Squonk Opera - Howandever. 1994 USA

Howandever is the debut album from Squonk Opera, a highly creative 6 piece outfit from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I suspect the group itself never saw themselves as a "progressive rock" band, yet they were adopted by the fans from the outset, and who wouldn't accept a new following? Not long after this album, they found their way to North Carolina and played for the small but exuberant ProgDay crowd. Their music is highly eclectic, bordering on what we now refer to as "avant prog", though never consciously trying hard to fit any such expectation, whatever that may be. There's an Irish meets Indian meets Broadway Play theme throughout (as noted by instruments such as Celtic flute, Wind Synthesizer, and Electronic Tabla). 'Dance of the Seven Vowels' takes the first two native elements and blends them directly together. Of course, having noted that, '... as yet...' has a strong Moorish Flamenco bent - with tablas of course. Eclectic... yeaaaa. Throughout, the female vocals of Kate Aronson soar peacefully over the proceedings - and certainly Lisa Gerrard needs to be in the conversation, even if not entirely accurate. The opener 'Inside Height' is a jaw dropper, and worth the price of admission alone. 'The Unusual Mrs. Spitz' and 'Whistle & Spit' are hilarious, and sounds more like the dialog one might run into from a modern cable TV show or movie, and would have to be considered ahead of its time in terms of smart female cynicism. This is the type of album I like almost by accident, and I've not ventured further with Squonk Opera fearing that it was a "chance meeting" never to be repeated again. I certainly will never turn down an opportunity to hear any of their other works, and would welcome to be proven wrong in my presumption. It appears the band even attained a bit of mainstream fame as a contestant on America's Got Talent (2011), and were eliminated in the quarters. I'll have to ask my wife if she remembers them (she loves those shows...).

Personal collection
CD: 1994 Forgotten Works

I bought this privately released CD not long after it was released, and saw the aforementioned concert in 1996. Nowadays this album has been completely forgotten, which is too bad really. Seems the label name is spot on.

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