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Music Review: CIAM – Anonymous

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Anonymous is CIAM’s first release. I only recently received it for review, although it’s apparently been out for about a year. It’s a crime that this CD hasn’t had more publicity, or should I say any publicity. It seems that CIAM (pronounced see-am) has had only what publicity they themselves have managed to scare up. They have managed to put in an appearance on KCRW, a West Coast US station which has a wide audience and influence across the US, as well as outside the US. They did about a 36-minute show that can be seen here.

CIAM has been tagged as alternative, emotronic and experimental, although I wouldn’t stop there. My first thought as soon as the CD started was, “The king is dead. Long live the king.” King Crimson, that is. On my first listen to this album — I didn’t look at anything beforehand to influence me, no liner notes, no Google, nothing — I decided after about 30 seconds that this band just might make a good successor to King Crimson, who’s been out of circulation far too long. Then, when the final cut came on, “Epitaph,” I knew for sure I’d found a worthy successor to the King. Actually, “Epitaph” was originally done by King Crimson close to 40 years ago, and I don’t think I’ve heard any other group even dare try it until now. King Crimson was one of the first groups of what is now termed prog rock, although Crimson was much more than just progressive rock. CIAM also have vestiges of art-rockers such as Brian Eno, at least one of the members is classically trained, and the group also cites Philip Glass as an influence.

Anonymous is an ambitious first release in many ways. First, it’s a CD and DVD together in one package, with the same music appearing on both formats. Yet, the DVD is a real video adventure, with extensive avant garde, art-rock influences which require your full attention to get full benefit. With successive viewings, I seemed to pick up new and different nuances each and every time.

The same could be said for the CD. The music is moody, almost melancholy at times, yet not depressing or sad in any way. The strings, guitars, violins and viola add another layer to the music, enriching it while not overdoing it.

The band got together in early 2006, and due to geography, it took them the best part of two years to finish this first album. Members of the group along with their technical and production sides come mainly from London, while one member lives in Tel Aviv, and Norway was involved as well. Let’s hope they can come up with another release soon. I’ve listened to Anonymous at least 30 or 40 times in the past couple weeks, and while I’m certainly not tired of it, another release would be most welcome. Listen to the CD first, then move on to the DVD. After that, alternate between the two. I’ve found them both eminently listenable.

The group’s website is pretty tech-y, hip and modern, but also very bare bones, although there’s considerable information available elsewhere on the web. CIAM could use a good agent to put all the available information together in one location. For instance, the website showed only a few 2008 appearances. But with a little searching, I discovered they’re going to be appearing in the US again this month. The Amazon listing also shows an anorexic amount of information, consisting only of the tracklist for the CD. That’s it. If the bandmembers are trying to remain Anonymous, you’re doing a great job!

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About Lou Novacheck