BENT KNEE’s lead vocalist, Courtney SWAIN, might be the bravest woman I’ve ever heard of. To be able to replicate even one of the amazingly intense vocal performances on this album in a concert setting would wear me out; I’d need at least a day to recover from singing just one of these intensely personal, emotional songs in the incredibly dynamic way that she does.
Song 7 is entitled, “Sunshine.” Barely recognizable before the final stanza (which is repeated three or four times at the end of the song), this is actually a remake of a popular song that was written by Georgians Paul Rice and Oliver Hood around 1933, performed for years in the American South—mostly in Louisiana—by the Rice Brothers Gang but only first recorded in August of 1939 by The Pine Ridge Boys (Marvin Taylor and Doug Spivey) though the February of 1940 version recorded for Decca Records by Jimmy Davis (later governor of Louisiana) and Charles Mitchell was what brought popular attention to it. When it was then covered four times in 1941 by no less than the likes of Gene Autry, Bing Crosby, Mississippi John Hurt, and Lawrence Welk, “You Are My Sunshine” became permanently embedded in American popular culture. The song has been covered numerous other times — so often, in fact, that according to Wikipedia it is "one of the most commercially programmed numbers in American popular music.” Originally performed in a country or folk music style, “Sunshine” has, over time, been adapted into many musical styles—and is most assuredly familiar to most every natural-born American. But, I will go out on a limb here to declare that most Americans have never heard this song in the form or with the power or intention that Bent Knee now gives it. With Courtney Swain at the helm, the band give “Sunshine” a feel of desperation and longing and regret and vengeful anger at an act of perceived betrayal the likes of which I have never heard before. Ms. Swain sings it with a kind of jilted young girl crazed mournfulness that is entirely unsettling and yet emotionally engaging to the listener. As in many of these songs, there are multiple moments in which I find chills of emotional resonance racing through my bodymind.
At first she sounds quite positive and upbeat—even seductively innocent--but then her tone switches subtly but unmistakingly for the last sentence: “...but if you leave me, to love another, you’ll regret it all someday,” she sings in a slightly ambivalent, yet perceptively menacing, even threatening, tone.
The keyboard and drum interlude mid-song is so cool and so beautiful. This is so Jane! The piano and steady background synth washing that fill the final 75 seconds are gorgeous! And haunting! (10/10)
2. HOMUNCULUS RES Limiti all'eguaglianza della parte con il tutto
A band of Italian virtuosi from Messina, Sicily, who signed on with the AltrOck Productions stable. This is their debut album from 2013 and an album that ranks #3 on my list of All-Time Favorite Albums. In a style that is the most completely extrapolated from the fun and upbeat jazz-rock style of the 1960s and 70s that we've come to call the Canterbury Style of progressive rock, Dario D'Alessandro, David and Daniele Di Giovanni, Frederico Cardaci, Giovanni di Martino, Domenico Salamone and Dario Lo Cicero, otherwise known as Homunculus Res, perform wildly unpredictable and humorous music that definietely evokes that light, airy, happy-go-lucky feelingthat is so often associated with the Canterbury Scene of such bands as THE SOFT MACHINE, CARAVAN, SUPERSISTER and Italy's own PICCHIO DAL POZZO. All songs on Limiti all'eguaglianza della parte con il tutto (but one) are short (less than four minutes in length) and quirky in the Soft Machine/Matching Mole style. There is great keyboard and synthesizer work throughout and the drumming and rhythm section hold so tight as each and every song incorporates amazing and unexpected whole-band syncopation, tempo and key shifts throughout. The laid-back vocals of composer and Casiotone virtuoso Dario D'ALESSANDRO are awesomely soothing. The album spreads the keyboard credits among four people, though live they most often have just one or two musicians performing those duties. The album also credits AltrOck ubiquity, Paolo "SKE" BOTTA among the guests who made significant contributions.
Imperfect songs: 5. "Sintagma" (1:09) (8/10); 8. "Rifondazione unghie" (3:18) (9/10); 14. "Centoquarantaduemilaottocentocinquantasette" (2:06) (9/10), and; "Puk 10" (2:25) (9/10).
97.2 on the Fish scales = 5 star album; a masterpiece of progressive rock music.
3. VANETA Antimemory
A band of young men from the Santa Gabriel mountains of California--self-proclaimed "keepers of the forest"--have decided to go with a change in direction from their previous heavy metal roots into the sophisticated progressive rock alter-ego that the band had been working on on the side. I've not heard or seen any of their previous music or concerts but I hear they were stunning, breathtaking. I, for one, am grateful for their new direction--and their collaboration with Lone Pine Records' producer Bill Fiorella, as together they have come up with one of the more unique and memorable sound styles this reviewer has heard in quite a while. The production, in and of itself, is quite unusual in that all of the instruments and voices are allowed to remain so clearly distinctive no matter how dense the music gets. Every subtle noise in the soundscape is preserved--which is something I adore in music: the subtleties.
The vocal arrangements alone are worth noting as guitarist Chris Durban and vocalist/guitarist Jared Paris and keyboard player Allan Hennessy do some stunning performances in all of the lead, background, and harmony capacities. These are vocals that are incredibly complicated and yet so impressively executed! It's like listening to world class dance choreography!
Also, notably absent are the computer "corrected," effected, "compressed" soundscapes that have become so prevalent in music production over the past 25 years. The acoustic guitars sound like they are in the room with you; the drums sound real and full, not gated; the vocals are natural and raw, not auto-tuned. All in all, Antimemory does a wonderful job capturing an 'acoustic' sound of an electrified rock and roll band. And it works! It's awesome! It helps remind and reinforce my love of the recording styles of those 1970s masterpieces.
Jared Paris - Harmony Vocals, Guitar
Andrew C Sanchez - Drums
Wyatt Martin - Bass
1. "Son of Sorrow" (6:42) opens with a minute of heavily vibrating scared bells before guitars, piano, and bass join in to set the stage. This bass play is awesome! Vocalist Chris Durbin bids us "hello" and sings an impassioned vocal--which is soon joined by the amazing backing harmonies of Jared Paris. This sounds so much like the best of one of my favorite bands of all-time, DOVES from Manchester, England.
The build up to the chorus at 2:40 is awesome--as is the cool down in the first half of the fifth minute--which is followed by an excellent chorus section and then by a searing 45-second long lead guitar solo in the sixth minute which is then followed up by an awesome three-layered chorale vocal section to the song's end.
Incredible song! One of the best things I've heard from 2016! (10/10)
2. "Looking On" (5:06) opens with vocal, rhythm guitar and bass creating a weave that sounds like . At the 0:25 the song kicks into second gear with a very engaging THE MARS VOLTA/STEVEN WILSON foundation. The two-voice delivery of the second verse is so innovative and fresh! Stunning! Another great guitar solo begins rather humanly at the end of the third minute but then shifts into super-man speed in the fourth. The distant acoustic guitar song in the third verse is so cool! It makes it sounds like a Dobro (which I love). The vocal arrangement over the fullness of sound from all band members in the final minute is, again, brilliant! Stunning song! (10/10)
3. "Ferroform" (5:52) opens with a familiar CORVUS STONE-like sound and guitar riff before a second guitar joins in with some fiery riffing. The effected vocal is cool in a hollow Greg LAKE/JIMI WILLIAMS/KING CRIMSON/DOVES "Moon Child" kind of way. As the voice comes to the fore--and is joined by the awesome wailing screams of Jared Paris--the song kicks into full speed--and into a nice long instrumental section in which guitar, bass, keys, and drums resonate in perfect cohesion. Then there is a drop off into a floating, dreamy section that is held together by a Hammond organ and some word being panned around in the background. Guitar arpeggi join in and, eventually, the band emerges out of the fog into it's full speed again (awesome bass line/play!) and then finishes with some thought-provoking piano and guitar notes and chords. Awesome! (9/10)
4. "Child" (8:26) the song's mini-epic opens in a kind of GUNS'n'ROSES-LED ZEPPELIN guitar-oriented way. Even the layered lead vocals have that kind of perfected classic rock feel to it. Into the third minute the Led Zep/G'n'R influences are still strong until there is a sudden shift at the three minute mark into a kind of THE MARS VOLTA/OMAR RODRIGUEZ-LOPEZ Spanish-imbued high energy rock. The guitar play is so cool! So different--like RANDY BACHMAN on "Blue Collar" (Bachman-Turner Overdrive)--before a searing double guitar solo in the sixth minute. Man! I don't know how the band keeps up this coherent, stable intensity! Amazing! There's even some growl vocals behind the lead in this section. And then horns! Awesome horns! A saxophone lead! What a brilliant touch! For the final minute the band recoups and returns to the mature sound and pace of the opening with the song title being sung a few times by the double vocalists. Great, great song! (10/10)
5. "Last Ray of the Sun" (1:26) opens with a solo piano tinkling slowly away before setting up in a kind of "Great Gig in the Sky" (Pink Floyd) chord foundation while pianist, Allan Hennessy, sings the first verse (which turns out to be the chorus). The final 45 seconds finds the rest of the band joining in on this chorus line before letting Allan's piano finish on its own.
Beautiful, haunting song! Well deserving of its presence on this album. (10/10)
6. "Mountain Chorus" (5:47) opens with acoustic guitar picking away at two chords--two heavily charged chords--while a second, electric guitar slides and squeaks around far in the background before treated Chris' voice joins in. At 1:45 the voice again 'comes out of the closet' to sing "But it won't save you." The second verse then begins with two harmonized voices singing gently. Drummer Andrew Sanchez' cymbal play throughout this second verse is mesmerizing. I find myself reminded during this beautiful section of some the recent Prog Folk greats, FLEET FOXES, LEAFBLADE, DOVES, AUTUMN CHORUS and THE AMAZING.
At 3:45 the band suddenly kicks into full gear with some energized bass, drum, guitar, voice and choral work--which plays out till the song's end. Gorgeous song! (9/10)
7. "Antimemory" (3:18) opens with sustained computer synth noise which is then joined by guitar strum, bass, and multiple voices floating and flitting in and around the soundscape. This continues for the first two minutes before all fade out in lieu of sacred bells and shakers. A perfect ending to such a spiritually gut-wrenching album. (10/10)
Despite my high marks for each and every song--(more for their exceptional creativity, originality, beauty and promise)--I still see 'room to grow' for this band and it's sound. It will be difficult to top such an 'out of the blue' debut album, but I feel that this band of so many talents and influences can definitely refine their raw and passionate sound.
The excitement I feel when hearing this album reminds me of how I felt upon hearing Manchester's DOVES debut album first time in the early 2000s (my favorite album of Y2K). This is astonishing music regardless of who is performing it--made even more remarkable for the fact that this is a debut album.
Let the world know it: VANETA is here! . . . and they are a FORCE to be reckoned with!
P.S. I want to have bass player Wyatt Martin's babies. Or, at least his autograph!
4. PROGHMA-C Bar-do Travel
In this 2009 release from Polish band, PROGHMA-C, self-proclaimed “musical evolutionists, I have found my favorite metal album of all time. Most songs feel as though I’m hearing the rhythm section of TOOL with lead guitar work akin to U2’ s THE EDGE Evans, keyboard work reminiscent of VANGELIS in his 70s, 80s, and ambient/New Age soundtrack era, and some of the most diverse vocal stylings I’ve ever heard on an album—coming from lone vocalist extraordinaire, Piotr 'BOB' Gibner. Gibner’s screaming/growling is actually fitting, melodic, and easy to decipher; his narration on “FO” is awesome, and his versatile singing voice crosses between that of MAYNARD JAMES KEENAN, MR. BUNGLE/FAITH NO MORE’s MIKE PATTON, and DEPECHE MODE’s DAVID GAHAN.
2. “FO” (6:40) opens with some awesome Edge-like guitar play before Gibner’s slightly treated voice begins reading/reciting a narrative in English. At 1:28, the music breaks, some odd percussives fill the space, then we return to the odd-metered syncopation and vocal narration for a little while longer, until at 2:08 the growl-screams take over. Then, surprise!—at 2:42 a soft, beautifully sensitive voice similar to that of MARIUZ DUDA takes over the singing. But this guy is better! He has such amazing control and the ability to do some shockingly subtle things with his vocal instrument! At the four minute mark we are treated to a bare-bones breakdown of the rhythm while a BLADE RUNNER-like horn-synthesizer slowly shifts its pitches while at the same time At 5:14 all but the drums disappear while a series of slowly strummed chords fill the center while odd spacey synth noises float around behind and around. Incredible song! Incredible ending! Another song I URGE you to listen to! (10/10)
3. “Spiralling To Another” (9:31) opens with some very spacey, etheric guitar play before the familiar syncopated, mixed-metered rhythm section establishes itself. Gibner’s voice enters with his Mariuz Duda sound—yet so much more sensitive and emotional. At 2:52 it gets heavy and the growling crashes into the field—but it never detracts or overwhelms the incredible music going on and lyrically can still be understood. Guitar chords strummed singly Then the music seems to ‘get stuck’ as guitar notes, bass line, cymbol play and choppy vocal play. A return to rapid rhythm sets up for guitarist Parweł 'SMAGA' Smakulski to do his awesome EDGE EVANS stylings. At 7:22 the full-force barrage of rhythms and growl/screams returns while SMAGA continues his trance-like guitar strumming. At 8:20 the music turns full metal, feeling like a TOOL song playing into infinity—then it stops! Another awesome song. While not quite as good as the first two, it too deserves a (10/10) in my opinion. (The other two should be turned up to eleven.)
8. “Naan” (8:57) opens with another syncopated mixed-meter rhythm but this time the VANGELIS-like keyboards and playful JAN AKKERMAN-like rhythm work of the lead guitar pronounce something new and fresh. At the one minute mark all instrumentation merge into a 30-second single chord. Awesome. Then BOB’s sensitive Duda Voice enters to break the spell. The ensuing music scape is TOOL-like yet flittering about are the EDGE-like guitar effects. The vocals which follow are unmistakably DEPECH MODE-like. What an amazing vocal talent!! And an amazing lyric! So powerful! Not Duda, Gahan, Keenan, or Patton could hold a candle to the light of this singer! At 6:28 there is a shift into a discordant chord sequence with a whispered voice and syncopated snare and bass section. At 7:25 the music has evolved inot full band paly again, with BOB’s “Maynard voice” taking over. Echoed growls belnding into the cymbol play are the last vocals to be heard in this one. Awesome! Again! (10/10)
I don’t think I’ve ever given out so many 10/10s in a review before, but that's how highly I think of each song—and is a reflection of how much I enjoy listening to this entire album. Probably my favorite driving CD during the past four months. I do want to mention how incredible I think the mesmerizing and yet tight is the work of drummer Łukasz 'KUMAN' Kumański and his cohort on bass, Michał 'VASKI' Górecki; they carry out the complicated, sometimes breathtaking rhythms flawlessly. Mega kudos, boys.
5. AIRBAG The Greatest Show on Earth
II. “Madre Antica” (20:08) (10/10)
7. SETNA Guérison
96.0 on the Fish scales = five stars; a true prog masterpiece. Timeloss' only flaw is its length: a very old-fashioned 39 minutes!
God! I hate these reviews and the inability to get my excitement and enthusasm across. This, not "Shattered ..." or "Visions" or "Grace for ..." or "Ghosts" or SKE is the Album of the Year 2012!! Certainly the year's Best Album That Nobody's Ever Heard! There is no keyboard player on the planet that can compare to this guy's power and versatility.
10. FIVE-STOREY ENSEMBLE Not That City
Awesome song—though it does get drawn out a bit in places. I’ve heard this song in three different formats now, album version and two different live performances with two very different instrumental lineups (one more expanded, like the album version). (The YouTube link I provided is to a video recording of the song being performed by the band in front of a live audience.) Each has its strengths and charms. (10/10)
1. "Eos (5:05) The mood setter! (10/10)
2. "All the Love" (3:42) Trumpets! (10/10)
3. "Like Music" (3:30) How true! (9/10)
4. "Vigil" (4:27) So emotional, so gorgeous! (10/10)
5. "Shadows of the Sun" (4:36) Awesome piano. (9/10)
6. "Let the Children Go" (3:50) Percussion! (10/10)
7. "Solitude" (3:53) Yes! The remake of the Black Sabbath song! (8/10)
8. "Funebrae" (4:26) How deep will this tragedy go? (9/10)
9. "What Happened?" (6:25) One incredible end song--perhaps the greatest of all-time! (10/10)
Though I only own Anathema's music catalogue from Natural Disasters to the present, my feelings with regards to their music has remained fairly constant. I love their sound, I love their spiritually-minded lyrical messages, I love the flow and feel of their records, I just find their song-writing style too boring and repetitive: a song's opening riff or chord sequence is played start to finish with nary a flutter or flourish, ad nauseum; they're Post Rock/Math Rock's staunch poster child! But here, on Falling Deeper, the band may have stumbled upon their music's true purpose, it's best delivery style, it's most powerful presentation: the orchestrated soundtrack. Every song on this album is incredibly rich, hypnotically engaging, and lyrically sparse--all of which allow for a much more varied and deepened listening experience. Plus, the flow of this album's songs has an even tighter weave, each song seeming to be but a single 'movement' within the context of the whole. Try out "Sleep in Sanity" (3:51) (10/10), "J'ai fait une promesse" (4:23) (10/10), "Alone" (7:16) (10/10), "We, the Gods" (3:03) (9/10), and "Sunset of Age" (7:20) (10/10)
Bravo, Anathema! In my opinion, this is how all of your music should be presented.
FAUN here show their continued and increasing experiments with inputs from computer and electronic-generated support as contributed by electronic expert, Neil Mitra. For the most part it works--especially as a complement or takeover for the rhythm section. Oliver, Fiona and Rüdiger's contributions on ancient traditional instruments are virtuosic yet restrained and never overbearing--which puts a nice focus on the vocals of which the gorgeous voice of Lisa Pawelke seems to have taken greater prominence. I have to say that, so far, every FAUN album seems to be better than the previous one. (Too bad Totem did not continue this trend.) This album may be better than 2011's Eden but it has not yet won my heart to the extent that Eden has.
15. GHOST MEDICINE Discontinuance
Produced in England, with the full participation of seasoned bass legend, Colin Edwin, comes this project from Atlanta's JARED LEACH and company--including lead and background vocalist and lyricist Sarah Hoefer, amazing drummer and programmer, Scott Prian (who also recorded and mixed the album), and, of course, Colin on bass. Three principle musicians created these incredible weaves of heavy prog rock sound! Only three!!! Amazing!
1. "Crooked House" (9:44) opens with an awesome synth-supported acoustic guitar picking/strumming solo. By the time the first minute comes to an end, the intro gives way to a very fast-paced, intricately performed heavy rock with a slightly Southern Rock flavor. The male and then female vocals that enter around the two minute mark take over the foreground but the amazing YES-like instrumental guitar feast that forms the background goes on--and would command all of the listener's attention were it not for the beautiful melodic voice of Sarah Hoefer and the great harmonies presented by composer/bandleader/guitarist extraordinaire, Jared LEACH. (Remember this name: It is one I guarantee you will hear again!) An interlude of beautiful ANTHONY PHILLIPS-like solo acoustic guitar in the eighth minute feels like it could be the "bookend" of the song's opening intro--but no! The song returns to its top speed heaviness for the final minute and ends on a high note of LED ZEPPELIN quality and ferocity! Amazing song! Incredible opener and introduction to this extraordinary new talent! (10/10)
2. "Shiver" (5:55) opens with a very strong C-W feel and sound--which is only solidified with the entrance of Nashville-like vocal of Sarah Hoefer for the first verse. The instrumental bridge between first and second verses is awesome--and some amazing slide guitar work continues beneath Sarah's singing of the second verse. By the time the chorus and instrumental sections arrive the song has almost lost any Country/Southern feel to it. Astonishing flow and development! The guitar, bass, and drum work on this song are spell-binding, to say the least--so much so that I found myself pushing the repeat button three times when I first heard it! The song's only flow is that Sarah's voice starts to become drowned out by the instruments by the end of the second verse. In my listening history, only BRUCE COCKBURN at his very best rivals this complex, virtuosic sound! (10/10)
3. "Departure" (6:24) opens with a very heavy, fast-driving OCEANSIZE-sounding guitar, bass and drum weave, which backs off a little into more of a heavy PORCUPINE TREE sound as the vocals enter. The instrumental passage at the end of the second minute contains some awesome guitar--which falls into some ALCEST-like guitarscapes beneath the next round of vocals. The next instrumental bridge contains some guitar shredding (two tracks, R & L) that rivals anything anybody has ever done with pick and four fingers. This then segues into a minor-key section that sounds like something between Italia's AKT or East Anglia's FEN or 4AD's DIF JUZ. The instrumental sections are amazing. The vocal sections are weak. (9/10)
6. "Broken Corridor" (5:01) despite solid sound and song structure, there is nothing new or innovative about this one; it feels like something that's already been done. It opens with some Southern Rock Dobro-like guitar fast-picking--which then becomes the pace and melodic structure of the whole band sound. Things quiet down enough for the vocal to enter--first the male, in a REM-like sound, and then Sarah for the second verse. The breakneck speed is, I have to admit, impressive. By the third verse Sarah and Jared are sharing the lead. The drumming and guitar play during the instrumental passages rival anything Gavin Harrison and former DIXIE DREGS' axeman Steve Morse have done. Amazing duo! (9/10)
94.29 on the Fishscales = a five star masterpiece of progressive rock music and one of the most astonishing albums of the year if not the decade! Again, people, remember this name: JARED LEACH is the New Kid on the Block and a force to be reckoned with for a long while, I surmise!
16. IAMTHEMORNING Lighthouse
The most striking difference in the feel and sound of this album comes in a shift back toward the classical and folk music sounds and structures that made their debut album so striking and refreshing. I am not sure if this shift back is due to fan response to their more rock-oriented second album, Belighted, or their own gut feelings, but surely the choice of hiring the engineering talents of Tori AMOS-experienced Marcel Van LIMBEEK and Neil PICKLES for the mixing and mastering helped.
The KSCOPE connection is great, and the studio recording and production is amazing, but I like this 'new' return to their original sound much better, and I'm sure it's production has something to do with that. Gleb's classically-influenced piano playing is prominent throughout the album--which is a strength--especially if you've seen some of the videos of their live performances: iamthemorning music is very powerful when it is broken down into the acoustic versions in which they were composed. Marjana's vocals have also improved--her amazing range has increased in strength in all directions, but her confidence and mastery in making exciting and daring vocal arrangements has also grown tremendously. It is truly a wonder, a privilege, to behold.
1. "I Came Before the Water, Part I" (1:41) opens with rippling stream water sounds before Marjana's angelic voice enters in her upper registers, announcing her folk-mythic presence while being accompanied only by orchestral strings and quiet electronic keyboard. Awesome start! I am excited! This sounds like a very mature, very composed, very centered iamthmorning. (9/10)
2. "Too Many Years" (5:10) is a piano and orchestra supported song which is notable for Marjana's layering of multiple vocal tracks of her own voice in several parts for some harmony support to her lead--to amazing effect. I can't remember hearing her do this with such great outcome before! How she has grown and matured!
The contributions of bass, drums and strings are wonderfully enriching to the mood and the late arrival of the double-reed French bombard is awesome. Great song. (9/10)
3. "Clear Clearer" (:) opens with eery background noises, electric bass, woodwinds and electric keyboard establishing a mysterious musical foundation. At 0:45 Marjana joins in with a more powerful (but not dominating) version of her voice. After another 45 seconds hand drums, piano, and other metallic percussives bring up the decibels level a bit. This is the first occasion on the album in which I am reminded of the waltzy song construction style that was so joyfully present on the iamthemorning debut album, ~.
Soloing electric guitar takes front and center in the final stretch over Marjan's whispering vocalizions panning right and left in the background, though all instruments eventual fade and drop out to allow for a charming little woodwind finale. Brilliant song! Great, memorable melodies! (10/10)
4. "Sleeping Pills" (3:44) opens with Marjana's angelic voice holding these amazing notes, singing like an angel straight into one's soul, with some simple piano chords arpeggiating beneath. Background vocals--(Marjana's or the "Perezvony" Choir's?)--join in as singular classical instruments also make their presences known as the chorus begins. Then, with the second verse we are treated to a JOHN TOUT-like piano solo and haunting background violin solo just before the Perezvony Choir enters to perform its chant-like magic. Stunning! Hand drums, piano, fretless bass, and drum kit join and gradually build in intensity to the song's (IMO, premature) end. Gorgeous! And so refreshingly ingenious. (10/10)
5. "Liberetto Horror" (2:14) has a kind of cabaret-burlesque feel to it--frolicking piano, sexy vocals--only the b vox and flutes and, later, strings, shift us away from this stage-like tease extravaganza. But it's too late: Marjana and Gleb have long ago seduced me. Fun song! (9/10)
6. "Lighthouse" (6:19) opens with a kind of SATIE/CLAUDE BOLLING-like jazzified classical piano speeding up and down the keyboard before Marjana's whispery voice enters front and center (singing right into my ear! So intimate it makes me blush! Only KATE BUSH has been able to effectively do this before. As a matter of fact, the KATE BUSH comparisons should consider as the piano and voice combination is strikingly similar to a few of Kate's bare bones piano and voice song styles).
At 3:55 the duet format ends as strummed guitars, strings, harp, drums, bass and background vocals join in--eventually giving center stage to a beautiful if less-forward-than-we're-all-used-to vocal by RIVERSIDE's Mariuz DUDA. When you know his voice is coming, you expect some heavy, dramatic shift, but instead the vocal and song play out very smoothly, almost soporifically.
The amazing first half makes this song a timeless classic, a master class in classical folk duet; aside from the wonderful wisps of background vocal work (by multiple tracks of Marjana and some Mariuz), the second half is a little too mellow and monotonous. I feel the anticipation (and expectation) for something more emotional, even bombastic. It could've been better but it's still amazing. (Is that possible?) (9/10)
7. "Harmony" (5:19) is an instrumental that has a wonderfully symphonic feel that is quite strongly reminiscent of John TOUT-era RENAISSANCE. John HACKETT-like flute solos, tuned percussion, and, eventually, full rock band and solo electric guitar grace this gorgeous song. (No offense, Marjana, but Gleb has the potential for a solo album/career.) (As do you!) (10/10)
8. "Matches" (4:18) is the first song on the album which opens with a very familiar feel and style--fast-moving piano fingering with Marjana's delightfully acrobatic voice dancing a bit too far back in the mix (I've always wished her voice to be a little more front and center, a little more over the piano in the mix). Switch to electric piano is interesting, but then back to grand piano as the drums and fretless bass of Gavin HARRISON and Colin EDWIN, respectively, take prominence (though only for less than a minute before the song fades out). (8/10)
9. "Belighted" (3:20) opens with Marjana's delicate voice singing with the accompaniment of only a harp for the first verse. Glockenspiel (electronic keyboard?) and background voices join in for the second verse. Then full strings orchestra makes their entry for the chorus and successive verses. Enter bass, hand drums, and woodwinds and what a magical weave of dreaminess we have just before Gleb's piano and electric guitar take the fore ground in some nice counter-melody play. Wow! I don't want it to end. This band, these songwriters are at the very top of their game!!! (10/10)
10. "Chalk and Coal" (4:57) is a dramatic, almost Broadway show tune-like composition that contains a strain of spoken vocals that are treated to sound like whispered or muted radio samples throughout the background of the song. It's brilliant!--as are the trumpet soli in the second and fourth minutes.
Electric guitar I also love the decision to have a long fadeout with Gleb's jazzy piano riffs repeated over and over while only being accompanied by a flanged percussion hit as time keeper: Simple, bold and powerful. Incredible! (9/10)
11. "I Came Before the Water, II" (2:56) is an incredibly emotional near-a cappella performance by Marjana--the only instrumental support coming from a very slow build of orchestral strings that begins in the second minute--just as Marjana shifts her singing into a very high octave (she opened the first verse of this reiteration of the album's opening song & lyric in a mid-range voice).
The song closes with the same water sounds from the opening song. Stunning! Utterly gut-wrenching! And haunting! (in a good way) (10/10)
12. "Post Scriptum" (2:44) is the album's finale in which Marjana's cvoice is used to wordlessly sing the song's Russian folk melody in tandem with strings and woodwind while Gleb tickles the ivories and Colin and hold their steady beat behind. Haunting. (10/10)
In my humble opinion, Gleb and Marjana have come out of their shell, into their own state as mature butterflies, to fulfill the amazing and unique potential they exploded onto the scene with back in 2012. The return to piano- and "classical folk"-based sound styles is much welcomed but more, the display of ingenious musical ideas is made felt throughout each and every song--so many choices in structure, sound and restraint that only masters of their craft can ever achieve. And yet, they are still so young! With their confidnecee and creative beasts released; I can see a long string of masterpieces in iamthemorning (or Gelb Kolyadin and Marjana Semkina)'s long and illustrious career(s).
94.17 on the Fish scales = Without hesitation, this is a five star masterpiece of progressive rock music, essential for any prog lover's music collection. An album that I will be listening to regularly for years to come.
Marjana and Gleb are focusing their energies on giving attention to the under-attended ills of those suffering from psychological illness, so, for those of you with a friend or loved one with some mental illness, this album might just be a perfect balm ... or tonic. Compassionately conceived and intended, Beautifully rendered, this is music for healing and wholeness.
17. MOTHER TURTLE II
Very nice eclectic prog from Greece. Each time I find myself listening to this album I am blown away by A) how good it is, B) how familiar it is, C) how diverse the styles represented here are, and D) how much it sounds like some long-lost 'classic' from the 1970s--like a new release of a heretofore undiscovered BABYLON tape.
- Kostas Konstantinidis: guitars, vocals, midi guitar, ukulele
- George Baltas: drums,vocals
- George Theodoropoulos: keys
- George Filopelou: electric and fretless bass
- Babis Prodromidis: saxophone, flute
- Alex Kiourntziadis: violin
Alexandra Sieti and Maria Mariadou: vocals on (4)
1. "Overture" (1:46) acoustic ditty introducing the epic that follows performed in a kind of Renaissance vocal herald style à la GENTLE GIANT. (9/10)
2. "Harvest Moon" (13:08) a song that sounds like it was left off a VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR or KING CRIMSON album in the 1970s or perhaps a more recent DISCIPLINE/MATTHEW PARMENTER--only with a different vocalist. Great drumming, great keyboard work, great saxophone, great vocals, amazing ending! (10/10)
3. "Ennui" (3:31) a gentle yet insistent STYX/RUSH-like interlude between the album's twin towers. (8.5/10)
4. "Walpurgi Flame" (20:15) Like two songs in one: the first a eight-minute rendering of an amazing though long lost Zeuhl (GUAPO?) warm up, the second a contrasting gorgeous, hope-filled symphonic folk piece with female lead vocalists feeling similar to a CIRRUS BAY song (though it sounds more, in fact, like a song from Chile's AISLES' 2009 In Sudden Walks because of the incredible vocal melodies). Methinks the lyrics refer to the trouble a typical (or particular) Greek individual might have with his country (as well as his species') preoccupation with money and power when, at basic biological status, all are equal. My new favorite prog epic of the year 2016. (10/10)
5. "The Tower" (2:56) a beautiful and incredibly powerful tribute to the shock and confusion of the eye-witness observers of the destruction of New York City's Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. (10/10)
6. "The Art of Ending a Revolution" (14:44) is a decent if fairly bland and simple prog epic about the lesson humans are supposed to learn "the art of smiling while someone is stabbing your back," the art of practicing The Golden Rule, the art of patience with hope, the art of detachment. Nice electric guitar chord progressions, nice vocal, nice message, nice bass play, nice saxophone work--just a nice song. Nice. Like we're expected to be. Despite the chaos and corruption surrounding us.
The best part of the song begins with the eery Twilight Zone-like synth over which David Strathairn reads Edward R. Murrow's famous anti-Eugene McCarthy speech from the 2005 film, Good Night, and Good Luck... and then the powerful final two minutes. (9/10)
This is one of the most brilliantly conceived and realized concept albums I've ever heard. I hope it gets the attention it deserves--both musically and moral-politically.
94.17 on the Fishscales = five stars; A; a true masterpiece of progressive rock music and an album that should be heard around the world--especially in times like these.
18. FAUN Eden
2. "Lupercalia" (3:15) opens with ominous base note, synth wash and treated drums setting the stage for Fiona and MAgareta's perfectly timed, sacred/religious-sounding harmonies. Harp, haunting ghost-like background voices and intermittent bursts from a sonorous horn complete the spell cast by this masterpiece. (10/10)
3. "Zeitgeist" (4:03) opens with clock-like harp-bass lines and straight-timed drumming before Oliver's rather thin voice enters. Strings harmonics accompany a sample narration of environmentalist content. Bagpipe and hurry-gurdy play into the mix as well. Another display of Mitra's masterful electronic "glue." The lone acoustic harp accompanying Oliver's voice to song's end is brilliant. I just wish I understood German. (9/10)
4. "Iduna" (3:22) opens with a Celtic bagpipe and hurry-gurdy melody weave accompanied by a throbbing electronic bass line, clapping, and Oliver's bouzouki. Fiona and Magareta weave their voices into the lead vocal followed by "la-la-la-las." Trilling flutes also mix into the mid-song instrumental weave. Quite a rousing jam! (10/10)
5. "The Butterfly" (1:34) opens with Oliver and Fiona (and later Margareta's harp) weaving a very traditional (and familiar) sounding Celtic reel sans percussion. Gorgeous recording. (10/10) The melody line carries forward to become the basis for the vocal weave of:
6. "Adam Lay Ybounden" (4:37) is the album's first song sung in English. Here Margareta displays a high trilling in her vocal approach that is similar to that of early Elisabeth Fraser. Also, the vocal duet is unusual (for Faun) for its alternating timing and different style of harmonizing. The song's highlight is the whistle and bouzouki carried Celtic melody. (8/10)
7. "Hymn to Pan" (6:57) opens with gently picked bouzouki and sequenced percussion setting up for Oliver's low and confiding vocal (again entirely in English). Fiona's harmonizing background voice soon joins in as do full hand percussion and Fiona's wood flute. The song's instruments soften to the extreme as Oliver and Fiona continue singing the chorus. An African/Balinese-sounding marimba weave takes the fore as support to Fiona's flute and Oliver's delicate, almost-nervous solo voice. Amazing vocal performance! At the end of the sixth minute the support of the full band instrumentation rebuilds until again falling away as Oliver and Fiona finish the song's vocal. (10/10)
8. "Pearl" (5:05) opens with a Peter Gabriel computer sequence before Margareta explodes onto the scene with a LOREENA MCKENNITT-like vocal (in English). Full percussion, bagpipes, and strummed bouzouki fill out the rest of the band's contribution but this is Margareta's song to shine on. (10/10)
9. "Oyneng Yar" (5:34) tambourine-support is all Fiona needs to open this song with her awesome vocal. Oliver on nyckelharpa, Rüdiger and Neil laying down an awesome percussion weave, Margareta's hurry-gurdy (and background harmonies) and Fiona's flawless recorder play complete this full-bodied, full-spirited song. (10/10)
10. "Polska fran anderson" (4:37) is an instrumental that begins with a gorgeous three-part weave of Oliver's nyckelharpa, Margareta's hurry-gurdy and Fiona's high whistle. Somebody switches into harp (Margareta) while Oliver adds bouzouki (multi-tracking?) in continued support of Fiona and Oliver's solos and weaves. (9/10)
11. "Alba" (7:17) bouzouki and percussives provide background support for another one of Oliver's hypnotic vocals (in German). A quiet song that I wish I knew German for I know that the story being told is the key to really valuing this song. (9/10)
12. "Ynis avalach" (5:09) is another instrumental traditional Celtic weave with full percussion on display, full band playing at first at a rather hypnotic pace before picking up the pace significantly at the three-minute mark. Nice trick to shift into third gear for the last two minutes. (9/10)
13. "Arcadia" (7:16) opens with nyckelharpa, whistles/chalumeaux, hurdy-gurdy, big percussives and electronic drones, all blasting away in a powerful weave before yielding to the lovely and, again, different duet vocals of Fiona and Margareta. Margareta's echoed solo vocal in the second half of the song is almost religious ecstatic. Fiona later takes up the lead with Margareta's angelic soprano supporting her in such a protective way. Brilliant song--so well conceived and constructed. (9/10)
14. "The Market Song" (5:51) is a rather traditional folk song sung in English by Oliver and Fiona, at first alternately, and then in harmony. Some wonderful soloing from Fiona on her special transverse wooden bass flute (chalumeaux). Also kudos for the standing vertical violin (saz) solo and later bagpipe solos. The band really takes out all the stops on this one! (9/10)
15. "Golden Apples" (7:35) may be the most beautiful and most powerful song on this an album of many powerful and hypnotic songs. The finale is so deliciously and dangerously tranquilizing that I feel I must warn the reader/listener to be on his awares!
Set up by a slow, methodically repeated harp arpeggio, soon Fiona is singing like the most seductive siren to grace these ears. I would definitely be tempted by her offer of this apple! Absolutely stunning, gut-wrenchingly emotional song! Neil and Rüdiger's contributions are also very important to this one--they just kind of sneak up on you. What an end to an incredible album! (10/10)
94.0 on the Fish scales = five stars; a masterpiece of progressive rock music.
Kayo Dot is another monster project coming from the genius well-spring of creativity that is American Toby Driver. Kayo Dot is what has risen out of the 'ashes' of maudlin of The Well as it includes most of the former moTW members. It may, in fact, be more accurate to call Kayo Dot a natural progression of what started as maudlin of The Well.
94.0 on the Fish scales = five stars; a masterpiece of progressive rock music.
21. ANTOINE FAFARD Ad Perpetuum
This is an amazing album of jazz fusion very much in the vein of the BRUFORD albums of the late 1970s or the JEAN-LUC PONTY albums of the early 1980s, but more polished and way more more accessible. Composer and band leader Antoine Fafard is an accomplished jazz bass player, but here he has garnered the loyalty of some extraordinary musicians to help realize his music: preeminent drummer Vinny Colaiuta and guitarist extraordinaire Jerry De Villiers, Jr. In fact, the drumming throughout this album is so amazing, so breathtaking, so far beyond all other drummers and yet (not so much as to distract or detract from the other fine musicians, that) I have to proclaim that this is one of the finest recorded exhibitions of studio drumming that I have ever heard. Perhaps the best!
Three amazing musicians all at the top of their game (four including sax player Jean-Pierre Zanella) ... playing a set of beautifully composed and flawlessly executed songs. No disrespect to the Townsends, father and son, or Mr. Holdsworth but, when the virtuosity is there, there is nothing like a band of live musicians. A lot of the songs remind me of Jaco Pastorius Weather Report, Percy Jones Brand X, and Jeff Berlin Bruford--with a little bit of Joni Mitchell, Pat Metheny, Bill Bruford's Earthworks, and Hiromi's Sonicbloom thrown in there.
This may be a bit premature, but I'm going to go out there and say that this is one of Jazz Fusion's all-time top 10 albums! It is that good! What a jaw-dropping concert experience this would be!
Favorite songs: ALL!! (Even the "nutty" one! ["D-Day" (5:20) (9/10)]) Unfortunately, the only sample available on YouTube thus far is this documentary of the making of Ad Perpetuum. I'll link you to more as it gets uploaded.
Here they are! They're starting to come out: the very Jean-Luc Ponty/Randy Jackson era-like "Eternal Loop" (5:22) (9/10)
94.0 on the Fish scales = Without hesitation: this is a five star album! A masterpiece of progressive rock music and one of the best jazz fusion albums of the 21st Century. Check it out! NOW!