Saturday, October 13, 2012

Top Albums of the Year 2003, Part 2: Others

Other Albums from 2003 Worth Listening To

TAAL Skymind

OCEANSIZE Effloresce 

Why does this great "new" music from this great "new" band sound so familiar? Oh, because ANEKDOTEN has done so much of this before. What Oceansize has over Anekdoten is great vocals/vocalist and an amazing drummer. The debut full-length album from the boys from Manchester, a lot of this music is more interesting than likable, more entertaining than ground-breaking. Teases of what is to come next with 2005's Everyone into Position

Album highlights include the DOVES-like Post/Math Rock song, "Women Who Love Men Who Love Drugs" (one of the best songs of 2003) (9/10),  "One Day All This Could Be Yours" (8/10) and the mellow, bass-bowed-driven "Long Forgotten" (8/10). I'm sure that htis band has been mis-categorized: they're not alt rock, not Indie rock, not psychedelic/space rock, they're more Post/Math Rock or Experimental/Post Metal or a combination of all of the above. (Does that make them "eclectic"?).  A very solid 4 star effort.

SATELLITE A Street Between Sunrise and Sunset

A project from remnants of Poland's COLLAGE, including the distinctive sound of MIREK GIL on lead guitar, this is a nice effort though it fails to hold the high level of consistency of Moonshine and other prog masterpieces. One of the notables from any project Gil has been involved with is the high production level--recording engineering is always great. Though Satellite has continued to produce albums since A Street Between Sunrise and Sunset, this was the last project that involved Gil. This is my favorite Satellite album. Best songs: "Not Afraid" (3:55) (10/10), "On the Run" (14:51) (9/10), "Fight" (4:29) (8/10), and "Now" (10:13) (8/10).


BLUR Think Tank


The Gathering's trend toward more popular, accessible tunes is strikingly evident on Souvenirs. Anneke seems in control, now,  or, at least, the band has realized what an attraction she is and have gone out of their way to showcase her more. And there are definitely some absolutely gorgeous tunes showcasing her extraordinary vocal talents, including the amazing "You Learn About It" (5:10) (10/10), and "Broken Glass" (4:54) (8/10), but, overall, the album shows less and less 'progressive' tendencies and more and more conformity to polished radio-friendly structures and sounds. Still, a mature and very polished band with one of the top five female voices  of all-time! Definitely worth a listen.

MOONGARDEN Round Midnight

Often dissed by the prog community, I find Moongarden's contributions quite relevant to the prog revival, even if they are more NeoProg than expansionist. Great sound, excellent musicianship (especially love the up-front bass on this LP), and a strong, powerful, emotive voice in LUCA PALLESCHI, their music is always an enjoyable and interesting listen. The songs "Round Midnight" (7:49) (9/10), "Wounded" (7:25) (8/10) and "Slowmotion Streets" ( 5:43) (7/10) are all worthy of inclusion in the pantheon of excellent prog music.

Round Midnight is a solid 4 star effort; an excellent addition to a prog lover's music collection.


After Crying is one of those bands who came onto the scen in the 1990s with a bang: each album vastly different from the other, full of songs that, though sometimes show influences of their prog predecessors, more often draw from the peculiar Hungarian folk, classical and colloquial traditions. Show does not quite reach the heights of Overground Music, De Profundis, Megalázottak és Megzomorítottak, or even 6 but still has some very fresh and wonderful music and ideas--even hybridizing some more poppy (no pun intended) sounds and technologies within the fabric of their unusual musics. "NWC" (New World Coming) (8/10) is one such example: Hungarian, classical and poppy all at the same time. "Invisible Legion" (9/10) has some of After Crying's familiar 'larger than life' cinematic bombasticity to it--and definitely in After Crying's unique and inimitable style. "Face to Face" (8/10) shows the jazz-rock-orchestral side of After Crying: pianos, big orchestral support (especially in the horn section), and seering electric guitar soli. "Welcome on Board" (7/10) is another attempt to cross the pop lines, with some techno/electronic sound and female vocals (though she does get a bit operatic at times) in English. "Paradise Lost" (8/10) is a typical AC interlude showcasing the talents and song-writing skills of a particular group member--this time cellist Péter Pejtsik. Sounds a bit too like PAUL WINTER CONSORT circa Icarus. "Remote Control" (8/10), at 9:08, is the album's last real epic. Even so, it has quite a poppy HOGARTH ERA MARILLION/GUY MANNING sound and feel to it. Still, the song has enough unpredicted, quirky tangents to stand on its own. "Technopolis" (9/10) definitely showcases AC's new proclivity to incorporate the modern computer programming rhythms and sounds though here as pure backdrop to some brilliant piano, keyboard, and guitar work. Well done, pianist Zoltan Legeyl, and AC. Instrumental virtuosi with a compositional style unlike anyone else in progworld. Give this one a listen, people!


1. "It's Pissing Don?" (6:26) part Post Rock, part Canterbury, part neo-classical jazz, this piano/keyboard and xylophone-led song features the very solid support of chunky bass, military-styled drums and guitars. (9/10)

2. "Little Machines" (4:50) my favorite song on the album has some very catchy melodic, structural and vocal moments. (10/10)

3. "M.O.D.A.R" (4:50) ambient techno-space house music for the first two minutes, pauses for a very spacey section before reacquiring the weave of techno sounds that it opened with. MIDIed solo from lower mid-register keyboard is mixed in with all the other. Is this the soundscape the Canterbury artists of old would be experimenting with if they were still doing their stuff in the 21st Century? Interesting if not great. (7/10)

4. "Keeny Woka Phoola" (3:08) sounds much more Canterbury-ish--even the squeeky synth taking on part of the lead melody making. At 1:35 it becomes much more poppy with the "beautiful people everywhere" vocal section--kind of like a 60s song from or from one of today's retro-psychedelic groups like Tame Impala or Arcade Fire. (9/10)

5. "Earthsong [With One Sugar]" (7:03) opens with a repetitive mid-to-high pitched electro-pulse over which electric piano plays a kind of étude with two series of chord progressions. Then, at 2:25, the song shifts into rock mode with full band and a very familiar Canterbury sound and structure--like something from the debut Hatfield and the North album. Catchy bass, drums, and keyboard lines form the foundation over which guitars and multiple synth sounds contribute. The song slips back into electronica experimentalism in the fifth minute while drums and other support instruments create their own melodies which eventually merge into a fairly cohesive weave. Recordings of a domestic argument are introduced over the final minute and a half. Interesting! (9/10)  

88.0 on the Fishscales = 4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music--this one in the psychedelic experimental spirit of the 1970s Canterbury artists.


EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place

NIL Quarante jours sur le Sinaï 

IL GRANDE LABIRINTO La maschera di Cera

MAR DE ROBLES Mar de Robles

MUSE Absolution


A fan favorite, Gravity is a pretty solid studio album--much more so than those that follow it. Still, I find it a bit flawed, lacking as much freshness as previous Anekdoten efforts; the sound is definitely Anekdoten. As always, Mellotron heaven (though not nearly as much as the following live album Waking the Dead: Live from Japan, 2005). And, still, "Ricochet"(9/10)  is for me the only 5 star song--though both "Monolith" and "SW4" really stand up in the live format.

If you want to hear Anekdoten at its innovative best, check out any of the previous three albums, Vemod, Nucleus, and From Within. But, if you want the best of all--and one of the best live recordings ever--check out Waking the Dead!

DJAM KARET Night in Baku

ARCADE FIRE Arcade Fire (EP)


ULVER Lyckantropen Themes

Another road taken by the masters of musical adventure and risk taking! This one into the world of elctronica--and very effectively done! This could very well be a music to accompany dream therapy, lucid dreaming, brain wave therapy, meditation, and/or sleep therapy--all of which I am intimately familiar with. While I haven't tried to use this music for trance and/or meditation induction as I have with the music of The Listening Program, The Monroe Institute, Andrew Weil, Deepak Chopra, Robert Gass, The Tomatis Institute, Brian Eno, Jonathon Goldman, Peter Kater, and Glenn Velez, it could be used as such. There is a growing thickness, an increase in the layers and depth in the music as we get 20 minutes into the album. After that there is a greater presence of suggestives like harmony, melody, and computer generated special effects, but, by the time we get to the 9th Lyckantropen theme the music/sound is getting confusing, disconcerting, even overwhelming or irritating. Were this intended as a mind-guiding experience I would think it would be more settling, more peaceful, less unnerving.

Amendment 12/14/15: Now that I've seen Steve Ericsson's film Lyckantropen I understand much better. this is music based on themes Ulver had composed for a movie soundtrack! No wonder!

Albums from 2003 that Are, IMHO, Over-rated

RIVERSIDE Out of Myself 

Shadows of things to come, a little more raw, a little less polished and refined than Second Life Syndrome. With Out of Myself Riverside is still sounding like others, still using sounds and riffs that make you think, "Oh! That's so-and-so"--even a lot of 80s sounds and riffs--guitars, keys, bass lines, recording/engineer effects all included. With Second Life Syndrome they become a sound all their own (who then become copied by many others). The best songs are the mellower ones with acoustic guitar: "I Believe" (9/10) (can you hear LUNATIC SOUL here?), "In Two Minds" (8/10), and "Ok" (9/10), though "The Curtain Falls" (8/10) has some very cool guitar and keyboard sounds even if it sounds a bit smooth jazzy. A pretty solid 4 star effort but nowhere near the quality of what is to come.

NEAL MORSE Testimony

Neal has a kind of cult following, maybe because of his Christian messages, but I think Testimony gets so much hype because it's a double album worth of music. Well, recorded and performed, covering a vast gambit of styles, from country torch song to blues to cinematic to California 60/70s to classic prog and stadium rock sounds, the effort is a bit too strung out for my tastes--as if Neal is actually trying to impress people with his diversity and eclectic abilities. (Kind of like my reaction to Mike Oldfield's Ommadawn. Show off!)  Plus this is as prog as The Eagles were with Joe Walsh. (Which is: Close but not quite.) Good music if you like James Taylor, Jackson Brown, and Don Henley/The Eagles.

KING CRIMSON The Power to Believe

My reaction to hearing this for the first time--especially after all the "Crimson is back" and "Crimson is still breaking new ground" hype--was one of quite a let down "Oh! It's just more King Crimson doing what King Crimson does." I like that Adrian Belew's voice (which I never really loved but tolerated for its humerous, intelligent content) is most often treated and I do like all the percussive play, especially on "The Power to Believe II" (7/10) but R Fripp's solos have been pretty much . . . played out; he's really not doing much new. And he's still not getting out of his head and playing from his hear very well (something he always admired in others and supposedly aspired to achieve for himself). The one thing that I never cease to admire in R Fripp and Crimson is their disciplined approach to music. They set the bar very high in that regard. A decent album. In my opinion, better than the the 'double trio' efforts of the 90s. 

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