When I think of Belgium progressive artists they tend to be of the dark and Gothic nature like chamber rock bands Univers Zero, Present, Julverne, Aranis and the avant gard prog/jazz group The Wrong Object, and not the energetic cosmic space rockers Quantum Fantay - who just happen to be a spitting image of the UK festival band Ozric Tentacles.
Now let me re-phrase that ... it's unfair to call Quantum Fantay an Ozric clone, but there is no denying these guys were highly influenced by Ed Wynne and Company.
Quantum Fantay combine ethnic instruments, electric guitar, flutes, harp, bagpipes, sound samples, keyboard orchestration and unearthly cosmic synth sounds to create a delightful musical concoction equal parts prog, space, dub, and trance rock while incorporating elements of World Music like Reggae, Celtic and Middle Eastern motifs.
Quantum Fantay hail from the small Belgium city of Lokeren, and it was there where founding members Pieter Van den Broeck (aka Pete Mush) and Wouter De Geest (aka Jaro) - both ex-band mates from the group Oregon - honed and fine tuned their craft. And between the years 2005 and 2014 the band has produced five instrumental studio albums: "Agapanthusterra" (2005). "Ugisiunsi" (2007), "Kaleidothrope" (2009), "Bridges Of Kukuriky" (2010), and "Terragaia" (2014) and two live albums "From Herzberg To Livingroom" (2007) and "Bridges Of The Old Fishingmine" (2011).
The band's name Quantum Fantay was actually the result of a typo error which should have read Quantum Fantasy ... but rather than correct the spelling the members let it stand and have lived with it ever since. But I'll bet nine out of ten people who look at the CD cover see the name as I did and assume it reads Quantum Fantasy.
While the spectre of Ozric Tentacles casts a pronounced shadow over "Terragaia", the album also features tightly structured compositions with a nod towards bands like Camel, Jethro Tull, Red Jasper, Focus, Kenso, Saga, and heavy neo/prog bands like Arena.
Tracks like "Journey To Earth" and "Desert Rush" could easily be something off Ozric's "Jurassic Shift" album, and the tracks "Instant Karma" and "Indigofera" combine that Ozric edge with Middle Eastern motifs. While on the other hand the Reggae track "Yah Rostc Fooroap" is a wickedly inspired blend of Rastafarian house music with a cosmic twist. And "Azu" has a decided Caribbean flair.
"Cowdians" is the strangest track on the album, a sort of "Home On The Range" for settlers on Mars; an amalgamation of a western pioneer hoedown with an intergalactic cosmic rave, and the unlikely pairing of a 'picking and grinning' bluegrass banjo with synthesizer arpeggios. Parts of the song have a western flair, then break off into sequences reminiscent of the Solaris album "The Martian Chronicles".
"Aargh" has a heavy Celtic flavor combining bands like Jethro Tull, Red Jasper, Wolfstone, and Tempest, and some hard-edged Arena toss in for good measure.
The closing track "Journey from Earth" is a real standout track, unlike anything else on the album - a tightly structured symphonic epic - once again bringing to mind the Hungarian symphonic prog band Solaris and their album "The Martian Chronicles", as well as Camel and the Italian group PFM. A real cinematic showpiece and a highlight of the album.
Very highly recommended to aficionados of cosmic space rock bands like Ozric Tentacles, Ship Of Fools, Djam Karet, Secret Saucer, The Orb, Eat Static, Oresund Space Collective, Hidria Spacefolk, Mantric Muse, and Taipuva Luostisuora.
Members of the band include: Gino Bartolini (drums, Djembe, percussion), Dario Frodo (guitars), Pete Mush (synths, programming, Djembe, percussion), Jaro (bass, Djembe, harmonica, Didgeridoo) and guest musicians Charles Sla (flute), Nele Casneuf (harp), Anaisy Gomez (bagpipe, ocarina), Tom Tas (acoustic guitar), and Joachim Wannyn (banjo).
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on May 20th, 2014