Thursday, February 11, 2016

Top Albums of the Year 2016, Part 2: Highly Rcommended

Other Albums from 2016 Worth Listening to:

Below you will find a somewhat-ordered catalogue of the album releases from 2016. 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.






AMOEBA SPLIT Second Split

A greatly anticipated second album from Spanish instrumental Canterbury Style jazz artists whose 2010 debut album, Dance of the Goodbyes, caused quite a stir in this old heart. The music here on Second Split is definitely on the jazzier side of things--much like Dave NEWHOUSE's MANNA/MIRAGE project from late in 2015. At times I'm hearing riffs from the DAVE BRUBECK/PAUL DESMOND age ("Sundial Tick" 4:48] [9/10]) and others more of a jazz-rock mode in the vein of CHICAGO or BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS--especially in the arrangements for the horn section. And then there are the uses of odd/funny-sounding instrumental effects and/or shifts within the music. This is truly a entertaining and mercurial album--as is each song--taking twists and turns that the listener couldn't possibly foresee--yet none are wasted or superfulous, all serve to explore new ideas, new rhythms and combinations of sound and harmony. 

1. "Clockwise" (9:03) three songs in one--all three excellent and enjoyable. (18/20)

2. "Sundial Tick" (4:48) opens with a melody line as if from a classic 1950s or 60s Broadway musical (Porgy and Bess' "Summertime" comes to mind before the "Take Five"-like tempo and style take over). Three different melodic themes seem to rotate through the song with different harmonic structures explored by the big band each time. (what is that synth sound at the three minute mark?) Truly an exceptional and intricate though fun song. (9/10)

3. "The Book Of Days" (2:25) opens with chamber string quintet before what sounds like two vibraphones join in. How cool! The double bass and violin morph into more café jazz sound as the vibes continue and, eventually, take over. How clever! (4.5/5)

4. "Those Fading Hours" (8:34) opens with a dirty electric piano creating some chords and arpeggios before strings engage to add intermittent and constant accompaniment--violin becoming the first main melody maker (alternating with the flute). Has a very MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA feel with a lot of pent up, potential energy feeling ready to explode on us. Incidental "noises" from the organ and other keys only adds to that feeling that at any minute things are going to break loose. The synth solo that begins at 3:30 seems to open this door--and then a fuzzy electric guitar-sounding keyboard takes over and seems to unleash a little of the spirit of the Mahavishnu himself. Despite the loosening up of the belt for the rest of the band, the ensuing horn play seems to keep things in check--but no! the instrumentalists are suddenly all trying to solo at the same time! But what happens! The band shuts down at 6:45 leaving space . . . out of which emerges an acoustic guitar and moog synth making animal (or insect) mating calls as the infant children laugh their end-of-the day laughs. What a marvelously odd song! I love it! (20/20)

5. "Backwards All The Time" (8:22) opens as the most straightforward jazz song yet, but then at the 0:45 mark, it morphs into a classic 1970s jazz rock fusion confabulation--a cross between JEFF BECK's "Freeway Jam," DEODATO's "Super Strut," ALAN PARSONS PROJECT's "I Robot," and CHICAGO's "I'm a Man"!!! Weird and wonderful! The dual alien synth and piano soli in the fifth minute are just too weird for me. Then they're back to jazz with a trumpeter in the lead. (There's that "Summertime" theme again!) Then, at 6:20, the hammond takes over and brings it back into jazz rock territory. Such a chameleonic song! Not sure if it all works but it is brave and adventurous! I think it suffers a bit from lack of a coherent, consistent flow--too many stories being told here. (16/20)

6. "About Life, Memories And Yesteryears" (8:12) opens quite sedately, as compared to all of the previous songs, with long sustained melody solos coming from keyboard 'flute' and 'saxes.' REally horns eventually join in as a bouncy, churchy hammond organ plays in the back right channel. Chunky keyboard fuzz bass takes over as electric piano and drums take front and center at the 4-minute mark. Horn section is soon added. Perhaps the weakest song on the album if only for it's lack of catchy melody. I mean, it's not till the 6:40 mark that the first likable melodic hook is presented, before that it's all about (I think) displaying all of the things the keyboards can do. (10.5/15)

86.67 on the Fishscales = B/four star album; highly recommended as an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection.



CORIMA Amaterasu

Wonderful modern Zeuhl with very strong presence of classical, jazz, and folk themes and instrumentation.

Line-up/Musicians:

Andrea Calderón - violin/vocals
Paco Casanova - keys, synths, organ, vocals

Patrick Shiroishi - saxophones, guitar, glockenspiel, vocals

Ryan Kamiyamazaki - bass
Sergio Sanchez Ravelo - drums
2. "Tsukutomi II" (10:36) opens with some gentle foundation music supporting a nice soprano sax solo. (19/20)

3. "Tsukutomi III" (2:31) the finale of the three-part suite almost sounds like an overture from a late-1960s Broadway rock opera--heavy on the Hammond. (4/5)

4. "Amaterasu I" (3:45) Zeuhl classical piano?!! (9/10)

5. "Amaterasu II" (3:31) slowed down and spacious but just as ominous with violin, saxophone and female voices mirroring each other. (9/10)

6. "Amaterasu III" (4:53) again presents the Klezmer sound masked in JANNICK TOP/UNIVERSAL TOTEM ORCHESTRA-like female and male vocals. (8.5/10)

7. "Amaterasu IV" (2:34) sounds like it could have come straight off of a 1970s JEAN-LUC PONTY album! Great drumming. (8/10)

8. "Amaterasu V" (6:12) very standard Zeuhl in the Magma tradition (8/10)

9. "Amaterasu VI" (8:02) which is then continued in the album and suite's final song. (12/15)


86.67 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent example of the Zeuhlish side of progressive rock music. It's so difficult for me to not like the intense spiritual feelings evoked by true Zeuhl music like this. This is the best Zeuhl album of 2016 that I have heard.





LOST KITE Remains

The Swedish family Carlssons, Stefan and David, father and son, both multi-instrumentalists, put together a very nice album of pastoral symphonic prog nearly in the vein of the gentler, more melodic (and acoustic) side of solo STEVE HACKETT (especially Voyage of the Acolyte) and ANTHONY PHILLIPS.

1. "Rise" (7:25) is a wonderful, moody jazz-folk opener that sounds a bit like the PAUL WINTER CONSORT. (13.5/15) 

2. "Where Swallows Fly" (10:08) opens a little like the music that ADAM PLACK (NOMAD) did for Deepak Chopra's Gift of Love CDs, but then turns into a Voyage of the Acolyte/VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR/Thomas THIELEN type of psycho-spiritual adventure. Fairly simple--the wildest it gets is in the synthesizer solo in the eighth minute--it is, nevertheless, beautiful and powerful. The acoustic guitar-based final two minutes adds to this mysterious, haunting song. (18/20)

3. "Up And Down The Gravelpit" (4:01) In the opening minute, bass, Spanish guitar and fine drumming play at a fairly intense weave. When everything kicks into full gear it is odd to remark that the song has a bit of an ELP and JTULL sound and style to it. Mellow flute play, strummed guitars and some tenor sax and synths dominate the fully amped up mid-section. Nice song! (9/10)

4. "Selma By The Window" (2:45) opens with some odd scraping noises which then yield to some nice Spanish classical guitar play (a duet). A nice breath of fresh air! (4.5/5)

5. "Old Limp Duck" (1:58) woodwind and Spanish guitar seem to carry on from the last song. A song Anthony Phillips would be proud of! (4/5)
 
6. "Goat Island" (3:52) opens with strummed guitars and multiple woodwinds weaving a nice Ant Phillips-like piece--one that one half expects the voice of Ant or Phil COLLINS to come in on à la "God If I Saw Her Now." The heavily chorused electric guitar strums create a discordant counterpoint to the beautiful melodies established in the first minute and the flute finale is sublime. (8/10)

7. "Ma Fourmi Noire" (3:41) opens with sounds like radio static before strummed electric guitar and synthesized woodwind enter to establish a mood and melody. The sad, minor key melody is again quite reminiscent of those created by Anthony Phillips in his early solo and solo guitar work. In the third minute a very strong TONY BANKS-like theme and style establishes itself and then runs counter to the previously established melodies. Very interesting! (9/10)

8. "Off-season Shores" (1:24) is a very pretty little acoustic guitar-tenor sax duet. (4.5/5) 

9. "Prayer" (2:03) opens with a very strong STEVE HACKETT guitar sound being picked on the electric guitar as synths join in with their solo establishing melody lines. In the second minute the synth play is replaced by church organ. Pretty cool! (4.5/5)

10. "Remains" (8:14) opens with rock drums, bass and heavily distorted electric guitar arpeggi before settling down to allow the entry of the whispery male vocal. Distorted guitar kicks back in to amp things up but then recedes again to allow the vocal to creep us a bit. I'm not really liking this one. It feels like rock 101, nothing challenging or nuanced.

     Some nice clear guitar chords and fretless bass in the fifth minute bring me into the music a little, but then it gets heavy in an awkward almost pretentious way and I'm put off again. Just not a great song--could use more development and nuance--a lot more. (12/20)

11. "Winter's Presage" (3:05) seems to replicate the melody of the previous song with acoustic guitar before fretless and clean electric guitar work their way into the mix. A pleasant weave grows before three tracks of soloing electric guitars join in. While THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE makes this happen masterfully, the Carlsson family do not. (8/10)

12. "Dark Woods-Dawn Meadows" (11:50) opens with some oddly-tuned old 12-string guitar strum-hits while various woodwinds weave in and out of the mix. The 12-string approach is so Ant Phillips! All of the synth and woodwind sounds only add to the mediæval sound/feel of this song. Oh, to be a traveling troubadour! How exciting, how theatric! 

     At the beginning of the song's fourth minute an organ, bass and drums/percussion turn up to dominate the sound in a kind of ELP way--though still, somehow, retaining most of that mediæval feel. Perhaps this is the scary part of the journey--through the robber-infested woods! 
     A soft, tubular bells-led minute in the seventh of the song precedes an awesomely infectious section of the eighth minute--one in which the bass-led rhythm section drives one on in a merry, happy-go-lucky way while the woodwinds and 12-string gallop and galavant around in the mix. The synth roles may be the best of all! This is prime Ant PHILLIPS! And what an awesome end! Easily the most mature and developed song on the album--an epic worthy of the name--and one for the ages! (25/25)

13. "Seven Waves Apart" (3:08) closes the album with a song that opens with delicate piano and guitar play--another father-son duet, it would seem--and this one perhaps the best on the album. Very interesting melodies are worked into an almost adversarial though conversational weave. Great song! Great expression of the spirit of this band. (10/10)

86.67 on the Fish scales = B/four stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection. An excellent album--though I can see lots of room for growth.




ETERNAL WANDERERS The Mystery of the Cosmic Sorrow

Pleasant synth-founded prog with a spacey sci-fi kind of feel and message to it. I find myself reminded of PINK FLOYD and TANGERINE DREAM at it's spaciest as well as ALAN PARSONS PROJECT and LISA GERRARD and MARTHA AND THE MUFFINS/M + M (because of the similarities of voice of Elena Kanevskaya to M + M singer Martha JOHNSON and Ms. GERRARD [though not quite as strong]). But, then, I also hear 80s techno pop/disco (e.g., the "Funky Town" themes in 2. the title song) and too many Neo Prog cliches in many of the sounds and riffs used.

The music is competently crafted and performed yet something is seriously lacking in the sound engineering department as mixes, levels, effects, and the blending of the instruments and voices are very inconsistent and variable--even within individual songs. Plus, this being a concept album, the musical styles and instrumental sounds should, I think, have more continuity from song to song. The drums are very, very well performed and recorded, whereas some of the computer keyboards and synths feel outdated or not of top quality (or not filtered/treated adequately in the engineering department).
     At the same time I love the ambition, dreams and drive these musicians have and only look forward to the growth and improvements that they will doubtlessly show in the future. I do believe that the band's affinity for leading edge science and science fiction is serving them well and that deriving their inspiration from such should be continued. At 90 minutes in length, this is an amazingly ambitious project (which is one of the reasons it has taken me so long to review despite my having the music in my possession for over four months now.)
     With no offense directed at any single member of the band, I have to admit that I find that Disc 2 presents quite an improved and more seemlessly engineered set of songs/music.

Line-up/Musicians: 
 - Elena Kanevskaya - vocals, keyboards, samplers
 - Tatyana Kanevskaya - guitars, charango, backing vocals, samplers
 - Dmitry Shtatnov - bass, backing vocals, analog synths and effects
 - Sergey Rogulya - drums, percussion
      With:
 - Alisher Zvid - saxophone on Methane Rain, Space

CD1

1. "Message From Space" (3:50) opens the album with a lot of promise. (8.5/10)

2. "The Mystery Of The Cosmic Sorrow" (8:30) (15/20)

3. "Methane Rain" (8:18) (17/20)

4. "Gamma Waves" (5:30) (8.5/10)

5. "Born To Suffer" (10:09) full of cliches and poor sound choices. (14/20)

6. "Silent World" (8:50) (16/20)

7. "Valley Of Oblivion" (6:03) (8.5/10)

Total time 51:10

CD2

1. "Following A Neutrino's Flight" (9:29) a modern classic of Berlin School electronica. (20/20)

2. "The End Of The Satellite Age" (23:26) a masterfully conceived and rendered soundtrack score! The computer-produced 'orchestration' is realized to perfection! Amazing! Kudos, Dmitry! (and Tatyana). Even the wild and quirky middle section is fitting and interesting. I am glad, however, for the return to more of a MIKE OLDFIELD territory for the final five minutes. Brilliant song! (48/50)

      I.  "Hard Times

      II. "The Great Dance

      III. "It Went The Wrong Way

      IV. "Brand New Program

      V. "Falling Down

3. "Space" (6:02) a fairly nice bluesy, Kate Bush-like tune with some great melodies, bass and sax play. (9/10)


Total time 38:57


86.57 on the Fishscales = 4.5 stars; B; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection--especially the second disc.






NOSOUND Scintilla

I have loved the soundscapes created by Giancarlo Erra since I first heard them with 2008's wonderful LightDark, but, I have to admit that with each successive release (or discovery--as in the back logue of Sol29) the NoSound sound began to feel old, stale, monotomous. Scintilla offers a bit of a change in direction for Giancarlo Erra and company--more emotional range expressed through sometimes more acoustic, more bare, less electronically filled soundscapes. I like this. A lot. In fact, next to LightDark this is now my favorite 

1. "Short Story" (2:24) simple and so sparse in its opening 50 seconds, yet simply gorgeous. When drums and other instruments join in it does spoil the established mood--especially the marching band-like Sigur Rós-like drums. (9/10)

2. "Last Lunch" (7:00) great empty atmospherics and awesome final minute with drums, bass, and distant vocal. My favorite song on the album. (15/15)

3. "Little Man" (4:38) opens with promise as a nice glockenspiel-like keyboard tinkles around, but then drums, guitar and voice enter and it becomes a very typical NoSound song. The chorus is nice and the following return to the simple innocence of the opening keyboard sound is reassuring. Really cool guitar/slide guitar solo in the fourth minute followed by a breakdown into wonderfully sparse simplicity to the end. (8/10)

4. "In Celebration Of Life" (5:34) opens very spaciously with slow, deliberate notes and chords from both electric piano and acoustic guitar. Piano, bass and drums add a nice foundation without taking away from the mood. Giancarlo and Vince Cavanaugh sing of the abundance of life before one of Giancarlo's searing guitar solos takes over. Kind of set up as an instrumental, this is the perfect NoSound song. (9/10)

5. "Sogno E Incendio" (4:44) is a wonderfully romantic song sung in Italian (grâce à Andrea Chimenti). To me, this exemplifies all that is unique and wonderful about Italian pop singers. I would like to hear Giancarlo sing in Italian. 
     I like the guitar tone chosen for the solo in the third minute and then the other screaming one for the finale. More! (9/10)

6. "Emily" (3:19) Though I like the drum, cello and trumpet synth work here, the song sounds weird, tired, and redundant. (8/10)

7. "The Perfect Wife" (7:27) opens with electric guitar arpeggi that sound like they're right out of some classic rock ballad. Then the typical slow-paced rhythm section joins in. Giancarlo sings in a quite, almost folk tone, but then the chorus amps things up--including multiple tracks of Giancarlo's vocal. Nice change up but, in the end, the song does nothing extraordinary. Piano and cello part is okay. (12/15)

8. "Love Is Forever" (2:51) piano based with haunting synth working in the background as Giancarlo sings plaintively, maybe bitterly, between and within. Reminds me of Jacques Brel's "Ne me quitte pas." (8/10)

9. "Evil Smile" (4:33) opens with two drum hits before acoustic guitar, bass, drums, voice and piano complete the ensemble. There's something special about this one that I can't put my finger on--something in the chord or key structure. Or perhaps it's just that more acoustic sound. (9/10)

10. "Scintilla" (6:27) opens with acoustic guitar and 'distant' synth and spacey electric guitar notes. Piano joins and the buzz-saw-like synth sound moves forward causing the soundscape to start to thicken. Singing does not commence until the two minute mark. Giancarlo's stark, untreated voice is front and center but kind of buried by the instruments--a very cool effect! Around 3:35 the voice starts to get a bit overpowered by the instruments but then, as if purposefully, the song switches to a foundation of arpeggiated piano chords--and Giancarlo is finished singing. Sadly, some marching band snares and fake sounding trumpets diminish the song's mood and beauty. Could've been great had they left it alone. (8/10)

A very good album offering a new, more stripped down sound for the NoSound fans.

86.36 on the Fishscales = 4.5 stars; B; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection.




DRAKKAR NOWHERE Drakkar Nowhere

Some interesting and engaging techno-almost-disco prog pop from Sweden.

Lineup/Musicians:
  • Bass – Dan Edinberg (tracks: A1), Mattias Gustavsson (tracks: A2) 
  • Drums – Moussa Fadera (The Amazing)
  • Flute, Recorder, Bass Clarinet – Chris Eminizer
  • Guitar – Martin Fogelström (tracks: A4), Reine Fiske (tracks: A1, B2)
  • Mixed By – Jake Lummus, Tomek Miernowski
  • Organ, Bass Pedals, Piano, Prophet 5, Juno 60, Mini Moog, Written By, Co-producer, Mixed By – Daniel Collás
  • Vocals – Bart Davenport (tracks: A3), Liz Ryan (tracks: B2), Sibille Attar (tracks: B3)
  • Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Written By – Ned Doheny (tracks: A3)
  • Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Synthesizer, Written By, Co-producer, Mixed By – Morgan Phalen

A1. "Any Way" (2:11) upright piano with vocals in a kind of Freddie MercuryPaul McCartney/"Let It Be" style. (8/10)

A2. "How Could That Be Why" (3:12) an unsual melodic and funky song with a great vocal performance from  Morgan Phalen. (9/10)

A3. "Higher Now" (5:29) opens with all the sounds, styles, and grooves of a Curtis Mayfield classic. The vintage organ work is especially cool, while wonderful AMERICA/BEACH BOYS-like harmony vocals do the lyrical delivery. It's nice to hear Moussa Fadera's drum work not be too full, too overbearing. (9.25/10)

A4. "At The Edge of The Mangroves" (3:54) a bit of a ska beat, this one reminds me of THE PAYOLAS "Eyes of a Stranger" -- even the lead vocal--but the background chorus vocals are completely different. Cool, fairly original sound with unique dynamics. (9/10)

A5. "In The Eye of Time" (2:13) a narrated synth-dominated sci-fi theme song filler. (4/5)

B1. "Did It Ever?" (3:29) The organ is back! Another 1960s retro sound--like THE ASSOCIATION or some late 60s/early 1970s soul/R&B ensemble vocal group like THE DRAMATICS or THE STYLISTICS. Well done. (9/10)

B2 "Chippewa" (3:16) Hokey. A waste of Reine Fiske's time and talents. (7.5/10)

B3 "The Line" (4:27) bordering on over-simplistic pop. (8.25/10)

B4 "Salutation to The Sun" (8:45) Pure psychedelic rock. Sounds a lot like MOTORPSYCHO. Great drum and bass and synth rhythm tracks with amazing reverbed choral vocals performing the lyrics and vocalise over the top. In the sixth minute the music fades to be replaced at 5:30 by a drum-machine-based THE FLAMING LIPS-like instrumental track with simple synth notes panning with flanged electric guitar soloing and then a second synth soloing over the top in place of the guitar. Choralized vocals enter at 7:30 before doubled electric guitar solo takes over to the end. Very cool and engaging. (18/20)

86.31 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an awesome retro psych addition to 21st Century prog world.




ZHONGYU Zhongyu

Interesting Chinese-infused jazz rock in which leader Jon DAVIS alternates between traditional Chinese instruments, sounds, and melodies and his Chapman Stick while working with the extremely talented core of jazz fusion artists from the band MORAINE.

Line-up/Musicians:
Jon Davis: Chapman Stick, guzheng, Mellotron, ARP 2600
Dennis Rea (Moraine): electric guitar, resonator guitar
Alicia DeJoie (Moraine): electric violinames DeJoie (Moraine): baritone saxophone, flute, bass clarinet
Randy Doak: drums, percussion

1. "Apple Of My Mind's Eye 2" (2:06) opens like a kind of modern, electrified, space-version of traditional Chinese sounds and music. Interesting! And cool! (4.5/5)

2. "Torture Chambers Of Commerce" (4:42) opens with an ominous KING CRIMSON Red-era-like feel. Electric guitar, Chapman Stick, and simple drums establish the foundational weave over which violin and flute play in tandem (in harmony). The foundational music is, of course, anything but simple as there is a distinctive polyrhythmic feel to their play à la "Discipline." It is amazing how cool the Chapman Stick is. (9/10)

3. "Iron Rice Bowl Has Rusted" (3:45) opens with some very traditional sounding Chinese melody lines being play by guzheng, violin, and then flute, before drums and Chapman Stick bass join in to provide the foundation from which the three lead instruments can fly off on their own. At 2:05 a neat little double-time shift in rhythm carries the song into the realms of Americana. The final 45 seconds devolve back into jazz and then folk constructs and sounds, ending with just the guzheng. (9/10)

4. "Hydraulic Fracas" (8:03) is perhaps the pinnacle of the album in its perfect synthesis of Eastern (flute and percussion rhythms) and Western (Chapman Stick) musical sounds and styles. Great melodies. Great effect of the volume pedal-controlled treble chords on the Stick. Great shift into the more Western prog/fusion side at the end of the fourth minute. One for the ages! (13.5/15)

5. "Tunnel At The End Of The Light" (4:05) opens with freestyling play from Stick's bass, flute, drums toms, and guitar while the hi-hat keeps everyone in time. At the very end of the second minute the band gels into a kind of variation on a main theme from the previous song, but then soon break apart and go off on their own psychedelic trips. And yet, somehow, they all merge pack onto the same page of sheet music at the 3:20 mark. Nice. (8/10)

6. "Apple Of My Mind's Eye 1" (2:02) opens with the odd (to the Western ears) sound and melodies of the Chinese guzheng. Joined by violin and bass clarinet, the ensuing weave is loosely (minimally?) conjoined and mutually supportive--yet lovely! (4/5)

7. "Half Remembered Drowning Dream" (5:20) opens as if the band is caught unawares of their being recorded as they are tuning. Around the 1:45 mark and again at the two minute mark things sound and feel as if they are starting to gel--but then don't! What an unusual song! Truly this "half-remembered dream" is chaotic, cacophonic and discordant but, perhaps, an accurate musical portrayal of the dream state. (8/10)

8. "Sleepwalking The Dog" (6:41) rises out of the continuous strains of the previous song to gradually take on a more familiar structure and cohesive sound. Chapman Stick provides a kind of background foundation for the violin, bass clarinet, Mellotron and drums to weave a spacey, psychedelic weave--until the violin is giving front and center, at which time the song takes on a kind of JEAN-LUC PONTY sound. The ensuing treated baritone saxophone solo is equally compelling--and then the two start to take turns--a duel! Both pushing the other to greater heights. Awesome! A fuzzed-out, mirrored double electric guitar solo follows over some ancient Mellotron. Cool section! Definitely the best song since "Hydraulic Fracas." (And a great title!) (13.5/15)

9. "Wanderland Wonderlust" (5:31) folk-country-sounding acoustic guitar picking opens this one until the guzheng and then flute arrive. The three-way weave is interesting and engaging--though I find myself wanting to listen to one instrument in isolation rather than the collective harmony. The Chinese melody line duoed in the second minute by the violin and flute and then worked into a weave with the guitar and guzheng is pretty--and evocative of olden days in aristocratic China. Nice performance. Unfortunately, the electric guitar power chords in the final 90 seconds don't really work (for me). (8/10)

10. "Cat Hair All Over It" (2:10) opens as a six-way free for all--both sides of the Stick, electric guitar, violin, saxophone and drums. Ornette Coleman is there in spirit. (3.5/5)

11. "MBBL" (5:17) bleeds straight out of the previous song with everybody dropping out to allow the Chapman bass and drums to establish their very jazz-styled foundation. Horns, violin and guitars take over the lead parts--mostly in a kind of big band group harmonic weave. Heavy electric guitar power chords introduce a new section--one in which the electric guitar takes over solo lead. The band's performance beneath the guitar lead is really cool! The lead's solo hits some real highs around 3:10 and sustain this engaging section for another 30 seconds before a bridge sets the horns and violin back into the driver's seat (of course, over that wonderfully tight and grooving rhythm section.) (9/10)

12. "All Food Comes From China" (4:51) (As an organic produce farmer in Wisconsin, I have to disagree with this song title.) With an Indian raga kind of drone instrument in the background, Jon's guzheng establishes the song's melody and pace. He is eventually joined by the rest of the band--flute, electric guitar, violin and percussion. This is a very peaceful almost meditative song--despite the abrasive sounds used by the electric guitar, percussionist and guzheng. (9/10)

Total time 54:33

86.09 on the Fish scales = 4.5 stars; B; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection.





SEVEN IMPALE Contrapasso

The future of progressive rock music is in excellent hands if it stays in the hands of young rockers like Norway's Seven Impale. 2014's City of the Sun was undeniably one of that year's best albums, but this one is better! Far more adventurous, experimental, confident (if that's possible), and bold. The band's infatuation with computer, electronic and radio-like sounds (sometimes in a way quite similar to the work of Holger CZUKAY in the 80s) is one area in which they have really branched out. The other would be in the variety of styles, sounds, and effects used for Stian Økland's vocals. Both of these changes are, to my ears and mind, very positive and only help prove the growth and adventurous nature that the band is going through. Growth--and change--is GOOD!

Line-up/Musicians:
Stian Økland - vocals and guitars
Fredrik Mekki Widerøe - drums
Benjamin Mekki Widerøe - sax
Tormod Fosso - bass
Erlend Vottvik Olsen - guitar
Håkon Vinje - keyboards

1. "Lemma" (8:59) has a very pretentious feel of melodrama not unlike that of DISCIPLINE or BLACK SABBATH--only here, with Seven Impale, I take it all tongue in cheek--all for fun; for the band's amusement as well as ours.
Musically, the song is a perfect vehicle for the melodrama taking place but then, out of the blue, there is a wonderful shift at the 6:15 mark which feels like it is a saving grace for all of the bombast that has come before. Awesome stuff! I love it! Great song! (19.5/20)

2. "Heresy" (7:16) opens feeling familiar in sound to City of the Sun though the melodic movement is more jazzy. When the vocals enter the 'old' Seven Impale is cast aside and we are brought into a world that is more farcical, more Tim Burtonesque. The song quickly develops into a storytelling vehicle in the same vein as MOTORPSYCHO's The Death Defying Unicorn, only compacted into a single, seven minute song. At the three minute mark there is the "Doldrums/Flotsam/Sculls in Limbo"-like interlude, followed by a spirited return to full dynamic force a minute later.
If I hadn't heard TDDU I might give a little more credit to Seven Impale here--though their intent may just have been to show the world that an entire 80-minute rock opera could be adequately fit into a seven minute song. (12/15)

3. "Inertia" (9:09) opens with some eerie piano, bass, guitar noises, with drums before sax shows up to throw everybody in line with a nice staccato rhythm progressing over a cycle of several key changes. The vocals on Contrapasso, overall, are quite different than their debut--quite a bit more diverse and using quite a variety of effects--which I like. The band's growth, adventurousness and confidence must be very high.
A very nice elongated REINE FISKE-like guitar solo in the third and fourth provides a buffer between the first and second vocal verses. The next instrumental interlude is awesome. In some ways similar to both "God Left Us for a Black-Dressed Woman" and, again, Motorpsycho's The Death-Defying Unicorn, and yet completely its own. Here is where I notice that this album includes a much greater presence and use of spacey keyboards, effected instrumental notes (from piano, percussives, synths or guitars Excellent song. A top three and probably my favorite full-length song on the album. (20/20)

4. "Langour" (7:39) opens like a djenty song from LEPROUS or even MOTORSPYCHO--even when the organ, saxes, synths and vocalized melody join in. At 1:45 things quiet down into an ominously spacious, pregnantly potentialized jazz song. Stian Økland's familiar voice enters fifteen seconds later with the force and presence of JIM MORRISON. At the three minute mark the music stops and we are left with only an irritating high pitched squeal and some wobbly guitar notes picked individually and intermittently. The vocal finish sounds almost like church choir-like--and then, to top it off, a church organ and tubular bells-like keyboard enter to finish the song! Theatric and wonderful! (13.5/15)

5. "Ascension" (1:37) uses a guitar (and, later, harmonizing piano) to spaciously recreate the arpeggio that formed the main melody for the instrumental exit jam from their last album's epic masterpiece, "God Left Us for a Black-Dressed Woman." Perfect title! Awesome idea! (5/5)

6. "Convulsion" (5:05) is, as the song's title indicates, a vehicle for the conveyance of some heavy stoner rock sonic convulsions. The echoed and delayed multiple-voice vocal delivery and shifts in song direction and style every minute or so also plays into the health-threatening feel of this music. The fourth major shift, into a kind of TOBY DRIVER postlude of psychedelia is odd and unexpected but effective when paired with the phrenetic predecessor and the typical end of peace and calm that follows a convulsive attack. I really like the tight, compressed feel of the first two thirds of this song. (9/10)

7. "Helix" (9:16) opens with synth bass and drum time kept on a hi-hat. The group vocal that joins in creates another KAYO DOT-like sonic environment. While not as starkly earth-shaking as the typical Toby Driver delivery, there is an effective mood conveyed here--one that feels as if it is slowly building in potential energy ready to be released in some kinetic explosion. Then, at the four minute mark, things quiet down (the calm before the storm?) for about a minute before, yes, the caldera blows. Hoarse, screaming vocals add the icing to the cake, until, just as suddenly, at the six minute mark everything settle back into a quiet, resting mode--though the melodies and chords interjected by the bass, keys, and saxes are quite ominous--quite filled with warning of more doom impending. Even the piano interlude in the eighth minute holds so much warning. Again, it's like the calm before the storm. But then, oddly, the music switches to solo treated organ and the crescendo never recurs. Until the opening of the next song... Not a bad song, it just feels unresolved and incomplete. (16/20)

8. "Serpentstone" (7:20) opens quite heavily and then downshifts into a really nice, full-band ominous groove. This groove turns into a nice multi-layered instrumental section in which synths, saxes, and guitars are weaving within a deep, dark subterranean tapestry. A great vocal takes over. Again I must reiterate how remarkable it is that the effects and stylings of Stian's voice are so different from City of the Sun. Cool song! One that I know will continue to grow on me with repeated listens. (13.5/15)

9. "Phoenix" (11:14) opens almost like a 1970s hip-hop rap with a bouncy melody line in the low end while chopped and echoed vocals from some British television comedy show (or shows) play along with. The vocal sample track comes to an end at the three minute mark as a female voice says, "This is just freaking me out," which is then immediately followed by a deep male voice laughing, "Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!" The odd carnival-ish hip hop synthetic rhythm continues while sax and other instruments join into the mix. It all seems so until 5:25 mark when heavy bass, guitar, and drum riffs enter and establish dominance. When synths join the song takes on a bit of a JAGA JAZZIST Starfire sound/feel to it. The final two minutes find the song meandering into the realm of space-radio wave soundscapes. Interesting. This one, I have to admit, does not please me. I feel as if the band has almost wasted some of my time--11:14 of it, to be precise. Too bad. (12/20)

My long-lasting question after listening to Contrapasso a couple of times is:  Are the boys intentionally showing off their influences? And, if so, are they doing so out of respect or out of an attitude of "anything they can do we can do, too (. . . if not better)???

86.07 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent contribution to the progressive rock music lexicon. Not quite as consistently high as their debut album but I definitely like the fearless exploratory nature of the band's energy here--and I hope the mixed reviews are not enough to discourage the band from continuing to experiment, take risks and grow. 



WHALEPHANT KaMMA

Line-up/Musicians:
Nickolay Inshakoff - composer, sound producer, violin, keyboards, synthesizers
Ilia Yartsev - clarinet, synthesizers
Veronika Chagrina - guitars
Dmitry Sokolov - bass-guitars
Anna Kuryachaya - drums

Ekaterina Bakanova - vocals
Elizaveta Yartseva - violins, violas
Aleksey Zlenko - cello
Ivan Shcherbakov - didjeridoo
Ivan Kalugin - vocals (11)
Choir - "Klass-Centre" school

1. "Kamma" (7:22) opens with a slowly building "I Know What I Like" type of soundscape before chaotic guitar, synth and piano notes and chords start being added. At 1:30 a more organized multi-instrumental weave of arpeggi construct the foundations of something nice. Violin and fretless bass play a little over the top of this in the third minute. I like this section! 

     Then electric guitar and synths take a turn--returning the song into unstructured chaos before hard-hitting piano chords establish a rhythm which is then picked up by electric guitar metal power chords. The band tries to sync into structure with the guitar, drums percussion, strings all contributing, but it's not really until the electric guitar switches over to lead solo at the 5:30 mark that the song feels like it floats and flows instead of struggles and claws. Interesting song! (10.5/15)

2. "Windrose" (8:27) opens with synth, didjeridoo and then piano and acoustic guitar arpeggi supported by drummer's cymbal play. Piano, viola and clarinet take on the harmonic weave in the next section. The song is in no hurry to build, climax, or transition, yet the weave becomes more interesting--especially as the instruments begin to occupy a fuller spread, octavely. Synth takes on the lead at the three minute mark, spacey, eery, and really not intending to bring one down, just weird. the musical weave continues to be noncommittal emotionally, with almost medieval simplicity and alternating major and minor chord and key changes. At the five minute mark the song tries to go a little King Crimson funk with some descending bass chord arpeggi and Robert Fripp like sustained lead guiar notes. Then at the six minute mark guitar and saxophone take over the two lead rolls (descending chord progression and lead solo, respectively). In the song's final minute we are reacquainted with the opening section only in reverse: didgeridoo with piano and acoustic guitar arpeggi and, then, giving away to solo synth to close. (16/20)

3. "Stars On The Cloth" (5:05) opens with guitar and band playing in a kind of ballad instrumental support as vocalist Ekaterina Bakanova enters with a kind of DIDO/SALLY OLDFIELD performance. Nice performances by piano, voice and clarinet. I like the Latin, almost bassa nova feel. (9/10)

4. "On The Wing" (4:06) opens with a pulsing straight time beat with support from strings and chunky bass (in the lead!) Within the almost Steve Reichian/Phillip Glass strings arrangements, the bass, synths, acoustic guitar and each have fun with being the lead instrument. Good but still not great--not exciting and emotive. (8/10)

5. "Love Of Dragon" (4:50) Ekaterina Bakanova returns for another DIDO-like vocal performance over a simple, almost YUGEN-like sparse soundscape. At 1:10 Ekaterina strikes into some upper octave operatic vocalise before returning to sing with the now-full band filled soundscape. At 2:15 the song breaks down to allow acoustic guitar, viola and clarinet to create a rather beautiful little weave over which the operatic vocalise return. Annoying electric guitar "wimpy metal" chords try to accompany but the acoustic instruments are far more effective, pleasing. (8.5/10)

6. "Daskuul" (6:26) opens with breathy organ-like synth before cymbals, bass, and keyboard bass join in. By the time the two-minute mark comes around, the song has built up into a fairly full development--and, at 2:30, there is actually the announcement of a chord progression! The song then devolves back into the simple rolling structure of the second minute before again bursting into a kind of 'chorus' of a repeat of that exciting chord projection from the 2:30 mark. Ekaterina Bakanova's vocalise talents accompany these mini-crescendos. The third 'verse' allows an Arp-like synth to solo for over a minute. Nice song despite its simplicity and lack of much development. (8/10)

7. "Fragile Creatures" (5:43) opens with some distorted synth play before Vangelis-like electric piano notes join in. Electric guitar, clarinet, strings and heavier rhythm section enter with an instistent if slow and spacious support for Ekaterina Bakanova's sassy, jazzy English vocal. The 'chorus' section is the most interesting for the complicated weave of all of the transitioning instruments behinds Ms. Bakanova's crystalline vocal. Multi-tracked voicing in the fourth minute is nice as the rest of the instruments continue wending and weaving in their own ways. Electric piano solo in the fifth minute is diminished by the 'cheap' sound of the chosen instrument. The almost classic/neoclassical finale weave is the best part of the song. (8/10)

8. "Stay" (5:06) opens with muted distorted electric guitar, piano, and drums before Ekaterina Bakanova's full-operatic vocal enters--at first with effected voice but then clear until the 'chorus' in the first part of the second minute. Though the song and musical sound continues to suffer from lack of modern or top-tier sound engineering, the song is clearly an indication of the tremendous potential for this band. The way electronic and acoustic instruments are woven within each other is successful, almost masterful! The slow developing viola-piano 'duet' in the fifth minute is also refreshing and successful. One of my three favorite songs on the album. (9.5/10)

9. "Thunderstorm" (3:35) was my favorite song from the very first time I heard it. Acoustic guitar work reminiscent of Giancarlo Erra and AKT blended within strings, reeds and simple percussives gives it a Latin almost Jobim or Francesco ZAGO feel to it. All of the instruments, their fairly defined and concise rolls worked into a tight weave are brilliant realized. (10/10)

10. "Musicbox" (3:09) opens with a few fast flourishes of piano arpeggi mixed in with multiple clarinets and string section (viola, violin and cello) which are eventually joined by drums and chunky bass. Very cool neoclassical rock song. (9/10)

11. "Childhood" (7:01) opens with synth-generated flutes mixed with string instruments for the first minute. Then piano takes over the lead as the strings fall into support. Nice, Windham Hill/Americana feel to it. Then, suddenly, at 1:42, all drop back to allow empty space for the entrance of the beautiful voice of male child soprano, Ivan Kalugin. A very classical sounding performance ensues--not unlike the voice of the vocalist featured in the 1980s BBC series "The Choir"--despite the joining in of a rather relaxed rock band for the course of the rest of the song. (13.5/15)

12. "Vakuum (3:45) opens with a treated organ-like synth playing church-like chords. It's like the music you hear while waiting for the seating to finish in a church before the service can really get started. This eventually develops into multiple synth lines with treated piano and keyboard bass line worked in. Gradually everything fills and shifts into a more full soundscape. Very cool! Much better end to the album than the more chaotic "unfinished" feel of the opener. My final top three song of the album. (9/10)

86.0 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent contribution of eclectic progressive rock music. This band has so much potential!!! 




SHAMALL Continuation
 

Beautiful, lush keyboard-dominated mostly-instrumental soundscapes with programmed rhythm tracks that frequently slip into the realm of New Age, Dreamcore, or Dark Ambient realms.
 
Line-up / Musicians:
- Norbert Krüler / vocals, guitar, keyboards, organ, piano, bass, composer & arranger
With:
- Anke Ullrich / vocals
- Matthias Mehrtens / lead guitar

1. "Fragments Part I" (4:45) nice modern instrumental intro like a combination of Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream, and New Age guitarist Paul Speer. (8.75/10)

2. "Fragments Part II" (5:08) switch from keys to guitar foundation, heavier rhythm section. Arp strings in the lead. The heavier side of Tangerine Dream (Thief-era). Cool vocoder-like effect on synth solo in the third minute. This music is so close to New Age/Dreamcore/Dark Ambient stuff!--probably due to the sequenced drum & rhythm tracks. (8.75/10)

3. "Fragments Part III" (5:05) more of the same (synth soloing) over a now-disco beat & piano rhythm track. (8.5/10)

4. "It's Been a Long Time" (11:45) hypnotic, pleasurable atmospheric prog on the level with but not quite as sophisticated as fellow German Thomas Thelen. (21/25)

5. "Linolenic Acid" (6:02) again, nice synth-dominated soundscapes with cheesy drum program. Like the rolling chunky bass. No great melodic hooks, though. (8/10)

6. "Random Walker" (3:27) opens sounding like a scaled back continuation of the previous song. Multiple synths solo until 1:20 when drums, bass, and searing electric guitar enter--with guitar taking the lead for the rest of the song. Early Paul Speer again comes to mind. (8.5/10)

7. "Airborn" (6:05) more guitar oriented--Matthias Mehrtens has some chops! Despite several other instruments getting lead time, for four minutes this song is a bit too one dimensional--and then when it does kick into gear, it's only for a minute and then we're back to the underlying four-chord arpeggiated guitar chord progression. (8/10)

8. "It's Time to Grasp the Mantle" (7:50) cool harpsichord-like carpet over which vocalist Anke Ullrich and Norbert create a choir singing the song title. At the end of the third minute the full ensemble with bass and drum lines enter as Anke and Norbert add more distinctive individual performances around the choir and other instruments. I really like this song: the vocal performances are so powerful! More of this, please! Plus, the vocals help distract me from the programmed music (drums). My favorite song on the album. (14/15)

9. "Fragments Part IV" (8:41) decent conclusion to the Fragments suite, though the bombastic New Age drums just get to me. (16.75/20)

10. "Floating Subatomic Particles" (4:11) the opening is very Dreamcore/Dark Ambient like--until the strumming acoustic guitar enters, then it takes on a PINK FLOYD-like flavor. Programmed drums again take us into the realm of New Age artists. Another illustration of how slender is the divide between those musics and prog (if, in fact, it exists at all). Pleasantly engaging. (8.5/10)

11. "Solitary Life" (6:54) opens like we're in The Wall with all kinds of computer/keyboard incidentals flitting in from all directions. Richard Wright-like delayed synth takes the lead and first solo. Actually pretty cool--with some great, though subtle, chord progressions. Another top three song. (13.25/15)

12. "So Much is on the Line" (first Session) (5:37) different from the others with sparse opening palette with echoed saxophone soloing over the top. Programmed drums begin to show at the end of the first minute with rhythm track forming in the second. Gilmour-like guitar solo over thick Thomas Thelen-like soundscape (only simpler). Great pace in the final third. (8.75/10)

13. "The Streets are Filled with People" (2:51) simple piano-based foundation over which Anke Ullrich and Norbert take turns singing. Powerful! My final top three song. (9/10)

Total Time 78:21

85.91 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a solid prog album despite its computerized shortcomings. Norbert has an excellent sense of prog drama. 




RESINA Resina

One of the best psychedelic rock albums I've heard all year, these guys have all the heart and soul, all the effects, and all the engineering tricks, but they could use a lot more practice and experience. 

Line-up/Musicians
Nicolas Rodríguez - Drums
Rodrigo Águila [Frodo] - Guitar
Jorge Camus - Synthesizer, vocals, harmonica
Pablo Ihnen - Bass

1. "Atalaya" (2:09) awesome, eery, atmospheric opener using synths, crowd samples and strummed Russian balalaika. (5/5)

2. "Locus I" (6:55) a hard-driving bluesy psych rock song containing some samples about cybernetics. Awesome synth play and lead guitar soloing. The tightest bass playing on the album. (13.5/15)

3. "Mantrip" (8:46) opens with slow bass arpeggio and multiple echoing guitars and cymbals floating around in the soundscape. Treated harmonica enters in the second minute. In the third everybody clicks into a groove that climbs one chord at a time into the heavens. Great droning synth in the bottom end and great guitar play at the top. At 4:10 we get ... vocals! Freaky, almost ritualistic vocals from a horse-voiced man (keyboardist Jorge Camus.) Guitars, synths, and harmonica are all soloing wildly after that. Awesome! My only complaint would be the too-repetitive bass line over the course of the last five minutes. Still, a
 top three song for me. (19/20)

4. "Talkin' Wee' Frog" (6:05) this is one weird-ass song--a great jam in the LED ZEPPELIN/ERIC CLAPTON tradition that employs chirping frogs as one of its instruments. Again, the bass line gets a little worn out, and the male voice sample played through the middle of the song is sometimes difficult to understand (as well as laughable for its inclusion), but, in terms of a jam song, this is another great one! (8.5/10)

5. "La Cueva" (7:09) a solid slow jam with an unusual vocal and some great synth and guitar interplay. Again, the bass line tends to get a little old after a while. (I know it holds the song's flow and momentum but some shift or variation would be nice.) One of my least favorite songs on the album. (12/15)

6. "Los Monumentos" (9:32) opens with some wind-synth sounds, a couple of organ chords, odd percussion sounds (reversed) establishing a beat before strummed guitars and pulsing bass join in. Things amp up and form a nice driving rock groove until Jorge's heavily treated vocals start at the 4:12 mark. The effect on the voice is a bit incongruous and cheap sounding, but the guitar play keeps me going. At 6:42 things breakdown to allow more space for guitar interplay. Jorge returns to singing during this scaled down section--which then takes to the end. (18/20)

7. "Locus II" (9:25) opens with some synth washes and tribalistic drum play on the toms. Another fairly cheezy bass line is established before the lead guitar starts to scream. (I do like this guitarist ["Frodo"]'s choice in sounds and styles.) In the fourth minute the bass player finally starts to get brave and go outside the proscribed groove. Then Jorge Camus begins to sing--more over synth washes and strummed guitar, bass and tribal-sounding drums. I like this vocal. It's soothing yet still sounding pagan priest-like. Nice lead guitar riff is established and repeated and played with next. Really like this lead and guitar sound. Another top three for me. (19/20)

8. "Esporas" (9:47) opens as a kind of bluesy psychedelic Spanish song, taking a little while to establish its groove and flow. As a matter of fact, one might say that the opening four minutes are a bit embarrassing for their awkward simplicity (except for the guitar play). This is the weakest song on the album. If it weren't for the guitar and flute play, this would be a throw away. (12/20)

9. "Doppelganger" (8:31) sounds a bit like a VESPERO song with simpler drum play. The keys are awesome, guitar adequate, and vocals surprisingly good. Still, this is one of my three least favorite songs on the album. (12.75/15)

Total Time 68:19

The bass player here needs to either up his game or be replaced, the drummer needs to practice more and work harder, the vocalist needs to get more experience, but certainly keep the guitarist and synth/keyboard players! A band with some serious potential!

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





N.y.X. The News

This has been a much anticipated (and delayed) album release due to the number of all-stars guesting on it--including Trey GUNN (song 7), Adrian BELEW (song 3) and Cuban jazz pianist, Ivan Bridon Napoles (song 6). Upon listening to it I am reminded of the work of Bill Nelson and his Be-Bop Deluxe--where Bill &Co. might have travelled had they continued in their 'futuristic' sound.

1. "Restless Slumber (At The Break Of Dawn)" (4:43) Heavy use of industrial/techno-beats and clever engineering tricks with elements of both jazz (particularly in the piano play) and ambient/electronic soundscapes. (8/10)

2. "Groundhog Day (Wakening, Dressing, Starting Up…)" (7:09) seering guitar shredding and 'crazed' TIM SMITH/BILL NELSON-like lead vocals make this a real standout. Plus, the bass line and techno drums keep us hoppin' along at a nice clip. Walt Nyx, Dannilo Pannico and Klod: you do impress! (13.5/15) 

3. "A Sarcastic Portrait (Editorial, Home and Foreign…)" (6:14) opens with some techno-synth drums, keys and, again, the slightly crazed David Bowie/Tim Smith/DEVO-treated voice. Adrian Belew's contribution is not really felt until the solo at the end of the second minute, but he's there. The atmospheric pitch-bent note play at the end of the third minute are hypnotic (which, I think, is the intended effect--so that they could shock us with the ) Beautiful acoustic guitar picked section opens up and plays through the fifth minute. The final minute is a more melodic, slightly calmer return to the opening section. Awesome song! Could've been done in the 80s! (9/10)


4. "Discord (Domestic Policies)" (7:20) opens with guitars, synths, and vocals sounding much like the 1980's DANIEL ASH-led, post-BAUHAUS band, LOVE AND ROCKETS. The second minute opens with a fuller, almost THE CHURCH or XTC sound. Nice! The vocal hits some moments that remind me of Bob Dylan, Donovan, and even the late Michael HUTCHENCE (of INXS). Surprisingly sedate and pretty song (in light of the previous three racous, punkie three). 
(13.5/15)

5. "The Paper (Titles & Subtitles)" (5:25) opens as a kind of dystopian soundtrack theme, very emotionless, ruminating and robotic. The background sound of British news anchor delivering the daily news in the second minute is later mixed with a second voice track of news delivery. Interesting! (8/10)
  
6. "Oscillations Du Chaos – Part III" (3:23) continue the theme and melodic sense of the previous song with different layers and sounds added (percussion, piano, old non-electric typewriter). (9/10)


7. "The Daily Dark Delirium" (12:52) opens with a PORCUPINE TREE Fear of a Dark Planet sound and feel. When vocalist Walt NYX and the "Popcorn"-like keyboard arpeggi enter it brings it more into the PETER SCHILLING domain. At 2:10 an insistent guitar strum enters (Trey Gunn?) and proceeds to take over. Man can the sound of that Warr Guitar take you places!

     Great sound engineering on this one! If there is a time when the quirky vocals of Mr. Nyx fail (or, perhaps they're just getting old--the novelty worn off) it is in the extended (and prolonged) vocal section in the fifth, sixth, and seventh minutes of this song. A little sampling of some CLASH, TALKING HEADS, FALCO, and LES NEGRESSE VERTES music and vocal stylings on display here.
      The spacey, DEPECHE MODE sound that takes over in the tenth minute reminds one of recent works of German solo artist, THOMAS THIELEN (known as "T"). I like this song a lot but it didn't really need to be a 13-minute 'epic.' (24/30)

I have to admit that this is a surprisingly refreshing listening experience--like going into a prog-minded development of the Euro-techno pop sounds and styles of the 1980s. As Adrian Belew would say, "I like it!"

85.71 on the Fish scales = 4.5 stars; B; highly recommended to any adventurous prog music listener.




ALI FERGUSON The Sequence of Moments

Very interesting cinematic prog from Scotsman Ali Ferguson (who previously worked with RAY WILSON in STILTSKIN). The album contains great hypnotic rhythms and lush sonic weaves, great lead guitar passages, nice vocals and collages of media samples that lure one inside and make one think and feel.

1. "Why Are We Whispering?" (10:23) opens with fully half of the song filled with voice samples of television clips on the theme of "there is no God"--which is the exact statement whispered at the 5:40 mark just before all hell breaks loose from the drums, deep, rolling bass, raucous David GILMOUR-like guitar playing off of the wonderful Arabic "prayersong" sung by some uncredited (?!) female vocalist. Great song. Very contemporary. (18/20) 

2. "Out Of The Dark" (7:42) synth pops and picked acoustic guitar open this song, setting the stage for the breathy voice of our composer to enter. Congas and other hand percussives soon join in to provide the rhythm track. Eventually, piano, cello, strings and female background vocals also join into the mix, enriching the sound palette but not really grabbing the listener yet. The voice samples beginning at 3:45 are what really attract my attention. The musical support becomes bare, and then drums kick in to pre-empt the arrival of bass and wonderful electric guitar lead. This is the kick the song needed--and what a guitar solo it is! Superlatives! Air guitarists across the planet will love this one! The slow build was a little drawn out, but the second half really paid off on this one. (15/15)

3. "A Sequence Of Moments" (8:46) with the opening phone sample of a wife putting her toddler daughter on the phone to say ,"Hi Daddy, I just wanted to know what time you're coming home," slays me! Then the peaceful washes of synths and electronic percussives supporting the breathy and emotional lead vocal: it's great! By the time the full band palette arrives I find myself feeling quite a bit that I am back in ALAN PARSONS PROJECT's I Robot album. The ensuing guitar solo reminded of (18/20)
 
4. "The Realisation" (5:55) opens with more spacey synth background sounds--over which the spoken voice of KERSTIE BARR philosophizes. Then a DAVID GILMOUR-esque blues guitar enters the spaciousness to eek out some beautifully textured notes. At the three minute mark Kerstie returns to continue her story. Like STEVEN WILSON's "A Perfect Life" I find myself fascinated and fully engaged. I don't know where the sci-fi passage being read is from, but it's got me locked in. (9/10)

5. "Is This Enlightenment?" (6:25) opens with a KLAUS SCHULZE-like programmed synthesizer sequence over which a tape of a television coverage of the 2015 Connecticut school shootings plays. Ali's distorted, whispery voice follows and mixes with other political tapes before a kind of buzzing-wind instrument segues us into a section that is founded in a trip-hoppy programmed rhythm track. More vocal news tapes follow before a nice Spanish guitar solo takes the lead. Arabic synth chord progressions fill out the background with a clay drum playing a calming rhythm beneath and then in the middle of the fifth minute a crescendo of multiple instruments crescendoes before things calm down and the religion-oriented samples return. Cool song! (9/10)

6. "Into Falling Stars" (6:23) employs the weakest vocal on the album--a breathy, too-heavily treated DAVID GIMOUR-like performance. The accompanying music is okay, a bit too slow, too spacious--almost bare. A nice two-part guitar solo in the second half isn't enough to save or boost this one. (7/10)

7. "All In The Winds" (9:05) opens with a very slow, spacey PINK FLOYD-like feel--all created by programmed keyboards. A "Wish You Were Here" solo electric guitar sound enters at the end of the third minute and then drums, bass and whispery female background vocals (KIM SHEPHERD) join in to accompany the whispery male lead vocal. At 5:07 a fast-paced "radio" drum loop enters and is eventually joined/matched by the "live" (fwd) rhythm tracks. Then the "Perfect Life"-like female spoken voice from song 5 ("Realisation"; KERSTIE BARR)) takes center stage. At the end of the seventh minute a DAVID GILMOUR "On the Run" -like slide guitar solo takes over the lead over the near-disco rhythm tracks. This quiets down into a fade at the end while bird song is heard. (16/20)

8. "The Lost Satellites" (8:44) opens with a little Berlin School of Electronic Music style programmed synth rhythm track while a tape of some dialogue with astronauts in space plays. One nice thing about the voice samples on this album which, quite honestly, puts Ali in a class by himself, is the wonderful clarity of all of the samples used: I can actually understand the radio, television, and spoken voice passages throughout. 
     When the song really kicks in it again feels like something off of STEVEN WILSON's Hand. Cannot. Erase.--especially because of the whispery female (Kim SHEPHERD) vocals mirroring Ali's leads. SW's album must have been quite an inspiration to Ali! 
     Nice laid back, almost MArk KNOPFLERish guitar solo fills most of a minute in the sixth and seventh minutes before accompanying in the background the play out of the vocalists to the end. (16/20)

9. "Above This Fractured Earth" (8:37) begins with yet another spacey musical accompaniment to a rather long sample of a child at play, in monologue. When Ali's breathy lead vocal enters we are well into the third minute; when his bluesy electric guitar takes up the lead we are well into the fifth minute. Okay song that is highpointed, for me, by the children's voices at the beginning. (16/20)   

Fresh Neo Prog with a relevant message; music to easily get sucked into, to get lost within, to help pass time in a very enjoyable way. There are no "bad" songs on the album, nor are there any weak ones. They are all strong, interesting and eminently engaging. I appreciate the space themes and the use of samples illustrating some of the things that are most beautiful and most ugly about the patterns and activities of our human race; Ali's points are poignant and well-taken.

85.52 on the Fish scales = 4.5 stars; B; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection; a very nice album--especially the first half. 





THE WINSTONS The Winstons

The result of the effort of a trio of Milanese pop stars when they turn their efforts to the pop- and jazz-side of the 1960s and 1970s psychedelic, Canterbury Scene—most specifically the styles explored by Robert Wyatt. 

1. “Nicotine Freak” (4:32) starts out as a pure Robert Wyatt imitation—psycho-babble and all—and an amazingly accurate reproduction, at that. Organ, multiple voice tracks and a little intermittent background sax and electric guitar for the first two minutes. Then all hell breaks loose with the full band breaking into an awesome organ and bass pulse while the multiplicity of male vocal tracks play their weave over the top. Incredibly powerful second half! One of my top three songs for the album. (10/10) 

2. “Diprotodon” (4:09) is probably the most solid Canterbury sounding song on the album (except for the chunky bass). The Farfisa organ play is so fun, so nostalgic! Very much in the same spirit as the two recent HOMUNCULUS RES albums, if a little more reliant on the horns (saxophones) and bass. Another top three song. (9/10) 

3. “Play with the Rebels” (3:42) opens with flutes over organ and cymbal play. When the English vocal enters it takes on a kind of KOOP meets or Brit Pop like Eric Burden/The Animals, Rod Argent or Paul Weller or even Harry Nilsson late 1960s sophisticated intelligent pop feel to it. Aside from the Procul Harum-like organ, it is pure pop late 60s pop. Very, very good late 60s psychedelic pop. (9/10)

4. “…on a Dark Cloud” (7:53) opens like some kind of psycho journey until at 1:00 a pulsing STEREOLAB-like synth bass and Farfisa organ take the fore. Drums and horns begin their contributions at the 2:00 mark. At 2:37 another Robert WYATT-like vocal display takes center stage—only this time sounding more like John WETTON. The dominance of the heavy, chunky bass again takes us slightly away from Canterbury and more into King Crimson or even Zeuhl territory. (9/10)

5. “She’s My Face” (4:22) returns us to the late 60s organ-dominated psychedelic pop.  Sounds a little more emo than it needs. The carnival mood set at the 1:54 mark is cool but weird, but we are quickly turned back into a kind of WHO-frenzy with some BYRDS-like 12-string electric soloing. The song definitely grows on you. Could be a PAUL WELLER-like radio hit. (8/10)

6.  “A Reason for Goodbye” (6:01) opens with a kind of minimalist structure of bass arpeggio and sparse cymbal play while the male lead vocalist sings with a kind of combined Roger Daltry-Robert Wyatt-Joe Strummer form. The jazzy bridge in the middle of the fourth minute is a nice twist before the song simplifies for a return to the vocalist’s singing to Jennifer. The final 90 seconds has the band amping back up for a MOTORPSYCHO-like instrumental jam. (8/10)

7. “Dancing in the Park with a Gun” (5:17) is a definite Canterbury style song with a particularly direct social-political message. It is strongly imbued with the spirit of Robert Wyatt again. One of my top three songs of this album. Any song that uses the word “symmetry” is automatically held high in my esteem. Very psychedelic song. (9/10)

8. “Viaggio nel suono a tre dimensioni” (3:33) is an instrumental that opens and closes with a male voice speaking in Italian as if for radio/television or an advertisement. In between a kind of SIR DOUGLAS QUINTET frenetically paced round establishes itself. The bass play is fun, the swirling organ play, too. (8/10)

9. “Tarmac” (3:30) is a slowed down, bare bones piano-based dirge in which the Robert WYATT-like vocal performance exactly matches the melody play of the piano. So like Sir Robert’s solo work. Probably the weakest song on the album. Musically. (7/10)

10.“番号番号 (Number Number)” (6:11) is a very psychedelic take on the Canterbury style of music—with a Beatles/Doors influence as well. Apparently the lyrics for this song and 2. “Diprotodon” were written by Japanese artist Gun Kawamura (who did the album art) and sung in Japanese by Gabrielli and Dell-Era. The first half of the song drags on a bit, but the shift in tempo and style that begins with the bridge at 2:50 is awesome. Here is where the very distinct influence of The Beatles and The Doors can be felt. Good song. (8/10)

An album of refreshing mastery and creativity despite its draw from older music and artists. One of the few who has been able to synthesize older styles and sounds into a totally new and refreshing form. Very nice use of organ, jazzy drums and saxophone throughout. Kudos, Lino, Roberto and Enrico!

85.0 on the Fish scales = a 4.5 star album; B; a near-masterpiece of jazz-pop Canterbury-styled progressive rock music.




MATTHEW PARMENTER All Our Yesterdays

Another stellar collection of songs from DISCIPLINE leader/founder Matthew Parmenter--with probably the best recording/mix/engineering I've ever heard from a Parmenter/Discipline album. The power and emotion of Matthew's vocal performances are unsurpassed in modern music.

Even the Country/Western instrumentation of the second half of 1. "Scheherazade" (3:40) can't spoil the amazing vocal herein. (9/10)

2. "Danse du Ventre" (2:48) plays out an absolutely gorgeous chord progression from start to finish with Frippertronics, bass, tuned and untuned percussion accompanying the piano. (9/10)

3. "Digital" (3:39) opens with piano and sustained organ chords while Matthew sings. It feels like a classic PROCUL HARUM song or something of that late-60s ilk, even in the section section with the plucked strings and the third sect with acoustic and electric guitars (which remind me very much of THE STRAWBS). Beautiful, powerful vocals. A top three song for me. (9/10)

4. "I Am a Shadow" (3:51) opens with slow piano arpeggi and bass/bass drum hits as a plaintive MP sings. Programmed drums and guitar arpeggi join in in the first chorus. Odd deep bubbling synth sound in the last 90 seconds is embellished by synth strings and airy background vocals. Very nice if a little simple. (9/10)

5. "All for Nothing" (5:08) opens with some ominous, deep piano notes that are carried forward into the vocal section. Matthew enters with his classic deep voice, enticing us into his web of emotion. Here the old Peter Hammill comparisons cannot help but take place--though I am of the opinion that Matthew is a far more powerful and skillful vocalist than Mr. Hammill. This is the most powerful song, vocal, and my favorite from this album. (10/10)

6. "All Our Yesterdays" (4:12) is another stellar example of the Parmenter gift. Moody, and broody, we are treated to an almost Edgar Allan Poe-like journey on this one--delivered and carried almost exclusively by Matthew's voice and lyric--though the guitar solo beginning at 2:52 is truly wonderful. My other top three song. (9/10)

7. "Stuff in the Bag" (5:34) opens with a bouncy piano chord play that feels quite incongruous with the mood established by the previous songs--especially the last two. This is a song that feels like it came from the 1970s--an ELTON JOHN "Brown Dirt Cowboy"-era imitation. This is where the album begins to deteriorate in my esteem--though the production, sound and performance quality remains high, it is the song stylings that are a let down. And at 5:34 it seems to go on forever! (6/10)

8. "Inside" (5:41) beautiful piano chords and intermittent acoustic guitar chords accompany the opening vocal. Soft drum play, bass and organ join in for the chorus--and stay till the end. It's a pretty though simple song, reliant upon the lyric to keep us engaged (or not). The bass play is quite engaging--I like the levels it has in the mix--rather forward--whereas the congas that join in in the third minute are purely obnoxious they're so far forward in the mix--I actually find them detracting from my enjoyment of Matthew's truly wonderful vocal--at least, that is, until the 4:31 when Matthew shocks even me with one of the most heart-wrenching Todd-Rundgren-like vocal displays. Wow! (9/10)

9. "Consumption" (1:59) is a simple acoustic guitar accompanied song in a C/W-folk vein of delivery. Better upon repeated listens. (8/10)

10. "Hey for the Dance" (5:01) opens in classic MP/Peter Hammill fashion--even adding a second track of vocals to the lead in the second verse. Piano, cymbals, and accordion accompany this vocal (auto-duet) through the first two minutes until a full band sound crashes in giving it a definite Green Linnet/Scottish folk song feel. At 3:10 it would seem the song was ending but then a jazzy piano riff shifts the song into BILLY JOEL Turnstiles-era music (with a bluesy guitar solo) to the end). Weird, odd, incongruous. (7/10)

85.0 on the Fish scales = 4.5 stars; B; an excellent addition to any prog lovers music collection.




GRIOT Gerald

Storytelling about the human condition in the Neo-Prog way with a jazzy-pop-fusion delivery style. Reminds me of some of the current young prog bands from Italy--like UNREAL CITY and INGRANAGGI DELLA VALLE or several of JOHANNES LULEY's projects as well as the 2014 debut album from I AND THOU, Speak. Very melodic and simple; showing tremendous potential.

Line-up:
João Pascoal – Bass Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Keyboards, Programming

Sérgio Ferreira – Drums, Percussion
many, many guests

1. "The Drive (Chapter I)" (5:15) a nearly-flawless bit of ear-candy to open and entice the listener into this interesting and pretty album. The vocal does not even enter until the final minute. A beautiful voice has Nuno Aleluia--not unlike that of JOHANNES LULEY. (10/10)  

2. "Through the Haze (Chapter II)" (4:27) is a spacious, almost jazz lounge sounding instrumental song with nice saxophone singing the lead over some clean, spacious soft rock (using some borrowed riffs). (8.5/10)   

3. "Into the Fold (Chapter III)" (6:37) sounds a lot like a 1970s ELOY song. The vocals are emotional if somewhat strained. More saxophone (this time soprano) over a STEELY DAN-like section that is followed by an odd little organ, synth, guitar weave. Smooth and (8.5/10)   


4. "The Curtain Falls (Chapter IV)" (5:37) a simple and fairly straightforward song but probably my favorite song on the album. Great TOTO-like vocal and nice keyboard layering in the vocal sections. I don't much care for the staccato C section, though. (8.5/10)  

5. Fadeaway (Chapter V)" (10:34) opens with piano and bird-like violin flitting around in the background (in a "Lark's Ascending" kind of way). String section soon joins in and completes the 75-second intro. Bass chords, jazzy drum support and piano soon establish the foundation for the next section. It's gorgeous! Strings and electric guitar join in and then the song shifts into more soft rock format. Funky bass with syncopated drums and keys in the fourth minute, shifting to flute-led full-orchestra section as a segues into the delicate vocal section. Beautiful in a BRUCE SOORD/PINEAPPLE THIEF/I AM THOU/JOHANNES LULEY way. The seventh minute progresses into a support section for synth and then guitar soli. Simple, spacious, but, unfortunately, neither of the soli are anything very exciting or exceptional. The vocal and music supporting the vocal sections are really the highlights of this song--though as a ten-minute long tapestry, it is very well constructed--it flows very nicely. (9/10)

My one overlying complaint of this is that the drumming often sounds like a show of military rudiments and the mix of all of João's instruments could be blended a little better. Great, clean sound and very nice, competent compositions and performances; perhaps a bit too clean or antiseptic. The music here is very pleasant, melodic, pretty, but I have found, too easily it loses my attention and fades into become background music.


89.0 on the Fishscales = 4.5 stars; B+; marked down for its brevity (32 minutes making it more of an EP).



EARTH, INVISIBLE Earth, Invisible

All this from drums and piano/keyboards! Wonderful Post Rock from New England, a duo, piano/keyboard whiz Annis Saniee, formerly of Fugue, and drummer Will Ponturo, formerly of Poverty Hollow, have collaborated on this EP of five gorgeous jazzy Post Rock songs not far from my revered Jesy Chiang's Taiwanese band of neo-classical Post Rock collaborators known as CICADA.

1. "Lament" (5:13) I find it hard to fathom that this rich music is generated by just two people! Great jazzy Post Rock reminding me a little of Chicago's ALGERNON. One of my favorite songs of the year. (10/10)

2. "Crater" (4:59) (8.5/10)

3. "Nocturne" (4:31) opens a little simply but hen evolves into a MONO-like song--only with piano, electronic keys, bass and drums. (8.5/10)

4. "Bloom" (5:28) opens like a George Winston song but drums and multiple layers of keyboard generated sounds and engineering effects (awesome work by Miranda Serra G.!) (9.5/10)

5. "Eulogy" (5:35) for some reason this one opens reminding me of a MIDAS FALL song. The piano foundation just becomes a little too monotonous and aggravating over the length of the song. THe drums really should be doing more, in my opinion, and the bass seems kind of wasted in the mix. (7.5/10)

I'm relegating this one to the "Others" pile despite it's 88.0 rating on the Fishscales because it is, after all, just a 25-minute long EP. I certainly hope to hear more from this duo in the future!





SBB Za Linią Horyzontu

Musiciancs / Line-up: 
Józef Skrzek — vocals, keyboards
Apostolis Anthimos — guitar
Jerzy Piotrowski — drums

1. "Odwieczni wojownicy" (3:54) melodic and smooth, this was a good choice for the album opener. The vocals sound a bit weak (despite their obvious emotional significance to their singer, Jósef) but the guitars, keys and drums are awesome. Love Jósef's emotional input in the second half. (8.5/10)

2. "Najwyższy czas" (5:26)
3. "360 do tyłu" (7:04)
4. "Goris" (5:24)

5. "Za linią horyzontu" (4:06) sounding like countryman Jerzy Antzcak, this song has a heavy, throbbing, almost bluesy feel to it setting up some great lead guitar and vocal work. (9/10)

6. "Pacific" (5:27)
7. "Zielony, niebieski, żółty" (3:23)


8. "Suita nr 9" (15:31) opens with the establishment of a great pace and groove over which guitars and keys play out a wonderful weave. Mastery of the rhythm guitar seems such a lost art, and here Apostolis shows us exactly how it's done--and then he goes on to show us how it's done on lead, as well! It's hard to believe that Jerzy was able to keep up that extraordinary pace over the first six minutes! The middle of the song slows things down so that Jósef can sing another impassioned vocal. Man this guy puts everything into his singing! And I love the monastery-like support vocals he's put in there. Towards the end of the eighth minute the pace picks up again for some synth soloing. Man, Jerzy is packing it in--reminding us of how great he was back in the day! Another slowed down, delicate section occurs in the eleventh minute, followed by another race to hell, but the song--and album--ends on a beautiful, peaceful note. What a ride!(9.5/10)

Total time 50:15





KARFAGEN Spektra

Prolific Anton Kalugin is at it again! The Arjen Lucassen of Ukraine, this is high quality Neo Prog--full of melody, story, bombast and length--just like his Dutch counterpart. And also like Arjen, Anton is a master of collaboration with  a wide and diverse group of contributing guests. 

Line-up
Antony Kalugin: keys, percussion, arrangement, vocals
    with
Max Velychko: electric, acoustic & 12str. guitars
Sergiy Balalayev: drums (tr. 1,4,5)
Ivan Rubanchuk: drums (tr. 8-11,14)
Kostya Shepelenko: drums (tr. 2,16)
Oleg Prokhorov: bass (tr. 1,2,4,5,16)
Kostya Ionenko: bass (tr. 8-11,14)
Olha Rostovska: keys, vocalis (tr.2,11), Latin vocals(tr.4)
Sergii Kovalov: accordion (tr. 4,8-11,13) & Latin vocals(tr. 4)
Maria Baranovska: violin (tr. 1,2,4,8-10,14)
Alexandr Pastuchov: basson (tr. 8,9,11)
Roman Gorielov: Latin vocals tenor (tr. 4)
Oleg Pashkovskiy: grand piano (tr. 14)
Lesya Kofanova: flute (tr. 14)
Michail Sidorenko: alto sax (tr. 14)
Olga Vodolazhska: rainstick, shakers, triangle (tr. 16)

PHASE 1
1. Spektra (7:11)
2. Troy (3:33)
3. Transaleatorica II (2:34)
4. Terra Incognita (3:14)
5. Celebration (3:50)
6. Homonymous (Part 1) (2:30)
7. Angel Tears (1:27)
PHASE 2
OLYMPIA (Quadrology) (21:30)
8. Zeus (6:13)
9. Dionis (4:41)
10. Poseidon (5:15)
11. Aurora (5:21)
12. Homonymous (Part 2) (2:35)
PHASE 3
13. Dios Pyros (2:56)
14. Natural Charm (5:36)
15. Eye Witness (1:38)
16. Juggler And The Cloud (Studio Live) (4:31)

Total Time: 63:07





NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA Dronne

More great Prog Folk from these UK masters. Instrumentals and vocal songs abound. There is a lot of 'familiar' sounding songs (most of the album's sounds do not stray very far from their previous album, I A Moon).

Lineup:

Craig Fortnam – Composer, Arranger, Conductor, Nylon-string Acoustic Guitar, Piano, Chamber Organ, Laptop Computer & Voice
Sharron Fortnam – Solo Voice
James Larcombe – Composer, Chamber Organ, Piano & Monosynth
Hugh Wilkinson – Percussion
Harry Escott – Cello
Brian Wright – Violin
Luke Crookes – Bassoon
Nicola Baigent – Clarinet
01. "Arcade" (3:14)

02. "Vishnu Schist" (5:49) sounds terribly close to Morpheus Miracle Worker from I A Moon, like a reworking of the very same material, formats, instrumental support and vocal melodies. Too bad. (8/10)

03. "The British Road" (7:25) an odd and rather unexciting reworking of an old Robert Wyatt song. (7.5/10)

04. "Guitar Miniature No.4" (1:37)

05. "Queen Of All The Day And Night" (3:18) (/10)

06. "Dronne" (8:00) is a group instrumental that opens up with layers of rondo-like synths like Steve Miller's intro to "Fly Like an Eagle." Around the three minute mark we get a shift into a more broad-spectrum folk jam with strings and other acoustic instruments adding to the layers of the rondo which plays out till the song's end. Unfortunately, it never really does much else. (8.5/10)

7. "Alsace Lorraine" (5:13) a pretty, sad, well-arranged song with nice dual harmonized vocals with the male (Craig) in the lead. I like the way it flirts with mediæval sounds and instrumentation. (8.5/10)

08. "Dinosaurus Rex part 1" (4:43)

09. "Dinosaurus Rex part 2" (2:37)
Total time – 42:00


GEORGIUS String Theory

The new album from Poland's ALBION's founder and guitarist/singer/songwriter, Jerzy Antczak. His previous solo effort totally caught me by surprise and ended up one of my favorite albums of 2014. It turns out that the title of that previous effort, Ego, Georgius was actually a shout out as to the name/identity of Jerzy's new solo band--here correctly noted as "Georgius."

Line-up
Jerzy Antczak aka Georgius (Albion) – vocal, guitars, keyboards
Rafał Paszcz (ex-Albion) – drums
Krzysztof Wyrwa (Millenium) – bass quitar
Aisha - vocalises

1. "Howling Winds of Jezebel" (12:10) opens with a Blade Runner-like prickly, spacey group of synth sounds layered to provide a two minute foundational intro. Lead guitar opens a solo at the two minute mark as Berlin School electronic sequenced "drums" begin to quickly pan around the background soundscape. Quite a nice, emotive guitar solo--one that lasts over two minutes. After that it's all synthesizers and samples until 4:46 when a vocoder-like female voice (Aisha) starts to ooo, eee, and aaah. At 5:45 a heavy bass-filled rhythm section enters. Soon Jerzy's treated and mirrored voice enters with a Gilmour-like emotional insistency. The instrumental section that follows has some awesome keyboard work but the bass, chunky, full and forward, is the center of my attention. Nice work, Krzystof Wyrwa (from Millenium). Awesome! 
     At 8:45 the vocal(s) return for another go. The song then fades to end over the last minute with the wind sounds of an empty planet. Awesome song! My favorite on the album! (9/10)

2. "Little Ant" (11:36) opens with one synth chord--sustained over the next two minutes while Japanese flute and other ethereal sounds and percussives slowly begin entering and creating a fuller soundscape. Still, it is a sparsely populated soundscape until 3:07 when the first front and center main line instrument (electronic piano) enters and starts to disclose its melody. so much happening electronically in the soundscape--but so subtly. At 4:20 guitar, bass and some drums enter the fore. Jerzy begins singing in a up-close and personal funneled almost-Leonard Cohen voice. Though his English is clear and well-enunciated, an accent is strong. Keyboard solo using a solo soprano female voice, then Jerzy comes back, singing over the robot female. The simple rhythm section is quite dull and repetitive. Synth solo over electrified acoustic guitar picking is nice. Despite a very cool opening, it feels like the song never really takes off. Even the guitar soloing in the final minutes is a bit too restrained--takes too long to build and explode. I can't help it; I feel disappointed. (8/10) 

3. "Precipice" (7:20) opens with acoustic guitar strumming--which is then, eventually, joined by vocals for the first ninety seconds that's about it. Then organ, synth, and military-style snare drum play join Jerzy. At 2:55 synth, organ, bass, full drums and electric guitars shift the song into a proggy instrumental section. First Arp-like synth then guitar take turns in the fore before Jerzy's more impassioned vocal returns. Nice section! Guitar solo in the sixth minute is good but then gets better. Return to vocal 'chorus' before all instruments drop out sauf distant-sounding acoustic guitar. (8/10)

4. "Pill" (7:41) this one sounds quite a bit like it came form the previous album, Ego, Georgius. It tries hard to be special, to be powerful, but somehow it fails; it feels false--except for the excellent two-minute long guitar solo running through the fourth, fifth and sixth minutes. (9/10)

5. "(Apathy) In the Garden of Despair" (8:44) opens with some of that wonderful 'world music' sound and feel to it for the first two minutes. As Jerzy starts to sing the vocal part, it feels great, but then, surprise, surprise! We find him mirrored and then dueting with a KATE BUSH-sound-alike, Aisha. But, alas! it ends too soon. By the end of the third minute Jerzy wanders off into a prolonged Dire Straits-like guitar solo. The vocal returns in the fifth minute but is totally dominated by Jerzy. Then a pleasant electric piano solo ensues before the song bursts into a section of vocal and instrumental passion which pretty much plays out to the end.
     My second favorite song on the album. I only wish the duet part would go on longer. (9/10)

6. "The Saddest Piece in the World" (8:25) isn't really that sad--though it's instrumental melodies and vocals do convey some powerful emotional impact. The main melody--first established by the lead guitar--is very catchy and repeated by both guitar, keys, and vocal throughout the song. (8/10)

Despite a promising start with the excellent opening epic, I am quite a little disappointed with Jerzy's follow up to his surprise masterpiece from 2014.

85.0 on the Fishscales = a very good four star album--an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection.



AN ENDLESS SPORADIC Magic Machine

The polished, computer-supported cinematic sound of Guitar Hero contributor and Berklee School of Music grad Zach Kamins here finds contributions from more than a dozen well-known professionals. The problem is that I have a little trouble connecting to all of this super-fast-changing music. It sounds like modern compressed, sound byte- oriented music, intended for masses who have attention spans of no more than 20 seconds, not the prog rock that I am used to or comfortable with--much in the same way Jem Godfrey's FROST* project has evolved into compacting 7- and 8-minute songs into four minute blurts. Stylistically, Zach reminds me of ANTHONY PHILLIPS's keyboard work only speeded up to 45 or even 78 rpm. I find no really weak songs, per se, but a lot of disjointed or cheezy/computerized shifts and structures--that is, half the time I feel exactly as if I'm listening to a video game soundtrack--albeit a high quality, highly skilled, complex soundtrack--and the other some nice cinema soundtrack music composed and performed by highly skilled musicians. 

1. "The Departure" (5:54) powerful, dynamic, hook-filled opener (is a little fast and sudden in its shifts). (9/10)

2. "Magic Machine" (5:04) opening like an overture to a Broadway musical, employing some very nice transitions and instrumental performances--up to the 1:30 mark when two ridiculously cheesy sounding keyboards take over--taking us into the Outer Limits. The guitar work starting at 2:50 tries to right the wrongs accrued and the song does play out fairly well. (9/10)

3. "Galactic Tactic" (3:06) playing out like a monster film soundtrack (9/10)

4. "Finding The Falls" (5:35) a delightfully cinematic piece in the vein of ESTRADASPHERE, LEBOWSKI and ATOMIC APE (9/10)

5. "The Assembly" (5:14) another pleasant cinematic song turned on its heels in the fourth minute by "popcorn" like metal turns of events--such a mishmash of moods and styles (7/10)

6. "Agile Descent" (4:15) starts out gently, then gets funky, even jazzy, before going bonkers at 3:35. (7/10)

7. "Sky Run" (8:54) an example of how Zach can create some really good songs if he were to stretch things out over a longer period of time--this despite his typical impatience or intolerance for long, drawn out passages. (9/10)

8. "Through The Fog" (4:19) the first half of this song remains quiet, subtle, and slow--signs of great restraint--but then it all breaks loose into the typical Mario mayhem (8/10)

9. "Sea Voyage" (2:54) whimsy and good mood (8/10)

10. "Impulse II" (4:27) This is the best song on the album but it still sounds like a video soundtrack to me. (10/10)

I'm a little unsettled that this could be the direction of progressive rock music for the future. I am a creature that loves space, pregnant pauses, even silence, stillness, and slow development. I find the quick stop-and-change formats here to be quite unsettling, sometimes unnerving, though, again, I truly appreciate the talent and skill required to both compose and perform these challenging pieces.

85.0 on the Fishscales = a very good four star album.




SUMMIT The Winds That Forestall Thy Return

Very polished Post Metal. Not quite as dark as many in the genre, the music here is rich, melodic, heavy, but not overwhelmingly depressing.




TEMPANO Nowhere NowHere

Line-up:
Pedro Castillo: Vocals, Electric & Acoustic Guitars
Cesare Della Noce: Keyboards, Electronic Percussion & Sound FX
Miguel Angel Echevarreneta: Bass
Gerardo Ubieda: Drums, Percussion, Electronics & 12 String Guitar
    With
Jeff Zavac: Sax (8)
Oman Pedreira: Violin (3)

1. Nowhere (5:39)
2. The Night Before The End (6:49)
3. Walker But Not William (4:38)
4. Daylight Moon (7:40)
5. Now Here (1:54)
6. Whisper Of The Blade (4:55)
7. Acrobat Citizens (7:52)
8. When Opposites Meet (9:33)

Total Time 49:00




HUIS Neither in Heaven

Heavy Prog

Line-up
Sylvain Descôteaux: vocals, keyboards
Michel St-Père (Mystery): guitars, keyboards
Michel Joncas: bass, Taurus bass pedals, keyboards
William Régnier: drums, percussion, keyboards
     With:
Johnny Maz: keyboards
Gerben Klazinga (Knight Area): keyboards
Nathan Vanheuverzwijn: piano
Benoit Dupuis (Mystery): keyboards
Johanne Laplante: flute


1. "Neither In Heaven" (2:40) (/10)
2. "Synesthesia" (13:09) (21/25)
3. "Insane" (5:47) (/10)
4. "Even Angels Sometimes Fall" (5:28)
5. "Entering The Gallery" (3:41)
6. "The Man On The Hill" (7:44)
7. "The Red Gypsy" (6:25)
8. "Memories" (8:43) (17/20)
9. "I Held" (3:35)
10. "Not On Earth" (11:41) (/20)

Total Time 68:53





SECOND RELATION Eno

Interesting progressive rock music from Austria. At times it feels jazzy, at times heavy, at times poppy like the heavier side of QUEEN or GINO VANELLI or even STEELY DAN.

Line-up:
Bastian B. Berchtold - Vocals, Bass, Cello
Daniel Fleps - Keyboard, Back Vocals
Simon Gstöhl - Guitars
Julian Nachbauer - Guitars
Michael Simic - Drums


1. Eno (4:48)
2. Labyrinth (6:10)
3. White Mirror (4:00)
4. The Essence Of The City (5:12)
5. Canvas, Color, Comfort (4:52)
6. Rebirth (3:30)
7. Countless Damages (4:25)
8. Familiar Surroundings (7:21)
9. Any Direction (3:52)
10. Second Hand Life (5:02)

Total time 49:12





THE COLOR GLASS The Brothers Industrial

Interesting and very promising theatric prog from Schenectady New York. Part PREFAB SPROUT, part STYLE COUNCIL, part JOE JACKSON, part THE CLASH, part THIN LIZZY, part THE MARS VOLTA, the multi-voice harmony vocals are quite distinctive for the fact that they are so unusual and rare.

Line-up:
Justin Cestra - Keys
Mike DeMarco - Drums
Anthony Saxe - Guitar & Vocals
Dave Tribley - Bass
Ryan Truesdell - Guitar


1. A Winter In The Woodshed, A Summer In The Stockyard (10:32)
2. The Estate (4:37)
3. A Flock Of Down In The Wind (1:38)
4. Fever's End (4:19)
5. On The Carousel (4:47)
6. Hook And Flesh (2:41)
7. Feral Son (5:51)
8. Native Tradition (3:48)
9. The Mourning Ribbon (4:59)

Total time 43:12




SUN DIAL Made in The Machine

Kosmische Musik of a very high caliber from the UK.

Line-up
Gary Ramon: vocals, guitar, keyboards
Scorpio: bass, moog Taurus
Joolie Wood: keyboards

1. Meltdown (3:43)
2. Contact (3:51)
3. Ascension (4:38)
4. Sea Of Rain (3:30)
5. Spacedust (3:55)
6. Aurora (4:13)
7. Sun Gate (4:11)
8. Regenerator (6:38)
9. Eclipse (4:14)
10. Autopilot (14:26)
11. In The Machine (3:50)
12. Dark Planet (6:09)
13. Slipstream (2:59)
14. The Gates Of Eden (5:31)

Total time 71:48





LIZARD Trochę żółci, trochę więcej bieli

A very different album from their 2014 masterpiece, Master & M.

Line-up
Damian Bydliński - vocal, guitar
Janusz Tanistra - bass guitar
Daniel Kurtyka - guitar
Paweł Fabrowicz- keyboards
Mariusz Szulakowski - drums & percussion
   With:
Andrzej Jancza – keyboards (c-i, d-ii)
Bartosz Dąbrowski – trumpet
Marcin Żupański – saxophone
Marcin Piekło – classic guitar


1. Trochę żółci, trochę więcej bieli
   a. Pejzaż z brunatnym horyzontem #1 (3:03) 
   b. Pejzaż z brunatnym horyzontem #2 (3:26)
   c. Dychotomia serca i głowy (6:25)
      i Trwoga i delikatny przebłysk samokontroli cz.1 (2:05)
      ii Ziemniak umiera sam? Nigdy! (1:02)
      iii Trwoga i delikatny przebłysk samokontroli cz.2 (3:18)
   d. Bez litości i difenbachia okrucieństwa (7:92)
      i Zdradzeni o świcie, czyli szepty oraz spora dawka jaszczurczego uderzenia cz.1 (3:46)
      ii Podobno ptaków w lesie coraz mniej (3:24)
      iii Zdradzeni o świcie, czyli szepty oraz spora dawka jaszczurczego uderzenia cz.2 (1:21)
   e. O słowach co z książek do głowy a z głowy do serca spłynęły  (11:07)
      i Dziwaczne taktowanie przerwane niespodziewanym nadejściem chwili relaksu (4:54)
      ii Raz w pewnym mieście gdzieś cz.1 (4:18)
      iii Rozdział trzeci (udanie wtrącony fragment większej całości) (1:55)
      iiii Raz w pewnym mieście gdzieś cz.2 (1:43)
   f. Pejzaż z brunatnym horyzontem #3 (2:38) (10/10)

Total Time: 37:00





FRENCH TV Ambassadors of Good Health and Clean Living

Their first studio album in six years, this is by far the most accessible and enjoyable French TV album that I have encountered. Perhaps this is due to band leader Mike Sary's new association with guitarist Katsumi Yoneda (TEE), keyboard players Ryuji Yonikura (TEE) and Takao Kawasaki (Flat122) and drummer Mark L. Perry. 

Favorite songs:  the surprisingly sedate and melodic, 1. "We're Putting On Our Bulldog Faces (and Hoping Something Good Happens)" (9:29) (10/10); 5. "Shemp vs. Classical Economics" (6:32) (9/10); 6. "Metronome Crisis" (10:46) (9/10); 2. "Friendly Pursuit" (5:46) (8/10), and; the hilariously clichéed and melodramatic, 4. "Gee, I Wish We Had One'a Them Doomsday Machines" (7:43) (8/10)3. Rocka-Saggy-Baby-Bubba-Shaggy-Baba-Boo (9:39) (7/10) 

85.0 on the Fish scales = near-masterpiece of progressive rock music.





















BIG BIG TRAIN Folklore

While carrying forward some of the bombast of the previous four releases, I find my self greatly appreciative of the more laid back songs on this album. Dave Longdon's vocal approach to the delivery of these lyrics is also, in my opinion, an improvement over some of the previous releases. There is no disputing that he has a wonderful and exciting voice but, as I've said in the past, I find quite a disconnect in the way he chooses to sing/deliver the lyrical content with the meaning/message of the lyrics. Exactly how or why does one choose to get so emotional--and loud--when singing about these characters and scenes from English history?

1. "Folklore" (7:30) the sounds of folk instruments gives the album's opening some promise but then the orotund vocal and anthemic background chorale I don't know why these songs and lyrics always have to sound so --as if they're trying to create rock anthems.  (12/15)

2. "London Plane" (10:10) What?! After what I just wrote here they go and turn in a 180 degree turnaround. Tender, delicate, gentle slow pacing, tasteful (as opposed to pretentious) solos make this song a very welcome experience. Do I detect a Richie HAVENS quality to Dave's voice? Awesome!
     The revved up middle section for instrumental show is okay--unnecessary but notably restrained. Then the finale is sheer prog heaven--with one of my all-time favorite Dave LONGDON vocal sections in the ninth and tenth minutes. (18/20)

3. "Along the Ridgeway" (6:06) opens quite beautifully, piano and horns interplaying over bass and drums. Dave's vocal starts out a little less bombastic than usual, almost delicately--as do the conjoining background vocals. The second section with its staccato beat is just as engaging, though brief, giving way to a new layer of a weave of strings and picked electric guitar over which Dave and background vocals continue their singing.
     This is a great song--far more understated and less showy than their other stuff. At the 3:00 mark a nice instrumental section with GENESIS-like time signature ensues in which a Roger McGUINN (THE BYRDS)-like electric 12-string guitar solo, electric violin, and organ take turns soloing. At 3:48 the full soundscape continues in support of Dave's vocal return. Then at 4:15 things quite down in the background into a kind of jazzy soundscape before the full strings and horn sections join in briefly. My favorite song on the album. I could see this one being doubled in length. (9/10)

4. "Salisbury Giant" (3:36) is an odd little duck in that it opens with a feeling as if it is meant to be an instrumental interlude as full band with organ, slide guitar, and strings plod their way through an interesting GENESIS/BEATLES conglomeration. The song kind of twists and turns, never truly establish its identity, until Dave Longdon's vocals enter for the final 90 seconds. (8/10)

5. "The Transit of Venus Across the Sun" (7:18) opens with Christmas in the park sounding horn ensemble (which is then joined by violin and more horns) in a Pachelbel-Yule-ish weave. Then, at the 1:35, cymbol crescendo closes the door on the classical instruments and introduces 12-string guitars, piano, bass and drums in order to support Dave Longdon while he sings us along a RICHIE HAVENS-like celestial journey. The third section of the song that begins at the 4:11 mark notes the introduction of a chorus of what sounds like Latin chanting. This shifts into English at 4:45 as the accompanying instrumental support builds. Then, just as quickly, everything fades at 5:20 to leave us with finger-picked 12-string guitar and tuned percussion before everyone rejoins for Dave's final vocal and an symphony-supported electric guitar solo from Dave Gregory. Nice song. A top three for me. (13.5/15)

6. "Wassail" (6:47) takes a kind of bombastic approach to medieval troubadour song. THE STRAWBS were able to do this in the 70s. For my ears and mind this one is just a little too over the top--especially the chorus and the lead vocal overall. The instrumental foundation is awesome, it just gets too powerful in the chorus sections. (12/15)

7. "Winkie" (8:26) I think this one is intended to tell a war hero story in a kind of KATE BUSH-JETHRO TULL way. This one takes me back to 2004's World War II-oriented Gathering Speed. Good song with nice bass play throughout. (16/20)

8. "Brooklands" (12:38) opens in what feels and sounds like a very typical (formulaic) BBT way. Nice pace with batterie master Nick D'Virgilo's typically syncopated drumming, Dave Longdon's typcially impassioned vocals, and Dave Gregory's distinctive guitar sound. Again, not being a lyrically-oriented music listener, I wonder how much of the music is lost on me because I take no joy or meaning from the words; vocals are merely another instrumental melody line added into the music. There are some nice sections to this song--like the "lucky man" section of the sixth minute and the ensuing GENESIS-like instrumental section (which is pretty amazing--especially Nick's work). But overall, once again, full engagement and full impact are lost on me. (20/25)

9. "Telling the Bees" (6:03) offers a nice shift in sound for first 40 seconds--a kind of early ERIC CLAPTON or STEVE WINWOOD sound and style. Plus, it's a love song. And a good one at that! Great pedal steel guitar solo! My final top three song from the album. (9/10)

83.21 on the Fish scales = four stars; an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection (but not quite into the masterpiece categories).




THE PINEAPPLE THIEF Your Wilderness

Another very solid, melody-rich album from these PORCUPINE TREE-inspired musicians. I like the band's choice to employ more sparse, almost acoustic instruments and more spacious arrangements of their music in support of Bruce Swoord's solid vocals. 
     Despite the help of a nice group of guest artists--including former PT drummer, GAVIN HARRISON, the album has quite a stripped down sound from previous Pineapple Thief.

1. "In Exile" (5:10) is a pretty solid album opener. Driving, insistent, melodic. (8.5/10)

2. "No Man's Land" (4:17) a gorgeous song with the first half sounding quite similar to Damon Albarn's "Out of Time." (9.5/10)

3. "Tear You Up" (4:51) a solid song that feels very familiar from the PT discography but lacks power, punch or freshness. (8/10)

4. "That Shore" (4:52) is a very pretty, delicately textured song whose sound foundation formed during the first 35 seconds is actually the most complex part of the song! Bruce's very delicate, emotional vocal which follows is then supported by even more sparse soundscape for the first and second verses. Even the choruses are pretty low key. Atmospheric. (8/10)

5. "Take Your Shot" (4:38) a song founded on acoustic instrumentation, it has a kind of throw-back rock sound--like an 80s band like TOM PETTY, LOVE AND ROCKETS, or even a bit of TEARS FOR FEARS. (8/10)

6. "Fend for Yourself" (3:43) sounds a lot like a previous hit of theirs, "My Debt to You," only a slightly more acoustic version. I like the presence of the woodwind. (8/10)

7. "The Final Thing on My Mind" (9:53) another solid prog epic from TPT. Nice dynamic shifts. (9/10)

8. "Where We Stood" (3:45) sounds like a STEVE WILSON song (as opposed to a PT song)--but this is really the first one. Chord progression, instrument sounds, vocal stylings, song arrangement. But it's good! (8.5/10)

This band just keeps getting more and more polished . . . at doing pretty much the same thing they've been doing for over a decade now.

84.375 on the Fishscales = a solid four star album; B; an excellent addition to any progressive rock music collection.




PANZERPAPPA Pestrottedans

Nice jazz fusion with a strong sense of folk/traditional melody, pace and structure. 

Line up:
Steinar Børve: saxophones, Akai electric wind instrument, programming, keyboards
Trond Gjellum: drums, percussion, Korg Kaossilator, synth effects and programming
Anders K. Krabberød: bass guitars
Jarle Storløkken: guitars
Hans-Petter Alfredsen: keyboards
   With:
Elaine DeFalco (Thinking Plague): accordion (3)
Nina Hagen Kaldhol: Moog guitar on "Fundal"
Nobody plays brass

1. "Spadom" (4:11) melodic but perhaps a little simpistic. (7.5/10)

2. "Pestrottedans" (7:05) again demonstrating the band playing a little too tightly, too closely to the main melodic structure. (8.5/10)

3. "Barkus I Vinterland" (6:04) a much ore laid back song than the previous two, it establishes a very catchy melody straightaway with the saxophone before guest ELAINE DI FALCO is given a solo on accordion! Nice song that does very little unusual or extraordinary until the big band sound crescendo near the end. (7.5/10) 

4. "Fundal" (6:54) nice slow off-tempo whole band build to open the song. Tense. Keys, saxes, and guitars forge a tight duel-like weave. One of the best songs on the album. (9/10)

5. "Tredje Malist" (4:13) pleasant little ditty with several melodies weaving in and out of each other. (8/10) 

6. "Landsbysladder 3" (8:26) folk melodies melt into seductive jazz tunes with this one--and back and forth. Very refreshing and creative! A good song that went on a bit too long. (8.5/10)

7. "Goda' Gomorrah" (6:25) opens with an ominous electronic keyboard wall of sound. Is this Panzerpappa doing Kosmisches Musik? Slowly it builds with an awesome middle section dominated by a "horn section." (NEKTAR's "Nelly the Elephant" comes to mind.) The best song on the album. (9.5/10)

84.29 on the Fishscales = a solid four star album; B; an excellent addition to any progressive rock music collection.




THE AMAZING Ambulance

1. "Ambulance" (4:24) Great Amazing sound, great melody; don't like the drumming. (8.75/10)

2. "Divide" (5:24) great mix, great lead guitar play beneath the singing throughout, okay melody, okay chorus; no substantial hook(s). (8.5/10)

3. "Blair Drager" (5:33) opens with a great sound between the drums and guitar single-chord descending slide. Bass and low register "spoken" vocal are also cool, different. Awesome switch into the awesome chorus. Nice keyboard/synth work--and solo in the final section. (9/10)

4. "Tracks" (6:40) opens with a wonderful, dreamy, (shoegaze), AMAZING/THE CURE sound with guitar arpeggi, slow drum beat, and atmospheric bass and keys. This goes on for an awesomely relaxing two minutes before lead guitar(s) enter and the drums double up their pace. Dreamy, multi-tracked vocals don't enter until 2:30 and seem to come in with the chorus. Great guitar chord play in the final minute as the music slows back down to match the speed of the opening section. (9/10)

5. "Floating" (4:37) opens with a very familiar, kind of EAGLES-feeling song construct before Christofer enters. Great use of female voice(s) for background vocals in the chorus. Putting the snare in the left channel is an interesting touch. (8.5/10)

6. "Through City Lights" (7:43) very slow, old 50s/60s bluesy/doo-wap-era sound to this one. Acoustic guitar joins in in the third minute. Nice work from the acoustic in the final minute. Slight build in soundscape but never really grows anywhere exciting--which, over almost 8 minutes, proves to be its downfall. (7.5/10)

7. "Moments Like These" (4:21) finger-picked guitars make this one feel 60s folk, almost C&W. Vocals do nothing to change this impression. Odd stop and rather radical shift at 1:42 leads to a group sing of a line, "I know that everyone wants somebody" or something like that, and then it goes back to the original song structure with increased drum presence. (8/10)

8. "Perfect Day For Shrimp" (6:24) all acoustic guitar opening (two guitars picking) for 30 seconds before Christoffer enters to sing what is probably my favorite vocal, melody, and lyric of the album. Drums enter at 1:30. Nice use of background vocals and synths. Gap of silence at 3:40 till 4:10 when a what feels like a whole new song rises up. How odd! (8/10)

While I love the Amazing sound, I haven't found anything really super exciting on this album to "write home about." I have a true confession to make here: I've never liked/been impressed with the drumming on The Amazing albums: the "signatory" snare use is way too busy and, over time, grating.

84.06 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a nice contribution of folkie prog rock.




GÖSTA BERLINGS SAGA Sersophane

Interesting if surprisingly poorly recorded/mastered instrumental fare from the Swedish veterans. Unfortunately, it's nothing really new or groundbreaking and, in fact, often sounds quite familiar (from their backlog).

Line-up
Einar Baldursson - guitars, synthesizers
David Lundberg - Fender Rhodes, Mellotron, synthesizers
Alexander Skepp - drums, percussion, synthesizers
Gabriel Tapper - bass guitar, Moog Taurus pedals

1. Konstruktion (2:59) (8/10)
2. Sersophane (8:04) (7/10)
3. Fort Europa (8:06) the best song on the album though it, too, has its oddities. (8.5/10)
4. Dekonstruktion (3:33) ?? (6/10)
5. Channeling The Sixth Extinction (15:15) driving, insistent, almost Zeuhl-ish, in its attempt to capture the over-the-cliff flight of the lemmings. (8/10)
6. Naturum (1:04) (8/10)

Total time 39:01

75.83 on the Fishscales = three stars; C; a decent album worth checking out for your self.





GONG Rejoice! I'm Dead

I'm not sure if this collection of very enjoyable Gong-like songs was created before DAEVID ALLEN's death, or whether they are resurrected jams/outtakes from previous projects, but the output as a tribute to Daevid and as a representation of Gong-spirited music comes off pretty well. 

Line-up
Kavus Torabi (Cardiacs, Knifeworld) - vocals, guitar
Fabio Golfetti - guitar, vocals
Dave Sturt (Jade Warrior) - bass, vocals
Ian East - sax, flute
Cheb Nettles - drums, vocals
Daevid Allen - vocals (4, 5) 
   With
Steve Hillage - guitar solo (2)
Didier Malherbehe - duduk (4, 8)


1. The Thing That Should Be (03:34)
2. Rejoice! (10:17)
3. Kaptial (03:21)
4. Model Village (06:43)
5. Beatrix (02:54)
6. Visions (04:29)
7. The Unspeakable Stands Revealed (11:49)
8. Through Restless Seas I Come (06:58)
9. Insert Yr Own Prophecy (09:36)

Total time 59:41




THE MOULETTES Preternatural

A highly creative and original band and sound crossing over the pop, avant, techno/New Wave, and Kate Bush-like proggy band comes back with their fourth album reelase. 

Line-up / Musicians
Hannah Miller - Cello, vocals, guitar
Ollie Austin - Drums, guitar, piano, vocals
Ruth Skipper - Bassoon, vocals, autoharp, synths
Jim   Mortimore - Double bass, guitar,  vocals
Raevennan Husbandes - Electric guitar, vocals, percussion 

1. Behemooth (4:07)
2. "UnderWaterPainter" (3:22) such an unusual sound palette with covering a BRITNEY SPEARS-like song style. (8.5/10)
3. "Coral" (4:13) sounding like a cross of LORDE and TOM TOM CLUB. (8.75/10)
4. Hidden World (4:47)
5. Pufferfish Love (4:57)
6. "Patterns" (3:43) more techno-New Wave drums cello, bassoon with interesting JANE SIBERRY-like vocal weaves over the top. For some reason I'm also reminded of Canada's GANG OF FOUR. (8.75/10)
7. Rite Of Passage (3:41)
8. "Medusa" (3:51) more LORDE-like vocals over some music that reminds me more of DEAD CAN DANCE. Gorgeous, inventive, and refreshing. (9/10)
9. "Parasite" (3:39) another odd but interesting and creative  pairing of instruments: bowed double bass, 1980s techno-New Wave drums, BRITNEY SPEARS' "Toxic"-like. (8.5/10)
10. Bird Of Paradise (Part II) (3:38)
11. "Silk" (4:46) KATE BUSH musical creativity with Katharine Blake's MEDIÆVAL BÆBES' vocal sass, skills and sensibilities. (9/10)

Total time 44:44





MARBIN Goat Man and the House of the Dead

Instrumental cinematic blues jazz rock of the highest high musicianship. One can hear the influence of klezmer/Jewish/Eastern European traditions in this sax and guitar-based music from Chicago.

Line-up:
Dani Rabin - guitar
Danny Markovitch - sax
Blake Jiracek - drums
Jon Nadel - bass


1. Buddha Complex (5:27)
2. Goatman (5:57)
3. The House Of The Dead (3:55)
4. Whiskey Chaser (intro) (1:25)
5. Whiskey Chaser (7:04)
6. Electric Zombieland (6:15)
7. Money Train (6:10)
8. Carnival (9:52)
9. Escape From Hippie Mountain (7:19)

Total time 53:24







ESFERA All the Colours of Madness

From Portugal comes this excellent production of melodic Crossover Prog from ESFERA, All the Colours of Madness. Awesome clarity in all instruments and yet so well mixed as to have a very tight blend of really wonderful prog. With the excellent lead singing (in English), I found myself thinking of both TINYFISH and Bruce Sood's PINEAPPLE THIEF and even a little THE MARS VOLTA throughout this album.

Favorite tracks:  3. "Green" (4:33) (10/10); the gorgeous and emotional TMV-like, 5. "Red" (5:03) (9/10); 1. "Magnificence (part I) (3:54) (9/10); the ALANIS MORISSETTE-like 7. "Black" (5:20) (8/10), and; the VIENNA CIRCLE-like 6. "White" (5:01) (8/10).

83.75 on the Fish scales = solid four stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection.




RADIOHEAD A Moon Shaped Pool

I am not a Radiohead fan. I have never been able to pick up on the supposed genius and innovation that the band has bestowed upon the fortunate world. But they have had a few songs that at least have got me interested enough to listen to their music. "Subterranean Homesick Alien," "Optimistic," "Everything in Its Right Place," and "Arpeggios/Weird Fishes" are all great songs. Still, seeing the positive reviews pouring in when A Moon Shaped Pool was released got me interested enough to buy the album. It's taken me some time to get to know and judge the album. 
     A Moon Shaped Pool is definitely an appropriate title--incorporating two references that I find quite appropriate: the all-pervasive murky, underwater rendering of many of the instruments in the way that Harold Budd and Brian Eno once pioneered on albums like Discreet Music, Plateaux of Mirror, The Pearl, and others as well as the pseudonym chosen by Budd and Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie for their THE MOON AND THE MELODIES collaboration.

1. "Burn The Witch" (3:40) a perky, almost frenetic and driving beat beneath the vocals here makes this one engaging and yet almost annoying. (8/10)

2. "Daydreaming" (6:24) is a gentle song with lots of headphones-pleasing subtleties and pitch-bent sounds flitting in and out of the soundscape. I really enjoy this one. Another 'under water'-like listening experience. One of my top three songs from the album. (9/10)

3. "Decks Dark" (4:41) weird treated piano sound manipulations with distant drum machine open this song before Thom and real-time piano bring in the melody and lyric. At 1:25 the band joins in--as do some eery background female vocals and electric guitar--which almost drown Thom's vocal out! (Interesting engineering choice!) The song may want to sound dark and eery but the lasting effect is once again to make the listener feel as though they're minds are being messed with--as if our reality is being distorted. Interesting. (8/10)

4. "Desert Island Disk" (3:44) acoustic guitar played with finger pads opens this song. More eery background (left channel) heavily treated and pitchbent sounds play--(with equally spacey distorted guitar appearing intermittently in the right channel). All the while Thom Yorke sings dreamily over the top. An acid/psychedelic folk song? (8/10)

5. "Ful Stop" (6:07) opens with a two-note bass line, fast bass drum beat, and heavily treated snare beat swimming within the horn-like synths floating around beneath left and above right. Thom's vocals are a little higher pitched and sound a little more affected than usual here. Then at 3:25 he begins repeating in a tow falsettos "truth will mess you up" and "all the good times, one over the other in layered channels. Interestingly effective--much in the same way I find "Arpeggio/Weird Fishes" so hypnotic. (9/10)

6. "Glass Eyes" (2:52) opens with more heavily, heavily treated piano accompanied beautifully by the strings of the London Contemporary Orchestra. Thom's sedate vocal is present very front and forward, even a little below us, as he sings as if the long night of drinking has left him alone and philosophical. One of my top three--probably my favorite song on the album. (10/10)

7. "Identikit" (4:26) opens with one of the band's sparse and seemingly simple rhythms, bass, drums and guitar, before layers of Thom Yorke voices fill much of the soundscape--as if different parts of Thom are singing each in different dimensions. Then at 2:05 the voices unify into one direct voice front and center singing about broken hearts making it rain--which is then repeated by the female choir of the London Contemporary Orchestra. The multi-dimensional voices return as reggae-like bass and lead guitar take increasing prominence to the end. Pretty cool song--worth multiple visits. (8/10)
8. "The Numbers" (5:45) opens like a combination of 1960's opening to John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" and the morph into a CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG psych folk anthem. Could be a great song from Sweden's THE AMAZING. Acoustic guitar, piano, treated piano, electric guitar, busy bass, and background snare-dominated drums populate the soundscape as Thom sings within the psychedelia. Very cool sound. At 3:33 orchestra strings join in providing a very effective BEATLES-like presence. Finale with choir and strings supporting Thom and the pianos. Another tope three song for me. (I'm just a sucker for that CSN&Y sound.) (9/10)

9. "Present Tense" (5:06) opens with a basso nova-like rhythm and Thom's "ooo"s. An interesting choice of music to accompany Thom's plaintive, despondent vocal about the overabundance of human-inflicted violence on our planet (or is it about the breakup of a relationship of his?). Okay song. Probably my least favorite on the album. (7/10)

10. "Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief" (5:03) opens with old time tape his over cheesy sounding drum-machine beats and syncopated old-time electric piano chord hits. Thom soon enters and sings in his higher register voice (which, I just noticed, is quite similar to that of SIGUR RÓS's Jónsi). A lot of orchestral strings and female choir effects are added to the usual Radiohead electronically manipulated sounds making this an interesting representation of the human conundrum of living in our computer age. The song could have been further or better developed. (7/10)

11. "True Love Waits" (4:43) two and then three and four Harold Budd-like treated piano tracks support another higher register, but more plaintive Thom Yorke vocal. The deviation from single time signature to more polyrhythmic effect in the third minute gives the song a bit more interest--but almost to the distraction of the vocal. Plus, I'm not sure why, but the sound engineering has (I'm assuming) allowed some scratchy tape static and hiss to be present in the soundscape--which I happen to find a bit distracting and annoying. Otherwise, this might be considered a pretty ingenious little song. (9/10)

All in all I think the experimentation with sound engineering got away from Thom and the band a little on this one--some of the "old" effects like hiss, static, scratches, whirl and wobble on this album are a bit annoying and distracting. Digital CD sound is not 'supposed' to sound like this! I'm totally clueless as to why a band would want this on their album, but it's here. The songs are mostly pleasant enough--and the incorporation of the London Contemporary Orchestra and Female Choir are powerful and quite welcome. And I do like and appreciate the sonic engineering the band incorporate into their soundscapes, but, it can get to be a bit much. Still, this is a very good album from a very good band. I'll recommend this one with a solid four stars.

83.64 on the Fishscales = a solid four star album.




GUNS OF THE SENECA Citizens of the Universe 

If THE CLASH had branched out into Post Rock they might have sounded like this. What makes this album stand out so much for me is the excellent sound engineering and production, the dynamic and tempo variations within each song, and the surprisingly awesome vocal arrangements (that are sadly only used on three songs)! At times there is so much going on that it becomes surprising to remember that this music is being made by a mere trio! 

1. "Tell Them About The Frequencies (We've Found)" (2:59) opens the album with a brilliant display of tightly woven difficult instrumental prowess--both in terms of chord play and shifting time signatures (which is unusual for Math Rock, I think). Great introduction. You've got my attention and respect! (9/10)

2. "Largo Parenchyma" (6:48) is one of the vocally-embedded songs--and an outstanding one it is. Great two-layered vocal with the accompanying one singing in a very high octave falsetto. Very psychedelic in a kind of WEST INDIAN GIRL/DONOVAN way. Amazing drumming at the end.(9/10) 


3. "Heterochromatic" (4:43) opens with different sounding drums (I like!) and interesting chorded bass playing beneath a  weave of multiple guitar tracks. Before the song is two minutes old there has already been three major and distinctive shifts in sound, style and tempo. Great high end lead guitar soloing in the third minute. (8/10)


4. "Sensory Distortions" (4:10) sounds like a very straightforward Post Rock song in the MOGWAI style until the CLASH-like guitars join in and the tempo shifts slightly. At 2:12 organ and synths and weird electronic percussive noises announce the start of section of slowed-down acid-trippy groove. Then at 3:46 we shift back into the Clash-like section. Interesting but not my favorite song. (7/10)


5. "Magnum Morte" (3:03) is another of the album's vocal-laden songs--here kind of laid-back beneath a very rolling MONO-like (though somehow Reggae-infused) Post Rock guitar, bass and drums weave. Kudos to the bass player on this one! (8/10)


6. "The Vanishing Of Isle De Jean Charles" (6:10) sounds like an uptempo surfing song à la Dick DALE while it is accompanied by television news coverage of an attempted rocket launch from Cape Kennedy while Hurricane Betsy approached. Drums sound a bit weird here--programmed or speeded up? Nice lead guitar and keyboard work in the second half. (8/10)


7. "All Kinds Of Exhaustion" 
(3:48) lively, distinctive uptempo Post Rock in the GIFTS OF ENOLA vein. (9/10)

8. "Sparse" (2:49) employs a refreshing lead guitar arpeggio for the melody around which the song is constructed. As a matter of fact, the lead guitar play throughout is quite unusual--refreshingly so. (8/10)

9. "Oneironaut" (7:45) is built over the opening vocal samples of documentary recordings from some kind of scientific LSD study or test. The music shifts and morphs and builds into several engaging, memorable sections of guitar-led hard-psych rock instrumental finesse. This song is a perfect example of the genius of this band:  ever changing, ever refreshing itself, yet ever flowing, always driving the listener into new themes; never boring or monotonous. (9/10)  


83.33 on the Fish scales = a solid four star album. Recommended to all prog rock loving collectors--especially if you like to see the new directions Post Rock can take. This is by far the best Post Rock/Math Rock album I've yet encountered from 2016.




SPACESHIP Traveler

Very nice jazz fusion with a very prominent horn section taking on a big chunk of the work despite composer Ryan Benthall being a keyboard/synthesizer player. The electronic keyboard sounds need to grow (better equipment), the horn arrangements and play are truly remarkable, the bass play is solid, the drumming is quite good, creative, and the production is nice and clean (though keys are a bit truncated on the high end).

Favorite songs:  the unique and fresh melody lines of 1. "Beyond Impossible" (5:10) (9/10)--a great opening song; the smoothness and wonderful contributions of each of the individual band members on their cover of the Wayne Shorter song, "Moonprints" (11:39) (9/10); 2. the awesome drumplay and Herb Alpert horn sounds of "Mandalaxy" (5:36) (8.5/10); the dynamic pacing and spacing of 3. "Molecular Velocity" (10:59) (8.5/10), and; the show of avant experimentality on 6. "Zero Gravity" (13:37) (8/10).


83.33 on the Fishscales = four stars; B; a nice and refreshing addition to the jazz fusion contingent of 21st Century Progressive Rock Music.




ALCEST Kodama

Some great shoegaze metal as only Neige can do it. This album shows Neige and Winterhalter going back to their style and sound of albums like 2010's Écailles de lune and 2012 Les voyages de l'âmes.

Line-up:
Neige : guitars, bass, synths, vocals
Winterhalter : drums


1. "Kodama" (9:07) though containing some awesome instrumental interludes (end of fourth minute, the spacious solo in the sixth and seventh minutes which leads into the instrumental outro) this is not a step forward. (8/10)

2. "Eclosion" (8:54) again, the musical style chosen for the opening section is a little too sparse, but once the full soundscape is established it becomes better. The overall effect is more like that of a Post Rock band like GIFTS FROM ENOLA or GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT. (7.5/10)

3. "Je suis d'ailleurs" (7:20) opens full sound with a slow progression of chords and steady beat from the drums and bass which builds a little over the first minute with Niege's background vocalise. The second minute sees the song stepping back into cleaner guitar playing the same chords but every time Neige is about to sing (a distant-sounding effect on his beautiful voice). Growls and more development in guitar play in the second half (after a brief interlude of quietude) before a second interlude of quiet. The rebuild for the final two minutes is awesome. (9/10)

4. "Untouched" (5:12) more spacious, simple and melodic (8/10)

5. "Oiseaux de proie" (7:48) opens with some awesome COCTEAU TWINS-like guitar sounds before becoming more CURE-ish. Excelllent bass and guitar chord progressions. Love the starkness with drums-only supporting the vocal verses and then the build up for the wonderful choruses. Even Neige's growling here is okay. Great song! (9/10)

6. "Onyx" (3:51) an instrumental in which solo distorted guitar is played very atmospherically, with little dynamic shifts. Could almost be an Ant Phillips "Private Parts & Pieces" song. (8.5/10)



83.33 on the Fishscales = a four star album; B-. I for one am very happy to see and hear Neige get back to the sound that got him all of his well-deserved attention at the end of the Naughties.




THE DEAR HUNTER Act V:  Hymns with the Devil in Confessional

Now here is a collection of mature, very well constructed, clean, relatively true sounding Neo Prog songs that I can get behind. Great vocal arrangements and very rich song constructions. A class act that has always been solid but seems to keep getting better. The QUEEN-like theatric nature of the music produced here in support of another whole-album concept is truly eclectic. These guys should be staging Broadway productions of their albums!

Line-up / Musicians
- Casey Crescenzo / lead vocals, piano, organ, electric & acoustic guitars, percussion, orchestrations, producer
- Rob Parr / guitar, organ
- Maxwell Tousseau / acoustic & electric guitars
- Nick Sollecito / bass, double bass, synth

1. Regress (1:22) (8.5/10)
2. The Moon / Awake (6:09) (8.5/10)
3. Cascade (5:11) (7.5/10)
4. The Most Cursed of Hands / Who Am I (6:42) a two-part song (why not two separate songs?) (9/10)
5. The Revival (5:00) (6.5/10)
6. Melpomene (4:14) (8.5/10)
7. Mr. Usher (On His Way to Town) (4:59) (8/10)
8. The Haves Have Naught (4:12) (8.5/10)
9. Light (4:02) (8/10)
10. Gloria (5:16) (8/10)
11. The Flame (Is Gone) (5:40) my favorite song on the album (8.5/10)
12. The Fire (Remains) (5:26) (8.5/10)
13. The March (4:12) (8.5/10)
14. Blood (4:33) (9/10)
15. A Beginning (6:19) a gentle, emotional song that just might be the best on the album. Great keyboard, orchestral and vocal arrangements. (9/10)

Total Time 73:17


It is unfortunate that the great multi-voiced vocal arrangements that opened the album weren't sustained for Casey's voice can get a little monotonous (despite his efforts at theatrical renderings). The variety of musical stylings and instruments incorporated to produce the Dear Hunter sound is astonishing and commendable. There is still room for improvement, though.

83.0 on the Fishscales = four star album; B-; a very good album that most prog rock music lovers will probably enjoy.




SOLARHALL Lokus

A Post Metal album with a lot of delicacy and subtlety, like a LUNATIC SOUL or TOBY DRIVER album. Nice singing from the solo lead vocalist--a voice and style quite similar like that of Daniel ASH, lead singer for BAUHAUS and LOVE AND ROCKETS, The Church's Steve KILBEY and sometimes Toby Driver.

Favorite tracks: the TALK TALK-like 1 "Fenix" (6:51) (10/10); the CHURCH-like 7. "Engulfed in Green" (6:52) (9/10); the eerie-weird, widely dynamic, MAD CRAYON-like 8. "All Gods Live in Dark Houses" (6:59) (9/10); the BLACK SABBATH/ALICE IN CHAINS/TOBY DRIVER-like 5. "Shelter" (6:22) (9/10); the GAZPACHO-like 6. "Sewer Man" (11:31) (8/10), and; 3. "The Great Deceiver" (3:55) (8/10).

82.5 on the Fish scales = solid four star album; highly recommended to all prog lovers.




THE ULLULATERS Dark Nights in Paradise

A long dormant UK band sprouts some very melodic and beautiful Japanese-infused instrumental psych/space rock and some very heavy metal, too.

Line-up:
Gavin Griffiths (Ozric Tentacles) - Guitars, bass, keyboards, sampling, vocal arranging
Nick Van Gelder (Ozric Tentacles) - Drums (1,3,7)
Tim Reyland - Drums (2, 4, 5, 6)
Jumping Jon 'Champignon' Egan (Dream Machine) - Sacrificial Shenai, flute, Ney
Joie Hinton (Ozric Tentacles) - Solo Synths
Paul 'Conga Paul' Hankin (Ozric Tentacles) - Percussion
   With
Saddhu Hanuman Baba - Voice (1)


1. "Zen Garden (7:40) (9/10)
2. "Dark Nights In Paradise (8:53) (9/10)
3. "Falling Cherry Blossom (6:18) (10/10)
4. "Atmik Evolution, Pt. 1 (3:34) (7/10)
5. "Atmik Evolution, Pt. 2 (6:10) (7/10)
6. "The Sun God (6:40) (7/10)
7. "Spring Secrets (4:18) (8/10)
8. "Hidden Worlds (2:45)(9/10)


Total Time 46:18


82.5  on the Fishscales = four star record.




FARMHOUSE ODYSSEY Rise of the Waterfowl

A bunch of friends (Alex Espe on vocals and keyboards, Thatcher Holvick-Norton on drums, Aaron Laughlin on guitar and vocals, Alex Pepe on guitar, and Ian Taylor on bass) living in Nature's playground, Arcata, California, got together to create music in 2012 and the rest is, as they say, history. Farmhouse Odyssey is a quintet of musicians creating a jazzy symphonic prog rock in a style that is not far from the psychedelic rock that came from the West Coast in the late 1960s and early 1970s--though at times I hear very strong influences of 1980s GUNS'N'ROSES (vocals, chord progressions). I find the classically influenced rolling piano lines the most interesting parts of this album. 

 to propel us forward. There is a kind of 3RDEGREE and THE MERCURY TREE feel to this until the 4:35 mark when a funky drum'n'bass takes over giving us a PARLIAMENTian synth solo. Interesting. I'm not sure it works, but it is definitely interesting. (8/10) 

2. "Slumberless Sun" (4:29) opens with a very delicate vocal accompanied by jazz guitar chords before the full band kicks in--bringing us a little SANTANA/THE MARS VOLTA-like dual guitar section. Returning to the softer vocal section we are treated to several harmonizing vocal tracks to go along with the main lead. The next instrumental section is drenched with keyboards and even a Mellotron sound. Another vocal section changes things up (a chorus?) melodically. Good song that never really climbs to greatness. (8/10)


3. "Brain Song" (6:09) opens in a kind of 70s jazz wash before cutting down to a nice little syncopated groove coming from the rhythm section--and joined by organ and lead guitars. THE TEA CLUB-like vocal harmonies throughout with plenty of jazzy jazz, bass, keyboard, guitar and drum runs and riffs but never really congealing into anything of substance. (8/10)


4. "Calligraphy" (7:28) opens with some bluesy jazz guitar chords, arpeggi and chord progressions before the band joins in to establish another intricate instrumental jazz weave over which an ADRIAN BELEW/THE TEA CLUB-like vocal establishes itself. At the two minute mark the rhythm style switches to a kind of Carribean-Afro-pop sound. At 3:00 it switches again, this time into something again completely different, into a more piano-based jazz-rock form--KANSAS, ELP and LYNYRD SKYNYRD all come to mind--though the vocal becomes all AXL ROSE. A return to the Afro-pop beat and sound yields a pleasant vocal and nice slowly flanged electric guitar solo. Almost a winner. (8/10)


5. "Space Revealed" (8:30) opens with syncopated piano, bass and drum play over which piano treble hand and lead guitar perform some PAT METHENY/LYLE MAYS-like duplicated melody lines. Then, at 1:37 an older sounding jazz rhythm is established by the piano before buzz guitar and the rest of the band's instrumentalists join in with an oddly timed pulse-and release accompaniment joins in. By the fourth minute the music has leveled into a very familiar straightforward 1970s electronic jazz fusion sound--with Fender Rhodes being the central character to the music. A really nice drum-led section ends the sixth minute and carries forward into a crazed section which then culminates into the tightest whole-band play (thanks drums!) over which an awesome jazz fusion guitar lead solos. LARRY CORYELL is reborn! Awesome to the end! (9/10) 


7. "Speedbump Catalyst: Upon The Wheel, Blessing In Disguise, Energetic Tides, The Road Alone" (15:56) starts out very beautifully--very European classical pastoral, but then evolves into something much more American. I find that this song is most interesting for its piano and drums work as well as for its GUNS'N'ROSES vocals and chord structures. (8/10)

8. "Safe Passage" (1:09) is a pretty little piano-based piece. (8/10)


9. "From The Night Sky" (4:12) opens with some electric piano and some jazzy rhythm play with an interesting and pleasant MIDLAKE-like folk vocal and sound. (9/10)

Much of this interestingly composed music is performed with an incongruous muted jazziness. Nice music results but nothing great--nothing that I'm going to go humming along for days or nothing that I'm going to go shouting out about. This is an innocuous music that impresses a little but cries out for . . . something more. What exactly are they trying to be (and become)? Pleasant music from very competent musicians. I think they are still struggling to find a sound within which they can all gel. We'll see. I'd like to see these wonderfully talented young men get out of their heads and jam from their hearts. But that's just me. What do I know?!

82.22 on the Fish scales = a solid four star album and excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection.




GLASGOW COMA SCALE Enter Oblivion


What if THE CURE ever decided to play instrumental Post Rock in the melodic yet hard-edged GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT style? This might be what you'd get.

1. "Sonda" (05:15) is pure Post Rock from start to finish with some solid tricks and twists along the way--especially in the keyboard department. Nice. (9/10)

2. "Southern Crosses" (05:48) has a kind of slow beginning build before some flagrantly CURE-ish sounds and stylings kick in. (That guitarist!) In the end, the song doesn't do enough new or fresh for me. (7/10)


3. "Northern Wastes" (06:41) opens with a CURE-llike bass sound & riff, compounded by sounds and keyboards and even drums straight off of a CURE soundcheck. The caveat is that these three musicians don't waste their sound imitation, they do some interesting things with the sounds--especially with the keyboards. Great crescendo! (8.5/10)


4. "Venice Calling" (04:41) (7.5/10)


5. "Ghost Not Found" (05:12) a good, interesting multi-dimensional Post Rock song. (8/10)


6. "Silent Bird" (08:49) perhaps the most CURE-like song on the album, I found myself half-expectant to hear the voice of Robert Smith break in several times. (8/10)


7. "Birthland" (08:05) opens with more spacey-electronica than the other songs but eventually morphs into an awesome CURE-Post Rock groove jam. Excellent use of build-crescendo and spaciousness throughout with some great individual performances. My favorite song on the album. (9.5/10)


Total Time: 44:35

Line-up: 
Piotr Kowalski – Guitars, Programming
Marek Kowalski – Bass
Helmes Bode – Drums



82.14 on the Fishscales = 3.5 stars; B-; a good album of refreshing take on Post Rock.





FREE SALAMANDER EXHIBIT Undestroyed

Four-fifths of SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM has been stewing around with these ideas for five years or so. They've finally polished, packaged and released another crazy but ever-so creative ride to the outer fringes of music.

Line-up
Nils Frykdahl (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum) – vocals, guitar, flute
Dan Rathbun (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum) – bass, various homemade instruments
Michael Mellender (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum) – guitar, trumpet, percussion, percussion-guitar
David Shamrock (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum) – drums, glockenspiel
Drew Wheeler – guitar, glockenspiel, Theremin

1. Unreliable Narrator (5:23)
2. The Keep (5:42)
3. The Gift (9:56)
4. Time Master (5:21)
5. Undestroyed (10:11) (10/10)
6. Atheists' Potluck (4:28)
7. Oxen Of The Sun (9:20)

Total time 50:21





DAVID FIUCZYNSKI Flam! Blam! Pan-Asian Micro-Jam!

An avant jazz album created as a tribute to JDilla and Olivier Messiaen from jazz fusion guitar virtuoso David FIUCZYNSKI and friends. Many of you may know David and his guitar playing style from his work with HIROMI UEHARA on her SONICBLOOM albums of the mid-Naughties--especially on "Time Control" which remains perhaps the single best Jazz Fusion album of the 21st Century. 
    This ambitious venture using his PLANET MICROJAM ensemble has the guitarist-composer pursuing his passion for the notes that fall between the cracks with his intrepid microtonal crew. The seven movements that comprise Flam! instigated by Fiuczynski receiving a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship, show the connections between exotic bird calls and innovative hip hop record producer J Dilla’s famous ‘flam beats’ while also referencing the colors of Messiaen’s musicGagaku, the ancient court music of Japan, and other Pan-Asian ingredients. The album of exotic soundscapes feature special guest Rudresh Mahanthappa on alto saxophone. Fiuczynski is joined on both portions of his latest release by former Microjam Institute students Utar Artun on microtonal keyboard, Yazhi Guo on suona (Chinese oboe) and percussion, Helen Sherrah-Davies on violin, Jack Sherman on microtonal keyboard, Justin Schornstein on bass and Alex Bailey on drums. Odd, avant music, this is not everyone's cup of tea--nor will it be so every moment of one's life, but it is breathtaking to behold for the Nature-imitation sounds coming from these sound virtuosi. Because of the strange tonality (or lack thereof), these songs are very difficult to give numerical ratings. I usually rate songs for how well the fit in with the rest of the prog lexicon--and these do not usually fit in anywhere! Innovative and unique, they are; melodic and groovy they are seldom. 

1. "Loon-Y Tunes" (6:16) is kept into musical fold by jazz double bass and drums. Otherwise, it is nowhere near music--as we have heretofore known it. (??/10)

2. "Dance Of The UiraPuru" (4:28) if Catness Everdeen started a jazz song with her famous 'mockingjay' whistle, this song never goes anywhere you expect it to. It is truly like watching the dance of an alien creature for the first time--the Uirapuru. Toward the end of the second minute we get into some territory that sounds like structured band music, but then . . . . (??/10)

 
3. "Flam" (3:49) more bird whistles open this one before a kind of avant Japanese folk tune takes over. Zither, guitar, drums, electric bass, strings, and accordion help to contribute a song that at least makes sense from a foreign perspective. The most accessible song yet. (??/10)

 
4. "Q&A Solitaire" (2:05) opens with some volume-pedal controlled guitar play with syncopated hand percussives providing the foundation for the violin to play the lead in yet another Asian-feeling song. (8/10)

 
5. "Oiseaux JDillique" (2:40) opens with the twanging, centerless tones of guitar and horns and multiple percussion instruments flayling away in unified cacophony while the bass and, later, electric guitar and screeching violin, go on their merry way. Just weird. And . . . laughable! (7/10)

 
6. "Gagaku Chord Candy" (6:58) opens with spacey synth and occasional percussives before Asian horns and strings enter play the same melody from their own perspectives. Interesting. 

     I know Asian music requires an acquired ear and appreciation. This might be one of those entry-level folk songs that could help with that familiarization and achievement. 
     In the song's second half it somehow appears as a very Western jazz song. This could be Coltrane or Pharoah Sanders! How interesting how that was done! Kudos for your trickery, Pan-Asian Micro-Jam band! (8/10)
 
7. "Waldstimmen" (4:22) opens with a melody created through arpeggi confined within a chromatic scale. Around the one minute mark it actually jells into a very pleasant, melodic jazz jam. But, then, the band reverts back to the introduction and never returns to straightforward, choosing, instead, always the angular and tangential--and ornithophonics. (8.5/10) 

 
8. "Uira Happy Jam" (4:24) is a free-jazz jam with a fairly solid underlying (almost WEATHER REPORT-like) jazz structure. Another fairly accessible and engaging song if weird and out of the average Westerner's musical comfort zone. (9/10) 

 
9. "Organ Wren" (4:44) a rush of hand percussives opens this song before giving way to a solo tenor saxophone. In the second minute keys, wood and metal percussives play a while before the sax steps back to the front. The Western-style sax play helps bring this otherwise Asian song into the realm of accessibility to we of the Occident. (7.5/10)

 
10. "Loon-Ly Solitaire" (7:22) sounds like an Asian Micro-Jam version of the USA's national anthem. Very interesting! (8/10) 


An astounding sonic adventure that takes one into musical realms not often encountered--the space 'between' the noises and music of Mother Nature. Not for everyone--only the bravest music lovers will truly enjoy this--but it is well worth experience--even if a little effort might be involved. Dave "Fuze" Fiuczinski is a timeless treasure of unique sound and creativity that should not be missed!


Because of my inability to assign numerical ratings to many of these songs, I'm going to have to make a guess as to the rating on the Fishscales that this album might inhabit. It's better than average, not essential and not quite an excellent acquisition for all prog music lovers but it is good, it is certainly fresh and adventurous--and it is recommended for your own exploration and experience. You will be better for it! Let's call it an 82 on the Fishscales. 




CHILDREN OF PARADISE Morrigan

Wonderfully dramatic, melodic Goth prog from Bretagne, France. The spooky yet sultry and ethereal vocals of singer-songwriter-co-producer "Dam Kat" are sublime and fascinating--even transporting. The Celtic-tinged musics and lyrics are hypnotic. I'm drawing a blank as to comparisons. SOUIXIE AND THE BANSHEES, SCARLET STORIES, FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM all come to mind and yet none of them are right. Morrigan is Children of Paradise's second album and second in a trilogy of albums focused on "Celtic Myths and Legends." The music is never complex but the mood set is always deeply engaging--especially the trap that is the album's first four songs. The "I Will Follow You" (7/10) suite is the album's weak spot--though the opening "Intro" (5:09) is awesome. When the band/music lets go of the dark, gloomy, bass-dominated styles it seems to lose its magical power.  8."Stay" (5:00) (8/10) is pure SARAH MACLACHLAN. 9. "In My Mind" (5:48) (8/10) could have come from a CORVUS STONE album and notes a return to the heavier rock style that is Children of Paradise's strength. 10. "He's Dying" (4:02) sees a return to a SARAH MACLACHLAN style--especially in the vocal. The music is by-the-numbers rock drama. The presence of harp and pipes improves and expands its appeal--as does the heavier second half and eerie finale (8/10).

Album highlights: its first four songs:  "Alone" (5:36) with its awesome rolling bass line, guitar harmonics play, and stunning vocal (10/10); the mesmerizing "I Wait" (4:10) with the album's best guitar and drum play (9/10); "I'm Falling" (5:01) with its awesome special effects (horn) and animal-like growl-vocals (9/10), and; the "Intro" (5:09) to the I Will Follow You suite with Dam Kat's most delicate and ethereal vocal (9/10).

My main complaint with this album is with the poor quality keyboard contributing such a large portion of the band's low end and strings--which makes the music sound dated a lot--like 1980s THE CURE. Strengths: Dam Kat's vocals, the guitar and bass sounds, the gloomy music to match the songs' mysterious subject matter.


82.0 on the Fishscales = a solid four star album.




PYMLICO Meeting Point

More top notch instrumental prog from Norway's Pymlico. The unfortunate thing is that this music is screaming out for vocals! Also, the band seems to be trying too hard--incorporating a wide range of 'instruments' in the expressive palette, but they're all computer keyboard generated. Commendable but they almost cry out for authenticity. 

1. "Crab Key" (4:44) (8.5/10)
2. "Second Rate Punk" (7:29) (8/10)
3. "Broken Glass" Pink Floydian (8/10)
4. "Iris" (3:57) Nice but not the Goo Goo Dolls. (8/10)
5. "First Light" (3:12) Great ending but weird first 3/4s. (7.5/10)
6. "NOL861613060" (4:36) just waiting to Phil Collins to come screaming through. (7/10)
7. "Lucy Does Not Approve" (4:31) (8/10)
8. "Erised" (8:53) (8/10)


78.75 on the Fishscales = three stars; C+; a decent album of well-constructed songs that shows great potential.




MACROSCREAM Macroscream

Quirky prog somewhere in the universe of GENTLE GIANT, KHATSATURJAN and HUMBLE GRUMBLE. AltrOck Productions' Fading Records is supporting this collection of complex show tunes from accomplished musicians and adventurous composers and a lineup of an army of musicians, this is listenable but often too quirky and quick to twist and turn for my attention span.

Line-up
Tonino Politano - electric & acoustic guitar
Gianpaolo Saracino - violin
Davide Cirone - hammond organ, electric pianos, mellotron, minimoog, korg synthesizer
Alessandro Patierno - bass guitar, classic guitar, acoustic guitar, piano, mandolin, vocoder, percussions, dorps, backing vocals
Marco Pallotti - drums
Luca Marconi - vocals
   With many guests


Five star songs:  2. "Then It Goes Away" (6:13) and 3. "Unquiet" (8:04).

Four star songs:  5. "Goliath" (10:51)


Three star songs:  1. "Mr.Why" (12:52); 4. "The Flying Giampy" (8:56), and; 6. "Impenetrable Oak Bark" (12:15).

Total Time 59:11

81.66 on the Fishscales = four stars; B-; a good representation of Italian youth attempting some very complex and creative progressive rock.





AIRBAG Disconnected

I appreciate the incredible sound engineering of Airbag albums. I appreciate the dextrous facility Asle, Bjørn and the others have with all of the Pink Floyd 'tricks,' and I am one who (usually) loves long, spacious, slow building musical passages and songs, but the way songs 2-4, "Broken" (7:08) (8/10), "Slave" (8:39) (8/10) and "Sleepwalker" (7:05) (8/10) seem to find the band on cruise control as if they were driving 45 mph through the Nebraska cornfields is only disappointing. The opener, "Killer" (9:18) (9/10) is above this melancholic malaise because it has some power and emotion to its music and its message, and the title song, 5. (13:10) (9/10), also rises above because of its non-Pink Floyd, somewhat Steven WILSON feel and its variety of sounds, pacing, and structure. And the sparse and simplistic 6."Returned" (5:11) (7/10), feels like a slightly Post Rock epilogue, after-thought, or space filler. Too bad, guys. After you had reached the top with 2013's Greatest Show on Earth I thought you had figured out the keys to perpetual perfection. 

It is difficult to rate down this or any Airbag album since the engineering and production is always so amazing, but Disconnected only earns 81.67 on the Fish scales = a solid four star album; recommended to prog lovers--especially Neo Progheads and lovers of the Pink Floyd sound.



BEN REED Station Masters

Very quirky, poppy Canterbury-esque Indie folk jazz.

Line-up:
Ben Reed - bass guitar, drums, electric and acoustic guitars, RMI Electrapiano, percussion, mandolin, cello, reed organ, vocals
Georgia Rodger - vocals
Matt Weeks - trumpet, fluegel horn, valve trombone
Ross Stanley - Wurlitzer electric piano, organ
Catherine Shrubshall - saxophones, bass clarinet
Laura Groves - vocals 


1. "Station Masters" (4:18) perfect Neo-Canterbury--sounds like it came straight off of one of the classic albums (Hatfield?) from the day. (9/10)

2. "Drifting" (3:44) could be a Burt BACHARACH or Antonio Carlos JOBIM or even IVY song, it's just that catchy and quirky upbeat. (10/10)
3. "Errata" (2:21) a jazz poppy MICHAEL FRANKS/JOBIM/Canterbury synthesis. (9/10)
4. "Self Possessed" (1:20) a great little HATFIELD/Richard SINCLAIR + The NORTHETTES dittie. (9/10)
5. "Only The Sun" (2:22) (7/10)
6. "Das Zeichen Der Spinne" (4:30) an odd little cross-cultural instrumental (7/10)
7. "My Gold Is In The Sun" (2:36) a definite remnant from the Sergio Mendez music catalog. (8/10)
8. "Be Mine" (3:54) sounds like an IVY song from their first album. (7/10)
9. "Allgones" (3:53) even the title here bespeaks HATFIELD AND THE NORTH just not one of their exciting ones. (8/10)
10. "Maniac Man" (2:57) is kind of straightforward pop with an attempt at a jazzy feel. Not! (7/10)
11. "Woman Overboard" (1:46) singing in his falsetto works here with the JOBIM-like guitar base. (9/10)
12. "Dragging The Lake" (2:47) a follow-up to the previous song? Feels almost like a little jazz étude with it's repetition of slightly varied syncopated arpeggi. But then a voice appears and everything seems to have meaning. For a few seconds. Then it returns to the same étude-like sound and structure as the opening. (8/10)
13. "Twentieth Tear (4:29) Lead singer Laura Groves is quite talented in that DUSTY SPRINGFIELD-kind of way. Another jazzy pop song in the Michael Franks style. Too bad the melodies and chord progressions aren't as engaging as one would have hoped. Unmemorable. (8/10)

Total time 40:57


81.54 on the Fishscales = a four star album.





SYNDONE Eros and Thanatos

Master of theatric (almost operatic) storytelling through music NICK COMIGLIO is back with another eclectic blend of sounds and styles, often based in classical or jazz idium, but enhanced/embellished by electronic twists and effects, theatric Italian vocals (Riccardo Ruggeri), frequent contributions from the vibraphone (Marta Caldera), and very solid drum and bass play--thanks to Martino Malacrida and Maurino Dellacqua, respectively. Unfortunately, the music sometimes feels a bit formulaic, rooted in rote traditions and borrowed progressions and styles, though the bombast factor seems more reined in (or more polished and finessed) than on the previous Syndone album.

Five star songs:  1. "Frammento" (1:01) (9/10); 4. "Gil spiriti dei campi" (5:27) (9/10), and; 7. "Alla sinistra dei mio petto" (3:08) (9/10).

Four star songs:  9. "L'urio nelle ossa" (7:15) (8.5/10); 5. "Qinah" (6:10) (8.5/10); the MYRATH-sounding 8. "Fahra" (3:19) (8.5/10); 3. "Terra che brucia" (5:26) (8/10); 11. "Cielo di fuoco" (7:38) (8/10), and; 10. "Bambole rmk" (4:15) (7.5/10).


81.35 on the Fishscales = a four star album; B-; a nice addition to a music collection--especially if you know and like theatric Italian prog.





ELECTRIC ORANGE Misophonia

Coming in at over 72 minutes long, Misophonia represents another monster of an album from Aachen's Krautrock/Kosmische Musik stallwarts, ELECTRIC ORANGE.

1. "Organized Suffering" (18:09) opens with rolling bass line, guitars, drums and high pitch drone revving up, taking about forty seconds to get into full gear. Then, at 2:16, everything shuts down for some synths and three "explosion" distorted guitar/bass strums spread out over about twenty seconds. Synths then take over the lead above drums and occasional distorted bass notes. Heavily treated, animal-like vocalizations pop in and out of the soundscape toward the end of the fifth minute. Then things quiet down again around 5:20. Militaristic drums slowly build from there with bass, vocalizations and synths continuing their play. Psychedelic lead guitar play is slowly, sparsely added into the drum-dominant mix. Things quiet down again around the eight minute mark with guitar, quiet drums, and slowly penetrating mid-pitch synth note working its way into the soundscape, into our minds. At 9:30 there is a subtle shift as rolling bass, synth chords and drums return. At the end of the eleventh minute guitar and synths start to do some interesting if occasional things but at this point this is really a drummer's show. In the thirteenth minute the bass and synths begin some new activity--both attracting more of the listener's attention--but the, just as quickly, everything drops out (again) as if to reset. Modulated synth (or organ?) goes freaky on us while simple drum and bass lines play modest support. The organ really begins to dominate (finally!) and the bass and drums capitulate to create the song's first melodically based groove. The key/chord change at 16:20 almost blows it, but then they get back into it. This sounds almost like a 1960s DOORS or PINK FLOYD jam.
     Not a great song as it never seems to really get off the ground nor does it truly establish any kind of 'hook' to engage and maintain our interest. (24.5/35)

2. "Bottledrone" (11:48) starts out as slowly and uneventfully as the opening song
--totally synth-dominated--but really kicks in delightfully by the halfway point and remains full and interesting to the end. (22.5/25)

3. "Demented" (7:51) opens with some spacey Blade Runner-like synth noises before an Indian-like rhythm section jumps into the field at the thirty second mark. Now, this is Kosmisches Musik! The drummer is in an awesome groove in the low end while his cymbal activity is all creative and playful. Slow space synth movement is gradual and constant while heavily treated guitars and basses flit in and out of the soundscape. The synths remind me exactly of Tony Banks' synth play in the second half of GENESIS's "The Waiting Room." I love it! 

     By the sixth minute the bass has actually committed to a steady rhythm track while the guitar and cymbals continue their free form contributions. The instrumentalists slowly recede to allow for a quiet end to the song. (12/15)

4. "Misophonia I" (8:58) opens with deep synth notes and low end bass play with a kind of metronomic, Native American-like low end drum beat. For the first three minutes I can definitely picture native American tribal dancers around the campfire--maybe readying themselves for war. The disturbing and discordant shift during and throughout the fourth minute leads to the establishment of a kind of groovy Buddha Lounge song at the four minute mark. Bass, drums and guitar riffs are all on fixed groove mode while the bouncy synth sounds like he's performing at an Ibiza all-night rave club.

Horn-like sounds are layered and echoed during seventh minute to nice effect. This turns out to be the song's last real surprise or shift as things begin to slowly fade over the course of the next two minutes.
     Interesting song. I'm not sure of its intentions or reasons--nor am I certain if it really works. It is, however, unusual. (16/20)

5. "Shattered" (4:40) opens like a jazz song with some synths, bass, drums and wah-effected guitar riffing his chords over a cute hypnotic groove. The synth and drum play don't quite fit in, but this could almost fit in with some of the 1970s Black Exploitation film scores. The guitar and synth play feel at odds--as if they're in different universes--or, at least, different sound studios. Not a song that I care to hear again. (6/10)


6. "Misophonia II" (1:19) is a brief interlude which sounds as if it could almost be a classical piece that has been heavily, heavily treated and distorted in the psychedelic fashion. (4/5) 


7. "Opsis" (5:25) has more of the feel and sound palette of the music from EO's 2014 masterpiece, Volume 10. The zither and horn sounds and calmer, more steady rock rhythm tracks are so nice to hear again! Beautiful if subtle melody! (9/10)

8. "Misophonia III" (17:36) I keep reading about the power and centrality of this song to this album and I have to say, I agree. It is one monster of a song, with an awesomely powerful opening from the keyboard master, Dirk Jan Müller. The development is slow but seemingly methodical, well-planned, and the keyboard drenched soundscape is joyfully drenched with Müller's strokes and washes. It's funny to enjoy so much the minimalist inputs from the band's other three members and just have the keys going solo over the course of the first six minutes. Once the rest of the band join in and establish their trepidous support, Dirk Jan continues to play around, but gradually his keys become more integrated into the weave, even seem to fade to background a bit--though there are the occasional really cool low end chord staccato hits. In the tenth minute, when things feel like they're starting to stagnate, Dirk Jan turns up the gas, puts on the horn synth, thrashes out a few heavy handed chords. Man! is he giving a great Berlin School keyboard exhibition! Volume levels all around amp up at the 12-minute mark, but then back off, leaving a little "Lucky Man" fade into the 13-minute mark. The bass, guitar and constant drum pattern keep it going, though, while DJ Müller again goes on his creative binging. More this, EO! I love it! (35/35)
  

While I enjoy all of the electronic space experimentation going on beneath the "lead" instruments by keyboard specialist Dirk Jan Müller, I find this album less cohesive and engaging than either Volume 10 or Morbus. I often find myself feeling as if the oceans of synth heaven going on beneath and the instrumental action above (or below) are disconnected--like sea and air--sea and mud.


83.23 on the Fishscales = B-, yet a four star album; a nice addition to any prog rock music collection. 



FREQUENCY DRIFT Last

While latest lead vocalist MELANIE MAU has the most ANNIE HASLAM-lilke voice yet used in a Frequency Drift album, Andreas HACK's project continues to flourish with whomever he decides to put in the role of vocalist. For my own personal preferences, this is my favorite FD album since 2011's Ghosts.... The prominence of harpist NERISSA SCHWARTZ's electric harp is one big plus for this album--especially for those songs that I like the best. I'm still not contented with the drum sounds--they sound too electronic or programmed for my ears.

Unfortunately, every time I've listened to this album (over a dozen times) I've found the first two songs driving me away. (I have run away several times, saying that I'll come back to it later.)

1. "Traces" (7:08) (7/10)


2. "Diary" (5:31) (7/10)

3. "Merry" (5:08) shows a strong kinship to Annie HASLAM-led RENAISSANCE (9/10)

4. "Shade" (5:52) an angelic voice harp folk duet in the verses becomes eerie, almost discordant with bowed double bass and after the two minute mark with modulating synth notes. In the fourth minute things amp up with tuned percussion and electric bass, but then just as suddenly settle back into the gentle harp and piano music that started us off. The final 90 seconds start off slowly before finally getting into an engaging groove (based upon the beautiful melody lines of the opening two minutes.) I can't help but wish that Melanie's voice were present in the finale instead of flute. (9/10)

5. "Treasured" (8:25) better than the first two songs. The electric guitar work in the second half is awesome. (8/10)

6. "Last Photo" (7:59) Melanie's vocal lines feel like they're struggling to find a melody line that she likes. The instrumental parts a re good, though. (8/10)

7. "Hidden" (5:34) has a nice, fresh sound to its opening--the instrumental sounds. Melanie's vocal sounds a bit too folk-classical for this song; there is a strong disconnect between the mood and feel that the instrumental music is presenting with that of the vocal. Still, it's a decent song--different enough for Andreas' history to make it interesting. (Perhaps it's the CURE-like bass synth chords.) The acoustic accompaniment to Melanie's voice that is used in the final 90 seconds is the way this song would have worked best. (8/10)

8. "Asleep" (8:31) is another odd song that forces Melanie's vocal talent to struggle to stay in a key, in an established melody. The stops and starts make it feel as if this song keeps stopping and starting over! Odd and unsettling. 
      In the fifth minute--after the third or fourth re-start--Melanie finally hits her sweet zone and pulls of an amazing vocal--but then, at 5:15, you power up and make her drop down--way down. Oddly enough, it works. This time. And the metal instrumental section that follows is pretty good, too. (9/10)

Andreas, in my opinion, it is when your music is the most simplified, in its most acoustic "folk" or "classical" orientation, that it works best--for me as a listener and for your extremely talented vocalists. The wide and dramatic dynamic shifts are, I think, too much. 

81.25 on the Fish scales = a solid four star album; a great addition to any prog lover's album collection.




MODERN-ROCK ENSEMBLE Touch the Mystery

Sounding much like 1980s Rick Wakeman comes Ukrainian Vladimir Gorashchenko's Modern-Rock Ensemble (with a little help from Anton Kalugin). Touch the Mystery presents a collection of songs that Vlad has been reworking since the end of the 1980s. These nice sounding, mature, emotional songs are a welcome addition to the Prog lexicon.

1. "Meditations" (11:43) A nice song with welcome guitars and an interesting baritone voice. Twelve minutes seems a bit long for the little development that occurs but it works! (9/10)


2. "What Will Happen To My Country?" (3:02) one of the two keyboard instrumental solos from Vladimir. They both sound a lot like 1980s Rick Wakeman pieces (including the use of dated synthesizers and New Age-y electronic piano). This one is a bit more developed in terms of multiple tracks and the use of multiple instruments. (8/10)

3. "Touch The Mystery" (19:50) This is the most developed, prog rock-like song on the album, with many shifts in tempo, melody and dynamics, instrumental orientation. The only song with the presence of sax (soprano) this works very well for this song--as does the nice lead guitar work of Max Velichko (KARFAGEN). Some of the sound reproduction and sectional shifts remind me quite a bit of UNITOPIA's 2009 prog epic masterpiece, "The Garden." I also quite enjoy the use of both fretted and fretless bass in different sections here. Nice work, Igor Zakus! 
     Altogether an interesting, engaging song with competent flow compositionally and great performances throughout. The sound of the keyboards used throughout are often feeling dated, and the transitions sometimes feel a bit predictable and/or cliché. (9/10)


4. "My Angels" (Dedicated To My Wife And Daughters) (3:16) pretty enough but a bit over-saccharine for my tastes. Same criticisms as for #2. (7/10)


5. "Swamp" (Recorded Live During The Jazz Festival In 1989) (9:51) despite the poor sound quality, this is an interesting song, very spacious and full of pretty melodies. Though apparently from a live performance, the song feels as if the band were experimenting with being together as well as the use of various sound effects. Also, each section feels somewhat rehearsed while the transitions are a bit rough, feeling forced. (7.5/10)
 
6. "Meditations" (Version In Russian) (11:43) as intimated by the parenthetical addition to the title, this is the same music tracks as song #1 with the lyrics sung in Russian. I always prefer songs sung in the artists' native languages. (No rating.)


Though I am well aware of the prolific presence of Anton(y) Kalugin in the past decade (I own several albums of projects of his [Karfagen and Sunchild]), I am not as intimately familiar with his personal instrumental sytlings to differentiate between his contributions to this album and those of its composer. It works.


81.0 on the Fishscales = 3.5 star album; B-; good but certainly not extraordinary. Rated down for brevity of original and unrepeated material. 




METAQUORUM Midnight Sun

MetaQuorum is a ground-breaking new music project by Russian born composer/keyboardist Dmitry Ermakov whose off-the-wall style is set to stretch the definition of traditional jazz fusion. 
Ermakov takes the best of funk, grunge, jazz, rock, neo-baroque, electronica, reggae etc., shakes it up a little, grafts it onto the matrix of various musical forms, including even classical sonata, and then adds a dash of swing and a good sprinkling of humour to create his own unique heady cocktail which he calls structural fusion. 







KATATONIA The Fall of Hearts

The best album I've ever heard from these veteran Swedish rockers (despite the use of a horrible drum sound and the gradual feeling of monotony of the Jonas Renske's vocals over the course of the entire album).

Line-up: 

1. "Takeover" (7:09) (8.5/10)
2. "Serein" (4:46) (7.5/10)
3. "Old Heart Falls" (4:22) (8.5/10)
4. "Decima" (4:46) (8.5/10)
5. "Sanction"  (5:07) (7.5/10)
6. "Residual" (6:54) (7/10)
7. "Serac" (7:25) good high-octane metal (8/10)
8. "Last Song Before The Fade" (5:01) is a top three song for me. (8.5/10)
9. "Shifts" (4:54) proves that variety is good. Another top three song. (8.5/10)
10. "The Night Subscriber" (6:10) if only the strings were real instead of synths. (7.5/10)
11. "Pale Flag" (4:23) has very nice music, too bad the vocal and lyric don't quite fit. (7.5/10)
12. "Passer" (6:25) my other top three--I like the dynamic shifts and VOLA/DEPECHE MODE-gone-metal feel here. (8.5/10)
13. "Vakaren" (4:54) (CD/DVD & Deluxe Edition Bonus Track)
14. "Sistere"  (4:11) (LP & Deluxe Edition Bonus Track)
15. "Wide Awake In Quietus"  (4:59) (Digital & Deluxe Edition Bonus Track)

Total Time 81:26



80.0 on the Fishscales = 3.5 stars; B-/C+; good solid album of heavy prog. It has flaws but is pretty consistent.




THE GOURISHANKAR The World Unreal

At this point in the evolution of The Gourishankar the project is almost a solo endeavor of multi-instrumentalist and chief songwriter Nomy Agranson. Drummer Svetoslav Bogdanov and lead vocalist Jason Offen are the members who complete Nomy’s vision. Also, with The World Unreal The Gourishankar has moved even more towards its 80s-rooted Neo Prog heart—which is not a real plus for me.

1. “Intro-Fate” (2:03) a flowing collection of spacey techno sounds that provide an introduction to the album. (8/10)

2. “Order and Chaos” (5:30) puts on display the eclecticism of this band as it melds funk bass, techno keyboards sounds, both metal and techno-pop guitar, and Middle Eastern female vocal incidentals with a kind of Mariuz Duda-Mark King lead vocal. Pretty good song. If you twist my arm I would probably admit to this being my third favorite song on the album. (8/10)

3. “First Rush” (5:01) is such a 80s-style pop song (using more modern computer and sound technologies)! We could be listening to Johnny Hates Jazz or Thomas Dolby or Level 42. Only, this song would not get very far on the pop charts. (7/10)

4. “Let It Go” (4:11) opens with programmed drums and percussion and vocoder and auto tuned vocals with mushy keyboard banks chords. OWL CITY meets The Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart. Pretty well done, though. (8/10) 

5. “Place for Everything” (4:45) is really one of the only songs on the album that has a truly progressive rock feel to it—though its music often falls into ruts of 80s techno pop sound cliches. (8/10) 

6. “Heartland” (5:53) is a very radio friendly Crossover/Neo Prog song in a kind of Nice Beaver-Level 42-Simple Minds-The Cure vein. Unfortunately, it has no real bite or vim—especially coming from the vocalist. (7/10) 

7. Truth Stays Silent” (12:00) is stronger for its many changes, its many sections, and for the presence of the violin. It is weakened by the pitchy vocals and dated computer keyboard sounds used (especially the choral banks) and the two or three sections that are kind of cheezy (especially toward the end). (8/10)

8. “World Unreal” (4:40) is a nearly flawless pop prog song with great clarity definition given to all instruments in which violin, lead vocal and percussion shine particularly. One of my top three for this album. (9/10)

9. “Time Follows” (5:48) is a delicate, subtly constructed song that works. It is one of the top three songs on the album. (9/10)

10. “Pleasure and Suffering, Pt. 1” (5:43) is a totally NeoProg song full of bombast and cliche. Nice but nothing new or exciting to write home about. (8/10)

11. “Pleasure and Suffering, Pt. 2” (5:22) is an instrumental which sounds very much as if it were constructed on a computer program. It has a rather nice New Age-y sound and feel to it—and a kind of Hibernal approach with a sci-fi metaphysics blurb read over the top of the song’s fourth minute. Not bad. (8/10) 

While Nomy Agranson is a very talented musician and competent songwriter, his music is often lacking cohesion, lacking spark, and lacking anything really new, fresh, or innovative. His drummer is equally competent and the singer has a very pleasant tone to his voice, he just lacks conviction and excitement. (He is much better with softer, almost whispery sections—like on “Time Follows”.) 
More violin, Nomy!

80.0 on the Fish scales = four stars.



MONO Requiem for Hell

I love Mono and what they do, but I have to say that this album is quite a disappointment after their previous three albums--which were all great.

1. "Death in Rebirth" (8:05) a typical slow building Mono song but what's up with the drummer? He seems to be way off and too militaristic. The song finally gets good at the (prolonged) crescendo and when the drums disappear. (7.5/10)

2. "Stellar" (4:58) starts off with some awesome strings and then piano to play the slow weave of arpeggi. Tuned percussion joins in in the third minute and then the staticky guitar feedback. Very nice, if simple, tune. (8.5/10)

3. "Requiem for Hell" (17:48) opens with two guitars weaving their arpeggi to perfect beauty. Things start getting a little raunchier (in a good way) with some distorted guitar tracks and bells in the third minute. When the drums join in at the five minute mark it's like someone stuck a needle into a balloon--it diminishes the beautiful effect that had been built up to this point. How could the band and producer not hear the horrible effect the drums have on this music? Luckily, there is a reprieve from the drums starting at 9:15. By 10:15 the song is starting afresh with all new arpeggi coming from the guitars. Drum play is added in the twelfth minute, but only to accent the other instruments. Then, when all hell breaks loose (no pun intended) at 12:20, the drummer is mixed farther back in the mix and his play is more in tune with the cacophony occurring all around. This is actually quite an appropriate and effective psychedelic section for the subject matter (not unlike some of the frenzy in more recent MOTORPSYCHO songs). And it plays out for the entirety of the song's final five and a half minutes! Best song on the album. (9/10) 

4. "Ely's Heartbeat" (8:27) one of the weakest Mono songs I've heard in a long time. The drums are so off and the instrumentalists seem to be careless. (6.5/10)

5. "The Last Scene" (6:43) a very pretty, slow and deliberate almost HAROLD BUDD/ROBIN GUTHRIE song. (8.5/10)

80.0 on the Fishscales = four stars; B-; a good album that is worth hearing--especially if you are a Post Rock or Mono fan.



FREEDOM TO GLIDE Fall

This album is innocuous and listenable enough but there's nothing here drawing me back. The music is too simplistic and too computer-generated (with agonizingly poor computer sound generations of all strings and synths). M. Nixon is a good guitarist, okay vocalist (VERY similar to ROINE STOLT), fair songwriter in the PINK FLOYD vein, but many of his compositions lack sophistication and high production standards.

Line-up / Musicians: 
Andy Nixon - Lead vocals, guitars, bass, drum programming
Pete Riley - Piano, synthesizers, organ, vocals (11)
With
Louise Wilson (KAFKADIVA) - Voice over (6, 8) 
Bob Jackson (BADFINGER) - Piano solo (2)

1. "Fall" (1:55) nice intro to the album--though it's dynamic extremes give us a misleading feel for the style and pace to follow. (9/10)

2. "Silent Code" (7:19) easily the best song on the album with the best instrumental arrangements and sound engineering plus an excellent, unusual jazzy guitar solo at the end. (9/10)

3. "Names In The Stone" (4:54) sounds EXACLY like a ROINE STOLT composition. (8/10)

4. "Toll" (3:02) nice mostly instrumental song despite poor sound engineering. (8/10)

5. "Playing God" (5:04) a very good song that sounds/feels oddly familiar. NOSOUND? MYSTERY? PT? NINE STONES CLOSE? (9/10)

6. "Exit Wound" (5:38) a nearly-unlistenable opening section is saved by a wonderful middle and end section. (8/10)

7. "Enigma" (8:02) a pleasant piano-based song that sounds a lot like ROINE STOLT--even the Gilmour-like guitar solos. (8/10)

8. "The Middle Game" (7:45) (8/10)

9. "Trough Of War" (4:06) (7/10)

10. "Solace" (1:04) pleasant, creepy instrumental interlude. (8/10)

11. "Sleep Under The Flag" (3:14) pretentious poetry reading that you or I could do on our computer. 'Strings' arrangement at the end are the only redeeming factor. (7/10)

12. "Another Same" (3:32) catchy acoustic guitar piece that could fit on any indie rock album. (8/10)

13. "October" (5:43) pure Roger Waters drivel. (7/10)

14. "Exit Wound (Let It Go...)" (5:40) a remake of song #6. I just can't get over that opening section.(8/10) (bonus track)

80.0 on the Fishscales = a good three star album.



BLIND EGO Liquid

Solid and surprisingly heavy prog from a collaboration of some of Germany's neo prog veterans. Kalle Wallner of the exceedingly saccharine Neo Prog band, RPWL, is not usually this hard rock-oriented.


Line-up
Kalle Wallner (RPWL) - guitars, bass, backing vocals, keyboards, programming
Arno Menses
 (Subsignal) - vocals
Erik Ez Blomkvist
 - vocals
Aaron Brooks
 (Simeon Soul Charger) - vocals
Sebastian Harnack 
(Sylvan) - bass
Ralf Schwager
 (Subsignal) - bass
Heiko Jung
 (Panzerballett) - bass
Michael Schwager 
(Dreamscape) - drums

1. A Place In The Sun (6:11) 
2. Blackened (5:44) 
3. What If (6:24) 
4. Not Going Away (7:32) 
5. Never Escape The Storm (8:20) 
6. Tears And Laughter (4:47) 
7. Hear My Voice Out There (5:56) 
8. Quiet Anger (6:31) 
9. Speak The Truth (6:54) 





ALUK TODOLO Voix

Energized instrumental Krautrock/Post Rock from France! The album plays out like onw continuous song and has a lot of elements of MAGMA-like Zeuhl (drums and bass)! The drumming is good, bass needs work, electric guitar is okay. This band has potential but will need to grow and expand in the future.

Line-up:


1. 8:18 (8:18) (7.5/10)
2. 7:54 (7:54) (8/10)
3. 5:01 (5:01) (7.5/10)
4. 7:01 (7:01) (8/10)
5. 5:34 (5:34) (8/10)
6. 9:29 (9:29) (8.5/10)

Total Time 43:17


79.17 on the Fishscales = 3.5 star album; C+; a good album that shows potential. Let's see.





HOMÍNIDO Alados

Bassist Francisco Martín and vocalist Eliana Valenzuela--both essential and virtuoso performers in their craft--are gone! Señor Martín is replaced with "touch guitar" player Natán Idi and Ms. Valenzuela by male singer, Javier Briceño. The music is good, very well composed and performed. I just need some time to adjust.

(Later.) The music just doesn't have the emotional impact nor (surprisingly) the technical and stylistic daring as their previous effort. Even were Ms. Valenzuela still a contributing member there is just something missing here that I don't think even her extraordinary gifts could save. Even the recording engineering seems weak and uneven, even unpolished. I do like the effect of the touch guitar, I just miss some of the more complex soundscapes and diverse styles--and I totally dislike the way the drums are recorded. Though the trumpet play is beautiful, it lacks dynamism, power, and emotion--it could've been performed by a synthesizer. Their is so much cliche and repetition here--and there are times that I actually find the guitar and vocals annoying (so I skip ahead--which is something I don't like to do and rarely do do).

Musicians / Line-up
Natán Ide - Touch Guitar
Rodrigo González Mera (La Desooorden) - Drums, percussion
Pablo Cárcamo (La Desooorden) - Guitar, keyboards
Javier Briceño - Vocals
Cristopher Hernández - Trumpet, corno, duduk
Benjamín Ruz - Violin 


Five star song:  3. "Queltehue (8:02) (9/10).

Four star songs:  2. "Cachudito (5:48) (8.5/10); 5. "Fio Fio (5:21) (8.5/10); 10. "Chuncho (7:30) (8.5/10); 4. "Chercan (4:01) (8/10); 8. "Loica (4:46) (8/10); 1. "Tenca (8:03) (8/10); 9. "Traro (6:20) (7.5/10); 11. "Garza (5:22) (7.5/10), and; 6. "Vari (4:12) (7/10).

Three star song:  7. "Pequen (4:29) (6.5/10).

Total time 63:54

79.09 on the Fishscales = four stars.




BEN CRAVEN Last Chance to Hear

Melodic ear candy of "unabashedly cinematic prog" from Aussie multi-instrumentalist (and uber-talented guitarist) Ben Craven. Production and performances are at times lacking polish or refinement, but this is a nice collection of instrumental songs that would make great accompaniment to scenes in sci-fi B-movies (or videos).

Favorite tracks:  the brilliantly guitar soloed 7. "Spy in the Sky, Part 1" (4:47) (9/10); the Rick WAKEMAN-influenced 4. "Spy in the Sky, Part 2" (4:42) (9/10); the simple yet beautiful piano (with harp late) solo, 10. "Mortal Remains" (3:16); (9/10); 2. "Critical Mass, Part 1" (3:00) (8/10); 3. "Critical Mass, Part 2" (3:25) (8/10), and; the melodramatic 5. "Spy in the Sky, Part 3 (featuring William Shatner)" (8:43) (8/10).

79.0 on the Fish scales = four star album; a nice addition to any prog lover's music collection.



DISCONNECT Darkling

1. Darkling (22:08)
2. Patterns (6:15)
3. Anfractuous (5:44)
4. Stratagem Malum (7:20)
5. Reclamation (5:00)

Total Time 46:17

Line-up
Erich O'Dell - guitars, bass, keyboards, vocals
Brian Eschrich - drums, percussion, synth




HYPNO5E Shores of the Abstract Line

"Cinematic metal" with all of the requisite djenty guitar power chords, machine gun bass drumming and male vocal screams/growls, yet interlaced within and between are plenty of soft, atmospheric, and even ambient sections--over which voice samples from a wide variety of languages are often on display. Interesting, surprising, and well recorded. 

Favorite tracks:  If Pink Floyd went metal we might get something like, "III. West Shore:  Where We Lost the Ones" (10:31) (9/10) and insistent "V. Central Shore:  Tio" (5:26) which is sung emotionally in Spanish (9/10). 

Also good:  the dreamy piano-based opener, "I. East Shore: Landscape in the Mist" (1:42) (8/10), the TUNE Lucid Moments-like "VI. North Shore: The Abstract Line" (6:56) (8/10), and; "VIII. The South Shore: Blind Man's Eye" (15:10) (8/10).

I found myself often reminded of the brilliant 2011 album Lucid Moments by Poland's TUNE while listening to this. Despite the growls and heavy sections (which are actually in the minority) this album is well worthy of repeated listens.

78.75 on the Fish scales = four stars.




ANDROID 16 Everything Begins Now

Creative and refreshingly diverse instrumental Post Rock from Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. Still, I see room for improvement in terms of instrumental skill mastery--which can then work to the advantage of making their compositions tighter and more layered.

1. Crayons (4:11)
2. Sequential Plight (4:28)
3. [distance] (1:20)
4. Life Boss (4:22)
5. [finesight] (2:48)
6. Scrapyard (5:42)
7. [mariachi] (3:39)
8. A Duke's Cry (6:21)
9. Minor Terrestrial (6:22)
10. [hidden] (2:34)
11. [daybreak] (2:16)
12. Flat Is Round (13:07)

Total time 57:10

Line-up:
Alex Greig-guitar
Aaron Kainula-guitar
Kai Leinonen-violin
Timo Pehkonen-drums
Joshua Therriault-bass






LOONYPARK Perpetual

Interesting computer program keyboard-oriented Neo Prog. It's melodic, quirky, gentle, and graced by the FREQUENCY DRIFT/INTROITUS type of sound and female vocalist (Sabina Godula-Zając),

1. "Something to Forget" (5:10) (8/10)
2. "Face in the mirror" (4:20) (9/10)
3. "Train of life" (5:11) banjo! (8/10)
4. "Don't say a word" (4:34) Nice vocal but too syrupy. The keyboard sounds sound old. (7/10)
5. "In the name..." (4:24) ("...of the Lord") weird little song. (7/10)
6. "Catch & release" (5:14) So simple. And dated. Like a bad 70s rock song. (6/10)
7. "Secrets to hide" (5:39) has a cool PINGVINORKESTERN feel to it. Great pacing groove. And better sound choices. (9/10)
8. "New beginning" (5:55) a long introduction leads into a pleasant, melodic instrumental song. (8/10)
9. "December" (5:33) the computer drums immediately intrigue and repel me. Piano and low register female vocal soon join in. Singer gets emotionally involved. Nice piano bar or AM rock ballad. (8/10) 


77.78 in the Fish scales = solid three star album. Good but not great.




AMPHETAMIN A Flood of Strange Sensations

Very different, well-produced, vocal-oriented Post Rock from Sebastian, a one-man band from France. The overall heavy mood of the album's music lends it a feeling of something new in the world of Post Rock. FIELDS OF NEPHILIM meets KEVIN SHIELDS and PERRY and JAMES BLAKE.

Favorite songs:  the subtly shifting construction and masterful vocal of 7. "Neverland" (4:49) (9/10); the deeply emotional and slowly building 3. "Once Upon a Tree" (5:43) (9/10); 5. "Endless Nights" (4:54) with its great guitar chord progressions and surprisingly bare end (9/10); the awesome lead guitar work on 8. "Favourite Doll" (4:56) (8/10), and; the beautiful 9. "Thoughts in the Water" (5:59) (8/10).

77.27 on the Fish scales = a solid four star album; recommended to all prog music lovers.



SPACEKING The Piper at the Gates of Stone

This band from Russia has great sound. Bass, drums, guitars each fill the soundscape perfectly. As a matter of fact, were I to put together my own instrumental Prog Metal band, these are sounds, both individually and collectively, to which I would aspire. Also, the sound engineering and production here is flawless--I can actually hear all of the instruments even though the music present the stereotypic "walls of sound" that is common among heavy/metal music. 

Line-up:
Ivan Zakharov - Bass, Saz, FX
Stanislav Matveev - Guitar
Ilya Yakunov - Guitar
Daniil Kornev - Drums

1. "Ruins" (5:58) a great opener of nice variety, layering, and melody showing great promise for this instrumental band of heavy rock. (7.5/10)
2. "Metamorph" (7:49) Starts out a little slowly, a little too RUSH-like, repetitiously, but then gets interesting with LED ZEPPELIN riffs and keyboards in the second half. (8.5/10)
3. "Silent Widow" (5:51) seems to get stuck in the opening riff for all of its six minutes. (6/10)
4. "44" (4:18) Where's the variation, where's the development? (7/10)
5. "Dwarf" (5:02) something different! An atmospheric opening! And there is more variation and development than the previous two songs--and it doesn't sound so much like somebody else (as far as I know). By far my favorite song on the album--because it sounds original! (9/10)
6. "The Piper At The Gates Of Stone" (6:06) a little bit of world music instrumentation in the opening! Yay! Develops into a little cross between IHNSAHN and U2. (8/10)
7. "Collapse" (7:01) a slightly milder, slower start helps me gain access to this song. The melody line and sound remind me a lot of Irish Post Rock band GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT. The problem is that there is not enough dynamic variation or sonic development, just riffing at pretty much one tempo. As in the opener, great electric guitar sound during its soloing. (8/10)

Total time 42:05

These instrumentalists have certainly done their homework, they have certainly learned and mastered the riffs and sounds of the Masters of Metal. My problem is that most of the songs and their component parts sound as if they came straight our of someone else's "greatest hits"--as if the instrumentalists and collective here are trying to string together songs or parts of songs built from the great riffs of all-time--other people's riffs. Rush, Led Zeppelin, Megadeth, Metallica, and probably a number of other bands whose "classic" hits and riffs I do not know because I've never been much of a collector of metal music. If this band with its great sound and incredible engineering and production ever chooses to create its own music--as it does in the fifth song here, "Dwarf" and the intro of "Silent Widow"--then we may have something truly worth shouting about. Until then, this is, to my ears, a great sounding album of mostly regurgitated classic heavy metal music.

77.14 on the Fishscales = solid three star album; a good representation of progressive rock, the hard instrumental metal version.




THIRD QUADRANT Re:generator

Lush though simple Neo Prog in the PINK FLOYD tradition from recently reunited UK progsters Third Quadrant, there is a definite 1980s vibe to some of the sounds and stylings here, but the songs are all pure ear candy for any retro-prog fans. One of the two lead vocalists has a distinctive familiarity to his voice--he sounds like the wonderful lead singer from JOHNNY HATES JAZZ, Clark DATCHLER. All songs are decent, if fairly simple--not unlike Tony PATTERSON's 2016 offering, Equations of Meaning though not nearly of the same skill, polish or effect. I am not fond of the use of these late-80s sounding dated keyboards--and the first two minutes of the opening song, "Bell:106" and of the album centerpeice, "Deadstar:1" as well as the entire closing number are almost purely space/electronica soundtrack filler.

1. "Bell:106" (6:51) sounds like a lost 1970s PINK FLOYD song. I love the bass and keyboard work, but the vocals are bit too close to Floydian precedents. (9/10)

2. "Carbon:14" (6:45) finds me really attracted to the bass play and the familiar tone of the lead vocalist.
 (9/10)

3. "62:miles" (4:25) piano-based sounds like it's still in a demo state; could have been developed more. (7/10)

4. "Page:217" (5:59) has some nice melodic moments. (8/10)

5. "Deadstar:1" (19:01) is obviously meant to be the album's centrepiece. Unfortunately, once one gets past the opening 2:20 space music intro, the band's 80s roots becomes quite evident in the sounds and styles used. Also made very obvious with this song is the rather poor engineering and production skills and/or equipment used for this album. At 19 minutes in length, I have to admit that I found this one to be a great disappointment; it made me feel as if I had wasted twenty minutes of my life. (6/10)
 
6. "3:arth" (3:36) is fairly nice background space music; nothing special. (7/10)


76.67 on the Fish scales = four star album. Great potential here as these gifted composers seem to need more time and effort to go into the development and production of their songs.




SIMON McKECHNIE From My Head to My Feet

A solo project of top notch progressive rock music from Simon McKechnie. Along with playing all of the instruments except woodwinds and drums (played by Adam Riley and recorded masterfully), Simon's powerful and clear voice shows signs of either some classical training or Broadway musical experience--which is a plus. This is a voice that is refreshing to hear yet is sadly only truly accentuated in the first two songs. Simon also has quite an obvious attraction to historical themes for his lyrical compositions.

1. "Hymn of Apollo" is a beautiful, dramatic song constructed around the poem of the same name by Percy Bysshe Shelley. There is a certain familiarity to Simon's wonderful singing voice--very much akin to that of NOEL McCALLA. The music of the song itself even has the feel of the MIKE RUTHERFORD album Smallcreep's Day on which Noel sang lead vocals. My second favorite song on the album. (9/10)

2. "Jane Wenham's Trial" sounds quite like GENTLE GIANT and the CARDIACS. Some nice chinky bass and awesomely fresh guitar sounds (African/Caribbean sounding) woven together with the flutes, drums and vocals. Some nice ANDY PARTRIDGE energy and quirkiness to this one. My favorite song on the album. (9/10)

3. "Year of Light" sounds like an instrumentalized Part 2 to the previous song. Nice layers of multiple guitars--some sounding like DAVE GREGORY (XTC, Big Big Train) (8/10)

4. "From My Head to My Feet" is an obnoxiously poppy in the vein of YES' 1980s output. A disappointing turn in the album. (6/10)

5. "Melita" sounds very much like it could have come from the 2014 KNIFEWORLD album, The Unravelling, former Cardiacs' guitarist Korvus Torabi. (7/10)

6. "Once Upon a Time" is jazzy, multi-culturally influenced instrumental with African-influence guitar-play being the prime feature. (8/10)

7. "The Harpists' Song" has quite a Noel MCCALLA/MIKE RUTHERFORD feel to it--as if it could have come straight from the 1980 Smallcreep's Day album. Interesting but ultimately quite forgettable. (7/10)

An extremely talented musician, singer and composer, this album is only deserving of three stars for the sake of inconsistent composition and engineering, and inconsistent display of this artist's talents (his dramatic voice). I love the affinity for old historically based stories, the more theatric vocals, the drumming, and the multifarious choices for guitar sounds--oft-times layered on right over the other. But the songwriting, recording and entertainment value are widely disparate over the course of the album. Still, Simon's talent is such that I will most certainly be backtracking to try to hear his previous albums.

75.71 on the Fish scales = a three star album.




SUBTERRANEAN STREET SOCIETY I'll Leave Me Before You Do

Indie-pop sounding vocal-oriented acoustic prog--many of the songs sound as if they came out of the folk or indie-folk genres. Pleasant and ancient sounding. Worth checking out.






RED BAZAAR Tales from the Bookcase

Heavy Neo Prog with multiple guitar tracks from TIGER MOTH TALES' Peter JONES, guitarist Andy Wilson, bassist Mick Wilson, keyboard artist Gary Marsh, and drummer Paul Comerie. A bit AYREON in sound, style and storytelling capacity, a bit Hogarth-era MARILLION, this is well-constructed, immaculately performed, engaging music with great storytelling and lots of musical hooks and surprises presented in a very well engineered/produced package. It's really hard to find fault with this music except, perhaps, in its EDISON'S CHILDREN-like simplicity. 

1. "In The Beginning" (3:00) an ominous instrumental to effectively set up the rest of the album. Unfortunately, this one also betrays the overall simplicity of the musical structures. (7/10)

2. "Queen Of The Night, Part 1" (6:54)  in the heavier parts, this music is weak, grating, in the softer, more melodic sections it is nice, almost good. It's just so simple! Are we sure this is prog and not classic rock? (7/10)

3. "Calling Her On" (11:01) 
a tolerable song because it starts out softly, slowly, and then builds competently, if not complexly. Best song on the album. (9/10)

4. "City And The Stars" (8:34) illustrates how much I like the guitar work of Andy WILSON. (8/10)


5. "Lights Of Home" (12:24) is most notable for the prominent bass work. (7/10)

6. "Sunset For A New World" (7:59) has some more nice Andy WILSON guitar leads but the chord progression, bass and vocal melodies (and grating vocal harmonies) make this one a weak one. (6/10)


7. "Almost Over" (11:04) opens with some nice ominous moodiness but goes astray, turns into a kind of TED NUGENT piece--drawn out over much more time than is necessary, never realizing any of its potential. The drum sound begins to grate on me. (7/10)


8. "Queen Of The Night, Part 2" (12:17) at least has some time and mood shifts--and some awesome full-band cohesion in the second half--perhaps the best of the album. (8/10)


My biggest complaint lies in the slow and often simple development and sometimes unrealized potential of each song. This album has GREAT sound and some great ideas but they seem mostly underdeveloped.

73.75 on the Fishscales = a good album that, though unessential, is worth checking out.




ORION DUST

Solid heavy prog.

Line-up
Coplo Guillaume - Drums
Lombardi Olivier - Bass
Kaszowski Cécile - Vocals
Barbier Anthony - Guitar
Andrieux Marion - Keyboards
Bouron Fabien - Guitar

1. Cliffs Of Moher (6:01) 
2. Burn Out (7:14) 
3. Absencia (3:15) 
4. Darkest Hopes (3:58) 
5. Duality (4:15) 
6. Happiness Inside (11:07) 
7. Narcotic Dream (6:39) 
8. Tightrope Walker (4:11) 
9. Selene (8:37) 
10. The Rest (3:22) 

Total time 58:39




AUDIO'M Audio'm

Nice new gothic prog from France--great keyboards (two players, including harpsichord and church organ) and theatric storytelling by multiple lead vocalists. Resuscitating the great traditions of VDGG, Genesis, Renaissance, Babylon, and Discipline.

1. Stolen Love Bite (14:46) 
2. Mourning Dove (13:24) 
3. The Human Race (6:24) 
4. Dead Quiet (9:08) 
5. Run Away (9:01) 
6. Friend-Less-R (8:48) 

Total time 61:31

Line-up
Marco Fabbri - drums
Michel Cayuela - keys 
Mathieu Havart - keys
Simon Segura - bass
Gary Haguenauer - lead guitar 
Dominique Olmo - rhythm guitar
Emma Boudeau - viola da gamba
Lyse Mathieu - flute
Emmanuelle Olmo-Cayuela - vocals



BOMBAY GROOVY Dandy Do Dendê

1. Slip Disc '72 (3:37) 
2. Pavao Andaluz (3:19) 
3. Chakal (3:59) (9/10)
4. Bolero De Lilith (3:34) 
5. Kebab A Pigalle (3:33) 
6. Dandy Do Dende (4:10) 
7. Django-Lo-Ba (4:13) 
8. Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (5:24) (9/10)
9. Scandale (4:19) 
10. Moksha Blues (5:20) 
11. Paul's Funky Cab (3:21) 
12. St Olga (7:51) 




MAD FELLAS II

1-Hollow Shell
2-Blood Pressure I
3-Blood Pressure II
4-Me Gusta
5-OVO (Of Virtual Omniscence)
6-Moslem Sabbath
7-Meet the Gooroo

Line-up
Paolo Busatto - guitar
Marco Busatto - drums
Carlo Passuello - bass
Enrico Brunelli - keyboards, sax
Rudy Zilio - flute, clarinet, keyboards
Lorenzo Todesco - percussions
Jason Nealy - guitar
Anna Farronato - voice





ODD LOGIC Penny for Your Thoughts

Melodic vocal-based music by Tacoma, Washington's Sean Thompson that bridges Neo-Prog, heavy djenty metal, jazz-blues, 

1. Penny (1:12)
2. The First (5:24)
3. Life, Lore, & Love (6:43)
4. Secrets (5:09)
5. The Traveler (6:12)
6. Court Of Ancient Rulers (5:55)
7. Mr. Compromise (3:31)
8. The Island (8:05)
9. Lighthouses (5:57)
10. Agent Unknown (1:46)

Sean Thompson - Vocals and All Instruments





MOOGG Italian Luxury Style

Musicians / Line-up: 
Marco Dolfini - drums, percussion, vocals
Toni Gafforini  - keyboards
Roberto Matiz - bass
Ivan Vanoglio - guitars

1. Ieri / Italian Luxury I (11:23)
2. Nani, Veline E Cortigiane (6:38)
3. Turista Per Sempre (5:56)
4. L'estinzione Del Congiuntivo (5:12)
5. Le Voyage (pour Christian Vander) (8:06)
6. Due Come Noi (5:55)
7. Italian Luxury II (include Ritorno A Ieri) (10:38)

Total Time 53:48





OLLOCS Soul Theory

Spacious Post Metal Post Rock from New York. Their fourth album.


Line-up
Russell Frohberg - bass, guitar, vocals
Zach Vanderberg - guitars
Joshua Travis - guitar
Andrew Bieler - percussion, vocals
Alyssa Puletz - keys, vocals

1. At The Edge (pt. 2) (6:38)

2. "Macrocosm" (7:23)
3. The Paradigm (3:38)

4. "Soul Theory: Appetite" (3:24) here's where the metal roots come out--a very aggressive song which I guess is appropriate considering the title. 

5. Soul Theory: Insight (4:26) 

6. Soul Theory: Ignite (3:15)

7. Unfolding (2:32) 
a very meditative yet pregnant song--an ominous energy seems to be hiding, lurking, just beneath the surface throughout this delicate song, whic, as it turns out, is just an intro for the next song. Very effective. (10/10)


8. Paper Dragon (13:21)

9. Earth Meets Moon (4:49)

Total Time 49:26




BRUNO MANSINI Secret Signs of Green

Brazillian multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter BRUNO MANSINI enlists the talents of special guest CAUÊ DOKTORCYZK for the acoustic and electric guitar work to come up with a very nice world folk, symphonic-oriented Crossover Prog album. The straightforward, pop-oriented vocals are what really bring this album's music into the Neo- or Crossover realm. The music, by itself, is quite symphonic. Even more, there is a kind of Christian worship rock feel to both the music and lyrics. The music stands up well though it does have that simple one-dimensionality that often comes from self-performed, self-produced albums.  

1. "Secret signs of green" (11:29)
2. "Changed by love" (5:00)
3. "Keep in touch" (6:50)
4. "Talking to the wise men" (6:34)
5. "Spreading high feelings" (4:39)
6. "Dance of the seasons" (5:39)
7. "With you again" (4:34)
8. "A hopeful life" (9:19)
9. "The light of all creation" (5:11)






OUR SOLAR SYS
TEM In Time


The effort of a large communal collective in Sweden not unlike or ASH RA TEMPEL, AMON DÜÜL, and POLYPHONIC SPREE.

1. In The Beginning Of Time (20:26)
2. At The Edge Of Time (23:13)

Total time 43:39

Line-up:
Anders Naess - acoustic guitar
Anna Juhlin - percussion
Anna Myrsten - piano
David Svedmyr - bass
Hampus Lindblad - synthesizer, percussion
Johan Svedmyr - drums
Mattias Gustavsson (Dungen) - bass
Joel Öhlund - oud
Mikael Lennholm - electric guitar
Martin Fogelström - electric guitar
Karin Engquist - organ
Säde Huhta - clarinet
Maria Arnqvist - saxophone
Lisa Isaksson - flute
Johanna Hessel Siims - violin
Josefina Pukitis - percussion



KRISTOFFER GILDENLÖW The Rain

1. After The Rain, Pt. II (3:32) 
2. Holding On, Pt. I (5:54) 
3. Seeking The Sun, Pt. I (3:22) 
4. Seeking The Sun, Pt. II (1:53) 
5. Worthy (2:45) 
6. Holding On, Pt. II (2:31) 
7. See It All (4:51) 
8. Peripheral Memory (3:57) 
9. Breathe In, Breathe Out (2:33) 
10. In The Evening (5:38) 
11. It Was Me (4:11) 
12. Drizzle (5:13) 
13. She (4:54) 
14. All For You (1:15) 
15. The Funeral, Pt. I (1:01) 
16. The Funeral, Pt. II (1:54) 

Line-up
Kristoffer Gildenlöw (Pain of Salvation) - Vocals, Acoustic and Electric Guitars, Piano, Keyboards, Bass Guitars, Double Bass & Glockenspiel
   With
Lars Erik Asp (Gazpacho) - Drums and Percussion
Paul Coenradie - Electric Guitar
Fredrik Hermansson (Pain of Salvation) - Piano & Electric Piano
Anne Bakker - Violin, Viola & Vocals
Maaike  (Kovacs, Ayreon, Kingfisher Sky) - Cello
Norman Ebicilio - Vocals (12)
Cees Pouw - Accordeon
Popkoor Zuilen - Choir





MOTHMAN Mothman

Aggressive and high energy avant prog from Norway. 

1. Piece (3:41)
2. Dendendon (4:31)
3. Hawkmoth (2:51)
4. Apollo (5:51)
5. Broken Bits (6:02)
6. Rum, Rum (3:57)
7. The Stove (4:22)
8. Sort Of Green (4:56)

Total Time 36:11

Line-up
Mads Røksund - guitar
Tarjei Kjerland Lienig - keyboards
Alexander Hoholm - bass
Martin Ulvin - drums





DIRAXY The Vagrant

Very melodic, vocal-oriented Post Rock from Italy, band leader DARIO FREDDI shares vocal duties with Frederica MANENTI and Anna FREDDI throughout the album--often layering one another's contributions into beautiful vocal weaves not unlike ANATHEMA or There are so many musical influences on display here that it is really exciting, very entertaining and interesting. Plus the music is so darn gorgeous--not unlike Kevin MOORE's CHROMA KEY albums of ten to fifteen years ago. 

I have to say that this album has really sucked me in. A little unpolished but so refreshing!




RÊVERIE Gnos Furlianis 





Q-BIQ Dispatch Work

A fresh take on the jazz fusion scene from these young Frenchmen not unlike the route UNAKA PRONG and ZA! have taken only with a little bit more bent toward the STEELY DAN sound. Nice! Needs to be heard!

1. "Confiture" (5:11) (8/10)
2. "A Brand New Start" (5:32) a great rap/hip hop song with that DAN feel. (9/10)
3. "Comoe" (6:38) (8/10)
4. "Traffic Jam (6:52)
5. "Romane No Cry (4:30)
6. "Que Calor ! (7:20)
7. "Walking Valse (5:23)
8. "Dodecaphunk (10:27)
9. "Black Hole (8:14) 

Line-up
Antonin Néel - Keyboards
Julien Fromont - Guitar
David Depassiot - Bass
Emmanuel Pastor - Drums, Percussions, Bass
   With
Daniel Pastor - Backing Vocals (3)
Arthur Pelloquet - Lead / Backing Vocals (2)





KRZYSZTOF LEPIARCZYK Art Therapy

Nice mostly instrumental Neo Prog from Polish member of LOONYPARK, keyboard specialist Krzysztof Lepiarczyk.




DIFFERENT LIGHT The Burden of Paradise

From Maltese singer-songwriter/keyboard player Trevor Tabone comes a concept album of Neo Prog in the vein of DAVID BENOIT-led MYSTERY or even MATTHEW PARMENTER/DISCIPLINE ("In Love and War"). It is an album of a very high quality in both sound engineering and musicianship--including some very solid contributions from drummer Petr Matoušek, bass player Jirka Matoušek, and guitarist Petr Lux. The 67-minute long album includes eight songs of which three ("In the Grand Scheme of Things," "Eternal Return" and "Love and War") are muli-part suites of at least 10 minutes in length.





ALEX CARPANI BAND So Close. So Far.

Top notch NeoProg from Italian keyboard/vocalist Alex Carpani and friends. Like their stellar release from 2014, 4 Destinies, the music here is complex, melodic, dynamic and very well rendered. While still retaining shadows of the Peter Gabriel-era GENESIS, Alex and the band have moved more into their own sound, with a more rock edge to it as compared to the jazzy-tinge that the four epic-length songs from 4 Destinies had. Plus the 10 songs here all fall within a two- to seven-minute time range and each carry their distinct flavors--even though this is a concept album. Human isolation and self-alienation are part of the topics here as it is posited that advances in technologies and virtual realities have allowed an appearance of global closeness that is in fact false and self-alienating. The music may support this theory while pointing toward a direction of hope, recovery, and health, but in the end, it is just nice music of the IQ kind.

Favorite songs:  9. "Next Time" (5:36) and 10. "The Last Time" (6:27)




STICK MEN Prog Noir

Vocals! More straightforward song structures with chunky ChapmanStick and Warr, some of it bluesy, some of it rehashing old (KC) territory, some fresh stuff. It is always a treat to hear the virtuosic magic of the one and only TONY LEVIN.




THE MULTIVERSE CONCEPT Chasing Echoes

Awesome ambient/djent prog from India. The narration by Sanaya Chandar is so sexy! Not a bad way to start.




CARPADIUM What You Need

Very strong Math Rock album with powerful performances straight down the line from guitarist Ryan BELL, drummer Andrew MANKIN and bass/key/synth player Jonathan WARD.




KARIBOW Holophinium




PSYCHIC LEMON Psychic Lemon






VISIONARY Gabriel

Young Italian guitar phenom Gabriel Gianelli has a vision, has force, and has the talent and the drive to manifest. Heavy metal yet full of sensitive, creative tangents, the band is made up of bass, guitar, drums, flute and American singer, Garrett Holbrook singing in English. While listening to this music I am reminded of other young bands like Boston's NATIVE CONSTRUCT, a young FAITH NO MORE or PAIN OF SALVATION, and, from the 1990s, Finland's KINGSTON WALL. Gabriel's facility around his axe is reminiscent of a young Jimi Hendrix. The music is interesting and fresh if a little more aggressive than my tastes enjoy. 

  

IF THESE TREES COULD TALK The Bones of a Dying World

More guitar-oriented Post Metal/Post Rock from one of the sub-genre's stallwarts.

Line-up: 
Zack Kelly: Drums
Tom Fihe: Bass
Jeff Kalal: Guitar
Cody Kelly: Guitar
Michael Socrates: Guitar


1. "Solstice" (7:49) nothing new here; just more of the same ole same ole. (7/10)
2. "Swallowing Teeth" (4:27) excellent and refreshing guitar work. (9/10)
3. "Earth Crawler" (6:38) nice guitar walls of sound in the 'chorus' sections but it's the drums that stand out for me on this one. (8/10)
4. "After The Smoke Clears" (6:18) 
5. "The Here And Hereafter" (2:33) 
6. "Iron Glacier" (8:25) 
7. "The Giving Tree" (6:03) 
8. "Berlin" (4:44) 
9. "One Sky Above Us" (7:34) 






MAMMA NON PIANGERE N. 3




ART AGAINST AGONY The Difference Between a Duck and a Lobster

Odd metallic jazz-rock out of Germany with the participation of members of Panzerballett and Cosmosquad. Angular, djenty, jazzy, King Crimson-esque but also similar to TAYLOR WATSON, VOTUM and KARNIVOOL (minus the vocals, of course). Tech Metal with rock melody and without the operatic or growl vocals.



OAK Lighthouse





DEUS EX MACHINA Devoto





ELEPHANTS OF SCOTLAND The Perfect Map

Decent Neo Prog covering territory somewhere between GENESIS, THE CARDIACS, and DANNY ELFMAN. What I can't really figure out is whether or not these guys really want to be prog or British Indie pop--they seem to be trying (badly) to cross both paths at once.







ASTRAL LYNX Flow




MADÁRFOGÁS Rögeszmék





PARADIGM SHIFT Becoming Aware




CARTOON THEORY Planet Geisha

Cartoon Theory is a broadly dynamic and nicelyt melodic "ambi-djenty techno-metal" concept project by multi-instrumentalist Maxime Lathière. On Planet Geisha, Max has been astute enough to enlist the help of several other contributors, two of which play on virtually every song, that is, guitarist/bass guitarist Juan Carlos Briceno Sanchez (aka "Breeze") and drummer extraordinaire Travis ORBIN (THE DARKEST HOUR, PERIPHERY, THE GABRIEL CONSTRUCT, BEING, SKY EATS AIRPLANE, NICK JOHNSTON), as well as several known musician/singers on various specific songs. The music is edgy but not overly abrasive. In fact, it reminds me quite a bit of a cross between the collective work of the WATSON father-son artists, Dean and Taylor--with a little more creative experimentalism with computer techno-electronica enhancements.



TCP (Temporal Chaos Project) Temporal Chaos

Really nice Neo Prog with a Fish-era Marillion sound to it. Not over the top dramatic, though.

1. Torn Apart 1000 Sparks (3:18)
2. Forest Of Lovelies (8:55)
3. Impetus (9:43)
4. The Forces (6:17)
5. Chrysalis (5:48)
6. Fantasize/Into The Blue (12:00)
7. Third Eye Limited (4:38)
8. In The Flame (11:05)

Total Time 61:44

Line-up:
Henry Tarnecky - vocals, keys
Blake Tobias - bass, keys
Jack Wright - guitars, drums
Glenn Arpino - keys
   With
Nicole Tarnecky - vocals (3, 4, 5, 6)
Tom Shiben - bass  (5)





ORCHESTRE CELESTI The Court of Miracles, Vol. 2

This may be THE year for self-performed, self-produced albums, and here is another one with above average quality. Frederico Fantacone composed, recorded, mixed and mastered this album which has the interesting format of have two sides--or "chapters"--with two different playing styles: "the more electro-prog side" and "the more classical side." I liked both sides but found myself hearing more derivative riffs and sounds on "the more classical [and jazzy!] side" than I did on the electro-prog side. Plus, "the more classical side" is still pure prog--just a little more symphonic than Side One.

Nice work, Frederico!



THE WORLD STATE Traced Through Dust and Time

Unusual progressive rock from Denmark--blending theatric 80s rock with elements of classical instrumentation (organ) and traditional instruments (accordeon) give this music quite a diverse, even eclectic feel. At once you can be feeling/hearing what sounds like a mellowed down UNEXPECT, then RENAISSANCE, SCARLET STORIES, FREQUENCY DRIFT and/or ANNA VON HAUSSWOLFF.




APERCO The Battle

Interesting eclecticism from Iraeli band APERCO. The quartet produces some emotional and melodic and spacious psychedelic music in the vein of PINK FLOYD, CAMEL, NOSOUND, and STEVEN WILSON to help present a story of an apocalyptic battle for Earth's soul.

Line-up
Tom Maizel - Guitars, Vocals
Yuval Raz - Bass
Ronen Peled - Keyboards
Dor Adar - Drums

1. Intro (2:19)
2. Focused (2:24)
3. Another Day To Live (5:56)
4. A Call For Submission (5:44)
5. The Battle (11:37)
6. Euphoria (6:31)
7. Delirium Befor Lunch (5:00)
8. Dissonant Sound Within (7:38)
9. Horizon (2:38)
10. Awaken (11:39)

Total Time 61:26


The music is powerful, emotional, and the instrumental performances are very good, but the sound production could be better.




PI XPRNC Oblivion Works Inside Us

A stripped down metal album from guitarist-singer-songwriter KAREN GONZALEZ, Oblivion Works Inside Us puts on display some exceptional and emotional instrumentalism--espeically coming from drummer David Cajías and Karen's guitar play, but the album could benefit from a little more attention to the engineering, mixing, mastering departments as it most often sounds a little too raw, bare, underproduced. Dont' get me wrong:  All of the songs are good; there are no duds. And the emotional impact cannot be denied. I just think it could be better.




IN LIMBO Allegories

ANTHONY PHILLIPS-style pastoral instrumental prog rock from France.

1. MIrage / SIlence (Delusion in E / Silence in B) (8:57) opens with some dynamic bombast in a CAMEL/PINK FLOYD style before settling in the the third minute into a more upbeat, pretty Canterbury sound. At the 3:00 the delicate and intricate guitar and keyboard, bass and drums weave takes on a style very reminiscent of the classic GENESIS style of the early 70s. At 4:00 there is yet another shift back into more of old PINK FLOYD territory before falling back into a kind of Post Rock malaise before sending us out with the same bombast as the opening minutes. Interesting song. (8/10)

2. REimpression (2015 Mix) (Feeling in D) (8:59) opens with a warm, inviting "Sheep"-lke rolling bass with spacey sounds and strumming on a slightly distorted electric guitar. At 1:30 the ensemble band begins to establish a very pleasant chord sequence strumming, which is then disrupted a bit just before the 3:00 mark for an bit louder and faster "chorus"-like chord structure--which is then repeated a second time before a section in which the picked electric guitar is playing chords in the upper registers. At 5:00 piano takes on some lead work over this latter Anthony Phillips-like guitar chord sequence. At 5:50 a very masterful acoustic guitar picking section bridges our way to a crescendo of the original chord sequence. Piano and organ can be heard in the highest registers as another multi-guitar Ant Phillips-like section unforlds into the 7:48 mark in which eerie synths and lead guitar notes blend into an awesomely spacey outro. (9/10)

3. MIgration (2015 Mix) (Flyway in E) (4:41) feels a lot like JOHANNES LULEY's 2013 folk-infused album, Tales of Sheepfather's Grove. The main features distinguishing are the prominent presence of the organ and fretless bass. Very pretty, easy to digest, melodic song. (9/10)

4. LAmentations (Wailing in A) (8:05) opens with a steadily driving guitar led rhythm before making way for a softer, acoustic guitar picked section over which organ and then electric guitar weave their melodies into a kind of ALAN PARSONS PROJECT crescendo, leading to the CAMEL-like "heavier" distorted electric guitar chord sequence takes over (at the 3:00 mark).    


5. heMIsphere (hemisphere in E) (7:12)

6. inDOlent (Lazy in C) (7:44)

7. FAscination (Captivation in F) (4:18)

8. SOLaire (Solar in G) (6:55)

The album just gets better as it goes--and with repeated listens!





HEADSPACE All that You Fear Is Gone

Very well produced, great sounding heavy prog rock. As a whole the album has great recording and engineering of very competent musical compositions with great theatric vocals from DAMIAN WILSON and awesomely controlled performances from all instrumentalists--including keyboard player Adam WAKEMAN, bass/Chapman Stick player Lee POMEROY, and drummer Adam FAULKNER and guitarist Pete RINALDI. The journey the band takes me on makes me feel as though I am listening to a modern, heavier, almost-metal version of Jesus Christ Superstar
     These guys are all polished pros. I just wish there was something new here, something wowing. It is very competent, beautiful sounding heavy prog, but nothing much more. All songs are good--very polished with pretty amazing sonic clarity and power. It's just missing something. And it's too long. (73 minutes.) Maybe the real problem is that it does, in fact, sound so much like their debut; it's as if they have just rehashed previously travelled material with new lyrics. Or maybe it's the feeling that I'm listening to the modern version of FOREIGNER. 

Best songs:  the prog epic 6. "The Science Within Us" (13:14) and the finale, "Secular Soul" (10:36).




MARILLION F.E.A.R.

I understand the ideas Marillion are trying to express with this album--I share their anger and frustration--as I'm sure millions if not billions do. I appreciate the effort and skill that goes into putting these ideas into a musical form, I just don't think that this album is --it certainly is not one of the more memorable albums released this year. As a matter of fact, were it not for occasional reminders from other people's posts and lists, I would have completely forgotten the existence of this album. Musically, it is drab and ordinary, a total rehashing of a well-established sound.
  1. El Dorado (i) Long-Shadowed Sun
  2. El Dorado (ii) The Gold
  3. El Dorado (iii) Demolished Lives
  4. El Dorado (iv) F E A R
  5. El Dorado (v) The Grandchildren Of Apes
  6. Living in F E A R
  7. The Leavers (i) Wake Up In Music
  8. The Leavers (ii) The Remainers
  9. The Leavers (iii) Vapour Trails In The Sky
  10. The Leavers (iv) The Jumble Of Days
  11. The Leavers (v) One Tonight
  12. White Paper
  13. The New Kings (i) Fuck Everyone And Run
  14. The New Kings (ii) Russia’s Locked Doors
  15. The New Kings (iii) A Scary Sky
  16. The New Kings (iv) Why Is Nothing Ever True?
  17. The Leavers (vi) Tomorrow’s New Country
Line-up:
Steve Rothery – guitars
Mark Kelly – keyboards
Pete Trewavas – bass
Ian Mosley – drums, percussion
Steve Hogarth – lead vocals


For fans or people who want to hear rants against the current, albeit real, course of humankind.




EYAL RAZ A Story Under The Blanket

Line-up:
Eyal Raz – Drums, Percussion
   With
Shiri Roda – Vocals
Eyal Sucher – Electric & Acoustic Guitars
Pavel Solanik – Piano, Hammond, Keyboards
Ziv Harpaz – Bass Guitar
David Gru - Bassoon
Ofer Peled – Alto sax
Chen Shenhar – Viola, Violin.
Yuval Mesner – Cello, Voice (Principal in Born in 64).
izhar kershon – Cembalo 


1. Overture 1964 (3:59)
2. Born In 64 (3:08)
3. The King & The Prince (4:41)
4. The War (5:13)
5. Renounces (5:57)
6. Confidence (4:41)
7. Apath & Athetic (6:13)
8. The Train Of Life (4:28)
9. The Tale (7:29)
10. My Princess (3:15)

Total Time 49:04





LUCY IN BLUE Lucy in Blue

Perfectly imitated PINK FLOYD from this Icelandic band. As other reviewers have commented, it sounds like PINK FLOYD with all of their experience and past only with an infusion (injection?!) of youthful vigor, aggression, and experimentalism. The album's best songs are definitely the two bookend epics.

Line-up:
Steinþór Bjarni Gíslason - Guitar, vocals
Arnaldur Ingi Jónsson - Keyboards, vocals2016)
Kolbeinn Þórsson - Drums

Matthías Hlífar Mogensen - Bass

1. "Senses" (10:29) Sounds like something somewhere between Dark Side of the Moon and a slowed down "Hey You." Very, very nice lead guitar solo in the second half. (9/10)

2. "Dazed Petition" (5:49) 
a little more aggressive and more like a 60s psych rock song. (7.5/10)

3. "On The Surface" (4:06) opens with piano and wizened male voice speaking in Icelandic. Then, at the 30 second mark, a young voice takes over, singing in a higher register, still only supported by solo piano. Pretty song--one that obviously means a lot to its composer. (7.5/10)
4. "Conflicting Sounds" (4:35) opens with an angular yet simple foundation coming from the base of drums, bass and guitar before the psych rock singer from "Dazed Petition" joins in. Interesting Fender Rhodes solo in the middle but it sounds out of place, out of context. The vocal almost sounds like Frank Zappa. (7/10)
5. "Absent" (4:35) slowly arpeggiated electric guitar is the only support of the bluesy vocalist until the chorus when Hammond and bass and drums join in. Sounds kind of like FLOYR doing "The House of the Rising Sun." (7/10)

6. "Prickers's Groove" (12:30) sounds very similar to VDGG's "The Sleepwalkers" for the first section. In the third minute there is a change--interesting and refreshing. The organ seems to be the lead--certainly the attention-grabber--on this one. Then, when the bass line settles into a near-"Inna-gadda-da-vida" riff, organ and electric guitar take turns showing their stuff. Halfway through the song the swirling organ is left to provide the foundation for the subtle shifts going on among the other instruments. This is awesome! My favorite part of the album--and the most distinctively unique. In the ninth minute every instrument fades out leaving a oscillating electric piano to perform some solo chord play. This eventually turns into an all-out whole-band jam building to a crescendo in the final minute and then decaying. Herein lies the signal that this band has great potential. (9/10)

Total Time 42:04

80.0 on the Fishscales = a three or four star album; B-/C+; good, worth checking out, but by no means essential. There is a lot of room for growth for this group of young musicians. With hard work and practice--and staying on the course they're on--they could be a band to watch in the future.





ALOFT Dark Energy