17 Pygmies-Isabel

Isabel es un nombre que me tiene atado al recuerdo, a lo agridulce de la memoria. Isabel es un nombre mágico, compuesto de anhelos, sueños y todo aquello que no es aprehensible en la realidad. Dicho nombre  es solo una fuerza misteriosa que subyace debajo de algunos momentos determinados de mi vida, Pero "Isabel" también da título al nuevo álbum de los norteamericanos 17 Pygmies (banda que ya cuenta con algunas décadas a cuesta pero que siempre se ha mantenido al margen de la industria en favor de su libertad artística) un trabajo conceptual en torno a la doctora Emelia Isabel, que es una especie de luz que ilumina todo el fantástico relato. La música es delicada pero por momentos se vuelve tensa. Los recursos sonoros son múltiples, las cuerdas son rayos de luz, el ritmo es por momentos lento pero también desafiante, los violines son puentes hacia lo sublime, mientras que los sintetizadores se encargan de ralentizar el tiempo en una atmósfera de multiples colores. Es un poco difícil definir "Isabel" si es que no tenemos en cuenta que todos los elementos giran alrededor de la historia, del concepto. El álbum se entiende en su conjunto, porque solo de esa manera podemos entender acerca de su riqueza. Por eso resulta coherente escuchar en un mismo disco diversos géneros, desde  la música orquestal, pasando por la electrónica, el ambient, el krautrock, etc. que en su conjunto confeccionan ese claroscuro llamado "Isabel" que es más que un trabajo sosegado porque lo apacible no es necesariamente productivo, y en "Isabel" subyace una tensión constante que coquetea con la ternura. "Isabel" ilumina, acaricia, susurra pero también intriga, tensiona y cuestiona. Y es que "Izabel" es luz, pero también deja espacio a unas cuantas sombras que la humanizan. Es como la Izabel que me ilumina, siempre dejando al descubierto las sombras de mi corazón.

Interview with Meg Maryatt.

1. Isabel is an album with many nuances and various influences. What was the creative process to elaborate an album with so much elements?

The one rule about the musical influences and direction of 17 Pygmies is that there are no rules. At the end of the day, whatever is "on the surface" is "on the surface" and that is what goes out. The process is fairly simple. As with Celestina I, II and III, the Isabel I short story was broken down into 11 separate scenes. Band members then choose at least one scene as the inspiration for their track. Eventually, all of the tracks are compiled together, "harmonized" and then mixed. The entire recording is then placed into a microwave oven, baked on "high" for 60 minutes and Voila! Ready to serve.

2-Who is Isabel? Why the choice of this character? 

Dr. Emelia Isabel was the ship's physician on the Celestina. Once on Earth, Isabel is forced to flee from Centre and finds herself seeking refuge in the catacombs below Paris. There, she encounters a group of half-human half-machine outcasts shunned by the society above. Isabel teaches them that they are in fact as God planned them to be and therefore "perfect" in every respect. It is the documentation of these events and revelatory "teachings" that make up the text of Isabel I, II, and III. These teachings are later incorporated into the gospel of Celestina and serve in large part as the foundational elements of "Celestia," a "religion" created and documented in the Book of Velaquez (to follow the Book of Isabel) by Celestina. That's about as clear as I can make it at the moment.

3-Reading some reviews, I noticed that some critics label the album as peaceful. However, to me, its seems as you tried to make an emotional album, at times mysterious.....what kind of album are you trying to elaborate?

It's funny but I am never quite sure how to answer that question. I don't think Isabel is peaceful at all. This may sound a bit odd, but I think of Isabel, as with most of my music, as trying to find the beauty in broken glass, where the jagged edge co-exists with the smooth and translucent surface that allows light to pass through it. If I can share a past experience that might have some relevance, I once received a letter from an asylum asking could I send them a copy of one our of our earliest recordings, Jedda by The Sea. It seems the asylum had a copy and every time they played it most of the inmates would sit down, listen and become calm. Unfortunately, one of accidentally broke the disc. To be honest, I initially ignored the request because I thought it was a joke...until they CALLED me and literally begged for another copy. I sent them two, just in case. 

4-You have been around 30 years in the musical scene, what are your thoughts on the actual music industry? Do you think that the business is changing substantially due to the diffusion that offers internet?

That is actually a funny question and I'll tell you why. I don't think the "Music Industry" (capital "M" capital "I") has changed at all. In my estimation the "Industry" is, was and will always be a bunch of cynical nabobs trying to get rich off of the creative energy of others. If anything, it's gotten worse. At least 30 years ago it wasn't considered a complete waste to pay the artists. Now...But with that said, the Internet machine has made it easier for artists to make a direct connection with their audience and in many ways I do feel that is a very good thing. Again, not to ramble on, but if I can relate a recent experience it may help to illustrate my point. I recently went to see Greg Lake (remember him?) play a show that he billed as an intimate get together to tell the stories of his musical career. The show was quite good and in the middle he did answer questions regarding his earlier days with King Crimson and ELP. However, it did not escape me that he in true "rock-star" fashion came from backstage to the stage and when finished, exited backstage and immediately left the building. Why I mention this is that absent the "pay for your ticket and you get to see me on stage" there is no interaction between the artist and his audience, and apparently, Mr. Lake likes it that way. For what it is worth, I never felt that way, still don't and actually like the idea that I can connect with persons who are interested in what I do and are usually doing interesting things themselves. As a matter of fact, isn't that what we are doing right now? Viva le Internet!
5-What are your next projects?

That is always a good question. The next step would be to write the short story of Isabel II and then do the recordings for Isabel II. We are also still working on the Celestina I comic book with our in-house artist Natalya Kolosowski. The 22 page comic is about half done and I must to say is looking very, very good. A live presentation of Celestina is also in the works. Lastly, we are always very interested in adding more visual components to our music. So, if there are any potential videographers or filmmakers who wish to collaborate, feel free to get in touch with us. You never know...

Escucha el disco completo AQUÍ.


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