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RPWL - 'The Gentle Art Of Music' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     September 15, 2010    
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Well written and superbly performed album.

This collection which celebrates the first decade of music from Germany’s RPWL is perfectly titled. Across the two discs and twenty two songs RPWL gently, yet firmly reinforce that while they may not have been the highest profile prog band out there, over the last ten years they have been one of the most seductively and gently effective.

The first disc of ‘The Gentle Art of Music’ is a wonderful introduction to the restrained poppy prog of RPWL as it takes us on a chronological journey through the band’s five studio efforts to date (the 2007 album ‘9’ was half compilation, half solo work from each band member). For anyone who hasn’t already encountered songs like the frantic heavy riff and catchy chorus of ‘Choose What You Want To Look At’, the latter day Floyd of ‘The Gentle Art of Swimming’ (which is where the album and the band’s new record label both take their name from) or the Middle Eastern tinged and ridiculously memorable ‘I Don’t Know’, which in a different world where true melodies and vocal prowess counted, would be huge, will be amazed by the progressive themes yet accessible outlook the band possess. Whilst the band themselves may have a distaste for the word ‘progressive’, it is undoubted that RPWL are gently (there’s that word again) progressive, however what they do is to tie the intricate rhythms and guitar work to fantastically hook laden and in places pop themed melodies, making their music both challenging and sing-a-long at the same time. Each of the eleven songs on this disc illustrates slightly different aspects of the RPWL outlook and results in a surprisingly cohesive and captivating listen. Arguably the best of the bunch is ‘Roses’ where one time Genesis and Stiltskin front man Ray Wilson guests behind the mic with great effect.

Disc two, while still collecting together some of the best work from the band, sees the songs rerecorded and reworked in an acoustic setting. There is also a long list of guest musicians that add new textures such as strings, or ethnic instrumentation to the songs to make it into an interesting encounter for new fans and what could have been an otherwise pointless (unless you are a completist) compilation a required purchase for existing RPWL devotees. The fact that the band have had the vision to allow their music to evolve into this acoustic setting, but to do so in a way that breathes new life into already excellent songs shows the way in which RPWL are progressive as many bands wouldn’t have the vision or foresight to do so. Among the highlights on a simply wonderful disc are the piano and acoustic guitar of my own personal favourite RPWL number ‘Breath In, Breath Out’, the enigmatic string arrangement and female backing vocals of ‘Trying To Kiss The Sun’ and the almost Kip Winger world music meets rock of ‘Start The Fire’. ‘Moonflower’ is the only song that doesn’t quite work out in its new surroundings as the jazz-lite is just too twee to convince. There are also two new songs on this disc ‘Cake’ and ‘Watching The World’ which both allow the band to explore more straight ahead song structures, ending up as quite poppy, dreamy and Beatles infused and both fit very well on this collection.

RPWL’s great mix of styles and genres deserves a far higher profile than the band has so far achieved and for fans of well written and superbly performed and arranged songs you really should become familiar with ‘The Gentle Art of Music’.

Steven Reid

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