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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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