Thursday, July 25, 2013


Review: 17 Pygmies - Isabel (2013)

Artist: 17 Pygmies
Album: Isabel
Year: 2013
Label: Trakwerx

Review: Diego Camargo


Thoughts: 17 Pygmies is not really a newbie when it comes to music. They came into being more than 30 years ago in the USA. They released their first album in 1983 and they were active till 1990.
Under heavy changes in both lineup and music 17 Pygmies were reborn in late 00’s with the only original member of the band Jackson Del Rey (synths, guitars, bass and vocals) plus Meg Maryatt (vocals, guitars, synths), Jeff Brenneman (guitars, synths), Dirk Doucette (drums, bass, guitars, synths).

5 years ago they released an album called Celestina (2008), which was an ambitious project that would be completed 2 albums later. The trilogy was about a feminine robot, in a sci-fi story.
After the trilogy the band decided to continue the project and that lead us to the CD I’m reviewing today: Isabel (2013).

I’m not sure how the others 17 Pygmies CDs look like, but Isabel (2013) is a gorgeous handmade package that makes you want it in your collection. I put a video togetheter for you to understand what I’m talking about:

Isabel (2013) has an odd concept, just like everything in 17 Pygmies. It’s a record, but it has a 36 pages booklet where you can actually read… a book. Or perhaps the word tale would be more accurate.
The music doesn’t fit the book in my opinion, but it’s a VERY interesting piece of text that makes you read more. The author of the story is Jackson Del Rey.

When it comes to the music, Isabel (2013) is quite unique too, just like its packaging. It’s far away from an average Prog Rock album.
Isabel (2013) is divided into 11 parts and a 12th song. Chamber music is the most accurate term to their music, at least in general.
Their music is based on violins and violas, but accompanied by acoustic guitars and synths, all over.

Five songs on the album have lyrics and, consequently, vocals. Wonderful vocals by Meg Maryatt. Through the rest of the album what we have is a wonderful and unique piece that combines chamber music with acoustic guitars (like in ‘Isabel I’), layers and layers of synthesizers and a bit of electronic music (like in ‘Isabel II’, ‘Isabel III’), trip hop feeling (like in ‘Isabel III’), Indian music (like in ‘Isabel IX’) and a Progressive Electronic (like in the Mike Oldfield meets Tangerine Dream moment in ‘Isabel VII’).

Although the instrumental pieces are quite wonderful, it is the vocal moments that hold the most intense moments of Isabel (2013).
‘Isabel I’, ‘Isabel III’, ‘Isabel VI’, ‘Isabel XI’ and the last track ‘Kyrie are the vocal ones. All of them are pretty pieces of music with dreamy pictures and beautiful layers of vocals.

17 Pygmies have built one superb record  of Isabel (2013). Perhaps even more, a beautiful piece of art if you gather all the components together (including the amazing artwork).
Isabel (2013) is all about flow, motion, mood. It’s quite incredible that so much polished work was independently released. I guess we still have some bands that really care.
We can wait for more 2 parts when it comes to Isabel (2013), just like in Celestina (2008).
Isabel (2013) was one of the strongest and prettiest albums I’ve heard so far in 2013. And it was near  5 stars for sure.

17 Pygmies did something very hard in today’s music. They created something very unique, pretty and quite original.
Highly recommended!

The band was included in our Podcast #21 and you can listen the track 'Isabel III' HERE.

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