Sunday, November 12, 2017

Best Prog Epics of the 1980s

We all know that there was a downturn in progressive rock music activity during the 1980s. Thus, there are few "epic" length songs from which to choose. Due to this fact, I have decided to permit a few sub-nine-minute length songs in this list.


Among the All-Time Greatest Epics of Progressive Rock History
- "As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls" (10) - PAT METHENY & LYLE MAYS
- "Dream Within a Dream" (10) - PROPAGANDA
- "Are You Going With Me?" (10) - THE PAT METHENY GROUP
- "Minuano in 6/8" (10) - THE PAT METHENY GROUP
- "Le cri" (10) - ESKATON

9.5 Songs
"The Sheltering Sky" (9.5) - KING CRIMSON
"Welcome to The Pleasuredome" (9.5) - FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD
"The Ninth Wave" (9.5) - KATE BUSH
"Pitié" (9.5) - ESKATON
"Brilliant Trees" (9.5) - DAVID SYLVIAN
"Piktors Verwandlungen" (9.5) - ANYONE'S DAUGHTER
"Wave" (9.5) - DAVID SYLVIAN
"Same Deep Water as You" (9.5) - THE CURE
"Disintegration" (9.5) - THE CURE
"Présage" (9.5) - UNIVERS ZERO

9.0 Songs
"Incubus" (9) - MARILLION
"Eskaton" (9) - ESKATON
"Attente" (9) - ESKATON
"Sleepless" (extended version) (9) - KING CRIMSON
"The Everso Closely Guarded Line" (9) - CARDIACS
"Marsibéli Krónikák I-VI" (9) - SOLARIS
"Emmanations" (9) - UNIVERS ZERO
"The Rainbow" (9) - TALK TALK
"Tota in The Moya" (9) - YEZDA URFA
"3, Almost 4, 6, Yea" (9) - YEZDA URFA
"The Last Requiem" (9) - AMENOPHIS
"La Ballade De Lénore" (9) - SHUB-NIGGURATH

8.5 Songs "Before the Bullfight" (8.5) - DAVID SYLVIAN
"Último Entardecer" (8.5) - BACAMARTE
"Script for a Jester's Tear" (8.5) - MARILLION
"Mystical Adventures, Pts 1-5" (8.5) - JEAN-LUC PONTY
"Onde" (8.5) - EIDER STELLAIRE
"The Last Human Gateway" (8.5) - IQ
"The Enemy Smacks" (8.5) - IQ 
"Widow's Peak" (8.5) - IQ
"Incipit Tragaedia" (8.5) - SHUB-NIGGURATH

8.0 songs
"Third Wind" (8) - THE PAT METHENY GROUP
"Time It's Time" (8) - TALK TALK
"Blind Curve" (8) - MARILLION
"Yog Sothoth" (8.0) - SHUB-NIGGURATH

7.5 Songs
"The Camera Eye" (7.5) - RUSH
"Steel Cathedrals" (7.5) - DAVID SYLVIAN
"La Poderosa muerta" (7.5) - LOS JAIVAS

7.0 Songs
"The Web" (7) - MARILLION


Yet to be determined:
"Le poison qui rend fou, Pt. 1" (), "Le poison qui rend fou, Pt. 2" (), "Samana" () - PRÉSENT
"Dense" (), "La corne du bois des pendus" (), "Combat" (), "Heatwave" (), "The Funeral Plain" () - UNIVERS ZERO




Saturday, October 28, 2017

Top Albums of the Year 2017, Part 2: The Others


IL CHERCHIO D'ORO Il fuoco sotto la cenere

Great Neo Prog of the vintage RPI kind--sounds, voices, constructs, all fit into the bombast of RPI symphonic prog. 




THE LIGHT AFTERNOON The History of Mr. Puffin Man

Gorgeous symphonic prog not unlike the vein that Bill Gillham and his female vocal-featured CIRRUS BAY project have graced Prog World with over the past ten years. I'd say vocalist Annette Appleton is a bit more operatic and/or theatrically-oriented than Bill's vocalists, but the RENAISSANCE-like feel is common to both. 

Line-up
Steve Newland - Guitars, Keyboards
Annette Appleton - Vocals
1. "A Boy On A Farm" (6:19) 
2. "The Lord Of Amber And Grey" (6:12) 
3. "Solstice I Named Her" (7:31) 
4. "The Buffer Zone" (5:53) 
5. "Mystery Plays" (16:32) 
6. "Coal Iron Crops & Tea" (8:10) 

Total time 50:37  




L'ALBERO DEL VELENO Tale of A Dark Fate

Proficient instrumental prog that is not as well well engineered as one would hope--especially with the acclaim it's been receiving. The fact that this music is being marketed as "horror" "soundtrack" music is quite surprising to me as the songs are mostly very pretty, even calming. The tempos and time signatures are fairly laid back and straightforward and the the musical arrangements are quite simplistic and often feel too bare or sparsely populated. The beginning of "Phantasos" was the first time I felt any kind of eeriness or feelings of uneasiness, and even this gets nowhere near as heavy as, say, a KARDA ESTRA song from the Naughties. It is also my opinion that this music is really screaming out for lyrics--for its story to be told in more than saccharine symphonic prog music. The drums are recorded raw and untreated (no gating!)--which is nice--but something is off-feeling about them--as if the equipment is too loose or cheap. Still, the drumming is, for me, often a highlight (especially on "Phobetor," "Clotho," and "Lachesis").

Line-up / Musicians
- Lorenzo Picchi / guitars
- Nadin Petricelli / keyboards, synth
- Marco Brenzini / flute
- Jacopo Ciani / violin, viola, strings
- Michele Andreuccetti / bass
- Claudio Miniati / drums

With:
- Cesare Valentini / choir arrangements

1. Prelude - The Poison Tree (1:20)
ACT I (Hypnos)
2. Morpheus (6:14)
3. Phobetor (3:18)
4. Interlude I - Momus (1:22)
5. Phantasos (5:50)
6. Interval (0:14)
ACT II (Thanatos)
7. Clotho (7:09)
8. Lachesis (4:08)
9. Interlude II - Ananke (3:48)
10. Atropos (5:37)
11. Postlude - Moros (4:55)

Total Length 44:04

Favorite tracks: 9. "Interlude II - Ananke" (3:48) (8.5/10); 3. "Phobetor" (3:18) (8.5/10); 7. "Clotho" (7:10) (though it runs a little long) (8.5/10); 5. "Phantasos" (5:51) (8.5/10); 8. "Lachesis" (4:09) (the second half) (8.5/10); 10. "Atropos" (5:36) (8/10), 2. "Morpheus" (6:15) (8/10); and; 11. "Postlude - Moros" (4:56) (held back by the computer-generated piano) (7.5/10).

3.5 stars; a good album from an artist whose progress and growth I will eagerly watch. Listening to this album I am reminded of the first BATTLESTATIONS album I heard back in 2011. Great ideas, great sounds, great potential, room to grow!



KILLER CORTEZ Maquiladora

Fine collaboration of the music of Socrates Cruz with the excellent drum work of Peter Bartash as epitomized on the song "Pine Ridge Peltier". To my ears, their music sounds and feels like a kind of a combination of Italian band MOONGARDEN or Poland's RETROSPECTIVE with the foundational sound of Britain's RADIOHEAD. Definitely a band (or composer) to keep an eye on.






SCHNAUSER Irritant

Part XTC and ANTIQUE SEEKING NUNS, part FARMERS MARKET and HOMUNCULUS RES, this band of blokes from Bristol make complex, upbeat, quirky, humorous music over which are sung quite clever, humorous lyrics in many forms and styles. 

1. "Spiele mit Katzen" (4:21) (8.5/10) 

2. "Chinese Brainworm (Tænia Solium)" (4:48) with a country-Kavus Torabi twang. (9/10)

3. "Re-Mortgaging the Nest of Hairs" (4:12) a mid-tempo instrumental (8/10)

4. "Sorry, You Were Out" (1:24) reminds me of 80s indie-quirk-band IT'S IMMATERIAL. 

5. "Have You Got PPI" (4:44) continues from the previous song with an account of a kind of phone telemarketing call. Fun vocal and nice instrumental contributions. (8.5/10) 

6. "How Bout a Kiss" (4:06) So XTC-ish! Uncanny! (8.5/10)

7. "Fail Better" (6:35) cool synth octave lead in gives this one an early 70s Canterbury feel. The slow pace and BEATLES-esque vocal arrangements make for an interesting, pretty song. Would've fit nicely on last years THE WINSTONS' debut. (9/10)

8. "Hypertension" (4:15) So many cool quirky-jazz, Canterbury-style things going on this instrumental. Could fit nicely into a HOMUNCULUS RES album. My favorite track on the album. (9/10)

9. "A New Atmosphere" (8:23) klezmer like in opening instruments and rhythm structure, but the B-part goes more prog-Canterbury. Alternates back and forth like this for the first minute before it  morphs a little to support a multi-voice vocal--kind of like an early Brit-pop "flower power" band (or very early YES). At the end of the sixth minute it switches into a slow, plodding speed over which a spoken poem is delivered in a NIGEL TUFNEL way. Meant to be funny? I'm sorry, I can't help but laugh. (9/10)

10. "The Monday Club" (7:44) definitely a piece of fusion--fusing jazz, pop, folk, psychedelia, and some proggy sounds. The chorus reminds me of Devon's MAGIC BUS. Love the HOMUNCULUS RES-like instrumental frenzy in the sixth and seventh minutes. Kind of a "Saturday Night's All Right for Fighting" outro. (9/10)

11. "Speile-Jangle" (2:17) strange filler-like song to end the album!?! (7.5/10)

85.0 on the Fishscales = B/solid four star album; an excellent album of upbeat, quirky prog pop in a somewhat Canterbury style. Recommended for your listening explorations.






GENTLE KNIFE The Clock Unwound

Quite an improvement in skill, polish, sophistication, and sound from the band'd self-titled debut three years ago. My favorite part of this band is its use of a broad array of eclectic musical instruments. My criticism is the "oldness" of many of the sounds and sound styles preferred by the band.

Line-up:

Astraea Antal - Flutes, bagpipe chanter, alto saxophone

Pal Bjorseth - Keyboards, flügelhorn, trumpet, viola, alto recorder, backing vocals

Odd Gronvold - Bass

Thomas Hylland Eriksen - Tenor saxophone

Veronika Horven Jensen - Vocals

Hakon Kavli - Vocals, guitars

Eiving Lorentzen - Guitars, synths

Charlotte Valstad Nielsen - Alto and baritone saxophone

Ove Christian Owe - Guitars

Ole Martin Svendensen  - Drums, percussion
Brian M.Talgo - Mellotron samples, vocals

1. "Prelude:Incipit" (3:21) low classical piano opening is joined by distant synth voices and then trumpet solo. Nice song, nice intro. Quite cinematic. (9/10)


2. "The Clock Unwound" (15:58) opens with a heavy Scandinavian prog metal sound before settling into a more proggy shifting song. Muted male vocals precede a nice section of extended synth soling. Vocals at the end of the fourth minute, this time female, before being rejoined by the original male. Nice together! 
     At 6:18 everything crescendos and disappears leaving chant-like choral "aaahs" before the song switches melodies and speeds to go a different direction. Nice! Electric guitar lead is quite nice. Another quiet break at 8:15 leads into a slow, spacious, ominous section with a nice pastoral flute solo over the top. Very "Court of the Crimson King"-like but not too imitative. Very nice male vocal performance here followed by another, more-sensitive electric guitar solo and then tenor saxophone.  With two minutes to go the pace quickens and the sound palette fills with electric guitar and synths soloing madly over the top as the drums and pace continually speed up. The best work I've heard from this band yet! (9/10)

3. "Fade Away" (7:25) opens with a series of odd electric guitar chords played in slow arpeggi before date synth wash and trumpet join in. Male tenor voice enters to tell his tale in a Leonard Cohen-like style. Enter Veronika to make it a duet. Decent instrumental mid-section, then amazingly sudden shift back to opening themes, sounds, and pacing. Odd song. (7.5/10)

4. "Smother" (8:49) opens with a sound strikingly similar to that of THE REASONING's 2009 album The Awakening before turning Broadway musical at the end of the third minute. Awesome band cohesion in the seventh minute; weird key change at 5:45 followed by another odd jazz trumpet solo (8.5/10)

5. "Plans Askew" (9:22) opens with a few electrified guitars playing a nice little weave before male vocal enters. Reminds me of some Shulman singing. The next section is full of bombast of the "classic rock" era of the 1970s and 80s. At 3:25 the mix finally feels full, pretty. TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA comes to mind. Then at 4:40 we are suddenly brought back to pastoral folk earth. Nice flute and baritone sax play. (8/10)

6. "Resignation" (10:16) interesting and engaging though a little too monotonous for glowing reviews.Spoken word sounds a lot like the voice and approach of another Scandinavian oddity, MAJOR PARKINSON. (8.5/10)

Total Time 55:11



84.17 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a solid effort of progressive rock music worth recommending to others. If this band continues to grow as they have their releases may soon be nearing masterpiece level. 





GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR Luciferian Towers

Though intellectually I feel that I should like everything that GY!BE does, I do not. I know I should be impressed with the musicianship, with the technical and theoretical mastery on display in their compositions, I am not. When I listen to GY!BE I feel as if everything is a slowly shifting muddle of sonic mud. It seems as if every wave in the sonic spectrum, 20 to 20,000 is full, that the band leaves no space left for anchoring contrast. And for those of you who know me and my musical tastes, I like space. It has only taken me ten years, with this release, to discover why it is such a struggle for me to listen to and review GY!BE music. I am sorry that more simplistic, less accomplished compositions rate higher on my lists of enjoyable Post Rock, but that's the way it's going to have to be. I am just not wired to like this music. The more I read, the more I feel guilty for this for obviously these guys know what they're doing and work hard to accomplish their lofty goals.

1. "Undoing a Luciferian Towers" (7:47) opens with a pulsing, vibrating weave that reminds me of a more sophisticated version of a SWANS song ("The Seer Returns"). With additional instruments (winds) joining in and adding to the mix, and a few key/chord shifts, the sound becomes cacophonous and almost overwhelming to me while maintaining that SWANS-like feel to the end. (8/10)

2. "Bosses Hanging (Pt. I, II, & III)" (14:42) strummed bass, tremoloed other stringed notes, precede the melody-presenting distorted electric guitar--until the 2:09 mark when drums and other instruments join (viola/violin) to present us with a kind of military funeral march. Kind of cool! At 3:13 more electrified stringed instruments (mostly guitars) join in in the higher registers, bringing a kind of plaintive urgency to the music. But this is only temporary, as at 4:22 everything drops away leaving a single guitar to play its two note arpeggio ad infinitum while a fast tremolo violin note accompanies. Gradually a plethora of other stringed instruments join in--all bringing with them their own two-note arpeggio to form quite an interesting TERRY RILEY-minimalist weave. When drums rejoin mid-seventh minute, the pace and complexity of the weave begins to build to a minor frenzy--kind of like the end violin solo in THE WHO's "Baba O'Riley." Halfway through the bass returns to strumming as the near-military drumming returns. Then the music stagnates and shifts, stagnates and shifts, several times over the next two minutes--including a couple of key/chord changes. At 11:25 the speed of these shifts quickens and a new upper register violin melody is added giving the song a little feeling of hopefulness. It's all here: death and destruction, chaos and confusion, as well as hope and optimism--this latter expressed beautifully (intentionally?) with the ending melody from (or a variation on) THE BEATLES' song "With a Little Help From My Friends." This song makes me appreciate GY!BE's genius. (9/10)

3. "FamFamine" (6:44) opens with some loosely conjoined one-and two-note droning from a variety of stringed instruments. Gradually the weave tightens and forms into a kind of FRIPP-ENO edgy-ambient thing. Interestingly, I would have liked this one had a JOHN LENNON/BEATLES sound and melody not appeared and moved to center in the fifth and sixth minutes (the same melody from the opening of the album's opening song). (8.5/10)

4. "Anthem for No State (Pt. I, II, & III)" (14:41) opens in a quiet simplistic way that I should like, but the use of the pedal steel (or "infinite guitar," saw, dobro, or whatever that whining, droning, incessantly sustaining sound is caused by) is not to my liking. Also the heavily fuzzed guitar doing most of the lead work is just to fuzzy for my tastes. The Country Western simplicity is maintained for six full minutes before bagpipes and distorted guitar strumming take over and turn the song into a SWANS-like emotional release. (Who came first, SWANS or GY!BE?) With four minutes left the song finally achieves full development. Nice drumming behind the weave of electrified stringed instruments. At 12:30 the song finally reveals a melody worth noting, worth remembering--which plays out with the song's finish. (8/10)

83.75 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a very good work of Post Rock that is recommended for others to check out for themselves.




BAROCK PROJECT Detachment

Barock Project is:
Luca Zabbini – piano, keyboards, acoustic guitars, lead vocals
Eric Ombelli – drums
Marco Mazzuoccolo – electric guitars
Francesco Caliendo - electric bass

Peter Jones - Lead vocal on "Broken" and "Alone" 

1. "Driving Rain" (1:03) piano-based opening could be an opening for an adult contemporary jazz song.

2. "Promises" (5:05) taking the same arpeggiated melody from the opening "introduction" and moving it to a synth bass and speeding it up, the band bursts into a very complex (all instruments working furiously to keep up with the others) symphonic beginning, the song settles into a STYX-like driving rhythm with way more complexity to it. This is truly an amazingly constructed and performed song! The cynical lyric is also quite interesting--what if it's really too late to recover from the damage we've inflicted?! (9.5/10)

3. "Happy to see you" (7:37) slowing the pace down a bit and using some computer-sequenced synth rhythms a la IQ gives the opening of this song a familiar feel to it. The Arabic themes put forth from the synth "violins" gives the instrumental parts of the song a bit of a OFRA HAZA or YOSSI SASSI sound and feel to it. Nice organ, nice hand percussion, nice acoustic guitar play in that dynamic fourth minute. Things then slow down into a PHIL COLLINS-feeling section (gone are the Arabic flavors). Excellent guitar work in that Mellotron-drenched sixth minute. Gorgeous! Then we return to the Middle Eastern themes and sounds for an up-shifted key for the final minute. Nicely constructed song. (9/10)

4. "One day" (7:23) opens with some flashy solo acoustic guitar soloing before strums at the 50 second mark set up a fabric for the joining in of 12-string, keys and singing. A bit ANTHONY PHILLIPS, a bit Eastern European. The amping up with electric guitars and medieval sounding instruments in support at the three minute mark cause me to back away and lose interest. Then, with the start of the fifth minute, we're off to the races (anybody else here the similarities here to the work of THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE?). (8.5/10)

5. "Secret therapy" (5:37) way too poppy in a 1980s kind of way for my tastes. Nice, clear sound mix in the very middle. (7/10)

6. "Broken" (feat. Peter Jones) (9:10) bouncy, upbeat, almost-classical feeling piano-based start with Peter Jones' recognizable voice to lead us into a dynamic symphonic section that could have been taken straight from a MARTIN READ-era BIG BIG TRAIN song (an era of BBT that I LOVE--and like much more than this song/sound). (8.5/10)

7. "Old Ghosts" (4:07) opens with eerie reverse synths over which a MARCO GLUHMANN-like voice talk-sings in a low voice. At 0:45 the song shifts into a very Spanish-sounding Spanish guitar-based weave. For the first time, lead vocalist LUCA ZABBINI's English singing voice sounds accented. The song flounders a few times, losing my attention and interest (even through repeated listenings). I get the musical choices that fit with the title/subject, but... (8/10)  
8. "Alone" (feat. Peter Jones) (3:14) piano-based story sang by PETER JONES (TIGER MOTH TALES, COLIN TENCH PROJECT) (8.5/10)

9. "Rescue Me" (4:55) muted-strummed electric guitar portends something far more aggressive. Meanwhile, somewhat muted, distant vocal opens the story. When FIXX-like rhythm guitar sets us up into a new section (for the chorus) we're given both CY CURNIN vocal melody and synth sounds. Interesting! Weak keyboard and guitar play in the third minute instrumental section. A disappointment. (7/10)

10. "Twenty years" 6:06 for the first two-and-a-half minutes this is stripped down, fast-picked acoustic guitar story told by Luca with some "strings" in support, but then a different course is chosen: a fast, breakneck paced full-band production with a Gary Richrath/REO Speedwagen-like guitar solo played over the top. Then synth-derived strings do the soloing before the song finishes with a cool section of vocally-harmonized acoustic guitar flourish. (9/10) 

11. "Waiting" (5:43) accented voice sings in English over synth arpeggio. DEPECHE MODE/TEARS FOR FEARS programmed drum sound plays in second section. Piano in the third. Chorus section is more rocking but melodies or lyrics aren't very engaging for me. Love the sound of the organ & harpsichord solo at the end of the third minute before Russian piano and accordion duet take over. Nice drumming and synth solo in the next section. Then multiple-voiced choral section takes over--unfortunately, over a synth sound that feels/sounds so 90s. Interesting outro. (7.5/10)

12. "A New tomorrow" (7:39) drums, synth and piano open before very pleasant singing voice and chord and melody choice draws me into this one. Great up to the 1:10 mark when the chorus starts. The second verse uses some really awesome multiple-voiced vocal harmonics (not unlike a Simon and Garfunkle efffort). AT 2:20 things amp up quite a bit with electric guitar power chords and Farfisa-like organ providing an interesting contrast to the previous sections, but also diminishing the song's overall feel to more of the early 1970s URIAH HEEP-kind of sound. Great section of vocals in the fifth minute before everything breaks down to a nice section of piano and bass. Almost JOHN TOUT-like! Then back to the GRAND FUNK/early Wakeman hard rock section. (8/10)

13. "Spies" (7:23) opens with an inviting weave of guitars, bass, drums and nicely-effected PETER MURPHY-like voiced vocal. Very engaging if poppy and more simple in construction and performance demands than previous songs. A break of silence at 3:13 makes one look to see if the song is over, but then a spoken voice comes in over a kind of cabaret piano. Heavier section soon ensues with effected male voice (not Luca?) singing. Then everything drops away again leaving a soft weave of piano, synths, guitars, bass and percussives (both live and computerized). It's very nice.
     Keeping the title of this song in mind, one can come to grips with all the twists and changes in directions this song takes. The final minute is even, engaging, and sublime. Interesting! (8.5/10)

When compared to so many of the modern Neo Prog releases of this decade, this is an extraordinarily well engineered and produced album. The acoustic guitar sounds, bass, keys and vocals have clarity and separation and yet the mixing gives all instruments a blended feeling of "togetherness" which is so often absent from the over compressed, over neutralized tracks of other releases. Mega kudos, Luca! The compositional quality here is often right in the top tier of prog song-making but often falls back into old used and often tired sounds, riffs, and styles. And you have quite a capable and talented group of musicians to draw from and challenge. Still room to grow, Barock Project!

83.33 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a very nice addition to the world of modern progressive rock music, one that I recommend to all prog lovers.





AGUSA Agusa

I like this sound of these songs and their slightly more sophisticated, dynamic music than that of their previous release, 2015's Två, which was more like two long, continuous, side-long jams. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Mikael Ödesjö / guitar
- Jonas Berge / organ

- Jenny Puertas / flute

- Tobias Pettersson / bass

- Tim Wallander / drums, percussion

1. "Landet Längesen" (10:29) pretty instrumental jam prog using vintage instrumental sounds and based upon stolen folk melody. But it works! (8.5/10)

2. "Sorgenfri" (5:00) this one sounds like a 1960s folk rock song (electric guitar chords are lifted straight out of some blues-rock jam) over which flute, organ, and electric guitar take turns soloing. (7.5/10)

3. "Den Förtrollade Skogen" (8:33) opens with a lot of spacey spaciousness: distorted guitar squealing over organ and tuned percussives. After about a minute a plodding tom-and-kick drum supports another familiar folk melody coming from the flute. After a round or two, drums, bass, and strummed electric guitar join in to create a slow blues-folk song. A break at the halfway mark allows bass, hand percussion, and wah-ed electric guitar strums and simple organ to establish a kind of Rasta/Afro-pop variation. Okay song. (7.5/10)

4. "Sagor Från Saaris" (9:20) uses a raunchy 1960s West Coast sound from the opening, over which flute enters to plays its folky melodies. Foundation sound and structure sound almost like classic rock song "House of the Rising Sun." When second section crashes in with fuzzy bass and swirling organ soloing over drums and hand percussion, it becomes a little more blues-rock and even grungy. The return to the flute-based melodies always bring it back to a proggier folk sound, though. A spacious clear out in the fifth minute is different--allowing for some more whole-band experimentation with their individual sounds. Cool! Even the way it amps up into a crescendo of sound is cool and unexpected. (8/10)

5. "Bortom Hemom" (10:19) quiet organ and gentle, breathy flute open this one up before guitar strums and arpeggi from organ and cymbal play begin a slow build to the point in second minute when everybody steps up and settles into a nice, engaging foundation over which organ is the first to take its turn soloing. Nice melody set up by the strummed acoustic guitar chord progression. My favorite song on the album. (9/10)



Total time 43:41


83.0 on the Fishscales = B-/four stars; a nice contribution of folk-blues Kosmische jams.




KAPRECKER'S CONSTANT Fate Outsmarts Desire

A surprise arrival from this collective of British prog veterans, the sound is pristine and well-mixed and effected, the music very easy on the ears, kind of like TONY PATTERSON or MANTRA VEGA with the British historical passion equal to BIG BIG TRAIN.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Al Nicholson / acoustic guitar, classical guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, keyboards
- Nick Jefferson / bass, fretless bass, electric guitar, keyboards
- Mike Westergaard / keyboards, piano, backing voices
- Bill Jefferson / voices
- Dorie Jackson / voices
- David Jackson / saxophones, flutes, whistles, bell
- Phil Gould / drums, percussion, djambe
- Paul Gunn / spoken voices

1. "Hors d'Oeuvre" (3:28) opening with a passionate male voice singing a cappella, the song soon progresses into a well-woven tapestry of straight-timed folk rock for the telling of a story about. Love the background flute, organ, and sax play in the second and third minutes. Interesting choral bridge to the piano-based, "orchestra"-drenched finale. (8.5/10)

2. "Bluebird" (17:53) a musical expression for the telling of the story of Malcolm Campbell and Parry Thomas chasing the world land speed record back in the 1920s. The song is peppered throughout with interjections of recorded radio quotes from the era's headlines. GENESIS-like drum play and multi-track guitar picking coupled with a very pleasant, catchy melody make this easy listening part of the song (the first six minutes) my favorite on the album. Instrumental section in the seventh and eighth minutes contains some lackluster electric guitar and saxophone soli before we are returned to the narrative with news of Parry Thomas' death while trying to race his speeding "Babs" to a new world record. Dull, sad lyrics follow. Bluebird's return the next year is announced, followed by a "fanfare"-type of full-band instrumental section. The achievement of a new record initiates another pretty, more upbeat singing section. The multi-instrument soloing here is almost jazzy. Nice multi-voiced vocal section follows--another outstanding section--which progresses with a steady buildup into a prolonged final section--one that rivals anything BIG BIG TRAIN has conjured up. (9/10)

3. "Pearl Of The Lake" (5:10) a pretty ballad that would have fit perfectly on the 2016 MANTRA VEGA release. Nice sound, soothing, but nothing very exciting or noteworthy here. (7.5/10)

4. "Hallsands" (14:18) a song that tells a sea story with lead singer's IAN ANDERSON/DAVE COUSINS-like voice taking the stage, front and center, for the majority of the song. A switch into acoustic folk traditional music at 5:36 is fun--though the electric guitar power chords sneaking into the background are, in my opinion, unnecessary. But this is all for naught as there is a quick switch back into storytelling mode with a new, orchestral-sounds-supported slowed down section--a section that is, unfortunately a little too monotonous despite the gradual buildup with additional instrument tracks filling the soundfield. At 8:30 the music switches into an interesting instrumental section in which seems imitative of Genesis' "Apocalypse in 9/8" Just before the ten minute mark this ends and some medieval acoustic instruments give the song a new mediæval feel before settling into more of another ballad-support combination--this one far more traditional British folk-oriented (until the electric guitar solo at 11:42). Flutes and Mellotron-like synthesizer washes support. Organ and electric guitar re[place the vocalist to carry the main melody forward from the end of the thirteenth minute to the song's end. I like a lot of this music--and it seems perfect for the support of another historically-based story, but the story and lyrics are lost to me. (I just don't absorb the meaning of the words of song lyrics. A disability of mine, I believe.) (8.5/10)


5. "Four-Faced Liar" (4:24) a song based in acoustic instrumentation (even the keyboards seem to be trying to make the sound of acoustic orchestral instruments), another story is being told with lots of radio samples incorporated beneath and between the singing and music. Something about Boston and gold. The lead vocal here is rather pitchy. (8/10)

6. "Houdini" (21:26) the third and final epic-length song of the album, opens with atmospheric sounds supporting the long introductory reproduction of an old loudspeaker speech--perhaps an original recording of Houdini? At the end of the second minute the speech ends and the music switches to bring electric guitar arpeggi and some nice flute play to fore while female voice(s) enter before a lone female voice takes over the lead. With the second verse drums, bass, and more layers of keys and guitars and saxes join in. Very nice sound and construct. The succeeding sections of instrumental and lyrics support are nothing extraordinary--even tread a disappointing line between predictability and lackluster. In fact, the plethora of old radio samples are by far and away the highlights of the song. I like Kate Bush's tribute better. (8/10)

Total Time 66:39

The keyboard master does a great job arranging keyboard-generated orchestral sounds and textures but, in the end, they're a weak point because they're still just keyboard generated representations. The vocalists have pleasant timbres and stories to tell but their performances lack passion and fire. The most interesting parts of their music are the tapestries woven by the combination of acoustic instruments, though even these seem to disappoint in their frequent lack of invention and/or prog-by-the-numbers product.

82.5 on the Fishscales = B-/four stars; a nice piece of pastoral, history-oriented story telling--a celebration of one of the niches progressive rock music has carved for itself.




THINKING PLAGUE Hoping Against Hope

New avant/RIO from the Colorado-based masters is always nice. Elaine sings and plays accordion!

Line-up
Mike Johnson: guitar, samples, midi instruments
Mark Harris: soprano and alto saxes, B-flat standard and bass clarinets, flute
Dave Willey: bass, drums (5), accordion (2, 6)
Elaine di Falco: voice, accordion, piano
Robin Chestnut: drums, percussion
Bill Pohl: guitar
     with:
Adriana Teodoro-Dier: piano (2, 5, 6) and toy piano (2)
Simon Steensland: bass (5)
Mike Boyd: drums (2)
Kathryn Cooper: oboe (4)

1. "The Echoes of Their Cries" (6:37) opens with a high pitch drone before single notes from four other instruments join in. By the end of the first minute bass and drums have kicked into an odd-time groove over which Elaine de Falco sings in her chromatic way before woodwinds attack. A creepy lull-section ensues over which Elaine, winds, and electric guitar take turns leading. Dynamics shift back and forth every 30 seconds or so between soft, lull and loud, in-your-face. Elaine's singing in the fourth minute stays nearly within two of her lower range notes before switching in the fifth minute to the use of wordless vocalese while accordion and piano supporting her along with the rhythm section. (9/10)

2. "Thus Have We Made the World" (5:44)

3. "Commuting to Murder" (4:44)

4. "Hoping Against Hope" (10:06)

5. "The Great Leap Backwards" (4:01)

6. "A Dirge for the Unwitting" (13:45)





HERD OF INSTINCT Drone Priest

Line-up:
Mark Cook  (Spoke of Shadows) - Warr Guitar, Fretless Bass, Fretless and Fretted Guitars, Keyboards, Samples, and Beat Construction.
Bill Bachman (Spoke of Shadows, Neil Morse) - Drums
Gayle Ellett (Djam Karet) - Mellotron, Moog, Hammond, and Guitar
Bob Fisher - Flute and Sax
Adam Holzman (Miles Davis, Steven Wilson) - Moog, Piano, Rhodes, and Ring Modulator
Marco Machera (EchoTest) - Bass
Mike McGary - Rhodes, Synth, and Vibes
Rick Read - Chapman Stick
Ross Young - Cymbals


1. "Fragments Of A Portrait" (2:46) opens like an old song from the Doors or Animals before breaking down to allow slow simple structure with guitar arpeggi and bass before Steve Hackett-like volume-pedal-controlled guitar lead plays. At the 90 second mark things have shifted again, as the rhythm section picks up the pace establishing a more standard jazz-fusion up-tempo pace over which a Fripp-like guitar solo plays till the songs end. (8.5/10)
2. Cosmos (4:17)

3. "Drone Priest" (5:29) opens with slow emergence of Middle Eastern hand percussions as Fretless bass and WarrGuitar fill the atmospheric sound palette. At the two minute mark bass settles into an almost Rastafarian groove while percussives and WarrGuitar continue before female vocal chanter and heavy guitar chord play begins. Fripp-like guitar solo enters followed by KC-like bridge before all music cuts out leaving synth drones over which strings play an almost classical foundation over which muted fretless guitar lead solos in an almost Indian sitar fashion. (9/10)


4. "Slow Current" (3:56) a slower, spacey, almost bluesy song that reminds me of something from the late 60s or early 70s. Until the Warr Guitar plays.

5. "Orphan" (4:25) bouncing along in odd tempo with jazzy Fender Rhodes until it shifts into a funkier jazz-fusion sound. 


6. Filament (4:23)

7. "Count To 5" (4:32) opens with a 1980s techno pop spring to it before the band settles into a steady "Green-Eyed Lady" kind of groove while first Casio and then Fretless Guitar take turns on lead solos. After a stop and restart into a new groove around the two minute mark, a Moog is up next in the lead with Mellotron situated right up front and almost-djenty guitars in the back. At 3:15 there is another shift, into a slower, more spacey section still in an odd time signature to the end--a rather sudden and unexpected end. (8.5/10)

8. Zero Point Flow (4:45)
9. Soft Glow (6:20)
10. Almost Transparent Blue (4:42)
11. The Blood Jet Is Poetry (6:23)

Total Time 51:58




SAMSARA BLUES EXPERIMENT One With The Universe

Typical well-recorded, well performed heavy blues rock from these boys who were, unfortunately, born in the wrong era. They make great music . . . that all sounds like modernized jam versions of old music from the late 1960s. GREAT album cover!




NICK PROL & THE PROLETARIANS Loon Attic

Here's an interesting modern project from one Nick Prol and many, many friends and collaborators that seems to try to revive the sound and stylings of 1980s PETE SHELLEY (founder of the BUZZCOCKS) with a little CARDIACS and even MAGMA thrown into the mix--fits very well into the quirky, theatric sub-category that I like to call Prog Cabaret--though it could also be called Post Punk. 

1. Main Titles (0:59)
2. Welcome (0:27)
3. Carvings On The Wall (4:08)
4. 8th Wonder (2:02)
5. Treacle (2:27)
6. Shiny And Round (2:12)
7. Box Of Flies (3:04)
8. Marry Annette (1:58)
9. Thumbs (3:02)
10. Madame Spider (3:14)
11. Reprise (0:49)
12. Bubble And Squeak (2:28)
13. A Myriad (1:37)
14. Nameless (1:42)
15. Under The Bed (0:18)
16. Magazine Reader (3:09)
17. Cheesecake (1:32)
18. Another Groan (1:39)
19. Wastebin (2:07)
20. It Bodes Well (2:47)
21. Saturnine Showers (1:49)
22. Beekeeper's Suit (4:10)
23. O Merry Land (2:17)

Total time 49:57

Line-up:
Nick Prol - Vocals, Guitar, Misc. Cacophonous Calamity
Ben Spees - Bass, Misc. Aural Alchemy
Connor Reilly - Drums
Dave Newhouse - Woodwinds
   With
Evyenia Karapolous - Lead Vocals (2), Backing Vocals (3, 14)
Charlie Cawood - Bass, Guitar (3)
Moe Staiano - Glockenspiel, Marimba (3), Percussion(5)
Dave Willey - Accordion, Bass, "Cruddy Mandolin" (4)
Paul Sears - Drums (4), Percussion(10)
Bob Drake - Lead Vocals, Voice of "Filligrew"(7)
Mohadev - Guitar Solo (4, 7)
Thymme Jones - Drums, Trumpet, Moog (6)
Oliver Grant Campbell - Bass  (6), Screams (20)
Michael Dawson - Flute (8)
Carla Diratz - Lead Vocals (10)
Matt Lebofsky - Keyboard (15), Mellotron & Piano (17)
Dominique D'Avanzo - Backing Vocals, Bass Clarinet (13)
Emanuele Sterbini - Backing Vocals (13)
Nathan James - Backing Vocals (3)
Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth - Drums (18)
Anthony Garone - Guitar Solo (18)
Rob Crow - Backing Vocals, Acoustic Guitar (22)
R Stevie Moore - Acoustic Guitar (Chords by Tim Burgess), Humming, Sad Trumpet, Harpsichord, Scatting (22) 






CLOUDS CAN Leave

The resurrection of an old Neo Prog project of THOMAS THELEN (T) contains nice songs that probably have meaningful lyrics if I heard them but otherwise offers nothing very fresh or innovative.





MOON MEN Amazing Science Fiction Stories

Line-up
Bret Hart
Jerry King
Dave Newhouse
William Jungwirth

1. "New Moone" (3:55) nice, catchy foundation over which someone pulls off a pretty amazing Fripp-like guitar solo in the second and third minutes. The alto sax solo that follows is pretty awesome in a Mell Collins/Dick Parry kind of way. (8.5/10)

2. "Stem 1" (0:54) restrained craziness with a jazzy intention. (8/10)

3. "Locus" (3:10) opens sounding like a modern-day excursion into John Coltrane territory. Unfortunately, it never gets into second gear--just floats along as if Eumir Deodato could never get his band to shift out of 
the intro/beginning of "Also Sprach Zarathustra." (8.5/10)

4. "Bam! Bam!" (4:06) has a very cool foundational groove (fretless bass?) with odd percussives and background electric guitar play. (8.5/10)

5. "Little Person" (6:38) (/10)
6. "Hillbilly Moon" (2:02) (/10)
7. "Stem 3" (1:12) (/10)
8. "Dismal" (4:35) (/10)
9. "Women Are Marching" (3:45) (/10)
10. "Stem 2" (1:40) (/10)
11. "Horrible Circus Experience" (4:52) (/10)
12. "Manic" (2:46) (/10)
13. "Stem 4" (2:03) (/10)

14. "Fork Eye" (5:58) Best song on the album. In a Fripp/Belew/Frith/Zappa way. (9/10)

Total Time 47:36







PATRICK GRANT A Sequence of Waves (Twelve Stories and a Dream)

Nice classically-founded avant jazz/RIO from NYC.

Line-up:
Patrick Grant: guitar, bass, viola, piano, keyboards and percussion
John Ferrari: drums, mallet instruments and percussion
Nick Didkovsky: guitar solo on “Primary Blues"
Dan Cooper: 7-string electric bass
Lynn Bechtold: violin
Dan Barrett: cello 


1. Lucid Intervals (3:56)
2. Driving Patterns (5:24)
3. Prelude I (2:37)
4. Alcohol (2:46)
5. Tobacco (3:02)
6. Firearms (2:51)
7. Seven Years At Sea (4:54)
8. Breaking Butterflies Upon A Wheel (4:26)
9. Lonely Ride Coney Island (6:33)
10. Primary Blues (4:32)
11. Prelude II (2:24)
12. To Find A Form That Accommodates The Mess (5:40)
13. One Note Samba (4:22)

Total Time 53:27






WHITE WILLOW Future Hopes

It's been quite a wait since 2011's Terminal Twilight but we are quite fortunate to have professionals of the caliber of these seasoned veterans collaborating together once more. Multi-instrumentalists
Jacob Holm-Lupo, Ketil Vestrum Einarsen, Mattias Olsson, Lars Fredrik Frøislie, team up with bass guitarist Ellen Andrea Wang and new singer (familiar to OPIUM CARTEL fans), Venke Knutson, along with the boon of a Roger Dean album cover to create this wonderful collection of pure prog.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Venke Knutson / vocals
- Jacob Holm-Lupo / guitars, synthesizers
- Lars Fredrik Frøislie / keyboards
- Ketil Einarsen / flute
- Ellen Andrea Wang / bass
- Mattias Olsson / drums & percussion
With:
- Kjersti Løken / trumpet (1)
- Hedvig Mollestad / guitar (3, 5)
- Ole Øvstedal / guitar (4)
- David Krakauer / clarinet (6)

1. "Future Hopes" (4:30)
2. "Silver and Gold" (4:04)
3. "In Dim Days" (11:04)
4. "Where There Was Sea There Is Abyss" (1:59)
5. "A Scarred View" (18:16)
6. Animal Magnetism (CD/Digital bonus track) (7:15)
7. Damnation Valley (CD/Digital bonus track) (3:16)

Total Time 50:24






IL TEMPIO DELLE CLESSIDRE Il-ludere

Line-up
Francesco Ciapica: vocals
Giulio Canepa: electric guitar, classical guitar, backing vocals
Elisa Montaldo: keyboards, backing vocals
Fabio Gremo: bass guitar, classical guitar, backing vocals
Mattias Olsson (Anglagard, White Willow, Necromonkey): drums, percussions, keyboards, processed sounds
   With
Anna Holmgren (Anglagard): flute (7)
Andrea Montaldo: percussions (10)

Tracklist:
1. Le Regole Del Gioco (1:50)
2. La Parola Magica (4:54)
3. Come Nelle Favole (5:10)
4. Dentro La Mia Mente (7:21)
5. Spettro Del Palco (4:52)
6. Prospettive (6:37)
7. Manitou (5:22)
8. Nuova Alchimia (4:35)
9. La Spirale Del Vento (8:43)
10. Gnaffè (bonus track) (6:19)

Total Time 55:43







ALIO DIE & AGLAIA Opera Magnetica

1. "Shape of the Wind" (16:00) great sound, peaceful and yet with a little edge to keep it interesting. Could use a little more development. (8.5/10)

2. "One Second Before Dark" (18:12)

3. "Wake of A Silver Water" (22:07)





PERIDONI Jade

Melodic, tightly performed instrumental jazz fusion from Cincinnati, Ohio. The music is heavily electrified yet squeaky-cleanly recorded. It is quite reminiscent of some of the albums from AL DI MEOLA, JAN HAMMER or even JEAN-LUC PONTY from the late 1970s or early 1980s.

Line-up:
Cory Donnini
Kaleb Perrin
Ben Steinkamp
Kevin Harris

Jamebo Corsini-Lights

1. "Fission" (4:26) Tight! (8/10)

2. "Follow Thru" (6:52) Nice melodies and use of programmed drums. (8.5/10)

3. "Pendulum" (9:00) A song that is demerited for its cheesy electric piano but is then saved by its hip mid-section and synth and guitar soli. (8/10)

4. "Jade" (7:27) Vocals! Androgynous sounding due to the heavy use of effects, but very psychedelic in a Steve HILLAGE way, but, ultimately, there's nothing new here. (7.5/10)

5. "Prisma Color" (5:15) sounds like a series of looped or sequenced arpeggi. Guitar is really drawing comparisons to (7.5/10)

6. "Shimmer" (4:35) nice foundation ruined by really cheesy synth for first solo. Nice guitar work, both in mirroring keys and soloing. (8/10)

7. "Are You There" (5:09) Acoustic guitars! Acoustic drums! Less-adulterated Steve Hillage/Perry Farrell (Jane's Addiction, Porno for Pyros) voice! Nice lyric! Nice synth solo and bass play! Favorite song on the album. (9/10)

8. "Static Array" (5:44) cool ambient/experimental guitar and synth interplay--with and without drums & bass. Could go on forever... (9.5/10)

Total Time 48:28


82.5 on the Fishscales = 4 stars, B-; a very good album. Definitely a young band with promise!




 NON NEWTONIAN MAN Clouds

Dynamic keyboard-dominated heavy prog from Italy with a GINO VANELLI-like voice coming from singer Antonio Curedda.

1. Overwhelming (8:10) (8/10)
2. Beyond The Door (4:43)
3. Pawn (9:18) (8/10)
4. In Search Of Courage (1:36)
5. Shelter (5:37)
6. Olandese Volante (14:52) (8.5/10)
7. From Here... (6:11)
8. Biomechanical (16:21) (9/10)
9. Queen (3:59)

Total Time 70:47

Line-up:
Antonio Curedda - Vocals
Luca Corradi - Guitars
Andrea Ruzzenenti - Guitars, Vocals
Simone Cavallaro - Bass
Michele Curedda - Piano, Keyboards
Davide Ruzzenenti - Drums
   With
Lucia Tozzi - Violins
Alessandro Quattrino - Percussions (6)
Emanuela Carretti - Vocals (8)





LEPROUS Malina

Ever dangerous due to exceptionally talented musicians and one of the best voices in modern prog, these Norwegians, unfortunately, come up short this time. Too much pop diversity and deviation from the sound that made them great.

Line-up:
Einar Solberg - Lead Vocal, Synth
Tor Oddmund Suhrke - Guitar
Øystein Landsverk - Guitar
Baard Kolstad - Drums
Simen Daniel Børven - Bass


1. Bonneville (5:28) Interesting and unusual foundation (9/10)
2. Stuck (6:48)
3. From The Flame (3:51)
4. Captive (3:43)
5. Illuminate (4:21)
6. Leashes (4:09)
7. Mirage (6:48)
8. Malina (6:15)
9. Coma (3:55)
10. The Weight Of Disaster (6:00)
11. The Last Milestone (7:30)

Total Time 58:48




DOWN WITH THE GYPSIES Kassiopeia

From Deutschland and Österreich (I'm not quite sure how they do that), this is a creative modern psychedelic band who manage to put a refreshing creative bent on old sounds and styles. The music herein is both nostalgiac and fresh. The instrumental contributions are nice, competent, often quite melodic, if also sometimes simple, but lead singer Gaba Wierzbicka has something special. Still, even on songs that do not feature or spotlight Ms. Wierzbicka the music is eminently enjoyable.

Line-up: 
Gaba Wierzbicka - Vocals, Guitar, Keys
Melina Tzimou Weis - Guitar
Mitja Besen - Bass
Philipp Reiter - Flute, Clarinette, Percussion
Tom Schneckenhaus - Drums, Saz


1. "Intro" (6:24) "distant" vocals and opium-den-like flute, organ, bass and drum music made special by the obvious talents of the vocalist. (9/10)

2. "Sky Full Of Cars" (8:57) Here, in the straightforward bluesy song structure, Gaba's voice is recorded in a way that makes it sound like a cross between Pearl, Cassidy and Winehouse. I bet she is a force to experience in the setting of a live performance! Good song, the first five minutes, just not as proggy as I'm looking for. Plus, not the most inspiring lyric. BUT the second half of the song with its folk instruments and eerie synth sound like a spaced-out cosmic entourage of the very sub-race that the band's title proclaims they're "down with." Kosmische in a AMON DÜUL II or ASH RA TEMPEL way--or even POPUL VUH. Interesting but not enough to salvage it. (7.5/10)

3. "Ikarus" (10:01) back to prog-land, this one--beginning with the heavily wahed guitar chords and deep bass-like "clavinet" Rhodes. When Ms. Wiersbicka's vocalise joins in the keyboard rhythm and chords begin to sound and feel like MOBY's "Strange ways" (theme to the Bourne Identity movies.) I have to admit, it's pretty cool. In the fourth minute the keyboard cuts out and Ms. Wiersbicka returns with her soulful, blues creaning. Then the pace changes with a flourish of flute and fast disco bass drum rhythm setting the new pace pace. The sound and performances are a little on the cheesy, rudimentary side--like blues rock 101, but it's interesting--you want to listen to hear where the band might take (surprise) you next. (8.5/10)


4. "Jamonem" (4:29) opens with a bass line that sounds like it came out of an early COCTEAU TWINS or THE CURE song. Drums join in, then Gaba, then flute takes the lead. Not bad flute playing. The way lead instruments are mixed kind of "back-center" is odd and yet interesting. The little pause, quite section for the guitar to have a little attention is interesting, as is the rejoinder of the rest of the band--with Gaba's "ooos" and some nice bass play pulling it all to center. Lyrics are in English, by the way. (8.5/10)


5. "Alejandro" (4:51) opens with a WestCoast bluesy almost Jamazican sound while Gaba sings an English lyric with another blues torch singer approach. Her performance is great, it's just that the song, again, is not very proggy. More poppy. I'm reminded of Nina Hagen's second and third albums with the attempts at African Rasta and drug-psych sounds ("African Reggae" and "Cosma Shiva" come to mind--though Nina was much better.) (7.5/10)

6. "Marsz" (9:01) again, straightforward rock chords with some nice drum, flute, vocal, and, later, Farfisa organ performances. (That fifth minute is the best, tightest, most proggy section of the album.) The DEEP PURPLE-like finale is fun but not original enough. (8.5/10)


Total Time 43:43


When this album finishes it feels as if it has flown by--or that it's short--and yet it's about 45 minutes long! I like this music, I like their sound, I love the vocal talents of singer Gaba Wierzbicka, but I think the band has a ways to go before they produce a true prog masterpiece. 


81.67 on the Fishscales = B-/3.5 to four stars; a good album that many people will enjoy. A band to watch for future development.





KAIPA Children of the Sounds

With an excellent lineup of experienced, confident, virtuosic instrumentalists it'd be hard to create "bad" music. My usual problem with KAIPA, the vocals, seems a non-issue here as I like this music. Yes, the vocals are often a bit over-the-top classic rock like STYX or , but the instrumental work by these amazing veterans can even make these slights pale. Keys, guitars, bass, and drums are wonderful throughout! plus, excellent sound production. If it weren't for the fact that this is Neo Prog, this might be a contender for Album of the Year. (Neo Prog, unfortunately, implies an innate use and supposed exploration of older styles and sounds.) Still, this is way better than IQ or recent MAGENTA efforts.

Line-up
Hans Lundin: Keyboards & vocals
Per Nilsson (Scar Symmetry): Electric & acoustic guitars
Morgan Ågren: Drums
Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings, Karmakanic): Electric basses
Patrik Lundström (Ritual): Vocals
Aleena Gibson: Vocals
   With
Elin Rubinsztein: Violin

1. "Children Of The Sounds" (11:31) excellent lead guitar work soloing over and between some very standard, unexceptional Neo Prog sound. I'm reminded of 1980s hairband LOVERBOY on more than one occasion as well as Roine Stolt's THE FLOWER KINGS (the early years). The serious commitment to good sound and solid, tight performances on this one outweigh the weakness of lack of originality. (8.5/10)

2. "On The Edge Of New Horizons" (17:10) Something more interesting about this beginning--slightly angular arpeggi and chord progressions? Jonas being let out of his cage? Drums feeling a part of the mix instead of separate from? The scaled down vocal section after the more dynamic instrumental introduction section also sounds cool. The vocal has the tendency to go over the top but the unusual melody lines keep me interested. In the fifth minute an electric piano-based section takes over and builds, leading to some nice electric guitar and gtr/kbd tandem soloing. Another cool melodic choice in the vocals at the end of the sixth minute--kind of GINO VANELLI-like. The next odd tempo-ed, jazzed up section has some nice band interplay beneath a soloing guitar. The vocal that eventually joins in during this section kind of loses me, but the bass, organ, and acoustic guitars keep me engaged. MOTH VELLUM comes to mind during this section--before the instrumental section at the end of the ninth minute. Organ and mandolin-sounding acoustic guitar make for a nice folk melody section (though the background power chords from the guitar are a distraction). Nice guitar solo in section that follows (eleventh minute) (drums, too). Break in action for syncopated hits from various instruments leads back into a YES-like section of constantly dancing chords all synchronized among keys and background guitars, multi-voiced vocals and electric guitar taking turns in the lead. Nice section. I'm glad they chose to draw this one out. And I must point out the chance that the drums have to shine throughout. With about two and a half minutes left, things quiet down while Jonas moves into the higher octaves of his bass and the multi-voiced singing continues making it's STYX-like contributions. The best song on the album. (9.25/10)

3. "Like A Serpentine" (12:52) a slow, simple opening three minutes plods and disappoints in a kind of MOTH VELLUM way as it never seems to go anywhere. Until the fifth minute when the wonderful lead guitar brings us into a new place. Despite this performance, the song wants to drag on and drag out its opening pace and structure. Not even the folk-pop violin-led section or the participation of Aleena Gibson in the lead vocal seat can save it. (7.5/10)

4. "The Shadowy Sunlight" (6:57) opening like a 18th century masqued ball song intrigues and interests this music lover. But then things go folk rock with violin and drums entering and bringing us into the 21st Century. It sounds a lot like IONA here! The music then falls away leaving us with pulsing bass and bass drum and synth washes setting an ominous scene. Aleena's whispered voice sounds just as unsettling. But then she starts to sing as the music beneath her becomes more insistent and emergent. Electric guitar tries to steal the show again but Aleena and the rest of the band remain steadfast, slowly building momentum. (8/10)

5. "What's Behind The Fields" (9:31) organ dominated full-band chord sequence opening this song sounds a lot like old URIAH HEEP. Electric guitar lead enters to inform the song with some melodic noodles to cover the chords. Then things fall away and become very familiar. It's MOON SAFARI! Blomljud! With these odd instruments it makes me realize for the first time how have refrained from letting/making Jonas Reingold's fretless bass play dominate the music mix. I actually have to search to pick out his work. 
     I find myself disappointed that the original chord sequence and vocal melody built over the top of it have been chosen to dominate this song. The vocal here is almost grating in the same way that MIKE RUTHERFORD's friend NOEL MCCALLA could do on Smallcreep's Day. A fair song but not great--despite the excellent guitar shredding over the top in those final minutes. (7.5/10)

Total Time 58:01

81.50 on the Fishscales = B-/low four stars; a nice contribution to prog world--especially to the Neo Prog lexicon.





CELLAR NOISE Alight

A Fabio Zuffanti find, this young Italian band is making very nice neo-GENESIS prog. Poor sound production (a consistent Zuffanti trait, in my opinion), the band members have a great sense of melody and drama and are truly on their way to mastering the challenging shifts and turns of symphonic prog. The music reminds me of BABYLON's eponymous 1980 album with less noticeable drums. Nice incorporation of classical instrumentation into their mixes. They will certainly be a band to watch in the future. 


Line-up / Musicians:
- Eric Bersan / drums, percussion
- Loris Bersan / bass guitar, classical guitar

- Niccolò Gallani / grand piano, electric piano, organ, Mellotron, synthesizer

- Francesco Lovari / lead and backing vocals, percussion

- Alessandro Palmisano / lead and rhythm electric guitar, acoustic guitar

With

- Chiara Alberti / cello

- Luca Tarantino / oboe

- Giulia Zanardo / flute

1. "Dive with me" (9:32) modernized "Watcher of the Skies" opening. Too derivative. Piano and acoustic guitar duet section that follows is awesome--soon joined, slowly, by the rest of the band. A little too bombastic and simple--though nice keyboard/synth work. Again, too much like a study in mid-70s GENESIS music. (8/10)

2. "Underground Ride" (8:03) opening section of acoustic guitar and voice, later joined by Mellotron, is nice. Electric guitar solo is sufficient. Vocal suffers in next verse. Melodic sophistication and harmonic support are rather simple, one-dimensional. Charlie Chaplin-like spoken section in fifth minute is nice. Following Genesis build and Tony Banksian solo are good. Best guitar solo on album screams right after. Poor ending. A top three song for me. (8.5/10)


3. "Embankment" (6:29) nice slow, soft opening section. It's the bigger, fuller, electronic sections that gets oversimplified. Too much senseless meandering. (7.5/10)

4. "Temple" (8:24) inviting acoustic guitar opening followed by slow-build of heavy organ. Song then resets into slow, calm storytelling mode. A little RUSH-like but the instrumental bridges and codas are quite simple--like Prog 101. Acoustic guitar return is quite welcomed. Nice singing here and succeeding use of oboe. (8/10)

5. "Blackfriars" (3:27) kind of "Get 'em out by Friday" opening with theatric vocal. Competent instrumental performances and better than average composition. (8/10)

6. "Move the Stone" (5:45) nice piano and voice NeoProg opening with awesome use of bassoon (too low for oboe, nicht wahr?) Another vocal over piano section with oboe solo following. Enter soloing electric guitar just after the three minute mark. Nice key change at 3:40. Sensitive and engaging. Best song on the album. (9/10)

7. "Monument" (8:52) has a true GENESIS sound and feel to it--kind of like Nursery Cryme's "Fountain of Salamacis." The piano and voice section is nice--vocal reminding me of Doroccas from 1970s Ft. Lauderdale band BABYLON. Followng section is nice GENESIS/GLASS HAMMER section using formula from Prog 102 class. (8/10)

Total Time 49:13


81.43 on the Fishscales = C+/high three stars album; nice addition to prog world. A band who is working hard to emulate the basic sounds and structures of 1970s GENESIS but whose gifts really lie in their most simple, acoustic supported vocal arrangements. A band to watch!




DRIFTING SUN Twilight

One of the better sounding/produced Neo Prog albums of the year. 

Line-up:
Peter Falconer - Vocals
Mathieu Spaeter (Franck Carducci) - Guitars
Pat Sanders - Keyboards
Manu Michael - Bass

Will Jones - Drums 

1. "Twilight (The Other Side Of Life)" (9:25) some refreshing and creative constructs and vocals using familiar sounds in the instrumental tapestry. Lead singer Peter Falconer has an okay voice which takes some getting used to, but I must give him credit for his courage and creativity. (8.5/10)

2. "Wings Of Hope" (5:13) piano intro sounds quite a bit like the previous song's melodies and chord construction. I like the variation in vocals as rendered by the engineering. It turns out the delicate, flighty opening is only an intro as a blues-rockin' song bursts out in the third minute. Again, I like the multi-voiced vocal constructions. (8.5/10)


3. "Mystery Of Lies" (5:46) spoken muted voice and sustained lead electric guitar single notes open this one before the full band enters at the end of the first minute. The following nylon string-supported soft vocal is rather sudden and incongruous. Piano-base and choir-like vocals pop in for a moment before we return to the previous guitar-and-voice theme. Odd song. I'm not sure it works.(8/10)


4. "Soldiers" (7:23) the vocals and melody in the opening section don't work on this one. Too simple, despite the lyrical intent. The light, sophisticated multi-voiced "choral" work in the middle is awesome--which is then followed by a "heavy" section replete with disappointing standardized Neo Prog sounds and that were popular in the early 1990s (COLLAGE). (8/10)

5. "Summer Skies" (10:49) Great vocal performance over 1990s keyboards (again, the Polish Neo Proggers COLLAGE or SATELLITE come to mind). Still, this one is fresh enough to make it one of my top three. Even when it amps up for the choruses it still has an engaging sound and feel. Piano interlude is pretty though nothing special--better served when the multiple delicate voices join in. Yea, I can even disregard the dated keyboards for this one. (9/10)


6. "Remedy" (5:19) feels like a continuation, musically, of the previous song, though it's vocal stylings and melodies are different. (8.5/10)


7. "Outside" (5:24) this one could come from a 80s/90s metal/hair band: vocals, power chords, solo electric guitar, and song construction all sound and feel like it. (7.5/10)


8. "Remain "(8:11) another song that feels like the continuation of the precious three opens with a 
spoken "Twilight" passage All of this fits into that aforementioned metal/hair band early 90s genre/period/sound. Nice keyboard solo over an odd kick drum sound. Finale with calypso drums sound? Weird. (8/10)

Total time 57:30


81.25 on the Fishscales = B-/low four stars; a decent and often clever and creative Neo Prog contribution to prog world. 





KARFAGEN Messages from Afar: First Contact

One of Antony Kalugin's 2017 releases. Apparently it's a companion to a soon-to-be-released SUNCHILD album.  

Line-up
Antony Kalugin - keys, vocals, percussion
Max Velychko - electric and acoustic guitars
Kostya Shepelenko - drums
Oleg Prokhorov - bass
Olha Rostovska - vocals, additional keys
Michail Sidorenko - alto saxophone


1. "First Contact" (7:14) a trip-hoppy David Gilmour song?! That's exactly what the opening music and vocal sound like. After the vocals have played out and the vast instrumental mid-section takes over, it sounds a little more original with some nice non-Gilmourian guitar work from Max Velychko. The chunky fretless-sounding bass throughout is nice. (8.5/10)

2. "Foreign Land" (7:23) bass and sax are the featured instruments over the first ninety seconds of this one as the rest of the band supports by helping to create a kind of spacey, jazzy PINK FLOYD sound. This is even more strongly developed as the song goes on, as the electric guitar solo screams and wails. At the end of the fourth minute things quiet down so that a flute can solo. But then the guitar takes over again and everybody amps up their volumes in support. Unfortunately, nothing very special happens here--save for the Pink Floyd reminders. (7.5/10)


3. "Curious Talk" (3:30) nice easy listening lounge adult contemporary jazz music; nothing very proggy or barely even NeoProggy here. (7/10)

4. "Volcano Rabbit & The Frog" (5:33) some cool IQ-like keyboard sounds and synth work here but that's really what the song feels like: a straightforward set up for supporting showy guitar and keyboard solos. (8/10)

5. "Faces In The Clouds (3:08) spacious slow music that helps support some nice synthesizer and guitar work--probably my favorite sounds and feels, both in the solo instrumentation as well as the support tapestry. I haven't heard this wonderful guitar sound since PAUL SPEER was using it in the 1990s. Piano opening with synth "violins" joining in for the intro before drums and bass jump in and the music falls into line like an good World Music/soft jazz/New Age song from the 1990s. The overall weave and sound palette here is actually quite nice, quite workable. (9/10)

6. "Vale Of Dreams (8:34) virtually a continuation of the previous song with synth-created orchestral and vocal instruments joining into the weave. Again, the Paul Speer guitar sound is used--which I can't seem to help enjoying. Max actually does some really nice soloing here in that second minute. Tempo shift and disco bass at the 2:30 mark should derail my enjoyment but it doesn't. The FIXX-like work in the fourth minute is a bit odd but they make it work okay. Frequent returns to the guitar-led, synth-choral supported melody helps keep me engaged, to be sure. Definitely a brain worm of a melody. The sax in the final two minutes is tolerable. (Not a sax fan.) (9/10)

7. "Golden Fields Of Rye (2:15) bleeds over from the previous song, carrying the main melody, but using a piano and more sparsely instrumented base for support. Pretty enough. (8/10)

8. "Riding On A Rainbow (2:53) the same melody of the previous two songs shifted over to a different group of instruments and woven in with harmonizing second and third instrumental tracks. I'm glad Antony realized that he had, in fact, created quite a nice melody--enough so to try it in a variety of settings and soundscapes. I suppose the listener should have been notified of the "suite" nature of the past four songs. (8/10)

9. "Constant Flow (15:45) multiple tracks weaving together variations on a nice melody. At times in the first few minutes there is a very familiar feeling and sound here--like it's from Todd Rundgren's UTOPIA's "The Ikon," but then it switches to more GENESIS territory (despite the heavy use of "horns" sounds). Again, I wish these compositions weren't so familiar sounding, that they had more fresh, innovative energy to them. Pure Neo Prog if only because of the use and imitation of old sounds and styles. Nothing very special here. (7.5/10)

Total Time 56:15
Antony's projects are always pleasant and sophisticated. My biggest complaint is the use of what feels and sounds like 1990s equipment and sound standards and rarely creating songs that sound innovative or boundary-pushing. 



80.55 on the Fishscales = B-/low four stars; an album that lovers of old sounds and Neo Prog will probably really enjoy. 







RETROSPECTIVE Re:Search

A Polish band that I stumbled upon with the amazing music in their free downloads offered from their initial EP debut release back in 2007, the band has, in my opinion, never quite lived up to the tremendous potential of those first songs. They are good, they are polished, they have a formula, but their sound production and creative ideas have not progressed commensurately. Nice to hear a strong female vocalist in the mix, and lead singer Jakub Roszak has the gift of a distinctive voice but it just hasn't been used to its potential--he does not let loose and impress like he did on "Regret and Frightened Child" and "Enemy World Vision."

Line-up
Jakub Roszak - lead vocal
Beata Łagoda - keyboard, backing vocal
Maciej Klimek - guitar
Łukasz Marszałek - bass guitar
Robert Kusik - drums
Alan Szczepaniak - guitar

01. Rest Another Time" (5:04) Standard heavy prog opening turns interesting when all but bass and drums drop out while Jakub sings. Nice vocal. I just wish the heavier sections would do more, present more subtleties and flourishes. Choral vocals in third minute. Best part of the song is the extended bass focus in the fourth minute followed by Jakub's long vocal notes and some nice keyboard support. More of this, please! (8/10)

02. "Right Way" (4:51) piano and synth open this one, before drums and bass join in (with a disco beat!) almost giving it a Post Rock feel. Nice to hear Beata's female voice in the background--and, later, being used in some lead capacity. Some nice melodic lead guitar in the fourth minute followed by Jakub finally stretching out his voice. (8/10)

03. "The End Of Their World" (4:49) Jakub's laughs over the crystalline keyboard and the following semi-growls make this song slightly better than a standard heavy rock emission. (8/10)

04. "Roller Coaster" (5:04) nice piano base with brushed drums over which Beata sings a relaxed lead while Jakub backs her. Unfortunately, the lead melody in the verse sections sounds like Lisa Stansfield or Des'ree. The choruses with Jakub's emotional lead are good. (8/10)

05. "Heaven Is Here" (5:44) high octave guitar arpeggio is used for the first 30 seconds to start and found the song. When Jakub starts to sing at the end of the first minute, his whispery warble sets up nicely over a simple rhythm section and synth wash base. Guitar arpeggi return to the mix at 1:45, and then Beata takes turns alternating lead and background with Jakub. Nice atmosphere if fairly simple. The song ultimately fails due to its development being too much like metal by numbers--again, the power chords are too straightforward, too predictable, too simple. (7.5./10)

06. "Look In The Mirror" (4:47) opens with drums, bass and piano providing the foundation before Jakub enters at 0:35. Amazing how similar his voice/singing style are to that of URIAH HEEP's first vocalist, David Byron. Nice guitar solo toward the end. (7/10)

07. "Last Breath" (4:23) starts out as perhaps the heaviest song on the album, more in the vein of the sound that this band started with. 90 seconds into the song and nothing very interesting has happened--and then Jakub does some talk semi-growling with his own background track as the music stutter steps, and, later, creates some space for a background tremolo guitar solo to flit around. Return to the heavier section. Again, I keep waiting, hoping for Jakub to do something extraordinary (as I know he can). (8/10)

08. "Standby" (4:19) rock backbeat with piano and guitar interplay creating a melodic weave before Jakub enters. Piano is the dominant chord and melody holder here. Beata takes over the lead for the chorus. Nice! I like this one! Nice piano work. She even gets the song's solo--with her piano. Nice! (8.5/10)

09. "The Wisest Man On Earth" (7:32) a long, slow development of foreboding sound builds and marches through all obstacles for four and a half minutes before it relents in lieu of a slower, more spacious and atmospheric section. Guitar solo in the fifth minute builds into something more in the seventh minute. The crescendo of sound in the final minute is great followed by a nice, long 15-second decay. Best song on the album! Dark, Gothic, heavy prog as it should be. Reminds me of the FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM. (9/10)

Still so much unfulfilled potential. Take more risks! Be not afraid to experiment, to make mistakes!


80.0 on the Fishscales = B-/C+/3.5 stars; a well made, nice sounding contribution to the heavier side of progressive rock but recommended only to those with specific interests into the Heavy Prog or Gothic Prog subgenres.




MYSTERIOUS CLOUDS Panic on the Noon Meridian

Line-up
Dedric Moore - bass, guitars, vocals, programming, percussion, keyboards
Delaney Moor - keyboards, synths, vocals, guitars, percussion
   With
Mika Tayana - drums, percussion, keyboards, guitars
Aaron Osborne - drums, percussion, bass
Matthew Hayden - drums, percussion
Adam Davies - guitar

 Zach Bozich - keyboards, synths 

1. Clear Refection (6:21)

2. Leave The Sun By 3 (3:54)
3. Cosmic Discovery (0:59)
4. Schrif Moves Slowly At 8 (2:50)5
5. Interdivide (3:56)
6. 610 Half Life: End Of ID (4:35)
7. 7PM Dissolve (2:25)
8. Visions Of 10 (1:38)
9. 1158 Cosmic Time (2:29)
10. Panic On The Noon Meridian (2:25)
11. Holding Panic Tight (5:57)
12. In The Shadows At 1 (6:17)

Total Time 43:46







WE BELIEVE IN HYPERSPACE Purple Sea

Good ol' psychedelic rock from a new band from Switzerland. Though the main feature, the 34-minute "Purple Sea" suite is mostly instrumental. The opening section is interesting for its vocals and new sound and rhythm twists.

Line-up
David Zurbuchen - Vocals, Guitars, Synthesizers, Effects
Reto Maissen - Bass, Synthesizers, Effects

Andreas Rosch - Drums

Tracklist:
1. "Purple Sea (Part 1) (6:51) heavy, distorted guitar power strums followed by gentle, sensitive picked arpeggi and cymbol play with insistent kick drum rhythm turns more aggressive with return of distorted guitar strums. Nice male singing voice enters with a NEKTAR-like sound and story. Very simple and raw music, but a gifted storyteller with a pleasant voice can make such a difference! Adequate lead guitar solo though the guitarist has a lot of room for growth. Memorable song and melodies. Don't like the shift/change with a minute or so to go. (8.5/10)


2. "Purple Sea (Part 2)" (9:42) building on chord sequence, melody and sounds of the first song, the added synth explorations and slide guitar make this song quite good! And no sudden shifts or disruptions in this one. (9/10)


3. "Purple Sea (Part 3)" (3:03) plays out almost like a West Coast jam from the 1960s--in both sound and proficiency! (7.5/10)


4. "Purple Sea (Part 4)" (12:39) slowed down blues rock. A ROBIN TROWER/DEEP PURPLE adventure? I like it when the guitarist "let's go" in the third minute. From that moment on his playing seems more real, more soul/heart-driven. And you can feel the shift in the music as a whole as the bass player falls under the spell of the same soul groove. That ninth minute is magical! David is channeling someone from a higher realm! Here you go, guys! The rest of the song is, unfortunately, come down and recovery. (9/10)

5. "Purple Sea (Part 5)" (2:34) resuscitation of rhythmic pace and bass line from "(Part 3)" with a fuzzier lead guitar sound. Nice finish! (7.5/10)

6. "Morning Star" (12:41) a filler, warm up song, waste of the listeners time. (6/10)

Total Time 47:30


A band to watch? (Keep practicing, boys!)

79.17 on the Fishscales = C+/high three stars; an interesting and welcome addition to prog world.





RED SUN The Wind, The Waves, The Clouds

Instrumental (mostly) psychedelic Post Rock from Italy

1. "Artic Wind" (7:08) (8/10)
2. "Hidden Currents" (6:10) (7.5/10)
3. "The Clouds" (5:31) the best song on the album. (9/10)
4. "Holy Mountains" (5:46) spoken words and Arp synthesizer dominate this almost punk rock song. (8/10)

5. "The Jagged Coast Of Wales" (6:04) another above average song which shows this band's potential. (8.5/10)


6. "Aurora" (8:16) again there is this old, 1970s British feel to this song--construction and sound. It's nice, but the lead instrument--the Arp synth--does little to develop the song. And then when the guitar displays the chorus section you know that this song is just begging for lyrics and vocals. Could be a great song. The muted final two minutes perhaps shouldn't even be there. (8/10)

7. "Waves Of Sand" (6:18) another song that just begs for further development, for maturity, experimentation, layering, and risk. It's the seed for what could be. (6/10)

Total Time 45:13

Line-up:
Eno - Guitars
Fredo - Drums, Synth, Vocals (4)
Mirco - Bass
Riccardo (Da Captain Trips) - Lead Guitar (5)


A band with some growing to do.

78.57 on the Fishscales = C+/3.5 stars; a good album that shows potential.





MACHINES DREAM Black Science

Good Neo sound though both production and composition have some growing/maturing to do.

 Line-up / Musicians

- Craig West / lead vocals, bass, producing & mixing
- Rob Coleman / lead guitar

- Brian Holmes / piano, synths

- Jake Rendell / acoustic guitar, backing vocals

- Ken Coulter / drums

With:

- Jakub Olejnik / vocals

- Jenny Gauvreau / backing vocals

- Chris Belsito / backing vocals
- Josh Norling / sax

1. "Armistice Day" (1:34)



2. "Weimar" (10:41) fair though typically bombastic intro disappears for guitar arpeggi and PINK FLOYD-like vocal. Again, the intention behind this song is appreciated, it's just rendered as nothing PF, Porcupine Tree, or The Pineapple Thief hasn't already done--and here with, unfortunately, inferior sound production. The presence of a harpsichord sound excites me but nothing comes of it. Power chords, old synths, and guitar leads all sound far too familiar. (7.5/10)

3. "The Cannons Cry" (4:18) the simplicity and melodrama of this song are hard to take seriously. The best parts are the Eisenhower speech clips. (7.5/10)

4. "Heavy Water" (8:36) like an extended song from CHROMA KEY's Dead Air for Radios or a good BIG BIG TRAIN song from before 2007. (8/10)


5. "Airfield On Sunwick" (For Wojtek) (6:11) a solid song with better vocals and sound quality improved by use of heavy metal electric guitar work & sound. Probably my favorite song on the album. (8/10) 

6. "Black Science" (8:17) Too predictable, too prog-by-numbers. Like the "berimbau" sound prominent in the first half and use of sax in the second. Good second half. (8/10)

7. "UXB" (4:59) A little heavier RIVERSIDE/SYLVAN-like sound works nicely! (But, that bass! Ouch!) Another top three. (8/10)

8. "Noise To Signal" (8:47) too much; as below. (7/10)

Total time 53:23


A decent album that is cursed by overpretentious lyrics, poor unexceptional lead vocals, poor sound production (especially in the presentation of the drums sound), and often prog-by-numbers song construction and performances. Still, nice keyboard and guitar play. A band to watch!

77.14 on the Fishscales = C+/3.5 stars; a decent album but overall, not worth recommending to others.





DELUGE GRANDER Oceanarium

An album of oddly recorded instruments (everything muted, compressed, or dampened at the high end?) composed in a style that sounds like the pretentiousness of a 1970s soundtrack to a porno film. The whole time I'm listening to this album I feel as if it's 1970 and I'm sitting in a basement practice studio in Poughkeepskie, New York, or Waterloo, Iowa, listening to the local Symphony Orchestra run through a rehearsal of a locally produced rock opera that was composed in the by some local who is heavily inspired by Mike Oldfield. Weird.

Line-up
Dan Britton: keyboards, guitars, other instruments (1-8)
Dave Berggren- electric guitar (6)
Neil Brown-trumpet (8)
Steve Churchill-oboe (1,7)
Brett d'Anon- bass, guitars (1-8)
Brian Falkowski- saxophone (3), flute (4,5), clarinet (8)
Denis Malloy- bass clarinet (1, 2, 3, 8)
Corey Sansolo- trombone (1)
Natalie Spehar- cello (2, 4, 5, 8)
Zack Stachowski- violin (4, 5)

Though almost every song on the album has interesting and enjoyable parts, section, themes, or performances, no song is fully satisfying start to finish. Is Dan trying to have his music sound like it came from a 78 rpm recording from the 1920s?

  
1. "A Numbered Rat, A High Ledge, And A Maze Of Horizons" (11:32) opens with a bit of an ELP flare before going symphonic X-Files, Spaghetti Western, and Karda Estra. (8.5/10)

2. "Drifting Inner Skyline Space" (8:28) Sounds like a Sergio Leone-George Martin lovefest--until Mike Oldfield and John Barry (Midnight Cowboy) squeeze their way in. (8.5/10)

3. "The Blunt Sun And The Hardened Moon" (15:25) Hawkwind meets Sergio Leone. Nothing new here. (7.5/10)

4. "Finding A Valley In A Gray Area On A Map" (3:24) Unfulfilled portentousness. (7.5/10)

5. "Finding A Shipwreck In A Valley In An Ocean" (6:20) Aimless and meandering. (7/10)

6. "Tropical Detective Squadron" (14:10) Seriously?! This must be the "tension reliever"… or from the Steven King comedy soundtrack. (6.5/10)

7. "Marooned And Torn Asunder" (8:06) one of the three best songs on the album--even if it is a Mike Oldfield ripoff. (8.5/10)

8. "Water To Glass / The Ultimate Solution" (12:31) What is the point to stringing together all these odd, unusual, and incongruous themes? Showing off the disconnected wanderings of an ADHD mind? (7.5/10)

Total Time 79:56



While Dan is obviously an accomplished musician and mature composer, I wonder about his sound sensibilities as there has never been a release that he's been associated with that has what is in my opinion "good" sound. (I have my own standards, of course). What is meant when contributing artists are credited with "other instruments" and "compositional contributions" (Dan Berggren, Patrick Gaffney, and Christopher West)? Is it all composed on GarageBand?

76.88 on the Fishscales = C/3.5 stars; interesting but "unfinished"…or "unpolished."






CARBON 7 The Autumn Men Empire

Totally improvised music that was recorded in one session in 2017 that really fits the Kosmisch Musik revival scene. Great drumming, solid bass play, and very creative keyboard play.

1. "Florida Lee" (26:36) I like the jazzy, BRIAN AUGER-like last six minutes best. (8/10)

2. "Rube Rick" (9:57) great CAN-like groove with great drum play in second half. (8/10)

3. "Sofa Cleese" (8:28) fretless bass establishes the song over the first minute before other instruments slowly, subtly join in. Feels/sounds more like a set up for a guy trying out the variables on a new keyboard. (6/10)

4. "Home Eric" (20:48) PINK FLOYD/SANTANA-like opening with great bass and drum interplay while synth plays. In the fifth minute we hit stride and really click as keys give us some meat to latch onto. In the sixth minute, just before stagnation sets in, there is a welcome keyboard shift. Man this is great drum and bass interplay! Keys get boring again until eleventh minute. They even get rhythmic and soloistic in the fifteenth. Great bass octave shift as organ deepens its chords. Great last two minutes as the band decompresses and processes. Unfortunately, I hear lots of keyboard mistakes throughout--as if Tindle is totally unpreprared, unrehearsed, and fumbling through it. It'd have been nice if he'd have worked out some sounds and chords and solo content beforehand. (8/10) 

5. "Mark Surrealius" (31:32) more awesome bass play with solid drum support and interesting keyboard experimentation--but, again, it sounds as if that is all the keyboard player came to do: press a new sound on his Korg computer keyboard every minute or two. Some good sounds but very little technical or compositional support to the rhythm section. Cool sounds in the sixteenth minute but then nothing to transition to but beeps and buzzes. Sad! Pretty synth wash at the very end of the seventeenth minute, accompanied by a slow-softening of the rhythm section, which is then followed by a nice, catchy organ-led chord progression--which, unfortunately, devolves into some horrible soloing. Another sawing synth sound in the twenty-fifth minute that goes nowhere. Even the fast arpeggi and sliding notes at the end of the 28th minute fail to impress or engage. An attempt at "Dodo/Lurker" keyboard solo in the 29th minute?! and then another TONY BANKS-like solo right after! So sad! (8/10) 

I would take all of this music, remove the keyboard tracks, keep all of the bass and drum tracks

Total Time 97:21

Line-up:
Dennis Bruhn- Drums
Ron Tindle- Keyboards
Chris Vreeland- Bass

76.0 on the Fishscales = C/three stars; good . . . with potential.






KSHETTRA Five Mothers

Russian drum 'n' bass jazz drivers incorporate a lot of guests and traditional folk instruments to support their hard-driving, hypnotic East-meets-West instrumental jazz. 

Line-up
Boris Ghas - bass, poem (5), samples (4)
Viktor Tikhonov - drums, Oxoma synth (1,5,6,7), samples (3,4,7)
  With
Ramille Mulikov - sax, trumpet, trombone
Nikolai Samarin - synth (4,5), double bass (1), mandolin (4,7), sitar (8)
Eugeniy Mikhalchenko - voice (5) 

1. "Conception" (2:01) Oxoma synth étude (7/10)

2. "Garura Lila" (3:55) full band, jazzy, almost uptempo "White Rabbit"-like start. Turns Latin funky. Another étude? Poor trumpet play! (7/10)


3. "Cikada" (5:43) avant jazz/attempt at KING CRIMSON rhythms? Yet, there is a straightforward melodic sense trying to be conveyed here. Nice bass-centric effort. The drumming impresses though he's no Bill Bruford. (8/10)


4. "Godzindra" (9:53) some Indian sounds and rhythm and melodic attempts. No. The heavier, non-Indian psychedelic sections are the best. Flute is all from samples. Other horns are live and quite rudimentary. (7.5/10)


5. "Walk Under The Moon" (13:19) atmospheric space soundtrack using the Oxoma synth. Fair. I'm not really very impressed with this synthesizer. (7.5/10)


6. "Umbra" (6:32) very solid avant jazz exploration. Probably the only song on the album that shows the band's potential. (8/10)


7. "Mechanoya (12:00) an impressive cinematic psych jazz groove with a wasted final three minutes of industrial noise. (8.5/10)


8. "Crossing (1:08) another Oxoma synth étude to bookend the album. (7/10)

Total time 54:31


75.61 on the Fishscales = C/three star album.





SOEN Lykaia

A multi-national band based in Sweden, this is SOEN's third album of LEPROUS/KARNIVOOL/VOTUM-like progressive metal music. Excellent sound production makes this album a joy to listen to--as do the variations in styles, yet there is something missing to bring this up to a level with the aforementioned masters of atmospheric prog metal.

Line-up
Joel Ekelöf - vocals
Martin Lopez (ex-Opeth) - drums and percussion
Stefan Stenberg - bass
Lars Åhlund - organ and rhodes
Marcus Jidell (Royal Hunt, Evergrey, Astrakhan) - guitars


01. "Sectarian" (5:55) vocals and heavy metal music sound very much like countrymates LEPROUS. A little too straightforward and monotonous. (7.5/10)


02. "Orison" (7:07) the sound here is very much like TOOL and then KARNIVOOL with the chorus. Nice lead guitar work--both the djenty riffing and the delicate picking. (8.5/10)



03. "Lucidity" (6:36) a kind of PINK FLOYD/AUTUMN CHORUS spacey folk mix, this is definitely a highlight for me. (9/10)



04. "Opal" (6:46) opens JUST LIKE the first song! The little multi-guitar riffs beneath the singing are rather annoying. The music and musicianship in the chorus sections are so simple. Despite the interesting guitar soloing in the fifth minute and the CY CURNIN-like singing over empty space in the sixth, this is nothing to write home about. (7.5/10)


05. "Jinn" (5:41) a nice change in the mix with the delicate sung voice more forward from the start. The music builds beneath and that works well. Nice chorus section, too. Lots of nice, interesting changes over the course of this song, including a few Middle Eastern flavors. A top three song from me. (9/10)



06. "Sister" (5:30) interesting for the heavy guitar parts contrasted with the use of a breathy, delicate singing voice--at least until the "Sister" choruses. It works. (8.5/10)


07. "Stray" (5:38) nice sounds, structures, speed, excellent guitar work and great vocal. i love the delicate interlude in the second half of the fourth minute. Another top three for me. (9/10)



08. "Paragon" (6:25) slow, spacious, yet heavy, almost bluesy, with a soft, delicate voice used again for delivery of the lyrics. Organ solo before distorted guitar chords usher in the chorus and screaming GILMOUR-esque lead guitar solo. Perhaps a little too Floydian (until the end). (8/10)



09. "Gods Acre" (8:10) another slower paced, more spacious song that sounds very much like Australia's top notch TOOL-inspired band, KARNIVOOL, only not as nuanced or sophisticated. The song plays out more like a very straightforward, four-chord stoner-rock song. Their usual break-down, soft section at the two-thirds mark is getting a little too predictable and, thus, old.  (8.5/10)



Though singer Joel Ekelöf has a top notch voice--with excellent clarity, diversity, and control--his deliveries of the lyrics are a little too straightforward. I'd like to see more quirks and ticks to help me take notice, otherwise he's just a white bread version of Ian Kenny or Einar Solberg. As a matter of fact, it feels as if all of these fine musicians are playing it a little too conservatively most of the time. I hope that in the future they will break out and add some fire and idiosyncracy to their recorded songs.


75.50 on the Fishscales = C/three stars; a solid if straightforward collection of atmospheric metal.  





   
COMEDY OF ERRORS House of the Mind

Neo prog of the first order with a bit too much familiarity and simpleness where and when divergence and experimentation could have made it so much more interesting. Plus, the production is flawed by sterile sounding individually-separated instruments.

Line-up:
Joe Cairney - Vocals
Jim Johnston - Keyboards
Bruce Levick - Drums
Sam McCulloch - Guitars
Mark Spalding - Guitars

1. "Tachyon" (6:21) the cheap imitation piano sound used in opening does not bode well for this album. The bouncy "Dreamer"-like piano foundation in part 2 does not inspire any more hope or confidence. We're already almost two minutes into this and it still doesn't feel ready to "start"--and yet the vocals enter in the third minute--distant multi-voiced 80s/Thomas Dolby-sounding voices melodically duplicated by a synth. By the fourth minute we at least have a little more fully developed weave established. The vocal melody just doesn't crack it. (8/10)

2. "House Of The Mind" (14:47) a decent prog epic that, unfortunately, shows little novelty or freshness. (8.5/10)

3. "A Moment's Peace" (4:15) Wow! does this belong on a New Age/Adult Easy Listening radio stream, or what? And not even a word much less lyrics despite the ABACAB set up. (7/10)

4. "One Fine Day" (2:48) Seriously! This is the finished product? This is the vocal of a professional? It sounds like a demo by some one-man garage band! (6/10)


5. "Song Of Wandering Jacomus (13:47) nice atmospheric instrumental opening for the first four minutes. The third section that begins in the fifth minute is too syrupy--even before the sappy vocals enter. The guitar and keyboard work is decent. It's just those vocals... Horrible build and peak. Too bad. This one had potential. (7.5/10)

Total Time 41:58

Bonus song (on CD): "Ever Be the Prize" (9:00) decent song. If it only didn't sound like IQ trying to be GENESIS... (8/10)


75.0 on the Fishscales = C/three stars; an acceptable addition to the Neo Prog catalog--though nothing I'm going to shout out about.






FRENCH TV Number Twelve, Operation: MOCKINGBIRD

I have to admit to liking this one more than most of their previous catalogue. The music has simplified and rounded it's acute, often jagged, edges in favor of an almost Smooth Jazz sound and feel--almost. The problem, however, comes in the feeling I have--almost constantly--that I'm listening to outtakes and experiments of Al Di Meola, Jan Hammer, and their collaborators in the early to mid-1980s.

Line-up:
Mike Sary: bass, loops, samples
Katsumi Yoneda (TEE): guitars
Mark L. Perry: drums
Patrick Strawser (Volare): keyboards
   With
Ludo Fabre: violin
Karl Ledus: sax, flute
Nico Fabre: keyboards  

1. "Ghost Zone" (2:29) synth wash-supported solo electric guitar opens the song while orchestral-like percussion play around in the background and wings. Is this a live-with-orchestra recording? (7.5/10)

2. "Noble Obelisk" (5:37) by the time the main instrument comes (electric guitar) in and the song has established its textural signatures, I am finding myself thinking of Jan Hammer, The Crusaders, and Al Di Meola. But the song never really settles into any kind of groove. As a matter of fact, you might say that by song's end I'm very confused as to what I just heard--what it's compositional purpose was. (8/10)

3. "Urgent Fury" (8:32) almost a parody of 1970s funk jazz fusion (led by such artists as the members of The Crusaders, Hubert & Ronnie Laws, Bob James, and even Jan Hammer and Al Di Meola) 
(7.5/10) 

4. "Tree Incident" (7:40) again the music of Al Di Meola in the early 1980s comes to mind as I listen to this one. It's nice, pretty, with very competent musicianship, but something just feels old and borrowed. (8/10)

5. "Golden Pheasant Of The Infinite Reach" (10:41) interesting synth opening is spoiled by appearance of vintage keyboards, many of which are of that inferior sound gradient that I dislike from the late 1989s and 1990s. Plus, the song never really goes anywhere--other than the more melodic parts that sound as if they might be better served as a support vehicle for a Patti Austin or Teena Marie vocal. (7.5/10)

6. "Nimrod Dancer" (8:33) the Latin rhythmic structure and sounds once again bring up the Al DI MEOLA sound. Violin adds a Jean-Luc Ponty presence, otherwise, this is so Al Di. (7.5/10)

7. "Vigilant Sentinel" (10:40) (7/10)


8. "Silent Years" (3:48) old synths attempting a "pretty" almost minor-keyed Satie-like song. Nope. (6.5/10)

Total Time 58:00

74.375 on the Fishscales = C/three stars; a good album of vintage sounding jazz fusion.




MONARCH TRAIL Sand 


I'm sorry, but all I hear here is cheap, rudimentary rehashing and imitation of old songs and bands--especially the first Neo Prog bands: late 70s Genesis, Marillion, IQ, Pendragon, and Spock's Beard. The sound production is poor (especially the drums! Awful!), the melodies and solos all feel stolen and soul-less. And I've been going back to this album over and over since I first saw it last summer on Progstreaming! 

Line-up:
Chris Lamont: Drums

Dino Verginella: Bass

Ken Baird: Keyboards, Vocals, Guitar (5)

  With

John Mamone: Guitar (3,4,7)

Kelly Kereliuk: Lead Guitar (7)

Steve Cochrane: Acoustic Guitar (7)

1. "Station Theme" (3:52) I'm listening to old IQ, right? Flashy keyboard work. (8.5/10)

2. "First Thoughts" (3:22) two minutes of voice and synth wash chords before a nylon string guitar solos. Really? Is this a joke? Are we doing a demo for the band here? Or proving our IQ chops? (7/10)

3. Back To The Start (7:11) a bad Tony Banks or Steve Hackett song from one of their solo albums. Or a demo version of a Genesis song or Genesis cover. Bass and drums are fairly solid here. But such poor sound! Even the only existing BABYLON album from 1979 is way better than this! (7/10)

4. "Missing" (6:29) I'm listening to 1990s Spock's Beard, right? Absolutely nothing new here; everything sounds old and used up. (8/10)

5. Charlie's Kitchen (7:43) a Vince Guaraldi jazz lounge song twisted and turned proggish with a horrible sounding non-acoustic piano. How...?! The synth soli are all stolen! Can one sue for such blatant plagiarism? (Just kidding: I know you can't.) (6/10)

6. Another Silent World (2:10) a decent synth exercise but it's only two minutes long, so not much time to screw things up. (8/10)

7. Sand (24:31) The first song I heard from this album. I thought I was going to play it on my radio show on several occasions but every time I would re-listen to it before broadcast I would reject it with a feeling of embarrassment and revulsion: it's just not up to my standards of sound, creativity, and originality. (7.5/10)



Total Time 55:18



The keyboard player is talented. He just needs better equipment. And way better recording/processing gear. I just cannot comprehend the praise that this album is earning!

74.28 on the Fishscales = C/three stars; not worth recommending to others.  





STARSABOUT Longing for Home

It sounds as if Piotr and Joanna and the boys have decided to pursue the more poppy avenue of their sound in a kind of THE CURE/THE CHURCH/BLUE NILE fashion. I have to admit to being a little disappointed--though I wish them every iota of success possible to them. They are SO talented!

Favorite songs: "Hourglass" (5:30) (8.5/10); "Blue Caress" (6:34) (8.5/10), and; "Million Light Years" (the second half) (8:38) (8/10).




HADAL SHERPA Hadal Sherpa

Instrumental space prog rock from Finland. Nice music, nice sound; lots of room to grow. Sounds a lot like very simpified CAMEL crossed with early NEKTAR and/or URIAH HEEP. 

Favorite song: "Ikaros" (7:49) (8.5/10)


The Most Over-Rated Albums of the Year



CIRKUS Wild Dogs

135 minutes of music constructed and sounding like the quirky, moodshifting way that early GENESIS did with the poor sound quality similar to that of from Genesis to Revelation, Trespass, or BABYLON's 1979 self-titled album . . . or worse. There are some GREAT ideas here but all are either poorly or incompletely developed and embellished and are rendered horribly unto reproducible sound. The vocals are interesting for their delicacy and artistic stylings yet the singing is highly fragile, often strained and missing notes off-key. Once again, I am astounded at the music fellow listeners will give five stars. Were this music finished (polished), engineered and produced to professional standards this might be a four or 4.5 star album but, as is, this is no better than a 2.5 or three star album.

Songs worth repeated listenings:  the 80s techno-aided title song, 9. "Wild Dogs" (7:17) (8.5/10; 12. "Sanctus" (11:22) (8.5/10); 15. "Broken Promesses" (4:53) (8/10) and, for its choral section, 13. "Harlequins" (11:45) (8/10).

The only people I would recommend trying this album out would be people who really miss the very early music of FAMILY, GENESIS, BABYLON, and their imitators. I'd recommend bands like early MARILLION, CITIZEN CAIN, THE WATCH, CLEARLIGHT, or even THE WAITING ROOM before I'd recommend anyone going here.

2.5 stars; for 







ORION Le survivant

A melodically successful offering of poor-sounding prog-by-numbers New Age Neo Prog. 

Line-up
Patrick Wyrembski: acoustic guitar, vocals
Janusz Tokarz: vocals, keyboards
Michel Taran: keyboards, vocals
Alain Pierre: synth guitars, vocals
   With
Pierre-Jean Horville: guitars, composition
Paul Cribaillet: piano
Eric Halter: bass guitar, double-bass
Cédric Affre: drums
Emmanuel Della Torre: vocals

1. "Big Bang" (8:38) horrible two-chord rock with horrible sound production and cheezy rock music and lyrics. Sudden and unexpected shift at 6:00 leads to a completely different sound and style that is very nice, very pretty (though still rather simplistic/prog-by-numbers). Saved from a far worse rating by the final two and a half minutes. (7.5/10)

2. "Cumulostratus" (4:17) opens with New Age jazz sound coming from drums, bass, and acoustic guitar (and, soon, piano). Nice piano-guitar duet--almost Pat Metheny like--in that first minute. Very nice melodies. I don't really like this GOBI/SHASTRA-sounding nylon string guitar sound. The piano solo section gives the piano (obviously an electronically duplicated "piano" sound) a live, onstage at a piano bar sound. Again, this is pure and simply a nice tropical piano bar instrumental song. (8/10) 


3. "Peur Du Vide" (6:32) again opens with cheezy Neo-prog sounds and construction. The pseudo-metal electric guitar strums are just too cheezy and take the song down every time they enter. The DAFT-PUNK-like treated vocal is not attractive here. Like a beginner's THE BOX. Some nice subtleties within the song. The keyboard and guitar solos show that this band has some talent. If they could only improve their song composition and find a different engineer or producer. (7.5/10)


4. "Les Ravageurs" (3:38) same simple bass and drums from the previous song? Odd almost ICEHOUSE sound and structure with a kind of singing style and sound reminiscent, again, of THE BOX. (7/10)


5. "Mère Nature" (3:47) BRUCE COCKBURN did this song way better in 1977. It was called "Homme brûlant". (7/10)


6. "La Planète Des Fous" (4:28) now let the gimmicks (toy piano) and quirks begin! Over the course of the first minute I find myself waiting for the song to settle into a groove--to get past the introduction section. It never happens...not even at 2:55 when the horribly distorted guitar (are they trying to get DAVID GILMOUR's sound?) power chords seem to indicate a possible change. Cool synth sounds at the halfway point but the drums are painful! (6.5/10)

7. "Le Dernier Arbre" (6:30) piano, bass and nice drumming open this in jazzy chord progression for the first 45 seconds. Then things shift into a standard slow rock ballad pace and four-chord structure. Gentle singing and seering lead guitar work throughout are less than companionable. At 2:20 the music returns for a few seconds to the cool jazzy progression from the opening, but then it all settles back into the slow ballad format. Wish they'd spend more time exploring that jazzy opening style.(7.5/10)

8. "Le Survivant" (7:35) the title song and it sounds like a demo? Is this a joke? Is this to illustrate to us the kind of sound reproduction quality we'll have at our disposal in a post-apocalyptic world? Wow! They saved the worst for last! The tracks don't even match up with one another! I would be embarrassed if this were my released as my finished, "polished" product! At 3:40 the song shifts into a much better section--though this, again, sounds so derivative of THE BOX's sound and style. And then, quel disappointment, it plays out the same to the song's end! (6/10)

Total Time 45:25

One of the year's singularly over-hyped albums! Unbelievable! 


71.25 on the Fishscales = C-/low three star album; not something I would recommend to anyone unless they have a ton of time and want to hear everything that's available throughout the year.






LUNATIC SOUL Fractured


The programmed drums/percussives absolutely do not work for me. Nor does the new upbeat, poppy sound. Mostly repulsive. Artists are allowed to grow--I am the first in line to promote that desire and tendency. This is not the direction I would have chosen for such a genius of sound and atmosphere. What a waste of an orchestra.

1. "Blood On The Tightrope" (7:19) 
2. "Anymore" (4:37) 
3. "Crumbling Teeth And The Owl Eyes" (6:42) 
4. "Red Light Escape" (5:43) 
5. Fractured" (4:36) 
6. "A Thousand Shards Of Heaven" (12:17) 
7. "Battlefield" (9:05) 
8. "Moving On" (5:14) 

Total Time 55:33

Line-up
Mariusz Duda (Riverside) - vocals, instruments
    With
Sinfonietta Consonus Orchestra, conducted by Michał Mierzejewski (3, 6)
Marcin Odyniec - saxophone