The aural equivalent of Belgium…
Review by Gary Cordwell
Release Date: 19 October 2015
Sporelights is album the third by Chilean experimental/prog band Bauda, formed and led by architect Cesar Marquez. The album was two years in the making and was produced by Rene Rutten – yes, he of Dutch symphonic metal dudes The Gathering. His ear for a lush arrangement can be heard all over this album which examines, apparently, modern man’s struggle against an enslaving, uniform society. The theme manifests itself initially as a busy, keyboard led instrumental which heads into a widescreen, cavernous womb of hyper produced progginess. The following two songs have strong hints of the 80’s – tempos and keyboard sounds in particular – with strong traces of goth and shoegaze. It’s all very… big.
The production is epic, the songs shift through different movements, there are choirs, singalong climaxes, huuuge key changes – songs seem to follow a rigid ‘this’ll move them’ blueprint, as precise and calculating as an early Spielberg blockbuster, no emotion is left untapped! But despite (or possibly because) of this, it all feels a little flat. It’s overproduced, airbrushed; its teeth have been filed down. There is, dare I say it, a touch of Coldplay to all of this. ‘War’ has a vaguely ambient air until it begins to grow and swell in pomposity, the saccharine is reaching OD levels as we scale almost U2 heights of bombast. To misquote Motorhead, everything is more overwrought than everything else! The soft focus guitars then appear en masse to nudge us towards a post soft rock crescendo.
Another instrumental, ‘Tectonic Cells’, mounts a salvage mission – the drums are more alive and urgent, it’s genuinely moving and powerful, strangely more so without any vocals. This late rally is continued with ‘Asleep In Layers’ which packs an affecting emotional wallop, it’s fast paced, driving and serious. Final track ‘Dawn Of Ages’ unfortunately drops us down a ladder to where we were. Again it’s painstakingly paced, layers of sound are wrapped around it as it progresses but it sticks to such a tried and tested formula that any chance of a curveball or a surprise is supressed. You know exactly what’s coming and when and it therefore ends up feeling rather inconsequential. Maybe Marquezes day job follows through into his song writing… clean edges, reliability, bricks and mortar precision, things have to be put together in a certain way or they don’t work… trouble is, music ain’t like that.
This album isn’t bad – it’s meticulously produced and performed – it’s just, to these ears, slightly too smooth and bland. The album is apparently inspired (as is all of Bauda’s music), by the landscape of Chile – wild, unpredictable and mountainous with drastic meteorological extremes. Unfortunately this is more of an aural equivalent of Belgium. It’s nice enough, but definitely background music.
6 out of 10
- Tectonic Cells
- Asleep In Layers
- Dawn Of Ages