Sympozion - Kundabuffer

Year of Release: 2006
Label: self-released/Thousand Records
Catalog Number: THR01
Format: CD
Total Time: 52:13:00

To describe Sympozion's Kundabuffer as peppy jazz inflected prog rock with aspects of Canterbury-ness, overlooks the diversity on display here. The arrangements are complex in structure, but easy on the ear. Pieces bounce along with confident ease - take the first track "Patterns" or "Happy War Holiday," for instance. "Patterns" tootles along merrily, a rich, complex "pattern" of guitars, recorders, flutes, and keyboards that carries you along as if you've been caught up in an adventurous breeze or a particularly twisty river current (on a crisp day, as there's a bit of a chill in the air). And happy isn't an understatement in the latter case; "Happy War Holiday" sounds downright joyful, without being silly-happy. Perhaps it's the xylophone-like percussion that tinkles here and there. There is a point during the latter third, where the mood darkens for just a bit (a full, rounded bass taking over prominence), but otherwise, it's? jaunty. The guitar phrasing in this piece would bring to mind John Scofield every once in a while.

The jazz on these two pieces, and elsewhere on the album, often has an "out" quality to it - the band list John Coltrane as one of numerous influences, which also includes Gentle Giant, Frank Zappa, Satie, Stravinsky and others. Sympozion are based in Israel and got their start in 2000, founded by Arik Hayat (keyboards, vocals, recorders) and Elad Abraham (guitar, recorders). Abraham left the group after the release of Kundabuffer, the band's debut, and the current guitarist is Erez Kriel. Hayat and Abraham are joined by Ori Ben-Zvi on guitars, Dan Carpman on bass and vocals, and Boris Zilberstein on drums. Work on Kundabuffer began in 2003, the album was released by the band in 2006. It was released in fall 2006 by Canadian prog label Unicorn Digital (UNCR 5036).

So, back to the music. There's the circus-like atmosphere of "Too Much," which, while that description implies something wild, this is a more subdued sideshow; mid-tempo, but no less colourful and brightly lit. There is a lot of organy keyboards on this one, whereas guitar leads many of the other tracks. As elsewhere, the band pack a lot into their music, but unlike the song title suggests, it's not too much. Interest is held throughout, even though listening close can sometimes be like playing Twister.

Plus there's the avant-garde piece "Grapefruit" which reveals another aspect of this quintet. A short interlude at the 6-plus minute mark reveals an even mellower side, more atmospheric. Not quite ambient, but close, this spacey section slowly reconstructs itself, beginning with piano (keyboards), adding percussion, guitar, bass as it picks up? intensity.

Camel is evoked in "Bird," the first of 2 vocal tracks. The vocals are soft, given a slightly dreamy quality. To put it in Camel-like terms, think, roughly, of Nude. While vocals are prominent when they are present, giving the piece a very mellow surface, what's going on underneath is quite active, with chimey-gurgling guitar being the lead instrument. In the non-vocal sections, it's a trilling recorder that takes flight. The arrangement flutters like wings, sometimes more "butterfly-like" than "bird-like," but nevertheless evoking the movement of a winged creature.

The second vocal track is "Zona," which has a Canterbury quality to it. I'm not sure, because the vocals aren't in English (it's Hebrew), but it very well could even have some of that humour found in Caravan, for example. But, to call it a vocal track is misleading; it's truly an instrumental track with a bit of vocal at the beginning. It becomes quite fusiony toward the end, perhaps mostly in the tasty and impressive guitar work here.

Piano and keyboards are at the core of "Six," a sometimes angular, jazzy piece. Too lyrical to be really avant-garde, yet sharp edged enough that it would qualify. To round out the sound, tart, jazz-guitar and more trilling recorder are heard, while bass and percussion provide accent. The grand piano here and later in "Grapefruit Variations" was recorded -- and I'm going to assume played, as well -- by Udi Koomran, who also did a wonderful job as the album's producer.

Speaking of "Grapefruit Variations," it is the longest piece at 10:54, and begins as a "simple" piano piece, but, as the title suggests, takes on various casts and aspects? including some quite sultry, moody jazz, lots of fat and slinky bass, guitar, sparse snickering percussion? It's the groovy section that comes in at the 8:15 mark or so that I find so very cool. It jumps and hops along? and yet I'm not quite sure I could describe it? muted, chiming guitar; bouncy bass? no, no. You'll just have to hear it yourself.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this release. Even if they may not yet be perfect - and the nitpicker will probably find flaws somewhere - in my book, to start out this good, this fresh sounding, this vibrant, only bodes well for their future. Terrific stuff that is varied without seeming hodgepodge - there is cohesiveness in the variety. It's good that my best of 2006 isn't yet fixed as this certainly needs a place on the list. Fabulous stuff.

Patterns (3:34) / Happy War Holiday (8:05) / Bird (3:41) / Grapefruit (8:48) / Six (4:07) / Zona (8:06) / Too Much (4:53) / Grapefruit Variations (10:54)

Arik Hayat - keyboards, vocals, recorders
Elad Abraham - guitar, recorders
Ori Ben-Zvi - guitars
Dan Carpman - bass, vocals
Boris Zilberstein - drums


Ilan Salem - flute (1, 3, 4)
Udi Koomran - grand piano (?)

Kundabuffer (2006)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin IL

Added: February 17th 2007
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1323
Language: english


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