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Experimental Q*Dans Mar?ian

Label:Djs Techno Conference – DTC025
Series:Romanian Sounds Unearthed – 2
Format:
Vinyl, LP, Album, Remastered, 180g
Country:Romania
Released:
Genre:Jazz, Rock
Style:Prog Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Jazz-Rock

Tracklist

A1Monstrul Apelor = The Water Monster
VocalsValentin Farca?
6:09
A2Imn Lui Giordano Bruno = Hymn To Giordano Bruno
VocalsValentin Farca?
3:11
A3Spre Univers 2 = Towards The Universe 2
VocalsValentin Farca?
5:04
A4Preludiu ?n Sol Minor De Bach = Prelude In G Minor By Bach
Written-ByEugen Tunaru
3:54
A5Spre Univers = Towards The Universe
VocalsValentin Farca?
5:11
B1Atlantida = Atlantis7:27
B2Zorile = The Dawn
VocalsValentin Farca?
3:49
B3Cvintetul Nr. 2 = Quintet No. 211:36
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Credits

Notes

Recorded in 1973 - A4, B2
Recorded in 1974 - A1, A2, A5, B1
Recorded in 1975 - A3, B3

Gatefold sleeve & insert
DMM (Direct Metal Mastering)
Made in France

'' I. Allegro ma non troppo – The Band’s Early History

February 22nd, 1974: Music journalist and concert manager Aurel Gherghel publishes an article in the ?S?pt?mana” magazine, as part of the latter’s “Starts Parade” series. “S?pt?mana” was at the time one of the main cultural publications in socialist Romania and one of the few to pay attention to the local rock music scene. The focus of attention is a band from Cluj, with a rather unusual name for the time: Experimental Quartet. Gherghel’s article was one of the first in the Romanian central media to notice the Transylvanian band, two and a half years after it had formed and established a reputation for itself in the university center of Cluj.
Which is why Gherghel began his article with an extended quote from a 1973 presentation of the band, that pointed out the relevance of Experimental Quartet for the student festivals of Cluj: “Beyond anything else […] we should pay attention to Experimental Quartet, a band not only fully developed, but truly musical. And if music has the purpose of suggesting the sounds of nature, of expressing the identity which lies at the crossroads between the nature of inner music and the sound of phenomenality, then its most important scope will be to find and, furthermore, to cleanse the rhythm of human life. What Experimental Quartet played was, in fact, “a hymn of dislocated and contrary conscience”, a symbol which is paramount for self redemption.” The quote may have sounded like the usual intellectual hype (or gibberish, if you prefer) that was common to many articles in the Romanian cultural media of the era, but it did send an important message across: this was a new band to discover and a band to remember.
As Gherghel mentioned in his introductory article to the band, Experimental Quartet was formed in November 1971, by students from the Institute of Medicine and Pharmacy and from the Music Conservatory. Dan Igre?iu, a student in medicine, and former drummer of the band Chromatic, gave the band its name, and it stuck like a glove, not only because of the formal musical affiliation of Eugen Tunaru (piano, organ) and Valentin Farca? (guitars, vocals), which added weight to the band’s claim of calling itself a “quartet”, complete, at first, with C?lin Coldea on bass guitar, but because the band’s music sounded like no one else’s in Romania at the time.
Experimental Quartet lost no time and got down to work fast: 1972 already saw the band write its first songs. Balad? [Ballad], written by Tunaru and Farca?, was performed at the 1972 Student Spring Festival in Cluj, and earned the band a First Prize for composition. The song’s name and the softer musical approach on some of their compositions would cause the local and, later on, the central media to label the band’s first influences as stemming from blues, although the band members themselves dismissed such musical pinpointing. As a student band, they were able to perform their songs at the University House in Cluj, although they did not pass on any offers they received to perform, like the ones at high school graduation balls. Former Metropol Group and Metrock guitarist/vocalist, Marius “Bubu” Luca, recalls how Experimental Quartet played at his graduation ball and how eager they were to play their own repertoire, as part of the concert, together with covers from rock bands that were highly popular at the time, like Deep Purple and Uriah Heep: “My colleagues wanted to hear some ballads as well, some lighter songs, to which they could take their girlfriends out to dance. The Experimentals were more keen on playing their intricate stuff, in 15/8, or 13/8 time signatures.”
1973 brought new compositions, new performances at student festivals (and new awards!), as well as a stable line-up. Nicolae Delioran became the drummer and Nicolae Bucaciuc the bassist, after an interlude with Boldizsár István on bass and vocals (Boldizsár would later form the band Semnal M, one of the best known Romanian rock bands in history). Musically, the nucleus of the band was formed around Eugen Tunaru and Valentin Farca?, who also took on vocal duties after Boldizsár’s departure. Both were hard working musicians, known for their rigorous practice and rehearsal programs. Tunaru was acknowledged unanimously for his perfect pitch, an extremely rare ability, and his classical musical influences from Chopin, or Bach, as well as his religious penchant, brought a luminous, but also punctilious, approach to Experimental Q’s music. This musical diligence was shared by Farca?, whose guitar influences at the time (a time when in Romania there was no formal higher education in classical guitar, not to mention electric one) included John McLaughlin or Robert Fripp, alongside Ritchie Blackmore, or Jimi Hendrix.
New compositions in 1973 included ‘Dans mar?ian’, which earned Tunaru and Farca? a new prize for composition at the Student Spring Festival in Cluj and broke into the music charts of the Tribuna (Cluj) and Cronica (Ia?i) magazines. ‘Dans mar?ian’ stayed on Tribuna’s Charts from May until August 1973. ‘Zorile” [The Dawn], ‘Galaxii’ [Galaxies] and the Adaptation of Bach’s Prelude in G Minor cemented the growing reputation of the band. In July 1973, this allowed them to play at the “Victoria” Bar in Mamaia, one of the most famous beach resorts on Romania’s seaside coast. While this may mean little to present day readers, one should remember that the development of the tourist industry in Romania during the 1960s was a key factor in the forming of a local rock music scene. Playing in a bar frequented by local and foreign tourists meant a breakthrough that was similar to that of being in the pop limelight. However, being in the limelight meant more than music fans’ attention.

II. Un poco vivace – Censorship and Lyrics
Limelight came at a cost and that was censorship. Cultural activists in 1970s socialist Romania were still struggling to make sense of teenage pop culture as a phenomenon. They had rejoiced in the 1968 anti-establishment movements all across Western Europe and USA, but feared that any such foreign influence might become a double edged sword among Romania’s youth. Nevertheless, Romania had an interest to portray itself as an open country, with an open-minded society. At least, that was the image the Communist Party wanted to present to foreign tourists, who visited the seaside and mountain resorts, or the major cities. All this meant that censorship was to be applied selectively, at official levels, but with ruthless and, at times, mindless, efficiency.
But what did all this mean for a band like Experimental Quartet, whose music was mostly instrumental? 1974 brought the band new laurels at student festivals, as well as performances in Bucharest, as part of larger concerts, aimed at young audiences. The “S?pt?mana” Magazine organized its own series of major concerts (called galas), where musically successful bands could thrive on the opportunity to reach a wider audience. 1973 had already provided Experimental Quartet with a series of radio recording sessions for the Cluj branch of the National Radio Broadcast. 1974 brought these sessions in the main branch of Bucharest. The same year also put the band in the limelight literally, as they were invited to appear on National Television, playing their composition ‘Atlantida’ [Atlantis] on TV, at the archaeological site of Sarmizegetusa Regia, in the Or??tie Mountains. Atlantida was the first song to open an entire string of compositions dedicated to the fictional island (the other ones would be Atlantis I and II). Yet, the song gained a new title, based on the place where the band had filmed: Atlantis became ‘The Legend of Sarmizegetusa’. The song entered the music charts of both “S?pt?mana” and “Flac?ra”, but the names of the song varied. While “S?pt?mana” mentioned the name Atlantis, and added its second name in brackets, “Flac?ra” turned ‘Atlantis’ into ‘The Legend of Sarmizegetusa’ entirely.
‘Monstrul apelor’ [The Water Monster], another 1974 song, suddenly became the less scary ‘Fiin?a apelor’ [The Water Creature/Being]. Later on, in 1976, the song ‘Vis intergalactic’ [Intergalactic Dream] would become ‘Zbor intergalactic’ [Intergalactic Flight]. Censorship was not just about song titles, it also affected the lyrics themselves, as Experimental Quartet would find out on one of their first compositions, ‘Zorile’ [The Dawn], from 1973. The initial lyrics, which formed the second part of the song, were addressed to trees and flowers, unaware that underneath them “dorm pe veci/oase seci, cranii reci” [are asleep forever/dry bones, cold skulls]. This did not sit well with radio broadcasters, so the dry bones and cold skulls turned into “eroi viteji” [brave heroes]. Other songs, like ‘Monstrul apelor”, or ‘Spre univers’ maintained a gloomy or mystical atmosphere in their lyrics and were performed as such. ‘Monstrul apelor’ told the story of a glabrous, pagan, green monster, with one eye on one face, and one tooth on his other face. ‘Spre univers’ had only two lines of lyrics: “Stele ?i vie?i, zbucium Etern/Moarte, Abis, Omul spre Vis” [Stars and lives, Eternal Struggle/Death, Abyss, Man towards The Dream]. The lyrics for ‘Spre univers’ were performed as such, although the capitalization of several nouns clearly shows that the songwriters endowed those words with so-called mystical meanings, which might have been considered unsuitable for pop audiences by censors.
Responsible for the dark undertones of the lyrics was guitarist/vocalist Valentin Farca?. Unlike Tunaru, whose influences were brighter due to their religious origin, Farca? dabbled and, at times, fully immersed himself in avantgarde poetry, the occult, and the new literature of the time, concerned with alien life and human civilization. As a high-school pupil, he had read the pre-Dadaist poet Urmuz, and, later on, he acquainted himself with esoteric and theosophic writings by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier, or by Helena Blavatsky. Last, but not least, there was the influence of Erich von D?niken and his immensely successful, but controversial, 1968 book, ‘Chariots of the Gods?’. The book disputed the very basis of religions, by claiming that their origins were merely reactions to contact with an alien civilization. Because of this criticism of religions and of its mass-audience success, in 1970, the book was deemed worthy of translation into Romanian at the Political Publishing House, with the title ‘Amintiri despre viitor’ [Memories about the Future]. Its success was guaranteed, but its influence on the Romanian public was not the one expected by officials. Many of its readers, Farca? included, saw it as a gateway into the mystical and the esoteric.
In the end, the censorship of their lyrics caused the band to stop writing and recording any tracks with vocals entirely and to develop an identity as an instrumental band. Furthermore, despite his training in the Conservatory, Farca? was never keen about singing. Performances in dance halls, filled with cigarette smoke, damaged his vocal chords. To this, one should also add the increasing reluctance of the band to play rock song covers in English, a language they did not know, but performed only phonetically, a fact they deemed unworthy of their status as serious musicians.
The collection of songs and compositions you find on this album shows, however, that lyrics could be an integral part of Experimental Q’s identity, despite the band’s fearsome reputation as highly proficient instrumentalists, either as a Quartet, or as a Quintet. Not only that, Experimental Q’s lyrics had little in common with the lyrics of other Romanian rock bands at the time, which were either simpler, lighter, or which relied upon Romanian established poets, in order to eschew the gauntlet of censorship.

III. Adagio (non) cantabile – A Track By Track Presentation

Not only were Experimental Q’s lyrics uncanny, but also was their delivery, as we shall see in this section. ‘Monstrul apelor’ [The Water Monster], written in 1974, opens the album in a gloomy, spooky atmosphere, reminiscent, in its opening part, of Pink Floyd’s psychedelic period. Farca?’s dark chords and Tunaru’s ominous organ give way to the first stanza about the green monster of the waters, delivered by the guitarist in an eerie voice. In comes a thunderous section of guitar riffs, supported by the rhythm section. This is all reprised for the second short stanza, but this time the guitar riff, doubled by Tunaru’s organ and the rhythm section, gives way to a burst of call and responses between the string instruments and the drums. Tunaru’s organ improvisations fill the middle section, before reprising the song’s main riffs in reverse order than the one from the beginning. The song ends in the same Floydian atmosphere, only with a dazzling touch this time, due to Tunaru’s organ.
‘Imn lui Giordano Bruno’ [Hymn to Giordano Bruno], written also in 1974, tells the story of Giordano Bruno’s sentencing to death, because of his beliefs. Tunaru’s organ starts the song in an unusual upbeat mode, seconded by Farca?’s guitar: “Da, mori arzand, pe un rug p?gan/Da, mori acum, ca un orb b?tran” [Yes, now you die in the fire of a pagan pyre/Yes, now you die, like a blind old man]. Farca?’s voice is strong and clear for the first stanza, only to turn high-pitched, as the vocalist delivers the line “da, razi mereu, da, razi mereu” [Yes, you keep on laughing, yes, you keep on laughing], while Tunaru’s organ reaches for the upper scales of his instrument, to render the insanity of the surreal and tragic moment. The second short stanza reinforces that Giordano Bruno dies laughing in the face of death, while invoking life. The music remains upbeat and the second part of the song actually goes into hard rock territory for a few bars, before offering Farca? the chance of a blistering solo. The song returns to the third stanza and ends with Farca? coughing all over the place, as he finishes the screechy “Yes, you keep on laughing”. Performed live, the song made a huge impression upon audiences and fellow musicians, such as Sfinx guitarist, vocalist, and leader, Dan Andrei Aldea.
As evidenced on this album, the unusual nature of Experimental Q’s lyrics also lay in its delivery. Rock vocalists in Romania during the first half of the 1970s adopted a clean style of singing, that somewhat followed that of pop vocalists. This can be easily noticed while listening to Phoenix, Progresiv TM, even Sfinx. Experimental Q’s vocals were not rock, in a Western sense of the term, but they were surely experimental for the Romanian rock scene of the time.
This album also features two versions of the same composition, ‘Spre univers’ [Towards the Universe]. The original version was recorded by the band as a quartet, in 1974, the second as a quintet, in 1975, after the previous year they had been joined by Gheorghe Marcovici, nicknamed ‘Marcovishnu’, a wonder flutist, with whom they had shared the stage at student festivals since 1973, and who used to practice eight hours a day. Other than the difference in tempo at the beginning, the main difference between the two songs lies in the middle section, reserved for solos. The 1974 version features Farca? on another ferocious guitar solo, that ends with an almost distorted funeral march mood, after a few nods paid to Robby Krieger, or Tony Iommi; the 1975 version sees Tunaru and Marcovici share the solo section and gives each an opportunity to show off their instrumental chops in an impressive flute-organ dialogue.
Johann Sebastian Bach proved to be a favorite among rock musicians. Whether it was The Nice, Jethro Tull, Ekseption, or Collegium Musicum and Marian Varga (on the eastern side of the Iron Curtain), Bach provided the testing ground for rock music adaptations. Experimental Q were no exception to this rule, and their adaptation of Bach’s Prelude in G Minor is indicative of how the musicians could render pre-classical music and adapt it to suit rock tempos, solos, and chord changes.
Side B is mostly dedicated to the longer, instrumental tracks of ‘Atlantida’ [Atlantis] and Cvintetul Nr. 2 [Quintet No. 2], which clock in together at almost twenty minutes. ‘Atlantida’ starts off with Tunaru’s omniscient organ, whose theme is reminiscent, in terms of mood, of Van Der Graaf Generator’s ‘Theme One’. Yet this introduction quickly transcends to a darker, more bizarre atmosphere, that lays the ground for an interchange of organ/guitar dialogues (both acoustic and electric). This is all gelled together, for more than seven minutes, by the rhythm section of Bucaciuc/Delioran. Nevertheless, ‘Atlantis’, like other Experimental Q longer tracks, is much more than a mishmash of instrumental solos; these are rigorously constructed compositions, with careful transitions, from softer passages to more fearsome ones, where each solo is meant to add substance to the overall piece. Tracks such as this are a clear indicator that, at its most ambitious and adventurous level, Experimental Q’s musical identity was created by all band members.
Zorile’ [The Dawn] is a short interlude between the two longer tracks, but it is one of the catchier tunes on the album. Despite its short length, it is divided into two sections, of which the first bears strong The Who influences (The Tommy era). The second part, with its uplifting mood, works well, even despite its censored lyrics, which Farca? barely sings at the end. The cold skulls of forensic inspiration would have given the song a different atmosphere, and this shows how even minor censorship can alter the mood of a piece.

IV. Finale?

The album closes with the mammoth ‘Cvintetul Nr. 2’ [Quintet No. 2]. Written in 1975, the piece manages to encapsulate all that Experimental Q had achieved in four years of hard work and endless pursuit of musical perfection. Musical influences and nods still exist: Farca?’s acoustic strumming, early in the piece, reminds one once again of Tommy (The Who); Marcovici’s flute takes inspiration on several occasions from the contemporary rock style of flute playing, pioneered by Jethro Tull; classical music lovers will also find elements of Brahms, played in a dissonant way, on guitar and flute. It was Experimental Q’s way of rebelling musically against what the Music Conservatory stood for: strict ways of music interpretation and adaptation. Despite its serious title, the piece might have easily be named after one of the band’s favorite space themes. Darker moods, the quest for celestial light, all are present here. Even more, the band even manages a few rare moments where organ, flute, and guitar solos simply feed off one another in such a smooth transition, that one hardly notices, if it were not for the specific approaches and sounds of each instrument.
Almost every one of the songs and pieces present on this album spent several weeks on the music charts of major cultural magazines, either in Bucharest or in Romania’s major cities. The band had fulfilled all steps that were necessary, in order to record their very own album: earn awards at festivals, record for the National Radio Broadcast, perform at major concerts in Romania’s main music halls, have articles written about them in the cultural media. Nevertheless, nothing happened. In this sense, Experimental Q remain one of the great unsolved puzzles of 1970s Romanian rock: at the same time elitist and underground, yet highly popular. At one point in 1976, the readers of the “S?pt?mana” had to choose between two songs to enter the magazine’s music pop chart, “top u”. One of them was Experimental Q’s ‘Vis intergalactic’. The other one was ‘C? a?a-i tot omul’, by the band Savoy. The latter were an established act, with one LP record under their belt on the Romanian sole label, Electrecord, and a highly popular soft rock group. Nevertheless, Savoy flunked and Experimental Q’s ‘Vis intergalactic’ made it all the way to No. 1, several months after the band had disbanded.
Indeed, in 1976, the members of Experimental Q were forced to break up the band, which they had struggled to keep together for as long as they could. The educational and employment system of socialist Romania offered little space of maneuver for jazz and rock groups, that were not affiliated with a particular cultural institution, or music ensemble. Most rock bands formed during the musicians’ higher education years and ended with their graduation. In certain cases, new bands would form from the ashes of older ones. Such had also been the case with Tunaru and Farca?, who had been part of a high-school band, Alfa-Centaur, before disbanding it and forming Experimental Quartet. The same happened once the Music Conservatory students graduated. Tunaru’s BA diploma was based on Chopin’s Concerto No. 1 in E Minor. Farca?, on the other hand, was more interested in sound effects that could be synthesized electronically.
Before professional activity came the military service, which brought Farca?, Delioran, and Bucaciuc together again for several months. For a while, an incomplete version of Experimental Q existed in the army. On one occasion, this line-up brought in future classical music composer and professor, Adrian Pop, on the electric piano. It offered Pop, who was classically trained, but normally played the cello, a rare chance to taste the adrenaline of a rock concert, with amplified instruments. The major earthquake that hit Romania, on March 4th 1977, gave Experimental Q one last chance to perform together for a series of concerts, whose purpose was to raise funds for the earthquake victims.
Later on, the job placement system made sure the band members would never play together again for more than thirty years. Tunaru, Bucaciuc, and Delioran would perform, at times, in the band Grup ’74, Farca? would form a new band, called Experimental Q2, with a more jazz-rock leaning. Bucaciuc and Delioran would form their own projects in the late 1970s, or during the 1980s. With the exception of the drummer, all members would leave the country before 1989. Their music stayed behind, buried in radio archives. Scarce pieces of memorabilia survived, as reminders of the times when the four (or five) band members would get together and play. Among them, Elisabet Bocaciu’s artwork, inspired by such music sessions, to which she had been a privileged spectator.
In a chronological sense (and in any other world with more common sense than this one), this album should have been the first one, before “Amintiri despre viitor” [Memories from the Future], that was released almost half of century later than it should have been. As probably noticed, this album which the band members wanted to call “Dans mar?ian” [Martian Dance], does not include the title track. This remains yet to be unearthed, as do others. The oddity of the album title should not leave its listeners bemused, as they should remember Led Zeppelin’s “Houses of the Holy”, from 1973. Zeppelin were also an influence on Experimental Q’s music, now they have also influenced how the band named their album.
Thus, “Dans mar?ian” is more a prequel to “Amintiri despre viitor”, than a sequel. Experimental Q’s history is yet to be over, both in life and in writing. Therefore, this album’s story should end the way a previous one started: On March 26th, 1976 music journalist and concert producer Aurel Gherghel published an article in the “S?pt?mana” magazine, entitled “Mai departe”...

V. Extra Coda

Those involved in the making of this record are grateful to Eugen Tunaru (Tunariu), Valentin Farca?, and Nicolae Bucaciuc (Bocaciu) for their approval and collaboration. We also extend our thanks to Marius Luca, Mihai “Croco” Manea, and Professor Adrian Pop.
This project is dedicated to the loving memory of Nicolae Delioran and Gheorghe Marcovici.''

Barcode and Other Identifiers

  • Barcode: 3 760300 319000
  • Other (Price): MSRP €16

Other Versions (1)

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Title (Format)LabelCat#CountryYear
New Submission
Dans Mar?ian (LP, Album, Remastered, Test Pressing, White Label, 180g)Djs Techno ConferenceDTC025Romania2022

Reviews

  • Lektronikumuz's avatar
    Lektronikumuz
    ''Experimental Q is a 70’s Romanian Progressive Rock band, whose recordings have been in a drawer for nearly 50 years. Today they can finally be published thanks to a precious refreshment work from the original tapes. After the release of “Amintiri Despre Viitor” in the summer of 2022 “Dans Mar?ian” will be released via DJs Techno Conference only on LP. It contains 8 tracks ranging from 3 to over 11 minutes, which confirm the good things heard on the previous album, tracing the 70’s sounds on the style of the ELP. The album opens with “Monstrul Apelor” recorded in 1974, which begins with a guitar and vocal arpeggio, and then with a change evolve the song with an intricate rhythm. The keyboard virtuosity is at the center of the sound, recalling bands like ELP, driving bass lines and continuous tempo changes that enhance the individual technique of the artists involved. Seue “Imn Lui Giordano Bruno” also recorded in 1974, with intertwining keyboard and guitar of exquisite workmanship, follows the heaviest sounds of the time. It is the shortest of the album, but it does not lack intensity and intricate textures, highlighting a more choral and less virtuous sound. “Spre Univers 2” instead comes from 1975 and begins with a good intertwining between keyboard and flute that duet in solos, with the guitar at the melodic line. The rhythmic session is pulled and elaborated with a technical drumming and a killer bass line, a truly engaging passage of the album that recalls the English Prog bands with cues like Jethro Tull and Isaiah. Like many groups of the ’70s they also proposed a classical music piece in a Prog key and it is “Preludiu ?n Sol Minor De Bach.” the guitar is a great protagonist with an acid solo that leaves room for the organ in the final. “Spre Univers” is the first part of the previous song recorded in 1974, an intricate and frenetic track centered on a prolonged guitar solo. The finale is enriched by a tempo change that brings the sound to softer textures, with the guitar always at the center of the scene. “Atlantida” is a concentrate of power and really engaging Prog sound, which stands out all the instruments with continuous tempo changes. In the central part an instrumental section with acoustic guitar arpeggios, before a final characterized by a long scratchy guitar solo. A short but intense track “Zorile” is more delicate and in the form of a ‘song’ with a warm and expressive vocal and interweaving of guitar and keyboard. The intensity increases with the passage of the piece that closes in a musical crescendo. The disc closes with a track from the 1975 recordings “Cvintetul Nr. 2” with a markedly symphonic style and with a sweet flute to guide the melodies. With the passing of the minutes it becomes more and more elaborate, with frenetic and intricate passages where the individual technique is highlighted. A track in pure 70’s style, which pleasantly concludes this good listening. A pleasant listening, which takes us back to the 70s and makes us take a journey through the sounds of this band that would have deserved better luck at the time. Engaging, dynamic and with very technical passages and with that unmistakable sound that only the 70s made us listen to. Lovers of Progressive sounds will have with this Lp the opportunity to appreciate the talent of this band which, thanks to this record box and its precious work, can now be listened to and valued properly.''

    (Review by Jacopo Vigezzi from Progressive Rock Journal)
    • Lektronikumuz's avatar
      Lektronikumuz
      '' I. Allegro ma non troppo – The Band’s Early History

      February 22nd, 1974: Music journalist and concert manager Aurel Gherghel publishes an article in the ?S?pt?mana” magazine, as part of the latter’s “Starts Parade” series. “S?pt?mana” was at the time one of the main cultural publications in socialist Romania and one of the few to pay attention to the local rock music scene. The focus of attention is a band from Cluj, with a rather unusual name for the time: Experimental Quartet. Gherghel’s article was one of the first in the Romanian central media to notice the Transylvanian band, two and a half years after it had formed and established a reputation for itself in the university center of Cluj.
      Which is why Gherghel began his article with an extended quote from a 1973 presentation of the band, that pointed out the relevance of Experimental Quartet for the student festivals of Cluj: “Beyond anything else […] we should pay attention to Experimental Quartet, a band not only fully developed, but truly musical. And if music has the purpose of suggesting the sounds of nature, of expressing the identity which lies at the crossroads between the nature of inner music and the sound of phenomenality, then its most important scope will be to find and, furthermore, to cleanse the rhythm of human life. What Experimental Quartet played was, in fact, “a hymn of dislocated and contrary conscience”, a symbol which is paramount for self redemption.” The quote may have sounded like the usual intellectual hype (or gibberish, if you prefer) that was common to many articles in the Romanian cultural media of the era, but it did send an important message across: this was a new band to discover and a band to remember.
      As Gherghel mentioned in his introductory article to the band, Experimental Quartet was formed in November 1971, by students from the Institute of Medicine and Pharmacy and from the Music Conservatory. Dan Igre?iu, a student in medicine, and former drummer of the band Chromatic, gave the band its name, and it stuck like a glove, not only because of the formal musical affiliation of Eugen Tunaru (piano, organ) and Valentin Farca? (guitars, vocals), which added weight to the band’s claim of calling itself a “quartet”, complete, at first, with C?lin Coldea on bass guitar, but because the band’s music sounded like no one else’s in Romania at the time.
      Experimental Quartet lost no time and got down to work fast: 1972 already saw the band write its first songs. Balad? [Ballad], written by Tunaru and Farca?, was performed at the 1972 Student Spring Festival in Cluj, and earned the band a First Prize for composition. The song’s name and the softer musical approach on some of their compositions would cause the local and, later on, the central media to label the band’s first influences as stemming from blues, although the band members themselves dismissed such musical pinpointing. As a student band, they were able to perform their songs at the University House in Cluj, although they did not pass on any offers they received to perform, like the ones at high school graduation balls. Former Metropol Group and Metrock guitarist/vocalist, Marius “Bubu” Luca, recalls how Experimental Quartet played at his graduation ball and how eager they were to play their own repertoire, as part of the concert, together with covers from rock bands that were highly popular at the time, like Deep Purple and Uriah Heep: “My colleagues wanted to hear some ballads as well, some lighter songs, to which they could take their girlfriends out to dance. The Experimentals were more keen on playing their intricate stuff, in 15/8, or 13/8 time signatures.”
      1973 brought new compositions, new performances at student festivals (and new awards!), as well as a stable line-up. Nicolae Delioran became the drummer and Nicolae Bucaciuc the bassist, after an interlude with Boldizsár István on bass and vocals (Boldizsár would later form the band Semnal M, one of the best known Romanian rock bands in history). Musically, the nucleus of the band was formed around Eugen Tunaru and Valentin Farca?, who also took on vocal duties after Boldizsár’s departure. Both were hard working musicians, known for their rigorous practice and rehearsal programs. Tunaru was acknowledged unanimously for his perfect pitch, an extremely rare ability, and his classical musical influences from Chopin, or Bach, as well as his religious penchant, brought a luminous, but also punctilious, approach to Experimental Q’s music. This musical diligence was shared by Farca?, whose guitar influences at the time (a time when in Romania there was no formal higher education in classical guitar, not to mention electric one) included John McLaughlin or Robert Fripp, alongside Ritchie Blackmore, or Jimi Hendrix.
      New compositions in 1973 included ‘Dans mar?ian’, which earned Tunaru and Farca? a new prize for composition at the Student Spring Festival in Cluj and broke into the music charts of the Tribuna (Cluj) and Cronica (Ia?i) magazines. ‘Dans mar?ian’ stayed on Tribuna’s Charts from May until August 1973. ‘Zorile” [The Dawn], ‘Galaxii’ [Galaxies] and the Adaptation of Bach’s Prelude in G Minor cemented the growing reputation of the band. In July 1973, this allowed them to play at the “Victoria” Bar in Mamaia, one of the most famous beach resorts on Romania’s seaside coast. While this may mean little to present day readers, one should remember that the development of the tourist industry in Romania during the 1960s was a key factor in the forming of a local rock music scene. Playing in a bar frequented by local and foreign tourists meant a breakthrough that was similar to that of being in the pop limelight. However, being in the limelight meant more than music fans’ attention.

      II. Un poco vivace – Censorship and Lyrics
      Limelight came at a cost and that was censorship. Cultural activists in 1970s socialist Romania were still struggling to make sense of teenage pop culture as a phenomenon. They had rejoiced in the 1968 anti-establishment movements all across Western Europe and USA, but feared that any such foreign influence might become a double edged sword among Romania’s youth. Nevertheless, Romania had an interest to portray itself as an open country, with an open-minded society. At least, that was the image the Communist Party wanted to present to foreign tourists, who visited the seaside and mountain resorts, or the major cities. All this meant that censorship was to be applied selectively, at official levels, but with ruthless and, at times, mindless, efficiency.
      But what did all this mean for a band like Experimental Quartet, whose music was mostly instrumental? 1974 brought the band new laurels at student festivals, as well as performances in Bucharest, as part of larger concerts, aimed at young audiences. The “S?pt?mana” Magazine organized its own series of major concerts (called galas), where musically successful bands could thrive on the opportunity to reach a wider audience. 1973 had already provided Experimental Quartet with a series of radio recording sessions for the Cluj branch of the National Radio Broadcast. 1974 brought these sessions in the main branch of Bucharest. The same year also put the band in the limelight literally, as they were invited to appear on National Television, playing their composition ‘Atlantida’ [Atlantis] on TV, at the archaeological site of Sarmizegetusa Regia, in the Or??tie Mountains. Atlantida was the first song to open an entire string of compositions dedicated to the fictional island (the other ones would be Atlantis I and II). Yet, the song gained a new title, based on the place where the band had filmed: Atlantis became ‘The Legend of Sarmizegetusa’. The song entered the music charts of both “S?pt?mana” and “Flac?ra”, but the names of the song varied. While “S?pt?mana” mentioned the name Atlantis, and added its second name in brackets, “Flac?ra” turned ‘Atlantis’ into ‘The Legend of Sarmizegetusa’ entirely.
      ‘Monstrul apelor’ [The Water Monster], another 1974 song, suddenly became the less scary ‘Fiin?a apelor’ [The Water Creature/Being]. Later on, in 1976, the song ‘Vis intergalactic’ [Intergalactic Dream] would become ‘Zbor intergalactic’ [Intergalactic Flight]. Censorship was not just about song titles, it also affected the lyrics themselves, as Experimental Quartet would find out on one of their first compositions, ‘Zorile’ [The Dawn], from 1973. The initial lyrics, which formed the second part of the song, were addressed to trees and flowers, unaware that underneath them “dorm pe veci/oase seci, cranii reci” [are asleep forever/dry bones, cold skulls]. This did not sit well with radio broadcasters, so the dry bones and cold skulls turned into “eroi viteji” [brave heroes]. Other songs, like ‘Monstrul apelor”, or ‘Spre univers’ maintained a gloomy or mystical atmosphere in their lyrics and were performed as such. ‘Monstrul apelor’ told the story of a glabrous, pagan, green monster, with one eye on one face, and one tooth on his other face. ‘Spre univers’ had only two lines of lyrics: “Stele ?i vie?i, zbucium Etern/Moarte, Abis, Omul spre Vis” [Stars and lives, Eternal Struggle/Death, Abyss, Man towards The Dream]. The lyrics for ‘Spre univers’ were performed as such, although the capitalization of several nouns clearly shows that the songwriters endowed those words with so-called mystical meanings, which might have been considered unsuitable for pop audiences by censors.
      Responsible for the dark undertones of the lyrics was guitarist/vocalist Valentin Farca?. Unlike Tunaru, whose influences were brighter due to their religious origin, Farca? dabbled and, at times, fully immersed himself in avantgarde poetry, the occult, and the new literature of the time, concerned with alien life and human civilization. As a high-school pupil, he had read the pre-Dadaist poet Urmuz, and, later on, he acquainted himself with esoteric and theosophic writings by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier, or by Helena Blavatsky. Last, but not least, there was the influence of Erich von D?niken and his immensely successful, but controversial, 1968 book, ‘Chariots of the Gods?’. The book disputed the very basis of religions, by claiming that their origins were merely reactions to contact with an alien civilization. Because of this criticism of religions and of its mass-audience success, in 1970, the book was deemed worthy of translation into Romanian at the Political Publishing House, with the title ‘Amintiri despre viitor’ [Memories about the Future]. Its success was guaranteed, but its influence on the Romanian public was not the one expected by officials. Many of its readers, Farca? included, saw it as a gateway into the mystical and the esoteric.
      In the end, the censorship of their lyrics caused the band to stop writing and recording any tracks with vocals entirely and to develop an identity as an instrumental band. Furthermore, despite his training in the Conservatory, Farca? was never keen about singing. Performances in dance halls, filled with cigarette smoke, damaged his vocal chords. To this, one should also add the increasing reluctance of the band to play rock song covers in English, a language they did not know, but performed only phonetically, a fact they deemed unworthy of their status as serious musicians.
      The collection of songs and compositions you find on this album shows, however, that lyrics could be an integral part of Experimental Q’s identity, despite the band’s fearsome reputation as highly proficient instrumentalists, either as a Quartet, or as a Quintet. Not only that, Experimental Q’s lyrics had little in common with the lyrics of other Romanian rock bands at the time, which were either simpler, lighter, or which relied upon Romanian established poets, in order to eschew the gauntlet of censorship.

      III. Adagio (non) cantabile – A Track By Track Presentation

      Not only were Experimental Q’s lyrics uncanny, but also was their delivery, as we shall see in this section. ‘Monstrul apelor’ [The Water Monster], written in 1974, opens the album in a gloomy, spooky atmosphere, reminiscent, in its opening part, of Pink Floyd’s psychedelic period. Farca?’s dark chords and Tunaru’s ominous organ give way to the first stanza about the green monster of the waters, delivered by the guitarist in an eerie voice. In comes a thunderous section of guitar riffs, supported by the rhythm section. This is all reprised for the second short stanza, but this time the guitar riff, doubled by Tunaru’s organ and the rhythm section, gives way to a burst of call and responses between the string instruments and the drums. Tunaru’s organ improvisations fill the middle section, before reprising the song’s main riffs in reverse order than the one from the beginning. The song ends in the same Floydian atmosphere, only with a dazzling touch this time, due to Tunaru’s organ.
      ‘Imn lui Giordano Bruno’ [Hymn to Giordano Bruno], written also in 1974, tells the story of Giordano Bruno’s sentencing to death, because of his beliefs. Tunaru’s organ starts the song in an unusual upbeat mode, seconded by Farca?’s guitar: “Da, mori arzand, pe un rug p?gan/Da, mori acum, ca un orb b?tran” [Yes, now you die in the fire of a pagan pyre/Yes, now you die, like a blind old man]. Farca?’s voice is strong and clear for the first stanza, only to turn high-pitched, as the vocalist delivers the line “da, razi mereu, da, razi mereu” [Yes, you keep on laughing, yes, you keep on laughing], while Tunaru’s organ reaches for the upper scales of his instrument, to render the insanity of the surreal and tragic moment. The second short stanza reinforces that Giordano Bruno dies laughing in the face of death, while invoking life. The music remains upbeat and the second part of the song actually goes into hard rock territory for a few bars, before offering Farca? the chance of a blistering solo. The song returns to the third stanza and ends with Farca? coughing all over the place, as he finishes the screechy “Yes, you keep on laughing”. Performed live, the song made a huge impression upon audiences and fellow musicians, such as Sfinx guitarist, vocalist, and leader, Dan Andrei Aldea.
      As evidenced on this album, the unusual nature of Experimental Q’s lyrics also lay in its delivery. Rock vocalists in Romania during the first half of the 1970s adopted a clean style of singing, that somewhat followed that of pop vocalists. This can be easily noticed while listening to Phoenix, Progresiv TM, even Sfinx. Experimental Q’s vocals were not rock, in a Western sense of the term, but they were surely experimental for the Romanian rock scene of the time.
      This album also features two versions of the same composition, ‘Spre univers’ [Towards the Universe]. The original version was recorded by the band as a quartet, in 1974, the second as a quintet, in 1975, after the previous year they had been joined by Gheorghe Marcovici, nicknamed ‘Marcovishnu’, a wonder flutist, with whom they had shared the stage at student festivals since 1973, and who used to practice eight hours a day. Other than the difference in tempo at the beginning, the main difference between the two songs lies in the middle section, reserved for solos. The 1974 version features Farca? on another ferocious guitar solo, that ends with an almost distorted funeral march mood, after a few nods paid to Robby Krieger, or Tony Iommi; the 1975 version sees Tunaru and Marcovici share the solo section and gives each an opportunity to show off their instrumental chops in an impressive flute-organ dialogue.
      Johann Sebastian Bach proved to be a favorite among rock musicians. Whether it was The Nice, Jethro Tull, Ekseption, or Collegium Musicum and Marian Varga (on the eastern side of the Iron Curtain), Bach provided the testing ground for rock music adaptations. Experimental Q were no exception to this rule, and their adaptation of Bach’s Prelude in G Minor is indicative of how the musicians could render pre-classical music and adapt it to suit rock tempos, solos, and chord changes.
      Side B is mostly dedicated to the longer, instrumental tracks of ‘Atlantida’ [Atlantis] and Cvintetul Nr. 2 [Quintet No. 2], which clock in together at almost twenty minutes. ‘Atlantida’ starts off with Tunaru’s omniscient organ, whose theme is reminiscent, in terms of mood, of Van Der Graaf Generator’s ‘Theme One’. Yet this introduction quickly transcends to a darker, more bizarre atmosphere, that lays the ground for an interchange of organ/guitar dialogues (both acoustic and electric). This is all gelled together, for more than seven minutes, by the rhythm section of Bucaciuc/Delioran. Nevertheless, ‘Atlantis’, like other Experimental Q longer tracks, is much more than a mishmash of instrumental solos; these are rigorously constructed compositions, with careful transitions, from softer passages to more fearsome ones, where each solo is meant to add substance to the overall piece. Tracks such as this are a clear indicator that, at its most ambitious and adventurous level, Experimental Q’s musical identity was created by all band members.
      Zorile’ [The Dawn] is a short interlude between the two longer tracks, but it is one of the catchier tunes on the album. Despite its short length, it is divided into two sections, of which the first bears strong The Who influences (The Tommy era). The second part, with its uplifting mood, works well, even despite its censored lyrics, which Farca? barely sings at the end. The cold skulls of forensic inspiration would have given the song a different atmosphere, and this shows how even minor censorship can alter the mood of a piece.

      IV. Finale?

      The album closes with the mammoth ‘Cvintetul Nr. 2’ [Quintet No. 2]. Written in 1975, the piece manages to encapsulate all that Experimental Q had achieved in four years of hard work and endless pursuit of musical perfection. Musical influences and nods still exist: Farca?’s acoustic strumming, early in the piece, reminds one once again of Tommy (The Who); Marcovici’s flute takes inspiration on several occasions from the contemporary rock style of flute playing, pioneered by Jethro Tull; classical music lovers will also find elements of Brahms, played in a dissonant way, on guitar and flute. It was Experimental Q’s way of rebelling musically against what the Music Conservatory stood for: strict ways of music interpretation and adaptation. Despite its serious title, the piece might have easily be named after one of the band’s favorite space themes. Darker moods, the quest for celestial light, all are present here. Even more, the band even manages a few rare moments where organ, flute, and guitar solos simply feed off one another in such a smooth transition, that one hardly notices, if it were not for the specific approaches and sounds of each instrument.
      Almost every one of the songs and pieces present on this album spent several weeks on the music charts of major cultural magazines, either in Bucharest or in Romania’s major cities. The band had fulfilled all steps that were necessary, in order to record their very own album: earn awards at festivals, record for the National Radio Broadcast, perform at major concerts in Romania’s main music halls, have articles written about them in the cultural media. Nevertheless, nothing happened. In this sense, Experimental Q remain one of the great unsolved puzzles of 1970s Romanian rock: at the same time elitist and underground, yet highly popular. At one point in 1976, the readers of the “S?pt?mana” had to choose between two songs to enter the magazine’s music pop chart, “top u”. One of them was Experimental Q’s ‘Vis intergalactic’. The other one was ‘C? a?a-i tot omul’, by the band Savoy. The latter were an established act, with one LP record under their belt on the Romanian sole label, Electrecord, and a highly popular soft rock group. Nevertheless, Savoy flunked and Experimental Q’s ‘Vis intergalactic’ made it all the way to No. 1, several months after the band had disbanded.
      Indeed, in 1976, the members of Experimental Q were forced to break up the band, which they had struggled to keep together for as long as they could. The educational and employment system of socialist Romania offered little space of maneuver for jazz and rock groups, that were not affiliated with a particular cultural institution, or music ensemble. Most rock bands formed during the musicians’ higher education years and ended with their graduation. In certain cases, new bands would form from the ashes of older ones. Such had also been the case with Tunaru and Farca?, who had been part of a high-school band, Alfa-Centaur, before disbanding it and forming Experimental Quartet. The same happened once the Music Conservatory students graduated. Tunaru’s BA diploma was based on Chopin’s Concerto No. 1 in E Minor. Farca?, on the other hand, was more interested in sound effects that could be synthesized electronically.
      Before professional activity came the military service, which brought Farca?, Delioran, and Bucaciuc together again for several months. For a while, an incomplete version of Experimental Q existed in the army. On one occasion, this line-up brought in future classical music composer and professor, Adrian Pop, on the electric piano. It offered Pop, who was classically trained, but normally played the cello, a rare chance to taste the adrenaline of a rock concert, with amplified instruments. The major earthquake that hit Romania, on March 4th 1977, gave Experimental Q one last chance to perform together for a series of concerts, whose purpose was to raise funds for the earthquake victims.
      Later on, the job placement system made sure the band members would never play together again for more than thirty years. Tunaru, Bucaciuc, and Delioran would perform, at times, in the band Grup ’74, Farca? would form a new band, called Experimental Q2, with a more jazz-rock leaning. Bucaciuc and Delioran would form their own projects in the late 1970s, or during the 1980s. With the exception of the drummer, all members would leave the country before 1989. Their music stayed behind, buried in radio archives. Scarce pieces of memorabilia survived, as reminders of the times when the four (or five) band members would get together and play. Among them, Elisabet Bocaciu’s artwork, inspired by such music sessions, to which she had been a privileged spectator.
      In a chronological sense (and in any other world with more common sense than this one), this album should have been the first one, before “Amintiri despre viitor” [Memories from the Future], that was released almost half of century later than it should have been. As probably noticed, this album which the band members wanted to call “Dans mar?ian” [Martian Dance], does not include the title track. This remains yet to be unearthed, as do others. The oddity of the album title should not leave its listeners bemused, as they should remember Led Zeppelin’s “Houses of the Holy”, from 1973. Zeppelin were also an influence on Experimental Q’s music, now they have also influenced how the band named their album.
      Thus, “Dans mar?ian” is more a prequel to “Amintiri despre viitor”, than a sequel. Experimental Q’s history is yet to be over, both in life and in writing. Therefore, this album’s story should end the way a previous one started: On March 26th, 1976 music journalist and concert producer Aurel Gherghel published an article in the “S?pt?mana” magazine, entitled “Mai departe”...

      V. Extra Coda

      Those involved in the making of this record are grateful to Eugen Tunaru (Tunariu), Valentin Farca?, and Nicolae Bucaciuc (Bocaciu) for their approval and collaboration. We also extend our thanks to Marius Luca, Mihai “Croco” Manea, and Professor Adrian Pop.
      This project is dedicated to the loving memory of Nicolae Delioran and Gheorghe Marcovici.''

      (Text by Claudiu Oancea)

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