Alas was one of the most amazing prog bands from Argentina, not only in the technical aspect (all three members were proficient performers) but also in the creative aspect – their style is based on a highly rich amalgam of jazz fusion a-la Return to Forever/Weather report, ELP-tinged prog pomposity, tango-based textures and academic flavours, all of them cohesively gathered in a powerful, original sound. Alas was, in many ways, a world of its own in their country’s prog arena, yet their sound portrayed a distinct peculiarity that could only be emanated from the very heart of Buenos Aires’ Creole folklore.
Their debut album’s repertoire consisted of two sidelong suites, both of them bearing a notable predominance of instrumental input. The first one, ‘Buenos Aires es Solo Piedra’, is the jazziest. The first and antepenultimate motifs sort of operate as the main centers of the whole sequence, providing an air of exuberant mystery for it. The ‘Sueño’ section is the only sung one, very ethereal indeed: the ethereal stuff is perpetuated in the immediate section, which turns to explore minimalistic places with its musique concrete-inspired tricks. There is another soft section before the arrival of the last one – ‘Tanguito’ brings some pleasant tango airs, like a dreamy sound that meanders in an unknown place of the listener’s subconscious mind. The second suite is the most bombastic, meaning it is the most akin to progressive rock parameters. ‘La Muerte Contó el Dinero’ is a showcase for ELP’s influence on Alas’ style, but of course, Moretto’s vision combined with the threesome’s particular drive keeps them well away from any cloning temptation. The first section is a sung intro based on a delicate electric piano motif augmented by subtle touches of lead guitar and drum kit’s cymbals. The lines are really powerful, as if predicting some sociopolitical disaster (which, sadly, came to be around the middle of that year 1976). The three following sections determine the suite's nuclear motifs, and that is when things get electrifyingly ELP-ish, yet, like I said before, never getting to rip-off land. The organ and the synth paint amazing flourishes and leads all the way, while the rhythm section keeps an inventive pace in a most robust manner. After the first sung section is reprised in ‘Vidala Again’, a series of eerie sounds emanated from the synth, bass and percussive implements arrives like the birth of something new that gets in the landscape and spreads around. The sound of a storm announces a drum solo: what’s the point of a drum solo after such an ethereal passage? Well, this drum solo serves as an anticipation of the final outburst, which is the reprise of sections b, c & f: ‘Final’ brings an air of conclusive splendour to this suite, in this way providing a coherent closure.
The bonus track comes from a single the band originally released the year before this album. While being less demanding, it is very neat, indeed, offering a candorous sample of jazzy 'joie de vivre'. If only it hadn’t been placed after ‘La Muerte…’ - it somehow kills its climax. Well, if you program your CD player by locating the bonus between the two suites, the experience will be more rewarding. But even if you don’t, Alas’ debut album is so good that it can only motivate an excellent emotional experience in the listener’s soul: “Alas” is an album that any decent prog collector should have.
Gustavo Morretto – Keyboards, Winds, Vocals
Alex Zucker – Bass, Guitar
Carlos Riganti – Drums, Percussion
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