Gildan's Guide to Good Music
The world of music is a vast ocean of crap - join me on a voyage to the tiny isolated islands of excellence.
As the tagline not so subtly suggests, it's really easy to find terrible music - you have but to turn on your radio, and lo, bad music abounds. The good stuff though, well that's rarely quite so easy to find, and while some popular music actually deserves the accolades it receives, most excellent music languishes in comparative obscurity. And that's where I come in!
If it's thought provoking, epic, eccentric, or exceptional (or possibly all of the above), I take it upon myself to write about it in the hope that at least one of the comparative handful of people who actually read my rambling and
rampantly egotistical definitely quite humble reviews will find it useful - or if not useful, at least momentarily entertaining; I take what I can get really.
So... I guess what the even longer interval between my last Guide article and this one should tell you is that I am in no way a reliable source of information on when a new Guide post might turn up - so there you have it! Never trust me, except for all of the times when I tell you that you should trust me. Anyhow, after moving into almost mainstream territory last time around (more than one respondent had heard of him before, gasp!), today I am firmly back in the "I am the only one who even knows this band exists" realm - I'd like to see you claim you knew all about this one folks, ha ha!
Musical Genre: Progressive Rock
Running Time: 56 minutes
# of Tracks: 6
Particularly noteworthy songs: Blind Child, The Egg-Shaped Moon
There's no way around it really - when I hit post, it's going to be right out there in the open after all - so I might as well just spell it out up front: I've been sheltering you all this time.
See, for a column in which I discuss unusual, obscure, and overall very "niche" music, I've actually been being kind of... selective, in a way that I haven't exactly communicated to you, my audience: you know most of the criteria I use (it's stuff I own, I enjoy it, not all that well known, etc), but what I haven't told you (until right now!) is that I've been picking stuff out that I was pretty certain would receive a (mostly) positive reception. Well today I chuck that sorting criteria out the window, so hang onto your hats and get ready for the truly bizarre portions of my album collection - don't say I didn't warn you!
With that introduction, it probably won't surprise you much to learn that Taal is an obscure French Progressive Rock band. That it's a 10-piece band? Moving into marginally more surprising turf. But wait, there's more! That's right, Taal is not just an obscure French Progressive Rock band with a whopping 10 members showcasing just ridiculous levels of musicianship (as is typical for the Progressive Rock genre), they're an obscure French Progressive Rock band that incorporates a full string quartet in their lineup, in addition to a flute, saxaphone, male and female vocals, keyboards, electric and acoustic guitars, and 2 drummers. I'd make a joke here suggesting that's a typical Prog-Rock band lineup, but to be perfectly honest even for Prog that's kind of unusual; those of you who remember my views on the strings have probably guessed that that particular aspect of Taal is the reason I'm discussing it today.
So that's what the band is, but what do they actually sound like? That's... a very good question actually - I hate to pull a cop-out answer and say "They don't really sound like anyone else", but in this case it's absolutely true; I can't even think of a combination of bands to name that would give you a reasonably accurate overall impression of what this one sounds like. So I'll stick to what I can tell you instead:
1. The album opens to the sound of someone fiddling with a radio dial, with the band playing brief snippets of several very different melodies in disparate styles, before finally settling on a "station", and the radio motif is used throughout the rest of the album.
2. There are heavy doses of French cabaret in places, and what might have been Russian Folk before it was ran through a Prog-Rock filter and turned into something entirely different (I didn't really get that Russian-vibe myself but I've heard as much from several other sources so I figured it was worth mentioning).
3. There isn't really a whole lot of singing for a band that has two vocalists, with most of the "vocals" being relatively incidental, and a lot of them are delivered in a style that is almost, but not quite, just talking. In terms of vocal quality, the male "lead vocals" are about what you expect from the Prog genre (i.e., not so hot), but the female vocals are quite nice.
4. If there is an overall theme to the album or even individual tracks then it beats the hell out of me what that might be; as far as I can tell it's just a fascinating mixture of whatever the hell they felt like playing while they were in the studio.
5. Song length? Long - the shortest track is a measly 6:10, and 4 of the 6 tracks are well over 9 minutes apiece.
6. Just when you think you have a handle on any particular track they will change gears and play something entirely different and unexpected; even in a genre that prides itself on being unpredictable Taal is very unpredictable.
Do I think you're going to like these tracks that I've selected to embed? I honestly have no bloody idea how you're going to react, but if I had to guess I'm expecting more perplexed responses than enthusiastic admiration. But hey, it might turn out that all of the (handful of) people who read these articles will in fact like these songs, and therefore enjoy my exposing them to a bizarrely awesome band like Taal, so that's a chance I'm willing to take.
After listening to those tracks, you either think that Taal is pretty cool, or that I'm rather weird for liking this band. Or possibly both, because both are certainly true - weird music for weird people is exactly how I would describe Skymind if I had to do so in one sentence; the question of whether or not you're going to like this weird band's weird music really boils down to just how weird you are.
And with any luck, the answer to that question is "exactly weird enough to think Taal is awesome", and I've just introduced you to something you enjoy rather than making you question my sanity. On the decidedly off-chance of that outcome being true, this little exercise in exposing the true nature of my bizarre taste in music was totally worth it. Also you're welcome.
In any case, I can promise that the album I'm going to talk about next will be decidedly less unusual, if it turns out that this one has as limited an audience as I pessimistically pre-concluded they probably do, heh. I absolutely cannot promise when I'm going to get around to talking about this unnamed mystery album that I have totally already selected though (really, you can totally trust me here, I'm not just refusing to name names because I haven't even picked one, no sirree!), because as I think I've amply demonstrated, you can absolutely trust me to not deliver in anything even close to any time frame I might mention (or in other words, trust me when I say that "you can't trust me", ha ha!). So expect my next article to appear whenever the hell I feel like writing it and not a moment before!
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