Sunday, March 19, 2017

Notable Albums of the Year 2017

My Favorite Albums of 2017
(In some semblance of order)

***Author's note:  Below you will find two different rankings for this year's albums. 
  The first list is merely a list consisting of a Top Twenty with a following list of "Honorable Mentions." These 20 are my favorite albums of the year, that is, the albums to which I have formed the greatest emotional attachments. The Reviews that follow are ordered according to my more 'objective' yet personal judgment as to their quality, that is, the "best" albums of the year. Here I have tried to order the albums reviewed according to my personal and metric determination as to what are the "best" albums of the year from a more critical, qualitative, and quantitative viewpoint, that is, without as much emotional attachment as "My Favorite" albums. 
According to my calculations, 2017 presents Prog World with 2 "masterpieces" and  "near masterpieces"!  

The Rankings
 (My "Favorites")

1. TREE TOPS Ghost Don't Dance with Shoes
2. ANATHEMA The Optimist
4. WESERBERGLAND Sehr Kosmish Ganz Progisch
5. UNAKA PRONG Adult Contemporary
6. ODD OUTFIT [Up/Down]
7. KOTEBEL Cosmology
10. PSYCHIC EQUALIZER The Lonely Traveller 

11. SEAS OF MIRTH Hark! The Headland Approacheth

Honorable Mentions:

WESERBERGLAND Sehr Kosmish Ganz Progisch

When guitarist-producer Jacob HOLM-LUPO (WHITE WILLOW, THE OPIUM CARTEL), flutist-keyboard player Ketil Vestrum EINARSEN (WHITE WILLOW, JAGA JAZZIST, WOBBLER, MOTORPSYCHO), guitarist Gaute STORSVE (RHYS MARSH) and drummer extraordinaire Mattias OLSSON (ÄNGLAGÅRD, PINEFOREST CRUNCH, PÄR LINDH, WHITE WILLOW, THE OPIUM CARTEL, NECROMONKEY) get together to create an album of music in tribute to the Kosmische Music (Krautrock) artists of the 1970s you can bet it's going to be a good one. And it is! Each song on the album is like listening to a drum, keyboard, and guitar clinic. It's as if JAGA JAZZIST and CAN were merged--as if Lars and Martin HORNTVETH were collaborating with Jaki LIEBEZEIT in this, the 21st Century with all of the gizmos and effects that give 21st Century musicians such versatility and variety. The bass is often keyboard or computer driven, but it works. Mattias' drumming blends computer technologies with the live kit sounds. The keyboard and guitar sounds and techniques used are all over the place. Overall, the music is derivative, yet experimental; it's rhythmic and yet avant; it's militaristic yet psychedelic. It's genius! 

Ketil Vestrum Einarsen (White Willow, Kaukasus, Tirill, Rhys Marsh): Flute, clarinet, keyboads, guitars, programming
Gaute Storsve: Bass and guitar
Jacob Holm-Lupo (White Willow, The Opium Cartel): Bass and guitar
Mattias Olsson (Änglagård, Necromonkey, The Opium Cartel, White Willow): Drums and percussion
Lars Fredrik Frøislie (Wobbler, White Willow)
Stephen James Bennet (Henry Fool, Tim Bowness, No-Man, The Opium Cartel)
Tetsuroh Konishi
Lars Horntveth (Jaga Jazzist)
Erik Johannessen (Jaga Jazzist)
Brynjar Dambo (White Willow)
Roger Langvik
Einar Baldurson

1. "Tanzen Und Springen" (9:44) the most melodically memorable song on the album but perhaps the least adventurous. Nice lead guitar work (especially the Todd Rundgren-like work in the ninth and tenth minutes). (9.25/10)
2. "Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde" (15:42) 
starts off very etheral/ambient before electronic drums and deep synth washes take over. Such a deeply engaging song--definitely one of the highlights of 2016/2017 for me. Even the "copied" Pink Floyd "Time" reverbed rototoms and the Holger Czukay-like radio samples in the last three minutes are wonderful inclusions. (9.75/10)

3. "Kunst Der Fuge" (12:02) AMAZING drums and awesome organ/keyboard work. (9.5/10)   

4. "Tristrant" (8:48) 
with the sound base of a 1980s song by ABC (there's so much of that 80s retro sound going around, why not in Kosmische Musik?) Great synth, winds, and percussion work. I love the cacophonic buildup in the second half and then the slow release toward the end. (9.25/10)   

Total time: 46:16

94.375 on the Fishscales = five stars; a masterpiece of progressive rock music. 

TREE TOPS Ghosts Don't Dance With Shoes

A four piece band with some great assist with sound/production/keyboards from UNAKA PRONG's Chris Pope, let the world know that there is a new force to be reckoned with in the blues rock domain and they say they're from Knoxville, Tennessee. Not since Duane and Dickie or maybe Skynyrd's Rossington and Gaines or perhaps Lizzy's Gorham and Sykes have two guitarists commanded the attention and accolades like these two:  Cory Smith and David Webb. I honestly don't know which one is which when they solo, but their racing harmonized weaves are absolutely jaw-dropping, stunning, almost unbelievable. And drummer Jon Mann is quite impressive as well.

 - Jon Mann - drums, percussion
 - Cory Smith - guitar, vocals
 - David Webb - guitar, vocals
 - Chris Pope - keys
 - Jack Willard - bass

1. "Confunktivitis" (7:38) Steely Dan, Love and Money, Meet Danny Wilson, Roddy Frame, (10/10)

2. "Dancefloors" (7:22) what opens like a ZZ TOP song, morphs into something else as a Frank Marino (MAHOGANY RUSH)-like guitar sound and style. (9.5/10)

3. "Stonefacin" (5:46) sounds like a heavy JOE JACKSON. (9/10)

4. "Overcoats" (4:35) a "Hotel California"-like groove with some nice FAGEN-like vocals. (9.5/10)

5. "Fly Like Pigeons" (4:10) a brilliantly crafted and lyricized song in a kind of Rockabilly/RODDY FRAME/FRANK ZAPPA style. (9.5/10)

6. "Pigeons In Space" (12:59) One of the best songs I've heard all year--construction, performance, melody, surprise, beautiful hooks and nice singing. The  tremolo wah-guitar playing is absolutely stunning from start to finish! And in the last four minutes you get to hear some amazing drumming and Santana-like guitar. (10/10)

7. "Drugs" (9:09) I hear Buddy Guy. I hear Fripp and Belew at their craziest. And yet there is a great vocal/lyric, too! Amazing paired guitars playing at lightning speed in harmony! (9.5/10)

8. "Stonefacin (Reprise)" A reprise of the (IMO) weakest song on the album. A guitarist's wet dream.(1:57) (8/10)

9. "Towers" (6:29) is a hard rockin' song over which the boys decided to try to place words, singing, and even harmonized background vocals. Too bad. Jimi HENDRIX, however, would've loved the song. Maybe he was there. (But whose body was he channeling through: Cory or David?) (8.5/10)

Total Time 60:05

These boys have a sound that is familiar but so fresh, and completely unique. Rockers that sound like jammers they have an incredibly tightly knit performance style that reminds me more of classically orchestrated music than loose, improvised rock'n'roll. With every listen I'm trying to answer the question, "Are they prog?" As an inclusionist and in awe and respect of these virtuoso composer-performers, I say, "YES!" 

As another aside, all of my above comparisons to masters of old must be taken with a serious diminuation as there are but flashes of similiarity, almost never blatant mimicry or revisionism of the bands or styles or sounds mentioned. Tree Tops are unique and in a class by themselves. 

92.78 on the Fishscales = five stars, A; a masterpiece of progressive rock music. A band that needs to be heard as they are one of the most impressive bands of the Teens. 

KOTEBEL Cosmology

Carlos Franco Vivas – drums and percussion
César Garcia Forero – guitars
Jaime Pascual Summers – bass
Adriana Nathalie Plaza Engelke – piano, keyboards
Carlos G. Plaza Vegas – keyboards
Omar Acosta - flute

1. Post Ignem (8:26)
2. Geocentric Universe (7:34)
3. Mechanical Universe (7:53)
4. Entangled Universe (8:46)
5. Oneness (8:15)
6. Mishima's Dream (5:29)
7. A Bao A Qu (4:30)
8. Canto XXVIII (7:21)
9. Paradise Lost (3:04)

Total Time 61:18


Barcelona's JAVI HERRERA has done it again. As if 2014's labour of love, No tengas miedo wasn't spectacle and production perfection enough, Javi has pulled together another masterpiece, this time based on dreams. The presence of voices--Javi's own voice and that of female vocalist, Alia Herrera (sister? wife?)--make this quite a different listening experience from No tengas miedo. The vocal performances and stylings remind me quite a bit of those from Olga Polgaskaja's FIVE-STOREY ENSEMBLE's 2013 (and, thus far, only) release, Not This City. Beautiful and almost operatic. Also, the electric guitar performances are amazing. Very dynamic and technically superlative.

Line-up / Musicians:

- Javi Herrera / drums, vocals, VST instruments
- Cecilia Burguera / violin
- Mónica Cruzata / viola
- Queralt Garcia / cello
- German Fafian / electric guitars
- Daniel Fernandez Campos / bass guitar
- Alia Herrera / vocals
- Andrea Herrera / tap dancing
- Mandharu / crotals, wind chimes
- Rafael Pacha / dulcimer, acoustic guitars, mandolin, bouzouki
- Pol Sanchez / electric & Spanish guitars, mandole
- Dick Them / double bass
- Guillem Vilar / oboe, cor anglais

1. "Insomnio de una noche de verano" (9:27) an instrumental in which classical/acoustic instruments and compositions styles are trying to be blended (sometimes feeling a bit forced) with electronic, sometimes bombastic instruments and sounds. (8.5/10)

2. "Dulces sueños" (5:18) is an absolutely beautiful and completely classical arrangement and production featuring piano, cello, cor anglais and the dual voices of Alia and Javi. (9.5/10)

3. "És quan dormo que hi veig clar" (10:54) is very patchy, moving from more classically-oriented sections of gorgeous music to dynamic electronic passages often quite awkwardly, incongruously. The musicianship is of the highest caliber, the composition and arrangement is not quite, polished.(8.5/10)

4. "Vida y muerte" (8:28) (9.5/10)

5. "A Nightmare on Major St. (7:33) (9/10)

6. "Awakenings (9:03) (9.5/10)

Though the electronic and more rock-oriented performances are very good, it is the classical-jazz passages and sounds that attract more of my attention and listening pleasure.

90.83 on the Fishscales = five stars, A-; a masterpiece of progressive rock music.

PSYCHIC EQUALIZER The Lonely Traveller

Wow! What a debut from classically trained pianist Hugo Selles! Piano is at the base of all compositions (even when it is absent) but the accoutrements Hugo has designed to support his keyboard are amazing! Never overloaded or ostentations, never showy or cluttered, the songs are constructed rather perfectly! Such a refreshing album! Destined to be one of my favorites from 2017!

Hugo Selles - piano, keyboards, and synths
Quico Duret - guitar and effects
Morten Skøtt - drums
Carlos Barragán - classical guitar and voices
Nikolai Petersen - vibraphone and percussion
Katerina Anganostidou - celesta
Jan Irlind - balalaika
India Hooi - voices and hulusi
Joaquin Páli Palomares - first violin
Khalida De Ridder - second violin
Johanna Baarlink - viola
Adriana Isaku - cello and voices

1. Mezuz (6:18)
2. An Ocean Of Changes (I-IV) (6:33)
3. The Lonely Traveller (0:53)
4. Lágrimas (3:37)
5. Adrift (2:39)
6. Peña Labra (2:35)
7. Flying Over The Caucasus (3:34)
8. Lovers Meet (6:44)
9. A Collection Of Marbles (3:53)
10. An Ocean Of Changes (V-VI) (2:20)
11. A Visit To Adelaide (5:11)
12. Nørrebro (2:48)

Total Time 47:05

UTOPIANISTI Brutopianisti

A violent, Mr. Hyde-like version of Finnish genius Markus Pajakkala's UTOPIANISTI though this is mostly him playing various woodwinds and tuned percussives.

Markus Pajakkala - modified drums, bass clarinet, soprano sax, xylophone, various flutes, additional vocals
Marko Eskola - screams, growls & voices on #1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12, 13
Sampo Salonen - throat singing on #1, 3, 5, 6, 13
Ismo Mäkinen - squeaking on #8
Anssi Solismaa - modular synths on #7, 12

Conceived, engineered & produced by Markus Pajakkala
Composed by Markus Pajakkala, with contributions from guest musicians, pure chance and Xochipilli the Hare
Lyrics by Markus Pajakkala & Marko Eskola 

1. "Gróyul Ghóul Ghò!" (01:37) (/10)
2. "Gcéme Zéle Dté" (01:46) (/10)
3. "Blászh" (02:57) (/10)

4. "Bhómega" (03:56) opens on a very 'world music' stage--sounding like something out of a JON HASSELL performance at one of the WOMAD festivals. But then the drums and other instruments (bass clarinet and synthesized flute or sax on the lead) enter at the 1:20 mark and things settle into a new pattern that feels all right wiht the rest of the world. (9/10)

5. "Gabósh Dí Magá" (01:41) growls and reverb effects used on this one make it so cool! The woodwinds and drums weave is perfect support for the Kong Island--fitting song. (9.5/10)

6. "Zigévomídá Zwógh" (01:13) the vocals on this song are the highlight as multiple styles are represented--sometimes even together! Drums are fairly tolerable on this one. (9/10)

7. "Hóllò" (04:04) (/10)

8. "Wóókh Ztadás" (01:14) (/10)
9. "Zwaáakh" (01:26) (/10)
10. "Zhími Bàgi Dá" (01:10) (/10)
11. "Bóm Zói" (02:42) (/10)
12. "Brümigá Hügu" (03:25) (/10)
13. "Glüf Zwagó Zigévomídá!" (03:45) (/10)

Total Time 30:56

I have to admit that the Muppets' "Animal"-like tribalistic beating of the drums along with their very plastic sounds leave me feeling a little raw and jaded, but the music is so interesting and, well, for lack of a better word, raw that I can usually get past it. I wonder if Markus ever heard the Spanish band ZA!'s 2015 album "Loloismo" before making this album. There are some similarities.

ANATHEMA The Optimist

Daniel Cavanagh - guitars, vocals, keyboards, bass
Vincent Cavanagh - vocals, guitars, keyboards, programming, bass
Jamie Cavanagh - bass
John Douglas - drums, keyboards, programming
Lee Douglas - vocals
Daniel Cardoso - drums

1. "32.63n 117.14w" (1:18)

2. "Leaving It Behind" (4:27) (8/10)

3. "Endless Ways" (5:49) (10/10)

4. "The Optimist" (5:37) (9.5/10)

5. "San Francisco" (4:59) (9/10)

6. "Springfield" (5:49) a true Post Rock song (8/10)

7. "Ghosts" (4:17) (9.5/10)

8. "Can't Let Go" (5:00) a true rock song (8.5/10)

9. "Close Your Eyes" (3:39) a true jazz torch song. Cool! (9/10)

10. "Wildfires" (5:40) could be an Ulver song! Awesome and powerful! (9.5/10)

11. "Back To The Start" (11:41) a great 7-minute prog song followed by four minutes of emptiness and then family shit that does not belong on the album. Too bad! 

90.0 on the Fishscales = 4.5 stars, B+/A-; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music.

WOBBLER From Silence to Somewhere

Lars Fredrik Frøislie - keyboards and backing vocals
Kristian Karl Hultgren - bass, bass clarinet and bass pedals
Martin Nordrum Kneppen - drums, percussion and recorder
Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo - vocals, guitar, glockenspiel and percussion
Geir Marius Bergom Halleland - lead guitar and backing vocals

1. "From Silence to Somewhere"
2. "Rendered in Shades of Green"
3. "Fermented Hours"
4. "Foxlight"


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
Anna Holmgren (Anglagard): flute (7)
Andrea Montaldo: percussions (10)

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

COSMIC TRIGGERS Homo Fractaliens

Anastasia Skabelkina: vocal, analog synth
Vladimir Skabelkin: guitar, ethnic, synth
Vladimir Kolbin: guitar
Russel Petrov: drums
Tagir Khisamov: bass 

1. "Introduction" (3:31) (8.5/10)

2. "Homo Fractaliens" (7:16) (9/10)

3. "Undermind" (9:32) (10/10)

4. "Syndicate" (9:05) (8/10)

5. "Quant Um" (4:20) (10/10)

6. "Shutsuryoku" (6:13) (7.5/10)

Total time: 39:57


A little heavier and more serious this time around but the compositional skill and instrumental performances have improved a notch (amazingly!)

Bill Wolter – Guitar
Chris Lauf – Drums
Stephen Wright – Electric Bass
Melody Ferris – Vocals
Ivor Holloway – Tenor, Alto, and Soprano Saxophone
Eli Wallace – Keyboards (1,2,4,5)
Theo Padouvas – Trumpet (1,2,4,5,6)
Andrew Vernon – Keyboards (3,6,7)
David Shaff – Trumpet (3,7)
Aharon Wheels Bolsta – Tabla (5)

1. "Dark Sleep Fortress" (6:40) heavier but still avant. The band is thick and tight! (8.5/10)
2. Black And White Taste (5:56) avant in a math rock almost THINKING PLAGUE way. (8.5/10)
3. Shaman Coin Toss (6:51) 
4. Bobotut (6:12) (9/10)
5. Dromology (8:55) 
6. Targa Floria (4:22) (9/10)
7. Birdie In The Wall (6:57) (9/10)

Total Time 45:53

ULVER The Assassination of Julius Caesar

The reincarnation of Depeche Mode and New Order?

Line-up / Musicians
- Tore Ylwizaker / keyboards, electronics
- Kristoffer Rygg / synthpads, pedalboard, percussion
- Jørn H. Sværen / wind

- Ole Alexander Halstensgård / electronics
- Stian Westerhus / guitars
- Anders Møller / tambourine, shaker, congas
- Daniel O'Sullivan / guitar, bass, keyboards
- Nik Turner (Hawkwind) / sax (2)

Songs / Tracks Listing
1. Nemoralia
2. Rolling Stone
3. So Falls the World
4. Southern Gothic
5. Angelus Novus
6. Transverberation
7. 1969
8. Coming Home

KARDA ESTRA Infernal Spheres

Richard Wileman has returned to some of the simpler soundscapes and melodic structures of his early work. Richard's wife and long-time collaborator Ileesha is present but used rather sparingly. The album seems to have songs representing all of Richard's moods and eras in his illustrious evolution.  

 - Richard Wileman - acoustic, classical, electric, bass & prepared guitars, keyboards, samples, percussion, rastrophone, bouzouki, Appalachian dulcimer, zither
 - Jo Court  - bass clarinet (6, 9, 10)
 - Caron De Burgh - oboe (3, 8), cor anglais (1, 8)
 - Helen Dearnley - violin (4)
 - Amy Fry - clarinet (5, 9), tenor saxophone (9)
 - Richard Overton - bass trombone (1, 3), tenor trombone (6, 9)
 - Lauraine Phelan - trumpet (6, 9)
 - Paul Sears - drums (2, 6)
 - Ileesha Wileman - vocals (7, 9, 10)

1. "Prelude To A Dark Vortex" (1:52) gorgeous opener in church-like bombastics with lots of minor chords and atmospherics. So regal! (9.5/10)

2. "The Fermi Paradox" (3:19) awesome song with Paul Sears' perfectly fitting drumming. Great chord progressions and cool off-beat bass play. My favorite song on the album. (10/10)

3. "Ceres" (1:36) minor Spanish-style guitar-based song with the gorgeous oboe play of long-time collaborator Caron De Burgh. Another gem. (9.5/10)

4. "Obelisk Of Cruithne" (6:46) is a return to darker times. Mostly a solo affair, Richard uses some very odd sounds and sound combinations to keep the listener on edge. Dissonance and melodrama with little or no melody. (8/10)

5. "Anatomy Of The Heavens" (4:48) gorgeously nostalgic. Piano and clarinet shine. Haunting melodies. Problem is that it doesn't go anywhere; it's an awfully long song for such sustained simplicity. (9/10)

6. "Solar Riviera" (6:42) nice soundtrack music. Very French. The eerie "saw" synth in the background is a cool touch. The two brief interlude/breaks are also a nice touch before the transition to different sounds and drumming. I like the 'thickening' of the musical soundscape in the fourth and fifth minutes and the horns in the final third. (9/10)

7. "Legacy Of Theia" (4:21) It's so nice to hear Ileesha's voice! A gorgeous acoustic guitar-based song with, again, all kinds of unusual sounds and textures combining to convey the 'story'. The tinny percussion-like keyboard sounds are my favorites--and there are a lot of them here. Interesting fade/outro. (9/10)

8. "Kklak!" (3:45) pure dissonance and questionable substance. (7/10)

9. "Free Fall On Tyche" (4:51) back to some of the Burt Bacharach-like sounds that we heard on 2013's Mondo Profondo. Ileesha's vocalizations are, of course, the highlight of the song--with the horns. So nice to hear the full horn and woodwinds interacting. The bass guitar is a little monotonous but overall, this is a nice song. (9/10)

10. "Nemesis" (5:35) bass clarinet and percussion alternating with a chorus of Ileesha and organ. Interesting and often surprising but also hypnotic. (9/10)

Total Time 43:35

88.0 on the Fishscales = 4.5 stars, B+; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music.

CAST Power and Outcome

Virtuosic instrumental symphonic prog from these Mexican masters. Makes me want to go back into their discography since my last listen to anything by them was 2008's Originallis--which was brilliant. How can such an amazingly talented band fly so far under the Prog World radar?  

Line-up / Musicians:
- Bobby Vidales / vocals
- Guadalupe Acuña / vocals
- Claudio Cordero / guitar
- Luis Alfonso Vidales / keyboards
- Roberto Izzo / violin
- Carlos Humarán / bass
- Jose Antonio Bringas / drums

1. "Rules of the Desert (Instrumental) (11:35)
2. "Power and Outcome (7:25)
3. "Details: a) Circle Spins (5:47)
4. "Details: b) Start Again (Instrumental) (8:43)
5. "Through Stained Glass (8:46)
6. "Illusions and Tribulations (9:27)
7. "The Gathering (8:16)
8. "Conquest (Instrumental) (3:30)
9. "Full Circle (1:57)
10. "Dialect for the 21st Century (5:16)

Total time 70:42

EYOT Innate

Refreshing new Post Rock from Serbia featuring piano-based instrumentals with roots in Serbian folk music.


Dejan Ilijic - Piano
Sladjan Milenovic - Guitar
Milos Vojvodic - Drums
Marko Stojiljkovic - Bass

1. "Veer" (6:03) 
2. "Helm" (4:46)
3. "Mountain" (5:08) (9.5/10)
4. "Perun" (5:32)
5. "Canon Of Insolation" (4:48)
6. "Ramonda Serbica" (7:07)
7. "Innate" (5:46)

Total time 39:10


Nice instrumental symphonic rock from Norway in the traditions and styles of the masters of the 1970s classics.

Håkon Oftung - Vocals, flute, guitars & keys
Kristian Frøland - Drums, percussion
Robert William Dall Frøseth - Bass (3)

1. Over Vidda (1:48)
2. Abstraksjoner Fra Et Dunkelt Kammer (6:50)
3. Finske Skoger (2:56)
4. Jord I (6:24)
5. Jord II (8:27) (9/10)
6. La Meg Forsvinne! (6:38)
7. Postludium (4:42)

Total time 37:45

ROBERT JÜRJENDAL Simple Past/Lihtminevik

If Robert Fripp and Brian Eno were to have teamed up with Jack DeJohnnette or Pierre Moerlin:  ambient jazz.

Robert Jürjendal — touch guitars, percussion, keyboards (1, 6, 8, 9), Neunaber effects 
Andrus Lillepea — drums (1–8) 
Lotte — „water drop” samples (6) 
Six — breathing (9) 

1. No Or Yes (3:32)
2. Brothers (3:03)
3. Kettle (1:58)
4. Melting Memories (3:57)
5. Up Up (4:14)
6. Old Stories (6:34)
7. Substance (4:30)
8. Above (4:24)
9. More (4:21)
10. Simple Past (8:58)

Total time 45:31

SEAS OF MIRTH Hark! The Headland Approacheth

The new Cardiacs, singing songs of the high seas. Vocalist sounds like Billy Idol trying to sound like Jim Morrison. Guitars sound like an Irish Dick Dale. Highly theatric, highly entertaining, highly polished top notch musicianship with a lot of the craze and boldness of Kavus Torabi, FARMERS MARKET, Humble Grumble and Frank Zappa.

Al Judders - vocals, percussion, whistle
Cannonball Paul - vocals, guitar
Zorba The Blowfish - bouzouki
Glen Fingle - mandolin
Jeremiah Planks On Fire - bass
Shitluck - cello
Piss-in-the-wind Mindy - accordion, violin, woodwind
Sally Squidbusiness - keys
Robrush - drums

1. The Curse Of The Conniving Lighthouse Sniper (5:47)
2. Hark! The Headland Approacheth (4:08) (10/10)
3. Mutiny (4:48)
4. Esmerelda (4:24)
5. Bamboozled By Booze (4:30)
6. It's Raining, Men! (5:29)
7. Salt Man (4:06)
8. Sulphur-Bottom Lament (Plankton Song) (2:07)
9. BrandyWine (5:08)
10. The Curse Of The Dreaded Devil's Triangle (3:10)
11. Apocacalypso (6:26)

Total Time 50:03


Trond Gjellum (Panzapapa): Drums, percussion, lead and backing vocals, programming, keyboards
Anders K. Krabberød (Panzapapa): Bass guitars
Nina Hagen Kaldhol: Electric guitars, Moog guitar
Hans-Petter Alfredsen (Panzapapa): Keyboards
Mari Lesteberg: Keyboards
Thomas Meidell: Electric guitars, baritone guitar, vocals, noises
Ketil Einarsen (The Opium Cartel, Jaga Jazzist): Vocals, flute

1. Fade Into Obscurity (5:02)
2. Pronk (3:57)
3. As I Am Dying (6:00)
4. Guzarondan (5:29)
5. Von Two (4:24)
6. Kore Wa! (4:12)
7. Docteur Mago (8:44)

Total Time 37:48


Robby Baca: Guitar
Michael Lessard: Vocals
Joey Baca: Percussion
Cameron Maynard: Guitar
Jordan Eberhardt: Bass Guitar
Eric Guenther: Keyboards

  1.     Monochrome (Passive)
  2.     Godspeed
  3.     Reimagined
  4.     Clairvoyant
  5.     The Center
  6.     Absolve
  7.     Relapse
  8.     Return to Earth
  9.     Monochrome (Pensive)


Alex Chochinov - Guitar
Jorden Hart - Trumpet
Graeme Leaver - Keys
Karl Manchur - Bass
Adrian Schroeder - Drums

1. Intervention (4:29)
2. Moons Aligned (3:58)
3. It Will Catch Up With You Too (5:50)
4. No Response Still (3:52)
5. Roatan Skies (5:39)
6. That 6th Sunset (1:37)
7. Up/Down (5:45)
8. Blue Flower (Leaving The Cabaret) (5:48)

Total Time 36:58

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. 

Boris Ghas - bass, poem (5), samples (4)
Viktor Tikhonov - drums, Oxoma synth (1,5,6,7), samples (3,4,7)
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)
2. Garura Lila (3:55)
3. Cikada (5:43)
4. Godzindra (9:53)
5. Walk Under The Moon (13:19)
6. Umbra (6:32)
7. Mechanoya (12:00) (9/10)
8. Crossing (1:08)

Total time 54:31

THINKING PLAGUE Hoping Against Hope

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

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
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)

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)

UNAKA PRONG Adult Contemporary

Another fantastic smorgasborg of music from Boone, North Carolina's gift to the music world, this album has me feeling so nostalgic and yet it's all new, fresh, and completely Unaka Prong!

Line-up / Musicians:

- Mike Welsh / guitar
- Daniel Stevenson / guitar, vocals
- John Hargett / drums, vocals
- Jonathon Sale / bass
- Chris Pope / keys
- Nic Pressley / trumpet

1. "Gadnuk (Breaker of Worlds)" (5:22) a bluesy instrumental very familiar to those who've heard the Margot album. Nice keys and horns; tight drums and bass. (8.5/10)

2. "Fruit Fly" (6:24) silly folk fun that makes me think I'm sitting on a porch on a sweltering hot day in the South. Once the music kicks in, it's more danceable jazz with a kind of Dr. John vocal and a tight musical merengue-like weave. (8.5/10)

3. "Alchemy" (4:26) opens with a bluesy-reggae feel to it before the loose, almost comical "late night drunk" vocal takes the lead. Wonderful organ work on this one! Awesome key changes at 2:45 and 3:20. (8.5/10)

4. "Déjà Vu (0:44) is a gorgeous little piano "étude" in a Joni Mitchell/Bill Evans vein. (10/10)

5. "Run Out (5:05) my immediate and continued favorite song on the album (of course! it has a very odd time signature!) Just hypnotic and gorgeous! Prog perfection--with trumpet! Probably my favorite song of the year! (10/10)

6. "Late July (5:10) (/10)
7. "Lurks (6:07) (/10)
8. "Heartburn (6:11)
9. "Lake Jam #1 (5:41)
10. "Maeng Da (Lake Jam #4) (3:25) (10/10)
11. "Narcese (4:27)
12. "Fairweather Friend (1:41)
13. "Highway Drivin' (3:37)
14. "Too Far Gone (5:23) (9/10)
15. "As we Agreed (6:58)

Total Time 70:41

MAGIC BUS Phillip The Egg

England's revivalists of the Bay Area psychedelia and Canterbury Scene have returned with another collection of one that flows and develops slowly in its complexity and dexterity over the course of the album. As a matter of fact, it seems to me upon repeated listens that the opening songs are fairly simple and pleasant and innocent while the trend progresses toward more expressions of anger and discord towards the end of the longer songs and the album itself. 

I would have liked to hear more instrumental expressivity and complexity but am exceedingly happy for the input of this collection of songs that take me to a place that was much more innocent and carefree.

SHEN TEH Hide and Seek

New music as Lara Olson Reidel and company progress away from their Amanda Palmer-like cabaret style of music into more guitar-infused rock, with electronic inputs as well. Lara's lyrics and singing are world-class clever and sophisticated and her support crew are right in sync with her.

1. "Just One Kiss" (3:27) opens with quite a familiar piano-based prog sound. The female vocalist is what might surprise everyone. Kind of NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA meets iNFiNiEN. A little too ABACAB and straightforward to be "progressive."(8.5/10)

2. "Keys" (3:02) has a kind of BOWIE-quirkiness to its guitar/rhythm section opening. Then singer and chorus gives it more of a SOUIXIE AND THE BANSHEES feel. Very polished, mature song. (9.5/10)

3. "Hide & Seek" (4:40) powerful song with wonderful Eastern European melodic and harmonic overtones. (9/10)

4. "The Blue Café" (4:26) gut-wrenching performances and stylings from vocalist, piano and bowed double bass. Amazing song! This is why humans make music! (10/10) 

5. "Kitty in the City" (4:06) more in the cabaret vein of Lara's formative productions. (8.5/10)

6. "The Joker" (3:49) Opens very theatrically before moving into the punk cabaret realm. Such an amazing vocalist! Shades of Nina Hagen! (9/10)

7. "Would You Rather" (4:01) Opens with some great pop guitar stylings before the more proggy palette develops. Kavus Torabi and Kate Bush would be quite proud! (9/10)

90.71 on the Fishscales = five stars; a masterpiece of progressive rock music! Welcome the music of Lara Olson Reidel into your lives and you will not be sorry! 


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

- 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

NEXUS En el comienzo del Topos Uranos

Lalo Huber and company are back again with another collection of top notch prog songs in the symphonic style.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Carlos Lucena / guitars, backing vocals
- Lalo Huber / keyboards, vocals
- Jorge Mariño Martinez / bass
- Luis Nakamura / drums

- Roxana Truccolo / backing vocals (2)

1. "El Ultimo Dia" (6:13)
2. "La Casa Del Invierno" (5:18)
3. "Un Cristal Bajo El Agua" (7:42)
4. "En El Tercer Planeta" (4:46)
5. "Huellos" (2:49)
6. "Soplo De Vida" (9:10)
- Bonus Tracks :
7. El Color Que Cayo Del Cielo (7:02)
8. Heliotropo (5:17)
9. Los Sacerdotes Malignos (7:24)

Total time 55:41


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.

David Zurbuchen - Vocals, Guitars, Synthesizers, Effects
Reto Maissen - Bass, Synthesizers, Effects
Andreas Rosch - Drums

1. Purple Sea (Part 1) (6:51)
2. Purple Sea (Part 2) (9:42) (9/5/10)
3. Purple Sea (Part 3) (3:03)
4. Purple Sea (Part 4) (12:39)
5. Purple Sea (Part 5) (2:34)
6. Morning Star (12:41)

Total Time 47:30


1. "Lento" (18:34)

2. "Karhunpäivä" (17:27)

3. "Giardinaggio interiore" (31:50

4. "Stato di Grazia" (11:00) music befitting its title, to be sure!

ALIO DIE They Grow Layers of Life Between

1. The Atom of Existence" (26:20)

2. "They Grow Layers of Life Within" (32:02)

3. "Real-Life Mystery" (6:09) gorgeous and frolicky with the nymph-like water play of bells and fairies, crickets and heavenly choir. (9/10)

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)

MIKE OLDFIELD Return to Ommadawn

Though full of new music, as opposed to some of the re-hashing send-ups Oldfield has released over the years, this one is a beautiful little reminder of just how awesome those mid-1970s albums of Mike Oldfield's were.

1. Return To Ommadawn (Pt.1) (21:10) (8.5/10)
2. Return To Ommadawn (Pt.2) (20:57) (8.5/10)

Total Time 42:07

Mike Oldfield - acoustic, classical, 12-string & electric guitars, acoustic & electric basses, mandolin, harp, bouzouki, banjo, grand piano, spinet, Farfisa organ, ARP 2600 & Solina synths, bodhran, glockenspiel, accordion (6), assorted percussions (marimba, gong, tubular bells)

85.0 on the Fishscales = 4 stars; solid B; a very good progressive rock album--a nice, fresh take on the Ommadawn style and themes with very clear recording and solid performances.

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.


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!