by Michael Popke
The first time I listened to RPWL — the moniker for this German prog band came from the first initials of each original member’s surname: Phil Paul Rissettio, Chris Postl, Kalle Wallner and Yogi Lang — I didn’t hear much beyond the obvious Pink Floyd influences. RPWL’s origins, after all, were as a Floyd cover band. “Hole in The Sky,” the first song on the band’s 2000 debut God Has Failed, even freely quotes from “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” — a key cut off off of Floyd’s second album, 1968’s A Saucerful of Secrets.
But eventually, RPWL found its own sound, nurtured by one of the world’s leading progressive-rock labels, InsideOut Music, and culminating on 2008’s The RPWL Experience — a diverse modern prog album that owes as much to Floyd and Genesis as it does to Coldplay and Radiohead. The band traces its own evolution on the aptly titled The Gentle Art of Music, an intriguing new two-disc collection that compiles 11 songs from five albums on one CD and acoustically reinterprets 11 additional tracks from RPWL’s back-catalog on the second one. It’s an intoxicating listening experience for fans of this moody, contemplative band, and it portrays guitarist Wallner as a credible heir to David Gilmour’s throne. Ray Wilson, Stiltskin singer and Phil Collins’ ill-fated replacement in Genesis, also makes a worthwhile appearance on “Roses.”
The acoustic versions — unlike the sleepy tracks on Marillion’s latest album of back-catalog reinterpretations, Less Is More — hint at new, even warmer and more compelling musical directions, with string arrangements, guest female vocalists, saxophone and Indian percussion. In fact, that second disc (subtitled “Revisited”) plays like an album of new material. Perhaps RPWL’s next record should be a stripped-down affair, one that doesn’t adhere to any preconceived musical boundaries.
Technically, I might add, RPWL really should be MPWL, considering that drummer Rissettio was replaced by Manfred Muller in time for 2005’s World Through My Eyes. But why change now? RPWL is on the cusp of its second decade, with a strong international fan base in place; details like that shouldn’t matter anymore.