Per Aspera ad Astra, the fifth studio album by Taproban, was released in 2017 on Musea Records with a renewed line up featuring Gianluca De Rossi (piano, organ, Minimoog, Mellotron), Roberto Vitelli (bass, guitars) and Ares Andreoni (drums) plus a couple of guest musicians such as former Taproban’s member Francesco Pandico (drums, percussion) and Antonio Marangolo (sax). It contains some reworked tracks from two previous album (Outside Nowhere and Posidonian Fields) and only three new pieces. According to the liner notes, the album is dedicated to the heroes of space explorations like its 2004 predecessor, Outside Nowhere, of which it is practically a new version with some substantial cuts and additions. The title of this work, in Latin, means “through difficulties to the stars” and the art cover, taken from a tableaux by Daniela Ventrone entitled Tramonto sul mare (Sundown on the sea), reflects the subject matter depicting in vivid colours the mythological flight of Apollo’s chariot upon a raging sea...
The opener is the title track of the 2004 album, “Outside Nowhere”, a long and complex instrumental suite that describes a mission in space, from the launch to the come back in a new world. Here the piece is slightly shortened (the section named “The Last Goodbye”, featuring Alex Papotto’s sax solo, was cut out) and reinterpreted by the new line up with energy and passion: in seconds they shot through veils of crimson and pink and gold and blue into the piercing white of day... (quote from A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke). Even if the sequence of the different sections is slightly changed, in my opinion the final the result is as good as the original version.
The first (relatively) new track is the short “Fragments Of Life”, a reinterpretation in a softer key of the first section of the aforementioned suite, “At The Fifteenth Orbit”. It is followed by three other tracks from Outside Nowhere: “Il difficile equilibrio tra sorgenti di energia” (The difficult balance between energy sources), where music and lyrics describe an endless conflict between spheres attracting and repelling each other until they’ll melt into the void, then the powerful, aggressive “veS ml’ taHghach (A Klingon War Dance)” with reference to the species of swarthy, ruthless humanoids in the science fiction series Star Trek and finally the reflective, melancholic “Nexus” where, after the beautiful sax solo and the heartfelt vocals by Gianluca de Rossi, you can hear in the background the last words of Russian cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov before crushing to the ground on April 24, 1967, after nineteen orbits around the Earth. The new versions are all convincing and perfectly match together.
Then it’s the turn of two new instrumental tracks. The first is “D.I.A.N.A.” (Domotic Interface Artificial Neurological Android) that every now and again could recall The Alan Parsons Project and maintain a sci-fi atmosphere as suggested by the title that refers to home automation. The second is the beautiful “Agata Lost In The Mirror Whale” with its sumptuous display of keyboard virtuosity.
The last two tracks are both taken from 2006 album Posidonian Fields. “Entwinings” and “Octopus!” have been reworked and linked together to form something new and even the lyrics are different from the original version. Here music and lyrics describe the meeting with the marine creature from a very personal point of view... “You know an octopus is smarter than a dog, and would probably make a much better pet. It’s a wonderful, clever, very emotional creature, an octopus. Only we never think of them that way”... (just a short quote from the novel Sphere by Michael Crichton to give an idea of the content of the piece!).
On the whole, I think this album could be an excellent addition to a prog collection: nice packaging, great music... even if you already own Taproban’s previous works I’m sure it won’t be a waste of money!
You can listen to the complete album HERE