Favorite songs: the incredibly powerful, "The Blindness, Wife's Prayer" (5:07) (10/10); the awesomely mood-setting opener, "Intro" (3:12) (10/10); the gorgeous yet eerily tense, "Prologue (3:24) (9/10); the surprisingly electro-poppy (like ABC or The Blow Monkeys), "City" (2:06) (9/10); the AETHER-like, "Lot" (4:54) (9/10); the appropriately busy and theatric, "The Orgy" (4:17) (8/10); the mesmerizing trip-hoppy, "Black Feast II" (3:42) (8/10); the appropriately dramatic, "The Escape" (2:04) (8/10), and; the finale, "To The Flames" (3:41) (8/10).
84.24 on the Fish scales = This is a 4 star album that I'm recommending for the fact that it's melodies stay with me after I'm done listening and for the fact that it gets better with each listen. Bravo, UZ! Bravo, Al K! Another addition to the pantheon of great albums from 2013!
STEVEN WILSON The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories)
I don’t know how well the band worked on the various songs on this album but there are several, like the title song and the last song, that just feel like they are much more well worked out, more complex, and much more mature.
This band, this album, are definitely a very positive find for me. Considering they are considered a “young” band, I will look forward to following their growth and development throughout their career(s).
82.9 on the Fish scales = A solid four star album; an excellent addition to any prog music lover's album collection.
DAYS BETWEEN STATIONS In Extremis
“Featuring Peter Banks, Tony Levin, Colin Moulding (XTC), Billy Sherwood, and Rick Wakeman” is definitely enough to pique anyone’s curiosity—and I’m glad it did cuz within In Extremis are some real gems for songs. While DAYS WITHOUT STATIONS are officially made up of Oscar Fuentes Bills and Sepand Samzadeh, and the contributions of the above artists—especially Levin, Sherwood and Banks—are worthy of superlatives, it is truly the core of Bills and Samzadeh that deserve the greatest praise here.
On this new release Fish displays a broad palette of musical styles while throughout showing his extraordinary skill as singer-storyteller. What I find myself liking throughout is how Fish's singing has strongly carried a torch started by Peter Gabriel. In fact, he may be better now than Gabriel ever was. The album has a lot of the same feel as Gabe's first solo album. My beef with this album is that there is a lot of music here that really wouldn't fall into a prog category, more like classic rock. I count four songs that are proggy (5, 8, 9, 11), three that are pseudo-proggy (1, 6, 7) and four that are not proggy at all (2, 3, 4, 10), and no real standout masterpieces, IMHO. Also, Fish seems pretty stuck on two themes in particular: environmental disaster and war, though his lyrical compositions are incredibly poetic. As a matter of fact, that is another feature that distinguishes Fish's music from almost all others on PA this year: the mature, sophisticated poetic quality of his words, delivery and images is so far beyond anyone else (at least those speaking in English, my most familiar language).
01. "Perfume River" (10:58) is notable for its three parts, beginning with bagpipes, some wonderful singing, and an energetic strumming acoustic guitar-driven section in the second half. (8/10)
02. "All Loved Up" (5:07) sounds like a TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS or JOHN COUGAR MELLENCAMP song, pure rural bluesy rock. (6/10)
03. "Blind To The Beautiful" (5:12) continues the MELLENCAMP/TOM PETTY trend on the softer end of the spectrum. A beautiful, heartfelt vocal performance. (7/10)
04. "A Feast Of Consequences" (4:29) is the third and probably most obvious of the MELLENCAMP/TOM PETTY genre. The female and background vocal supports are nice touches but fail to make this song a winner for me. (5/10)
05. "High Wood" (5:26) starts out as a sensitive, beautiful IAMTHEMORNING-like song up to the 2:10 mark when it kicks into PETER GABRIEL sound and style. It's eery-powerful in the chorus section, especially "the circle is unbroken." Like the use of spoken German at the end. Definitely one of the three best songs on the album. (9/10)
06. "Crucifix Corner" (7:25) opens very delicately with another stunning vocal performance. Again it kicks into drive with its 80s classic rock B and C parts. (7/10)
07. "The Gathering" (4:30) opens with a festive county fair sound and feel to it before turning into a kind of Celtic folk anti-war song. I hear a lot of ROBERT WYATT in this song-- especially in the way the horns are used. Also some J TULL. Unfortunately, this song has probably the least effective vocal on the album. (7/10)
08. "Thistle Alley" (6:08) sounds just like it came off of PETER GABRIEL's first solo album. Great delicacy in the instrumental play is offset with the raw and powerful insistence of the vocal performance. Great effect of the drums and bass with sparse guitar interplay. Another of the three best songs on the album. (9/10)
09. "The Leaving" (4:59). By the time you get to this song you start to realize that Fish is using one formula in the construction of his songs on this album: delicate, soft two-minute sparsely intstrumentalized intros shifting into a more standard pulsing rock formats for the remainder of the song (with sometimes a return to the delicacy of the intro for the final 15 or 30 seconds). An interesting guitar solo in the fourth minute. Another familiar PETER GABRIEL-like song and vocal in this one. The use of chamber strings is a highlight of this one for me. (8/10)
10. "The Other Side Of Me" (6:09) opens with some very familiar GENESIS-like guitar and piano. Deep, breathy-voiced Fish soon joins in with what I feel is the most powerful lyric and vocal performance on the album. I love the effect of the double-lined vocal from the 1:50 mark on and the excellent background voices in the "First person singular" chorus. The rise an octave at the 2:50 mark is also masterfully effective. Unfortunately, this is not a prog song but more of a country rock piece, again in the form used so effectively by JOHN MELLENCAMP, ROBBIE ROBERTSON, GUY MANNING and VAN MORRISON. (8/10)
11. "The Great Unravelling (6:32) begins with the riff from EMINEM's well-known "Lose Yourself" song. The riff is soon joined by a great and varied PETER GABRIEL-esque vocal performance. Another awesome lyric. Also great use of female vocalist (whom I assume to be Liz Antwi) as a foil/partner and CLARE TORREY-like vocal "instrument." Great instrumental performances throughout. This is the last of the three good truly prog songs on the album. (9/10)
1. "The Aftermath of Silence" begins in outer space (Maybe Major Tom's capsule?) before descending into an eight-minute tribute to THE CURE's 1989 masterpiece, Disintegration. At the 9:50 mark, the song's feel shifts rather dramatically, though continuing in a slow, Cure- ish manner, only with treated drums, arpeggiated electric guitar, higher-register bass play, and background Mirek Gil-like blues guitar soloing in the background. In the fourteenth minute there is a brief presence of Jon Anderson's voice before some "strings" and then piano and "brass" take over (how BB TRAIN-ish!) The collaborative weave builds to a nice crescendo at 14:53 before falling away to piano arppegios and the sound of children's voices on a playground in the background. At 15:38 the now familiar--and quite-well- hooked into our brain--vocal melody returns for a minute before a brief cyber-glitch pause ensues before a searing, if brief, guitar solo breaks loose, only to quickly disappear as the song fades out with only the piano's arppegiated chords slowly fades among the background noises of space and playground children. Excellent song start to finish and not overly clever or complicated, with plenty of recurring themes to help us stay engaged. (10/10)
2. "Kryptonite Monologues" (20:47) begins full blast and continues to deliver music at a volume and urgency that reminds me quite a lot of France's NEMO--rocking on the harder edge with quirky, complicated twists and turns in the music, literally stopping and starting on a dime, changing directions (mystifyingly and often frustratingly, even gratingly). I have to admit that I feel somewhat disappointed and almost cheated with M. Theilen's use of effects to mask his natural voice (which I quite like). The sixth minute is quite reminiscent of some of Gabriel-Era GENESIS' more grating, quirky moments ("Get 'em Out by Friday," "The Battle of Epping Forest"). The song's highlight comes at 8:15 when "full orchestra" accompanies a powerful vocal section in a Broadway moment. Alas! It is all too brief. (The most common theme in this and the album's last song.) The vocal babeling of the eleventh and twelfth minutes is mystifying (Oh! So MARILLION!) The next three-chord rock section is a bit over-the-top but then an interesting SIMPLE MINDS/PSYCHEDELIC FURS sections sneaks in and then a quirky synth solos along with Thomas's Bowie voice! Quite a little NEKTAR feel to this fifteenth minute. Then it, too, is gone, replaced by a kind of 80's FIXX guitar strum sound. Then a ROY BUCHANAN/RANDY BACHMAN-like guitar sound solos while a radio-like voice talks in the background. And here is my complaint: All these changes are just so odd! Too what end--what purpose, what reason? At the 15:48 mark begins another SEAN FILKINS/BIG BIG TRAIN section of delicate floating, horn-supported music. Another highlight--and this time T actually sustains it for a full two minutes before drums and other instruments begin joining in. The song then floats down and away into the final two minutes' peaceful section with piano gradually joining in as synth washes and a very-background treated voice continues to sing to the end. Unfortunately, the beauty of the last three minutes cannot make up for the confusion of rest of the song. (7/10)
3. "The Irrelevant Love Song" (8:09) is a rather straightforward song that reminds me quite a little of some of the more recent work of PHIDEAUX. Great use of rhythms, more gradual dynamic shifts and the best vocal on the album--such a strong voice in this mid- to low- range--all built over a very insistent low chord progression (anyone else here LED ZEPPELIN guitar chord progression?) Solid song start to finish. (9/10)
4. Like PORCUPINE TREE's Fear of a Blank Planet, T's fourth and final song, the album's title song, "Psychoanorexia" (19:29), I think this will be remembered for being so perfectly exemplary of its day and time. The catch words and colloquialisms (in English) from our current cyber-world as well as the chaotic, high-stress edgi-ness to the music does give it some power. In bursts and segments. (7/10)
Again, though I appreciate the tremendous effort and skill that went into the creation of this album of sophisticated music, there are too many twists, turns, and sections that fail to take me in and keep me engaged. And I miss the blatant David Bowie-like vocals T employed more (and with great effect) on Anti-Matter Poetry. Obviously there is some personal, subjective reasoning for this, but at the same time, not unlike the albums mentioned in my opening paragraph, the flaw of failing to achieve and maintain personal attachment makes this album difficult for me to rate "a masterpiece."
82.5 on the Fish scales = solid 4 stars.
Listener beware: four of the songs on this album are re-mixes or re-worked versions of songs released on the previous year's excellent album, Disclosure.
For those of you still mourning the departure of golden voiced Anneke Van Giersbergen, let me tell you: as any of you who have ever listened to OCTAVIA SPERATI can attest, Norwegian Silje Wergeland is no vocal slouch. She has precise control of her ‘instrument’ even in her nuances and subtleties. Unfortunately, in my humble opinion, Afterwords does not take full advantage of Silje’s considerable gifts. However, I do quite enjoy the variety of creative adventurousness that The Gathering musicians/songwriters are taking on the songs represented here. There may, however, be a bit too much variety here, leaving me asking the question, “Who are The Gathering, really?
Solid 4 stars. Give a listen; see what you think!
THE WORM OUROBOROS Of Things That Never Were
HUMBLE GRUMBLE Guzzle It Up!
A nice collection of songs from a well-established but under-exposed band from Greece.
1. "Moribundo Part II" (8:11)
3.5 stars rated up for being interesting and refreshing enough for return visits.
4 star songs: "East Coast Racer" (15:43), "Curator of Butterflies" (8:44) and "The Permanent Way" (8:29).
Unit Wail is a Zeuhl group from an international (though mostly French) cast of young and older musicians including SHUB-NIGGURATH founder Franck Fromy. Pangaea Proxima is high energy and very well constructed and performed. A very hard to hear album though it was on progstreaming.com for a short while. Still, it is worth it if you can find it.
Interesting, unusual and well-conceived and produced prog on the folk-jazz/pop spectrum with the theme of the magic of Harry Houdini. The deep voice of the lead vocalist has a timbre reminiscent of Leonard Cohen or the lead singer from Major Parkinson or even the late Nick Talbot from Gravenhurst. Well worth the exposure.
While I have to agree with other reviewers that Andrew Marshall's instrumental compositions are maturing--and that his more-showcased flute playing has definitely improved--I still find the song elements, sounds, and stylings too derivative of (mostly) classic and Neo-GENESIS. The mysteriously separated two epics at the start of the album, "A House of Cards" (Parts 1 and 2), are, in my opinion, too disjointed and all over the place--they lack flow and sense-making shifts and turns--and are, again, often incorporating sounds and riffs too close to something from a classic 70s Genesis or Jethro Tull song.
"Polar Kraut" Rock! Awesome new instrumental project from an ad hoc Swedish band that includes accomplished Swedish film music composer Matti Bye on the organ, two of his long-time associates in the world of soundtrack, cellist Leo Svensson and bassist Kristian Holmgren, and two drummers simultaneously playing the same drum kit (from opposite sides), Mattias Olsson (Anglagard, White Willow) and Henrik Olsson (Mattias' 17-year old son?).
A nice sounding, well-produced album of songs in a PINK FLOYD-like vein of sounds and stylings--conceptually as well as in the extensive integration of samples/spoken threads in between and in the background. Sometimes a the similarities are a bit TOO close to classic PF stuff, IMHO. The performances are rather good if often quite strikingly similar to Waters (voice), Gilmour (guitar leads), Wright (particularly organ) and even Mason (not in volume or clarity, though), and the production is pristine if somewhat lacking in the desirable but all-too-elusive weave of harmony and nuance. What is lacking for me is anything new and memorable: Repeated listens of the album and its songs in their individuality leave me underwhelmed, even absent from reaction; I am not drawn back to the music or album and when I hear the songs again I feel neither excitement or familiarity. Not that I feel as though I've wasted my time. It's a pleasant listen. No more, no less.