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coverpic flag Czech Republic - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 18 - 04/12/98

Michael Kocáb
Odysseus
Supraphon

The legendary success of Michael Kocáb and his Prazsky vyber (Prague Choice) in the Communist 80's wasn't really due to their two officially released albums. Within hours after getting banned in 1983, bootleg copies of their avant-garde studio recordings and live performances became widely available and continued circulating until the group got reinstated in 1987. Michael Kocáb became instrumental in the downfall of Communism and in 1989 was elected to the parliament on a single platform: withdrawal of all Russian troops from his homeland. In 1992, after personally escorting the last Russian tank out of the country, as promised, he resigned the political office.

In the next surprising move of his career, Kocáb became heavily involved in the world of high finance. Investment activities and international monetary transactions made this former anti-establishment punk rocker one of the richest men in the country. However, increasingly disconcerted with the world of high-risk wheeling and dealing, last year he reunited his group as Vyber (Selection) and he culminated a year of insistent touring with a new studio album titled Ber ('Lection).

The soundtrack to Odysseus was commissioned by the renown Laterna Magika. This original multimedia theatrical group has been combining film and live action with live and pre-recorded music since 1958. It was an ambitious project originally started in 1987, but Odysseus has been in the Laterna Magika's repertory ever since. There are many people on this album. Besides a rock band, the recording also contains two symphony orchestras, a couple of mixed choirs, classically trained singers and actors and a Rumanian virtuoso pan-flute player.

The opening cut Vicious Circle of Time features Kocáb whispering over swirling strings, "That dominating time! That vicious circle that continues escaping revelation by our senses" - in Greek. Party is a distorted-guitar and synth driven cut that leads into an operatic aria Pallas Athene. Charles Ives would be proud of a Czech Brass Band march titled Coming Home. Bedrich Smetana-influenced Ocean is followed by Laurie Anderson-influenced Lotus Eaters. There are many other musical influences here as well, ranging from J. S. Bach to Philip Glass, Brian Eno and Pink Floyd, but the biggest influence is probably Richard Wagner.

This can hardly be considered a 'rock' album per sé. In spite of a rather enthusiastic claim in the liner notes, this music simply cannot be enjoyed without Svoboda's set design, Soth's choreography and Kucera's film sequences. To experience this reincarnation of Wagner's dream of Gesamtkunstwerk, one simply cannot forego any of the senses.

You'd be better off, if next time you're in Prague instead of just buying this album, you visited Odysseus in the theater. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if you are ready for an attack on all your senses, you won't be sorry.

Copyright © 1998 Ivan Sever e-mail address

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