Abre la puerta niña
que el día va a comenzar…
(Open the door, girl,
The day will begin…)
And indeed, listening to this album felt very much like opening the door to a new and exciting world – the world of Spanish prog rock. You know, that 70s genre with mellotron solos and a dozen of time signature changes per song? However, this record is a far cry from ELP, Genesis, King Crimson and the like, and not just because it was recorded in a different language. Indeed it incorporates some of the classic prog elements (most of them borrowed from Triana’s British counterparts, I guess), with particularly some guitar and keyboard solos sounding really proggy. But thankfully complexity for the sake of complexity and instrumental prowess for the sake of instrumental prowess are not the purpose of this album. This was obviously recorded by very skillful musicians, but they’re not here to show off, they’re here to take you to some otherworldly version of southern Spain (my first guess was Andalusia, and Wikipedia tells me I was absolutely right – Triana are an Andalusian band), the one with passionate minstrels in large hats singing flamenco serenades for hot Spanish ladies standing on their balconies in long silk red dresses. Which brings me to the subject of the second important musical element of this album – the flamenco. It is indeed hard to imagine an English or American band recording such an album, or at least making a convincing rendering of specifically Spanish cultural values and motifs (similar to the fact that something like Selling England by the Pound could never have been recorded by any band but a British one). And this is obviously the greatest strength of this record – it effectively merges progressive rock with inherently, authentically Spanish folk music, and not in an overtly experimental way, too – this is in fact a very accessible and easily enjoyable record with a pleasant, melodic sound and strong, emotional vocals from Jesús de la Rosa Luque. So, it’s basically 40 minutes of lovely flamenco guitars, great singing, hooks, authentic Spanish atmosphere, more hooks, more awesome singing, as well as slightly trite and very vague but never in the least way bad lyrics (obviously I don’t understand the language, but I found the translations). What’s not to like here?
My only real complaint would be a lack of diversity. The seven songs present here are all beautiful, but even after 5 or 6 listens I have a problem separating most of them from each other – they have very similar melodies, similar arrangements and even similar lyrical matter. However, two tracks still stand out from the rest. The opening song, Abre la puerta, is probably the most proggy number here, and it isn’t one bit worse than the best British prog-rock cuts of that era. Amazingly, it is also the longest track on the record – however I find myself never growing tired of its numerous vocal hooks and great instrumental solos. And the chorus, referenced in the quote above, is EASILY the most memorable thing on the album. The second great song is En el lago, which struck me as a somewhat ‘psychedelic’ number, with a nice interplay between melancholy keyboards and powerful singing creating a pretty unique atmosphere. The weird-sounding ‘schizoid’ ending of the song, when guitars, keyboards and drums culminate in a hurricane of sound, is really cool too. The rest of the songs are also pretty good, it’s just they are not nearly as memorable.
Summing this up – this is a truly great album that made me want to dig into Spanish rock more. It has all the vibe of a 70s prog album, yet in the end offers so much more, because it is not trying hard to be ‘progressive’ or experimental while it does attempt to be heartfelt, sincere and authentically Spanish, and gloriously succeeds.