Monday, May 21, 2018

Top Albums of the Year 2018, Part 2: Highly Recommended

Below you will find a somewhat-ordered catalogue of the album releases from 2018. 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.





ALIO DIE & AGLAIA Amitabha

Stefano Musso and Gino Fioravanti have teamed up again to produce some wonderful atmospheric and emotional electronic music

Line-up / Musicians:
- Stefano Musso (Alio Die) / music
- Gino Fioravanti (Aglaia) / music 

1. "Monte Analogo" (09:47) has a distinct feel over its opening minutes that it's going to break a full blown 1970s TANGERINE DREAM song. By the third minute, the distinctive Stefano Musso contributions make it clear that no rhythmic sequencing is going to burst forth, that we are on a typically dreamy float through the ether on one of Stefano's magic carpets. Nice fake, nice song. (9/10)

2. "Il Portale dell'Invisibile" (07:42) higher pitched reverse guitars and whistles played over multiple tracks of deep bowed double bass loops makes for an interesting astral journey. A little long and lacking in variation to make this a replay song. (8/10)

3. "Outer Space Forest" (03:43) nighttime nature noises with treated traditional Arabian instruments and radio-sample noises makes for a kind of song that Holger Czukay effected in collaboration with David Sylvian in the 1980s. (8.25/10)

4. "Celestial Stream" (12:04) is a very pleasant, meditative place to be. Rapidly vibrating foundational sound creates a feeling like space motoring, astral strobe-viewing, with super-fast-paced voice editing/clipping. Very cool! (9/10)

5. "Cosmological Scale" (06:22) pulsing synth washes, organ chords, vocal banks, treated zither strums, single bell strikes, and piano notes all make for quite a celestial sound. Not unlike a HAROLD BUDD/BRIAN ENO sound from the early 1980s. (8.75/10)

6. "New Form of Elementals" (04:02) cavern lake dripping with background bagpipe and distant tubular bell play with gurgles and deep bass notes make for another Plateaux of Mirror or  On Land-like song. (8.25/10)


7. "Amitabha" (06:25) feels full on like a precursor to an Eno/Budd song from Ambient 2: Plateaux of Mirror ("Failing Light"); aye, this song would have fit perfectly on that album had it been a double album or the song receiving release as an extended play EP. (9/10)

8. "Bright Circles" (09:18) high pitch buzzing notes float around the soundscape as gorgeous synth washes imbue and permeate the atmosphere. But, what starts out so celestially becomes stale and old, despite some subtle inputs from heavily treated keyboard piano, flute, and voice. Still, a great song to daydream or meditate to. (9/10)

9. "Reflections on the Abyss" (07:35) the deep vibratory thrum of large industrial vehicles beneath water as birds, bells, zither, and other incidentals are thrown into the mix is quite unsettling--and quite ingenious. (8.5/10)

10. "The First Step Depends on the Last" (09:23) an opening loop of heavily-treated guitar and keyboard notes and arpeggi is gradually added to, thickening the soundscape to almost disturbingly overwhelming barrage levels. (8.5/10)

86.50 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent contribution to the catalogue of Progressive Electronics.




SERVANTS OF SCIENCE The Swan Song

A new band of prog veterans from Brighton, UK, presenting us with a concept album that sounds a lot like THE FLAMING LIPS with lots of reminders from bands like PINK FLOYD, THE CHURCH, Hawkwind, Eloy, The Enid, Nektar, and Babylon. The album tries to present the story of a man in space who witnesses the "end of the world."  

Line-up / Musicians:
Stuart Avis: Keyboards / Backing Vocals
Andy Bay: Bass / Backing Vocals
Neil Beards: Lead Vocals / Acoustic Guitar
Helena DeLuca: Vocals / Guitar
Adam McKee: Drums
Ian Brocken: Guitar

1. "Another Day" (5:35) cymbal crashes and thick, multiple layers of Mellotron open this one. Things quiet down at 1:20 for the entrance of STEVE KILBEY/ROBERT SMITH-like voice to start singing over some spacey keys and delicate guitar picking/strumming. Each verse is bridged by return to full 'tron. Nice vintage sound--reminding me of Ft. Lauderdale band BABYLON's 1979 debut album. Simple yet impressive. (9/10) 

2. "Kaleidoscope" (3:43) electric piano, spacey synth incidentals, and gentle electric guitar strums back the STEVE KILBEY/ROBERT SMITH-like singer for the first verse until Mellotron and synths and heavily-effected drums join in for the chorus. The second chorus flows into an instrumental section that incorporates recordings of human communications from space with eerie incidentals. Nice. (8.5/10)

3. "Tedium Infinitum" (4:08) setting up as a kind of FLAMING LIPS/80s pop song ("Hold Me Now" by the Thompson Twins) with an appropriate female lead vocal from Helena DeLuca. She sounds a lot like singer Malkah Spigel from the 1980s Belgium-based Israeli band MINIMAL COMPACT. Not enough surprises in the song development for my tastes. (7.5/10)

4. "Peripheral" (8:37) opens with slow chord bounces from electric piano and synth supporting a DANIEL ASH (Love and Rockets, Bauhaus)-like vocal. Overall it's a very FLAMING LIPS/ROGER WATERS-sounding song. The occasional appearance by a Robert-Fripp-like guitar note excites and draws attention but never really goes anywhere after its initial slide up the fretboard. There is a shift at 5:20 in which the band moves into an uptempo straight-time rock beat while multiple guitars, tuned percussion, and synths jam along until the "How will you fall from here" chorus returns around 6:40. Solid crossover prog song. The final minute has the music fall away as distorted electric guitar plays a few rounds of a single chord with arpeggios. (8/10)  

5. "Servants of Science" (5:48) here--including the voice! Opens with chimes before "cello" synth sound enters and settles into the background while guitar notes are picked and eerie saw-like synth move into foreground. A multi-voiced Polyphonic Spree-like choral voices enter at the 1:15 mark, surprising me. Nice. At 1:50 the song bursts into a section that is pure ROGER WATERS/PINK FLOYD. The vocal is very forceful (and angry?) The music returns to calm between first and second Waters-like vocal verses. Screaming lead electric guitar and synth-generated orchestral strings enter to support an instrumental section. By 5:20, the anger and force is spent and guitar arpeggi and lead notes turn soft, somber, and sad. Cool song! Clever/creative. (9/10) 

6. "Epilogue_Prologue" (3:57) kind of continues the spacious, soft, somber, thought-provoking section from the previous song as recorded voice from 1950s American radio/television broadcast RE birth of the Atomic Age plays. Neil's KILBEY-like voice takes a turn singing before exiting for cool human-voice-aided spacey section finished off with another old voice recording and "explosion"-like sound before radiowave sounds fill the sonicscape. Great song--truly in the same vein as THE FLAMING LIPS' Yoshimi. (9/10)

7. "Burning in the Cold" (10:00) opening with softly strummed electric guitar chords over which DOROCCAS-like voice eventually joins in during the beginning of the second minute. At 1:50 mark synth flute leads just before drums, bass, and rest of band join in. Band pauses mid-fourth  minute for an interlude of organ, synth French horn, voice samples and other random industrial and post-apocalyptic incidental sounds. At 5:15 we're back to the opening sounds and pace. At 5:50 a cymbal crash leads into a Mellotron-drenched section with full rock band support over which Neil sings with the emotion of a pissed off Roger Waters. This is then followed by a solid rock guitar solo before we break into a very gentle, airy choral sing of "to the sun, come along" which then repeats to the final minute--which plays out like the droning hum of a large turbine engine. Perfect PINK FLOYD send off. (8.5/10)

So the question is: Is this album more similar to THE FLAMING LIPS, PINK FLOYD, or THE CHURCH? I have no vested opinion in any of the cited sound-alikes. I do, however, truly enjoy and appreciate the choice of album theme and the way it is presented. High marks for this. I will say that I think the sound engineering and production could have been of a higher quality--though I did enjoy the retro-sounds that this album harkens back to, my standards remain snobbishly high--especially with the technologies so readily available in this the 21st Century.

86.43 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a solid contribution to prog world and a welcome addition to the space/psychedelic subgenre.




OVRFWRD Blurring the Lines . . . A Democracy Manifest

These boys know how to embellish two-, three- and four-chord blues rock chord progressions with enough jam-band-like instrumental flourishes, to bely the simplicity of the compositions. The musicians are all proficient at their instruments, the sound choices and effects all very accurate duplications of those from classic prog, psychedelia, and jazz fusion, and the weaves all full and feeling complete, but there is again this stark simplicity to each composition that I find difficult to ignore. It is especially obvious through and with the predominance of straight time signatures. I feel as if I’m listening to DAAL, QUANTUM FANTAY, SAMSARA BLUES EXPERIMENT, and early KING CRIMSON.

1. “Wretch” (7:13) is one of the strongest songs on the album, sounding like QUANTUM FANTAY at their best. (9/10)

2. “Return to Splendor” (5:55) has a driving, jamming SAMSARA BLUES EXPERIMENT start and feel to it until the soft DAAL-like piano-based section in the fourth minute. Quite pretty—the bass lines and electric guitar arpeggi are especially engaging. At 4:40 chunky DAAL guitar power chords (two chords) shift the music back to the insistence of the opening. (8.75/10)

3. “Kilauea” (1:31) opens as a solo acoustic guitar piece before the guitar is trebled in tracks 40 seconds in. (4/5)

4. “The Trapper’s Daughter” (4:13) opens with IQ-like raunchy synth which is soon joined by John Bonham “When the Levee Breaks”-sounding drumming before organ and rest of band fills the soundscape. Adrian Belew-like guitar screams and screeches enter around 1:55 but then become buried in the rest of the sonic barrage. But then a soft, cinematic reprieve starts and gradually morphs into a three-chord acoustic guitar duet to the end. Interesting. (8.5/10)

5. “”Forbidden Valley Opiate” (4:46) opens with solid drum play and Dick-Dale-like guitar riffing before filling out to be a song that could come straight from QUANTUM FANTAY’s 2010 album “Bridges of Kukuriku.” Another mid-song acoustic slowdown occurs in the third minute, but then proceeds to alternate with the driving two-chord progression that the song first established in the first minute. In the fourth minute the two sections kind of meld as the wah-ed lead guitar jumps into the fore and stays there till song’s end. (8.75/10)

6. “Cosmic Pillow” (8:06) opens with a solo sitar before a few sparsely spaced single piano notes join in around 0:40. The duet continues as both instruments gradually embellish and augment their separate patterns with little flourishes, chords, and runs. At 2:18 the piano enters into a more domineering pattern and is joined by tabla. Talented dudes! But the strangest thing then occurs: at the four minute mark when electric bass and electric guitar enter, the whole song changes, instrumental foundation, mood, sound, everything. Gone are sitar, tabla, and any echoes of Indian sounds, exchanged for heavy four-chord bluesy prog rock. In the sixth minute, the musical structure tries on a kind of KING CRIMSON sound with angular guitar chords and arpeggi and wild saxophone runs. Impressive imitation but, again, it is based in such simplicity! (8.5/10)   

7. “Another Afterthought” (3:54) is the first of the album’s songs in which the band enters into the realm of 70s instrumental Jazz Rock—here using an instrumental sound palette quite similar to bands like NARADA MICHAEL WALDEN, LARRY CARLTON, and even Belgium’s MINIMAL COMPACT. The song is interesting—even pretty in many places. (9/10)

8. “Handful of Infinity” (3:09) trying on the folk-tinged PAT METHENY GROUP style, we have a two-chord verse structure as the foundation over which electric guitar, Patrick Moraz-like synth, and piano get some solo time. The segue into more delicate territory at 2:00 is interesting, and then we finish with the same acoustic guitar-based jazz-rock opening. (8.75/10)

9. “Taiga” (4:01) opens like it’s going to explode into a DEAD CAN DANCE song, but then, instead, becomes more of an ambient VANGELIS  “Antarctica” thing before single chord piano and simple bass line bounce repetitively while synth twinkles and poppies its percussive sounds. A chamber strings addition in the third minute proceeds a rich, cinematic section over which bass nd electric guitar interplay. Good song. (8.75/10)     

10. “Mother Tongue” (7:15) opens with a band and a runaway pace with many bridges of tempo shifts and pregnant pauses strung together while drums and organ crash away. Electric guitar becomes more integrated into the weave than anticipated, but then morphs into an interesting due to the arrival of acoustic guitar in lead position, but then heaviness crashes back in to take the dominating style. But no! A slower, more spacious psychedelia foundation is created allowing the blues Hendrix-like lead guitar to float and flail, dance and fly all over the fast-panning soundscape. This song is all over the place! Does it work? Drumming, bass play, and piano are very cool in their support of the Hendrix imitator. Definitely a bluesy jam band-like song. The four-chord repetition to the end is an unusual way to draw the song to a close. (9/10)

11. “Wretch Reprise” (1:32) faded in, faded out. Must have been a solo section from an alternate or longer version of the album’s opener. I am SO familiar with this style of creating songs! (3.5/5)

12. “Usul” (4:48) is the most obviously KING CRIMSON-esque song on the album, “Red” era, but, other than the wonderful drumming on display, ultimately fails to maintain its beguilement. (8.5/10) 

Again, these band members, one and all, are masters of taking very simple constructs and using the collective embellishments from their familiar instruments to weave together some very nice and deceptively layered song tapestries. There are more frequent jam-band type of song developments than complex Crimsonian constructs—though, again, each of the individual musicians are quite proficient at their instruments. Their gift, so far, lies in masterfully mounting a collective attack slowly but surely, building as one to eventually create the full sounds and impressive concotions that they have. 

86.36 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a wonderful addition to any prog lover’s music collection; an impressive collection of a variety of styles familiar to any prog lover from the progressive rock musics of the 1970s. 




CATU KUÁ Que vengan los párajos

Wow! What an absolute joy to hear the extraordinary vocal talents of Carolina Restucci (of Factor Burzaco fame and repute) in a more playful pop setting! Though I was always mesmerized by her performances within the complex and obtuse avant/RIO structures of Abel Gilbert's songs, I was rarely drawn back to their music; there was too much of a lack of joy or even hope in the FB music to entice me back very often (though I do find myself revisiting their catalogue three or four times a year; the first album has stood up particularly well in my regard). The music captured here on Que vengan los párajos is pure joy, fun, and whimsy while retaining the angular, unusual avant approaches and demanding construct familiar to the listener from the Factor Burzaco world (which leads me to beleive that Carolina--or "Caro" as she apparently likes to be called--had a far greater role in the outcomes of the FB music than I had previously suspected). As devastatingly powerful as her performances with FB Were, Caro has much more power, control, and emotional expressiveness than I had perviously suspected. She is in the same league as SA divas Eliana Valenzueala (HOMÍNIDO's Estirpe Lítica  and Mariela González (familiar to Prog World via the NEXUS album, Metanoia).
   
Line-up / Musicians:
Carolina Restuccia (Factor Burzaco) - Synths, programming and vocals
Pablo Chalkho - Electric guitar, synths and programming
Juan Restuccia - Bass, synths and programming
Juan Rivas - Drums
   With
Nicolás d'Almonte - Drums

1. "Mueca" (2:36) great heavy pulse from the guitars makes this one a delightful opener. More control and direct rock power from Carolina Restucci than I've ever heard before. Wonderful! My favorite song on the album. (9.5/10)

2. "Amor De Carnava" (3:22) (8/10)

3. "Sureño (una Luz De Almacén)" (1:43) (4/5)

4. "El Silbido" (3:45) a delightful stop-and-start construct that, unfortunately, never does anything special or even different--though the bird-like vocalise and whistles in the second half are cool. (7.5/10)

5. "Ojos Que No Ven" (1:44) A punk rocker!
 There's a quite a little of the NINA HAGEN spirit in this singer, no? (4.5/5)

6. "Montaña" (3:23) constructed with a little bit more of a prog sound palette, bird sounds and synths set up a softer, more sedate song over which Caro, organ, and synths add their somewhat Reggae inputs. Great performance by Ms. Restucci over this unusual, challenging music. (8.5/10)

7. "Después" (3:01) a child-like innocence seems to possess and carry this song--both musically and vocally--at least, until the second minute when Caro and the band burst forth in a brief rock outburst. But then things calm down and even become quite melodic and atmospheric--until it's time for Caro to sing again. Return to parts A and B. (8.25/10)

8. "El Show Del Trueno" (3:11) opens with a bit of a PREFAB SPROUT feel to it. Even Caro's vocal is much more sedate and tempered--though still playful and heavily nuanced--like 1980s JANE SIBERRY. This one demonstrates Caro's theatric range (comedic, melodic, playful, upbeat, yet edgy) more than almost any song I've heard. A top three song for me. (9/10)

9. "Ñuke Nag Mapu" (3:03) a Math Rock-like guitar weave sets up Caro for a BJÖRK/SUGARCUBES-like performance. Fun, entertaining, and highly engaging. When things get "heavy" at the half-way point it remains so. Well done! Another top three for me. A GREAT performance from our front woman. (9/10)

10. "Acuario" (4:02) upbeat, full of folk-tinged punky rock swagger from a full-range of instrumental contributors, this may be the one song on the album in which the musicians shine above the singer! Nice HAIRCUT ONE HUNDRED-like feel and sound here! Great job! (9/10)

11. "Voz Madre" (4:19) more fun and playfulness from the band and it's leader. (9/10)

Total Time 34:09

86.25 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a wonderful cabaret-like contribution to the Prog World catalogue in the recent tradition of bands like UT GRET, PINGVINORKESTERN, WILLIAM DRAKE, KAVUS TORABI (Knifeworld, Gong, and The Cardiacs), Björk, SEAS OF MIRTH, NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA, and SHEN TEH.




ZWOYLD Zgond

Jazz rock bordering on avant-garde from Le Massif Central de France but this is far more digestable than some of the other angular and obtuse stuff that comes out of ce beau pays. Many of the sounds and tones used in individual instruments have very 1970s familiarity as do some of the stylings, but all of the songs are completely original with quite diverse and changeable twists and turns.

Line-up / Musicians:
Théo Karcher : Drums
Gaétan Riou : Bass, Backing Vocal (3)
Etienne Mazoyer : Guitar, Vocals (3), Keyboards (4,5)
Mathieu Lévigne : Keyboards (1-3)
Théo Panchèvre : Guitar (1,5)

1. "Zundia" (8:47) nice, engaging intro section is developed slowly and interestingly before flaming out with two lead guitars flashing over hypnotic steady rhythm section. (9/10)

2. "StarShoo" (9:26) interesting instrumental sounds blended together with sophisticated performances in a disappointingly uninteresting way. The uptempo middle section has some nice guitar play and interesting melodies in a FZ kind of way. I must comment on how solid and yet creative this drummer is: playing within the music, not above or below it, and always holding strong to the tempo; he's not super flashy but his occasional flourishes are subtle and yet remarkable. (8/10)

3. "Jolitude" (8:57) opens with cymbol play and bouncy organ before plucked and delay-echoed electric guitar takes on the lead. Vocals (fairly heavily treated) enter sealing the fact that this is a carnival-like piece. (I'm reminded of a mild version of a NEGRESSES VERTES-style song played in with an ATOMIC APE kind of theatricity). (8.5/10)

4. "Riravaler" (9:19) a slower, more subdued start with organ and slow-picked electric guitar gives way to a rolling sound which has the band's best blend of sound and instrumental cohesion yet. At 1:54 there is a shift into bit more of a staccato approach to all instruments except the rolling fretless bass, organ in the lead. The next shift in the fourth minute displays a more unusual time structure with the band rocking a little harder before it thins again in the fifth (just in time for the guitar lead). The second half is full of classic rock instrumental clichés, which can be fun. If you like that kind of stuff. (8.5/10)

5. "Tutti Quanti" (8:52) opens with an emotionally moving two chord guitar arpeggio before drums and bass and second guitar join in. A bit of a MARK KNOPFLER sound, feel, and dexterity to this guitarist's play. Quite nice! A spacey mid-section makes one think of the confusion one feels walking through a house of horrors or a house of mirrors, but the original foundation returns at 5:30 with the other guitarist taking a turn in the lead. He's got a thick, early SANTANA-like tone. It's awesome! At the seven minute mark a thick synth wash enters with two alternating chords as, eventually, the other instruments fade out, leaving a fun calliope-like carnival organ to end the album. (9/10)

Total Time 45:21

86.0 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a very good, solid representation of creative, retro-inspired jazz fusion. 


VASIL HADZIMANOV BAND Lines in Sand

Interesting ethnic jazz and jazz fusion from Serbia, the music here varies enough that at-times a hear/feel classical jazz, 70s fusion á la RTF and WEATHER REPORT, and even some Canterbury and electronic jazz in the vein of Swedish band KOOP. In short, they're all over the place!--but it's really good, highly engaging, and remarkably creative and fresh.

Line-up / Musicians: 
Vasil Hadzimanov - keyboards
Branko Trijic - guitar
Miroslav Tovirac - bass guitar
Bojan Ivkovic - percussion, vocals
Pedja Milutinovic - drums
    with:
Rastko Obradovic - sax (2, 8)
Marta Hadzimanov - lead vocal (4)
Dean Bowman - lead vocal (8)

1. "Lines In Sand" (5:42) opens with hand drum and clapping in odd, Arabic rhythm before Arabic vocalise and electric keyboards enter. After first verse of singing, guitars, Fender Rhodes keyboard, fretless bass and drum kit conform into a more standard soft jazz structure while maintaining rhythm and pace of the opening. Electric guitar is first to solo in the third minute, keys in forth and fifth. Nice frisky drum and bass backplay throughout. Final minute returns to bare bones of opening section though drums' toms are stick played and electric instruments are just waiting in the background to occasionally pounce in. Nice song--sets a great tone for the unique sound of this album. (9/10)

2. "Mr. MoonJune" (6:59) apparently a tribute to recently deceased founder of MoonJune Records, this one sounds and feels like a very standard jazz-rock song from the late 70s. My interest is most captivated by the funky bass play. Halfway through we hear the sax for the first time. (8/10)

3. "San Snova" (4:36) opens with interesting piano play--two hands doing completely different things while both using odd time signatures. When bass, guitars, and drums join in in the second minute the song takes on a Vince Guiraldi Black Orpheus"-kind of feel. The piano solo play in the third and fourth minutes is bouncy and staccato-percussive not unlike Joe Sample, Don Pullen, or even Thelonius Monk. Very interesting piano play--like an étude of some theoretical idea. (9/10)  

4. "Lost" (5:26) opens with piano and the airy soprano voice of Marta Hadzimanov. Quite pretty. Reminds me a bit of the KOOP music from Waltz for Koop with Yukimi Nagano singing--only a bit more jazzy. Piano-led combo takes over for some soloing for the majority of the song, though Marta does reappear in the final minute--though mixed more within the combo than forward. (9/10)


5. "Kazi" (2:25) notes a shift into Mark ISHAM-like electronic soundtrack jazz. Creative and engaging. (4.5/5)

6. "Kazi Gradiska" (4:39) takes over from the previous song turning into a spy-theme-like song with a hyper-fast-paced drum excursion moving beneath the slower, more methodical melodic weave. Cool song. Reminds me of something from later RETURN TO FOREVER (Gayle, Stanley and Gerry Brown era), really letting the drummer shine. (8.75/10)

7. "Maklik" (5:26) a funky bass and "clap" rhythm track open this one--making it sound like a 1980s Marcus Miller song. When electric keys, drums and guitar join it's an interesting conversation between synth and guitar chord play that ensue! Creative and fascinating though lacking any remarkable development save for a floating interlude in the fifth minute. Nice smooth jazz song. (8.5/10)

8. "For Clara" (6:02) highlighted by the soulful English vocal of Dean Bowman, the musical support is quite sparse, allowing Dean's voice to dominate the show. "Wild animal" synth noises kind of "battle" with Dean in the second and again in the third minutes causing a surprising rise in tension. At 3:37 there is a shift in tempo, pace, and feel as drums and percussion begin a syncopatic interplay which then provides the foil for an ensuing sax solo. I'll give it to Vasil and company here: this is new and refreshing! Great climax with rhythmic instruments and sax to finish! (9.5/10)

9. "Waiting For..." (1:46) a quiet, delicate little mostly-guitar interlude in the aftermath/fallout of the previous song. (4/5)

10. "Freedom From The Past" (4:44) back to some ethnic/folk-based music with both instruments (primarily percussion), rhythms, and melodic structure. Still, there remains a very Western WEATHER REPORT-like presentation. Excellent drumming and very creative synth play. Joe Zawinul would love to play on this one! (8.75/10)

11. "Ratnici Podzemlja" (4:21) despite the excellent bass play on this one, the straight time and fairly docile, unexceptional structure, melodies, and soli make this one a weak point--despite the interesting African choral rap. (8/10)

12. "Rege Hadzi" (7:15) again, a song kind of "cursed" for a very common chord and stylistic base. Piano and Latin-almost-Reggae-like rhythmic structure crate what becomes another "world music" song--though also feeling like a Zawinul song. (7.5/10)

Total Time 59:21

Keys, drums, bass, and guitars all excel on this one, though not so much in an overly-flashy fashion but rather in creative, well balanced weaves. I love the very creative sound production from the band leader as well as guitarist Branko Trijic, but I think I'm most impressed with the skills of drummer Pedja Milutinovic and bass player Miroslav Tovirac

85.90 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent release of diverse, skillful, and, at timese, ethnically-flavored jazz fusion. Definitely a band and album worth checking out!




REFORMAT The Singularity

A new UK band that is bravely and brilliantly pushing the boundaries of progressive rock music by exploring the fusion of computer electronica with rock/prog instruments and structures.

Line-up / Musicians:
Luke Pajak - instruments
Russ Russell - instruments
Jay Russell - drums, electronics

1. "Kosmos" (3:20) (8.5/10)

2. "System Terror" (2:53) Deep synth bass chords with Post Rock-like drumming and heavy guitar chords and flashy synth work and heavily treated "computer" voice makes for a cool sound and a great song. (9/10)

3. 'The Nevergator" (3:57) Nice use of multiple synths to lead the first half of this song, then a great step up into power drive in the third minute. Great drumming! (8.75/10)

4. "Hot/Knives" (2:59) opens with a lone atmospheric synth before full band bursts onto the scene. Then scales back to establish some breathing space with some guitar arpeggi before amping up again. Synth takes the lead melody while the drummer puts on a show. (8.5/10)

5. "Hypograms" (3:47) with the late presence of more heavily treated background voices. (8/10)

6. "Broken Tongue" (3:39) part video game soundtrack, part heavy metal song, this one shows potential but never really does anything to resolve the dichotomy until "vocals" join in during the third minute. (8/10)

7. "Vectrex" (4:11) opens like MIKE OLDFIELD church music before defining its computer-pop synth sounds and then bursting into full band run. A sonic lull follows, as if someone is hiding, watching, before things return to full flight. A guitar line entering at 2:25 gives the run leadership--and a nice, engaging melody it is. (8.75/10)

8. "Astrograms" (3:47) a more slowly, methodically, and thoughtfully constructed song, reaches its poppy fullness around the one-minute mark. At 1:40 it breaks into a heavy rock kind of "chorus." The dynamics of this song are quite well constructed, with a familiar ABACAB-type of flow. (9/10)

9. "Down/Strata" (3:43) a kind of GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT meets JAGA JAZZIST Post Rock song. (9/10)

10. "Clawcrane" (3:24) FROST* meets Final Fantasy. This one falls short. (7.5/10)

11. "Zeldan Skies" (4:59) gentle, relaxing synth chords open this one before things shift into a BAUHAUS/PETE SHELLEY kind of Berlin School-influenced synth-scape. Break at 1:24 for some pretty, non-specific "tribal" male vocalizations with sitar and synth support. At 2:30 we crash back into the Pete Shelley theme with additional instruments bringing forth a more heavy prog sound and feel. This is awesome! The culmination of all their efforts is HERE! (10/10)

Total Time 40:39

Listening to this album has reminded me more of JEM GODFREY's work with bands--and kind of like his own FROST* project--while also harkening back to the second ALAN PARSONS PROJECT album, I, Robot because of the experimental attempt at blending computer-generated sounds with those produced by humans on traditional hand-held instruments. Another band that comes to mind doing this type of work is Norway's JAGA JAZZIST.

85.90 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent contribution to modern progressive rock music and a recommended listening experience to any adventurous prog music lover.




3RDEGREE Ones & Zeroes, VOl. 0

New Jersey's gift to intellectually stimulating eclectic and crossover prog is back with the follow-up (or predecessor?!) to 2015's wonderful Ones & Zeroes, Vol. 1. 

1. "ReInstall_Overture" (3:57) fast, brash, and poppy, this one let's me know that we're in for a more rock operetta-like adventure here. I'm reminded here of XTC or some of the poppier KING CRIMSON or ASIA music from the 1980s. It's very nice, but not great. (8.75/10) 

2. "Connecting" (4:53) bleeds over from the opening overture, quickly adding singing to the mix. There's a cool intensity to this one while the vocals are going on, but then it gets weird between. "You are the shit tonight" is an odd lyric to throw in there before going back to stronger intensity. The intricate weave is pretty cool in the next section. This is almost feeling like a visual song, a vehicle for a story to be told on stage. (9/10)

3. "Olympia" (5:15) again bleeding over from the previous song, I like the flow of this section of the album. Great melody line for the first verse followed by a nice little instrumental and decent call-and-response chorus. The story is again feeling as if it's being delivered (or should be delivered) on a stage. And a good story it is with Olympia being some kind of AI servant/slave (who goes off like the OS in the film Her). (9/10)

4. "The Future Doesn't Need You" (5:50) continues the story in a much more delicate, emotional way, with the album's best music, best melodies and powerful lyric. (10/10)

5. "Unintended Consequence" (3:35) Broadway, anyone? (8/10)

6. "Perfect Babies" (4:43) Despite continuing the clever tongue-in-cheek story, despite getting stronger as the song goes along, this one just misses. (7.5/10)

7. "Logical Conclusion" (6:40) despite two awesome instrumental sections (from the end of the second minute to 3:18, and 3:55 to 5:15) and a great choral section near the end, this song fails to "hook" me with any melodic or lyrical lines. (8.5/10)

8. "Click Away!" (15:28) an epic that opens with a sound very familiar to those who have luxuriated in the sonic magic of THE FLAMING LIPS' 2002 masterpiece, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. The lyrics (referring to modern humankind's obsession with quick-access information and entertainment) are great but the melody and song dynamics fall a little flat. Despite several shifts and nice injections from chords, riffs, arpeggi, and interesting instruments/sounds, the song never really rises to a level deserving of superlatives. Great sound and melody in the chorus at 3:50. As a matter of fact, it's the "Thank you Click Farm" choruses throughout that are the most engaging highlights of the song. (8/10)

9. "Ones & Zeroes" (7:07) reminding me of a lot of some music by the CARS, this one gets into my brain enough to bring me back for more. For the finale of the story line, I'm not quite sure what the point has been: "It's always been binary code," means ... what exactly? (8.5/10)

I think the failing of this album is in the band's decision to try to be cleverer and quirkier than they needed to be--especially with vocal melody lines; just too busy! The best song has the most stable and simple melodies.

85.83 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent addition to the prog lexicon--especially to the necessary conversations regarding the values and priorities of "civilized" society. Too bad the album doesn't maintain the high and engaging standard that is sets forth with the first four songs.





SLEEPING PANDORA From Above

Awesome Space/Psychedelic music from Cosmic Fall member Mathias Rosmann. Great sonic textures, song constructions, and instrumental performances throughout. I haven't heard guitar-led psychedelic music this good in a long time.

Line-up / Musicians:
Mathias Rosmann (Cosmic Fall) - everything

1. "Shine" (10:52) slow to get going but becomes one powerful, diverse, richly layered song with very emotional guitar play. By far the best song on the album. (20/20)

2. "Überschall" (12:18) a more slowed down though continuous soundscape and flow from the previous song. The guitar here is far more bluesy, the bass line a little monotonous. At the end of the sixth minute a kind of Berlin School sequence enters bringing a cool new feel and speed. The heavily-echoed guitar starts getting cooler. At the eight-minute mark some instrumental sounds drop out, creating a more spacious backdrop over which keyboard-synth sequence and computer cymbal play support the screams of the echoed electric guitar. (20/25)

3. "Danube Wave" (11:12) opens with synth wash background, fast-throbbing single-note bass and "hi-hat" lines with MIKE OLDFIELD "Incantations"-like "glass" vibes playing over the top. Wah-ed electric guitar lead supplants the vibes in the second minute as "drum" support increases. At the three minute mark the glass vibes rejoin for a bit, then we're back to electric guitar soloing over the synthesized rhythm section. I must admit that the guitar lead is doing nothing for me; I'm much more interested in the movements in the synthetic background (synth washes, vibes, bass, drums). The guitar begins playing with more percussive echo effects in the sixth and seventh minutes while background drops out. At 7:00 we return to drum-base while guitar resumes soloing, now with that heavy echo interplaying with the wah. The solo actually gains traction and an enjoyable melody line while reminding me of the Randy Bachman solo in "Blue Collar." Nice. (17/20)

4. "Cascades" (12:07) a gentle prog electronic foundation opens this song before heavily-effected electric guitar steps in to take on the lead. Very engaging, hypnotic musical base. Things quiet down in the sixth minute so that smooth industrial synth sounds can have a turn while floaty electric piano plays gently from behind the wings (L). Nice section. When the soundscape begins to refill, it is with an insidious force led by guitar and later joined by bass and drums. Guitar soloing ventures into lower octaves in the tenth minute as spacey foundation trudges along. Long, interesting, echo-y two minute deconstruction and "fade out." (18/20)

5. "Going Back" (9:12) opens with a slow but constant two-chord keyboard progression before twangy-electric guitar lead and synth effects join in. The guitar is fairly bare though heavily echoed (as usual) and, shortly, wah pedaled. Those first three minutes were surprisingly boring. A shift into a higher octave refreshes but ultimately fails to save the first half of this song from the realm of "future skip overs." Some subtle sound additions and shifts in the fifth and sixth minutes help, and then when the guitar disappears for a while the syth work and drum sounds are afforded more attention. Guitar returns at 7:00, played much more slowly, each single- or dual-note gaining independent attention. In the end, this is a forgettable song. (14/20)

6. "Space Lane" (11:16) opens with quite familiar Berlin School sounds and constructs before near-Euro-disco bass line and standard drum lines support the searing electric guitar soloing. The soundscape thins in the fifth minute as the bass drops out, isolating the guitar more, but it's not till the 5:20 mark that the guitar really begins to bring it in terms of intensity and emotion. And, at nearly the same time, the rest of the original Euro-disco sounds return, both amplifying and diminishing the guitar's possible effect. Still, we're learning that Mathais' real strength is in his searing, emotional guitar play. Another break from bass and drums at the 8-minute mark, but then the dance floors are made happy again less than 30 seconds later. Nice guitar work/riffs in the final 90 seconds. (18/20)

7. "Beach" (11:27) opens with a striking New Age feel to it--even the sound and style of play used for the lead guitar bespeaks "New Age." A littel more house oriented in the middle section, but I have to admit that by this point in the album I'm getting a little tired of the "Blue Collar" guitar sound. A few nice dynamic shifts disrupt the tedium and give the listener breathing space, a chance for renewed perspective, but ultimately this song needs something more. (17/20)

Total Time 78:24

85.71 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a nice contribution to the prog electronic/space music style and an excellent addition to any prog rocker's music collection.





VESPERO Hollow Moon

You've got to credit the Fedotov brothers and company: they keep coming, they keep evolving, and they are great musicians. Must be some good stuff in the waters of Astrakhan!

Line up / Musicians: 
Ivan Fedotov – drums, percussion, сachon, wave drum
Arkady Fedotov – bass, synth, noises
Alexander Kuzovlev – guitars, mandoline
Alexey Klabukov – keys, synths
Vitaly Borodin – violin, accordion, piano, synth
     with
Pavel Alekseev – tenor saxophone

1. "Watching The Moon Rise" (3:36) an unusual item for this band: an atmospheric, spacey intro! Nice though there is nothing very new or exciting here. (7.5/10)

2. "Flight Of The Lieutenant" (8:28) I hate the rhythmic foundation chosen for the first minute of this song. It changes slightly to start the second minute while guitar, violin, and synth do some pretty cool things but then that super annoying drum beat and machine gun bass playing returns intermittently. The third minute gets more interesting as the drumming begins to play more within the spirit of jam band improv that the rest of the band are using. Thinkgs slow down into a near-Rasta rhythm pattern in the fourth minute as heavily-treated funked-up bass is given some solo time. When the music returns to the breakneck pace of the opening sections there are some very cool violin and sax solos with all kinds of interesting stuff coming in from the peripheral instruments! At 6:30 there is return to the slow-down section for some cool guitar work. The tommy gun bass and return for an all-out race to the finish for the final minute. Wow! (17.5/20)

3. "Sublunarian" (7:56) opens with a cool multiple acoustic guitar finger-picking weave before bowed cello, double bass and congas join in. The melody of the bridge has a bit of a "Classical Gas" feel to it. At the two minute mark the song shifts into an early Jean-Luc Ponty sound and feel--gorgeous. This is a side of Vespero I've never heard before--a jazz fusion side. I love it! The mid-song interlude for the slow synth-saw solo is a little prolonged and distracting, but then some almost-trip-hoppy drums enter to perk things up while a sax wails away. The final minute is a bit disappointing as all of the energy from the start and previous acoustic weaves are removed and an unexciting solo plays out. Still, this is a top three song for me. (18.25/20)

4. "Moon -Trovants" (8:39) Another interesting weave kicks in straight out of the starting block with synth master Arkady Fedotov having fun with his signature noises. A King Crimson "Discipline" weave establishes itself while a heavily treated violin solos. The violin's three note arpeggi used within the support weave thereafter become a little annoying as I think they are mixed a little too loudly into the soundscape. The bare bones fabric of the sixth minute unfortunately destroys some of the momentum and engagement established in the first five minutes. A little too staccato and repetitive--but I get it from the point of view of a band's exercise in discipline. Luckily it fills in again in the eighth minute so electric guitar and then sax can solo. (16.5/20)

5. "Mare Ingenii" (3:19) sounds like an outtake from an early 1980s Bruce Cockburn studio jam session with Hugh Marsh's electric violin, Bruce or Hugh's mandolin and Fergus Marsh's bass/ChapmanStick. (7.5/10)

6. "Feast Of Selenites" (11:05) opens with two minutes of playful experimentation with weaving muted string instrument pickings. At the three minute mark the structure becomes heavier--the rhythm section falling into a Mahavishnu Orchestra like groove while searing electric guitar, chunky bass, and violin take turns in lead and supporting roles. At 5:00 the rhythm structure again shifts, this time into a groove much more familiar from previous Krautrock-influenced Vespero albums. Within the next two minutes there are more subtle yet distinct stylistic shifts over which violin and synths take turns managing the leads. I like this song for its interesting twists and and turns and strong melodies while also wish a few of the sections could have been returned to or explored further than they were. The final minute sees a return to the Mahavishnu jazz fusion theme in a bit of a slowed down, watered down way--though the lead guitarists work is really fun. Another top three song for me. (18/20)

7. "Watershed Point" (2:01) another space interlude performed by synths and strings (synth strings?) Prettier than the album's opener but cut short. (4.5/5)

8. "Tardigrada's Milk" (7:12) another attempt at an acoustic-based jazz fusion piece, this one using more familiar Vespero melodies for the first two minutes. It opens with an acoustic guitar-led melodic "hook" that just doesn't work for me. Sounds like LOST WORLD BAND's Andy Didorenko's guitar! The Hugh Marsh-like violin work is nice. The third minute sees a rather radical shift into carnivalesque music laden with Arkady's frequent synth ejaculations. The fourth minute opens with a complete breakdown of all musical accompaniment while an accordion/harmonium-like instrument takes on as the sole companion to Arkady's synth spews. The end of the fifth minute sees a breakout into a kind of folk jam with chunky bass the only instrument that would not fit into a great MIKE OLDFIELD weave.  This is actually quite a remarkable Oldfield imitation! Great song despite being a bit disjointed. My third top three song. (9/10)

9. "Space Clipper's Wreckage" (8:39) more attention grabbing but ultimately annoying drum work. The STEVE HILLAGE imitation guitar wanderings in the third minute are spot on and awesome but then the band decides to shift into some kind of blues rock territory. NO! I was so liking the GONG work! The countrified drum sound and beat is really bothering me. Luckily there is a break in the fifth minute--a weird GOBLIN-PULSAR type of piano-based wonky-bass and Arkady frenzy-fest. At 5:48 this explodes into a kind of MAGMA/KING CRIMSON heavyiness over which Alexander Kuzovlov's obvious "Ship of Fools"-like Robert Fripp work wails emotionally. This is cast aside at the seven minute mark for a rollicking punk-rock-ish section over which sax wails which is then replaced for a return to one of the earlier themes for a frenzied dance of frenetic cacophony exiting for a slow barebones piano arpiggi ending. Whew! What a ride!  (17.5/20)

10. "Watching The Earth Rise" (3:26) is the album's final ambient space exploratory--this time using treated accordion, synths, and violin. (8/10)

Total time: 64:21

85.69 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection.

Though I really enjoy the adventurous spirit Vespero has displayed on this album--an album that is, in fact, quite different from their previous work precisely for this diversity--this is is the album that has made me decide to say that I have not enjoyed the progression of drummer Ivan Fedatov's stylistic choices nor do I enjoy the sound engineering choices the band has made for recording/presenting the kit drums. In my opinion, the Vespero drums are to often at odds or even detrimental to the cohesiveness of the songs. And I say this with great disappointment as Ivan's drumming and drumming potential were the first thing about this band that drew me in and one of the things that have kept me coming back for ten years now. 




BOMBER GOGGLES Gyreland

A very fun tongue-in-cheek look into a possible future scenario in which humans build a community on top of the island of plastic floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that their waste has created. Musically this is exceptionally fun as the band has drawn eclectically from many styles and sources to create its little rock opera--and they do a remarkable job of replicating styles while creating truly complicated, clever, and engaging songs, each and every one. The lyrics alone are worth the listen!

Line-up / Musicians:
Steve Bonino - Vocals & Bass
Peter Matuchniak (Gekko Projekt) - Guitars
Vance Gloster - Keyboards
   With
Jimmy Keegan (Spock's Beard) - Drums

1. "Land Of Plastic" (5:18) opens like a 1970s rock anthem from TED NUGENT or DAMN YANKEES. The story begins with the accounting of Earth's polluted lands and the discovery of this mountain of plastic in the ocean. (8.5/10)

2. "The Gyre" (5:41) though the instrumental opening is rather blues-rocky, once the song settles into its story-delivery mode it continues in a style similar to that of Peter Gabriel's deliver of the stripped down 'doldrums' part of "Supper's Ready"--just before the "A flower? A flower!" part. Nice guitar lead blaring throughout in the background. (9/10)

3. "Building" (5:23) an instrumental that opens with a "Shaft" cymbol play on the hi-hat before hyper-speed piano similar to that on "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway." The band is so tight-and so creative. The song morphs into a lighter psych-funk number that could come off a Brian ELLIS album. Nice! At the halfway point Keith Emerson shows up to bridge us over to a cinematic section that combines the opening bridge into a softer, melodic section of wordless silliness. We then finish with a return to the high speed section for the finish. Nice! (9/10)

4. "Telepathy" (4:31) opens with bass, brushed cymbols, and guitar harmonics over which piano and multiple voices add an odd kind of STEELY DAN singing (a slowed down "Reelin' in the Years"). Again, the talent and versatility of these guys as both composers and performers is rather astonishing. I'd compare them to East Coast futurists, 3RDegree, but these guys are so much more broad-spectrumed. (8.5/10)

5. "Oh Gyreland" (3:33) plays like a BILLY JOEL/Broadway tune--especially the chorus. (Think Godspell--and equally catchy and witty.) At the two minute mark we get a radical shift in tempo and mood as we seem to be marching along with confidence and vigor. This is such a likable tune, I can't help but rate it high. (9/10)

6. "The World We Really Want" (4:02) another awesome tune that conjures all sorts of nostalgic music from the R&B of the late 60s (think: Persuaders' "It's a Thin Line [Between Love and Hate]") and--bonus--it has a great lyric! (9/10)

7. "Renewed World" (3:17) an instrumental of mixed (and--you betcha--familiar) themes strung together into a happy disco song. (8/10)

8. "We Are Not Alone" (3:52) A blues guitar opening turns down and into a more somber and pensive harp-based song about drone-based spying. At 1:40 it ramps up again into the blues rock power structure, but then quells back into a classical guitar and cello and "flute" (synth) chamber piece. The second singing verse uses the same scaled back soundscape as previously. The blues-rock guitar soloing section is kind of like the chorus, I guess. Interesting, creative song. (8.5/10)

9. "Triangle Of Power" (5:01) another very stage-friendly theatric song about the three superpowers (USA, CHINA and Russia). Male vocal ensemble work is almost barbershop-like but, again, more flexible like a Broadway musical. Clever with nice guitar work but straying farther from prog-appropriate and getting more into the cabaresque. (8/10)

10. "Uneasy Truce" (4:31) a slow, almost Jan Hammer jazz fusion song with some lyrics about the fear of fighting over their new found home and its resources. A little slow and plodding until the third minute's ramp up for solo exposition. But then it goes back to the Hammer-esque synth dominated jazz-blues stuff. (7.5/10)

11. "Invasion" (3:52) comes across as a Three Dog Night or Tom Jones power song. Nice performances by the instrumentalists. Unfortunately, the vocal is a little over-the-top and becomes annoying. I'm ready for some straightforward prog! (7.5/10)

12. "Wistful Waves" (5:37) a very pretty, almost classically "orchestra" supported piece that has a GALAHAD or JOHN HOLDEN Neo Prog feel to it. Now THIS is what I've been waiting for! I even love the multi-voiced (like The Association's "Cherish") monotone vocal. Great organ-backed Gilmour-ish guitar solo in the fifth minute. The best song on the album--and a true prog rocker. (10/10)

13. "March Of Tides" (5:50) has a very Thomas Thielen/David Bowie feel to it--especially the lead vocal in the first section. Dick Dale bass line with Arp synth soloing over the top. Then a piano-based stripped down section over which the vocal picks back up. Not the greatest end to the album or story--either lyrically or musically. (8/10)

Total Time 60:28

The stylistic cornucopia gets a little irritating over the course of 40, 50, and 60 minutes. I love the creativity and the story but, Hey, guys! This should be made into a Broadway musical!

85.0 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a solid, highly enjoyable contribution to prog world and a welcome addition to any prog lover's music collection.





MYSTERY Lies and Butterflies

I enter the first listen of any new MYSTERY album with no expectations. I am always surprised by the rich and consistent sound the band has used over the course of its career. This is the first time that that sound may be feeling a little old, a little tapped out.

Musicians / Line-up
Jean Pageau - lead vocals, flute, keyboards
Francois Fournier - bass, keyboards
Jean- Sebastien Goyette - drums
Sylvain Moineau - guitars, keyboards
Antoine Michaud - keyboards
Michel St-Pere - guitars, keyboards

1. "Looking For Something Else" (16:54) opens with crowd cheering and clapping before a "door-shutting" noise and acoustic guitar harmonics section and acoustic piano section ensue. It sounds like diddling around on stage while the concert fans empty from the stadium. After about 90 seconds the little impromptu rift is taken over by the full electronic band. Impressive cohesion, however, after another two minutes of this single arpeggio riff being repeated and bashed about, I find myself looking (hoping) for something new, a shift or variation. The music does empty down but flute and piano and acoustic guitar perpetuate the riff while Jean Pageau enters to sing. Piano and acoustic guitar continue to carry "the riff" while the instrumental lineup and dynamics go through some shifts. Chorus. Electric guitar solo. Return to full band and vocal push of "the riff." In the seventh minute things lay back again, though the bass remains thick and there is still an occasional power chord, so that Michel can really sink his teeth into a long guitar solo. It's okay; nothing very new or super-exciting. And yet it continues. For four minutes. Synths take a laid back turn in the lead. When things finally settle down in the eleventh minute, church organ leads us in, but then piano and acoustic guitars take back the lead in a soft, delicate "Confusion Will Be My Epitaph" section over which Jean sings. The King Crimson inspiration continues with flute and Mellotron (making it even more blatant) until things explode into full "orchestral" mode at 13:25. Nice vocal, nice lead guitar solo follow (still following the "Epitaph" melody lines). It's different enough that I can let go of the blatant "lift" of the music. Plus, the players feel so emotionally connected to this section. It's pretty damned good even if it is borrowed.  Great drum and bass play throughout. (31.5/35)

2. "Come To Me" (5:17) sounds too much like a WHITESNAKE song. Too filled with sonic and structural clichés; one or two catchy riffs or chord progressions do not make for a great song. (7/10)

3. "How Do You Feel?" (4:53) pretty chords gently played by multiple guitars and keys set up Jean Pageau for an emotional vocal--which he delivers in spades. Perfect power, perfect melodies, perfect lyrics. Great guitar work in the rhythm and solo departments throughout. A MYSTERY masterpiece. (9.5/10)

4. "Something To Believe In" (7:34) Oh, oh! A Colin Tench song! At least, that's what the opening suggested. The stripped down, country-rock verses bely something a little different but not far off my original impression. Man! Michel St-Pere can play guitar! Maybe even better than Colin could! Drums are a little too busy for my tastes, don't really work in this mix. Electric piano arpeggi segue into a new section with a bit of a classical feel--even guitars and flute maintain that feel. But then a power chord from the electric guitar serves notice of a return to rock 'n' roll. Joe Walsh-era EAGLES come to mind here. (11.25/15)

5. "Dare To Dream" (6:54) Synth-strings note and dated electric piano chords open this slow song before cymbol play and guitars join in to support the vocal. Again, the song stays in such conservative, formulaic territory that I find myself disappointed, even turned off. Great little guitar solo at the very end of the second minute. Both the verses and choruses are failing to bring me in. I'm so sad! Nice instrumental section in the fourth minute and usual great lead guitar solo in the fifth. Sensitive scaled back section in the sixth minute over which haunting synth solos. Vocals return in harmonized multiplicity but they aren't grabbing me! Such ambivalencies! (12.75/15)

6. "Where Dreams Come Alive" (7:26) electric guitar and electric piano arpeggi provide an opening background over which Michel's lead soars for a few seconds before we switch into second gear with chunky plucked bass line and syncopated drumming. The vocals enter over this. It's not working. Guitars and keys join in and still it's not quite clicking on all cylinders. Michel's occasional flourishes on lead guitar are magical but once again they cannot float or fly a poorly constructed ship. I would like to see more future compositions using more of Jean Pageau's flute. (12.75/15)

7. "Chrysalis" (15:08) opens softly before bursting into a long introduction of a theme that feels familiar from one of the previous songs. Things then quiet down in the second minute for some nice acoustic guitar work. A minute of this with support of synth washes and we're finally introduced to the vocal. There's a BLUE ÖYSTER CULT Spectres feel to this one (more specifically, "I Love the Night"). Song builds in the fifth minute and then breaks down for the delicate, heart-felt "Butterfly, spread your wings and fly" section. Then a sudden shift takes us into a heavier, metallic section of power chords, searing guitar, and almost growling vocal narration before Jean's more-projected vocal soars in the foreground. At 8:35 the dominant riff shifts to bridge us to another delicate, dreamy section (though a chunky bass continues at the bottom--as if to remind us that this is a scary story) with nice melodies from guitar and vocal. This is intermixed with alternating returns to the "Godzilla"-like guitar power chords. Even Michel's guitar solo over this heaviness has a Buck Dharma sound and feel to it! The twelfth and thirteen minutes maintain a nice albeit still heavy chord progression beneath which the drummer has some show-off time. Then we shift into a heavy yet full-orchestra feeling final section over which powerful Jean's vocal carries us to the delicate end. (25.5/30)

Total Time 64:06

84.81 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a nice addition to any prog lover's collection (though not as good as some of Mystery's previous releases).




LA COSCIENZA DI ZENO Il vita magliore

LCdZ returns with an orchestrally expanded lineup and retro/1970s-styled engineered sound. 

Line-up
Alessio Calandriello: vocals
Gabriele Guidi Colombi: bass
Andrea Orlando: drums, percussion
Stefano Agnini: keyboards
Gianluca Origone: guitars
Luca Scherani: keyboards
   With
Martina Saladino : vocals
Fausto Sidri: vocals, percussion
Marco Callegari: trumpet
Sylvia Trabucco: first violin
Alice Nappi: second violin
Joanne Roan: flute
Gaetano Galli: oboe
Edmondo Romano: soprano sax
Melissa Del Lucchese: cello
Daniela Piras: flute
Davide Corso: sax

1. "Lobe iste calabu" (6:43) acoustic guitar and piano with a more acoustic orchestral sound palette before the synthesized "recorder" begins soloing at the one-minute mark. Then, at the two minute mark, everything stops for the piano to take over with a very classical-sounding solo that is eventually joined by some damned fine flute playing. And then at the three minute mark the prog rock instruments take over leading us into a very nice passage of fully developed and finely soloed instruments (the electric guitar, in particular, shines quite brightly). Great opener. (9.5/10)

2. "Il posto delle fragole" (8:36) rather typical LCdZ opening "suddenly" joined by Alessio singing as if he's thinking while walking and window shopping. Though I appreciate the scaled back effects used in the engineering department--giving the instruments a true 1970s analog, pre-gated /compressed sound--there is something not quite right with the guitar.  As beautiful as is the voice of Alessio Calendriello, I just feel as if he's only dialing it in--as if he's too laid back, too detached from the usual passion that he gives to his performances. The band just sounds tired, as if they're just going through the motions. (16.25/20)

3. "Danza ferma" (5:38) Baroque instrument palette to open with lute-like guitars and oboe setting the scene, joined by Alessio and drum kit towards the end of the first minute. This is a very interesting sonic exploration by LCdZ. At 2:10 the rock instruments join in, giving this a very 1960s/early 1970s sound to it--back when early electric sound technologies were being used together within the orchestral arrangements. Alessio and choral background are a cool touch but once again Alessio just sounds like he's dialing it in--not giving his all. (8.5/10)

4. "Mordo la lingua" (5:44) more like the usual LCdZ--though still using a more retro/70s engineering sound palette. Good song with an excellent finish. (8.5/10)

5. "L’aspettativa del bimbo scuro" (8:57) oboe soloing over fast bouncing percussive pass (Chapman Stick?) 
and then joined by soprano sax. At the one-minute mark the music shifts to a classic RPI sound palette. Alessio enters with power--for the first time sounding as if he's really into the song, into his performance. Yes! This is the LCdZ reaching for their full potential. A downshift in the fourth minute yields a beautiful instrumental chamber weave. Then, at the beginning of the fifth minute, there is another shift, this one feeling more classic RPI before jazzy piano takes over.  The next section is more sedate--including Alessio's lackluster-sounding voice. Bouncing back and forth between slow, plodding and fast and speedy from here out, the mix of antiquated classical instruments with the rock instruments continues, sometimes working, sometimes not. Too bad they couldn't maintain that enthusiastic cohesion from the opening three minutes throughout. (17.25/20)

6. "Una vita migliore" (12:34) a full-on prog epic that puts on full display the mastery of their craft: many themes and motifs blended seemlessly together, drawing upon all of the prodigious talents of each member the band while at the same time demonstrating their compositional skills. No orchestral instruments used on this one, just pure rock and roll. Totally the best Alessio Calandriello performance on the album. 
Does anyone else hear the repeated strains of Jesus Christ Superstar throughout this song? (22.5/25)

7. "Vico del Giglio" (2:58) a final instrumental march to show off that fusion of antique classical acoustic orchestral instruments with those of 1970s progressive rock music. Goodbye, La Coscienza di Zeno! Thank you for a decade of the wonderful music! (8.5/10)

A step backwards in sound quality, the album's songs sound as if they were recorded on stage, with one microphone. This may, in fact, have been the sound the band may have been going for--it makes the band sound as if they are all playing at once, together, which is cool, but the individual instruments do kind of bleed into each other, lose some of their distinctiveness. The songs also have a sound and feel like a 70s rock opera--with many total shifts mid-song like a Jesus Christ Superstar styling. Still, this is new music from La Coscienza di Zeno! This is Alessio Calandriello! This is modern RPI at its vintage-sounding best!

83.53 on the Fishscales = B-/3.5 stars; a nice, mature display of Rock Progressivo Italiano that, though may fail as a "perfect" blend of ancient classical and modern rock instrumentation, does show courage and a desire to challenge themselves and grow.  You've got to give credit to these guys for one thing: they have created music that is all their own--music that sounds like no one else. 



KARIBOW MOnuMENTO

Very nice power prog from this cast of all-stars.

Line-up
Oliver Rüsing: Lead & Backing Vocals, Guitars, Drums & Percussion, Keyboards, Bass, Orchestral Arrangements, Children's Intruments
   With
Michel St-Père (Mystery): Guitar
Hayley Griffiths (Karnataka): Lead & Backing Vocals
Joe Cairney (Comedy of Errors): Lead & Backing Vocals
John Young (Lifesigns): Keyboards
Antony Kalugin (Karfagen, Sunchild): Keyboards
Nic Koray: Lead & Backing Vocals
Roland Körner: Blues Harp
Simone Stiers: Lead & Backing Vocals
Guido Seifert: Keyboards

Disc 1: Moments
1. MOnuMENTO (11:41) (/20)
2. The Raining Silence (4:57)
3. District Of Dignity (6:53)
4. The Flood (6:43)
5. Spirits On The Water (7:20)
6. Private Babylon (6:08)
7. Red Feathers (4:14)
8. Seeker Of Days 8:11)
9. Elay (12:11)

Total Time 68:18

Disc 2: Monuments
I. A Fairy Tale (26:02)
01. Part I: Prelude to a Fairy Tale (2:24)
02. Part II: Lost is all I am (7:24)
03. Part III: Intruder (2:18)
04. Part IV: Touching the Borderline (3:41)
05. Part V: The Lion and the Lamb (2:25)
06. Part VI: Keeper of Fairy Blood (7:50)
II. Crusader (20:22)
07. Part I: Prelude to a Crusade (3:14)
08. Part II: The Lonely Way (8:19)
09. Part III: A New World (6:40)
10. Part IV: Monument of Life (2:09)

Total Time 46:26




DISSONANT DISTANCE Dissonant Distance

Quite impressive hard-driving fusion from this multi-national project (Sweden, Hungary). Take a listen just to hear the proficiency of the three musicians. Jaw-dropping. 

1 - Stone Shaped Marmalade Dream (06:50)
2 - Multi Dimensional Colored Mask (05:40)
3 - The Shadow Of The Steel Tower (07:55)
4 - Bending Our Flags In The Evening (11:51)
5 - The Mirror Of Mr Goldmann (05:41)
6 - The Key (04:03)
7 - Eleven Signs (04:53)
8 - Walking In The Deadly Forest (08:12)
9 - Covered by Darkness (08:19)
10 - Over Our Heads (A Flying Nickel Samovar) (11:34)

Line-up:
Oscar Hansson – Bass, Live Looping
Jay Matharu – Guitar
Andras Saylik – Drums, Percussion




A new instrumental Avant chamber release from 15 year Cuneiform veterans FAR CORNER, aggressive music in the vein of ÄNGLAGÅRD and THINKING PLAGUE.

Line-up:
William Kopecky – bass
Dan Maske – keyboards
Angela Schmidt – cello
Craig Walkner – drums
     With:
Jerry Loughney – violin (1, 4, 13)

1. Unapproachable (2:18)
2. Fork (3:52)
3. Flim Flam Man (6:45)
4. Myopia (5:06)
5. Past Deeds, Present Treacheries (7:53)
6. The Chickening (3:24)
7. Fireplay (0:37)
8. Laboratory Missteps (3:56)
9. Summit (9:25)
10. SolonEye (2:40)
11. Oracular Intent (6:36)
12. Night Of Odds (0:59)
13. Alea Ludere (9:21)

Total Time 62:52





PERFECT BEINGS Vier

The latest from prolific Johannes Luley, this album is full of music that is much more intricately constructed than anything Johannes has done before.

Line-up:
Ryan Hurtgen - vocals, piano
Johannes Luley (Moth Vellum) - guitars, bass
Jesse Nason - keyboards
Sean Reinert (Cynic, Death, Gordian Knot) - drums
Jason Lobell - bass
Brett McDonald - sax, flute

01. Guedra - A New Pyramid (04:55)
02. Guedra - The Blue Lake of Understanding (02:55)
03. Guedra - Patience (04:23)
04. Guedra - Enter the Center (06:09)
05. The Golden Arc - The Persimmon Tree (07:53)
06. The Golden Arc - Turn the World Off (02:14)
07. The Golden Arc - America (01:52)
08. The Golden Arc - For a Pound of Flesh (04:49)
09. Vibrational - The System and Beyond (06:51)
10. Vibrational - Mysteries, Not Answers (02:49)
11. Vibrational - Altars of the Gods (03:27)
12. Vibrational - Everywhere At Once (01:40)
13. Vibrational - Insomnia (03:31)
14. Anunnaki - Lord Wind (02:04)
15. Anunnaki - Patterns of Light (03:14)
16. Anunnaki - A Compromise (05:42)
17. Anunnaki - Hissing the Wave of the Dragon (04:12)
18. Anunnaki - Everything's Falling Apart (03:30)

Total Time 72:10

It's long. It's dense. It's a tough listen--straight through--though it is nice music with lots of melodies and unexpected turns. The problem comes with the mental overwhelm with all of the musical and lyrical twists and turns. Whereas some of Perfect Beings' earlier music was perhaps too simple and too syrupy, this one becomes overwhelming. Too bad.





CANTURBE Flotteur

I can't help myself: I love prog with some accordion/bandoneón! This band is from Argentina's Viajero Inmóvil label--a label whose 2018 releases alone may make them my new favorite label!

Line-up: 
Jorge Garacotche - guitars, bass, vocals
Gabriel Herrera - keyboards, vocals
Daniel González - bass, percussion, backing vocals
César Carreras - drums, backing vocals
   With
Eva Fiori - vocals
Marcela Torresi - vocals
Diego Souto - stick
Jorge Senno - steel guitar
Lucas de Carlo - bandoneón
Santiago Faryna - bandoneón
Alvar Llusá-Damiani - violin
Nicolás Hashimoto - shamisen

1. "Los Jinetes Del Apocallipsis Viajan En Subte" (2:44)
2. "En Bajón" (3:54)
3. "Autres Yeux" (3:55)
4. "Nostos" (3:33)
5. "Los Intocables" (3:17)
6. "La Mar" (4:35)
7. "Jíbaros" (3:58)
8. "A La Orilla Del Tiempo" (5:03)
9. "Me Vas A Ver" (2:31)
10. "Una Canción Detrás" (5:46)
11. "Informe Sobre Ciegos" (5:32)
12. "Un Cronópio Como Yo" (Extra Bonus Track) (3:35)
13. "Nuevo Berlin" (Extra Bonus Track) (4:03)

Total Time 52:26




ZAOZHE Birds Contending

Very pleasant Post Rock with the use of traditional Chinese instruments mixed with electric rock instruments. The music, one single song--opens with a pastoral feel and theme--even with the sounds of songbirds in the background (the music was supposedly recorded live in the woods of Belgium) but moves fluidly and successfully into both heavier (almost metalic) and atmospheric themes while leader Hoyliang transitions from flutes to bowed strings (xiao to electrified guqin). The result is quite enjoyable if a bit long. The highlight section for me is after the 22:30-minute mark when things get a little crazy and the band amps up.

Line-up:
Hoyliang: Electric Guqin, Xiao (Chinese Flute)
Littledream: Guitar
Roy: Bass
Seasean: Drums, Celesta 

1.  Birds Contending | 争鸣 (43:27)




CENTRAL UNIT Whatever Day Suits You Best

Nice chunky fretless bass-led jazz fusion out of Italy; the songs here move--would be great driving music.

Line-up:
Alberto Pietropoli - saxophone, flutes, voice
Enrico Giuliani - bass
Riccardo Lolli - keyboards

Andrea Ventura - drums and percussions

1. On Board (6:05)
2. Gear Path (5:49)
3. Snowed Under (5:07)
4. Get It Out Of Your System (6:17)
5. Seesaw Daydream (8:20)
6. What Use (Bob Costa Remix) (5:12)

Total Time 36:50




THE AMAZING In Transit

For me, this album represents a big step up from their 2017 release Ambulance. The volumes and dynamics are much more lively here, but I still find the over-active drumming grating.

Favorite songs:  the dreamy 10. "Asleep" (4:38) (Reine Fiske's best) (9.5/10); 11. "Je travaille dans la banque" (9:10) as it harkens back to their 2011 masterpiece, Gentle Stream, with some outstanding grooving bass and steady drumming and guitar interplay (9/10); 1. "Pull" (7:39) (9/10); 4. "First Touch of Light" (5:38) (9/10); the CURE-like 9. "Leave Us a Light" (7:24) (despite its odd "second part" for the final minute and a half) (9/10), and; "Benson se convirtio completamente furiosa" (9:55) (8.5/10)

Kudos to Frederik Swahn for some outstanding atmospheric keyboard work.




WATTER History of the Future

Surprisingly engaging soundtrack-like electronica from former members of SLINT and GRAILS.

(Released October 20, 2017)

Line-up
Zak Riles - Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Baglama [Saz], Oud, Sequencer, Synthesizer, Mellotron, Harmonium, Drum Machine, Bass (3), Drums  (1, 3, 5, 6)
Tyler Trotter- Keyboards, Synthesizer, Lap Steel Guitar, Bass (5)
   With
Britt Walford - Drums
Rachel Grimes- Piano
Bundy K. Brown (Tortoise) - Bass
Todd Cook - Bass
Dahm Majuri Cipolla - Drums
Nathan Salsburg - Electric Guitar 
Shawn Trail - Marimba 
Jacob Duncan - Tenor Saxophone

1. Telos (4:17)
2. Shadow Chase (2:27)
3. Death Knock (4:15)
4. Sacrificial Leaf (4:11)
5. Depth Charge (7:02)
6. Liquid Of Life (3:01)
7. The Cloud Sanctuary (2:17)
8. Macho Milano (6:27)
9. History Of The Future (7:26)
10. Final Sunrise (5:06)

Total Time 46:29



GAZPACHO Soyuz

1. Soyuz One (6:22)
2. Hypomania (3:44)
3. Exit Suite (3:40)
4. Emperor Bespoke (7:49)
5. Sky Burial (4:24)
6. Fleeting Things (4:24)
7. Soyuz Out (13:26)
8. Rappaccini (4:08) - not on vinyl

Total Time 47:57

Line-up:
Jan Henrik Ohme - Vocals
Thomas Alexander Andersen - Keyboards
Jon Arne Vilbo - Guitars
Mikael Krømer - Violin and Mandolin
Kristian "Fido" Torp - Bass
Lars Erik Asp - Drums and percussion





PHI Cycles

An album from these now-veterans of four albums from Austria that starts out unimpressively but gets better with each song.

1. "Children of the Rain" (8:54) (8/20)
2. "Dystopia" (8:50) (8.5/20)
3. "In the Name of Freedom" (7:25) (8/15)
4. "Amber" (7:38) well-done old school heavy metal (8.5/15)
5. "Existence" (6:52) fresh-sounding heavy prog in the KARNIVOOL vein. (9/15)
6. "Blackened Rivers" (7:43) (9/15)

Total Time 47:22

Line-up:
Markus Bratusa - vocals, guitar, synthesizer, sound design
Stefan Helige - guitar
Arthur Darnhofer-Demár - bass
Nick Koch - drums, percussion, keys, programming, backing vocals


85.0 on the Fishscales = B/solid four stars; a very good representative of Heavy Prog.




FREQUENCY DRIFT Letters to Maro

A collection of songs with a very consistent feel and sound utilizing singer Irini Alexia's strong voice in a way that feels consistent--often in a kind of lounge or jazz singer style.

01. "Dear Maro" (6:23) (9/10)
02. "Underground" (5:02) (8.5/10)
03. "Electricity" (3:59) (9/10)
04. "Neon" (6:10) (/10)
05. "Deprivation" (3:36) (/10)
06. "Izanami" (5:09) (/10)
07. "Nine" (6:10) (/10)
08. "Escalator" (4:27) (/10)
09. "Sleep Paralysis" (6:04) (/10)
10. "Who’s Master" (9:17) simple keyboard and harp dominated atmospheric music with a very interesting lead vocal using a lot of rapid fire speaking/pseudo-rapping (of often weird lyrics). (9/10)
11. "Ghosts When It Rains" (3:05) (/10)

Line-up:
Irini Alexia: vocals
Andreas Hack: keys, synths, guitar, bass, mandolin
Nerissa Schwarz: electric harp, mellotron, synths
Wolfgang Ostermann: drums, wavedrum
    With:
Michael Bauer: guitar (1, 10)




SANGUINE HUM Now We Have Power

An album release whose announcement elicited quite some surprise and excitement in me. I didn't know how much I'd grown to like Sanguine Hum's sound and approach to music.  

Tracklist:
1. The View Part 1
2. The View Part 2
3. Skydive
4. Retreat
5. Speak To Us
6. Devachan Don
7. Pen! Paper! Pen! Paper!
8. Flying Bridge
9. Bedhead
10. Quiet Rejoicing
11. Speech Day
12. A Tall Tale
13. Flight Of The Uberloon
14. Swansong

Line-up:
Matt Baber: Keyboards
Joff Winks: Guitar and Vocals
Brad Waissman: Bass
Andrew Booker (Henry Fool, No-Man): Drums

The album disappoints in that there is very little that is memorable--nothing draws me back for more listens. A disappointing purchase for me.





DET SKANDALØSE ORKESTER Tenk Om Noen Ser Deg

Line-up
Sondre Jørgensen - keyboards, piano, organ, whistle, percussion, vocal
Mats Erik Zen - vocal
Øystein Bech-Eriksen guitar, vocals, percussion
Sivert Karlsen drums
Søster Pling - vocal
Morten Norheim saxophone, clarinet
Tord Andreassen bass
Davide Bertolini - upright bass
Petter Asbjørnsen bass
Nataniel Hjønnevåg marimba, percussion
Iver Sandøy percussion
William Grøv Skramsett trumpet
Lars Egenes Flemstrøm trombone
Gunleik Gisletveit tuba
Claudia Cox violin
Rushana Brandanger violin, vocal
Carmen Boveda cello
Åshild Brunvoll cello
Frida Andreassen Lereng flute, double bass
Johannes Wik harp
Arne Sandvoll saw
Trygve Knudsen vocal
Teodor Vieyra Jørgensen baby and other sounds
Ottorpedo - vocal
Andreas Tangen bass

Tracklist:
01. Skandale Mentale (Ouverture)
02. Lokkeman, Lokkeman, Kor E Du No?
03. Skandale Morale (Vluggevisse)
04. Epilogue
05. Skulle Jævlig Vært På TV
06. Ukomfortabekl
07. Skandale Fenomenale
08. Forvirret
09. En Naken Mann Ble Funnet I Et Bosspann
10. Verdens Beste Land




BASTa!2 Vertigo

Acoustic instrumental chamber music! From members of ARANIS?!! Double bass and flute! Multiple tracks looped and layered! Okay, I'm interested!

1. "Vertigo" (4:31) (9/10)
2. "Perpetuum Mobile" (3:51) (9.5/10)
3. "Deus Ex Machina" (5:39) (8/10)
4. "Insomnijana" (4:38) (8/10)
5. "Sanjati" (3:55) (8/10)
6. "Blazar" (5:56) a modern "Bolero." (8/10)
7. "Tipo 114" (4:35) (/10)
8. "Nocturnus" (2:21) (/10)
9. "Decagoon Verkeerd" (2:48) (/10)
10. "Tangria" (7:54) (/10)
11. "Appendix" (4:27) (/10)

Total Time 50:35

Line-up:
Joris Vanvinckenroye (Aranis) - double bass
Jana Arns (Aranis) - flute




ADAM HOLZMAN Truth Decay

Peppy smooth jazz from Steven Wilson sideman.

Line-up:
Adam Holzman (Miles Davis, Steven Wilson, Jane Getter): keyboards
   With
Nick Beggs (Steven Wilson, Steve Hackett, Fish On Friday, The Mute Gods): vocals (7), Chapman Stick
Craig Blundell (Steven Wilson, Lonely Robot, Pendragon): drums
Theo Travis (Gong, Steven Wilson, The Tangent, No-Man): sax and flute
Laurence Cottle (Don Airey, Black Sabbath): fretless bass
Fred Cash: bass
Abe Fogle: drums
Steven Wilson (Blackfield, No-Man, Porcupine Tree): guitar
Mark Egan (Bill Evans, Pat Metheny): bass
Jane Getter: guitar
Franz Hackl: trumpet and flugelhorn
Stefano Olivado: bass and harmonica
Davide Ragazzoni: drums
Ofer Assaf: sax
Randy McStine (Lo-fi Resistance, The Fringe): vocals (3)

1. Ectoplasm (6:17)
2. Bella Capri (5:53)
3. A House Is Not A Motel (5:28)
4. Phobia (4:13)
5. Good Luck With Your Music (5:26)
6. Are You High? (6:29)
7. Truth Decay (5:42)
8. I Told You So (4:13)
9. Morphine Lollipop (5:56)
10. You Knew (4:27)
11. Picking Through The Wreckage (5:05)

Total Time 59:09




ÁBRETE GANDUL Errores involuntarios

These pros from Chile produce some more finely composed and cleanly executed instrumental music. A band that deserves a broader listenership.

Line-up / Musicians
Antonio Arceu: Drums, Wavedrum
Pedro Santander: Electric Bass
Rodrigo Maccioni: Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Concert Flute, Effects, Electric Bass (10)
Jaime Acuña: Keyboards, Piano
   With:
Miguel Ángel Cortés: Bassoon
Paulina Mühle-Wiehoff: Cello
Alfonso Vergara: Clarinet

1. Diligencias Pendientes (5:44)
2. Los Semejantes (6:24)
3. La Carnada Y El Señuelo(2:16)
4. Realismo Sin Renuncia (5:47)
5. Agujas, Tijeras Y Vendas (1:30)
6. Errores Involuntarios (9:52) (8.5/10)
7. Arraigo Nacional (6:25)
8. Bajo Catarsis (1:13)
9. Tango Ideológicamente Falso (5:41)
10. Inconsecuencia Natural (1:55)

Total Time 46:47





THE PROGNOSIS Still Waters

Very nice, familiar Neo Prog from UK veteran musicians.

Line-up:
Richard Flanders - Bass, Vocals
Grant Harrison - Drums, Vocals
Ian Twentyman - Keyboards, Vocals
Simon Gardner - Lead & Rhythm Guitars
Nelson Porter- Lead & Rhythm Guitars

1. Topsey Turvey (7:43) (8.5/10)
2. Meander (5:27) (7.5/10)
3. In The Deep (5:27) (8/10)
4. Silent Pool (7:29) Neo GENESIS in a pastoral, ANDREW MARSHALL kind of way. (8.5/10)
5. Inside My Head (10:32)

Total Time 36:38

A little too familiar and derivative for my tastes.




LUNAR CAPE Lunar Folk Tales

Using an interesting format by releasing three different versions of the same album, the first instrumental, the second with vocals sung in the band's native Russian, and a third with the vocals sung in English, LUNAR CAPE has an intentionally non-pop motivation behind their light, folkie jazz tunes. Gorgeous melodies abound throughout.

Line-up:
Olga Scotland – flute, recorders, tin whistle, mandolin, spring drum, sound effects, VSTi
Andrey Shashkov – bass guitar, basso recorder, vocals
Roman Smirnov – guitars, washboard old school custom, vocals
    With:
Paul Bulak – keyboards (3)
Grigory Shelehov – drums (3, 7)
Alexander Koval – drums (4, 8)
Shahid Rashid – vocals (8)

The instrumental versions:

1. "History Of The Moon" (2:43) opens with nice guitar arpeggio repeated until wooden flute (basso recorder?) and, later, treated wooden alto flute enter. Cool Northern folk intro! Almost a N. Carlos Nakai feel to it. (9/10) 
2. "Nymph Syrinx Amidst The Stars" (5:37) delightful upbeat prog folk that sounds like it came from the flower children of the 1960s and early 1970s. (9/10)

3. "Doughball's Travels" (3:56) slightly more Russian/Eastern European informed Prog Folk here with balalaika, flutes, accordion and hand percussives weaving together with the electric bass and electric guitar. Could be a polka. Or a track from a Spaghetti Western. (7.5/10)

4. "Old Man Crawley And Wood Goblin" (5:10) slower and a little more sinister, the flute makes it a bit more disarming. Electric guitar tracks in the end of the second minute turn it back to scary, but they disappear within 30 seconds and we're then treated to a gorgeous flute solo over gentle electric guitar arpeggi. This is then followed/joined by odd/eerie male vocalizations before everything crumbles into the end. Interesting. (8/10)

5. "Blacksmith" (2:55) opens with electric guitar before mediæval wooden flutes bring in a mediæval folk melody (English). Halfway through the guitar starts strumming while mouth percussion (basso recorder) and breathy flute play off each other before returning to the pastoral beauty of the verses for the finish. (8.5/10)
6. "Who Brought The Berries?" (6:15) plays like a whimsical Rockabilly song with rodeo bass, drums and guitar play while flute and percussives play around above, between, and below. The frenzied flute solo in the end of the third minute is cool. A slowed down section soon ensues in which a bluesy pick-less lead guitar solo ensues (somewhat reminiscent of legendary Roy Buchanan). Flute joins in while guitar continues to perform its magic. Truly an astonishing guitar sound and solo! Then at 5:25 we return to the happy-go-lucky sound and melodies from the opening section. (8.5/10)
7. "Greedy Cousin Leprechaun" (4:29) brooding bass line opens before rapid-fire cymbal and fuzzy electric guitar "power" chords join in with a second electric guitar track of picking. Flute enters and takes the lead. Fuzzy guitar takes lead at 1:43 with a STEPPENWOLF-like solo. Flute returns in a higher octave. Flute, tin whistle, and guitar take turns in the lead to the end. (8.5/10) 
8. What The Peacock Is Silent About (Oriental) (7:34) opens in a brooding manner like a song from RETURN TO FOREVER's Romantic Warrior album. At 1:25 the song shifts rather dramatically into a kind of C&W/Rock structure and sound over which flute displays the melody. Lots of neat shifts from the instrumentalists within the constantly changing weave here. Even the styles of flute play shift form time to time. Electric guitar takes a turn to deliver a 1980s-EDDIE VAN HALEN style solo beginning at 3:40. At 4:40 the bass takes a turn with minimal support (in a typical jazz style). At 5:40 guitar strums and Arab-sounding male chanting enter before bass and flute accompany. Cool section! The final minute feels like the end to a FOCUS or FROM.UZ song before emptying space for the wind-supported Arab chanter. (8.5/10)

Total Time 38:39

84.375 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a nice addition to the creative, jazzy edge of Prog Folk.




MOONGARDEN Align Myself to the Universe

Competent, sometimes quirky Neo Prog using dated sounds from the instruments. Not the direction I thought Moongarden was going!

Line-up:
Simone Baldini Tosi - vocals, violin
David Cremoni (Submarine Silence) - 6 & 12 strings electric guitars, acoustic guitars
Dimitri Sardini - 6 & 7 strings electric guitars
Cristiano Roversi (Submarine Silence, Catafalchi del Cyber, CCLR) - keyboards, guitars, programming
Mirko Tagliasacchi - 4 & 5 strings electric basses, fretless bass
Mattia Scolfaro - drums, percussion
  With:
Matteo Bertolini (Catafalchi del Cyber) - soundscapes guitar (4)
Andrea Chimenti - vocals (3)
Maurizio di Tollo (La Maschera Di Cera) - backing vocals (3)

1. "Here Now" (7:02) hard driving rock with the Neo Prog sound/instrument palette. Nice chord play from the synth strings bank. Violin work is cool with its echoed and/or chorused (or multiple track) sound. Vocal "whoa-oa"s kick in in the third minute. The song is just racing along at such a fast pace! We should be driving down the country roads with the top down! The vocal melodies do hook in. (8.5/10)
2. "Step After Step" (6:26) electric piano and voice open this emotive ballad. 12-strings and delicious cymbol-play come in after first chorus. Multi-voice harmonies are good. Bass and drums kick in toward end of third minute while vocals are parroting each other. Nice electric guitar solo ensues over the next minute. After the lead gtr solo, things strip down to near opening simplicity as voices sing. Everybody rejoins in the final chorus and outro--another nice electric guitar solo. (8.5/10)
3. "Run" (4:10) abrasive metal guitar chords and metal speed-riffing open this one. Sounds like something from METALLICA until the vocals come in when it becomes more like OZZIE, DAVID LEE ROTH, and/or UNITOPIA. Weird trip-hoppy whispered Italian rap in the middle (8/10)
4. "The Golden Circle" (2:56) space synths and solo voice open this one before picked electric guitars, bass synths, and multiple tracks of vocal harmonies join in. Closes with space synths. (8.5/10)
5. "Planet of the Absurd" (5:17) piano, synths, bass and drums open this one while lead guitar wails. Then all breaks down into silence sauf piano. Voices come in singing about the piano of the absurd while music picks up and sounds like And Then There Were Three-era GENESIS playing in style of THE POLICE. Even the solo sections in the second half are cheesy. (7.5/10)
6. "The Immutability" (12:07) contains an amazingly gorgeous chorus--whose melody is extended and then picked up and embellished by the guitar soloist(s) in the sixth minute to great effect. (23.75/25)

   I) "The Immutable" (3:22) okay melody and lyrics. It's the chorus that gets into your brain. (8/10)

   II) "Acqua Terra Fuoco Aria" (6:13) (10/10)

   III) "OM" (2:32) trip-hop bass, keys, and drumbeats are added as piano (and, later, "Om, shante" voice) carries forward the three chords of the chorus into infinity. (And beyond.) Awesome finish orchestrated by bass and drums! (10/10)

7. "Shiva" (6:00) beautiful GENESIS-like Neo Prog over which a rather dull, weak vocal is planted. (8.75/10)
8. "The Union" (2:14) guitar soloing over synth banks and washes. (4/5)

Total Time 46:12

84.33 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a nice contribution to the lexicon of Neo Prog. As a long-time Moongarden fan, I'm not convinced that this is a step forward for the band; they just haven't ever achieved the tremendous potential that I've seen in their music.




THE PINEAPPLE THIEF Dissolution

Bruce Sword and company have collected a very well-recorded and rendered group of more Indie or pop rock-oriented songs for this 2018 release. 

Line-up:
Bruce Soord
Jon Sykes
Steve Kitch
Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree, King Crimson) - drums
   With
David Torn - guitar (8)

1. "Not Naming Any Names" (2:05) a brilliantly sedate and spacious opener with Bruce singing over piano in such a soft, emotional voice. A top three song for me. (4.5/5)
2. "Try As I Might" (4:26) clear, clean guitar-based rock with the always-welcome drumming of Gavin Harrison. There are several PT/Steven Wilson-like moments or nuances, but over all it's a very good song. Slide guitar used for the solo instrument in the "C" part. (8.5/10)
3. "Threatening War" (6:37) singing in a little higher register, Bruce leads us into another more delicate, sensitive story. He gets more aggressive as the music drops out and leaves only an acoustic guitar, but then the full band kicks in with a straightforward rocker for the chorus. The "C" part on this song is where everything interesting happens: guitar harmonics, subtle drumming flourishes, etc., but it's too short. Then it kicks back into the chorus section before finishing out with the final verse and chorus. (8.25/10)
4. "Uncovering Your Tracks" (4:29) interesting Peter Gabriel-like foundational weave sets up before Bruce sings in an almost-talking voice. The chorus is amped up by strumming acoustic guitars and a few electric guitar chords. This presence of a raunchy electric guitar gives the song a kind of Steven Wilson feel to it--especially as the vocal has gone this way--while the ensuing guitar also has a frenetic squeal tone not unlike upcoming song guest David Torn. Not enough variation and diversity to make this one really stand out. (8.5/10)
5. "All That You've Got" (3:27) rock 'n' roll with an indie feel. Indistinct and nondescript save for the awesome guitar solo in the third minute. (8.25/10)
6. "Far Below" (4:36) opens with a little "Thunder Island" feel--and this remains the dominant chord and guitar approach throughout this rockin' song. Unfortunately, it gets a little monotonous. (8/10)
7. "Pillar of Salt" (1:25) A non-descript song. Too bad I don't hear lyrics. (3.5/5)
8. "White Mist" (11:05) the length of this song allows for some nice sound experimentations from several contributors, David Torn being the primary source. Gavin's work is so solid, like the spine of a vertebrate. But the song never really digs in, never digs deep enough to engage me into a head-banging, foot-stomping, air-guitar strumming experience (though Harrison and Torn's interplay in the seventh and eighth minutes is pretty darn awesome!). After the 8:20 mark there is an awesome section of keys and drums before Bruce rejoins with his singing--which is then followed by some stunning guitar shredding by Torn. The second best song on the album. (8.75/10)
9. "Shed a Light" (5:20) sparse acoustic guitar play with delicate vocal opens this song. When the full band joins in it has a kind of twangy folk-pop sound to it not unlike a Ben Watt/Everything But The Girl song. Odd guitar strumming precedes a very cool heavier guitar and keyboard-based chord ascension before we mysteriously (and disappointingly) return to the sparse opening style and sound (with drums and simple bass). The wide and dramatic dynamic shifts of this song do make it interesting and the chord progressions and vocal melodies are the best on the album. (9/10)

Total Time 43:30

Though Gavin Harrison's presence is heard, it's not really felt as none of these songs really explores or experiments much with standardized forms or sounds. This is a rock album; the band's least proggy album yet. 

84.06 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a nice addition to any prog lover's music collection.




ATARAXIA Synchronicity Embraced

Francesca Nicola and company are back with some of their unique Gothic atmospherics.

1. "Oinoe" (6:38) acoustic guitars and Francesca singing softly, in a very small, intimate fashion, before drum and bass tracks are added. Sounds like a woman's dirge of her family's men that have chosen lives as sailors. "Distant" soprano voices are interspersed. Halfway through it begins to sound like an old Cocteau Twins ballad. (8/10)
2. "Sikia" (6:14) opening with one of Francesca's warbling multi-voice weaves (in English), the full band joins in at the one minute mark, giving the song a kind of "monastic GENESIS" sound and feel. After an emotional vocal passage at the end of the fourth minute, the song kicks up a notch with the return of the monastic male voices in the "chorus." My favorite song on the album. (9/10)
3. "Ieros" (6:58) I must say, these guys really know how to fill a soundscape--whether with sparsely populated instrumental notes or with walls of synth or vocal washes, they are masters. Softly picked acoustic guitars and synth washes accompany the heavily reverbed chantry vocals. Strings and tympany fill the grandiose mid-section before the next verse. Another nice "chamber stings" section provides another filler before the final verse. Beautiful. Another top three song for me. (9/10)
4. "Prayer of the Archangel" (7:20) solo electric piano and two alternating and overlapping whispered French vocals (repeating each other) open this very theatric song. Synth strings and a little electric guitar mix in before the song breaks into a marching rhythm. Spoken lead vocals now switch to English until at 3:27 we switch back to the format of the opening: piano but this time with two whispered in Spanish and Italian! Very interesting! Cool song even if it fails to really go anywhere special. (8.5/10)
5. "Rose of the Wild Forces" (8:02) more early COCTEAU TWINS similarities before bursting into the bombast of SERGIO LEONE type of music. (8.25/10)
6. "Chiron Quartz" (5:48) feels like a coed monastic vespers--with electronic musical accompaniment, of course. (7.75/10)
7. "La Vista del Bardo" (7:50) acoustic guitars and hand drums like a Ricardo Prencipe song with a low register multi-voice ensemble delivering the main lyrics as a lone soprano adds vocalise above and behind. Second verse (or is it chorus) has a mezzo soprano singing the lyric with the lone soprano still floating her vocalise above. Nicely woven. Things slow down (hand drums disappear) for the second half as it becomes more somber and funereal. The final minute is filled with several tuned percussives sprinkling their sounds seemingly at random. (8.5/10)
8. "Synchronicity Embraced" (10:40) opens with synth supporting high, airy, church-like vocal. At 0:40 a DEAD CAN DANCE "Carnival"-like keyboard foundation establishes itself. 45 seconds later we have a full-on Goth rock song while Francesca and add layers of their vocals to the "conversation" going on. I'm very much reminded of the Australian band RESONAXIS here. Robert Smith-sounding guitar pick at some chords and arpeggi riffs here and there. Half way through the CURE-DEAD CAN DANCE-RESONAXIS and even FIELDS OF NEPHILIM comparisons stand strong before there is a cutting out of everything but a floating, lilting synth. Eventually a few other synths add to the sparse mix as Francesca sings in a lower range. This continues until 8:30 when a new artificial drum beat and bouncing electric piano establish a new textural foundation over which Francesca (in multiple tracks) sings a little weave in some of her higher registers. (8/10)

83.75 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a nice addition to the pseudo religious, Gothic side of progressive rock music. 



DURGHA ESMAEL Herbivora

Interesting instrumental prog from Indonesia that tries to fuse a jazzy piano, rockin' drumming, classical cello, great electric guitar, and chunky, heavy bass.  

Line-up:
Jimi Mahardikka - Guitar
Tommy Ard - Bass
Dimas - Drum
Rarya Lakshito Jati - Cello
Nadya Hatta - Keys


1. Sun Rise (4:22) (9/10)
2. Winds Of The White Poppy (5:56) (8.5/10)
3. In Secret Between The Shadow (6:10) (8.5/10)
4. Beach Life (5:26) (9/10)
5. "Long Intervals Of Insanity" (6:30) slowly and careful development really pays off magically with this cello-led song. (9/10)

6. "Steal The Night" (3:50) opens with solo piano for the first minute before band joins in and the song amps up. Too bad about the guitar being relegated to orchestral bar chords. (8.5/10) 
7. "Sea Of Wonder" (2:14) 60s blues-rock bass line is joined by heavy guitar play--a great sound--but not mixing very well with Tchaikovsky-like piano melodies. (4/5)
8. "We Slipped Into Midnight" (10:28) a straightforward jam to setup some pretty raw and raunchy solos by cello, guitar, piano--at least for the first half. At about the halfway mark everything comes to a quiet hault whereupon the scattered instruments kind of slowly rebuild, at first very independently, and then cohesively. This part is far more interesting and engaging than the opening half. Low marks for the opening evened out by the second half equals (8.5/10)
9. "The Elevator Eyes" (4:43) back to the heavy, blues (Hendrix)-oriented sounds and stylings of song 6. (8.5/10)
10. The Message Of The Strength (9:47) opens very loosely and with a rather rudimentary blues-scale being repeated over and over by varying sections of the band in a variety of different ways. Cello breaks out of the pattern at the end of the second minute to experiment. Jazzy piano experimentation begins in the fourth minute, nothing very special, and then fuzzed rock guitar takes a turn. So 60s psychedelic-ish! (7/10) 
11. "Yellow Butterfly" (3:49) led by delicate guitar picking and gentle piano chord progressions, this song feels jazzy, especially as drum brushes enter. Long sustained bass notes join in as cello takes on the lead melody. Pretty song. (8.5/10)
12. The Unity Of Being (10:22) imagine a Cure bass line from the 1980s with a Hendrix-imitator and some 80s techno-beat drumming with a Thelonius Monk-inspired piano player and a mystified Yo-Yo Ma looking on and you kind of get the picture of this one. As a matter of fact, the cellist is so conspicuously absent for the majority of the time that you have to wonder if he was sitting out in protest or in awe of his mates' obtusity. Sometimes I even find myself wondering if some of the individual musicians are even in the same universe as the others. (7/10)

Total Time 73:37


83.48 on the Fishscales = B-/low four stars; a good album worth checking out. This band can only get better.






SACRED LAKE Technology in Nature

Synth-based instrumental jazz-rock fusion with a heaviness and computerized/techno-feel to it. From Massachusetts. Nine songs of which five are of prog epic length (longer than nine minutes).

Line-up:
Matthew Jacobs- Electric guitar
Scott Carlson- Bass guitar
TJ Guzzetti - Keyboards
Dan Connell- Drums


1. "Technology" (6:46) opens with some nice double-down, two channel electric guitar picking. Piano, too. It's rather slow and takes 75 seconds before anything exciting happens and then, just as quickly, it devolves back to the opening pace and structure for a second verse. Synth enters after the second bridge for a B-section "chorus" with some nice screaming soloing before the song lets bass have the third chorus. Halfway through and we start over: electric guitar arpeggi and picking. Moog-like symth enters the weave before the full band rejoins. Nice bass and drums with guitar power chords before everything drops out for Section A with Wes Montgomery-like guitar play. The heavy rock rise into the final crescendo feels so incongruous with that jazz guitar. (8.5/10)
2. "Free The City" (12:15) The computer-tampered sound of the drums really bugs me here. (Very much like the drum sounds used by THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE.) There is another odd incongruous section with piano bar piano doubled up with soloing from a fuzzy, distorted heavy metal guitar. 1970s Chick Corea-like synths enter. This is truly a song straight out of TPE sound studio! (8.5/10)  
3. "Bad Acid" (8:55) seering electric guitar over heavily-reverbed grand piano, bass and drums open the first two minutes of this fast rocker. Synths pick up the lead, then get pushed aside by the guitar by the four minute mark. The bass is on display next before guitar and synths re-engage in their little duel. (8.5/10)
4. "Enchanted Element" (10:05) opens with delicately picked electric guitar play. Pretty. Background chords of synth washes join in with the second verse. Then strummed guitars, bass and drums join in. Almost a Nashville jazz here--not unlike some Chet Atkins. In the third minute the sound and mood gets heavier (no more country feel; full on classic rock-jazz like Steve Vai or Joe Satriani). Nice melodies. Vintage keyboard sounds--vintage sounds all around. This could be any 1980s' axeman's solo album. (9/10)
5. "Purple Sky" (11:44) opens with some electronica percussion before the band crashes in with a full-on heavy metal sound. Again, 1980s axeman solo album comes to mind--even a little STYX and ALLMAN BROTHERS. As a matter of fact, there seems to be many familiar guitar riffs from the 1970s and 1980s worked into this one. A tribute song? (8.5/10)
6. "Hawaiian Tulip" (8:03) nearly MAHAVISHNU/DI MEOLA/JAN HAMMER-esque in the opening (with some Weather Report & Jaco bass stylings, too). (8/10)
7. The Pyramid (8:26) a slower, though still brooding and heavy, song with some nice melodies coming from the guitar in chords and subtleties from the background! Things amp up, of course, by the fourth minute, though the pace somehow stays restrained. Nice musicianship. (8.5/10) 
8. "Afterthought" (7:18) a rather sappy melody glues this one together over the first two minutes as it struggles to get up and go. By the time the four minute mark comes the band is clicking and pushing but the song then returns to the opening melody--though coming from multiple instruments on differing scales. Too bad for the drummer. This song must truly have been an afterthought: it feels like last minute fill. (7.5/10) 
9. "Nature" (15:08) bass gets the opening honors here establishing a chunky, effected riff. The rest of the band soon joins in with some great synth play filling in while backing the lead guitar. Again, the band seems to be holding back, plodding along for five minutes, before it shows some signs of life, of shift/change/different. But then it pretty much comes back to the original foundation and pace. And then, two-thirds of the way in, what do they do? They slow it down even more! Too bad! At the end they finally amp it back up to show off all their chops, but it's too late. (7.5/10)

I'd be much more impressed if this band would just let go; I feel as if they need to be able to break loose and play at breakneck speeds, not restrain themselves with slow tempos in order to try to show off the soloists.

Total Time 88:40


83.33 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a nice addition to the jazz-rock fusion catalogue.





DER NEUE PLANET Margrathea Erwacht

A refreshing cross-pollination of Kosmische, Avant/RIO, Math Rock, and even Zeuhl influences and sounds within the Post Rock sub-genre from Köln, Deutschland. Probably

Line-up:
Tim Descher - guitar
Ramin Moozeh - guitar
Hendrik Kligge - bass

Claudius Pleiß - drums

1. "Rendesvouz Der 5. Art" (8:30) opens with some sample for narration before an atmospheric base is established over which a nice bluesy SLEEPMAKESWAVES-like song grows and plays out. Nicely original peak. (8.25/10)
2. "Also Sprach Zaras Krauteintopf" (4:22) R&B rhythm guitar and rhythm section opens this one before guitars go more bluesy. The "choruses" are more Math Rock-oriented. Nice melodies--even through the buildup and crescendo. (8.25/10)
3. "Die Würmer Von Arrakis" (5:41) at times soft and intricate, at times powerful with stop-and-start volume, this one shows some of the potential this band has. (8.75/10)
4. "Eroticon VI" (4:19) a light, almost playful feel to this one is never developed enough to make it anything special or fully engaging. (8.25/10)
5. "Fintelwudelwix" (6:19) more Math Rock-based music with a bit of the TOE. flavor--at least, until the slowdown spacey, electronic part in the middle and then the COLLAPSE UNDER THE EMPIRE ending. Way to mix it up. (8.5/10)
6. "Verfremdete Welten" (4:18) way more play with time signatures, space/silence, and quick changes than we usually hear in Post Rock. Kind of like TOOL or TOBY DRIVER playing Post Rock. Bravo for trying to bring new things to the subgenre! (8.25/10)
7. "Golgafrincham Flotte B" (8:22) more old narration to open before synth and guitar sounds take over and a slow math rock structure is slowly built. Gets heavier at the end of the fourth minute in a RED SPAROWES way. Never really rises above that which has gone before, though. (8/10)

Total Time 41:51


83.21 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a nice contribution to the Post Rock compendium.




ALCO FRISBASS Le bateleur

AltrOck's almost-Canterburians are back with their sophomore album and it will not disappoint those who loved their first album. I, however, continue to be disappointed with the lack of full commitment to one style and lack of engaging themes over the course of an entire song (which continue to be long [inexplicably though not necessarily unjustifiably so]).

Line-up:
Frédéric Chaput: Bass, Electric & Acoustic Guitar, Keyboards, Synths & Modulars, Percussions
Fabrice Chouette: Keyboards, Synths, Electric Guitar
Patrick Dufour: Keyboards, Synths, Drums Programming
   With
Thierry Payssan (Minimum Vital): Acoustic Piano (1, 3, 4)
Jean-Luc Payssan (Minimum Vital): Electric Guitar (4)
Eric Rebeyrol: Cornet (1, 4)

1. "Soufre Et Mercure" (9:33) a song heavily doused in thick, chunky bass and swirling organ play, this is Zeuhlish! Nice keyboard work throughout but the electric guitar chord play is a weak spot. The third minute's Spanish-theme is also a bit disconnecting. Still, the mood remains dark and heavy, even through the Renaissance-themed section in the seventh minute. (8/10)
2. "Le Bateleur" (11:24) a basic and likable jam presents itself and then tries to get quirky and funky. Very nice keyboard work in the third minute. Also, a very engaging acoustic guitar-based section in the eighth minute that develops into a great GENESIS-á-la France section before decaying into boring and mundane. (8.5/10)
3. "Arcane Majeur" (7:13) nice jam with sections ranging on chaotic interspersed within a highly engaging and melodic tune. Things go downhill a bit once the piano enters. (9/10)
4. "Les Cartes Vivantes" (8:09) simplistic rhythm base from bass, drums, and keys with guitar and keys and cornet taking turns to lead with the melodies above. Awesome section with electric piano soloing over bass and R&B rhythm guitar in the seventh minute. (8/10)
5. "Ombre Terre" (7:54) the most Canterbury-sounding song on this round of ALCO FRISBASS tunes; very Hatfield and The North The Rotter's Club-inspired. The only problem is that it never really rises to that level of excitement or refreshing originality as one would hope, yea, the second half even starts to elicit feelings of irritability or disappointment. (8/10)

Total Time 44:13

83.0 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a solid contribution to the modern instrumental progressive rock catalogue.




OTEME Il corpo nel Sogni

Wonderfully refreshing chamber jazz pop from Italy and AltrOck's new "Ma.Ra.Cash Records" label. Café/lounge music for a new Beat Generation. 

Line-up
Valeria Marzocchi: flute, voice, whistling
Lorenzo Del pecchia: bass clarinet, clarinet
Maicol Pucci: trumpet, flugelhorn
Marco Fagioli: bass tuba
Stefano Giannotti: voice, electric guitar, violin, keyboards, bass guitar
Emanuela Lari: voice, piano, keyboards
Valentina Cinquini: harp, voice
Riccardo Ienna: percussion
Edgar Gomez, Gabriele Stefani: additional voices
   With
Antonio Caggiano: vibraphone (4, 11)

1. "Rubidor #1" (9/10)
2. "Il corpo nel sogno (The Body in the Dream)" (9/10)
3. "Neglibor" (7:01) not unlike Markkus Pajakala's BRUTOPIANISTI project--only smoothed down and with a pleasant female vocalist (reminding me of LAGARTIJA's Sara Aliani) singing in the lead. Modern "Beat" scene café music/poetry. (8.5/10)
4. "Blu marrone" (Blue Brown) (8.5/10)
5. "Sono invisibile" (Invisible) (8/10)
6. "Strippale" (7.5/10)
7. "Un paradiso con il mal di testa – (A Paradise with a Headache)
NASCITA DEI FIORI (BIRTH OF THE FLOWERS) – Chamber poem in three movements. 
(3:50) Cheezy drum machine with accordion and poetry from male spoken voice. Solos from bass clarinet and toy piano. (9/10)
8. "Il cimitero delle fate (The Fairy Cemetery) (3:51) weirdness of eerie sounds pushing the boundaries of what is considered "music." (7.5/10)
9. "Di passaggio (Passing) (3:10) more weirdness and FACTOR BURZACO-like sonic challenges. (8/10)
10. "Prato Fiorito (Fowery Neadow) (6:34) 90 seconds of children's play joined by clarinets, tuba, Mellotron, and drums and, later, electric guitar. Controlled chaos. (7/10)
11. "Orfeo e Moira" (Orpheus and Moira) (7:01) (10/10)
12. "Rubidor #2 (3:26) (9/10)

82.92 on the Fishscales = B-/four stars; a unique and creative contribution to modern progressive rock/cabaret rock.





DOMINIQUE VANTOMME

Creative, sometimes aggressive, sometimes jazzy fusion from a Belgian keyboard veteran in collaboration with TONY LEVIN, MICHEL DELVILLE, and MAXIME LENSSENS.

Line-up:
Dominique Vantomme: Fender Rhodes Electric Piano, Piano, Mini Moog, Mellotron
Michel Delville (The Wrong Object; douBt; Machine Mass): Electric Guitar
Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, Stick Men): Bass Guitar, Chapman Stick
Maxime Lenssens: Drums

1. "Double Down" (7:36) Long keyboard-oriented intro (long intros will turn out to be the rule here rather than the exception) as guitar wails in the background, drums establish sensitive syncopated time keeping and Tony does his Tony-stuff sliding all over the ChapmanStick fretboard. At 3:30 we seem to still be in intro mode; this must be some psychedelia bordering on free jazz, not jazz or structured rock. Interesting from the perspective of the creative performances of the individual virtuosi, but not a great or memorable song. (8/10)
2. "Equal Minds" (10:19) fairly laid-back bluesy-rock with fairly simple and straightforward instrumental performances (especially from drums, bass, and guitar). Keys get a little chance to shine, but fail to impress, in a long solo from the end of the second minute to the beginning of the sixth. Then, in the sixth minute, all song structure releases (drums stop) as synth, guitar, and bass play random anarchy. Cymbals reenter in eight minute before drum restores structure (in a cool way). This is a total shift in the song, much more interesting, playing out till the final minute when spacey entropy again sets in and rules. (8.5/10) 
3. "Sizzurp" (10:45) opens with a far more interesting and engaging jazz-rock structure and more straightforward instrumental sounds. The groove established by Lenssens and Leven is quite engaging and allows Delville and Vantomme to add quite some nice stuff--until the big shift at 1:55 into heavier, more frenetic hard rock. Tony loves this, you can tell, while Delville creates noise and Ventomme goes freaky. In the fourth minute the entorpic breakdown even starts to infect and affect the drums and bass. Delville is screaming nonsense while Vantomme's organ provides the only stability. Quiet at 4:30 leads to a restabilization of Lenssens drumming while Delville shreds frenetically over the top. Tony and Dominique are cool and minimal in support, but this is really Michel's time to shine. In the eight minute things quiet down with Tony and Maxime providing the steady but guitar and keys are very loose and intermittent in their contributions. At the end of the ninth minute keys step up to provide textural fullness over Tony and Maxime's steady foundation. This is a cool section--which plays out to the song's end. Some really good stuff, some I could do without. (8.5/10)  
4. "Playing Chess With Barney Rubble" (9:04) starts out a little more jazz-oriented, especially in Tony's bass play. The stop and restart at 2:30 leads into a piano-based section which is definitely more founded in jazz sounds and stylings. But then Tony and Michel come in with some rock flourishes. And then Dominque's electric piano takes over. This becomes a truly excellent weave. At the five minute mark Tony gets a little solo before Michel gets a turn. I wish I could get past my distaste for the screechy, buzz-saw-like sound that Michel Delville likes to use with his guitar--and with very little variation. Tony's bass lines are extraodinary (I'm guessing this is a ChapmanStick song--or perhaps his finger extensions)--which is good cuz its the eight minute and I've long ago tuned out the screeching guitar endlessly soloing away. When things get quite in the last minute Tony's finger-extension work becomes obvious. Some stellar parts and some that are rather straightforward electric jazz. (8.5/10)
5. "The Self Licking Ice-cream Cone" (13:08) opens up with much more of a smooth jazz feel. As Dominique's Fender Rhodes enters, it feels LONNIE LISTON SMITH or RAMSEY LEWIS-ish. Tony and Maxime's rhythm tracks are so solid! As Michel's rhythm guitar track starts to get louder I find myself annoyed because it's the same raunchy sound from all the other songs! Luckily it disappears at 4:15 and we are left with the dreamy DEODATO-JOE SAMPLE like scaled-down smooth jazz sounds. But it's all a set up for a guitar solo. Fortunately, this one is more "normal" and therefore, more tolerable. And, fortunately, the work by Tony and Maxime remains stellar. The guitar solo reaches climactic frenzy but then sustains, stays in orgasmic state for well over a minute. The creep-in of Dominique's Fender is the only consolation--leads the listener into believing that relief is on the way. Drums get an awesome solo (despite the fact that the guitar is still screaming) in the eleventh minute before relinquishing control back to the keys and a full-band meld for a final minute of enjoyable music. Again, this is so hard to rate when the song has such highs and lows. (9/10)   
6. "Plutocracy" (4:38) eerie, wobbly notes mixed with industrial sounds open this one before two guitars takeover. What feels like an intro goes on for almost two minutes before drums come in and band establishes a flowing structure. electric guitar takes on the lead from a back right position--kind of Middle Eastern scales. Tony is given a solo for most of the fourth minute till the end: very keyboard-like. (8.5/10)
7. "Agent Orange" (9:46) opens as a Tony Levin solo with spacey keyboard support. At 2:48 Tony's play begins to establish a patterned structure (while still displaying godly flourishes) as the rest of the band enters and begins a slow process of gelling around him. Still, this is all Tony. Bass players take note: this is what the Supreme God of bass-playing has to show you. Once again, we are schooled! Though the structure remains a little loose and spacey (reminding me a lot of songs from STOMU YAMASHT'A's GO studio and live sessions. For some reason the sound given Tony's bass either becomes fuzzy/distorted or is being drowned out by the combination of fuzzy/distorted keyboards and guitar (9.25/10) 
8. "Emmetropia" (9:00) kind of free form music--not even sure if any of the players are tuned into or aware of what the others are doing. (7/10)
9. "Odin's Wig" (1:54) angular, disconnected sound check music. (3/5)

Total Time 76:10

82.65 on the Fishscales = B-/3.5 stars; interesting free jazz noodling by four virtuosi but probably not everyone's cup of tea.




ROZ VITALIS The Hidden Man of the Heart

Another Roz Vitalis release, another rollercoaster ride. The eclectic and diverse choice of songs to represent this band's recent work is, as usual, surprising. There are gorgeously performed and recorded neo-classical pieces (of varying degrees of compositional complexity) set next to songs that sound as if they were intended for or belong in a local bar. This is a trend that I've seen from Roz Vitalis from the start--though I have to admit that this album is the best recorded and engineered album I've heard from this band. My complaint of Roz Vitalis material remains the same: inconsistent quality, inconsistent complexity (some songs feel like they're classical compositions while others feel as simple as child's play), and inconsistent audience targeting (exactly who is the audience that they see their music attracting?).

Line-up / Musicians:
Vladimir Efimov – guitars 
Alexey Gorshkov – trumpets, guitars 
Ruslan Kirillov – bass guitar 
Vladislav Korotkikh – flutes 
Ivan Rozmainsky – keyboards 
Philip Semenov – drums 
Vladimir Semenov-Tyan-Shansky – guitars 
With: 
Danila Danilov – synthesizers 
Yury Khomonenko – percussion 
Mark Makarov - mandolin 
Leonid Perevalov – bass clarinet 
Les-Quartet conducted by Georgy Fyodorov: 
Long Fam – violin 
Valeriya Kondratyeva – violin 
Vyacheslav Agabekov – viola 
Sofiya Deynekina – cello

1. "Someone Passed Over" (2:18) a somber, not-quite-sad cello theme which is then augmented and developed by each of a string quartet to form a weave of high quality and maturity. (8.5/10)
2. "Passing Over" (LP Version) (6:43) a piano, bass, and electrified acoustic guitar version of the previous song upon which layers are added to include drums and flute, heavy electric guitars and synths. At the midpoint the song breaks down into "drunken brass and woodwinds" while drums and bass support, but then steady drum beat, rolling bass line, and picked acoustic guitar establish a variation over which piano, electric guitar, and horns join in. Nice play on that album-opening theme. (9/10)
3. "Rhapsody Of Refugees" (5:43) What the heck! Where are we? At the circus? Nice sound and performances of a rather child-like song but so shockingly out of character with the previous two songs that I just can't go there. (7/10)
4. "Blurred" (2:58) fast strumming acoustic guitar with keys, bass, and drums while flute, electric jazz guitar, trumpet take turns deploying the melody. Turns more Spanish in sound and feel as the song develops. Just a little to straightforward and lacking variety in the development. (8.5/10)
5. "Trampled By The Lion And Adder" (1:35) classical composition for chamber strings. Gorgeous. Definitely the band's strength. (5/5)
6. "Thou Shalt Tread Upon The Lion And Adder" (6:44) a weave of percussive drum parts, muted guitars and harpsichord open this one before 1/4 spaced strums from a heavily distorted electric guitar join in. The guitar then starts to riff and solo before the band steps up into a full rock "march." In the third minute everything slows down and spreads out into a more spacious, folk jazz weave. Nice. This is followed by an eerie carnival-esque section which flows and works very well with the previous sections. Now this is progressive rock music! A slow build and amplification sees the addition of horns and more guitar work. (9/10)
7. "Passing On The Line" (2:02) seems a piano version or variation on previous two songs' themes. Quite oversimplified. (3.5/5)
8. "Disturbed By Jungle" (1:56) continued Satie-esque piano experimentations or études. (4/5)
9. "Jungle Waltz" (5:02) a simple foundational weave within which electrified acoustic guitar, bass, drums, piano, and, later, organ and trumpet play. Competent but nothing very innovative or special here. (8/10)
10. "Wounded By The Lion And Adder" (3:55) violin solo with chamber strings supporting. Again, gorgeous and, again, the band's true strength. (9/10)
11. "Fret Not Thyself Because Of Evildoers" (6:58) opens with avery eerie xylophone riff over which some very heavy, scary electric guitar, bass and cymbols play. Then, suddenly, we're lifted out of the scary scenario and brought into a comic-pop Halloween party. Not up to speed for top notch progressive rock compositionally or performance-wise. (7.5/10)
12. "The Hidden Man Of The Heart" (5:13) band with acoustic guitars over which flute, electric guitar and trumpet take turns soloing or enhancing the musical themes. Though based on some pretty simple constructs, this one works due to the melodic expressions of the soloists. (8.5/10)
13. "Some Refugee Passed Over" (3:44) another composition for strings that opens with solo cello before viola joins in for the second pass through of the main theme. Third time through violin is added. The harmonic weave is quite nice. Fourth time adds a second viola with accenting notes gradually taking over the lead. At the two minute mark things break down and more staccato play comes from two of the quartet with more echoing and merging of themes. Nice piece. Why don't Roz Vitalis just stick to neo-classical chamber music? They're so good at it! (9/10)

14. "Psalm 6 (LP Version) (8:32) the attempt at a "heavy metal" (á la IRON BUTTERFLY or early BLACK SABBATH) version of the opening song's themes. Horns take up a theme in the second minute--over the simple "metal" foundation--giving the song a new Spanish flavor. Then, at 2:05, everybody drops out and a churchy organ enters performing some of the same themes in a softer, gentler fashion. Solo trumpet joins in with a plaintive voice. Drums and electrified acoustic guitar give it a 1970s MIKE OLDFIELD sound and feel to it. Nice (though hardly original). Bass, drums, and strumming acoustic guitars and mandolin give it a ALAN PARSONS PROJECT "Fall of the House of Usher" feel. Okay, they got me. Nice work. (9/10)

Total Time 63:23

82.27 on the Fishscales = B-/four stars; a nice addition to modern instrumental progressive rock music. I'd love to see a Roz Vitalis album with all neo-classical chamber music. 




TEXEL Zooming into Focus

A 21st Century FOCUS imitator! And a very good one, I might add! From the opening swirls of the organ to the arrival of the JAN AKKERMAN-imitation guitar, one knows this sound. Intimately! But then, lo! and behold! the music is quite great--these guys are really good at their instruments as well as their perfect imitation. The song constructs are so FOCUS-like that you know that this band has done their homework--and yet these are all original pieces--like variations on previous FOCUS songs. 

Line-up / Musicians:
Steffen Staugaard - Keyboards 
Neil Gowland - Guitars 
Max Saidi - Drums 
Phil Wood - Bass 
Thorstein Quebec Hemmet - Flute 
Gerard McDonald - Flute (5)

1. "Medusa" (5:26) tight whole-band construct like "Janus." (8.5/10)

2. "1975" (6:42) like Focus's almost disco-infused songs from the post-Hamburger Concerto era. Even uses the electric guitar voice-tube of Mother Focus. (8.75/10)

3. "Organic" (5:18) electric piano, slow pace, background organ, and soft flute and bass give this a "Sylvia" feel. When it kicks into full gear around 1:20 it has a great groove, chord, and electric guitar melody. (8.75/10)

4. "Ambitious" (8:02) more in the realm of AL DI MEOLA, this hard-driving song sounds a little more rock oriented and a little less classically-infused as Jan and Thijs would have done. But then that shifts at the end of the second minute for brief classical flute-driven bridge. I guess this is supposed to be their "Hocus Pocus/Eruption(Tommy)" tribute--though it's nowhere near up to the standard set by those originals. (7.5/10)   

5. "Impressions" (5:57) kind of a cross between the sounds and structures of "La Cathédrale de Strasbourg" and "Soft Vanilla": a bluesy guitar lead over organ and piano and slow rhythmic structure. (8.25/10)

6. "Modus Operandi" (7:45) the most divergent from 1970s Focus sound and structure, a little more church-blues like than I remember, and a little too plodding and simple chord structure . Perhaps the imitation here is of later stuff of which I'm unfamiliar (stopped buying/listening to Focus releases after "Con Proby." There are even a few moments here in which I find myself reminded of other 1970s bands like Journey and REO Speedwagon. (7.5/10)

7. "Kingmakers Parade" (4:11) another march/parade-like Focus-like song with very clearly delineated A-B (and C) sections--as was so typical of Focus. (8.25/10)

Total Time 43:21

It's so difficult to render ratings unto an album of such blatant imitation--but it's so good--so refreshing to hear these "variations" on old, beloved songs. Perfect imitation:  in sound, in song construction, in instrumental command and performance. I'm not sure which Focus drummer Max Saidi and the band are trying to emulate, as this may be the weak link for me. Bass, flute, keys, and especially guitar are very close to being spot on, but something's a bit off with the drum style.

82.14 on the Fishscales = B-/3.5 stars; a nice addition to any prog rocker's music collection--especially if you're a fan of 1970s FOCUS.




ANGLESEE Stories

Interesting simplified music from a trio of young prog-inspired artists from Down Under, the chorus bass is interesting if rather boring and simple in its straight-imitation of the dominant notes of the song's chord progressions. The vocal of lead singer is strikingly similar to those of PREFAB SPROUT's Paddy McAloon, ARTO LINDSAY, THE DREAM ACADEMY's Nick Laird-Clowes, and even jazz singer MICHAEL FRANKS (except when he growls). With a gift for great melodies, a very likable singing style, and a desire to make progressive rock, this band shows great, though, as yet, unrealized, potential. The music is crying out for more complexity, subtlety, and nuance within simple albeit gorgeous foundational soundscapes.

Line-up:
Mathew Eichorn - Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Naomi Ryde - Bass
Mathew Loveridge - Drums

Favorite songs: the gorgeous 5. "Final Parting" (5:37) (9/10); 3. "Dance on The Waves" (5:56) (8.75/10), and the FOURTEEN-TWENTY-SIX-like 4. 'No One's Home" (5:12) (8.5/10); 

1. Water (7:30)
2. All That I Want (5:48)
3. Dance On The Waves (5:58)
4. No One's Home (5:12)
5. Final Parting (5:37)
6. Growing Tall (7:08)
7. Where I Belong (6:02)

Total Time 43:15

82.14 on the Fishscales = B-/3.5 to four stars; a good album that prog lovers might want to try out for themselves--and definitely a band to encourage so that they keep striving for more. To be sure: a band to watch!




LUNATIC SOUL Under the Fragmented Sky

Mariuz is experimenting with looping and sampling--especially with his voice.

Line-up / Musicians
- Mariusz Duda / vocals, acoustic guitar, bass & piccolo bass, keyboards, synth programming, percussion
     With:

- Wawrzyniec Dramowicz (aka Vaaver) / drums (8)

1. "He av En" (4:05) looped vocal tracks with percussives, bass, and guitar. (8/10)

2. "Trials" (5:44) several vocal loops and keyboard and bass riffs over a simple metronomic computer snare track. I like the bass and synth line of the final two minutes--that's when the song finally comes to life. (8.5/10)

3. "Sorrow" (1:30) acoustic nylon string guitar with spacey synth noises and wordless, breathy, upper register vocal. (4/5)

4. "Under the Fragmented Sky" (5:03) Mariuz singing from the beginning with cadence support of the strumming of two (and later three) guitars. Second verse has a second, separate vocal woven within the melody and words of the first. At the end of the second chorus bass, piano, and synths thicken the soundscape while fuzzed guitar plays a slow, melodic solo. Then we return to the opening movement before a break lets in some odd vocalizations and bass line and piano. This plays out till the song's end as voices fade into the background and piano stays up front, alone. (9/10)

5. "Shadows" (4:31) heavy, spacey, atmospheric, synths and tuned percussives play at both ends of the audio spectrum before more of the same and bass join in to add some more filler to the middle ranges. Guitar joins in at the beginning of the second minute. There is an industrial, minimalist feel to this instrumental music. The sections cycle around in an A-B-A-C sequence with horn-like synth in the second "verse" section and twangy guitars filling the spacious final section. (7.5/10)

6. "Rinsing the Night" (3:56) acoustic guitars feel indie-folk, even southern folk-bluegrass. Household and synthesized percussives and bass join in in the second minute. Vocalise and other lines are one-by-one mixed into the weave. Picked acoustic guitar takes the lead in the final minute before returning to within the weave for the end. (8/10)

7. "The Art of Repairing" (7:54) keyboard activated vocal and industrial noise samples open this song, forming a bit of a Laurie Anderson-like weave. In the second minute, keys, cymbols, and multiple synths join in, changing the dynamics and feel. Once things settle down, a KRAFTWERK-like rhythm base has been established over which multiple vocal samples are activated, alternated, interwoven, and rotated. All of the sounds rotated into this piece (except the vocal samples) seem as if updated versions of old electronica sounds. I wonder if Mariuz has ever heard the albums by Jean-Michel Jarre and Claire Hammill, Zoolook from 1984 and Voices from 1986, respectively. They far accomplish more than what he's trying to do on this album. (12/15)

8. "Untamed" (3:24) opening like SEAL's "Crazy," this one evolves into a more straightforward prog pop song. A good song. More like this, please. (8.5/10)

Total Time 36:07

82.0 on the Fishscales = B-/3.5 stars; a fair addition to a prog rock lover's music collection--depending on whether or not you wish to put in for some conservative exploration of old technologies. 





CARLTON MELTON Mind Minerals

This music begs the question, "What if Jimi Hendrix went ambient and/or jam band?"

Line-up:
Andy Duvall - drums, guitar, juno synth (3)
Clint Golden - bass guitar
Rich Millman - guitar, synth
    With
Phil Manley - juno synth (5, 7), guitar (4, 11)
John McBain - guitar (2, 8), synth/mellotron/guitar (10)

1. "Untimely" (1:37) like entering a car wash--waves of heavily treated guitar sounds washing over the listener, getting him/her ready--initiating him or her for that which follows. (3/5)
2. "Electrified Sky" (8:30) with a steady, simple rock rhythm section, this one feels like a Ted Nugent song. As the pattern continues, is prolonged, it begins to feel drone-like, mesmerizing, like a retarded Indian's pow-wow beat. Second guitar and synths join in but the rhtym track is nearly driving me out of my mind. ("Six more minutes of this shit!" my mind is screaming.) The entry of slide guitars diverts and distracts for a while until that, too, becomes boring. Not a song professional musicians should be proud of--certainly not proud enough to include on an album for public consumption! Truly disappointing. (6/10)
3. "The Lighthouse" (3:56) ambient psychedelic electric guitar(s). Nice. No wonder the Bandcamp sampler has the listener go straight to this song (while skipping the first two turds). Very pleasant, peaceful, even melodic. (8.75/10)
4. "Eternal Returns" (7:01) nice power jam displaying creative guitar play over the steady skills of the rhythm section (bass & drums). Nice groove. Nice guitar play. (9/10)
5. "Snow Moon" (10:17) somewhat ambient track based upon one ten-minute sustained synth chord over which bass drum, bass synth, multiple synth notes and washes, and bass guitar add their oft-panning, slowly evolving sound inputs. It is, in fact, the bass guitar that offers the most interesting contributions throughout as the player offers staccato horn-like riffs from the instrument's upper registers. (8.75/10)
6. "A Basketful Of Trumpets" (7:41) steady drum and bass pattern over which guitar offers a muted, sedated melody similar to that of 
Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe." Eventually, the song gels into a form that sounds like a revised, instrumental, WEST INDIAN GIRL version of PORCUPINE TREE's "Dark Matter." (9/10)
7. "Sea Legs" (8:34) drone like in its foundation, a bit Zeuhlish, but, ultimatel, pure psychedelic stoner rock. My favorite part is at 4:40 when the second guitar enters and begins to make it's fiendishly malevolent presence known. Very cool! (9/10)
8. "Way Back When" (5:07) sounds like two--or three--guitars just sittin' by the fire jamming--sometimes in synch, sometimes drifting each off into their own worlds. Okay, nothing new, important or exciting here--until the cut out. (7/10)
9. "Climbing The Ladder" (4:16) pulsing two note bass and muffled bass tom carry forward the pacing of this song as heavily echoed guitar plays its own melodic pattern. Bass is actually the most prominent instrument throughout this one. Again, experimental but nothing too new, important, or exciting. Even the melodies are lacking any hooks. (7.5/10)
10. "Atmospheric River" (13:08) opens like a Harold Budd-Robin Guthrie "Moon & the Melodies" collaboration, very ambient and yet shoegaze, electric. The use of static sound as a rhythmic "click track" gets a little annoying and the guitar work could have gotten a little more dynamic and exciting, but overall it's an enjoyable listening experience. (8.75/10)
11. "Psychoticedelicosis" (6:26) bursts forth as if faded into the middle of a much longer jam, painfully slow drums and pulsing two-note bass provide the foundation for this two guitar jam--two heavily distorted, sky-scratching ("Purple Haze") guitars. At 2:20 a third guitar (and then fourth) are added alternating leads of squealing wah-shredding. The four guitars in the forefront are pretty cool but the rhythm pattern feels too stilted, too confining, and too insipid. (8.5/10)

Total Time 76:33


81.67 on the Fishscales = B-/3.5 stars; a nice contribution to prog world, especially to the stoner rock/psychedelia subgenres.





VIRIDITAS Red Mars

Line-up:
Jonathan Wills - Drums
Mike Waters - Vocals
Julie Kvaerndrup - Vocals (3, 4, 6), Additional backing vocals.
Tom Williams - Guitar solo (3), Guitar solo 1 & additional guitars (2)
Hannah Bridge - Vocals (2), Additional backing vocals
David Stanton - Guitars (2-6), Keyboards in Guitar solo (6), Additional backing vocals
Mike Bridge - Bass, Keys, Guitars (1-3, 7), Additional backing vocals
   With
Don Moffit - Narration (1)

A nice collection of rock-opera-like musical interpretations inspired by the Red Mars sci-fi writings of novelist Kim Stanley Robinson. The lead vocals of these talented young Brits are transferred among a rock-oriented (think URIAH HEEP) rotation of singers over the course of the story-telling songs. 

1. "Red Mars" (3:23) electronica layers open as an introduction to this album overture to the theme. Guitars and rock elements join in and make their contributions over the final two minutes. (8/10)

2. "The Killing" (6:44) opens with a nicely apportioned rock thickness. A Zaher Zorgati (MYRATH)-like lead vocal steps in to take over the storytelling while guitars, synths, chunky bass, steady drums, and background vocalists support without getting in the way. I love the way everything in this song is understated, no bombastic or over-the-top performances even though it is a heavy prog production. I detect quite a little similarity to fellow British Neo Proggers IQ as the song goes on. (8.75/10)

3. "Ares" (6:26) opens with a theatric introduction before settling into a slide-guitar-based, PINK FLOYD-feeling song. The band's sense of melody here is superb with great chord changes to support and augment this beauty. Then, surprise, a gorgeous female voice opens up the vocal storytelling. Nice voice, Julie Kvaerndrup! With songs like this, VIRIDITAS is going to worm its way into my heart! It feels as if all of the band members here are truly invested and committed to the inspiring source material of their art. Wonderful to feel. Nice guitar work to finish. I only wish the song had tried to strike a little harder at some point. (9/10)
 
4. "Khalia" (8:00) A rocker that borders on hard rock but remains melodic and simple. Very URIAH HEEP sounding. Even the slowed down, spacious middle section retains that classic 70s prog feel--like BLUE ÖYSTER CULT and URIAH HEEP. The alternating vocals of Julie Kvaerndrup here are a little weak--or perhaps mixed too quietly into the soundscape. (8/10)

5. "Blood On The Airwaves" (7:17) an unfortunate prog-by-numbers opening is fortunately uplifted by a wonderfully solid, melodic vocal section. Mike Waters' lead vocal is absolutely wonderful--in the same league as those of classic prog singers like David Byron and Eric Bloom. The instrumental passages, despite tight constructions, fail to lift us as high as they should. Same for the chorus/background vocal sections. (8.25/10)

6. "We See Red" (25:05) a whopper of an epic opens rather blandly with some very simple, straightforward rock and some not-very-engaging melodies. The shift at the end of the fifth minute offers Mike Waters the chance to win us over with an isolated vocal but the ensuing instrumental section fails to follow through at his level. Even the Buck Dharma-like guitar soloing fails because the basic structure below is not fresh or polished enough to suck us in. The DAVID GILMOUR-like solo guitar in the eighth and ninth minutes is very impressive--and this is where the song finally gets going, engaging us with another PINK FLOYD-like soundscape. The vocal works much better with this sonic palette; too bad the song structure is so simple and straightforward. This section goes on far too long before being bridged by quite a hopeful instrumental section into a softer, slightly faster section that has some really nice whole-band cohesion and spirit (16th minute). Finally, there's enough flourish and flair, both individually and collectively, to satisfy the prog lover. An instrumental section follows that will satisfy most Neo Prog lovers. A jazzy, bass-led section begins at 18:00 that feels like maybe we'll finally be able to forget the doldrums of the first ten minutes. Lead vocalist Julie Kvaerndrup's work is a nice change but too short-lived to really soar (plus, again, her voice is mixed rather deeply into the thick of the instruments). Not an epic I'll be recommending to others; too little soul and spirit. (7/10)

7. "Beyond The Reach Of Fools" (5:01) using a kind of 1980s heavy-prog sound palette (especially in the choice of the FLOCK OF SEAGULLS-like lead guitar sound), this song tries a little too hard to reach iconic proportions; there is a little too much of that 80s arrrogant Billy Idol-like attitude (whether real or faked). (8/10) 

Total Time 61:56

80.0 on the Fishscales = B-/3.5 stars; a good expression of some older prog rock styles and intentions. This is a
 talented collection of performers with tremendous potential as a band. 




PSYCHIC LEMON Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay

Distortion-happy psychedelia with a little punk Post Rock feel to it.

Line-up
Andy Briston - Guitar, vocals, keyboard, acoustic guitar
Andy Hibberd - Bass guitar
Martin Law - Drums, percussion
   With
Iain Roddick - Saxophone

1. "Exit To The Death Lane (8:31) opens with a promising percussion track, then rolling bass note and more drums. Electric guitar enters with a couple repeated notes to add to the weave. Spacey vocals. A little RIDE/MY BLOODY VALENTINE-like sound and lead guitar work. (8.5/10)
2. "Hey Droog! (6:57) too much distortion for these ears. Distortion for distortion's sake? (8/10)
3. "You're No Good (6:43) So SWANS-like! Nice use of the sax in the last section. (9/10)
4. "Interstellar Fuzz Star (9:53) styling more within the Krautrock ilk. (7.5/10)
5. "Satori Disko (9:30) mind-numbingly monotonous pseudo-Indian rhythm track over which bubbling and beep effects are played. Too bad. The soloing guitar does get a little more interesting when it switches to wah-pedal in the fifth minute and then gets doubled-up in the eighth, but, otherwise, this does little for me. Not even the sax in the final 90 seconds can save it. (7/10)

Total time: 41:34


It saddens me to say it but this is a band who got me very excited with their 2016 self-titled debut album for which I'm feeling let down and disappointed with this, their sophomore effort. More vocals, less distortion; more compositional development (less monotony). Were the effect trance-inducing, I would say otherwise, but, other than the opening song, this music has trouble even engaging me much less producing a Kosmisch-like trance effect.


80.0 on the Fishscales = B-/C+/3.5 stars; a passable album that begs personal opinion.





PHIDEAUX Infernal

I will admit up front that I have never been much of a fan of Phideaux music; the band's releases have produced very little that have impressed or engaged me. I understand intellectually what Phideaux Xavier goes through to compose and put together his music--and I appreciate the knowledgeable sources extolling his compositional virtues--but no release, no song, no performance--save perhaps "Thank You for the Evil"--has ever won me over as a prog lover (and I own all of the Phideaux studio releases). Phideaux's sense of melody and simplistic song constructions have never matched my own preferences (they have, in fact, mostly repelled me). And yet I get as excited as everyone else when news of a Phideaux release leaks out. I'm ALWAYS willing to give his stuff a chance. As a matter of fact, many is the time I've returned to older releases with the mindset of "I must have missed something" or "maybe I'm ready now." After all, I finally "got" and "liked" Gentle Giant and Van Der Graaf Generator! But, no, this album elicits the same responses and gut reactions from within me as the others. So sorry! I even find it a challenge to write a review because I have so little positives to offer--and I much prefer writing a review that raves or extolls the positive (though never afraid to offer criticisms in hopes of provoking band growth as well as more responsible listening among the consumer audience). 
    
Line-up
Phideaux Xavier: acoustic guitar, piano, Fender Rhodes, vocals
Ariel Farber: vocals, violin
'Bloody' Rich Hutchins: drums low destroyer
Mathew Kennedy: bass guitar
Gabriel Moffat: dobro, solo & electric guitar
Mark Sherkus: keyboards
Johnn Unicorn: saxophones, keyboards, high destroyer, vocals
Valerie Gracious: vocals
Linda Ruttan Moldawsky: vocals
Molly Ruttan:  vocals
   With:
Andy Camou: trumpet
Stefanie Fife: cello
Fank Valentini:  handclaps
Doug Moldawsky, Nina Moldawsky, Caroline Oster, Mary Kelly Weir: backing vocals

Disc 1

01. "Cast Out And Cold" (5:32) I'm intrigued. Something fresh and promising. (8.5/10)

02. "The Error Lives On" (7:15) intricately constructed but too quirky, too theatric, too enigmatic and shifty. (7.5/10)
03. "Crumble" (0:56) female vocalist over orchestral synths moving the story forward. (3/5)
04. "Inquisitor" (8:21) this album's new variation on "Thank You For The Evil." The vocal melodies in the verses are even nearly the exact same! Nice electric guitar work and excellent from the synthesizers. I actually like the male vocal performance, I just don't enjoy the Broadway feel provided by the piano base, background vocalists, and many divertimenti, bridges, codas, and other twists and turns familiar to me from stage crafting. Perhaps this is also why The Decemberists' folk rock operas have always failed to click with me. (8/10) 

05. "We Only Have Eyes For You" (4:00) a pop rock song drawing constructive elements from many songs of the 60s and 70s and 80s, including Cream, Pink Floyd, and Blondie. (7.5/10)
06. "Sourdome" (1:31) an acoustic guitar and electric guitar showpiece necessary to give the stage crew time to change the sets. (4/5)
07. "The Walker" (4:39) this drum beat and guitar strum syncopation is just way too familiar--way over-used in all of Phideaux's work. My favorite aspect of this song is the constant augmentation of voices chiming in as the song progresses. (7.5/10)
08. "Wake The Sleeper" (1:30) solo electric guitar beneath emotional male vocal. The distortion effect used on the guitar sounds as if it came from the 1960s. (4/5)
09. "c99" (3:25) same pace, same plodding piano, same screaming guitar, same female vocalizations, nice drumming and synth play. Guitar play gets exciting/emotional in the second half. (8/10)
10. "Tumbleweed" (4:58) Why does Phideaux think that his piano play has to hold the 4/4 time? Even Elton John uses some syncopation and flourishes to make it interesting! This vocal cries out for some space--for a break from the incessant piano metronome. The "orchestral" build and crescendo of the second half helps. (8.5/10)

 I just had a thought: Perhaps Phideaux Xavier should be creating musicals for Broadway!

Disc 2

11. "The Order Of Protection (One)" (4:35) spacious, echoing solo piano notes! What?! Did Phideaux hear my complaints? Chords and synth accompaniment ensue over which harmonizing female voices sing about shepherd's protecting sheep. Electric guitar and bass drum join in as male voice(s) takes a turn. A 80s Keith Emerson-like piece develops with a cheezy combination of keyboard sounds. If the musicianship were a little more complex they might get away with it. (7.5/10)
12. "Metro Deathfire" (4:58) Hasn't the author used up these type of titles? This one sounds like a kind of attempt at a Beatles/Bowie/Pink Floyd tribute song. (8/10)
13. "Transit" (1:14) an acoustic guitar interlude (3.5/5)
14. "In Dissonance We Play" (2:49) opens with power trying to emulate one of Roger Waters' angry anthems--and continues in the same vein for its entirety. At least it's using second gear. (8/10)
15. "The Sleepers Wake" (5:22) opens with some pleasant acoustic guitar work, soon joined by harpsichord-like keys. A folky Renaissance feel continues as female vocals join in. By the middle of the song, as the folkie Colin Meloy (The Decemberists) male voice joins in and takes over the lead, the song has evolved into more of Pink Floyd affair. Still, this is the best thing on the album. (9/10)
16. "The Order Of Protection (Two)" (4:33) a longer instrumental interlude (must be quite a complicated set change!) turns into a return to the opener of Disc Two. Nice vocal. He sounds committed. The 1/1 kick drum drives me crazy. Cheezy organ, sitar effect, and background vocal staccato "bah"s do not work for me. (8/10) 
17. "From Hydrogen To Love" (14:04) the album's only prog epic opens with a bit of the sinister tension of GENESIS's "The Knife" while synths and ensuing vocal section shift it more into the realm of Steve Hackett solo stuff. Unfortunately, in the fourth minute it all falls into the tell-tale formula of a Broadway musical. The music tries to remain proggy with a kind of "Apocalypse in 9/8" rhythmic foundation and classic synth sounds used in the instrumental section in the sixth and seventh minutes. Back to Broadway with sudden mood and stylistic shifts over the next minutes. What a great ensemble piece this would make for a stage musical! (8/10)
18. "Eternal" (5:46) a 1960s Broadway happy-go-lucky love theme seems to open this song before all shifts into a LLOYD-WEBBER/Yvonne Elliman stage ballad. (8/10)
19. "Endgame - An End" (3:29) again, an awesomely visual stagecrafted song to end this wonderful homeless Broadway musical that is desperately seeking a theatric outlet. Ends with a bit of an "Unfinished Symphony" sound and feel to it. (8.5/10)
Mr. Xavier: you are really a very talented closeted Andrew Lloyd-Webber wannabe so why not try your prodigious talents at stage craft? A musical seems in order. I think you and your cast would find great success there. 

79.41 on the Fishscales = C+/3.5 stars; a solid album of nice music whose audience should perhaps be treated to the visual and theatric components of this very stage-friendly music.





THE KENTISH SPIRES The Last Harvest

An interesting intersection of sounds and styles as bluesy rock, pastoral folk, quirky jazz, goth female vocals, and retro sound engineering all are brought together. 
Line-up:
Lucie V - vocals
Paul Hornsby - reeds & keyboards
Danny Chang - guitar
Rik Loveridge - Hammond organ and synths
Phil Warren - bass
Tim Robinson - drums
  
1. "Kingdom of Kent" (11:10) the stew here almost works but, unfortunately, it all ends up still tasting like its component parts. The section surrounding the electric guitar solo in the fourth minute is the best--and where Lucie's voice is most integral--as a Clare Torrey background instrument. (8.5/10)
2. "Clarity" (Bonus Track Mixed By Rob Reed) (3:58) campy medieval jazz-folk? It's no Monty Python or Gryphon. (7.5/10)
3. "Sprit Of The Skies" (sic) (4:22) a great Sixties flower power sound and style is spoiled by a weak chorus. (9/10)
4. "TTWIG" (3:48) too weird to be taken seriously; maybe in the 1960s this would have worked. (7/10)
5. "Introception" (7:17) sounds like something from The Bay Area 1960s psychedelic movement--but from a band that we never heard of cuz they just weren't good enough to make it to Monterey or a record label. (7/10)
6. "Clarity" (3:58) the band's own more mediæval version of this bluesy song is in my opinion much better than the one above. (8/10)
7. "The Last Harvest" (13:09) opens as a quite ordinary plodding rock standard before exploding into an interesting jazz fusion extravaganza at the 3:58 mark. Unfortunately, this too becomes tedious in its foundational singularity despite an stop-and-start pseudo-bridge in the seventh minute. Just before the seven minute mark we regress into the Procul Harum-like plod of the opening section over which Lucie tries to scream us out of our malaise and boredom. Guitar solo is too familiar--technically competent but we've heard it before. Sax and background chorus of "ohh/ahh's" as well. (7.5/10)
8. "Hengist Ridge" (4:30) a smooth jazz start to this one is at least engaging, sax and pretty rhythm support (especially the jazzy guitar). It even seems to give Lucie a little more reason to sound and feel genuine in her performance. heck! She's packing the power of a soul/R&B diva on this one!  Easily the best song on the album. (9/10)

Total Time 52:12

The final song seems the direction I would strongly urge this band to explore more of: we need to fill the void left by the absence of EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL, SADE, and SWING OUT SISTER. But Canterbury sound? I don't hear it.

79.38 on the Fishscales = C+/3.5 stars; a good, competent though rather inconsistent and scattered effort.




DAAL Navels Falling into a Living Origami

An album that is getting a fair amount of attention with most of the responses being glowing, it is interesting that this album was released simultaneously with the band's other 2018 album, the highly acclaimed Decalogue of Darkness--for which this reviewer issued a five star review. Navels is a completely different beast with one long, flowing collage of musical themes registering over 49 minutes in length and being given one single title--a whole-album prog epic.
  
1. "Navels Falling into a Living Origami" (49:27) opening with 90 seconds of ghostly whispers and crazed synth swashes and reverse-engineered swipes, the song shifts rather radically into a slowly soloing Mellotron and a slowly picked (later, briefly, strummed) two chords of an electrified acoustic guitar. I do not like the old, "poorly engineered" sound of either the guitar or the 'tron. It's kind of Moody Blues By the end of the fifth minute, this movement is finished, as noted by the bridge of chaotic cacophonous "crowd voices of clamoring metal trash" returned to from the end of the opening section. The following section is pure imitation of PINK FLOYD's opening section of the song "Wish You Were Here" from the 1974 album of the same name, but things evolve fairly quickly into the next section starting in the middle of the eighth minute after a brief bridge of astronauts-in-space chatter feels KING CRIMSONian--in a simplified XII ALFONSO/cinematic GOBLIN kind of way. In the middle of the 12th minute there is another cinematic shift into a section in which airy Middle Eastern sounding music like that of PETER GABRIEL's Passion:  Soundtrack to the Film The Last Temptation of Christ plays. Hand drums and other percussives, synths, synth wooden flutes and violins flit and float around the soundscape. A swish-wash synth interlude in the sixteenth minute gives way to a chunky-bass-led more up-tempo section. At 17:00 we then take a turn through a radio static intersection before a slow electric piano-based section shows off some old, early synthesizer sounds similar to those heard in early TANGERINE DREAM albums. It's pretty if rather simple. At 19:40 there is another shift as Davide's cymbol play is teamed up with Alfio's ancient synth slow arpeggi. The nasal-sounding drones of Middle Eastern-sounding pipes or bagpipes take over the lead while a TD Berlin-School-like synthesizer 'sequence' establishes itself while, all the while, Davide plays a mix of rapid-hit, syncopated plastic-sounding and normal sounding toms (roto- or dragon-toms?). Is this their "On the Run" tribute? or "In the Air Tonight" blended with TD/Klaus Schulze? 
     At the 24:00 mark everything stops and a new theme of ominous low-flying WWII bomber synth takes over the foundational sound before a weave of a repeating singular piano minor chord arpeggio, bass, Mellotron, and hand, kit, and programmed percussives slowly become intwined and interwoven. The presence of lead guitar comes and goes all the while the cheezy drum machine beat and buzz of the low flying dirigible hold fast. By the time the 28:00 mark comes, it is the dirigible saw synth that is alone holding it all together--until things begin to dissemble while an imitation ROBERT FRIPP guitar solo wanders around the sound field. Reverse synth notes, bubble noises, slow-picked electrified acoustic guitar, and Fripp pervade and then fade in the 36th minute as a two-sequence piano arpeggio takes over the forward movement. Kind of sounds like a take off on the "Tubular Bells" theme. Tensions rise as the key and chord used slowly shifts up in pitch, but then they've disappeared as a slowly soloing cello and synth arpeggio carry us into an electric guitar section that sounds like a variation on the adagio section of Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjez"--while piano chord progression and synth-generated and tuned percussives play an oddly discordant "oppositional support" beneath. Weird. At 35:30, a low-end Mellotron "chamber strings" chord-play section bridges us to a section of eerie, scary New Age synths and washes. Boy! the synth sounds used throughout this song are so dated! Makes me appreciate how far sound technology has come! 
    More "On the Run"-like synth sequences and plastic percussives pick up at the 38-minute mark as they build into an old-video game (Atari Pong)-sounding "Popcorn." This, then gives way into a weird Schulze/Parsons-synth-backed "zither" section. Again, the simplicity of the music and solo is rather surprising with their very slow, simple, straightforward time signatures. This ends around the 43-minute mark when slowly-morphing synth-saw notes bridge us to a recapitulation of the song's second guitar-based section over which a highly processed male voice sings an impassioned psychedelic lyric while accompanied by some very nice COLIN TENCH-like soloing electric guitar. After the guitar solo, at the end of the 47th minute, more zither-like acoustic instruments are subtly added to the foundational weave for the final Nice melodies, harmonies, This is the best section of the song. The final 90 seconds sees us move into a multi-track Mellotron lead over the guitar foundation. An okay Crimsonian finish to a song that seems to quite minimally entertain. Though there are multiple themes and sections over the course of this 49 minute song, the overall pacing and complexity have very few dimensions to offer. (79/100)

All in all, Navels Falling into a Living Origami produces an overall negative taste to me because of its overly obvious derivatives and it's surprising simplicity. Whether or not the album is intended as a tribute/homage two past masterpieces and their artists or as a seriously original composition, it fails for me. My reaction and continued response to this album is quite similar to the way I found myself convulsing in surprise and disgust at the blatant copying going on on another near-universally acclaimed album from the 1990s, the 1996 release from Swedish band EDGE OF SANITY called Crimson Glory. Whereas the music imitated on Crimson Glory was hard rock, metal, and heavy metal music from the 1970s and 1980s, at least the music here sounds as if it is imitative of mostly hallowed classics of Progressive Rock. Still, this album deserves, in my opinion, no more than three stars.

79.0 on the Fishscales = C/3.5 stars; a nice prog epic of vintage sounds and vintage derivation but nothing extraordinary, innovative, or so inviting as to prompt recurring return visits.