HAMMOCK Oblivion Hymns
Gorgeous, uplifting, one might say "healing," music from these American composers of modern electronic chamber music. Though the structures and effect are definitely Post Rock, I can't help but think of this music as a step forward in the evolution of the Prog Electronic subgenre.
Line-up / Musicians:
- Andrew Thompson / composer, performer & producer
- Timothy Showalter / vocals (10)
- Phil Madeira / accordion
2. "Then the Quiet Explosion" (6:43) strings and female choir! Wow! The effect is cathedralesque! ANATHEMA taken to the next level; the kind of music that makes prog the best! (10/10)
3. "Turning Into Tiny Particles... Floating Through Empty Space" (4:02) (/10)
4. "Like a Valley With No Echo" (8:10) (/15)
5. "Holding Your Absence" (5:42) (/10)
6. "Shored Against the Ruins... Drowning In Ten Directions" (3:43) (/10)
7. "I Could Hear the Water at the Edge of All Things" (5:40) (/10)
8. "In the Middle of This Nowhere" (5:33) (/10)
9. "Hope Becomes a Loss" (8:45) (/20)
10. "Tres Dominé" (3:07) (/10)
Total Time 56:48
Bonus tracks as download from bandcamp :
11. Sleep (6:32)
12. Cathedral (6:18)
13. Hiraeth (6:53)
86.67 on the Fish scales = 4.5 stars; a near masterpiece of progressive rock music.
86.47 on the Fish sclaes = B/four stars; a very nice addition to any prog lover's music collection. Recommended to all music lovers.
Once in a while--maybe once every two or three months--an album will come down the progstreaming pipe that really hooks its talons deep into my mind. Such is this new release from Scarlet Stories. I have really been enjoying this 45-minute long "EP" which I discovered through progstreaming.com and, later, bought on bandcamp. Bare-bones music from this Dutch duo with a definite prog orientation. Mostly just acoustic guitar (Bram te Kamp) (sometimes treated) and one powerful female vocalist in Lisette van den Berg.
In the third repetition of the "craving" chorus Lisette's voice has a strength which reminds me strikingly of FREQUENCY DRIFT's extraordinary vocalist on the Ghosts... album, Antje Auer. I love the guitar work in the last two minutes with Lisette's far off vocal notes in the background. (8/10)
Favorite songs: the incredibly powerful, "The Blindness, Wife's Prayer" (5:07) (10/10); the awesomely mood-setting opener, "Intro" (3:12) (10/10); the gorgeous yet eerily tense, "Prologue (3:24) (9/10); the surprisingly electro-poppy (like ABC or The Blow Monkeys), "City" (2:06) (9/10); the AETHER-like, "Lot" (4:54) (9/10); the appropriately busy and theatric, "The Orgy" (4:17) (8/10); the mesmerizing trip-hoppy, "Black Feast II" (3:42) (8/10); the appropriately dramatic, "The Escape" (2:04) (8/10), and; the finale, "To The Flames" (3:41) (8/10).
84.24 on the Fish scales = This is a 4 star album that I'm recommending for the fact that it's melodies stay with me after I'm done listening and for the fact that it gets better with each listen. Bravo, UZ! Bravo, Al K! Another addition to the pantheon of great albums from 2013!
STEVEN WILSON The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories)
I don’t know how well the band worked on the various songs on this album but there are several, like the title song and the last song, that just feel like they are much more well worked out, more complex, and much more mature.
85.43 on the Fish scales = A solid four star album; an excellent addition to any prog music lover's album collection.
DAYS BETWEEN STATIONS In Extremis
“Featuring Peter Banks, Tony Levin, Colin Moulding (XTC), Billy Sherwood, and Rick Wakeman” is definitely enough to pique anyone’s curiosity—and I’m glad it did cuz within In Extremis are some real gems for songs. While DAYS WITHOUT STATIONS are officially made up of Oscar Fuentes Bills and Sepand Samzadeh, and the contributions of the above artists—especially Levin, Sherwood and Banks—are worthy of superlatives, it is truly the core of Bills and Samzadeh that deserve the greatest praise here.
On this new release Fish displays a broad palette of musical styles while throughout showing his extraordinary skill as singer-storyteller. What I find myself liking throughout is how Fish's singing has strongly carried a torch started by Peter Gabriel. In fact, he may be better now than Gabriel ever was. The album has a lot of the same feel as Gabe's first solo album. My beef with this album is that there is a lot of music here that really wouldn't fall into a prog category, more like classic rock. I count four songs that are proggy (5, 8, 9, 11), three that are pseudo-proggy (1, 6, 7) and four that are not proggy at all (2, 3, 4, 10), and no real standout masterpieces, IMHO. Also, Fish seems pretty stuck on two themes in particular: environmental disaster and war, though his lyrical compositions are incredibly poetic. As a matter of fact, that is another feature that distinguishes Fish's music from almost all others on PA this year: the mature, sophisticated poetic quality of his words, delivery and images is so far beyond anyone else (at least those speaking in English, my most familiar language).
01. "Perfume River" (10:58) is notable for its three parts, beginning with bagpipes, some wonderful singing, and an energetic strumming acoustic guitar-driven section in the second half. (8/10)
02. "All Loved Up" (5:07) sounds like a TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS or JOHN COUGAR MELLENCAMP song, pure rural bluesy rock. (6/10)
03. "Blind To The Beautiful" (5:12) continues the MELLENCAMP/TOM PETTY trend on the softer end of the spectrum. A beautiful, heartfelt vocal performance. (7/10)
04. "A Feast Of Consequences" (4:29) is the third and probably most obvious of the MELLENCAMP/TOM PETTY genre. The female and background vocal supports are nice touches but fail to make this song a winner for me. (5/10)
05. "High Wood" (5:26) starts out as a sensitive, beautiful IAMTHEMORNING-like song up to the 2:10 mark when it kicks into PETER GABRIEL sound and style. It's eery-powerful in the chorus section, especially "the circle is unbroken." Like the use of spoken German at the end. Definitely one of the three best songs on the album. (9/10)
06. "Crucifix Corner" (7:25) opens very delicately with another stunning vocal performance. Again it kicks into drive with its 80s classic rock B and C parts. (7/10)
07. "The Gathering" (4:30) opens with a festive county fair sound and feel to it before turning into a kind of Celtic folk anti-war song. I hear a lot of ROBERT WYATT in this song-- especially in the way the horns are used. Also some J TULL. Unfortunately, this song has probably the least effective vocal on the album. (7/10)
08. "Thistle Alley" (6:08) sounds just like it came off of PETER GABRIEL's first solo album. Great delicacy in the instrumental play is offset with the raw and powerful insistence of the vocal performance. Great effect of the drums and bass with sparse guitar interplay. Another of the three best songs on the album. (9/10)
09. "The Leaving" (4:59). By the time you get to this song you start to realize that Fish is using one formula in the construction of his songs on this album: delicate, soft two-minute sparsely intstrumentalized intros shifting into a more standard pulsing rock formats for the remainder of the song (with sometimes a return to the delicacy of the intro for the final 15 or 30 seconds). An interesting guitar solo in the fourth minute. Another familiar PETER GABRIEL-like song and vocal in this one. The use of chamber strings is a highlight of this one for me. (8/10)
10. "The Other Side Of Me" (6:09) opens with some very familiar GENESIS-like guitar and piano. Deep, breathy-voiced Fish soon joins in with what I feel is the most powerful lyric and vocal performance on the album. I love the effect of the double-lined vocal from the 1:50 mark on and the excellent background voices in the "First person singular" chorus. The rise an octave at the 2:50 mark is also masterfully effective. Unfortunately, this is not a prog song but more of a country rock piece, again in the form used so effectively by JOHN MELLENCAMP, ROBBIE ROBERTSON, GUY MANNING and VAN MORRISON. (8/10)
11. "The Great Unravelling (6:32) begins with the riff from EMINEM's well-known "Lose Yourself" song. The riff is soon joined by a great and varied PETER GABRIEL-esque vocal performance. Another awesome lyric. Also great use of female vocalist (whom I assume to be Liz Antwi) as a foil/partner and CLARE TORREY-like vocal "instrument." Great instrumental performances throughout. This is the last of the three good truly prog songs on the album. (9/10)
75.45 on the Fish scales = A 3.5 star album, really, that is probably best defined by the "Good, but not essential" category but I am awarding four stars due to the outstanding vocal and poetic lyrics.
Listener beware: four of the songs on this album are re-mixes or re-worked versions of songs released on the previous year's excellent album, Disclosure.
For those of you still mourning the departure of golden voiced Anneke Van Giersbergen, let me tell you: as any of you who have ever listened to OCTAVIA SPERATI can attest, Norwegian Silje Wergeland is no vocal slouch. She has precise control of her ‘instrument’ even in her nuances and subtleties. Unfortunately, in my humble opinion, Afterwords does not take full advantage of Silje’s considerable gifts. However, I do quite enjoy the variety of creative adventurousness that The Gathering musicians/songwriters are taking on the songs represented here. There may, however, be a bit too much variety here, leaving me asking the question, “Who are The Gathering, really?
Solid 4 stars. Give a listen; see what you think!
THE WORM OUROBOROS Of Things That Never Were
HUMBLE GRUMBLE Guzzle It Up!
Line-up / Musicians:
- Franck W Fromy / guitars
- Philippe Haxaire / drums
- Adrian Luna / bass
- Emmanuel Pothier / synths
- Vincent Sicot Vantalon / keyboards
1. "Kakodeamon" (3:40) great opener! What a pace! Let's me know how these guys have grown: far more cohesive King Crimson-influenced Zeuhl. (9/10)
6. "Numinosity" (4:03) surprisingly sedate and straightforward (for a King Crimson-inspired song). (8.25/10)
7. "Agathodeamon" (4:07) love the 1970s-like harpsichord hits! Very cinematic with it's long start-n-stop first half and brief passages into fifth gear--like a car chase scene. (8.5/10)
8. "Coincidentia Oppositorum" (3:47) (8/10)
9. "Fixatio" (4:20) I still get a kick out this band's use of the "harpsichord" sound--especially when the music turns so dark and CRIMSON-like as it does here. Then there's the Jaco Pastorius tribute in the middle. (8.25/10)
10. "Aqua Permanens" (6:46) more harpsichord! More cerebral, methodic and NIL-like in its Zeuhlishness. I like the Jaco display in the middle of this one much more than on the previous song. (13/15)
Total Time 43:07
- Daniel Cardoso / drums, percussion
- Danny Cavanagh / bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, keyboards
- Sean Jude / acoustic guitar, classical guitar, poetry, vocals
- Kevin Murphy / bass
1. "Bethlehem" (8:28) Good song with the final minute being the highlight for me. Interesting lyrics. (16.75/20)
2. "The Hollow Hills" (6:47) (12.5/15)
3. "Sunset Hypnos" (5:23) cool NEIL YOUNG- and DAVE MASON-like feel. (9/10)
5. "Oak Machine" (8:01) an absolutely stunningly beautiufl and haunting song with amazingly sensitive multi-track vocal harmony from Sean. (14/15)
6. "Thirteen" (6:54) (12.75/15)
7. "Beneath a Woodland Moon" (4:40) (8/10)
8. "Portrait" (10:56) an attempt at a kind of liturgical Gentle Giant vocal arrangement for the first four minutes, then the electric rock instruments enter and change everything (thought there is still a SIMON & GARFUNKLE sound and feel). At the six-minute mark it slows back down for a bit--very pretty--but then goes full ANATHEMA at 7:10. The repetitive vocal and two-chord fabric that ensues goes on for a full two minutes before finally breaking at 9:00. Classical guitar over ANATHEMA atmospherics sets up a section with some very delicate, breathy slow vocals--just a few words recapitulating the opening motif and lyrics--to the end. Gorgeous finish. The rest is kind of all over the place. Still, a good song and a great ending to the album. (17.5/20)
Total time: 53:46
A nice collection of songs from a well-established but under-exposed band from Greece.
1. "Moribundo Part II" (8:11) a nice psych jam with flute and guitar, trumpet and male vocalise tag-teaming over a bass and drums groove. (13.25/15)
85.0 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; rated up for being interesting and refreshing enough for return visits.
4 star songs: "East Coast Racer" (15:43), "Curator of Butterflies" (8:44) and "The Permanent Way" (8:29).
Interesting, unusual and well-conceived and produced prog on the folk-jazz/pop spectrum with the theme of the magic of Harry Houdini. The deep voice of the lead vocalist has a timbre reminiscent of Leonard Cohen or the lead singer from Major Parkinson or even the late Nick Talbot from Gravenhurst. Well worth the exposure.
While I have to agree with other reviewers that Andrew Marshall's instrumental compositions are maturing--and that his more-showcased flute playing has definitely improved--I still find the song elements, sounds, and stylings too derivative of (mostly) classic and Neo-GENESIS. The mysteriously separated two epics at the start of the album, "A House of Cards" (Parts 1 and 2), are, in my opinion, too disjointed and all over the place--they lack flow and sense-making shifts and turns--and are, again, often incorporating sounds and riffs too close to something from a classic 70s Genesis or Jethro Tull (or even 2000s Nektar: "Heaven") song. Steve Unruh's contributions are wonderful; he has a presence that shouts "prog elite."
Andrew Marshall - Electric & acoustic guitars, 12-string guitar, classical guitar, keyboards, bass guitar, bass pedals
Hans Jörg Schmitz - Drums, percussion
Steve Unruh - Violin, flute, guitar
1. "A House Of Cards Pt.1" (20:43) too derivative, contrived, and cerebrally composed and executed; not enough flash and flair (except when Mr. Unruh steps up front and center). (31/40)
2. "A Short Intermission" (1:35) like a true theatrical intermission! (4.5/5)
3. "A House Of Cards Pt. 2" (9:08) after the slightly TANGERINE DREAM-sounding opening, a JTULL-ish passage bursts forth with fiery violin and flute taking turns with the "Watcher"-like organ soloing. Unfortunately, the solos outclass the foundation (which becomes tedious). At least Andrew is being forced out of his (Genesis) comfort zone a little by his new collaborators. (16/20)
4. "Interlude No. 2" (2:05) classical guitar of the Spanish ANTHONY PHILLIPS kind. (4.5/5)
5. "The Dream Harbour" (7:17) a near-perfect Neo Prog song (though too-blatantly imitative of GENESIS ["take a little trip with Father Tiresius"]) Great three-part intro with flute, arpeggiated 12-string/harpsichord and Mellotron. This then gets expanded nicely in the third minute by drums, violin, electric guitar and organ before regressing into a organ and electric guitar duet. The main theme returns with the full band at the 5-minute mark while flute, synth, and violin trade turns at the lead. (13.25/15)
7. "The Face Of Eurydice" (7:36) has some excellent parts but also lacks from feeling a bit disjointed and inconsistent. There are some keyboard passages that incorporate sound choices that sound like Keith Emerson or Rick Wakeman. The "Fly on a Windshield" passage in the sixth and seventh minutes is too blatant for me. (12.75/15)
82.86 on the Fishscales = B-/four stars; I will give this album a four star rating because of the wonderful tradition of bucolic soundscapes that Mr. Marshall is championing--and for the fact that he is doing a very fine job of it. Keep on trying, keep on growing, Andrew, your masterpiece is coming.
- Karol Wróblewski / vocals
- Mirek Gil / guitars
- Konrad Wantrych / keyboards, backing vocals
- Przemysław Zawadzki / bass
- Vlodi Tafel / drums
- Satomi / violin (6,8)
1. "The End" (1:48) (4/5)
2. "Beginners" (8:05) interesting mix of bass (very far forward) and Mirek Gil's guitar (deeper in the mix). Then it becomes an acoustic guitar-based song when Karol enters to sing! Odd but interesting stylistic mix. Mirek gets to lay down a raunchy solo in the sixth minute before he starts to let loose--but then never quite gives way--never quite goes beserk (as we all know he can). (12.75/15)
4. "Words" (5:44) (8/10)
5. "Unborn/Turn Around" (8:06) Great sound palette; there are moments where it feels like Przemysław and Mirek are getting ready to turn this into a RIVERSIDE-like romp, but hey don't. Big disappointment. I don't get this soft, whispery approach to singing from Karol. (11/15)
6. "Please Go Home" (4:51) with its wonderful, highly emotional story, lyrics, Satomi violin, and vintage Mirek Gil guitar playing. Finally, a great Mirek gill power start! (9.25/10)
Total time 45:02
"Polar Kraut" Rock! Awesome new instrumental project from an ad hoc Swedish band that includes accomplished Swedish film music composer Matti Bye on the organ, two of his long-time associates in the world of soundtrack, cellist Leo Svensson and bassist Kristian Holmgren, and two drummers simultaneously playing the same drum kit (from opposite sides), Mattias Olsson (Anglagard, White Willow) and Henrik Olsson (Mattias' 17-year old son?).
A nice sounding, well-produced album of songs in a PINK FLOYD-like vein of sounds and stylings--conceptually as well as in the extensive integration of samples/spoken threads in between and in the background. Sometimes a the similarities are a bit TOO close to classic PF stuff, IMHO. The performances are rather good if often quite strikingly similar to Waters (voice), Gilmour (guitar leads), Wright (particularly organ) and even Mason (not in volume or clarity, though), and the production is pristine if somewhat lacking in the desirable but all-too-elusive weave of harmony and nuance. What is lacking for me is anything new and memorable: Repeated listens of the album and its songs in their individuality leave me underwhelmed, even absent from reaction; I am not drawn back to the music or album and when I hear the songs again I feel neither excitement or familiarity. Not that I feel as though I've wasted my time. It's a pleasant listen. No more, no less.
This is an album that I picked up upon release, I don't know why, since I had not particularly loved any of AYREON's previous albums. I love his sounds, his collaborators, his ideas, but there was always too much--too much content, too much bombast, too much predictability, too much sound. BUT, I remember enjoying what I was hearing with this album. The problem came with its length and density: I simply did not want to invest the time in getting to know--getting to really know--this album the way that it seemed to be asking me to. So, I put if off.
Now it's time.