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The record label Cuneiform is quite good at flushing out young groups who will strengthen its conception of what avant-garde progressive rock is or should be. Sotos, a French group with one previous album under their belt, embodies what good, inventive musicians can do best with the heritage of King Crimson, Magma, and Univers Zero. The two long chamber rock pieces presented on Platypus show strong influences from these mammoths, but also from fellow countrymen Philarmonie (in guitarist Yan Hazera's playing) and Nebelnest (in the prominent role the rhythm section plays). Bruno Camiade's seven-part "Malstrøm" explores every possible mood between hyperactive avant-prog à la Miriodor or 5uu's and the quieter passages in Univers Zero's first albums. The writing is precise and surprisingly concise considering the duration of the piece (41 minutes). It is simply packed with ideas. If the relation between some of the themes and sections is not always as clear as it should be, sheer excitement fills up the holes. Yan Hazera's 28-minute "Wu" is a completely different affair. Leaving the quintet's string section (violinist Nicolas Cazaux and cellist Nadia Leclerc) in the back row for most of its duration, the piece builds up into a frenzied momentum, screaming its way between '90s King Crimson and You-era Gong. If the piece had ended after 22 minutes, it would have left all listeners breathless. The looser catharsis and reprise attenuate its impact, but that's being finicky about a very convincing album. Platypus positions Sotos as the most exciting avant-prog band to surface since Boud Deun. Highly recommended.

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