This album by Jean Paul Praat is something of a forgotten Zeuhl monster. The style is quite similar to Weidorje, but with fusion and symphonic elements about equally present. Masal might be a bit more accessible than Magma or Weidorje, but it features just as intense interplay with great, over the top bass guitar and good keyboards and drumming. The vocals are partly Magma styled, but less monolithic and overpowering. The more fusion-oriented parts sometimes recall the jazz groups on the ECM label. The CD version includes the full 42 minute version of Masal plus several bonus tracks, which are quite good as well. A recommended album that makes a great, more symphonic companion to Weidorje.
(Musea FGBG4155.AR, 1982/1996, CD)
A most welcome reissue. Drummer and bandleader Prat had worked with his band Masal from the early seventies, yet their first and only release was this two-sided forty-two minute instrumental opus from nearly a decade later, by which time the band (after numerous stops and starts and personell changes) had grown to a fourteen-piece ensemble of drums, piano, synths, bass, three guitars, two saxes, flute, trumpet, trombone, french horn and percussion. The composition (by Prat) is a symphonic masterpiece that combines the fluid delicacy of Mike Oldfield, the grand symphonics of Clearlight, the rhythmic power and intensity of the zeuhl school, and the classical angularity of Art Zoyd. Going through numerous short sections of three to five minutes each, each linked together seamlessly, the musicians paint a magnificent vision that is rarely equalled in the world of progressive rock. The closest near approximation might be Clearlight's Symphony, yet Masal's approach is more instrumentally varied and conceptually balanced. The original piece was divided at the mid-point (to accommodate the LP medium), but for the CD reissue the two sides have been rejoined as they were originally recorded.
But this is only half the story. How often is it that a CD comes out with bonus tracks that are every bit as good as the original material they augment? In fact that is the case with this reissue: an entire album's worth of solid material recorded after Masal, but never before released, has been added to the round out the CD - four tracks ranging from three minutes to sixteen bring the playing time of the disc right up to the limit of the medium. Most noteworthy is the nine-minute "Maran Atha-Selah", recorded with a six piece lineup in 1985, and the closer - a wordless vocal piece in six-part harmony, recorded in 1990 with a very positive and uplifting spiritual vibe, not far from some of the recent work by Minimum Vital. If there is only one reissue you buy this year, by all means this should positively be it!
(Originally published in Exposť #10, p. 60, Edited for Gnosis 4/9/01)
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