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21 Apr 2017

Asia Minor “Crossing The Line” 1979 France/Turkish Symphonic Prog

Asia Minor “Crossing The Line” 1979 France/Turkish Symphonic Prog
One of the many fantastic, obscure European progressive bands to be unearthed and made available to the prog-buying public is ASIA MINOR, who only released two very small-time albums in the late ‘70s. This band took a more unusual twist on the genre popularised by CAMEL, with a mostly instrumental rock (what lyrics there are, are sung in a strangely accented English), with folk and ethnic influences, featuring much flute, guitar and keyboards. The two albums are “Crossing The Line” and “Between Flesh and Divine”, the latter one is absolutely essential. Whereas the similarly dreamy French progressive PULSAR drew on PINK FLOYD and KING CRIMSON influences. Excellent and original, indispensable for all lovers Progressive rock……… 

Turkish band formed in Paris around mid-70’s as Asia Minor Process by three Turkish emigrants, guitarist/flutist Erik Tekeli, guitarist/singer Setrak Bakirel and drummer Can Kozlu.In 1976 Kozlu was replaced by Lionel Beltrami, the name was shortened to Asia Minor and the band started recording its first tracks, mixing Classic Prog with some Turkish ethnic sounds.In three tracks the band was helped by Grime’s keyboardist Nicolas Vicente.With no particular interest in their work by labels, Asia Minor self-released their debut “Crossing the Line” during the spring of 1979 on their own Ware of Asia Minor.More recently the album was re-issued in CD and vinyl formats by Musea Records. 
A good album indeed, “Crossing the Line” is often an exciting mix of melodic Progressive Rock with a CAMEL-esque edge and the darker aspects of the style, somewhat in a KING CRIMSON vein and add some deep ethnic tunes here and there.The sound is led by the guitars and flutes with long instrumental parts and professional interplays between the two instruments in a Symphonic style.The rhythm section (with Bakirel providing the bass lines) is pretty dynamic with often deep bass lines and the great drumming of Beltrami.The keyboards remain unfortunately mostly in the background, having a very thin sound.However the dominant guitar and flute parts will reward you: nice melodic hooks, folky heavy flute drives and a nice amount of breaks and battles offer series of fascinating moments.Vocals are sung in English without signs of an annoying accent but also in Turkish in a couple of tracks, the later being outstanding Progressive Rock pieces.Only a couple of flaws are detected, the one being the aforementioned thin-sounding keyboards, the other being the mediocre production overall, an evident fail regarding many prog albums around late-70’s. 

“Crossing the Line” is a pretty strong release of Classic Progressive Rock by a talented band, which failed to attract around the (wrong) period of its release, but ended up to be a winner through sands of time.Strongly recommended…3.5 stars…….by apps79 …………….. 

Take Camel’s sound, then reburbish it with a harsh attitude in the guitar riffs and solos, and while you’re at it, enrich its melodic sensibility with Asian flavours (mostly on flute), and don’t forget to add an eerie ambience a-la Pulsar and a great amount of incredibly tight drumming: the result of this set of operations is the debut album by Asia Minor, a solid symphonic ensemble formed by Turksih musicians resident in France. Though I must admit that I prefer their following album, it’s also fair to state that 'Crossing the Line’ is a real classic of late 70s prog. Tracks 1, 2 and 4 are the ones I consider the most representative of the musical virtues I’ve pointed out in the first paragraph (specially 'Misfortune’, an awesome lesson of how to manage contrasts cleverly with explosive energy), but it’s also relevant to mention that the guys of Asia Minor can be soft and subtle, as in the evocative 'Landscape’ (such a pity that it’s not longer…). I wish I could give it a 4 ½ star rating (I’m saving the perfect rating for their second offering 'Between Flesh and Divine’), but anyway, suffice it to reiterate that this is one of the best prog recordings to come out of France (or anywhere else, for that matter) in a time when the genre was starting to face a serious decline in terms of commercial attention and artistic relevance……. by Cesar Inca …….. 

With unequivocal reference to the work of CAMEL, ASIA MINOR’s debut album is a great album of instrumental and atmospheric beauty (as is their second album). “Crossing The Line” is full of fluid and cascading music with gentle vocals and harmonies. This album is dripping in analog space keyboard vibes, flutes galore, interesting bass and guitar lines and complex drumming. This pastel prog rock album blends Turkish folk and ethnic influences with CAMEL-like progressive rock symphonia. I would offer that this album is a pure bread crossing of the music style of France’s “ATOLL” and might I add “CAMEL”. Again the lush and nostalgic vocals of Setrak Bakirel (lead vocals, guitars and basses) when used are quite nice and are sung mostly in English (2 tracks sung in native Turkish)….by loserboy ……………. 

The two main players on this album are from Turkey, but they now reside in France which is where the drummer is from.The drummer Lionel Beltrami was only 18 when this album was released. Nice picture of the trio in the back cover.There is a guest keyboardist as well. This was their debut album released in 1979 and to my ears I hear an eighties vibe at times. In a good way though. I like the accented vocals, the atmosphere and flute on this one.There is some aggressive moments as well. 
“Preface” opens with a gong before melancholic flute comes in. Guitar and a full sound arrive after a minute.The flute leads the way with prominant drums. Synths before 2 ½ minutes and vocals come in. Guitar leads the way 4 minutes in. “Mahzun Gozler” might be my favourite track on here. It’’s also the longest at over 8 minutes in length.The tempo keeps shifting and I really like the vocals. Something about this song makes me feel so good. It takes me to a good place. Emotional vocals after 7 ½ minutes. “Mystic Dance” is a gentle guitar / flute piece. 

“Misfortune” becomes uptempo with flute and drums leading the way. It settles after 1 ½ minutes and vocals come in. Kicks back in at 3 minutes. “Landscape” is a little heavier when the drums and raw guitar come in. Vocals and a calm before a minute. Synths join in. Keyboard solo before 2 ½ minutes but it kicks back in quickly. Nice guitar 3 ½ minutes in to end it. “Visions” opens with bass as drums and keys join in. Guitar follows and this sounds really good. It settles 1 ½ minutes in and vocals come in. “Without Stir” is a short mellow tune with reserved vocals. “Hayal Dolu Guler Icin” has a good beat to open. Flute then a calm as vocals and synths come in. The tempo and mood continues to change. “Postface” opens with barely audible organ that builds then flute joins in. 

I like this album a lot. Still it’’s a low 4 stars……….by Mellotron Storm ……………. 

Asia Minor’s debut album Crossing the Line is just a notch under its successor, Between Flesh and Devine. Mostly because it is not as focused as the later. The band is still serching. While the sound and music is generally the same, there are certain happier tunes between less happy ones (Between Flesh and Devine had a mostly melancholic sound). They are also searching for a language: songs feature lyrics in English and Turkish. Can’t really criticize the Turkish vocals, but the English is a bit far from what they were capable of doing in the next album. All the songs are quite similar, with no real highlight. They are by no means bad songs, with their electric guitar, flute, and keyboard harmonies interwined. They are just… even. It is quite a short album, at just 35 minutes. Yet unlike the bands following album, this seems just right. It is certainly not as memorable as Between Flesh and Devine, but it guarantees some satisfaction when popped up on the record player once in a while. 3,5 stars, rounded to 4…by Kotro …………. 

Another band that I heard a lot through the years but that only recently I had the opportunity to hear their music. Asia Minor was a band based in France during the 70´s but their name is veryy fitting since their two main songwriters were from Turkey: Setrak Bakirel (lead vocals, guitars, bass) and Eril Tekeli (flute, guitars, bass). The band´s debut album Crossing The Line was released in 1979 and it showed great promise. Unfortunately the timing was not the best for prog music in general, much less symphonic groups like this, which were considered by the press totally out of fashion and got little, if any, exposure in the media. 
It is a pity, since Asia Minor did have a quite distinguished sound from the very start, with middle east folk flavors and rhythms added to their nice symphonic soundscape. Some reviewers say the group was influenced by Camel, but I hardly see any Camel-like sounds here other than some similar guitar chord progressions (unfortunately the emotional guitar solos that made Camel so influential are nowhere to be found on Crossing The Line). Most of the solos are done by Eril Tekeli´s flute that reminds me of Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) and, especially, This Van Leer (Focus). 

The songwriting was good, and they show some fine early Genesis tendencies that I like a lot. Bakirel´s vocals are also very nice. Although the formula was original at the time and the musicians showed great skill, the formula was clearly on its infancy. Some tracks are very well done while others seemed underdeveloped. The band was still trying to find their way. However, judging by the high quality of their musicianship and the tasteful arrangements, they were heading toward the right direction. Production was very good too. 

Conclusion: a nice start. I´m looking forward to listen to their second (sadly their last) effort. if you´re into 70´s symphonic prog rock (with eastern sounds to spice it up) this is surely something worth checking out. 3,5 stars….by Tarcisio Moura …………….. 

ASIA MINOR is a symphonic prog band that began as a bunch of college kids who met in Turkey but ended up in France and were there several years before recording and releasing their only two albums in the late 70s / early 80s divide. CROSSING THE LINE is the debut album that kicks in with a gong followed by some serious flute workouts. This band was serious about including Middle Eastern influence in the then traditional symphonic prog lite that may bring Camel or other breezy bands of the era to mind. Although the Oriental influences are there they are very subtle and ASIA MINOR sounds more like a Western prog band unlike say bands like Gunesh who really were full-blown Middle Eastern prog. 

This first album simmers but nobody every bothers to turn the flames up any higher. I have come to this after the much better second album “Between Flesh And Divine” and am always left a little cold after hearing this one. They seem to get into some good grooves on here and then never really take off into more ambitious waters. This is a nice pleasant album and if you want a nice symphonic prog album that serves as background music then this one is perfect because it is very pleasant, it’s just that it doesn’t have enough to keep the active listener engaged, at least not this one. I’m also just not in love with the vocals on this one. Setrak Bakirel just doesn’t deliver a very strong and passionate performance. This debut album simply lacks the diverse elements that make the second one work so well. A good album for its unique approach but in the end fails to pack a sufficient punch for my tastes………siLLy_puPPy …… 

Excellent atmospheric, eclectic, jazzy, mysterious, and slightly melancholic symphonic progressive music. Great playing. Lots of flute, great drumming and great guitar, among other instruments. Mostly instrumental. Similar in sound to Camel, Anyone’s Daughter, King Crimson, Agitation Free (and some other Krautrock), Genesis, UK, and other french bands like Pentacle, Pulsar, Ange, Arachnoid and Carpe Diem. I personally very much enjoy the vocal style. Also, great poignant melancholy in their sound, and great atmospheres. 

Not as good as their follow up “Between Flesh and Divine”, their masterpiece. This is almost as good but it sounds at times that they have not fully solidified their sound and the songs are slightly more uneven and slightly less memorable. Vocals are not as good as on the other album. Also, it is slightly less polished in sound than that album, and with a rougher/more aggressive and more jazz fusion sound and less of the eclectic percussion that is masterfully present on their other album. ………by……..acidhappy .. 

Line-up / Musicians 
- Setrak Bakirel / lead vocals, guitars, bass 
- Eril Tekeli / flute, guitars, bass 
- Lionel Beltrami / drums, percussion 
- Nick Vicente / keyboards 

A1 Preface 4:18 
A2 Mahzun Gözler 8:13 
A3 Mystic Dance 1:45 
A4 Misfortune 4:30 
B1 Landscape 3:50 
B2 Visions 5:35 
B3 Without Stir 1:50 
B4 Hayal Dolu Günler Için 4:38 
B5 Postface 2:00 

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..





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