Just what is ‘Chamber Prog’? If we take Marcela Bovio’s 2nd studio LP as exemplar, we discover a textured blend of precision vocal dynamics, resounding piano chords, and timbre-full violin & cello. These instruments, and the velvet atmosphere that adds its own dark hues to the musical palette, play in service to a loose concept of personal stories ranging from the emotional intensity of specific relationships to mythical heroes to the self-understanding of science itself. It’s prog, except when it’s pop, except that it’s thoroughly classical.
Bovio has long since established her status as a vocalist in progressive metal with Stream of Passion, Ayreon, and MaYaN. On Through Your Eyes, she welds the bombast of a Bruce Dickinson or Kate Bush with the intimate annunciations of a teenager isolated in the piano practice room. Instrumental accompaniment maintains a live presence but seldom ventures past ‘sparse’; Joost van den Broek’s production puts everything in its place—in service to the song. The songs themselves are, rightly, directed in service to Bovio’s voice.
The concept is that fans pitched story ideas to Bovio, who embraces both the general spirit and the enfleshed details of these stories in crafting the 11 songs that comprise Through Your Eyes. On “Scientist,” this embrace takes the form of a quintessentially prog fascination with centuries-old European history. Bovio’s vocal dynamics nearly ignite the speakers when exploring the existential implications of scientific inquiry, but glide gently across references to absinthe and late-night intellectual soirees. “Icarus” is less a lament for the fallen angel than a proclamation of rebellion through myth; thoroughgoing lament is left to “Thorns and Roses,” in which Bovio utilizes her native tongue to express the deeply conflicted emotions pervading a break-up. In a somewhat claw-in-cheek left-turn, “Magic Powers” transforms the proceedings into a cabaret homage to domestic felines of the ginger persuasion.
If there’s a flaw on this album, it’s that the particular arrangement of vocal triumphs and instrumental support gets a bit ‘same-y’ across many of the album’s tracks. Alternatively, the consistency of mood renders the album especially suitable for a number of situations, especially if those situations call for contemplation or self-reflection. Bovio is equally adept at describing the macrocosm of the universe and giving voice to the microcosm of the individual soul. Consequently, Through Your Eyes is immediately accessible as a work of obvious beauty, but thoroughly rewarding of revisitation as a work of artistic maturity.
If these songs belong anywhere in addition to our ears and hearts, it’s in the black concentric grooves of a 12” vinyl LP. The album, as a medium, was first employed in the service of classical music, and the Baroque elements here will surely unfold new treasures beneath the caress of a phonograph stylus. Luckily, Bovio is running an ongoing Indiogogo campaign (through April 23) to crowdfund manufacturing costs for pressing Through Your Eyes to glorious vinyl.