Athens group Ciccada’s first album A Child In The Mirror came out on AltrOck subsidiary Fading Records in 2005 and garnered some favourable reviews. Ten years later, here’s the follow up, the rather charming The Finest Of Miracles. Retaining the symphonic and pastoral musical imagery of the debut, The Finest Of Miracles melds together a host of influences from the original prog era, leaning towards the more folk-influenced acts such as Renaissance, a perhaps inevitable comparison given that the occasional vocals on this record are supplied by Evangelia Kozoni whose pure tones unavoidably bring to mind Annie Haslam.
Occasional heavier passages such as the climax to Eternal prevent the album from becoming twee, on this occasion down to Änglagård’s Johan Brand’s trademark Rickenbacker bass. In fact as it progresses the record reveals jazz influences, and even the odd glimpse of avant stylings alongside swathes of classic Rock Progressivo Italiano symphonics. All of that, together with the folk-prog references make for an interesting stew, bubbling away nicely.
At The Death Of Winter is an intricate and involving tune, backing a poem by Mike Harding, and plays on a labyrinthine arrangement, of a kind once favoured by Gentle Giant. This is my favourite song on the album, which is definitely a show of two halves, the second part being the title track, a near 20-minute song suite, which we will come to later.
Ciccada’s intricate music rewards repeated plays, as each spin of this disc reveals more details. The themes winding through the whimsical Around The Fire give it the feel of a classical construct, another style used successfully throughout the album. The acoustic and electric guitar picking of Yorgos Mouhos on this song is a delight, with the flute playing of Nicolas Nikopoulos also worthy of mention.
The title track is split into five seamless sections, commencing with the darkest section of music on the record. This early menace does not last long, and soon we are in more familiar Ciccada territory, led by Nicolas’s reeds. The lightly skipping and varied percussion supplied by Yiannis Iliakis gives Wandering a briefly playful nature, before it meanders through many a musical nuance, sometimes fleetingly close to Tull territory. If anything I consider this tune is trying just a little too hard, and attempts to cover too many bases, but others may find it ticks all the right boxes.
The beauty inherent in this band is in the interplay, and with Siren’s Call, the reeds, guitar and keyboards make for a lovely sinuous and delicate aural picture. As ever, AltrOck mixmaster Udi Koomran’s mastering has made this a great sounding record, and I must also mention the very tasteful and colourfully designed tri-foldout digipak. The rather impressive main picture is the work of drummer Yiannis Iliakis.
We have to wait until As Fall The Leaves before we hear Evangelia’s dulcet tones on the title-suite, which complements the gossamer but tough musicality of the band perfectly. Although singing in Greek, I would guess that given this section’s title and the English lyrics of the earlier songs from the first half of the album that the pastoral themes are present and correct. More Greek lyrics on the slightly heavier closing section Song For An Island conclude a highly enjoyable album that while wearing its many and varied influences with pride never gives the impression of an act of homage that some more well known acts in this sphere of music are known for producing.
If you like adventurous folk-influenced prog with a symphonic bent and an ear for a clever arrangement, then you won’t be disappointed.
01. A Night Ride (6:26)
02. Eternal (8:01)
03. At The Death Of Winter (4:04)
04. Around The Fire (9:16)
05. Lemnos (Lover’s Dance) (0:47)
~ The Finest Of Miracles:
06. Birth Of The Lights (1:52)
07. Wandering (6:42)
08. Sirens’ Call (1:38)
09. As Fall The Leaves (3:09)
10. Song For An Island (4:47)
Total Time – 46:48
Evangelia Kozoni – Vocals
Nicolas Nikopoulos – Flute, Tenor Sax, Recorders, Organ, Mellotron, Synthesiser, Piano, Electric Piano & Glockenspiel
Yorgos Mouhos – Acoustic, Classical, Electric Guitars & Backing Vocals
Yiannis Iliakis – Drums, Marimba & Assorted Percussion
Lydia Boudouni – Violin (all except 4 & 5)
Omiros Komninos – Bass (all except 1,2 & 5)
Savvas Paraskevas – Piano, Electric Piano (1)
Jargon – Vocals (3)
Yorgos Lambadis – Bass (1)
Mariana Vassou – Cello (2 & 3)
Panayiotis Sioras – Clarinet, Bass Clarinet (all except 1 & 4)
Johan Brand – Bass (2)
Record Label: Fading Records
Year Of Release: 2015