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This both is and is not After Crying's new (7th) album. The first clue is to be found on the jewel box back cover: four of the fourteen listed tracks have "new" next to them. Yes, this is in fact a "compilation" album, with the added sweetener of four new tracks.

Producer Gergely Boszormenyi tells us on the back page of the liner booklet, "The album you hold in your hand is the first part of a new After Crying compilation series. As this volume is devoted to instrumental music, it may seem unusual that it also includes vocal sections. According to the series' conception, the final track of each CD should serve as a bridge to the next compilation and open up another facet of the group's rich and diverse output over the last twelve years. The series will feature remastered and remixed versions of classic After Crying works, as well as a substantial amount of exclusive original material."

This is followed by a statement signed collectively by After Crying: "In fact, we never intended to issue a pure compilation or to make purely one type of music. However, since people often express that they would like to have compilations from the band -- and there are those who prefer one or another face of After Crying -- we finally bestirred ourselves to fulfill their expectations...almost."

So what we have here is a 68 and 1/2 minute album of which almost 14 minutes is occupied by new material and the rest comes from earlier albums. The new material assures that diehard fans of the group -- like myself -- will buy the album, but it is in fact aimed at people who are new to the band.

While perhaps not After Crying's "greatest hits" -- have they had any "hits"? -- this compilation of largely instrumental music <I>is</I> a good introduction to After Crying. And the booklet is a help. Written entirely in English, it is obviously pitched at the greater audience beyond Hungary -- which is where After Crying is now looking for new fans. It opens with an introduction to the band ("After Crying is not purely an ensemble. Its innermost core is a strict community of six people....") and both names and describes those six people (including departed founder, Csaba Vedres, who now heads up Townscream). (But, oddly, the Hungarian practice of putting the given name last, following the family name, is observed in these English notes.) Following that introduction, the next four pages in the booklet are devoted to listing each track (giving its name in English/Hungarian), identifying its source (if it was previously released on an earlier album), and giving its complete personnel. Lyrics (translated into English for the first time -- but only in the booklet; they are still in Hungarian on the CD) are given for two of the tracks; the lyrics for "Shining" are omitted because that track (which comes from the first album, OVERGROUND MUSIC) is sung in English anyway. The back cover of the jewel box also lists the band's discography in full.

The music moves around a lot, despite being "Almost Pure Instrumental" -- After Crying's music has always been primarily instrumental anyway -- and ranges in length from short (three-minute) pieces to two almost-twelve-minute pieces. There is at least one piece from each of the previous six albums but three are from AFTER CRYING 6, the last album.

And what of those four new tracks? Pleasant enough, but not as strong as the surrounding material. Interestingly, two of those tracks are by a quartet, one by a trio, and one by a duo. They sound intended to fit between larger, more orchestral and perhaps more bombastic pieces, as spots of momentary relief. They may also have been leftovers; there are no recording dates given.

So, at this point After Crying seems to be treading water, marking time and waiting to be discovered by the larger audience beyond Hungary. This album appears to be aimed at winning over new listeners rather than advancing the band's repertoire. But if you've been thinking about trying an After Crying album and were unsure about which to try first, this 1998 album is clearly intended for you -- and is well worth checking out.

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