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The press release introducing this debut album by the Mexican instrumental quartet Metaconcienca compares the music to King Crimson, Dixie Dregs, Genesis, and Yes. Not only is this misleading, it serves the album wrong. Because Bestiaro is an excellent disc of instrumental progressive rock, but it has nothing to do with symphonic prog or heavy jazz-rock. Instead, guitarists Francisco Estrada and Ricardo Moreno and bassist José Ramón Porrúa have found a way to combine the complex rhythms and virtuosic precision of the French Robert Fripp-influenced guitar group Philharmonie on the one hand and the earthier jamming feel of the American space-prog rock outfit Djam Karet. Tracks like "Garhi" and "Bestiaro" owe much to the latter in their segued sections of lively riffs and half-tempo solos, where "Péndulo" (performed on acoustic and classical guitars) revisits Philharmonie's sound from a Mexican perspective. Drummer Carlos Bonequi, who was not involved in the writing process, plays convincingly throughout, contrasting a light cymbal touch with a powerful snare drum hit. If the music can be technically challenging (the title track and "Eniac" keep on shifting time signatures), the musicians rarely resort to flashy chops, jazz-rock style. Estrada takes a couple of pyrotechnic solos in "Garhi" and "Bestiaro," but they remain tasteful. Everything else is a matter of stellar musicianship harnessed to serve the superior writing skills of this group. This could be the most impressive prog rock debut album of 2003.

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