Friday, October 18, 2013

October Equus

Based in Madrid, the Spanish avant-prog outfit October Equus formed in 2003, and had completed the recording of their eponymous debut album by April of 2005, although October Equus was not released until early the following year.
Featuring guitarist Ángel Ontalva, keyboardist Victor Rodriguez, bassist Amanda Pazos, and drummer Txema Fernandes, the album drew comparisons to discs by various bands from the heydays of British and European prog, including King Crimson, Univers Zero, and Hatfield and the North -- although Ontalva has been quoted as stating that the bandmembers “have never composed music inspired by other artists’ works” and that “[q]uite a few bands mentioned in reviews as our ‘inspirations’ were really unknown to us.”

Given the lengthy delay between the recording and release of the band’s debut, October Equus nearly broke up -- and in fact drummer Fernandes departed the group’s lineup -- but Ontalva, Rodriguez, and Pazos ultimately decided to forge ahead. With new drummer José Varela and saxophonist Francisco Mangas, October Equus recorded their second album, Charybdis, which was released on the Russian Association of Independent Genres (RAIG) label in 2008. The album received favorable notices for its Rock in Opposition and Canterbury-influenced sound (not that the group members had ever heard such music, of course), as well as a bit of newfound avant jazziness thanks to the presence of Mangas on a number of the album’s tracks. Beginning to make a splash in the avant-prog world, October Equus were invited to perform at Portugal’s Gouveia Art Rock festival the following year.

Apparently suffering from revolving drummer syndrome, the group replaced skinsman Varela prior to the recording of its third and arguably strongest album to date, Saturnal, released by the Italian AltrOck label in May 2011. With some of its song titles “freely inspired by pieces of poetry by Sun Ra” (although whether Ra's actual music was an inspiration to the bandmembers remains an open question), Saturnal featured new drummer Vasco Trilla along with two additional musicians, saxophonist Alfonso Muñoz and cellist Pablo Ortega, expanding the band to a seven-piece lineup. Trilla and Muñoz are also members of the Barcelona-based octet Planeta Imaginario, whose own music is informed by the jazz-rock side of the Canterbury scene (assuming Planeta Imaginario's members have heard that old stuff). ~ Dave Lynch