Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Top Albums of the Year 2015, Part 2: The Others


Other Albums from 2015 Worth Listening To:




PANZERBALLETT Breaking Brain

Heavy metal instrumental jazz djent, right?! As you listen to this highly aggressive, abrasive, and dissonant music, take into consideration the extraordinary instrumental skills on display here. Also, consider the minds that composed and collectively performed this very difficult instrumental music. Also, don't forget to hear the hidden melodies, flashes of references to past classics, and the humor. In fact, the humorous side of this music for some reason reminds a great deal of the music of the band, FARMERS MARKET--a band of Eastern European expats playing, composing, and recording in Scandinavia--for its quirky, harsh-yet-comedic use of familiar themes and sounds from Eastern European and Middle Eastern classical and folk music traditions. 
     While I have to admit that this music is a little too heavy and abrasive for me to ever give this a lot of airplay, I do not hesitate to recognize and extoll its merit based on compositional skill and instrumental virtuosity. These guys are definitely masters in their field. The amazingly high caliber of musicianship renders this album--and this band--unto a level akin to avant jazz masters Frank ZAPPA, YUGEN, BRUFORD, JEAN LOUIS and PRESENT.

A five star album that I am, unfortunately, marking down for lack of universal appeal and accessibility. It doesn't seem right or fair, but it is my truth: this album is not for everyone. It grows on you, but it is never going to be background kitchen or bedroom music (not that it has to be; it just isn't). 

Kudos to the band. Amazing performances and amazing music. Just not my cup of tea.




PAVLOV(3) Curvature Induce Symmetry.. Breaking

An album of excellent heavy instrumental prog in the tradition of some of KING CRIMSON's raw and heavier moments, Curvature is the project of bassist/Chapman Stick/U8 Deluxe Touch Guitar player Matt TATE. Matt really brings it home with a collection of diversely styled and paced songs all using unorthodox time signatures.

Favorite songs:  1. "Elastic Surface Patterns" (3:58) (10/10); 6. "Being+Time/Closure" (8:37) (10/10); 5. "Unruhe" (5:44) (9/10), and; 4. "Singularity" (3:59) (8/10)

A special shout out for the awesome contribution of drummer Paul Szlachta.





ADVENT Silent Sentinel

This album has such better sound recording and engineering than their previous work, 2006's Canuts Firmus. As a matter of fact, it is the clarity of the instrumental recording that makes this album so special, so engaging. Everything is a couple of steps better than their previous album—which I liked. Cantus Firmus showed so much potential. Silent Sentinel is fulfilling a great deal of that potential. 
     The multi-voiced vocal harmony weaves are sometimes quite ingenious and complex (very similar to some of the best of GENTLE GIANT like on “His Last Voyage” or “A Reunion”) but they can also be just as often sounding like the straightforward "pop" harmonies of the 1980s band ASIA or 80s version YES. In my opinion, the album’s “weakness” and strength are one in the same: guitarist Alan BENJAMIN’s penchant (and/or reverence) for imitation of the guitar sounds and stylings of Steve HACKETT’s circa 1973 (Foxtrot). His imitation is flawless, but, in my opinion, unnecessarily so. Even his acoustic guitar pieces—which I adore—are so full of Hackettisms. But the electric work is where it goes too far; there is just no need to be that true to another man’s sound and style—especially a sound that was limited by 1973's recording limitations.  

My favorite songs are the most scaled down: the brilliant church/Renaissance-like “On the Wings of an Ant” series "(verses 1, 2, & 3)” (2:16), (2:20) and (7:09), respectively (10/10); the acoustic guitar solo pieces, 6. “Reloj de Sol” (2:35), “12_12” (2:39), and 11. “Second Thoughts” (2:21). Song 8. “The Silent Sentinel” (19:11) is about as good as an epic GENESIS tribute or imitation gets (9/10). Song 5. “The Uncharted Path” (6:22) (9/10) captures the wonderful old-feeling GENTLE GIANT-like sound and the upbeat and humorous BEACH BOYS-like 4. “Voices from California” (7:34) (9/10) is also quite enjoyable.

The opening of the title song is about as promising as any song I’ve heard in a long time: awesome instrument choices (organ, harpsichord,12-string acoustic guitars, tuned percussion, occasional background keyboard washes, and, of course, eventually, GENTLE GIANT choral like multi-voice vocal arrangements), incredible chord sequences and melodies, and the incredible gentle voice of lead singer. And this continues for a good five minutes before things start to falter or lose their focus get muddled a bit. Actually, it’s the arrival of the electric guitar at 5:20 that turns me out. And the near-faultless imitation of sound and style of said guitar to those of one Steve HACKETT circa 1973 are equally—sorry to say—distracting. And then the section that begins in the seventh minute is too much like a GENESIS replication, note for note, chord for chord, and, especially, sound for sound. 
     The KARDA ESTRA-like “mysterious interlude” beginning at 8:25 is interesting—especially for the “Entangled” sound that arises within it 75 seconds later. The return of the Steve Hackett guitar at 11:38 bodes not well for the song’s further progress. It’s just too Steve Hackett! The ensuing solo vocal is a nice bridge to some heavier music beginning in the fifteenth minute and continuing while alternating with some Kerry MINNEAR/MANHATTAN TRANSFER-like vocal arrangements through the next few minutes. 
     In short, the song "The Silent Sentinel" is a microcosm of all that is wonderful as well as all that is flawed with this duplicitous Advent album. I truly love and respect the band's progress and growth. I hope that they will continue to work together and that they will continue to discover and hone their own sound. 
     Still, this is a solid four star album--one that I can happily recommend to all prog lovers. Impeccable quality in sound, construction and melody. Pick it up and listen to it for yourselves: I am CERTAIN you will find a few gems for your self on this exciting album.  




HOMUNCULUS RES Come si diventa ciò che si era


While not quite as new, fresh, happy, upbeat, melodic, or loose and quirky as their debut, this is still an excellent album release fully within the Canterbury sound. The music feels to me as if it is now more work, more effort, less fun, less imbued with the frivolity of youth and its devil-may-care joy. I miss some of the layers and sudden stops and shifts, and I do not like the way the drums are recorded. I hope the future music of this wonderfully spirited band veers more toward songs like "Balacqua" (3:40) and the epic "Ospedale civico" (17:52) and less like the opening few songs here.



THE BREZNEV FUN CLUB Il misanthrope felice


This is an amazingly well-constructed and well-recorded album from AltrOck Productions that wows the listener with its avant quirkiness but then, with repeated listenings, I found that the music became stale and sometimes too obtuse, too quirky without making sense. Some of the sudden and unexpected changes in sound, style, or tempo leave a jarring or disappointing feeling. I feel at times welcomed and warmed and then just as quickly I feel as if I'm being pushed away, excluded from the party. Perhaps I'm just too sensitive for avant jazzy prog.  





FETISH Seven Steps to the Green Door

Seven Steps to the Green Door is a collection of very nice collection of diverse modern Neo Prog with very theatric overtones. This young German outfit of seven members wants to entertain you with their style, their storytelling, their musicianship. And they do pretty well here, but, they have a little maturing to do--a little refinement and skill-building to do. But they have a wonderfully creative spirit being expressed through their music--not unlike the Bender family band, INTROITUS. I also find myself feeling a kind of THIEVES' KITCHEN familiarity during several parts of several songs. Female lead singer, Anne TRAUTMANN, has a bit of the Amy DARBY (Thieves' Kitchen) feel while also quite a striking similarity to 80s pop jazz singer, BASIA. Still, some of the band's passages are a bit too imitative of past masters, which makes me a bit afraid for the direction they could travel in the future--a la American band Glass Hammer.

Favorite songs:  1. "Possible Delayed" (0:38) (9/10); 2. "Porn" (8:50) (9/10); the FREQUENCY DRIFT- and THIEVES' KITCHEN-like 7. "Last Lullaby" (9:01) (9/10) and "Ordinary Maniac" (16:10) (8/10), and; 6. "Bound in Chains" (8:53) (8/10). 




PROGRESSION BY FAILURE Sonic Travelogue


I had forgotten how much I had enjoyed the work of this band from their previous self-titled release back in 2009 until I heard this music. The mix of Nicolas Piveteau's kind of New Age-y jazz with heavier Neo-prog elements is at first a little odd and tough to get used to--especially at transitions (which can be quite sudden and alarming)--but the musicianship of the drummer, Mike Saccoman, and some excellent bass and guitar tracks when coupled with a rather extraordinary gift for melody makes this band and its albums music that grows on you.
     At first I was always thrown off by the sudden shifts from heavy NeoProg to "cheezy" jazz but now find that I get quite excited by the prospect of hearing one of PbF's songs when they appear in my ears from my iPod Shuffle. Several of these songs have become my favorites from 2015. Some of the songs still lose me in transitions, but there are several that just melt me to the core. Let me discuss those.

2. "Sparkles" (10:34) opens with a gorgeous VANGELIS-like melodic hook which gradually gains perfectly arranged support from the full band (bass, drums, other layers of keyboards) and then shifts into a kind of Asian keyboard percussion base for the conintuous play on the the main melody and wonderful--and I mean wonderful--drum play. At 3:20 the music shifts into another gear with some more aggressive play on the part of all members and multiple keyboard solos and guitar riffing taking the center stage. Awesome song construction and instrumental arrangement! At 5:30 the bottom drops out of the music and we are left with a fast-panning electric piano arpeggio and slow picked guitar notes to fill some deliciously spacious time. A minute later we are beginning to rebuild around the new instrumental weave with a variation on the old main melody and sounds. Again, the perfection of the drum contributions are, to me, nothing short of amazing--possibly my favorite element of the album. The song ends with a kind of ambient show moving into a slow fade. Brilliant song! One of my favorites for the Year. (10/10)

5. "Forest of Doubt" (4:50) opens with a very ANTHONY PHILLIPS-familiar guitar sound playing slow arpeggio and then joined by two or three other acoustic/electric guitars weaving their own arpeggios into the mix. Awesome and gorgeous! A lone synthesizer enters at the 1:20 mark with a kind of TONY BANKS sound and frivolous, faerie-like dance through the "woods" of guitars. At 2:15 the full band with heavy background of Mellotron and thumping deep bass notes and solid, forceful drum play join in and support the guitar weaves setting up the awesome BANKS-ian synthesizer solo to ensue for the next minute and a half before band and synth voices close out the song in a very Wind and Wuthering way ("All in a Mouse's Night"). (9/10)

6. "Escaping the Ankou" (6:53) is a more dynamic, kind of KING CRIMSON song with some great electric guitar lead play. (8/10)

7. "The Sidh's Gate" (6:27) incorporates into its mid-sction another one of those magical TONY BANKS/ VANGELIS-like keybaord-driven melodic weaves--with full complement of GENESIS-like instrumental support from bass (pedals?), power guitar chords, and, of course, some great drumming. (8/10)

8. "Autumn Mood" (5:46) MUST have been inspired by GEORGE WINSTON's Autumn record because the style of piano play is so incredibly similar. It's so nice to hear! Then, at the 2:00 mark a dramatic George Winston-like shift occurs but is accompanied by a cool midi keyboard contribution that is midi-ing wind and deep buzzing noises. Then things pick up and become more fast-paced as the synth sound becomes more buzz-like for a few seconds before the music returns to the original section in embellished recapitulation. Nice emulation and nice effect! (9/10)

9. "The End of Sonic Vibrations" (10:22) opens with some steady bass and drum lines over which a whole mess of instruments gradually add their contributions into a dynamic weave of pleasing harmonic and melodic sensibility. At 3:15 we get a complete break in the established music as a kind of Tibetan overtone voice fills the aural soundscape. Then a beautiful vocal and piano major seventh two-chord sequence establishes itself over which a piercing JEFF BECK-like guitar solo takes center stage for the next two minutes. Gorgeous! Then, suddenly, it's gone at 6:48 and a heavy PORCUPINE TREE-like multiple electric guitar chord strum sequence is established over which two different keyboard voices play their melodies--one in floating chords of sustained sound, the other in shifting three-note arpeggios. AT 9:15 a kind of bass drum-thumping doom metal section is added beneath the searing play of the floaty keyboard--to crashing end. Brilliant song with amazing emotional impact. Also the most uniquely independent in sound and structure of the album. Another of my favorites from 2015. (10/10)

While not a flawless album--there are actually a couple of "throwaway" songs--there is enough beautiful and often brilliant music here to make this an album that I highly recommend. I do consider Nicolas Piveteau a man worth following as he produces more and more excellent music.




ABIGAIL’S GHOST Black Plastic Sun

This band has matured so much since their Porcupine Tree imitation days! The chrysalis has left the cocoon and a gorgeous butterfly has emerged! Only, this butterfly is not so delicate as to have a short life; Black Plastic Sun ought to find a wide audience and make many people's favorites lists. 2009's d_letion was an awesome album--and so well made--but this is better. If I have any complaints with Black Plastic Sun it's of the pace, drumming and vocal range in the first three songs. Don't get me wrong, the iamthemorning-like opener, "Thereafter" (8:20) (9/10), is awesome--is perhaps the best song on the album--and sets a really nice tone for the album, but it's not until the fourth song, "Bloodlust" (5:38) (9/10), that we get our first real example of the dynamic range of this band and their instrumentalists. Here is where I first become conscious of the striking similarity of the lead vocalist's that of Mark KING (LEVEL 42). 

The wonderful 5. "Widowmaker" (5:22) (9/10) continues this venture, further broadening the band's sonic and stylistic palette (sounding remarkably like another couple of releases from this year:  VOLA's Inmazes and NICE BEAVER's The Time It Takes), as does the sweet, melodic follow-up, the more swamp folk-tinged 6. "King of All" (5:23) (9/10). 

The band then pulls an amazing trick with the very French-sounding 7. "Le Metteur" (7:14) a song that I find quite haunting and beautiful as it takes me back to French film themes and montages from the 80s and 90s--as well as a little of the delightful IVY sound around the turn of the century. Wonderful guitar solo worked over the Buddha-lounge drums and keyboard washes. (9/10) 

8. "Protist"(4:43) (9/10) effectively dives into the depths of heavy prog while 

9. "Sweet Serenity" (4:42) captures some catchy melodies in a Johannes Luley kind of way over its unusual instrumental choices. (9/10) 

10. "Smotherbox" (8:51) is the first occasion on this album in which the band blatantly return to their Steven Wilson roots. Like a Steve Wilson song, it's a good song with some orgasmic lead guitar work and heavy chord chord play. (8/10) 

11. "Rather Unorthodox" (3:48) is a piano-based, strings accompanied, harmonized vocal with a bit of a classic rock ballad sound and feel to it. Nice song. (8/10)

I have to admit that I found myself quite often drawn to listen to the electronic keyboard work that might support or fill spaces in many of the songs. A really nice complementary "glue" for lots of the music much in the same way that Richard Barbieri and Jørgen Hagen supplied so masterfully for their bands, Porcupine Tree and Airbag, respectively.




ANNA VON HAUSSWOLFF The Miraculous

Church organ based prog with some very emotional, gut-wrenching vocals. Is this dark or uplifitng? It is often hard to tell. But it is certainly compelling. And unique. High marks for its unique blending of modalities and sub-genres.




FIREFLY BURNING Skeleton Hill

Unusual folkish yet-also classical-sounding prog--not far off from IAMTHEMORNING's first album, NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA's I a Moon or even young JONI MITCHELL.



KAMASI WASHINGTON The Epic

Jazz, but what an eclectic, all-encompassing, spiritually uplifting, orchestral form of jazz! And two full, FULL CDs of music. This is not just and album, it is An Experience!




PERFECT BEINGS II

Very pretty crossover prog that is incredibly well produced and very seriously composed from very competent songwriter-musicians, including crossing over into a little of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's sonic world on 1. "Mar del Fuego" (4:22) (9/10), 2. "Crygenia" (3:39) (8/10); the gorgeous little synth interlude, 3. "Samsara" (1:30); 5. "Volcanic Streams" (5:55) (9/10); 7. "Go" (4:50) (8/10), 8. "Rivermaker" (5:08) (8/10); the schizophrenic 9. "Cause and Effect" (5:13) (9/10), and; the highlight of the album for me,  Steve Kilbey/The CHURCH-like, 10. "The Thrill Seeker" (4:38) (9/10). 
     I really like the choices MOTH VELLUM founder Johannes Luley has made in his brief but diverse career--I have collected all of his music and find it all enjoyable, it has just not lived up to fulfillment of the Earth-shattering potential that I first saw/heard in the MV debut. But, don't stop! I love all that you are doing!




CALIGULA'S HORSE Bloom

An enigmatic band that seems to be having trouble defining their style, what they like, or who they want to be. They feel as if they are kind of lurking in the shadows of LEPROUS and KARNIVOOL. They could turn into something special . . . if they find their own identity.





JULIAN JULIEN Terre II

An assemblage of some very pleasant soft, uncomplicated, straightforward jazz but I am bothered by the way it so often borderlines the realm of New Age or contemporary adult soft/"smooth" jazz.





HOOFFOOT Hooffoot

A short (35 minute) album of wonderfully engaging retro jazz fusion consisting of only two songs, the SANTANA Caravanserai-like (though more sophisticated and modern sounding) "The Last Flight of the Ratite" (18:31) (9/10) and the more dynamic, less flowing, but still SANTANA-sounding "Take Five . . . Seven, Six, Eight and Nine" (16:01) (8/10).




QUANTUM FANTAY Dancing in Limbo

There is really nothing new here from this Dutch band creating music in the vein of Brit Ed Wynne's almost 40-year old project, Ozric Tentacles. Very nice instrumental psychedelic prog, as always from these seasoned veterans.



FAT SPARROW Fat Sparrow

Great mellow jazz fusion from Perth, Australia. Another very late in the year release, these young guys are definitely doing it their own way--and that is not a jazz drummer! I hope they get their due cuz they are really creative, talented, and deserving of getting noticed.

Line up:
Luke Minness: tenor sax 
Ricki Malet: trumpet 
Harry Winton: guitar 
Karl Florrison: electric bass 
Greg Brenton: drums

tags


Favorite songs: 9. "MWR" (5:15) (10/10); 2. "Rustic" (4:34) (9/10); 5. "Junkie Stole My Clarinet" (6:03) (9/10); 6. "Junkie and The Cursed Clarinet" (1:25) (9/10); 7. "Noise" (5:28) (8.5/10); 8. "The Fiddler" (3:17) (8.5/10); 4. "Walks With Shaun" (7:40) (8/10); 1. "Get in The Van, Nan" (5:09) (8/10).

82.73 on the Fishscales = low four star album; B-; a good addition to any prog music collection--especially for fans of fresh new jazz fusion. A band to watch in the future!




NICE BEAVER The Time It Takes

I am having trouble with this album as each time I hear it my reaction seems to ping pong from liking it to disliking it for the familiarity it evokes in me. The music is very pleasant, it’s engaging, and the musicianship and recording are very well done. My problem is the lead singer’s similarity to LEVEL 42 lead singer/bassist, Mark King. No, it’s more than that. The Mark King similarities bleed over into much more of the music—the bass playing (it’s wonderful and very accomplished), and the song structures and stylings also keep taking me back to LEVEL 42 and other bands like THE TANGENT, THE STYLE COUNCIL, JAMES GRANT/LOVE AND MONEY, PHIL COLLINS and other pseudo- or neo-prog bands (all of whom I like very well). I’m more of the type of music listener who likes to be surprised, who likes fresh new sounds and ideas, who likes innovation, originality and bands that “push the envelope” of previously heard and established song styles and sounds. My usual reaction to Neo Prog and what I call “pseudo prog”  is usually that none of the above is happening.
      Don’t get me wrong:   There is fine musicianship being captured here! And very nice songs with a lot of GENESIS/PHIL COLLINS/SPOCK’S BEARD-like structures and dynamics but, again, like so much of Neo Prog, it’s all too polished, too clean, too contrived and somehow lacking emotion or ‘soul.’
     Hence, I just can’t give this wonderful, beautiful collection of well-polished songs anything more than four stars. I feel badly but, like most anything I hear of Spock’s Beard, Marillion, IQ, The Tangent or The Flower Kings, this rather nice music is rather quickly forgotten and left behind in favor of something . . . fresher . . . and meatier.

Great songs:  “Waiting for the Bell to Toll” (11:20) (9/10); “The Path to My House” (4:33) (9/10)

Very good songs:  “River So Wide” (6:23) (8/10); “In Close Proximity” (6:27) (8/10); “Sound Behind Sound” (7:37) (8/10). 




ABSTRAKT Limbosis

Despite have a very interesting flow and THE epic of the year in the album's opening song, "Teratoma" (10:38) (10/10), the album eventually grows old and almost too weird and quirky for my tastes with each song seeming to take too long to develop or having too many stop-and-start moments. I really enjoyed it first listen but, as I said, it quickly grew old and lost its initial luster. The sound and dramatic style seems to become repetitive and boring--and, at times, too RIVERSIDE-ish. Still, a really interesting and enjoyable collection of songs--each of which stands very well on their own but lose their fresh, innovative feel as a collective. Great drumming and amazingly creative keyboard and effects play throughout. The guitar work is where Abstrakt's music really suffers. Their lead vocalist, Krzysztof Podsiadlo, is very talented with his theatric, MORRISSEY-like voice but I think the band has to figure out how and where in the mix to present Krzysztof's stories. 

2. "The Bus" opens very well with a great vocal, but then, in the third minute, shifts into a stereotypic metal song. The instrumental section in the fourth minute is nice with an unusual chorded guitar lead (which then becomes repeated ad nauseum). The vocal is quite theatric throughout--as if there is a stage show to accompany its performance. At 4:25 things quiet down a bit--which becomes the pattern: soft section alternated with poor guitar power chords. The electric guitar lead work is so deliberate and methodical that it is awkward, perhaps even embarrassing. (7/10)  

3. "The Clockhouse" (7:37) includes a great use of female background vocals and overall spaciousness (9/10). 

4. "Wolf" (10:24) is another song that tries so hard but betrays this band's lack of compositional and technical maturity. Some really nice lead guitar work in the third and fourth minutes. The heavy, power chord guitar dominated mid-section almost works with its keyboard, vocal and drumming excellence. The music (vocals and chord progression choices) in the eighth minute through to the end are horrible--embarrassingly so--totally unworthy of such a talented band. (5/10)

5. "Bloody Mary"(10:40) has great sound, keyboards and effects to produce an awesome atmosphere but it never seems to go anywhere--which gets old over it first seven minutes--and then disappoints hugely when it does finally kick into gear for the final three minutes (7/10). 

6. "Liar's Symphony" (6:33) also has incredible sound--creates a wonderful atmosphere over the first two-thirds of the song, but disappoints with its climax (8/10). 

7. "Greatnot" (8:48) is great for being more stable and even keeled start to finish (9/10). 

8. The finale, "Journey" (10:23)  is another odd one in that it's four parts are not necessarily cohesive (except for the drumming and, perhaps, the story line)--and yet it shows potential and holds the listener for its promise and possibilities. The dark, brooding opening section is straight out of RIVERSIDE's repertoire, the middle section sounds a bit like a SMITHS song, the third section is plastered by an over-dominant two-chord power chord, while the end section of sound effects of metal and glass objects again simply mystifies. (8/10). 

A band with some great sound, creating great atmospheric textures, but that somehow goes off in odd and unsatisfying directions when it amps things up--usually in the middle or ending sections. Huge potential--definitely a band I will be watching.

78.5 on the Fishscales = a very good three star album; good but non-essential.





ALCO FRISBASS ALCO Frisbass

I’ve toiled with writing a review for this simple enjoyable debut AltrOck Productions album from the French duo of Patrick Dufour and Fabrice Chouette for over half a year now. And now I’ve finally figured out why! This is a Neo Prog album! This is a Neo Prog album by an artist who has an obvious affinity toward the keyboard-driven sounds and melodies of the Canterbury Scene of the late 1960s and early 1970s. However, there is very little presence of the often complex, jazz- and classical-based structures experimented with and favored by those Canterbury artists in the music presented here by ALCO Frisbass. The sounds that Patrick and Fabrice create are obviously intended to replicate the sounds of the more common/famous instrumental sounds associated with the Canterbury “sound,” but to my ears, these sounds are not as close to the actual sounds of Canterbury artists like Mike Ratledge, Steve Hillage, Dave Stewart, Mike Oldfield, or Phil Miller as to be able to constitute the use of the word “replicate.” Plus, the use of guest musicians for the contribution of violin, guitar and mellotron actually serves to create a further divergence/distance/discord with the original mix of sounds used in the Canterbury scene.
     The other flaw with this very likable, even enjoyable music, is in the simplicity of the music—especially in the rhythmic foundations of each song. There are very few dramatic shifts in tempo, key signatures or dynamics in these songs; all instrumental soli are played as if the artists handling the instruments be melody-conscious while somehow acting quite disconnected from or even oblivious to the musical base coming from the background foundational instruments (bass, drums, and keyboards). Plus, the feel I get from the bass, drums and keyboards is that they are there more for the exclusive purpose of creating a foundational base for other instruments to solo over which is not the usual feel I get from the background instrumentalists in jazz or Canterburian songs. The original artists of what we call the Canterbury Scene feel as if they each remained creative individuals despite their place in the musical mix—leader, supporter or soloist—each actively and creatively contributing to the mix that makes up the foundational harmonic and rhythmic structure of each song—even beneath the not-infrequent soloists.
     The album’s best songs—2. “Pas à pas” (6:42) (9/10), 4. “La danse du pantin” (7:44) (9/10), and 6. “Judith Coupeuse de tête” (9:08) (8/10)—each captivate a lot of nice melodious Canterburian sound and feel yet fail to reveal anything new or innovative—and never fail to ever impress with instrumental prowess, creativity or technique. There are more similarities in this music to Neo Prog like fellow countrymen XII Alfonso or Minimum Vital: melody—often exceedingly linear and simplistic—dominates heavily over harmony and experimentation—which is fine. As I’ve said throughout, this is wonderfully listenable, even enjoyable music. Not bad, just not great.
     A 3.5 star album. Nice songs with nice sound but lots of potential for growth here!




SANGUINE HUM And Now We Have Light
The boys from Oxford who were formerly ANTUQUE SEEKING NUNS have definitely left behind their Canterbury leanings and gone Neo Prog. If Diving Bell was their transition album, this one seals the deal.








NATIVE CONSTRUCT Quiet World

Impressive avant prog metal vaudeville from Berklee College of Music students. The question is: Are these guys joking or will we hear more (and better) stuff like this from them in the future? The quirky changes and total mood shifts mid song--multiple times--makes one wonder what the goals/aims of these shifts are? It's almost as if multiple personalities are each given their turn at presenting the song's message. Interesting but often a bit jarring, unsettling (though never so much as in an UneXpect song). 


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