Published on 7th December 2019
Ectratis – The Artificial Spirit
Okay, Croatian prog, an oxymoron waiting to happen one thinks, as nothing quite like this has strayed across my musical radar until now. The brainchild and driving force behind this album, indeed, project, is a young man by the name of Matej Blečić, who apparently conceived, created and recorded this in his bedroom studio in Zagreb, overlooking the banks of the mighty Sava river in the shadows of the Medvednica mountain… (I may have been a little carried away with the location description, although it sets the scene).
Listening to this album, the word ‘prog’ is a loose-fitting garment for this eclectic collection of classical, West Coast jazz, world music, a little fusion, all cable-stitched together with a running thread of funk. Seguing from Steely Dan, via Stevie Wonder with deep pockets of Jamiroquai hiding many more surprises. But then, the definition of prog is hard to hold up to perfect scrutiny.
After a somewhat apologetic opening track consisting of some mournful piano meanderings, it ends on a slightly more melodic key before quickly laying down the jazz-funk track that follows in true foot-tapping style, soon joined by a pretty synth-style Moog weaving over and with the night club groove ticking along underneath.
The jazz-funk continues and introduces the first lyrics, reminiscent in phrasing of a certain Ben Folds Five following a little toke to smooth things out. Those keys come tinkling in again, a little more zizzy than previously, before fading out on a reverb hold.
Lots of Billy Cobham here, if a little more attention to detail, making it a tad overproduced? But nevertheless, repeated plays of this album, and it begins to insinuate itself into the overworked musical memory banks my brain likes to call home.
On Here For You II (not sure where ‘I’ is, this being a debut album), the finger-snapping and cool harmonies carry distant echoes of Brian Wilson even, with some excellent bass lines dropping in and out before a sudden fade-out via the keys once more.
Finally (well almost), some swirling Genesis-esque keyboards emerge at last, growing quietly in stature before bowing gracefully and submitting to our overarching funk rhythm once more.
Beautiful saxophone played succinctly by Krešimir Kottek gives way to to the dancing keys of Blečić, and the chopping guitar of Svibor Perković joins the party, all ably assisted by the steady if not spectacular drumming of Roko Jurinec. The sax is enticed back before the bass guitar of Marko Bradaš cuts loose, and then the Baltic Tony Banks is back for a brief moment, but the funk must lead the way through this track, as it endeavours to reign in the jazz fusion outbreak, finally hand-brake turning into park, and an abrupt and sudden end to what is the major ‘tour-de-force’ of this album.
We are then treated to the book-end version of Introduction, the grandly named Post Scriptum its wind-down compatriot, tinkling quietly through to its simple conclusion.
And there you have it, a collection of songs for those who like their ‘prog’ to be somewhat ‘different’ and certainly nothing you could call groundbreaking. Nevertheless, for a first outing, and led by an artist who appears to be still of tender years (well certainly by comparison with this reviewer), a more than credible album, albeit a mite short at just over 30 minutes, that can entertain if not enthral the listener.
01. Introduction (1:30)
02. Prosperity II (4:34)
03. The Alternative Fact (4:52)
04. Momentum (00:46)
05. Invisible (3:18)
06. Reval (3:10)
07. Here For You II (3:13)
08. Tau Ceti (8:15)
09. Post Scriptum (1:26)
Total Time – 31:04
Matej Blečić – Keyboards, Vocals
Svibor Perković – Guitar
Marko Bradaš – Bass Guitar
Roko Jurinec – Drums
Recorded at Matel Blecic’s bedroom studio, Zagreb
Produced and Mixed by Matel Blecic
Mastered by Davor Maricic
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Croatia
Date of Release: 23rd September 2019