NoŽtra, "Dťfinitivement Bleus" (Musea) Musea deserve praise for once again keeping great music from falling into unreleased-limbo. This NoŽtra album actually comes from a large body of unreleased work recorded by the guitarist / composer, and shows a well-developed chamber-rock style that still sounds quite fresh today. It's really rather sad to consider how long it's taken to make this music available to the general public. The album's liner notes have a detailed story of the band's convoluted history, but I'd prefer to skip directly to the music. NoŽtra were mainly influenced by the avant-garde, jazz-rock, Magma, and Stravinsky, with the last being the most prominent. Interestingly, these influences seem virtually the same as seminal Belgian chamber rock group Univers Zero, who were recording around the same time period. Although NoŽtra's bright, optimistic sound would seem in direct opposition to the brooding UZ, they actually seem like two different sides of the same coin, so to speak. NoŽtra's distinctive sound comes from its sparkling, twisty violin and reed melodies and incorporation of other classical instruments (due to line-up changes, the list of musicians and instruments is huge) married with complex harmony and continually surprising thematic changes - as well as nearly omnipresent but rarely upfront electric-classical guitar. Obviously, a rather unique ensemble! The band does best when it concentrates on the chamber-rock elements of its sound, or even the quirky style of chamber-jazz that pops up quite often (think early Henry Cow). Its considerably weaker when they try for a straighter jazz sound, but these moments are very few. Definitely unique, definitely worth hearing by all reasonably adventurous music fans! ~Jon Dharma Murphree~
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