Mr. Toad

Trench Art

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Trench Art is the first album released by MIO Records that is not a reissue. An Israelian group, Mr. Toad, plays a bucolic form of progressive rock, the kind rooted in medieval and early music. The music on Trench Art favors beauty over complexity and relies solely on acoustic instruments. The core of the instrumentation includes acoustic guitar and mandolin (Maor Arbitman), flute (Dana Eizen), and piano (Shimry Mesica, also the lead singer). A dozen of musicians contribute cello, violin, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, recorder, and drums here and there. "Queen of Hearts" and "D" -- the two tracks with prominent drums -- get close to the rock music of early Renaissance. The comparison is reinforced by Mr. Toad's weaving of classical tunes within their own songs, a trait that defined the early songs of Renaissance ("Kings and Queens," for instance). The other pieces lean more toward the folk and the medievalesque, while "Love Tale" gets dangerously close to King Crimson's "I Talk to the Wind," not only in instrumentation and mood, but melody-wise. "Queen of Hearts" makes a fine album opener: twice as long as any other song on the album, it also has a more complex structure and more ideas by the minute. The result is a piece akin to Gryphon's longer numbers, and some of Jethro Tull's mellower instrumental tunes. The pieces that follow are all less convincing -- not that they are weak, but they pass by without leaving much of an impression. The three "tea" tunes are, in fact, too "background for a tea party" for their own good. Trench Art is a short album of very cute, finely detailed music that has been marvelously captured, but it lacks substance.

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