Major changes in musical style can basically go one of three ways. The band could completely succeed in every way, the band could be successful yet have some room to grow into their new shoes, or the band could miss completely. No matter how it plays out, fans will be won and lost along the way. Anima Mundi’s new album “Insomnia” falls into the second category methinks. It released on October 1st through their brand new label, Progressive Promotions Records.
Cuba’s Anima Mundi are a band in a state of flux right now. After losing their original singer, Carlos Sosa, a few albums ago; they tried another singer, Emmanuel Pirko-Farrath, for a single record, and then have found their voice again with Aivis Prieto, a welcome voice indeed. The rest of the band consists of: Roberto Díaz on electric and acoustic guitars, percussion and loops, fuzz bass guitar, orchestrations, sound effects, lead and backing vocals, vocal percussions, and weird vocals; Virginia Peraza on synthesizers, orchestrations, percussion and loops, Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Mellotron, Hammond organ, keyboards, sound effects, and backing vocals; Yaroski Corredera on bass guitar and synth bass; and Marco Alonso on drums, percussion, and saxophone. Guest musician Julio Padrón also provides trumpet.
“Insomnia” presents a significant change in the band’s musical style. They have always been this colorful symphonic progressive rock band; complete with crazy keys, emotional guitar solos, and really long songs with feelings of enlightenment. This album is far darker, more visceral, and even urban in its sound. There’s this pendulous feeling of melancholy, transition, and emotional turmoil at work here. To portray this, the band has become more like a proggy Dead Can Dance, and I definitely hear plenty of Vangelis in the shadowy and rainy instrumentals, and even in whole tracks that seem to be inspired by Blade Runner.
What does all of that mean? It means that this is less of a rock album and more of an ambient, movement-based record that focuses more on abstractions, textures, settings, and moods, rather than on the almighty solo or instrumental. Now, don’t get me wrong, the album has plenty of both of those, but you never get the feeling that they are the point or goal of the album. The overall journey will suck you in and spit you out the other end. This is definitely not an album to rock out to in your car with the windows down. It’s more of an experience that you might be wary to take once you’ve been through it once. In a way, I find that to be a stronger artistic statement, as a result.
These players have produced an album that steers away from prog clichés rather strongly. I’m seriously impressed with their musicianship, though I’m not surprised by it, as I’ve known how amazing they are. Virgina is one of my favorite keyboardists, and she abandons her funky, quirky style to create a wall of sheer atmosphere and extraordinary synth breakers. It’s amazing work. Roberto’s guitars are also textured and composed perfectly for their purpose, and they will seriously affect you. I have to admit, though, that the rhythm section from Yaroski Corredera and Marco Alonso may be the unsung hero here with technical beats and grooves that set the stage for literally everything on the album, not to mention Marco’s sax provides some smooth contrast.
Now, technically, this is the second part of a trilogy, which started with 2016’s “I Me Myself”. Obviously, this is a story about personal turmoil and inner battles. You can really feel that in the way some of the songs plunge into darkness, only to be pierced with waves of blinding synth or gigantic guitar solos, although sometimes the music gets jazzier and gentler. Indeed, the album features several tracks that are longer and more, well, like songs. There are some tracks, though, that might not be songs at all: They are textured, ambient, experiential statements that are creating a setting or mood for us.
“Citadel” is a phenomenal opening track. It starts out somewhat like any other Anima Mundi album, but soon you are drowning in darkness with synth and ambient effects washing over your mind. This feeling continues in “Nine Swans” and “Electric Credo”, which are basically just ambient extensions. All three sound so very good together.
The title track is wonderfully dark and jazzy, feeling like abandoned alleys and hazy streets. I love the chorus and also the way it explodes with fire and fury. It’s like the perfect combination of pure song with ambient accents. “Electric Dreams” is clearly an ambient extension of the title track, and it’s a pure joy. It obviously influenced by Vangelis and Philip Dick, and it makes you feel like you are standing there absorbing the city at night. I would also say that “The Wheel of Days” is also an extension of the title track, but this one feels more like you are tossing and turning in your bed in a lonely little apartment.
And then comes “New Tribe’s Totem”. Can I just say it? What a flippin’ amazing song. It is incredibly dark, but somehow also melodious. It has a great chorus, but also feels more like an experience, too. It feels, well, tribal in a way. The ambient textures are pierced by a dangerously dark guitar lick that never gets old, and there is this unconventional and eerie guitar solo near the end that leads us down dark hallways as the song gets more and more intense. The song is creepy, haunting, and impassioned. “Her Song” is a true song that ends the album, but still feels like an extension of “New Tribe’s Totem”. It is about as pleasant and simple as the album gets.
So, Anima Mundi have really succeeded in this change of style. I’m sure they will revisit their older sound sometime, as I suspect this particular album has more to do with overall story, but I’m still really impressed with what they have accomplished. There is definitely room to grow and tighten their sound even more; but, as it stands, “Insomnia” is a wonderful album that will give you a taste of something different.