Friday, January 30, 2015

Favorite Long "Epics" of the 21st Century

After long deliberation I am finally publishing my list of My Favorite Prog Epics (12 mins. or longer) from this the 21st Century. Rather than using the five star or ten point rating system I've decided to use the USA's good old school grading system. The ability to use pluses and minuses allows me to grade these songs in a way that feels much more accurate than the numeric systems.
      An A+ signifies a song that feels like it goes beyond perfection--has something(s) extra. An A is prog perfection, hard to find fault with. An A- denotes a great song that has a few minor flaws. The B+ implies that the song nearly misses masterpiece status; it has some great parts but lacks either flow, cohesion or enough memorable hooks or complexities to rate at the top echelon of prog music.

A+ songs
"At the Court of Alkinoos" - GLASS HAMMER
"Silhouette" - EDISON’S CHILDREN
"K.A. III" - MAGMA
"Chapter IX" - AETHER
"Vapour Trail" - SYLVAN
"Perfect Cosmic Storm" - BIG BIG TRAIN
"Around the Second Moon" - SEQUENTIA LEGENDA
"Frozen Moment" - NINE STONES CLOSE
"Isis and Osiris" - AYREON
"Laboratories of the Invisible World (Rollerskating the Cosmic Palmistric Postborder)" - MAUDLIN OF THE WELL
"The Way Up, Part II" - PAT METHENY
"Fiori, frutti, farfalle" - HUMANA PROG
"God Left Us for a Black Dressed Woman" - SEVEN IMPALE
"Vixit III" - BATTLESTATIONS
"Vixit I" - BATTLESTATIONS
"(You Will) Live Forever Now" - ELECTRIC MOON
"Silent Rumon" - ALIO DIE & LORENZO MONTANÀ
"From Silence to Noise" - NOSOUND
"Fire! Fire! Fire!" - MY BROTHER THE WIND
"Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré II" - MAGMA
"Ici et maintenant" - SEQUENTIA LEGENDA
"IV" - BELIEVE
"Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde" - WESERBERGLAND
"Surveillance" - AIRBAG
"Layers of Faith" - ALIO DIE


A songs
"Note from the Past" - HIROMI'S SONICBLOOM
"Antítesis"- KANT FREUD KAFKA
"Cicatrix ESP" - THE MARS VOLTA
"The Manifold Curiosity" - KAYO DOT
"El Regresso (the Return)" - NEXUS
"Obliterated Alcove" - ALIO DIE
"Fécondée par un extra-terrestre" - CAMEMBERT
"Stato di Grazia" - ALIO DIE
"Pigeons in Space" - TREE TOPS
"Foxlight" - WOBBLER
"Slam" - REDSHIFT
"altair" - COSMIC GROUND
"Brave Captain" - BIG BIG TRAIN
"The Willow Tree" - MYSTERY
"Routine Maintenance" - BUBBLEMATH
"A Mysterious Cup of Tea, Parts 1-5" - MARGIN
"Transition" - LUNATIC SOUL
"Germander Speedwell" - THIEVES’ KITCHEN
"Tryptique" - SETNA
"Pentacle's Suite" - KOTEBEL
"The Bright Ambassadors of Morning" - PURE REASON REVOLUTION
"Sequencer (from 70 to 07)" - KLAUS SCHULZE
"Walpurgi Flame" - MOTHER TURTLE
"Honey Mushroom" - ALIO DIE
"Concurrent Abreaction, Parts I-VI" - STARE AT THE CLOUDS
"The Edge of Forever" - STELLARDRONE
"gravelax de spleen" - ARNAUD BUKWALD
"Fly Over Me"- SEQUENTIA LEGENDA
"Entangled" - ROBERT RICH
"Sovrano dell-illusione" (Parts 1 & 2) - MAD CRAYON
"Zilezi" - ARANIS
"Second Life Syndrome" - RIVERSIDE
"Misophonia III" - ELECTRIC ORANGE
"Serenity in a Nutshell" - CIRRUS BAY
"Salt Water Falling on Uneven Ground" - BIG BIG TRAIN
"In Orbit" - WOBBLER
"Particelle" - LAGARTIJA
"Entre as Esterlas" - VITRAL
"The Truth, The Glow, The Fall" - ANNA VON HAUSSWOLFF

"Too Much to Lose" - THE PINEAPPLE THIEF
"Seas of Change" - GALAHAD
"Elsewhere" - YVES POTIN/JAZZCOMPUTER.ORG
"Ricorre l'abbandono" - J'ACCUSE..!
"Swirls" - YVES POTIN/JAZZCOMPUTER.ORG
"In the Air (parts I, II, & III)" - TIM HECKER


A- songs
"Phantom Pain Scars" - T
"Sleepers" - SOUP
"Tick Tock” - GAZPACHO
"K.A. (Part III)" - MAGMA
"Dama" - KANT FREUD KAFKA
"Great Cold of the Night" - MIDDAY VEIL
"Sulle ali del sogno Odissea" - C.A.P.
"Speak" - I AND THOU
"The Finest of Miracles Suite" - CICCADA
"Giovane Figlia - LA COSCIENZA DI ZENO
"Herculean" - KHATSATURJAN
"The Garden" - UNITOPIA
"Frank" - TRION
"A Piece of the Sky" - SWANS
"The Underfall Yard" - BIG BIG TRAIN
"Epitaph for a Mariner” - SEAN FILKINS
"The Aftermath of Science" - T
"On The Run" - SATELLITE
"Concerto for Piano and Electric Ensemble" - KOTEBEL
"...And So We Destroyed Everything" - SLEEPMAKESWAVES
"Hell, part 4-6: Traitor/Cheese" -- MOTORPSYCHO
"9" - DATURAH
"Madre Antica" - LA COSCIENZA DI ZENO
"Firebears" - THE TEA CLUB
"The Mortality of Doves" - KAYO DOT
"Dawn" - FAUNS
"Light Of Desert And The Shadows Inside" - HYPNO5E
"Sound of the Apocalypse" - BLACK BONZO
"Wind, Water & Fire Suite" - IONA
"Pick Up If You're There" - BIG BIG TRAIN
"The Black Tomato" (Parts I-III) - ØRESUND SPACE COLLECTIVE
"Io" -- SEVEN THAT SPELLS
"In This Puzzled Roundabout" -- ARLEKIN
"Storm" - GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR
"Songs of Ascent" (Parts 1-3) - IONA
"He Tried to Show Them Magic/Ambassadors Return” - PURE REASON REVOLUTION
"Temporary Peace” - ANATHEMA
"Jacob van Vennepkadell" - OMAR RODRIGUEZ-LOPEZ
"'Even The Outsider' Suite, Parts i, ii, & iii" - DOMINA CATRINA LEE
"Le Gardien" - NIL
"They Grow Layers of Life Within" - ALIO DIE
"Dreams" - FREQUENCY DRIFT
"Prologue: Nature Morte/You’re Not Welcome Here" - BATTLESTATIONS
"Pride" - MYSTERY
"Star-Filled Skies" (Parts 1-4) - DAVE BAINBRIDGE
"Terra Sancta" - FROGG CAFÉ
"Behind The Wall of Sheep" - ELECTRIC ORANGE
"Lento" - ALIO DIE
"The Long Fianchetto" - THIEVES' KITCHEN
"Skwitch" - CAMEMBERT
"The Collapse" - AMPLIFIER
"Lullaby in a Car Crash" - BJORN RIIS
"Water Drops" - YVES POTIN/JAZZCOMPUTER.ORG
"Valentins Traum" - SEQUENTIA LEGENDA
"The Atom of Existence" - ALIO DIE
"ngc 224" - COSMIC GROUND
"Quits" - PAATOS

B+ songs
"Chapter V" - LIZARD
"Ghost Track" - DATURAH
"Ato piradime" - UNIVERSAL TOTEM ORCHESTRA
"Simurgh" - KOTEBEL
"Dérégénération" - NIL
"One More Time" - THE FLOWER KINGS
"Requiem (for a Dying Creed)" - HYPNOS 69
"Suite Beef" - ELECTRIC ORANGE
"Berlin" - PROTEO
"Stratums of Seraphic Voices" - SEQUENTIA LEGENDA
"Sky and Sea" - ALEX CARPANI
"First Contact" - INVISIBLE OPERA COMPANY OF TIBET
"Tesarul de Lumini" - NEGURA BUNGET
"Deadman" - KARNIVOOL
"The Apostate" - SWANS
"Giardinaggio interiore" - ALIO DIE"Love and Inspiration" - HELIOPOLIS
"Dream of Stone" - GAZPACHO
"Eastern Fields" - PROTEO
"Greed" - MAGENTA
"Il Tredici” - SANHEDRIN
"Cinta della Breccia Divina" - ALIO DIE & LORENZO MONTANÀ
"Ocean Mind" - FREDDEGREDDE
"Old Friend in a Hole" - JACK O'THE CLOCK
"Cruces y Sombras" - NEXUS
"Sensitivià" - LA COSCIENZA DI ZENO
"The Curious One” - SKY ARCHITECT
"Chapter I" - LIZARD
"Sjo & Land" - BRIMSTONE
"Rogue" - DISCIPLINE
"Searise" - WHITE WILLOW
"Vento Madre" - UNIVERSAL TOTEM ORCHESTRA
"Russia on Ice" - PORCUPINE TREE
"In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion" - AGALLOCH
"Warrior" - UNIVERS ZERO
"Coerenza delle percenuali" - UNIVERSAL TOTEM ORCHESTRA
"Ouroboros" - ASTRA
"Cassandra Gemini" - THE MARS VOLTA
"The Fall of Bliss" Suite - METHEXIS
"Deep B Flat" - DATURAH
"In Principio" - LOGOS
"The Trip" - DJAM KARET
"The Seer" - SWANS
"Soulprint" - INTROITUS
"A Dangerous Journey" - RITUAL
"The Walk" - GAZPACHO
"Learning to Fly" -- CIRRUS BAY
"Obsolescence" - ABEL GANZ
"In Extremis" - DAYS BETWEEN STATIONS
"Progression by Failure" - PROGRESSION BY FAILURE
"A Virtuous Man" - THINKING PLAGUE
"...And I Awaken" - I AND THOU
"Disconnected" - AIRBAG

Sunday, January 25, 2015

2014 Releases, Part 3: Other Highly Recommended Albums

Other Albums from 2014 Worth Listening To

Below you will find a somewhat-ordered catalogue of the album releases from 2014. These are albums that I have determined to be good or interesting enough to recommend to you, the reader, for your own exposure, awareness, and/or exploration; these are albums that were not, in my opinion, good enough to belong on my "Masterpieces" page, but which, I thought, deserved some credit and attention. 
     You will find that some of the albums below are reviewed or commented upon, while many have nothing but cover, artist and title, lineup of musicians and songs list. (Thank you New Prog Releases @ http://newprogreleases.blogspot.com/.) This variance is usually due to a lack of time and a lack of willingness or desire to give each and every album the time and energy necessary to write a review. This is done without any intent of disrespect; the albums have been included because I think them worthy enough to have others try them out and form their own opinions.




ACCORDO DEI CONTRARI AdC

An instrumental Italian quartet that chooses angular avant jazz structures that are quite demanding of the whole. I have historically had trouble connecting with the band's music, though it is quite impressive instrumentally, because it's melodies and chordal structures are so jagged and achromatic.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Marco Marzo / acoustic & electric guitars, oud
- Giovanni Parmeggiani / Hammond, piano, Fender Rhodes, Minimoog
- Daniele Piccinini / bass
- Cristian Franchi / drums
With:
- Enrico Guerzoni / cello (3)
- Vladimiro Cantaluppi / violin (3), viola (6)
- Marina Scaramagli / cello (6)

1. "Nadir" (9:31) a SANTANA/STEELY DAN-like jam. The long intro and outro are my favorite parts. (17.25/20)

2. "Dandelion" (4:47) sounds like Jimi Hendrix playing with The Softs. (8.75/10) 

3. "Seth Zeugma" (5:48) avant jazz with piano, violin, and cello until 1:35 when electric rock instruments (guitar, drums, bass, and Hammond organ) take over the weave. Minimoog and electric guitar pair up to carry the melody in the fourth minute.  (8.75/10) 

4. "Dua" (5:44) perhaps the best, most accessible song on the album. (9/10)

5. "Tiglath" (8:28) for its first half, this is a slow-building, atmospheric song reminding me of MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA as well as Lenny White's first couple solo albums. In the more rock-like second half I'm more reminded of the band DIAGONAL and its "retro" jazz-rock sound palette.  (17.75/20)

6. "Piu Limpida E Chiara Di Ogni Impressione Vissuta" (Pt.2) (3:21) a lovely Windham Hill-sounding pastoral acoustic ensemble (8.25/10)

Total time 37:39

The AdC music I hear on AdC has finally achieved what their previous albums failed to do:  engaged and pleased me. Melodies I actually remember after songs are over, songs I actually know by name and chose specifically, willingly, longingly to put on my iPod playlists. AdC have always felt accomplished as musicians--technical wizards, each--but something was missing. As it turns out, it was the fresh, original and memorable constructs that I hear on this album. 
     I've heard that AdC's concert appearances are quite impressive--other reviewers seem to always write with a bit of a stunned awe at what they observed and heard live. Perhaps with this album they have finally captured that jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring sound that they've been reported to convey on stage. Perhaps the roles and contributions of each of the seemingly-committed band members have been clearly established so that they can write and record cohesive, joy-expressing music. If I have any complaints it is that the recording sometimes feels a bit sterile, lacking human frailty.

Nice work, Contrarians!

If this is Rock Progressive Italiano then its closest ally would be have to be AREA but in fact this may belong more to the Avant Garde/RIO subgenre like stable mates YUGEN.

87.19 on the Fisshcales = B/four stars; a very worthy addition to any prog lover's music collection--especially if you are attracted to the angular music of Avant/RIO. 




TAYLOR WATSON (A)Synchronous

A remarkable debut record from son of Fusion legend Dean Watson on which Taylor plays all the instruments! This music has a fusion going on of its own; there are many times that I feel that I'm hearing the syncopated, djenty, walls of sound of DEVIN TOWNSEND's guitar-heavy work or TOOL. But, at the same time, I hear many more melodic moments, variations, and I can access much more of the individual instruments' work here.
     All-instrumental, Taylor weaves some very interesting themes and riffs together in a singular and fresh way--which is why I can tolerate this type of metal/extreme metal better than I can Devin's. The music is complex and the musicianship virtuosic (with some great engineering tricks) but not over-the-top nor sacrificing quirk or engaging melodies. I also find myself reminded of one of my all-time favorite albums, PROGHMA-C's Bar-do Travel while listening to many parts of this album (especially "Connection" and "Moments"). 
     If this is where young Mr. Watson is starting then, watch out world!  We're going to see (and hear) great things in the future from this musical wiz-kid.

5 star songs: 3. "(A)Synchronous" (6:00) (9.25/10), 5. "Moments" (6:36) (9.75/10), and 6. "Tarnished Rendition" (7:05) (13.5/15).

Solid four star songs: 1. "Fuse" (6:46) (12.5/15); 2. "Connection" (4:24) (8.5/10); 4. "Ransom"(5:55) (8/10), and; 7. "Confided" (6:15) (8/10).

86.875 on the Fishscales = B/a very solid four star album. Kudos, Taylor!





NOMADS OF HOPE Breaking the circles for a while

Prog folk like last years two-person gem, SCARLET STORIES. Kind of a Cocteau Twins approach: finished guitar tracks with vocals laid over the top. A refreshing album of gorgeous, often hypnotic music that mixes sounds that are at times reminiscent of LUSH, ROBIN GUTHRIE, KATE BUSH, PETER GABRIEL, and even JON HASSELL. Highly recommended.


1. “Breaking the Circles” (3:00) Opens with some heavily treated guitar familiar to me from years ago via Jan Akkerman and The Edge. There is a little PINGVINORKESTERN in Ingemo’s vocal’s melodic sense. though her soprano floats and lilts over the top of the music sounding a lot like Lush’s Miki Berenyi. (9/10)

2. “In The Shadows” (3:21) opens with some heavily treated, layered electric guitars very much like ROBIN GUTHRIE. The vocal enters like a beautiful LUSH song from their first album (Robin Guthrie produced), “Sweetness and Light.” Beautiful guitar chord progressions. Some nice Mellotron, too! (9/10)

3. “Every Daybreak” (6:13) opens like a set up on a classic PETER GABRIEL soundtrack song, like from Passion: Soundtrack from The Last Temptation of Christ or Rabbit-Proof Fence or even “Signal to Noise.” When Ingemo’s gorgeous voice enters it is like none other than KATE BUSH. Awesome layered guitar work. Three songs into it and still not a drum, snap or click to be heard! (9/10)

4. “The Day” (4:26) is, for me, the weakest song on the album. Some abrasive slapped guitar and dirty percussives make an incongruous background to Ingemo’s whispery voice. (6/10)

5. “Kindly Winds” (4:17) involves Ingemo’s lilting voice floating ethereally over heavily treated piano and guitars and some drums. The song has trouble deciding whether it’s going to kick in or hold back. (It holds back.) Some nice guitar lead in the final minute. (7/10)

6. “Politics and Dreams” (5:01) begins very much like an old PETER GABRIEL song with dated electric piano (mididd with organ?) Ingemo’s vocals are quite strikingly reminiscent of quintessential KATE BUSH. The Celtic-like flutes and hand drums make it even more so. Nice song. (8/10)

7. “Connections” (4:13) opens with a heavily treated guitar strumming with a second less-muddied guitar and bass playing along. Ingemo adds background ghost voices before coming in with an echoed lead vocal. I like the construction of this song—chord progressions and vocal melody. It’s quite unusual and alluring. Ingemo’s voice styling here is quite a bit like that of KATE BUSH on the “Man with the Child in his Eyes.” Quite nice. (9/10) 

8. “I Used to Forget” (3:52) opens with an old sounding electric piano before drums, bass and voice join in. Rolling toms like a gently rolling sea accompany Ingemo’s layered singing—which sound like KATE BUSH singing with the Mediæval Bæbes. The keyboard interludes sound like a live, over-amped keyboard—“Bob Mayo! Bob Mayo!” (they yelled on Frampton Comes Alive!) Nice flute solo. Awesome song! One of my favorites. (10/10)

9. Hear My Voice” (6:18) opens with some dirty, grungy bass, drums and guitar. Ingemo’s voice sounds like she’s trying to provide the interpretive glue for the song like Kate Bush, Elisabeth from FUNIN, BJÖRK, or one of the BRAINTICKET chanteuses. Nice chunky bass à la Tony Levin or Bill Laswell. The guitar interplay in the fourth and fifth minutes is awesome and is followed by an equally intriguing weave of voices. Another favorite. (10/10)

10. “Gloomy Silvernight” (5:12) opens kind of Canterbury jazzy with some mediæval folk instruments woven into the mix. A wooden flute pulls the song even more into medieval folk realm, but then it feels equally Indian in its pulsing, snaky, hypnotic weave. The vocal doesn’t begin until the 1:46 mark. Once again feels like KATE BUSH—a very breathy, Sensual World-era Kate—in both style and melodic sense. Another awesome favorite. (10/10)

11. “All Nights” (2:56) opens with almost a Rolling Stones guitar sound—a little more treated—and then a very Miki Berenyi (LUSH)-like lead vocal. (8/10)

12. “Water Flowing” (7:32) returns to the familiar PETER GABRIEL/BRIAN ENO/JON HASSELL foundational rhythms and sounds. Singing about the fall of the Berlin Wall, Ingemo’s stylistic approach is again very similar to that of KATE BUSH—again, Sensual World era. A Very powerful vocal to go over another beautiful blend of hypnotic music. This is the best song on the album both in terms of content and feeling fully formed and polished. (13.5/15)

Overall a very pleasant listen—one that draws me in and entices me to push “replay” or “continuous play.” I have favorites but it all flows and fits together nicely. And I love the album artwork!

86.80 on the Fish scales = B/a four star album; a very nice contribution to the great and wonderful body of progressive rock music.




DAVE BAINBRIDGE Celestial Fire

This album has been difficult for me to get a grip on. It's amazing and yet, somehow, disappointing. At times I've listen to it with little or no emotional connection and others I'm completely drawn in with my jaw on the floor. The problem is, I think, that you have to be willing and able to give Celestial Fire your full attention to appreciate its magnificence. As Thomas said in his review of 2/9/15, there is a lot of "old Yes" feeling to this album. Some of the songs could have come from Drama or should have been on Tormato.
    Much in the IONA tradition, the violins of Frank van Essen, Celtic wind instruments of Troy Donockley and David Fitzgerald, and "ethereal" vocals of Joanne Hogg provide tremendous contributions to this album. And Mr. Bainbridge's keyboard work has never been more impressive (Note: "Love Remains"!) My problem is perhaps with some of the other contributors and parts of the album and its songs. Don't get me wrong, bassist Randy George and drummer Collin Leijenaar are incredible. I just feel confused sometimes whether the music is going hard rock, or Celtic folk, Jazz rock or ethereal ambient. And Dave's impressive guitar play spills over a few too many times into the area I call "bombast"--as if he's really going overboard trying to impress us (like on "For Such a Time as This").  Also, there are moments--too many, perhaps--that sound just like Yes songs (or THE FLOWER KINGS). I love(d) Yes and I even like many of the Yes-inspired or imitators. For some reason the voice of uber-competent Demian WIlson is hidden way back in the mix.
     Maybe I just need to chill and let it flow. I had it on heavy rotation when I first got it and then kind of forgot about it. That might be indicative of some of my hesitation with this album--it really hasn't drawn me back much less lassoed my heart. However, I cannot help but exclaim that this is prog rock composition and performance at its very highest level.

Favorite songs:  the weave of piano, strings, synth, guitar and voice of 4. "The First Autumn" (4:04), the opening half of "Celestial Fire" (15:23); the gorgeous Disney-like first half of "In the Moment" (14:22), and; the pair of softer Celtic pieces, "Innocence Found" (5:49) (gorgeous weave throughout) and the Mike Oldfield Hergest Ridge-like instrumental finale, "On the Edge of Glory" (3:05).

86.0 on the Fish scales = a 4.5 star album; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music.




KING GIZZARD & THE LIZARD WIZARD I’m in Your Mind Fuzz  

The first of the highly acclaimed KG&TLW string of albums after breaking into the music scene just two years before.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Stu Mackenzie / vocals, guitars, keyboards, flute, composer, production & mixing
- Joe Walker / guitars, vocals
- Cook Craig / guitars
- Ambrose Kenny-Smith / harmonica
- Lucas Skinner / bass
- Michael Cavanagh / drums
- Eric Moore / drums

1. “I'm in Your Mind” (3:34) almost a post punk rhythm track over which early-WHO-sounding vocal sings (in a high-pitched male voice.) (8.25/10)

2. “I'm Not in Your Mind” (2:58) quick switch using pretty much the same pace with a slightly altered bass line, stereotypic Egyptian melodies, DICK DALE-like twin guitars set the beach-psychedelic sound for some dueling wailing animal guitars. Interesting. Wish there was a little more variety of pace and punk-like rhythm tracks. (8.25/10)

3. “Cellophane” (3:11) moving without break like a train out of control, the rhythm section charges on as if nothing has changed. Lyrics, singing style, and guitar play have changed. (8.25/10)

4. “I'm in Your Mind Fuzz” (2:52) again, drums and bass flowing straight from the previous song, we re-enter that WHO-like domain of energetic 1960s psychedelic rock. This one, however, has a little more substance and pizzazz riding over the top of the rhythm track. (4.25/5)

5. “Empty (4:11) Finally, a new rhythm track—a whole new sound—with a GEDDY LEE-like voice singing over some hypnotic-yet-swirling psychedelic folk music—with a very uncharacteristic sound and stylistic switch for the last 30 seconds. (8.75/10)

6. “Hot Water” (3:24) opens with a fade in of a steady punk-rock drum beat over which flutes, bass, and vocals disperse their little intricacies. Interesting. (8.75/10)

7. “Am I in Heaven?” (7:06) a little SYD ARTHUR here! Then more to The WHO. This is listenable! And enjoyable! Nice Led Zeppelin-like harmonica play and mandolin interlude in the middle. An extended hard-drivin’ instrumental passage is underwhelming but we are rescued at the end by a return to the vocals. (13/15)

8. “Slow Jam 1” (2:55) I couldn’t agree more: You need to slow your mind down! Cuz when you do, like on this song, it works—and the band can produce interesting music. A near-rasta/reggae rhythm track is embellished with all kinds of alien space sounds. (4.5/5)

9. “Satan Speeds Up” (3:39) an interesting if familiar and repetitive intro turns mellow for the speed-flanged singing sections but then returns to the intro for the instrumental codas between verses. Flutes and guitars sounding as if they were canned in the 1960s and then the whole master pressed onto a sun-warped vinyl album. It is interesting and kind of innovative! (8.75/10)

10. “Her and I (Slow Jam 2)” (8:15) more experimentation with warping tracks or time elements, there comes a Carlos SANTANA-like guitar play and solo in the instrumental parts—along with the jungle screaming synths—but the drum, bass, and drum rhythm track is very straightforward and simple. There is a shift in the sixth minute to calm before the breakout of the harmonica storm. In the next vocal section, moved up a key or two, there is a very strong DAVID BOWIE-like sound and feel. Interesting. (17.25/20)

Total Time 42:05

Side Two demonstrates the talent, diversity, and potential of this band while Side One is one horrifying display of monotonous brain-smashing adolescent hormones.

85.71 on the Fishscales = B/four stars. 




DEAN WATSON Fantasizer!

This is a nice Jazz-fusion followup to 2012's excellent and accessible Imposing Elements.

1. "Fantasizer!" (8:17) is quite a nice, melodic, multi-instrumental-featuring opener. A little PAT METHENY GROUP feel to up until the heavier section begins at the 3:25 mark, which becomes more prog-like. It also reminds me of some of HIROMI'S SONICBLOOM's work in the Naughties. (9/10)

2. "Twig" (5:39) opens, oddly, as if it is a remake of the previous song! Again, the HIROMI feel is quite strong. The synth vocal choir is awesome. At 1:12 the song breaks to establish a sparse, almost Minimalist soundscape on which a very catchy piano melody hooks us in. At 2:45 a Tarkus-like keyboard section begins and sustains this ELP feel until the 4:00 mark, when another silent, open spaced section allows a piano to speak a few phrases, before the return to a high-powered full-band section based upon the melody from Section B. One of my three favorite songs on the album. (9/10)

3. "Freak" (7:32) opens quite ominously, with some great rhythm and chord progressions, before settling into a driving pace not unlike an ALAN PARSONS instrumental. The guitar lead work is great but, for some reason, it is the backing keyboard work that keeps reaching up to grab my attention--including a very awesome LYLE MAYS-like keyboard solo at the end of the third minute. The slowed down piano-led section in the sixth minute loses some of the song's well-established momentum, but gradually builds back into some tension--which is then relieved by some nice ALLAN HOLDSWORTH-like guitar runs. Unfortunately this section sounds too much like some of the more awesome moments from Imposing Elements (specifically, "Past Present," "Pendulum," and "New Resolution"). (8/10)

4. "Nomad" (7:36) opens with a very jazzy electric piano solo. There is a CHICK COREA/DAVE STEWART kind of feel to this. As the song finishes out it becomes more NATIONAL HEALTH-like. Keyboards definitely rule the roost on this one. (8/10)

5. "At Odds" (4:18) opens with a wonderful bass, drums and organ rhythmic progression. Eventually some nice guitar work spits its way into the song--alone and over the full-band music. Probably my favorite song on the album because of the drum and organ interplay--as well as the odd time signatures and frequent tempo changes. (9/10)

6. "The Anomaly" (4:38) opens on a very upbeat, melodic fashion, with piano and synths establishing the song melodies over very solid drum beat and some very cool bass play. A spacious interlude at 1:15 has a PAT METHENY GROUP feel to it until, again, some electric guitar power chord strums bring us out. Some guitar riffs at 2:35 bring us to another level, setting up some more ALLAN HOLDSWORTH-like guitar soloing. The consistent background piano arpeggios and bass play make this my other top three. (9/10)

7. "Linear Tendency" (5:48) almost a RUSH "Tom Sawyer" intro leads to a very jazzy piano section over a very jazzy rhythm section. Soloing synth mirrors piano, then organ takes a brief turn at lead (awesome midi-bass-marimba chord play in the background!). Another LYLE MAYS-like mid-song keyboard interlude. At 3:30, the now-familiar HOLDSWORTH-like guitar enters, trading solo time with keyboard synths. Familiar Watson sound and structures. (8/10)

8. "Caged Creator" (11:32) is the album's "epic." It begins like a typical PAT METHENY-LYLE MAYS introspective: gently, yet cerebrally. At 1:43 the song finally shifts into second gear with cymbal, piano, bass, and, finally, drum entry. Mid-third minute, the sound empties out for some midi piano-marimba arpeggiation. Rock rhythm section rejoins and then, with electric guitar and then organ leading the way, the song tries to kick into third gear. But, no! It all hiccups again for a few bars until things really kick into Drive at the 4:08 mark. Electric guitar takes over leadership for a while (with organ playing a nice second fiddle), with slight additions from marimba, bass and drums, before yet another interlude has the song bottoming out in a METHENY-MAYS-like potential energy-laden piano and "horn-guitar" section. It's actually quite a nice section--especially as it sustains for a full two minutes, before downshifting into a one minute acoustic (tho mellotron supported) section. Shift back into drive as piano and guitar/bass chords mirror minor progressions, back to major and then return to the intro theme for the last 45 seconds. Good song that has grown on me over the past couple months. (8/10)

9. "Solemn" (3:16) is a beautiful little almost BILL EVANS/HIROMI-like piano outro. I'm a sucker for this kind of stuff. (9/10)

A well-crafted foray onto that elusive bridge over the valley between Jazz Fusion and instrumental Prog Rock that should stand up well over time as has its predecessor, Imposing Elements. I like the engineering/recording/production on this one better than that on IE, but there is something lacking, something exceptional or extraordinary, which keeps me from giving this 5 stars.

85.56 on the Fish scales = B/four stars; a very nice jazz fusion contribution to the catalogue of progressive rock music. 




DREAM THE ELECTRIC SLEEP Heretics

Some of the best music I've heard all year. The music has an energy and urgency and excitement that is rarely felt in modern studio music. Great songwriting, great musicianship, great vocals, songs that pack a wallop yet are filled with many unexpected twists and turns. Heretics puts up some awesome, but not over-the-top, walls of sound. If there is a drawback to some of it, it's that it often sounds and feels too derivative of the music of U2--including the vocal stylings sounding like U2 lead singer, Bono. Otherwise, this is, start to finish, an exciting album of high-energy rock. I have a feeling that Heretics will win over a lot of new fans for this group of American alt/prog rockers. There are some very special songs on this album, especially the title song opener, "Heretics" (4:51) (9.5/10), which takes The Beatles and King Crimson to places they never dreamed of going! It opens with powerful chords that hook you in from the opening riffs. The closer, "Ashes Fall" (8:08) (9/10), is another stunner, this time for the continuous list of "waiting"s heart-wrenchingly read by a female voice.  

Favorite songs: "Heretics;" the U2 War-ish and doves-like "Elizabeth" (8:22) (18/20); the doves-like "Utopic" (6:38) (9/10); the brief folk-with-Bono-ish "Lost Our Faith" (2:06) (4.25/5); the full-out U2 sounding "How Long We Wait" (9:29) (16.5/20), and, of course; "Ashes Fall" (8:08) (12/15)

85.50 on the Fishscales = B/a solid four star album of high quality, highly creative, highly detailed music.




HELIOPOLIS City of The Sun

A well made album of intricately composed and performed prog in a kind of BIG BIG TRAIN and RUSH vein. Often I find that the lead vocals irritate me as the vocalist (Scott Jones)'s singing voice varies from sounding like Geddy Lee (RUSH), Chris Flynn (ART IN AMERICA), STEVE PERRY (JOURNEY) and the singer from THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE. But the song constructs, sounds, musicianship and soli are all top notch--the guitarist is especially interesting for his very unusual freaky-frenzied solos. Keyboards are very very good and the rhythm section is totally solid.

1. "New Frontier" (10:11) opens with a powerful KING CRIMSON sound built upon the repetition of an ascending chord scale and some frenetic lead guitar work. Then at 1:44 things smooth out into a melodic section in order to support the entry of a surprisingly Geddy Lee/Chris Flynn like vocal section. Then a YES "Tempus Fugit"-like section takes over to support the vocals and Steve Howe-like guitar riffing. The guitar soli, however, are nothing like Mssr. Fripp, Howe, Liefson, or Flynn. They are very unpredictable and ejaculatory--brief, spastic or spurting. The addition of piano accompaniment is quite interesting--and warming. At 7:12 the song takes a turn back toward its opening--but, it's only a tease, as we quickly return to the Tempus Fugit rhythm structure in order to support a rather exiting synth solo (not unlike a THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE synth solo) before. The song ends in this mode while the vocalist sings about the new frontier in which the end is just the beginning. Once I got past the vocalist I was able to enjoy this song. (16/20)

2. "Take a Moment" (8:55) opens with a sound, structure and feel quite strikingly similar to the song stylings of BIG BIG TRAIN's last two English Electric albums--except with lead vocalist taking on a more STEVE PERRY style. At 2:29 there is a brief shift into a quick bridge before a brief JOURNEY-like vocal sets up a brief quiet solo section. After a return to the vocal A Section, the sixth minute is given up to some great keyboard and guitar soloing. The eighth minute segues into another YES Drama-like pace and rhythm for some more fine instrumental soloing. The song finishes with the same A vocal section but nothing really exciting or interesting about the finish. (16/20)

3. "Mr. Wishbone" (3:30) is a quirky KING CRIMSONian RPI-like instrumental that I really like. It reminds me of an étude in that it feels like a group musical or warmup exercise. (9/10)

4. "Elegy" (6:07) has some great keyboard-based melodies. As a matter of fact, the piano is the rhythm-keeper here as the drums, bass, and guitars are all in a pretty constant state of going off on their own jazz-like ejaculations--at least while the vocal sections are transpiring. There is a very familiar THE FLOWER KINGS feel and sound to this one. The first instrumental section has a steadier bass and drum rhythm while keys and guitars take turns soloing. There is something so smooth, so familiar and comforting about this song's chord progressions and its melodies. Like early Yes (Time and a Word) or Wishbone Ash, though again, more like THE FLOWER KINGS. Very pleasant song--though again with excellent performances by all musicians. (9/10)

5. "Love and Inspiration" (14:05) again begins with some very wonderfully familiar YES-nesses (Tales of Topographical Oceans) before switching at 2:45 to a kind of bouncy jazz rhythm. Then at 3:28 things settle into a fairly straightforward almost CARAVAN/KHAN-like groove in order to back a decent if "normal" electric  guitar solo. At 4:15 things slow down to set up a very THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE-like vocal section. Instrumental interludes are set up with a YES Drama-like moving bass line before shifting into gorgeous TFK-like transition movements. Awesome ELP/TPE ending.

     This song is very well performed. All band members show exciting, enthusiastic virtuosity on their respective instruments. Plus, the Canterbury inputs are much welcomed and appreciated. (27/30)

This album is a collection of songs that are all quite polished and mature--the composers/contributors are quite masterful as is the musicianship of each and every band member--who are all seasoned veterans from other accomplished bands. I highly recommend this album--it is, to my ears and mind, a step above the highly acclaimed IQ release. As a matter of fact, listening to City of the Sun side by side with The Road of Bones would be an exercise I would strongly recommend to all prog lovers; then maybe The Road of Bones would be put into its true place as a good, not great, album. I also like the fact that HELIOPOLIS band members state their shared desire to produce progressive rock music with a positive feel and message. It is my opinion that, like JOHANNES LULEY and THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE, newcomers HELIOPOLIS have achieved this and a lot more.

85.55 on the Fish scales = B/four stars; a nice new contribution of progressive rock music despite my feeling that the band still has a lot of room to grow. I look forward with great excitement to their future collaborative productions.




PROTEO Republikflucht...Facing East

Nice jazzy prog. An Italian band of seasoned veterans have here put together quite an excellent oeuvre. I hear so many wonderful sounds familiar to me from so many other bands (Aisles, The Fixx, Steely Dan, The Dream Academy, Prefab Sprout, Rush, Art in America, Gino Vanelli, Ozric Tentacles, Unitopia) and eras (the 80s), all blended together subtly, unassumingly, into a very fresh and original (and welcome!) sound. And it is all packaged in great sound engineering. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Matteo Copetti / Guitars
- Marco Paulica / Guitars, Vocals
- Alessandro Surian / Bass
- Fabio Gorza / Drums

Favorite songs:  the smooth jazzy 3. “Eastern Fields” (11:52) with the Thomas Thelen-like vocals (23/25); 1. “Echoes Mankind (part II)” (9:22) (18/20); the AISLES-like sound and Latin rhythms of 5. “Four-Leaf Clover” (10:37) (with its gorgeous SANTANA-like last three minutes!) (17.5/20); the upbeat, fast-paced, if a little scattered, 2. Berlin” (12:55) (love the big shift after 3:30!) (20/25), and; the FIXX-like 6. “Republikflucht” (10:54) (16/20), and, of course; the odd, Paul Weller-like 4. "Funny Girls Playing Double Dutch" (3:04) (7.5/10).

Total Time 58:44

85.0 on the Fish scales = A very solid four star contribution to the annals of progressive rock of which this band should be quite proud.




SEVEN THAT SPELLS The Death and Resurrection of Krautrock, IO

1. "In II" (6:27) is a kind of instrumental exercise in sliding tempos within DICK DALE-style music. (7/10)

2. "Io" (18:25) has a very chant-like psychedelic orientation like ASH RA TEMPEL or AMON DÜUL. Again, slides--though more gradual than the previous song--into both faster and slower tempos are experimented with as are the group vocals. A spacey gap at the five-minute mark feels very Tibetan monastic. An Eastern-sounding guitar eventually, and very slowly, re-ignites the pulsing dervish-like music from the first five minutes. In the ninth minute the drums become very wild and frenzied. AT 9:44 the frenzy seems to have been contagiously passed on to the rest of the band--especially the guitarists as they go almost HENDRIX-crazy. At the eleven minute mark things move into a calmer, almost GRATEFUL DEAD or DOORS-like jam section. After a brief drum solo with collective chanting in the fifteenth minute, a much heavier almost TED NUGENT "Stranglehold" section takes over. Very powerful trip this song takes one on--especially if played loud and standing/dancing with it. Not your straightforward, droning Krautrock song, but a very shifty, unexpectedly morphing gem. (38/40)

3. "One" (2:00) seems like a HOLGER CZUKAY-like recording of radio noise (Which is actually a long held, heavily distorted guitar chord playing out throughout the background)--until a very peaceful piano plays its beautiful lullaby-like song over the top. Awesome! (5/5)

4. "Burning Blood" (14:03) opens like its going to burst into a Death Metal song like something PAIN OF SALVATION or NEUROSIS would do--yet it continues in its chant-with-sixties-guitar-like format for three minutes before shifting into instrumental guitars soloing off of and oblivious to one another. At the four minute mark a more staccato, arpeggioed approach to the opening is shifted into. The thickened, heavier music arising out of this is very insistent--and as the vocals return in the seventh minute it feels almost like ALICE IN CHAINS. A pause at the seven minute mark offers another variation on the "staccato" bridge heard in the fourth minute. At 8:12 KING CRIMSON Discipline-like layers of arpeggio riffs set up some wild screaming guitar soli--which build until 10:20 when a brief respite unleashes an all-out frenzy of all instruments: sliding bass, screaming guitars, pounding drums. At 12:00 a telephone dial tone interrupts and repeats, alone, for the next two minutes. And that's it! The end! Bizarre! (24/30)

5. "Out II" (6:46) goes out as the album came in, with a CAN-like experimental study in scales--this time descending--and this time with less wavering of the tempos. As a matter of fact, the same five second riff is repeated without variation for 5:55 until what sounds like a temple or cave of chanting monks takes us to the end. Interesting, to say the least! (11/15)

The Death and Resurrection of Krautrock, IO is yet again another album that I would never have heard or listened to were it not offered for limited free listening on progstreaming.com. This is an awesome album that certainly does much to conjure up reminiscences of the Krautrock greats of the past. This album is good enough that I will make the effort to pursue the group's not inconsiderable backlog of albums.

85.0 on the Fish scales = B/a solid four star album with some very listenable and interesting music; a nice contribution of progressive rock music.




SOLSTAFIR Ótta

Awesome atmospheric Post Metal/Post Rock from these Icelandic rockers. As fellow prog reviewer Gallifrey pointed out, this what Sigur Rós might sound like if they were more metal, the music is very much in the vein of SIGUR RÓS and EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY. The nuances and subtleties on this album are so worth paying attention to, so gorgeous and powerful, that I highly recommend the headphone treatment. They are, after all, timing and titling their songs after the Old Icelandic monastic tradition of three hour increments, called "monastic hours."

Favorite songs: the emotional and stunningly gorgeous almost chamber music of 7. "Midaftann" (5:39) (10/10); the very Sigur-sounding 2. "Ótta" (9:38) (10/10); 1. "Lágnatti" (8:48) (10/10); 8. "Náttmála" (11:15) (8/10), and; 6. "Nón" (7:47) (8/10) 




AGORÀ Ichinen

This is an album I liked immediately and continue to find eminently enjoyable. Almost every song offers me reminders of some of the greatest jazz fusion artists ever:  JEAN-LUC PONTY, DARYL STUERMER, RETURN TO FOREVER, AL DI MEOLA, CHICK COREA, PAUL WINTER, CODONA, RALPH TOWNER, DOMINA CATRINA LEE, JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, WEATHER REPORT. Plus there are songs with vocal touches that make Agorà unique unto themselves ("Ichinen," "Sensei," "Star Strings," "Tre Maggio," "Oceano"). There are many styles of jazz represented here, including traditional jazz ("Oceano"), Paul Winter Consort-like jazz ("Piramide di Domani"), Windham Hill jazz ("Wood of Guitar"), World Music jazz ("Ichinen," "Sensei"), New Age jazz ("Star Strings"), Jean-Luc Ponty jazz ("Serra San Quirico"), Hawaiian jazz ("Star Strings"), and funky Weather Report-like electric jazz fusion ("Costa dell'Est" and "Progressive Suite"). Almost all of it is beautiful, soul-soothing, and virtuosically performed.

5 Star songs:  "Serra San Quirico," "Ichinen," "Sensei," "Star Strings," "Oceano," "Wood of Guitar," "Progressive Suite," and "Piramide di Domani/Cavalcata Solare."

A 4 star album




ATOMIC APE Swarm

Out of Mimicry Records comes a kind of action movie soundtrack à la Pulp Fiction or, as the album art indicates, a soundtrack appropriate for a modern King Kong movie--kind of Dick Dale meets Frank Zappa and the Pink Martinis on Broadway. The songs are all instrumentals and--did I mention--very soundtrack-ready (now somebody, please, make the movie!) though wordless voices are occasionally used in the mix as another instrument ("Passenger"). There are few with some klezmer feels to them ("Penumbra," "Heraklion," "Nerve Agents" and "Rhythm Futur"). The use of horns, accordions, heavily treated guitars, and many odd "incidentals" to augment the standard rock lineup is rather creative and refreshing. 
     The band's leader is Jason Schimmel--formerly of acclaimed bands ESTRADASPHERE and THE ORANGE TULIP CONSPIRACY. I really enjoy every song--they all make me smile, they all make me want to dance, they're all unusual, quirky and, yes, freshly entertaining, but my favorites include:

Favorite songs:  the Dick Dale-influenced opener, "Red Tide" (4:22); the hilarious 60s Samba "party movie" parody, "The Blind Snake Charmer" (4:38)--which could easily fit into a 60s James Bond or 70s Pink Panther movie (8/10);  the eery, down tempo "Cabin of The Cursed" (3:58); the nearly KARDA ESTRA-like "Passenger" (4:14), and; the hip and upbeat "Refraction" (3:06).

A smile-a-minute masterpiece of perfect-for-a-soundtrack songs who just happen to be without a screen companion. Perhaps Hollywood will find this extremely talented orchestra and hook 'em up!

4 stars.




PHI Now The Waves of Sound Remain

 Phi is a young 3-man band from Austria that call their approach to music "post Progressive Rock." I found myself surprised that I'd not come across this term before. Then the internal quarrels as to what could be meant by this term accompanied my listening to Now The Waves of Sound Remain on progstreaming.com. What impressed me about the band and their music was that instead of sounding retro- or neo-prog, or retro- or neo-classic rock, the band sounds to me like a band of youth expressing themselves in their most heartfelt way. I especially enjoy the way they so unexpectedly and yet effortless incorporate updated LED ZEPPELIN/RUSH sounds and riffs into their songs. They can be indie/alt rock like MEW, they can be proggish like DEVIN TOWNSEND, they can be metal like Led Zep, they can be grungy like ALICE IN CHAINS, they can be Experimental like ANEKDOTEN, and so tight like Rush, but they are so original and unique! And their vocals are so diverse, interesting, and unusual. Everything is so fresh and unexpected. My listening to this album kept flushing me over with wave after wave of excitement and awe similar to when I first heard CREAM, LED ZEPPELIN, LYNYRD SKYNYRD, or PEARL JAM. Supergroups. And PHI is young! I am excited! This band is so creative! So confident! So tight!


This is an excellent album that I want everyone to check out. For now I'm going to give it four stars as I've only listened to it twice so far. But this may end up getting bumped up to masterpiece status--and it may be a top tenner of 2014.

Prog lovers: Check out this album!




 

CORVUS STONE II

This is a much more mature and cohesive band effort than CS's debut album--with an entertaining (and often humorous!) concept entwining the collective of 16 songs. These very skilled musicians are showing a greater familiarity with each other and nice collaborative blend in their music than on their previous effort (in which many of the songs seemed contrived to give more flash and shine to individuals and to solos). The brief instrumental interludes between some of the longer songs are nice. My only complaint with this album is that when the occasional all-out rock song ("Purple Stone") or passage rears its head it takes the feel of the album, in my opinion, away from that of progressive rock and instead into a more "classic" "southern" rock zone.
     Once again I have to single out axeman Colin Tench: the man can play! And he seems to be a master of any style he chooses! Check out "Uncle Schunkle" to get a little taste of what I mean. It's like hearing Alvin Lee, Jeff Beck and Buddy Guy all in one! An astounding listening experience.

Album highlights: "Boots for Hire" (8:58) with its excellent keyboard guitar weaves, Krautrock rhythm lines, and excellent raspy vocal (kudos Staf Flaming) (9/10); the upbeat Santana-like "Scandinavians in Mexico" (5:06) (8/10); "Camelus Bactrianus" (8:42) (9/10); the extraordinary "Eternal Universe" (3:52) (10/10); the epic "Moaning Lisa" (14:08) (which feels like a tango in disguise as a waltz and has a delightfully unpredictable uptempo instrumental midsection) (8/10), and; the album's brief intro and outro.

Nice variety of male vocalists--ALL quite good! Top notch recording and mixing (much better than on CSI) Kudos, Corvus Stone! You guys are gelling so well! Next album, I expect, will be your masterpiece.

4 stars.




INIOR Hypnertomachia

Instrumental jazz-tinged prog rock. When playing on the softer, jazzier side, they are not unlike the Italian band LAGARTIJA. But in most songs they often make tangential forays into heavier territory--like . Vocals are sparse, infrequent, and often unexpected--which, with lead vocalist choosing to sing in a heavily accented English, I can understand.

Four stars.





BJØRN RIIS Lullabies in a Car Crash

AIRBAG's guitarist extraordinaire has gone solo! A self-confessed DAVID GILMOUR fanatic, the student is doing his best to surpass the master, though he still sounds a bit too imitative of M. Gilmour and the Floyd. Great songs rendered beautifully with the full power of PF/DG.

AIRBAG guitar player and DAVID GILMOUR-worshipper Bjorn Riis here tries to go it alone and the result sounds remarkably like Airbag's last two albums. Bjorn's sometimes atmospheric, sometimes soaring Gilmouresque guitar play is always the highlight and always amazing in how completely he has replicated the great Pink Floyd guitarist's sounds, stylings and techniques. On Lullabies in a Car Crash Bjørn takes on the lead vocal duties and does surprisingly well. He even sounds remarkably like a cross between Airbag band-mate and lead vocalist, Asle Torstrup and the man himself, Roger Waters. Great music still very much in the Animals-era Pink Floyd vein. Not just once but twice does Bjørn play with the "guitar in the radio box" effect that Floyd made famous on the song "Wish You Were Here," and not once but twice does he blatantly lift material from Airbag's previous masterpiece, "Safe Like You."

Favorite songs: the most original (though still heavily borrowing from Pink Floyd), the title song, 6. "Lullaby in a Car Crash" (13:27) (despite its heavy use of hooks from "Safe Like You") (26/30); the mercurial instrumental, 5. "The Chase" (7:08) (13/15); 3. "Disappear" (6:27) an updated version of the best song from AIRBAG's debut album, "Safe Like You" (8.5/10); 4. "Out of Reach" (10:02) too spacious and uneventful for too long (over five minutes of 'intro'!) The payoff is not worth the wait. (16.5/20); 2. "Stay Calm" (10:09) (16.5/20), and; 1. "A New Day" (4:16) (8/10).

84.29 on the Fishscales = Solid four star effort of impeccable Neo Prog music--sound engineering of the very highest level. Great stuff for Pink Floyd/David Gilmour fans. Just a bit too duplicatous.





SUNN O))) with Ulver Terrestrials

Is very powerful if brief and slow-developing music in the Post Rock and Krautrock veins. Gorm's distinctive vocals only grace one song, toward the end. I don't know SUNN O))) but apparently it is their guitars that are used here.





ALEX CARPANI 4 Destinies

This one has taken me a long time to really get a grip on. At first its jazziness captivated me. But then the more I listened to it I was hearing the GENESISness of it--and the PETER GABRIEL-like voice and vocal stylings. Then, more and more the imitativeness of GENESIS and other early prog masters like VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR came forward. Now I don't know how well I like this one.  

1. "Silk Road" (12:58) is very much like a heavier THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE song made to excel by its constant morphing into a wide, wide variety of styles and tempos: awesome Italian singing parts, classical and jazzy piano parts, chunky bass, bouncy organ play, breathy flute soli, Gabriel-era Genesis background vocals, 70s era synths, 70s-sounding drums, and many tasteful solos. The continuous shape-shifting, however, does take its toll: It detracts from allowing this song to form an identity of its own; in the end I am left with the impression that this song was made to be a show piece (of the artist's skills). (24/30)

2. "Time Spiral" (13:22) opens like an old GENESIS song--one that was left off of Selling England by the Pound. It then settles into Neo territory--very imitative with plenty of melody but really with nothing new or innovative. But then the third minute seems to shake the mold with some more modern--no. (Fourth minute) Just my imagination. It's Neo. Pleasant enough stuff. KNIGHT AREA comes to mind. Unlike the album's first song, this one seems to want to plod along at the same pace, with a very predictable form and structure. 
     The blatant GENESIS rip off beginning at 8:21 a bit is disappointing. Luckily it is soon followed by a jazzier KC/VDGG-like section. A Steve Hackett solo tries to fit in at the ten minute mark. ERIS PLUVIS anyone? Nice work. Again the singing in Italian may be the song's saving point. (24/30)

3. "Sky and Sea" (13:53) opens with a delicate weave of GENESIS-like instruments including 12-string guitars and clarinet. The Gabriel-era GENESIS vocal that joins in completes the song's obvious GENESIS reference. The B Sections move, again, into more VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR territory, until at 2:45 an amorphous bridge moves back into GENESIS territory with mellotrons and organ. The vocalist's likeness to Genesis-era Peter Gabriel is truly extraordinary. I guess the presence of Genesis-imitator THE WATCH's guitarist and VDGG's David Jackson throughout this album could also have something to do with its Genesis and VDGG sounds.
    The soft almost-spoken vocal part in the eleventh and twelfth minutes sound much like Fish-era MARILLION. This is probably my favorite song on the album--if you can get past its obvious roots and influences. (27/30)

4. "The Infinite Room" (14:17) opens with some untempoed piano and saxes--very VDGG-like. As the soundtrack feel builds a tempo seems to solidify until at the two minute mark drums and guitars take over to provide a foundation for a Richard Wright-like echoed synth solo. Mid-tempo Rock tempo is established for the vocal (again very Genesis-era Peter Gabriel-esque). At 3:55 a very COLLAGE Moonshine like section begins, but it eventually morphs back into the vocal part--which turns from English to Italian at the end of the sixth minute. Dracula is mentioned just before the Richard Wright synths are let loose again. Grand piano takes over with the advent of the seventh minute before a more RPI familiar section takes over. Solos from multiple instruments are being traded until TONY BANKS' Arp synth (think "Colony of Slippermen") takes over. Grand piano then supports a Broadway-like vocal before David Jackson's sax supplants Steve Hackett for the solo on a section taken straight out of "Fly on a Windshield"--which then morphs back into "The Colony of Slippermen." I guess the Infinite Room may be just next to The Waiting Room! 
     The song is pleasant listening--especially if you can get past the familiarity of so many sections--especially some lifted straight out of other classic 70s prog. (24/30)

It is very difficult for me to come up with a rating for this album. I don't do well with Neo-prog in general as the sounds, structures and formats are often too overwhelmingly lifted from favorite or familiar songs from my already prog rich and prog happy past. This is well done. It is well composed and well performed. It is pleasant to listen to. It isn't bad. I guess I'd recommend it to others so that you can make your own opinions. It is in my opinion more pleasant to listen to than most Neo-Prog--for me, moreso than Marillion or IQ--and certainly more than The Watch or Citizen Cain. But "excellent addition to any prog rock music collection"?? Hmmm . . . I think I'll let you decide.

82.5 on the Fish scales = a solid four star album and excellent addition to any prog music collection.




ABEL GANZ Abel Ganz is an album of quite diverse and eclectic styles, though it is essentially a collection of nice retro Prog Folk in the same league as THE DECEMERISTS and ECHOLYN (though I like this album better than anything I've heard from the latter two). The five-part epic entitled "Obsolescence" (23:22) (8/10) is a true prog epic--opening in an acoustic folk fashion like THE DECEMBERISTS, but closing with hard electric instrumentalism. 
     The album has a couple of full-blown world music songs, including "Heartland" (5:08) (9/10) complete with woman singing in an unusual foreign language and ENIGMA-like rhythms and synth washes, and the instrumental "End of Rain" (5:33) (9/10).
     "Spring" (2:25) (8/10) and "A Portion of Noodles" (3:22) (8/10) are both Windham Hill-like solo acoustic guitar pieces. "Thank You" (6:57) (7/10) is an out-and-out Country/Western song. "Recuerdos" (4:20) (8/10) is a beautiful, sensitive, horn-supported CHICAGO/FROGG CAFÉ-like song. There is even a modern neo-chamber piece, the album's opener, "Delusions of Grandeur" (2:12) (10/10). "Unconditional" (14:05) is a kind of ECHOLYN-meets-PORCUPINE TREE song of suitable prog length. (9/10)
     The album's finale, "The Drowning" (5:25), with its deeply stirring male vocal singing with only the support of a horn section, almost defies categorization and yet may be the most beautiful and effective song on the album. (10/10) What a way to end and album!
     This is definitely an album that has been well worth the attention and time I've given it to get to know its depths and subtleties. What I originally thought was good I now highly recommend as an excellent addition to any prog music lover's collection. Well done Scotland!




KNIFEWORLD The Unraveling


Quirky songs with quirkier lyrics. Knifeworld is another example of the new wave that is emerging from within a younger generation of musicians who are drawn to composing, performing, and recording techniques that use forms, sounds, stylings, techniques commonly associated with progressive rock artists of the past. Let's call it New Wave Prog. In my mind, 80s bands like XTC, Zammla Mannas Mamas, Thomas Dolby, It's Immaterial, Art of Noise, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and The Cardiacs were progenitors of this approach. The presence here of former Cardiacs guitarist, Kavus Torabi, would support this association. Remember what Jem Godfrey was trying to do with the second FROST* album:  give the listener all of a ten-minute prog song condensed down into four or five minutes? That's what this New Wave of Prog is seeming to do.
     Knifeworld is also following another recent trend of using a female vocalist as a part-time lead vocalist. The lead vocals of bandleader Torabi, are adequate--and just as quirky and jerky and intelligent as Cardiacs music is--and the composition and instrumental skills on display are wonderful. Think XTC with ARANIS and you've got a good feel for Knifeworld. Very good stuff.
Check it out to make your own decision.  





FREDDEGREDDE Brighter Skies

 Fredrik Larsson is a fresh young multi-instrumental talent out of Sweden who has a proclivity for Drama-era YES but who is unfortunately cursed with a voice like OWL CITY's singer-songwriter Adam Young--"cursed" because, in this reviewers opinion, the OWL CITY singing approach does not match stylistically well with the YES-like music.

1. "Welcome the Bright Skies" (5:45) introduces us to Mr. Larsson's YES-like sound--that is, until he starts singing. "Fireflies" automatically comes to mind (a song I rather like but whose idiosyncratic vocal approach is, I think, better left as uniquely Adam Young's domain). (I know that Mr. Larsson cannot help that his English singing style sounds so familiar to these experienced ears. My point is, I think, that I don't find the OWL CITY vocal approach to fit very well with your choice of bombastic prog music.) A forgettable song that displays tremedous potential. (7/10)

2. "The Autotelic Self" (11:05) The Drama-era YES/Chris Squire bass sound and Trevor Horn voice make this for an interesting song. It is during this song that I am beginning to think that Mr. Larsson's real gift is in the keyboard department--his choices and uses of multiple sounds throughout a song is quite dextrous, confident and masterful. With each successive listen to this album I find myself tuning out the domineering bass and drums to focus on the more interesting keyboard work. Overlooking the too-busy, too-loud drums, and this is quite an interesting, well-constructed song. Even the vocals work tolerably well on this one. (9/10)

3. "Your Life" (3:00) is quite a cute, entertaining (biographical?) journey through the adventures of a young world-traveller. Quite catchy and engaging, if also poppy. (8/10)

4. "This Fragile Existence" (5:50) is a song with just too many layers, too much going on, and not enough consistency to render it engaging much less memorabl--though a brief GENESIS/TONY BANKS section at 4:25 tries to render this hodgepodge song from forgettability. (7/10)

5. "The Tower" (8:21) is probably my favorite song on the album. It has quite a RENAISSANCE feel to it--especially in the bass sound and foundational role of the piano. Quite symphonically constructed and of varied paced, the song's main flaw is in the singing. The singing sometimes feels forced, as if the singer has to rush the lyrics along to keep pace with the keyboard melody lines. The heavy section beginning at 6:45 is quite powerful. Still, the song could benefit from some more instrumental sections--or simply less singing. Reminds me of GENESIS' "Eleventh Earl of Mar" in that it is musically an incredible song over which the singing and lyrics have a negative effect. (9/10)

6. "Shining" (4:02) is another song of wonderful musical creativity that, unfortunately, suffers from the over-/domineering presence of singing and mismatched lyrics. The singer's approach often reminds me of one JON ANDERSON in the way these quite unusual and unexpected lyrics are sung in quite unexpected places and ways. (8/10)

The album's finale and longest song, the epic, 7. "Ocean Mind" (18:24), opens with three minutes of well-crafted symphonic prog bombast. Once the vocal does finally enter, it begins with some admirable restraint while some YES/STARCASTLE-like music fills the background (foreground and wings, too!) Again, the instrumental presentation may be a bit too busy. A softer section in the seventh minute has a TREVOR HORN/YES/BUGGLES feel to it (a feeling I'm revisited by A LOT during this song) before the music returns to a heavier instrumental section. Great keyboards and powerful drumming throughout--though the volume and activity of the drums at times detract attention from the other instruments. The song, unfortunately, wanders all over the musical spectrum without revealing (to me) its purpose or soul. The acoustic guitar backed gentle section in the fifteenth minute is nice, though the reverb and singing style forces that Adam Young/OWL CITY feel upon me as much as ever. The denouement of the final two minutes again leaves me wondering, confused: Is this supposed to be a "Supper's Ready" or an Elton John song? (7/10)

FreddeGredde is a band that I look forward to following in the future as I can see great potential if young Mr. Larsson decides to learn to use a little more restraint--to give more power to the subtleties and incidentals and not so much to the bombastic. He certainly has command of all of the elementals of great prog. Now to learn pacing and more mature presentation.

78.6 on the Fish scales = A 3.5 stars album (between "good" and "excellent") that shows tremendous future potential. I do recommend progsters give this one a listen as I believe Mr. Fredrik Larsson may be destined to contribute great things to the prog lexicon. Therefore, I rate it up to 4 stars.





NEW KEEPER OF THE WATER TOWERS The Cosmic Child

A heavy prog gourd which sounds like it has been heavily influenced by AGOLLOCH, ALICE IN CHAINS, Ozzie/Sabbath & IRON MAIDEN. 

1. "The Great Leveler" (6:37) is just too grungy for me. (7/10)

2. "Visions of Death" (9:25) has a great AGOLLOCH feel to it except with a bit more complexity and layers. (18/20)

3. "Pyre for The Red Sage" (12:05) sounds like a drawn out classic ALICE IN CHAINS song--except at its halfway point it totally shifts with an organ into PINK FLOYD mode--until at 7:40 some high octane guitar strumming and riffing takes us into the realm of old Heavy Metal artists like IRON MAIDEN. Then, at 9:44 we are brought into the warm sludge of the ALICE IN CHAINS world. Man does this vocal sound like Layne Staley!  (20/25)

4."Cosmosis" (3:27) is a gorgeous little song that feels bigger than its length. A bit of the AGOLLOCH feel to it because of its strumming acoustic guitar foundation but instead of the growls there are heavily treated voices. (8/10)

5. "Lapse" (12:32) has a very peaceful pace and feel for its first minutes--even into the ethereal higher range male vocal which commences with the third minute. The first sign of any ramping up occurs with some electric guitar picking at the 4:35 mark--but this only a little ripple in the pond. At 5:30, however, a repetitious, pulsating bass takes over while keys, drums, and electric guitar provide incidental notes, chords, and odd sounds around it. At the seven minute mark the music returns to a full band progression while some interesting DOORS-like guitar sounds play around. With the arrival of the ninth minute things get heavier, fuller, with power chords and rousing lead guitar work. Then, at 8:50, things freeze for a moment before the bass sets up a fast-pcaed plucked version of its earlier repetitions progression until at 9:25 strumming electric guitar and then drums kick in to usher in a ramped up rocking' section in which a couple of awesome electric guitar soli present themselves--duelling. Well composed/structured song. (22.5/25)

6. "The Cosmic Child" (2:51) is a little instrumental 'lullaby' contrasting picked acoustic and electric guitars. The song feels a little out of place--like the little lost child among all of these ploddingly heavy 'storm' songs. (4/5)

83.68 on the Fish scales = solid four star album; an excellent addition to any progressive rock lover's music collection.




COSMOGRAF Capacitor

Once again Cosmograf has come up with a gorgeous sounding concept album--with a very intriguing topic and some very cool incidental samples used to help string the songs together. However, I find, as I have on previous Cosmograf albums, that there is just something lacking to really draw the listener back for more. Once the story's been heard, the music is forgettable. The ambience of the incredibly well-engineered music is dreamy--great for background music, but Robin Armstong has brought very little new or exciting to the prog table. Instead, he's served up a meal of sumptuous flavor but nothing we haven't had before.

Favorite songs: the album's opener, "The Spirit Capture" (7:37) for its excellent set up of the album's story (8/10); the most memorable and varied song of the album with its beautiful melodies and simple instrumental support, "The Drover" (6:37) (10/10), and the guest party jam; "Stuck in the Wood" (6:27) (8/10).

3.5 stars rated up cuz this is, IMO, Cosmograf's best, so far.




DAVE KERZNER New World

Very melodic, gentle Neo Prog not unlike TONY PATTERSON. Dave has a very pleasant DAVID GILMOUR-like voice.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Dave Kerzner / vocals, keyboards, electric & acoustic (6,9) guitars, drum programming (4,8), bass (4), sound designer & producer
With:
- Fernando Perdomo / guitar (1-3,5-11), bass (1-3,6-11)
- Steve Hackett / guitar (1,11)
- Francis Dunnery / guitar (11)
- Russ Parish / guitar (6)
- Keith Emerson / Moog Modular Synth (5)
- Colin Edwin / fretless bass (2)
- Billy Sherwood / bass (5)
- Nick D'Virgilio / drums (1-3,6-7,9-11)
- Simon Phillips / drums (5)
- Durga McBroom / vocals (1,7,11)
- Heather Findlay / vocals (2)
- Maryem Tollar / vocals (6)
- Lorelei McBroom / vocals (7,8)
- David Longdon / vocals (10)
- Christine Leakey / operatic vocals (7)
- Emily Lynn / narrator voice (8), vocals (11)
- Lara Smiles / whispering voice (8)
- Ana Cristina / backing vocals (1) 
- Jason Scheff / backing vocals (1,11)

The astronaut voices and audio transmissions on Into The Sun and Stranded are from NASA

1. "Stranded" (Pts. 1-5) (10:32) how can you go wrong with musical contributions from Nick D'Virgilio and Steve Hackett? (17.5/20) : 
- Part 1: Isolation - styled after PINK FLOYD's "Brain Damage" 
- Part 2: Delirium - sounding like some of David Gilmour's solo and post-Roger Waters Pink Floyd stuff. 
- Part 3: March of the Machines - heavier transition piece
- Part 4: Source Sublime - back to the "Brain Damage / Eclipse" model and sound
- Part 5: The Darkness - fast-paced, this sounds like something from PORCUPINE TREE--until it reverts to PF Dark Side for the finish. Nice Clare Torey imitation by Ana Cristina.

2. "Into the Sun" (7:21)  a song with a space theme that fittingly sounds like it comes from PINK FLOYD's Dark Side of the Moon. Lush and pretty; very well-engineered. Often reminding me also of AIRBAG and STEVEN WILSON ("Stars Die"). The instrumental section is not as powerful as anything the former three bands have done, but it's good. (13/15)

3. "The Lie" (5:04) sounds like it came from on of Kevin Moore's CHROMA KEY albums. Fairly simple design and execution. Nice drumming, Nick! (8/10)
 
4. "Under Control" (5:54) clocks ticking and tinkling piano and tuned percussion behind acoustic guitar chord progression with synth strings support. Gilmour-like vocal. Cool synth work in middle instrumental passage. Piano-based "C" part is good. (7.75/10)

5. "Crossing of Fates" (4:49) "orchestrated" theatric bombast setting up for Keith Emerson MiniMoog soli. Simon Phillips (drums) and Billy Sherwood (bass), too. Nice Hammond and lead guitar work from Dave and Fernando Perdamo, respectively. (8.75/10)

6. "My Old Friend" (5:27) Another effects-drenched Dave Gilmour-like vocal over interesting palette of acoustic guitar, bubbly synths and percussives, and dreamy background vocalise from Maryem Tollar. The chorus section is straight power rock and forgettable; it's the other stuff that's so interesting. Very STEVEN WILSON-like--especially the section with Russ Parish's excellent guitar solo (8.75/10)

7. "Ocean of Stars" (5:36) piano over scratchy guitar shredding sounds opens. Then Dave enters singing with accompaniment of piano and electric guitar single notes. Nice chorus (especially the way it ends with the title lyrics). Wish it were a little more melodic or interesting musically. (8.5/10)

8. "Solitude" (3:39) pretty piano and electric guitar (sounding like GENESIS "Hairless Heart") are joined by female lead vocalist Lorelei McBroom performing vocalise. Dave's Great Gig in the Sky. Only problem is: it's been done before--and with astounding and, I fear, inimitable success. (7.5/10)

9. "Nothing" (6:17) PHIL COLLINS GENESIS (ABACAB)-like opening before going slightly YES-90120 with an 80s BUGGLES-like techno-pop palette and beat. Could have been interesting, but falls flat (too reliant on lyrics?) (7/10)

10. "New World" (5:57) (8.75/10)

11. "Redemption: Stranded (Pts. 6-10) (17:25) (30.5/35) :
- Part 6: The Oasis - Steven Wilson-like--especially the multiple-voiced vocal track. 
- Part 7: Resilience II - instrumental with lush Tony Banks-like keyboard support; a return to DSotM themes and motifs--except for the COLDPLAY-like chorus cresendo. 
- Part 8: High on the Dunes - electric 12-strings, Mellotron, 
- Part 9: Mirage of the Machines - and Steve Hackett, oh my!
- Part 10: To the Light - a very Gilmour-esque dénouement and finish.

Total Time 78:01

Despite drawing from some excellent sources and using a well-engineered sound palette throughout--and some great contributions of some of prog's all-time greats--the songs collected here often fall short of great. 

84.0 on the Fishscales = B-/four stars; a commendable collection of Steven Wilson / Pink Floyd-like Neo Prog songs. Good enough to recommend you try them out for yourselves.




EMERALD DAWN Searching for The Lost Key

Nice psychedelic jam-style prog music from Devon. Kind of 1970s STEVE HILLAGE-like. A bit unpolished and under-engineered but left raw is kind of good. Vocals and lyrics are nice but sometimes feel out of place. The dated computer keyboard and guitar sounds used are sometimes grating for the fact that you know that there are better sounds available--and better recording engineering possible--but the overall framework for the free-for-all guitar jams is good. I find myself tuned in by the foundational keyboard parts and then enjoying the play of the talented and energetic guitarist. It is, unfortunately, the rather rudimentary keyboard sounds and recording techniques detract from the overall effect of the songs.

1. "Beyond the Wall" (12:05) feels quite a bit like listening to early CURE (with EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL's Tracey Thorn singing) drawn out in HAWKWIND/ELOY fashion--far beyond necessity. (21.25/25)

2. "Buridan's Lament" (10:50) has trouble getting started and throws one off a bit once the Goth vocals of the male lead come in. By the third minute guitar, backbeat, and chord sequence have finally established themselves--but are barely interesting or engaging enough to draw the listener in. The Hackett/Hillage-like lead guitar play is the most interesting part of the music--before the piano arpeggio establishes a new key and the sax enters and takes over. Nice Dick Parry sound. Then simple church organ takes over--with nice effect. Previous sections are repeated and drawn out. (16/20)

3. "Shadow in Light" (10:14) a guitar jam instrumental, is my favorite song on the album despite (or, perhaps, because of) the fact that the entire song feels lifted from COLLAGE's 1995 classic, "Living in the Moonlight." (17.5/20)

4. "In Search of the Lost Key" (11:06) is just testing my tolerance for the same guitar lead played over slightly varied rhythms and chord progressions. The presence of murky female vocalist and organ does little to bring this song up to higher status. (16/20)

83.23 on the Fish scales = a solid four star album; an excellent addition to any prog music collection. A band with A LOT of potential and a lot of growing/matureing, practicing, experimenting to do.



ESOSOME What We Thought Would Save Us

What starts out as an album of upbeat refreshingly new music devolves into just another Porcupine Tree/Steven Wilson imitator. Well engineered and produced to create a very nice sound, I can't help but find myself feeling disappointed in its almost blatant familiarity. I like all of the songs--some are even better than the PT songs that they steal from, which is something, but the "borrowing" is so obvious . . . .

"Oracle" (6:26) "Not Like You" (4:48) and "Bloom" (4:12) are the albums three best songs. I just wish they sounded original.