes.  That would have been welcome but I definitely appreciated the somewhat more conventional, if classical tinged, prog folk-rock the band provides just as much.