Club Merano – High Road

Although multi-instrumentalist Harpov is already a well-esbalished and experienced musician by this point, Club Merano is a relatively young project. Releasing their debut ‘High Road’ last year, the band is now taking wing, and I have no doubt that good things lie in their future. Although the ‘prog pop’ label may often conjure horrific imagery of Genesis or Yes finally ‘selling out’, Club Merano approaches the fusion of complexity and accessibility with the kind of degree that makes it really work as an artistic statement.

Club Merano were often cited in press releases as being a band that took many influences from 70′s prog rock, and I was surprised to hear that these ‘vintage’ sensibilities did not overpower the rest of the band’s style. Club Merano are tastefully modern in their approach, as well as eclectic. Throughout the album, there are hints of modern alternative, surf rock, film music, and- of course- the classic progressive rock sound. Complimenting this fairly varied style is a cast of talented musicians, including a trombonist, cellist, and player of the accordion. Despite all of these bells and whistles to flesh out the arrangement, the songwriting of Club Merano always revolves around melody; something that many bands of a progressive inclination tend to deprioritize.

Harpov’s voice comes into major play from the second track onwards. Although he has a unique sound to his vocals, the closest comparison I might draw would be Peter Gabriel, particularly his later solo work. Harpov does not have a great range to his voice, but there is plenty of feeling to it, as well as a sense of charm that works best with the more cinematic- styled pieces. Arguably the greatest surprise here was the thick presence of surf rock, which is dabbled with frequently throughout the album, without ever becoming the main attraction. The psychedelic edge to the music works in much the same way; it is very present throughout the album, but never makes itself overt or indulgent. Club Merano’s inherently melodic take on progressive rock is a big surprise for me. While many prog bands who cite ‘melody’ as their biggest aim turn out to be AOR acts in disguise, Club Merano has a fulfilled depth to their music, as well as melodies that feel truly relevant to the rest of the music. I can only hope that Club Merano puts out more music like this in the future.

Tracklist:

1. Orbit Voyage (3:07)
2. Medley 1970 (5:30)
3. Flame On (5:22)
4. Lovers (5:06)
5. Days of Our Lives (4:31)
6. Comfort Zone (4:09)
7. Sunny Day (4:49)
8. Awaiting (3:54)
9. Forbidden Dreams (3:44)
10. Thamel (5:46)
11. Someday (5:42)

Line-up:

* Harpov – vocals, guitars, moog
* Sebastian Bisso Mifflin – bass
* Jussi Jaakonaho – guitars
* Sami Kuoppamäki – drums
* Abdissa Assefa – percussion
* Juuso Saarinen – organ, moog, piano
* Leevi Lydecken – trombone

With:

* Leri Leskinen – accordion
* Sanna Palas – cello
* Tuomo Lassila – percussion
* Ezan Codio Ecaré – guitars

Links:

http://www.myspace.com/clubmerano

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