Thursday, September 24, 2020

The Fishscales' Highest Rated Albums of the 21st Century



1. BENT KNEE Shiny Eyed Babies (2014) - 100

2. ARNAUD BUKWALD La marmite cosmique No. 6 (2020) - 97.3

3. HOMUNCULUS RES Limiti all'eguaglianza della Parte con il Tutto (2013) * - 97.2

4. VANETA Antimemory (2016) * 97.14

5. BATTLESTATIONS Vixit (2017) 96.67

6. PROGHMA-C Bar-do Travel (2009) - 96.52 

7. UNAKA PRONG Salinity Now! (2018) 96.25

8. LA COSCIENZA DI ZENO La notte anche de griorno (2015) 96.0

8. SETNA Guérison (2013) - 96.0

8. PÄATOS Timeloss (2002) # - 96.0

11. MONOBODY Raytracing (2018) 95.88

12. ANNA VON HAUSSWOLFF Dead Magic (2018) 95.71

13. THE AMAZING Gentle Stream (2011) - 95.67

14. AIRBAG The Greatest Show on Earth (2013) - 95.52

15. MICE ON STILTS Hope for a Mourning (2016) - 95.0

15. FREQUENCY DRIFT Ghosts… (2011) - 95.0

17. BIG BIG TRAIN English Electric, Part One (2012) - 94.55

18. CORDE OBLIQUE A Hail of Bitter Almonds (2011) - 94.50 

18. FIVE-STOREY ENSEMBLE Not That City (2013) # - 94.50

20. ANATHEMA Falling Deeper (2011) - 94.44  

20. WESERBERGLAND Sehr Kosmish Ganz Progisch (2017) # 94.44

20. FAUN Renaissance  (2005) - 94.44

20. ULVER Shadows of the Sun (2007) - 94.44

20. TIRILL Said the Sun to the Moon (2019) - 94.44

25. METHEXIS Suiciety (2015) 94.40

26. GHOST MEDICINE Discontinuance (2016) * 94.29

26. DEMEN Nektyr (2018) * 94.29 

28. MAUDLIN OF THE WELL Part the Second (2009) - 94.28

29. MOTHER TURTLE II (2016) 94.17

29. IAMTHEMORNING Lighthouse (2016) - 94.17

31. THE GHOSTS OF JUPITER The Great Bright Horses (2016) 94.12

32. ANTOINE FAFARD Ad Perpetuum (2014) 94.0

32. ÄNGLAGÅRD Viljans Ôga (2012) - 94.0

32. KAYO DOT Choirs of the Eye (2003) # 94.0

32. CICADA Light Shining Through the Sea (2016) - 94.0

32. MIDLAKE Antiphon (2013) - 94.0

32. FAUN Eden (2011) 94.0 

32. LIZARD Master and M (2013) - 94.0


* denotes a band's debut album.
# denotes a debut album by a band of prog veterans.



Thursday, September 10, 2020

2020: The Epics

The Prog Epics of over nine minutes in length that I have heard from 2020. Anything in the "masterpiece" category is automatically vaulted into the celebrated and rarified echelons of Prog Valhalla.


The Masterpieces *(ratings of 93.34 to 100)*: 

"Contes lunaires" - ARNAUD BUKWALD (44/45) = 97.78

"Stage 4: The Dream" - THE RETICENT (24/25) = 9.60

"Am Ende Der Welt" (Side A) (24:18) -WESERBERGLAND (48/50) = 96.0 

"#1" - TOM DONCOURT & MATTIAS OLSSON (19/20) = 95.0

"Calypso" (10:57) - KARFAGEN (19/20) = 9.5 

"Am Ende Der Welt" (Side B) (18:20) - WESERBERGLAND (38/40) = 95.0

"The Depths of Time" - THE BARDIC DEPTHS (23.5/25) = 94.0

"The End and The Beginning" - ONCE AND FUTURE BAND (18.75/20) = 93.75 


Minor Masterpieces (90.0-93.33):

"America Undefined" - PAT METHENY (28/30) = 93.33

"Stage 5: The Nightmare" - THE RETICENT (23.25/25) = 9.30

"The Life of the Honeybee and Other Moments of Clarity" - ABEL GANZ (23.25/25) = 93.0

"Till dig ännu en gång" - NEON HEART (18.5/20) = 92.50

"Hounds" - GREEN CARNATION (18.5/20) = 92.50

"Zaini di elio" - LOGOS (23/25) = 92.0

"Stage 1: His Name Is Henry" - THE RETICENT (18.25/20) = 9.125

"Dynamogeny" - ARNAUD BUKWALD (22.75/25) = 91.0

"Beyond the Exosphere" - PYRAMID THEOREM (32/35) = 91.43

"Hamilton Big Boys" - THE LIGHT IN THE OCEAN (18.25/20) = 91.25 

"Silent Genesis" - PURE REASON REVOLUTION (18.25/20) = 91.25

"N.O.X." - MOTORPSYCHO (82/90) = 91.11

"Vacuo senso" - LA MASCHERA DI CERA (27.25/30) = 90.83

"Pleonasm" - FREN (22.5/25) = 90.0

"O curioso caso de Mademoiselle X" - MOURA (27/30) = 90.0

"Legacies" - THE BARDIC DEPTHS (18/20) = 90.0

"Immortal" - LEGACY PILOTS (18/20) = 90.0 

"Punto di Non Ritorno" - INNER PROSPEKT (18/20) = 90.0

"Fables for Robots, Part 2" - MR. ROBOT (36/40) = 90.0


Near-Masterpieces (86.67-89.99):

"My Dark Reflections on Life and Death" - GREEN CARNATION (27/30) = 90.0

"Lizard" - TIME STRUCTURE (18/20) = 90.0

"Paesaggi di insonnia" - LOGOS (18/20) = 90.0

"Turni" - OTEME (18/20) = 90.0

"Sector 85" - BENJAMIN'S KITE (44.75/50) = 89.50

"Möa Orgata" - DAI KAHT (22.25/25) = 89.0

"Into the Blank" - HAMMOCK (40/45) = 88.89

"The Earth (Hari Ketiga, Act One)" - DWIKI DHARMAWAN (/60)

"Zöbehr Daï" - DAI KAHT (17.75/20) = 88.75

"The Noble Shirker" - ZOPP (17.75/20) = 88.75

"Stage 6: The Oubliette" - THE RETICENT (17.75/20) = 8.875

"Leap of Faith" - JOHN HOLDEN (17.75/20) = 88.75

"Waterfall" - IOEARTH (17.75/20) = 88.75

"Why" - TIME STRUCTURE (17.75/20) = 88.75

"Take to the Sky" (10:14) - TELERGY (17.75/20) = 88.75

"Take a Closer Look" - OSIRIS (17.75/20) = 88.75

"Barnard's Loop" - BENJAMIN'S KITE (17.75/10) = 88.75 

"Tomita" - JAGA JAZZIST (26.5/30) = 88.33

"By the Banks" - WOBBLER (26.5/30) = 88.33 

"Birds of Passage" (Part 2) - KARFAGEN (35.33/40) = 88.33

"Il tempo millenario" - LA MASCHERA DI CERA (35.25/40) = 88.125

"Merry Macabre" - WOBBLER (35.25/40) = 88.125

"Echos of Silence, Pt. 2: The Answer" (9:35) - SUBMARINE SILENCE (17.5/20) - 87.50

"The Emanation of the Giant Albion" - VESPERO (35/40) = 87.50

"Jurassic | Cretaceous" (13:24) - THE OCEAN (26.25/30) = 87.50

"The Land of the Fools" - INNER PROSPEKT (26.25/30) = 87.50

"Infantry" (9:24) - TELERGY (17.5/20) = 87.50

"A Cornucopia of Riches" - FRENCH TV (17.5/20) = 87.50

"Golden Age" - ESPRIT D'ESCALIER (17.5/20) = 87.50

"Punto di non ritorno" - INNER PROSPEKT (17.5/20) = 87.50

"Crimson Lights and Dark Waters" - SCARLET HOLLOW (17.5/20) = 87.50

"Colours Out of Space" - PIXIE NINJA (17.5/20) = 87.50 

"Sadako e le mille gru di carta" - LOGOS (35/40) = 87.50

"Undone" (10:26) - SUBMARINE SILENCE (17.5/20) = 87.50

"City of the Sun" - BUILT FOR THE FUTURE (17.5/20) = 87.50

"Satellite" - DARK LIGHT (17.5/20) = 87.50

"Valles Marineris" - RICK WAKEMAN (17.5/20) = 87.50

"Seven Billion Tiny Sparks" - ESP PROJECT (17.5/20) = 87.50

"Leng Plateau" - PIXIE NINJA (17.5/20) = 87.50

"Noggy Pop" - ORANGE CLOCKS (52.25/60) = 87.09

"Soon But Not Today" - PATTERN-SEEKING ANIMALS (21.75/25) = 87.0

"When Are Wars Won?/Surely All I Need" - FRAGILE (21.75/25) = 87.0

"Sapien" - GAZPACHO (86/30) = 86.67 


Very Good Prog Epics (83.34-86.66):

"Lifeboat" - PATTERN-SEEKING ANIMALS (30.25/35) = 86.42

"Transition II" - LUNATIC SOUL (47.5/55) = 86.36

"Il cherchio del commando" - LA MASCHERA DI CERA (17.25/20) = 86.25

"Moondust" - ANTONY KALUGIN (34.5/40) = 86.25

"Rise" - GALIA SOCIAL (17.25/20) = 86.25

"Bela" - MAGENTA (17.25/20) = 86.25

"Hutchinson Cipher" - PIXIE NINJA (17.25/20) = 86.25

"Mandarine" - SLEEPING PANDORA (17.25/20) = 86.25

"Space Cowboy" - GAZPACHO (34.5/40) = 86.25

"Falling Structures" - TIME STRUCTURE (17.25/20) = 86.25

"One Light Retreating" - ELDER (17.25/20) = 86.25

"Old Worlds and Kingdoms/Too Late in the Day" - FRAGILE (17.25/20) = 86.25

"In Procession" - ELDER (17.25/20) = 86.25

"Runaway Strain" (9:14) - SUBMARINE STRAIN (17.25/20) = 86.25

"No Return" - JOHN DEMARKAS (17.25/20) = 86.25

"The Departing" - MOLITOTH (17.25/20) = 86.25

"Poppies in a Field" TOM DONCOURT & MATTIAS OLSSON (21.5/25) = 8.60 

"Brave New World" - BUILT FOR THE FUTURE (21.5/25) = 86.0

"Georgia" (12:27) - TELERGY (21.5/25) = 86.0

"Listen" - THE PRODIGAL SOUNDS (21.5/25) = 86.0

"Line of Sight" - BUILT FOR THE FUTURE (21.5/25) = 86.0

"The Land of Fools" - INNER PROSPEKT (25.75/30) = 85.83

"Sepia and White" - ABEL GANZ (25.75/30) = 85.83

"The Rain" - IOEARTH (30/35) = 85.71

"Levitation" (9:45) - KARFAGEN (17/20) = 8.5

"Safe at Home" - ECHOREC (17/20) = 85.0

"Prosthetic Cuban" - ØRESUND SPACE COLLECTIVE (34/40) = 85.0

"Celebrity" - I AM THE MANIC WHALE (34/40) = 85.0

"Futari Kiri" - ÁNGEL ONTALVA & VESPERO (17/20) = 85.0

"The Echo of a Distant Past" - DROWNING STEPS (17/20) = 85.0

"Terra Nullus" - TRAVIS ORBIN (17/20) = 85.0

"Hahima" - NEON HEART (17/20) = 85.0

"Second Birth" (10:56) - SAMSARA BLUES EXPERIMENT (17/20) = 8.5

"Il cherchio del comando" - LA MASCHERA DI CERA (17/20) = 85.0

"Hearing the Call" - LEEABRAHAM (21.25/25) = 85.0

"France" - DYBLE LONGDON (17/20) = 85.0 

"Birds of Passage" (Part 1) - KARFAGEN (38/45) = 84.44

"Floating High" - SLEEPING PANDORA (29.5/35) = 84.29

"The Yellow Ship" (13:07) - SANGUINE HUM (21/25) = 84.0

"Urizen" - VESPERO (21/25) = 84.0

"Ark" - HATS OFF GENTLEMEN IT'S ADEQUATE (21/25) = 84.0

"Phantasmagoria" (12:58) - KARFAGEN (21/25) = 8.4 

"Halcyon" - ELDER (21/25) = 84.0

"The Climb" - TASKAHA (21/25) = 84.0 

"Messiah Complex" - HAKEN (33.5/40) = 83.75

"Century Rain" - HATS OFF GENTLEMEN IT'S ADEQUATE (16.75/20) = 83.75

"Omens" - ELDER (16.75/20) = 83.75

"Surge" - FREN (16.75/20) = 83.75

"As Bruxus" - QAMAR (16.75/20) = 83.75

"Embers" - ELDER (16.75/20) = 83.75

"Heaven in Your Eyes" - ARABS IN ASPIC (29.25/35) = 83.57


Fair to Middling (83.33 and below):

"Distant Land" - BUILT FOR THE FUTURE (25/30) = 83.33

"Destructio" - ARS DE ER (25/30) = 83.33

"Madi" - HAMMOCK (25/30) = 83.33

"Fables for Robots, Part 1" - MR. ROBOT (33.25/40) = 8.3125

"Purple Hearts Corner" (12:29) - THE C SIDES PROJECT (20.75/25) = 83.0

"Marshmallow" - ANTONY KALUGIN (33/40) = 82.50

"Touching Moon" - SLEEPING PANDORA (20.5/25) = 82.50

"Indecisively" - MAGIK SATURN (16.5/20) = 8.25

"The Trial" - RICK MILLER (16.5/20) = 82.50 

"Correct to the Core" - RICK MILLER (16.5/20) = 82.50

"Tears" - SLEEPING PANDORA (16.5/20) = 82.50

"Bridge Toward Home" - TURNING VIRTUE (16.5/20) = 82.50 

"The Lamb Returns" - ECHOREC (28.5/35) = 81.43

"Engine Down" (10:57) - THE C SIDES PROJECT (16.25/20) = 81.25 

"Celebrity" (18:55) - I AM THE MANIC WHALE (32/40) = 80.0 

"Raytracing" - SLEEPING PANDORA (16/20) = 80.0

"Sapien" - GAZPACHO (24/30) = 80.0 

"New Life" - GABRIEL (16/20) = 80.0

"QSO" - YURI GAGARIN (16/20) = 80.0

"The Dome" - SLEEPING PANDORA (24/30) = 80.0

"Gravitas" - DC SOUND COLLECTIVE (16/20) = 80.0

"Le Voleur" (11:47) - OBSKYR (20/25) = 80.0

"Born to Be King" - INFINITE WISDOM (15.75/20) = 78.75

"Free as a Bird" - GABRIEL (27.5/35) = 78.57

"Lost in Africa" - ØRESUND SPACE COLLECTIVE (27.5/35) = 78.57

"Heiroglyphic Smell" - ØRESUND SPACE COLLECTIVE (23.25/30) = 78.33

"Le chaud et le froid" - JEAN-PIERRE LOUVETON (15.5/20) = 77.50

"The Shrine" - JAGA JAZZIST (15.5/20) = 77.50

"The Invisible Worm" - HEAVY MOON (15.5/20) = 77.50

"Space Cowboy" - GAZPACHO (31/40) = 77.50 

"Le Voleur" - ABSKYR (19.25/25) = 77.0

"Bremen" (10:39) - THE C SIDES PROJECT (15.25/20) = 76.25

"The Memory Chamber" (12:01) - KLAUS MORLOCK (19/25) = 76.0

"Lost Mileage" - ØRESUND SPACE COLLECTIVE (22.5/30) = 75.0 

"Oneiron" (13:36) - YURI GAGARIN (22.5/30) = 75.0

"Into Clouds" (12:07) - THE C SIDES PROJECT (18/25) = 72.0

"TOWER 9" - SCALADEI (25.5/35) = 71.43



Great But Too Short (less than nine minutes):

"Tharmas" - VESPERO

"Luvah" - VESPERO

"LOS" - VESPERO

"Triassic" - THE OCEAN

"The Minstrel" - GRUMBLEWOOD

"Nessie" - UBI MAIOR

"Who Really Are We?" - PENDRAGON

"Ghosts & Typhoons" - PURE REASON REVOLUTION

"Partial encode" - ELECTRIC ORANGE

"Automaton" - SANGUINE HUM


Not-Yet Reviewed:

"AP Alchemy" (9:22) - ISOBAR (/20)

"I woke up and forgot what happend..." (17:04) - BLESSED ARE THE HEARTS THAT BEND (/35) = 

"The Odessa Steps Sequence (9:44) - FRENCH TV

"Look at the Bears! Look at the Bears! Look at the Bears! (9:20) - FRENCH TV

"The Math of Creation" - SANDRO CUZZETTO (/20) = 

"Reach for the Moon" - MAGENTA (/20) = 

"The Rose" - MAGENTA (20) = 

"Masters of Illusion" - MAGENTA (/30) = 

"Idols in the Flesh" - KARDA ESTRA (.) =

"Omicron Pt. 1" (22:24) - BREIDABLIK (38/45) = 8.44

"Omicron Pt. 2" (20:46) - BREIDABLIK (/40) = 

"Anamnensis" (12:24) - LUCID PLANET (22/25) =

"Organic Hard Drive" (9:38) - LUCID PLANET (/20) = 8.80

"On the Way" (9:37) - LUCID PLANET (/20) = 

"Face the Sun" (11:48) - LUCID PLANET (/25) = 

"Zenith" (9:55) - LUCID PLANET (/20) = 













Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Top Albums of the Year 2020, Part 1: The Masterpieces

My Favorite Albums of 2020
(In some semblance of order)

***Author's note:  Below you will find two different rankings for this year's albums. 

  The first list is merely a list consisting of a Top Twenty with a following list of "Honorable Mentions." These are my favorite albums of the year, that is, the albums to which I have formed the greatest emotional attachments. 
The Reviews that follow are ordered according to my more 'objective' yet still personal judgment as to their quality, that is, the "best" albums of the year. Here I have tried to order the albums reviewed according to a metric determination (my own numerical rating system--which I call the "Fishscales") as to what are the "best" albums of the year from a more critical, qualitative, and quantitative viewpoint, that is, without as much emotional attachment as "My Favorite" albums. 

Despite a waning interest in remaining open to certain sub-genres of progressive rock music, and, verily, music in general, I have been able to listen to over 100 new releases from 2020.

According to my calculations, 2020 presents Prog World with three (3) "masterpieces," twelve (12) "minor" masterpieces, and thirty-eight (38) other "excellent" albums!  


The Rankings
 (My "Favorites")

1. THE RETICENT The Oubliette
2. ARNAUD BUKWALD La marmite cosmique, no. 6
3. WESERBERGLAND Am Ende der Welt
4. ANNA VON HAUSSWOLFF All Thoughts Fly
5. MAGICK BROTHER & MYSTIC SISTER Magick Brother & Mystic Sister
6. THE LIGHT IN THE OCEAN The Pseudo-Scientific Study of Oceanic Neo-Cryptid Zoology
7. PENDRAGON Love over Fear
8. BATTLESTATIONS Inform
9. NEON HEART Neon Heart
10. ONCE AND FUTURE BAND Deleted Scenes

11. JOHN LUDI Mistakes Have Been Made
12. MOTORPSYCHO The All Is One
13. HOMUNCULUS RES Andiamo in giro di notte e ci consumiamo nel fuoco
14. ABEL GANZ The Life of the Honeybee and Other Moments of Clarity
15. VESPERO The Four Zoas
16. GALIA SOCIAL Rise
17. MARJANA SEMKINA Sleepwalking
18. JARDON The Fading Thought
19. JOHN HOLDEN Rise and Fall
20. DAI KAHT II

21. HIBISCUS BISCUIT Reflections of Mine
22. UBI MAIOR Bestie, Uomini e Dèi
23. THE OCEAN Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic
24. PAT METHENY From This Place
25. KARFAGEN Principles and Theory of Spektra
26. CORDE OBLIQUE The Moon Is a Dry Bone
27. LOGOS Sadako e le mille gru di carta
28. MOURA Moura
29. THE BARDIC DEPTHS The Bardic Depths
30. ELLESMERE Wyrd


Honorable Mentions:
OVRFRWRD StarStuff
HAIL SPIRIT NOIR Eden In Reverse
INNER PROSPEKT Canvas One
OTEME Un Saluto alle Nuvole
DAVE BRONS Not All Who Wander Are Lost
SANGUINE HUM A Trace of Memory
FREN Where Do You Want Ghosts to Reside?
LA MASCHERA DI CERA S.E.I.
WOBBLER Dwellers of the Deep





The Reviews



Five Star Masterpieces
(Ratings of 100 to 93.34)



1. ARNAUD BUKWALD La marmite cosmique No. 6

The most creative master of synthesizing old sounds and styles into knew and exciting (and often witty) compositions is back with yet another jaw-dropping adventure into sonic magic-making. I am continuously in awe of Arnaud's uncanny ability to replicate and/or adapt old sounds, styles, and riffs and then meld them into something totally new and fresh. It is truly an amazing gift.

Line-up / Musicians:
- A. Bukwald / vocals, arrangements
- Cherry Pob / vocals

1. "Contes lunaires" (22:14) orchestration and operatic vocals! Am I on the set of Camelot? And then the sly slide into Zeuhl with the pairing of Arnaud's bass voice with Cherry Pob's mezzo! Genius! But then, holy sh*t! At the end of the second minute, the music slips into jazz--a fusion of early Magma Zeuhl and Soft Machine Third Canterbury! Wow! this is an even better fusion than SETNA! At 4:22 comes another sudden shift--into a variation on "Slightly, All the Time"--using piano-based jazz combo with sax and vibes--and then that Canterburian funky saw-organ! At 6:45 Arnaud again turns, this time into pure chordal Zeuhl structure, using echoed flute as his lead to distract us. Acoustic guitar, piano and the wafting, lilting voice of Cherry Pob take over at 7:32. I am in awe! Arnaud, you have truly outdone yourself! This is Annie Haslem Renaissance/Mike & Sally Oldfield  territory. At 9:22 those acoustic guitars start to strum as Mellotron, cymbals, and "horns" join Cherry and synth-flutes. "Can You Hear Me?" 
     At 10:52 we shift back into Zeuhlish jazz--a slow pace that shows off the two vocalists (who possess a magical DEAD CAN DANCE Brendan Perry/Lisa Gerrard chemistry). Wow! The tears are streaming down my cheeks! (and this is the third time through the song!)
     At 13:33 we get a shift into some kind of mystical forest of glass and wind as vibes/marimba flutes and cymbals create this spacious soundscape before being joined by the odd, sometimes discordant strums of a zither. Definitely a dream interlude.
     At 15:35 we transition rather suddenly back into a more angular, DAVE STEWART-oriented style of Canterbury. While multiple instrument sounds used are straight out of the Canterbury lexicon, Arnaud cleverly brings in a few sounds that are on the fringes--though definitely from within the jazz fusion world. When the church organ begins mounting its ascending attack and the bass, drums, and bank of multiple vocals join in, we are in the realm of the gods--Prog Valhalla! Reverse-engineered guitar solos and then fades while the organ continues its slow, repetitive climb toward heaven. I think we've made it! Pure brilliance--from start to finish! Arnaud's finest hour! (44/45)

2. "Dynamogeny" (11:50) take an early Pink Floyd journey into psychedelia and throw in a little Procul Harum like-organ in the beginning and some upbeat 1940s (or -60s!) Eurojazz-pop, but then give it a metronomic yet-soulful Can-like penetrating Krautrock beat and you've got "Dynamogeny." What a trip! What a creative genius! (23/25)

Total Time 34:04

Those of you who have not give this master chameleon a chance, you are really missing out. There is true, rare genius happening here!

95.71 on the Fishscales = A/five stars; a true masterpiece of eclectic or crossover progressive rock music from the 21st Century's master synthesizer of our favorite sounds from the past. Congratulations, Arnaud! You've truly outdone yourself! A truly astonishing display of composition and realization! 

The best album I've heard of 2020 (so far)!





2. WESERBERGLAND Am Ende der Welt

The vastly creative mind of Ketil Vestrum Einarsen and collaborators Matthias Olsson and Jacob Holm-Lupo are at it again. While their previous effort, 2017's masterful "update" of the Krautrock musical scene, Sehr Kosmiche, Ganz Progisch, this one is far more futuristic--employing extreme computer processing techniques in both the treatment and recording of the instrumental sounds captured here but also in the final rendering of said sound. While the album does have some similarities to Sehr Kosmiche, Ganz Progisch, but is definitely its own beast. The composition is intended to be singular but due to the limitations imposed by Bandcamp has been renderd into two "separate" entities. The music is, to my ears, some kind of modern classical music à la Karlheinz Stockhausen. If one has the opportunity to hear Jacob Holm-Lupo's "binaural" rendering of the music, you will definitely feel the distinctive "classical" component parts and musical styles being here "modernized"; the other version gives more of the impression of a linear assault on the brain. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Ketil Vestrum Einarsen / computer
- Jørgen Mathisen / saxophone harmonics 
- Gaute Storsve / guitar 
- Jan Terje Augestad / treated piano 
- Maria Grigoryeva / strings 
- Molesome (Mattias Olsson) / turntables 

1. "Am Ende Der Welt" (Side A) (24:18) The way this starts--with a kind of experiment in modern recording techniques and wave-treatment effects of strings, horns, electric guitar, and piano, I thought I was in for something like a GODSPEED /YOU! BLACK EMPEROR song, but then the computer drum beats and other glitch noises begin. This is not the same music as that produced for the band's heavy-into-Krautrock 2017 debut album. It turns very experimental--a kind of cross between the primal "tribal" music of Yoshimi P-We and some the most "out there" music of Markus Pajakkala--all accompanied by the steady strings of the Kronos Quartet! The odd thing is, I really like this! Especially the Steve Reichian third, chamber first and fourth motifs and the drawn-out drone and experimental glitch dulcimer middle. Int he fifteenth minute, the cacophony of earlier sounds and layers climbs back into the soundscape, taking over with the insistence of a race car cruising through open country vistas. After the stark sparseness of that middle section, the return of craziness almost feels comforting, "normal" which I find very interesting; being a nature lover and city-hater, this is not what I would have expected my reaction to be. The scale back to the third Steve Reichian motif in the twentieth minute is equally fascinating for my bodymind's reaction to it: as if there are essential melodies being woven together here. I am blown away! What a ride! And now, after my third "trip" through "Side A" I think I'm in love! I am Pan, primal goat-man, looking for a place to sow my seed. Any place! Please! It's all so beautiful! (48/50)

2. "Am Ende Der Welt" (Side B) (18:20) And the party continues! (Apparently this was recorded as a single song that had to be split into two due to Bandcamp's restrictions.) This half opens with sustained horns and piano hits behind "alien radio static." Very cool. For some reason I'm reminded of the evocative warmth of MARK ISHAM soundtrack music being used for some moving like Contact. At 2:18 heavily-treated computer drums enter--adding more to the "alien" feeling than to the human emotional side. The droning horns and strings try to drown out the drums as a syncopated bass note (coming from the treated piano) becomes equally insistent. In the eighth minute the horns drop back revealing layers of electric guitar and synth that were playing there all along, hidden beneath the scream-squeal-and-bark cacophony going on up front. It's unnerving, it's beautiful; unsettling and calming all at once, depending on your "distance"--and it goes on for 12 minutes before showing any signs of letting up! At times I'm thinking I'm in the Scottish highlands, at others hearing a mother's lullaby, and others the vicious sounds of a pack of wolves in pursuit of and ripping apart their prey. Amazing!
     As it does let up in the 14th minute--various instrument tracks being removed or whatever--it becomes monomaniacal in an Ornette Coleman kind of way. Hard to believe that crazed sax was there the whole time!
     I think it genius--though I'm not sure I'd ever play this for easy listening background music. (38
/40)

Total Time 42:38

Now this is progressive rock! Ketil & Co. have definitely used all the tools to take there sound experiments into seldom-traveled territories. Bravo! Kudos! This won't be everyone's cup of tea, but you have to respect the vision and cajones it took to see this through from conception to release! I'm not sure which I prefer, the "standard" rendering that I first heard (three times) or the more humanely dissected soundstage of the "binaural" version. Both are worth the time for the different experiences. Compare and tell me which you prefer and why!

95.55 = on the Fishscales = A/five stars. While I think this album release a masterpiece of truly progressive rock music, I extend this precautionary warning: THIS MUSIC IS NOT FOR THE WIMPY, LIGHT--OF-HEART, OR GUTLESS; it will take curiosity, patience, courage, and ann open-mind in order to appreciate this is not you, then I recommend staying far away. If you are at all curious about Ketil's intentions when creating this album, check out the excellent interview with him by Sander Roscoe Wolff at positive-feedback.com, Issue 104, August 14, 2019.




3. PENDRAGON Love over Fear

I have been really enjoying this album. Nick Barrett's songwriting is masterful--he knows how to write music that truly pleases the soul. His lyrics are also quite engaging, nostalgic, and even inspiring. And he may just be the pre-eminent guitar soloist of the latter half of the Progressive Rock era: like his predecessor in that spot, Dave Gilmour, his solos rarely fail to evoke astonishment, goosebumps, and/or blissful elation. They do here and they really have always done so. We are so fortunate for the talents of this supremely gifted musician. 
     One of the things that makes this album so enjoyable is the variety of song styles, the heart-centered place from which his lyrics and music seems to arise, the wonderful sound palette and sonic landscapes created herein, and what feels like perhaps the best array of truly astonishing vocal performances I've ever heard from Mr. Barrett--and this from a vocalist that I really never considered a "master" of that instrument.
     As it feels as if people have become tired of the song-by-song narration routine, I will eschew from said process. Suffice it to say that I feel that there are three perfect songs: 5."Soul and the Sea," 7. "Water," and 8. "Whirlwind";

four other masterpieces in 3. "Truth and Lies," 6. "Eternal Light," 9. "Who Really Are We?" and 10. "Afraid of Everything";

three very good songs in 1. "Everything," 2. "Starfish and the Moon," and 4. "360 Degrees";

and no songs worth skipping.

93.44 on the Fishscales = A/five stars; a full blown masterpiece of progressive rock music--no small feat these 40 years after their formation. Would that other bands continually be able to not only reinvent but improve upon their back catalogue. Time after time, Pendragon have consistently been able to do this. Amazing.



The "Minor" Masterpieces
(Ratings of 93.33 to 90.0)



4. THE RETICENT The Oubliette

Working with the very important element of a very talented Maynard James Keenan clone for vocalist, the experimental metal music here draws from influences and styles far more widely varied than TOOL have ever aspired to. The musicianship is top notch; the "band"'s collaborative tightness incredibly well synchronized, with musical dynamics often shifting all over the place, heavy to soft, complex to austere, but not so chaotically as to wear on the listener. In fact, it all makes total sense in the context of the album's theme:  "an emotional journey into the 7 stages of Alzheimer's Disease."

Line-up / Musicians:
Chris Hathcock - drums, percussion, bass, rhtyhm guitar, vocals
With:
James Nelson - guitar leads on 1, 3
Andrew Lovett - tenor sax on 2
Steven Wynn (Undrask) - addtional guttural vocals on 5
Amanda Caines - female vocals on 6, 7; voice acting on 2, 4, 5
Rei Haycraft - voice acting on 2, 4, 5, 7
Juston Green - voice acting on 2, 4, 5, 7 
Jordan High School Wind Ensemble - winds on 5, 7

1. "Stage 1: His Name is Henry" (9:46) with such a beautiful vocal opening, it's hard to believe this is going to be a metal album. The Maynard James Keenan similarities are quite pronounced in the forms used in the third minute alone. Very cool switch into melodic latin jazz at 3:30 is soon followed by austere piano-and-voice interlude. then we're back into the heavy prog. Great drumming! Great guitar and bass play. This guy can really do it all!  (18.25/20)

2. "Stage 2: The Captive" (6:00) solid metal music with 100% MJK vocal stylings within the first 90 seconds turning to death metal growls. Slowdown and saxophone solo over finger-picked electric guitar in third minute followed by stark piano and vocal. What an amazing voice! Great shift back to metal palette near the four-minute mark. Don't know why but I'm hearing some sounds and stylings familiar to me from the 1980s metal bands--Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Poison, Queensryche or someone. Then mixed with more Latin-like sounds & rhythms for the finale. (9.25/10)

3. "Stage 3: The Palliative Breath" (7:13) opens with Henry's daughter greeting a cheerful Henry but, sadly, not knowing who she is before the music begins. It's gently paced and beautifully set up with bass, and gently-picked electric guitar while Chris sings. By the fourth minute we've shifted gears a couple times and moved into the heavier stuff, but never full metal--this is more melodic like Def Leppard or modern atmospheric metal masters Karnivool. Great lyrics--especially in the chorus sections--with nice multi-voiced harmonic vocals. Beautiful song. Really captures the mood of Henry's unwitting, insidious mental retreat. (14/15)

4. "Stage 4: The Dream" (11:47) multiple elegant electric guitar lines follow the opening passage from an interview with a young British-accented family member of an Alzheimer's patient. When Chris' voice enters its with a dreamy, heavily-treated plaintive vocal. At 2:17 the full band kicks in as multiple voices sing a bank of vocalise "ahh"s. Such dignity in this music; it's truly astonishing. Then, at 4:45, we take a drastic turn down another street--this one an instrumental section that is based on staccato instrumental play and near-Latin odd-tempoed rhythms--but it's over within a minute--replaced by a synth-dreamy sequence with an angelic female vocalist urging Henry to "come with me." In the eighth minute, then we balloon out into full metal--though quite smooth and melodic (KARNIVOOL-like) soundscapes--while the emotional MJK voice performs his magic. Those sections of gorgeous multi-voiced background vocalise are so effective! And I LOVE how the vocals are dialoguing about Henry's destiny. What a composition! I am a mess--an absolute ball of tears! One of the most powerful songs of 2020! (24/25)

5. "Stage 5: The Nightmare" (12:14) pure aggression, as expressed through an early Maudlin of the Well-like death metal style that is later enhanced by "orchestra." At the 2:30 mark we burst out of the chamber lull with some full force prog metal. Quite theatric music (with full support of "orchestra") with a very powerful vocal performance à la Ian Kenny. At the five-minute mark we return to more aggressive death metal stylings as the vocals turn to growls, but then we return to Ian Kenny-like smoothness at 6:00. Great music with an awesome, albeit brief, lead guitar solo. Then the eighth minute gets really weird as multiple styles and tempos get mixed together as the chaos inside Henry grows. At 8:50 we return to the great themes of the seventh minute. I love this music--especially the multiple guitar and vocal work! Incredible!
     I have to admit, the music--and the odd and unexpected interludes--is so fitting for this (sad and horrific) stage of Alzheimer's. And sadly, "There is no way out." (23.25/25)

6. "Stage 6: The Oubliette" (10:38) "locked inside himself" and "wanting it to be totally over as quickly as possible." I can relate. With some eerie but so effective music to perfectly capture the goings-on both inside and outside the Alzheimer's patient at this advanced stage. With this music, I am strongly brought back to the powerful feelings of disorientation and isolation that Gabriel Lucas Riccio's 2013 album, Interior City provoke in me. (17.75/20)

7. "Stage 7: ___________" (6:10) over the sound of the pings and beeps of a fully-engaged hospital bed play the gorgeous and sad orchestral music with occasional vocal offerings sounding like a soloist from a boy's choir give three minutes of cinematic "closure" as Henry's huan life comes to an end. James Newton, John Williams, or John Barry couldn't have done it better. Sheer perfection--totally capturing all of the emotions of that event. This is then followed by a rain-soaked speech with regards of the future impact of this "dreaded disease"--numbers and statistics rendered in an echoed voice that sounds like Steven Spielberg (while I know that it's not). (10/10)

Total time: 65:48

Though musically this may not be offering much that is breathtakingly new or boundary-pushing, it is amazingly successful in its support of the original concept "an emotional journey into the 7 stages of Alzheimer's Disease." This is by my reckoning an album deserving of all the accolades and superlatives one might hear and certainly the best heavy prog/prog metal album I've heard from 2020 and the most refreshing musical rendering of a concept since The Gabriel Construct's 2013 masterpiece, Interior City (which this reminds me of) or Tune's 2011 release, Lucid Moments

93.20 on the Fishscales = A/five stars; a masterpiece of human expression and a truly worthy and amazing addition to any prog lover's music collection. Folks: This is what prog, music, and art are all about! 




5. JARDON The Fading Thought

Another new band from Greece which guitarist extraordinaire Nikitas Kissonas adds his support. (I have to admit, that alone got me excited enough to check this album out.)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Jargon / vocals, keyboards, piano
- Nikitas Kissonas / guitars
- Leonidas Petropoulos / bass
- Wil Bow / drums
- Kostas Karitzis / violin
- Stelios Papanastasis / viola
- Thodoris Mouzakitis / violin
- Aris Zervas / cello
- Lupe / additional vocals (7)

1. "The Film" (5:33) opens with beautiful grand piano playing in a soft, warm, romantic classical style. In the second minute Jargon's piano is joined by strings--most prominently a viola--and in the third minute cello. An absolutely gorgeous chamber song. At the 3:00 mark there is a slight shift as piano works back into the lead while high-register long-sustained violin notes provide the accompaniment until 3:57 when the rest of the strings joins in to create an absolutely stunning harmonic weave. Wow! What am I in for?! (10/10)

2. "In Search of the Invisible Thin Line" (4:53) piano and strings punctuated by rock band instruments to create a dramatic weave over which Jargon sings in a plaintive though restrained tenor. (I say "restrained" because I can tell he has much more power in reserves--which he begins to hint more at in the chorus.) After the second verse and chorus an instrumental passage ensues that is quite theatric in its arrangement and use of frequent punctuated "bridges" threaded within the otherwise smooth flow of the chamber composition. Such a refined composition! It's only shortfall is in the fact that Jargon never really lets go to reveal the full power of his voice (and, I must admit, the lack of any "breakout" moments for guitarist Nikitas Kissonas). (9/10)

3. "Dance of the Framed Words" (2:38) Theatric-cabaret-like instrumental dance interlude with some nice guitar fire in the second minute and beyond. Nikitas goes from from raunchy, slash style to screaming infinity guitar and then frantic Robert Fripp all in two minutes! (4.5/5)

4. "The Fading Thought" (7:17) There's a bit of QUEEN/LUCIFER'S FRIEND in the sound and stylings within this one before it goes to an instrumental section at 1:20. Nice guitar over the brooding piano-jazz foundation. When vocals return it's a powerful MATTHEW PARMENTER-like performance (especially in the choruses) over some very DISCIPLINE-like music. This is remarkable! One of the best songs I'ver heard from 2020! (14.75/15)

5. "Light" (3:54) piano and strings in a more uptempo chamber arrangement. Beautiful! (8.75/10)

6. "Time Is Running Out" (6:54) a classic art rock song base that sounds as if it comes from both 1970s QUEEN and PETER HAMMILL with several strong hints of BURT BACHARACH's orchestral charts. Jargon feels as if he's losing his momentum in the sixth minute but is saved by the instrumental finish. (13.75/15)

7. "How Can I?" (6:22) a more JOHN TOUT/RENAISSANCE-like classical bombast opening (with a "Mother Russia"-like chord base), pulls away for the entrance of Jargon's whispered vocal. In very short order, the song bursts forth into a heavy, more DISCIPLINE-like palette and feel as both Jargon and Nikitas let loose with impassioned vocals and emotional lead guitar performances, respectively. A quiet interlude in the fifth minute allows for some ominous That Joe Payne-like vocal theatrics (demonic laughing) and music before we break back into the full-scale sonic barrage for the finale. Wow! That went by so fast! Very powerful!
     During the third and fourth listens I was able to really appreciate all that the strings brings to support the power and emotion of this song. Astonishing! All that progressive rock music should aspire to. (9.5/10)

8. "The Last Temptation" (7:10) more beautiful cooperation between piano and strings opens this before giving way to a piano-only-supported low register vocal entrance. The second verse brings in the strings and while Jargon doubles his voice to sound like the lead vocalist from either PHIL LYNOTT (THIN LIZZY) or the 1980s band LOVERBOY. The choruses only reconfirm Jargon's Matthew Parmenter connection. The middle section surprises me a little with its continued repetition of the previous sections, but the choruses continue to help me avoid getting bored.
     At the 5:00 mark there is a pause and then launch into a very DISCIPLINE-like emphatic chorus. Then the song smooths out into a kind of traditional rock jam-outro with slow fade and rather sudden cut into the album's final song. (13.25/15)

9. "Window to the World" (4:54) probably my least favorite song on the album as it pounds its music and impassioned message of personal philosophy into my brain with little or no let up or mercy. (8.5/10)

Total Time 49:35

Wonderfully dramatic song constructs exploring the best combinations and permutations of classical piano and string quartet with bombastic prog rock instruments and styles. Though Discipline and Peter Hammill come to mind often, the music here stands amazingly well on its own--holds no debts or allegiances to anyone else. Plus, there is also an oft-present artistic flair more akin to Freddy Mercury and Queen.  

92.0 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of masterfully constructed progressive rock music--one of the best albums you'll hear from 2020! Jargon and his team are a revelation--they're genius!  




6. MAGICK BROTHER & MYSTIC SISTER Magick Brother & Mystic Sister

Delightful retro psychedelic funk bordering on Egg, Khan, and Caravan Canterbury Style music from this Spanish quartet. Bassist Xavi Sandoval sets up some very nice grooves for listeners to get hooked into while Eva Muntada's Burt Bacharach- and Northettes-like vocals an Maya Fernández's flutes lend their ethereal magic as well.

Line-up / Musicians: 
Eva Muntada: piano, synthesizers, organ, mellotron & vocals
Xavi Sandoval: bass & guitars
Marc Tena: drums & vocals
Maya Fernández: flute

1. "Utopia" (4:56) opens like SOFT MACHINE's "Slightly All the Time" before going its own direction with Eva's lovely vocalise tracks and Maya's swallow-like flute. I'm in heaven! At 2:25 the song switches gears as it moves into CARAVAN territory to support some awesome synth and fuzz-organ work. The final minute sees us being carried off into the floating world of GONG guitars. Wow! What a trip into yesteryear! Amazing song! (9.5/10)

2. "Waterforms" (4:06) opens with a funkiness that could come from a 1970s Black Exploitation film! Isaac, Curtis, or Marvin! Amazing! Drive that Caddy with that Detroit lean! When Eva's voice penetrates my consciousness, my bubble is burst and I am back in Europe--though with a definite 1970s-feeling 21st Century West Coast Psychedelic Funk (a la BRIAN ELLIS and STARVING DAUGHTERS). (9.25/10)

3. "The First Light" (2:24) early PINK FLOYD psychedelia. A little too imitative. (4.25/5)

4. "Yogi Tea" (5:16) like a Burt Bacharach lounge funk psychedelia! Great keys, bass, and flute interplay with perfect jazzy drum support. I love Marc's voice--and vocal! He sounds like a god! (Or like KHAN's Nick Greenwood!) West Coast Psychedelic Funk at its finest! One of my favorite songs of the year! (9.5/10)

5. "Arroyo del búho" (4:49) almost a Ravel/Satie/or Gordon Brothers flute & piano duet. (8.75/10)

6. "Echoes From The Clouds" (4:07) another song that brings back so many flower power melodies of the late 60s and early 1970s--from Sergio Mendez's Brazil '66 to Caravan and "MacArthur's Park." Great flute and bass play. (9/10)

7. "Movement 2" (2:39) except for the flutes, this could be straight from a BRIAN ELLIS album! Awesome three-part James Bond/Austin Powers-like film soundtrack. Great presence from the congas. Excellent flute play. (5/5)

8. "Love Scene" (3:32) another perfect soundtrack imitation from late 1960s/early 1970s psychedelic filmdom. Awesome Hammond work, Eva! (9/10)

9. "Instructions For Judgment Visions" (4:33) hippy flute folkpsych with GONG-like narration. (Or is it Eric Burden's WAR's "Spill That Wine"?) (8.75/10)

10. "Les Vampires" (6:40) Burt Bacharach-Brian Auger collaboration for a soundtrack to a B-movie horror flick? (9.25/10)

Total Time 43:02

91.39 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of retro-psychedelic prog. So wonderful to hear this gorgeous funk!




7. ONCE AND FUTURE BAND Deleted Scenes

A Crossover band that sounds like a cross between SANGUINE HUM, CHEER-ACCIDENT, THE CRUSADERS, STEELY DAN, TAME IMPALA, THE BEATLES, HARRY NILSSON, BEACH BOYS, and JANE'S ADDICTION. You may even hear some 10CC/GODLEY & CREME in here.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Joel Robinow / lead vocals, keyboards
- Raj Ojha / drums, recording engineer
- Raze Regal / guitars
- Eli Eckert / bass, backing vocals
- Danny T. Levin / horns, horn arrangements
- David Moyer / horns

1. "Andromeda" (4:06) JOHN LENNON and HARRY NILSSON both come to mind as I listen to this sophisticated/quirky pop song. Nice classic 1970s wind up and spit out in the final minute. (8.75/10)

2. "Automatic Air" (4:12) a beautiful, almost floating listening experience. (9.5/10) 

3. "Problem Addict" (5:03) another gorgeous song that reminds me of SANGUINE HUM only far more engaging and enjoyable. There's a little Tame Impala here, as well. (9.5/10)

4. "Several Bullets in My Head" (4:16) an upbeat instrumental sounding as if it came from some pop-jazz artist of the 1970s like Hubert Laws, The Crusaders/Joe Sample, or Steely Dan. I LOVE me some Fender Rhodes! (9/10)

5. "Freaks" (2:16) THE BEATLES/HARRY NILSSON and CHEER-ACCIDENT. (4.25/5)

6. "Mr. G" (3:25) a pure STEELY DAN opening. Turns more modern cheer-pop before going jazz pop at 1:40. (8.75/10)

7. "Deleted Scenes" (4:35) again a jazzed up SANGUINE HUM or CHEER-ACCIDENT comes to mind as I listen to funked up STEELY DAN-like songs these. (8.75/10)

8. "Airplane" (3:57) orientalized Ry Cooder-like acoustic sound palette backs Joel's confident lounge singing performance. At 2:00 things move into psychedelic pop realm reminding me of Robert James' WEST INDIAN GIRL or JANE'S ADDICTION/PORNO FOR PYROS. Interesting and beautiful but feels incomplete--like a snapshot: it leaves me wanting to know more. (8.75/10)

9. "The End and the Beginning" (9:06) dynamic and melodic, even cinematic, instrumental. Love the drumming and the DD Horns. Great theme/riffs after the slow down in the seventh minute. (18.75/20)

Total Length: 40:58

While lead vocalist Joel Robinow has a very pleasant, engaging voice (much more so than the lead vocalist of the band I most often compare them to, SANGUINE HUM's Joff Winks), and bass player Eli Eckert is often grabbing my attention, drummer Raj Ojha is for me the star of the show: he is quite the clever chameleon with this styles and techniques. Props to Joel for his keyboard mastery, as well.

91.32 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of crossover jazzy-pop music. I beg to wonder if every prog lover would enjoy adding this to their music collection, but I highly recommend that you check them out. On Bandcamp! 




8. BATTLESTATIONS Inform

A wonderful surprise from Belgium:  Battlestations is not kaput! The band reincarnates to produce this Post Rock charmer.
 
1. "Silencer" (7:48) surprising Berlin School sequencing and lush strings "orchestration" over the first half is then replaced by a more industrial groove for the final three minutes. With Battlestation's usual heart-wrenching chord progressions . . . the "strings" and synth washes in the background are incredible. (13.75/15)

2. "Steeper Angles" (5:35is like an industrial ambient wash of Brian Eno's "and Julie with"--but then it goes all Blade Runner! Awesome! (9/10)

3. "Carbon" (5:10) sounds as if the first half of Genesis's song "Duchess" had been taken through a meat grinder and turned inside out--and then, in the second half of the song, it turns Gymnopedienne (+ meat grinder). Beautiful! (9.5/10)

4. "Relapse" (6:46) is a kind of play or variation on one of the beautiful motifs from Vixit. Considering its source material, this can never be a bad idea. (13/15)

5. "Wavering" (6:26) opens with an introductory section of more futuristic, Vangelis-like, industrial sounds (non-percussive). After the 90-second mark, this switches to a steadily-driving juggernaut of multiple threads woven together gorgeously. At the end of the fourth minute a harp-like arpeggio joins in just before a powerful trip-hoppy drum program takes us into outer space. Awesome keyboard work on all layers here. Song ends with central chord progression of synth washes slowly fading out. Excellent! Maybe my favorite song on this album. (10/10)

6. "L'abîme" (6:08) opens with a lot of "pond water"--music that sets up a mood, maybe an image, but doesn't seem to be going anywhere. (How does one do this?) It's not until the 2:30 mark that the camera begins a slow walk through the park. It's beautiful--even if my fever and dizziness is making everything shimmery and unsteady. "If you listen for long enough, you don't know whether what you're hearing is silence, or whether there's some kind of underlying sound, in the distance..." speaks the garbled gravelly voice as the song nears its end. The abysm. (8.5/10)

91.07 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of ambient Post Rock progressive rock music. 




9. THE LIGHT IN THE OCEAN The Pseudo-Scientific Study of Oceanic Neo-Cryptid Zoology

Oh man-oh man have you prog lovers got to hear this! Brilliant music with drop-dead gorgeous yet heavily-experimentally-treated sounds doing a kind of tongue-in-cheek sci-fi soundtrack.

Line-up / Musicians: 
Jared Emery
Jacob Ewert
With
Stephen Decker - violin (8)
Chris Frankhauser - harmonies (6, 8)
Michelle Zeto - voice (2)
Rusty Detty - voice (2)

1. "33-55-77" (3:49) opens with an awesome sound palette before kicking into structured heavy-rock voice-support. I'm reminded of both THE MERCURY TREE and MAUDLIN OF THE WELL. Another shift at 2:31 into MoTW with delicate microtonals. Dynamic, pitch-shifting electric guitar solo ensues over the top till end. Awesome start! (9.5/10)

2. "Beat Thief" (6:42) another great opening! Man these guys can play! Then sci-fi/spy dialogue between female and male agents over the top of some nicely woven support music. In the third minute the weave explores more of the treated piano capacities before everything slows down and "gets pretty." Interesting and very engaging spacious chord play between guitars, piano, bass, and drums ensues as the weave slowly rebuilds and picks up speed and momentum. I love this music! I'm sold! (9.5/10)

3. "Coffee Stains" (3:31) drums (hi-hat cymbal play) and deeply thrumming bass chords open this before guitars and voice join in. Not the greatest voice (or mix of the vocal track), but great atmospheric music. The bass replicating the main melody is killer! (9/10)

4. "HM&MLPHBWA" (3:01) almost too pretty of an opening for heavy or eclectic prog, the doubled up vocals are interesting. There's a cool UNAKA PRONG feel and sound here. Doubled up aggressive microtonal guitars (two tracks delivered to the two sides of my headphones) are cool. Then back the dreamy stuff for the end. (8.75/10)

5. "Biehn's Theme" (3:03) starts out rather standard modern metal fare but then adds a few interesting sounds and twists. (8.5/10)

6. "Memories Intact" (4:10) nice atmospheric sound palette for a fast-paced song. Then cover it with melodic, almost-poppy vocals and you have some nice ear candy. Bands like FROST*, INDUKTI, and KINO come to mind. (9/10)

7. "Sentimental Astronaut" (3:56) more great guitar chords/arpeggi with synth washes and deep-thrum bass notes and chords opens this one. Sounds a lot like PLINI, PAUL SPEER or MAUDLIN OF THE WELL. A very cool, engaging theme that is, in my opinion, only partially developed. (8.75/10)

8. "Hamilton Big Boys" (10:40) opens with a piano, violin and choral voice fabric while interesting DAIMON WAITKUS-like vocal sings over the top. At 2:10 things slow down and jazz-up a bit in a long bridge to a more electronic recapitulation of the main themes. Electric guitar and violin now compete for the melody carrier with the piano. At 4:33 there is a major shift into more PREFAB SPROUT territory--until the power chords and screaming metal vocals enter, that is. Cool instrumental passage in the sixth minute in support of the soloing violin, but then things amp back up again at the seven-minute mark for the strong PINK FAIRIES-like chorus. At 8:10 we come down again to a variation on the opening theme with arpeggios coming from picked guitar instead of piano while lead electric guitar wails away in the background. This last for the rest of the song as the music slowly fades over the final minute. Great song! (18.75/20)

Total Time 38:52

A very impressive album that captures some totally fresh sounds and variations on older styles. Definitely one to check out for yourselves--and a band (duo) that I'm going to keep an eye on! Kudos, Jared and Jacob! You've got a winning approach! I hope you can keep it going!

90.83 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of eclectic and innovative progressive rock music. 




10. UBI MAIOR Bestie, Uomini, e Dèi

The fourth album release from Italian band Ubi Maior since 2004, Bestie, Uomini e Dèi shows some very adept compositional and performance skills--which results in the best RPI album I've yet heard from 2020. As with the subject selections for each song, the compositions are varied and distinctive--rendered especially so by the astonishingly chameleonic range and creativity of singer Mario Moi. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Mario Moi / vocals, violin, trumpet
- Gabriele Manzini / keyboards, flute
- Marcella Arganese / electric & acoustic guitars
- Gianmaria Giardino / bass
- Alessandro di Caprio / drums

1. "Nero Notte" (6:12) great guitar and bass opening, then Neo Prog drums and keys enter to help establish the structural and melodic base before singer Mario Moi enters. Mario's voice is strong though a little warbly. Also, he sings this one with a kind of single note approach. The solid instrumental section that follows the opening vocal section begins with some nice violin before giving way to electric rock guitar. With the vocals I'm reminded of contemporary bands Syndone, Egonon, and La Maschera di Cena. (8.5/10)  

2. "Misteri di Tessaglia" (7:33) very straightforward gentle ballad format that uses an ascending four-chord progression for the first section. At 2:30 things stop and restart with a heavier, more proggy palette for an instrumental section of guitar, violin, and synth taking turns over a kind of JC Superstar theme. When the vocals return the song stays heavy and full-on prog. Now this is more like it! Great finish! (13.5/15)

3. "Wendigo" (7:54) Drums get us started before spacey-guitar, keys and bass join in. FRANCESCO CIAPICA-sounding voice enters to sing. Great instrumental sections in between vocal verses. Interesting slowed down but powerful, marching URIAH HEEP-like section begins at 4:10 but then switches into an odd time signature at 5:25 to sound more GENESIS-like. Mario's performance is quite animated and powerful despite few pitchy moments. Piano becomes more prominent over drums, bass, and synth washes at 7:00, eventually taking over for a solo finish. Great song! (14/15) 

4. "Nessie" (8:50) an instrumental kind of swings like a heavy INGRANAGGI DELLA VALLE song with strong organ foundation. At 1:52 a slower, more sensitive pastiche is laid for jazz and rock guitar soli. Trumpet joins in the solo celebration but with a consistent melody that makes it more part of the foundational weave. Fiery Hammond organ solo in the fifth minute before the electric violin takes a turn. Very nice, with each and every change and section feeling engaging and interesting. Electric guitars and various synths take turns exchanging war-like soli over the course of the next four minutes culminating in a guitar finish (and victory?). (18.5/20)

5. "Fabula Sirenis" (5:22) opens very smoothly with a slow full band fabric over which Mario sings with a beautifully sensitive vocal. At 1:25 the tempo picks up and a kind of GENESIS-like section transitions us to the 1:55 full-force drama for about 30 seconds before returning to the GENESIS motif for another vocal section. There is a similarity of this music and vocal performance to some of the early impassioned songs of LA COSCIENZA DI ZENO. Very well constructed and performed song. (9.25/10) 

6. "Bestie, Uomini E Dèi" (9:42) another heavy DEEP PURPLE-like organ-based thumping rocker over which Mario's more vulnerable, warbly voice sings. This one falls below the standards now set by the previous four songs as it is a little too simple and straightforward for the first three minutes. Even when the pace quickens, the even-beat ascending four chord progression is tiresome. Nice entry of church organ at 3:59 to support a creative electric guitar solo. A quiet acoustic guitar-supported section in the sixth minute falls a little flat--both musically and vocally--until the piano joins in, then Mario's vocalise gets interesting and emotionally powerful. Switch to slow, piano based bluesy PINK FLOYD section at the eight minute mark (made PF-ish for its Gilmour-like slide guitar soloing). Pretty.  (17.75/20)

Total Time 45:33

An album that upon first listen I had trouble connecting with, began to grow and grow on me with repeated listens. The compositional acumen of these guys is superb--as is their sense of melody. Skill levels are quite good all around (especially with the keyboard player) and very creative and refreshingly original, though I still room to grow. Now I have to go back and catch up on the band's previous three albums! 

90.55 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of progressive rock music of the RPI kind and my favorite RPI album of 2020!




11. MARJANA SEMKINA Sleepwalking

Beautiful vocal renderings of deeply personal and emotional songs--that's what we've come to expect from singer-songwriter Marjana Semkina--who is probably better known as the singer-front person of highly acclaimed folk/neoclassical prog band, IAMTHEMORNING--and that is exactly what we get with this album. Working with long-time iamthemorning collaborator, Vlad Avy, Marjana is also here supported, on her first solo album release, by the likes of pianist/multi-instrumentalist Grigoriy Losenkov, Nick Beggs, Craig Blundell, Jordan Rudess, and the strings ensemble from the St. Petersburg Orchestra "1703" while being produced by Avy, Losenkov, and Marjana, herself.

1. "Dark Matter" (3:15) (8.75/10)

2. "Am I Sleeping or Am I Dead" (4:27) (9.5/10)

3. "Turn Back Time" (4:08) opens with a weave of electric guitar and 12-string (or what? Celtic harp?) guitar arpeggi before bombastic entry of rock, acoustic, and orchestral instruments set up a powerful soundscape over which Marjana then sings. For my own tastes, I think Marjana's vocals could have been mixed slightly more forward or with slightly less compression and reverb, but that's just me. I want to hear the chanteuse! Otherwise, great song! (8.75/10)

4. "Ars Longa Vita Brevis" (3:02) beautifully presented picked acoustic guitars over which Marjana sings in a pitch perfect voice. Full chamber strings section joins in at the end of the first minute. 
Amazing work from the compositional perspective and Marjana's vocal performance and lyrical content are equal to the task. A top three song for me. (10/10)

5. "Invisible" (3:10) Marjana with computer glitch-electronica?! It could work! The edginess is interesting and quite effective. (8.75/10)

6. "Lost at Sea" (5:02) folk-like acoustic guitars woven with Marjana's voice. Man does this work! MARJANA: You need to be a folk singer! or at least sing in more folk/acoustic guitar songs. This is my favorite song on the album. This song and its performance brings me back to some of the great folk vocalists of the 1960s and 1970s. Wonderful! Maybe the best things I've heard since the "I Came Before the Water" pillars on Lighthouse. (10/10)

7. "Skin" (4:56) more great orchestra-accompanied music that Marjana's voice is mysteriously misfit--despite a beautiful and melodically engaging vocal performance. The two just don't match. (The effects and mix given to her voice don't fit the pristine chamber music.) Despite all this, it is still a powerful song. (9/10)

8. "How to Be Alone" (2:52) excellent theatric music over which Marjana's vocal seems to not fit.(8/10)

9. "Everything Burns" (3:18) orchestral introduction before ominous jazzy drums and strings launch the song while Marjana adds a bluesy influence over the top with her vocal. Powerful tension and awesome song arrangement. (9/10)

10. "Mermaid Song" (4:35) gorgeous strings arrangement opens this one before disappearing for Marjana's entrance at 0:30 mark. Gently arpeggiated electric piano pattern is her only support until the strings are slowly, gently re-introduced, eventually becoming an integral, immersive component to Marjana's vocal. Brilliant, compositionally! The echo effect on Marjana's vocal in the chorus sections adds a Kate Bush-like quality, which is cool, but, Marjana is not Kate Bush. I don't want Marjana to be a Kate Bush. (9/10)

11. "Still Life" (4:09) opens with a slow piano sounding like Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me" but when Marjana enters we are given clear notice that this is not a copy of that song. Gorgeous mutli-voiced chorus harmonies. Strings present in lush support while pianist Grigoriy Losenkov shows off not inconsiderable his chops. (8.75/10)

90.45 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of gorgeously orchestrated and arranged compositions--heart-felt in the way that we've come to know all Marjana Semkina performances are.





12. DAI KAHT II 

What if SANTANA or THE ALLMAN BROTHERS played Zeuhl?!

Line-up / Musicians:
- Osmo Saarinen / Drums, Percussion, Vocals
- Roope Pelkonen / Keyboards, Effects
- Ville Sirviö / Lead Guitar, Voice, Effects
- Atte Kemppainen / Lead Vocals, Bass, Percussion, Guitar, Keyboards, Drums, Effects
With:
- Tommi Ruotsalainen / Rhythm Guitar, Voice
- Nina Suokko, Ella Kärnä, Samuli Aihos, Henna Naukkarinen, Mari Pääkkönen / Choir

1. "Hanshin" (4:17) a true Zeuhl intro--complete with vocal narration! But then we shift into drive and pick up an ALLMAN BROTHERS feel for the next wild minute. That bass is moving a million miles an hour--and in a Disco cadence! Choir enters over the next ALLMAN BROTHERS section giving it a kind of STYX feel. Heavily effected synth-guitar solos in the fourth minute before we return to the AB motif to finish. (8.75/10)

2. "Dai Korönenn" (7:57) again, what if THE ALLMAN BROTHERS played MAGMA Zeuhl? The band plays very tightly. In the fifth minute, it moves into more of MOTORPSYCHO territory before subtly flowing into KOENJI HYAKKEI. I love the Klaus Blasquiz imitation in the seventh minute! Then it just gets crazy. (13.25/15)

3. "Helvet Sttroï II" (4:31) moving more into true Zeuhl territory, (even using a language very close to Kobaïan), the choir chants here are a little off but still have a very interesting echoed-staccato effect. (Intentional?) At the end of the third minute we move into a more spacious section that kind of lulls you into a safe place before wild, slashing synthesizer notes enter. (9/10)

4. "Willargh" (8:23) opening with a very pretty, slow, and pensive weave, the music gradually builds until at 1:40 we reach the transition point at which we move into a march-like cadence with male group chanting. This is followed by some rather sedate electric guitar riffing before we move back into the march-and-chant section again. After this the rhythm section moves almost into a Rasta beat while the fuzz guitar solos. A little interlude for a bass solo, and then we fly into the full-speed race to the end--with a slight delay and downshift before more ALLMAN BROTHERS influence begins to exert itself. Wow! (18/20)

5. "Zöbehr-Daï" (11:44) MOTORPSYCHO! At the 3:20 mark the guitars go into a kind of "Schindleria Præmaturus" riff while the rhythm section keeps up a jazzy foundation. A party-like cacophony enters during the sixth minute just to spice things up for a bit, but then we settle back into the Fish-like pattern until some voice samples throw everything off again. At 7:15 we shift into some Viking-like macho chanting before the music takes off at a sprint--as if running away from the Vikings. But, no! They're in pursuit, despite the laser shots from the soloing synth in the ninth minute and the loud power chord play from 8:45 to 9:15. A kind of JC Superstar lull precedes the blows of the start of the final battle at 10:00. (If that was a battle) it is quick and decisive as a heavenly choir of angelic voices seems to show the result before the brief high octane celebratory finish. (17.75/20)

6. "Wehr Mahrü" (5:37) captures amazingly well that menacing, frantic feel that underlies everything MAGMA seems to do. The slow build in the fourth minute is amazing! Hammond Organ solo before returning to the out of control pace and feel to finish. It's got me into a frenzy! Wow! What a ride! (10/10)

7. "Möa Orgata" (12:48) the CAMEL/SANTANA school of Zeuhl with the ZA! vocal choir! Awesome! Even throw in a little DICK DALE and ALLMAN BROTHERS sound/feel in the second half! (22.25/25)

8. "Hertz Kömatt" (5:56) crazy and frenzied in a Zappa-Captain Beefheart kind of way--especially the vocals. Wild and theatric. Not unlike the Eastern European-influenced work of HUMBLE GRUMBLE or FARMERS MARKET. (9/10)

Total Time 61:13

90.0 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of upbeat and frenetic guitar-dominant Zeuhl. Great vocal performances and use of choir and chants.




13. JOHN LUDI Mistakes Have Been Made

Hermetic solo artist John Ludi is certainly one of the most talented, chameleonic, unpredictable and yet professional solo acts you're likely to ever hear--and this is one of the most astonishing, unpredictable musical journeys any artist will take you on in a 2020 release.

1. "Kings (The Depopulation Song)" (6:01) pure MATTHEW PARMENTER--dripping with the power and theatricality of the master of DISCIPLINE. (9/10)

2. "The Traveler" (5:36) a hear Bowie, Blue Nile, and something very nearly wholly original. (9/10)

3. "Wind Is the Wind" (5:09) simple acoustic guitar-driven song with an extraordinary DAVID BYRON (URIAH HEEP)-like vocal over the top. I also hear RADIOHEAD and Thom Yorke quite strongly in  the sound and construct.This is quite a powerful performance of passion and raw emotion. In fact, the vocal is so engaging that you barely notice the gradual addition of many layers of other instruments (yet they do finally begin to drown out the vocal). A top three song. (9.25/10)

4. "Everybody Here's Getting Stupider" (4:29) sounds like a 1970s-era Bowie or British Punk Rock song. Or BILLY BRAGG. This is a song about the lyrics, pure and simple. Very entertaining. (8.75/10)

5. "Frozen Souls" (6:24) again, John astonishes with an entirely unique listening experience. While his chameleonic voice might be compared to David Bowie, the music is so fresh--creating such an astonishing, mesmerizing soundscape. I am definitely in awe of John's unique and creative spirit. Amazing song. My favorite on the album. (10/10)

6. "Go Along to Get Along" (4:01) another guitar and vocal-driven song which is best served by paying attention to the lyrics. While the music is fairly straightforward, there is some pretty awesome electric guitar work in the solo spot. Nice background vocals, too. (8.5/10)

7. "Goodbye Catbird (The Environmentalist's Love Song)" (5:24) opening with a very cool psychedelic sound pastiche, the song takes on a very strong ELTON JOHN sound at the time that the vocals enter. Nice calming, sensuous presence of female vocalist "Em Elle" in the background harmonies. Clever background vocal accents to the final word of each of the lines in the verses. Overall, I am reminded of the floaty feeling of KATE BUSH's 2005 album, Aerial. (9/10) 

8. "This Time" (5:39) a fast-paced strummed guitars song that feels part BOWIE, part DYLAN, and part NEW ORDER or BIG AUDIO DYNAMITE. Interesting and engaging--one might say even delightful. (8.75/10)

9. "The Caretaker" (4:18) another floating musical dreamscape within which a beautiful, brilliant lyric is poetically, respectfully sung. This one reminds me of BRIAN ENO-like--even down to the ROBERT FRIPP-like guitar solo in the middle. Very nice. Another top three song for me. (9.25/10)

10. "Whisper in the Wind" (5:09) Acoustic guitar strumming away with bass, 1970s drums, and simply chorused and wah-ed electric guitar over which the songsmith sings another poignant, BOWIE-like lyric. I'm reminded of under-appreciated singer-songwriter GUY MANNING with this one. (9/10)

11. "Weightless Saint" (5:49) another gorgeous, mesmerizing, soothing guitar-based song--this one reminding me of MATT JOHNSON/THE THE or IVA DAVIES/ICEHOUSE. (9/10)

12. "Mistakes Have Been Made" (4:40) yet another totally engrossing lyric over somewhat simplistic music. For some reason, 1980s ICEHOUSE comes to mind again. (Maybe it's the desert visual--common to Australia as is the band). (8.5/10)

13. "Afterlife" (5:11) saving a full-on C &W pastiche for the finale! Interesting choice. (Though Bowie, too, took such turns over the course of his career.) Ride 'em cowboy! Right off into the sunset! (8/10)

The weird thing about the effect that this album has had on me is that I'm so appreciative of all of the messages in the lyrics. Why this is weird is that I AM NOT A LYRICS GUY! And yet, here I am: blown away by the messages and deliveries of this body of artistry. Another extraordinary thing is that it's been a LONG time since I've been so engaged by such simple soundscapes! But this is GREAT music, delivered by a seasoned songwriter--an artist who knows how to maximize the effect of his sound with a minimum of effect or embellishment. The lyrical content of each song seems to lend themselves to a theory that I have in which I surmise that John ordered these songs with very serious attention to an overlying message. I wonder if I'm far off. Also, though self-produced (written, performed, engineered, etc.), the final result is one of impeccable vision and quality.   

90.0 on the Fishscales = A-/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of highly engaging eclectic crossover prog; highly recommended for any lover of very high quality songwriting--an awe-inspiring demonstration of human creativity.




14. HOMUNCULUS RES Andiamo in giro di notte e ci consumiamo nel fuoco

My wife and I just sold our farm (happy/sad). We just returned from two days of cleaning out and driving to storage the family valuables (happy/sad). But then I opened up my computer after a couple days of absence to find that one of my favorite bands of the 21st Century had released its new album--on my mother's 85th birthday (happy/HAPPY). AUTO-BUY! I have to report that the band has (finally) returned to the (full) form of sophisticated Canterbury quirk of their 2011 debut. I am SO HAPPY to be listening to this beautiful yet happy music--especially in these COVID times. Thank you, Dario & company! And thank you to The Universe for releasing this album on my mother's 85 birthday! It will always make this album feel so special--like it was just for me. 

Full, more detailed review in the days to come (as I will, no doubt, be listening to this album non-stop throughout the weekend). The PERFECT SUMMER ALBUM! If you want happy, melodic music to play on your days by the water, I could not think of a better one than this. 

1. "Lucciole per Lanterne" (4.54) Canterbury and Homunculus Res perfection! (9.5/10)
2. "Il Carrozzone" (3:42) (9.75/10)
3. "Buco Nero" (6:44) (8.75/10)
4. "Supermercato" (6:21) (8.75/10)
5. "La Spia" (4:36) (8.75/10)
6. "La Salamandra" (6:25) (9/10)
7. "In Girum" (3:37) sounds more like THE WINSTONS' debut album (and, therefore, MATCHING MOLE/Robert WYATT). (8.5/10)
8. "La Luccicanza" (4:27) (8.75/10)
9. "Tetraktys" (3:33) (8.75/10)
10. "Non Dire No" (3:45) opens as if a teacher/parent singing to (or for) children. When flute supplants vocal it becomes more rich and though still community feeling. Cool, different song. (9.5/10)

The album starts out on a real high with the first two fast-paced joy-fests, but then then tempos settle into the middle inviting the listener to tune in more carefully to hear the clever and quirky nuances that the band throws in. 

90.0 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of progressive rock music and such a refreshing addition to my (so far) rather weak 2020 collection.

P.S. How could ANYONE call this music anything but Canterbury???!!!! This is NOT a RPI band!




15. ANNA VON HAUSSWOLFF All Thoughts 

Instrumental songs performed on church organ that were inspired by a megalithic sculpture park in Bomarzo, Italia, called, "Sacro Bosco," "Parco dei Mostri" or the Gardens of Bomarzo. They were commissioned in the 16th Century by the Italian patron of the arts, Pier Francesco (styled "Vicino") Orsini to commemorate the death of his beloved wife.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Anna von Hausswolff / pipe organ
- Filip Leyman / organ sound design

North German Baroque Organ recorded with mobile equipment from Svenska Grammofon Studion.
Recorded in Örgryte New Church in Gothenburg, January 2020.

1. "Theatre of Nature" (6:00) opens like a conversation between several elementals. As the pattern becomes evident other less ordered, more chaotic sounds and themes are added, until the original rhythm begins to feel overwhelmed by the polyphony and polyrhythmics of all that is going on. It's brilliant! At the same time, when one steps back, one can see and feel the overlying cohesiveness and wholeness of the cacophony. A wonderful interpretation of the macrocosm of Nature. (9.25/10)

2. "Dolore di Orsini" (4:04) contrarily peaceful and soothing while also being deeply disturbing, even horrific. It's simple but very powerful. Anna channeling her inner Art Zoyd. (9/10)

3. "Sacro Bosco" (6:23) pulsing bass pedal play and wind-sweeping noise give it an industrial sound--something that would be fitting for the 1927 Fritz Lang silent movie, Metropolis. Seemingly-incidental notes and flourishes in the treble end eventually turn into full chords, even sustained, in the fifth and sixth minutes. The finish in the final minute is stark and powerful with only the pulsing bass pedal notes before the prolonged sound of decay carries us to the end. (9.5/10)

4. "Persefone" (7:08) breathy Andean-flute-like chords open this sounding quite appropriate for the Queen of the Underworld. Underlying church-processional-like chords join in, slowly adding to the melody, thickening the palette. The occasional addition of single notes effect major and surprising shifts in mood as the slow-building chords change and morph quite unexpectedly, quite spectacularly. 
     This is one of my favorite renderings I've ever heard of the spirit of this Olympian goddess after whom my daughter was named. Anna has managed to capture both the strife and sadness of this captive and yet fill it with the optimism and youthful exuberance that the Goddess of the Spring (and Rebirth) would naturally possess. (14.25/15)

5. "Entering" (2:10) I expect Anna is trying here to capture the flood of diverse emotions that wash over a person entering Count Orsini's garden of grieving. Nice. (4.5/5)

6. "All Thoughts Fly" (12:23) Anna using a minimalist approach á la Steve Reich & Phillip Glass in order to express the impression of the words on the upper lip of the huge Orcus statue in the Sacro Bosco gardens. It just doesn't work with the organ; I feel more muddled than flighty. Fail. Rated up for its effective use as pleasing, inoffensive background music. (19.5/25)

7. "Outside the Gate (for Bruna)" (5:23) gorgeous, emotional. For me, this music symbolizes the craziness that one is confronted with (especially in Y2K20) by the world outside of the Park of Monsters. My favorite song on the album. (10/10)

Total Time 43:31

I found myself thinking a lot of the 1997 ART ZOYD Häxan soundtrack album while listening to this album. The beauty Anna expresses while conveying such tension throughout is truly astonishing.

89.41 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; despite the failed experiment into the world of minimalism of the title song (and album's only epic), I consider this a masterpiece of human creativity--delivered to us by a master of artistic self-expression. 



4.5 Stars; Excellent Additions to Prog World 
(Ratings 89.99 to 86.67)



TOM DONCOURT & MATTIAS OLSSON Tom Doncourt & Mattias Olsson's Cathedral

With the band CATHEDRAL, Tom Doncourt released a single symphonic prog album in the late 1970s that astonishes even to this day. Somehow he and Änglagård founder and candidate for busiest man in Prog, Mattias Olsson, hooked up to try to drag Tom out of retirement and voilà! There is music being produced! And wonderful, boundary-pushing music it is! (Should we expect anything less from M. Olsson?)
Recorded before the 2019 death of CATHEDRAL founder Tome Doncourt, Mattias & Co. saw this one to completion--and boy are we fortunate he did: it's a monster of surprisingly forward-thinking progressive rock music! On of the best releases of 2020!

Line-up / Musicians:
- Tom Doncourt / Mellotron 400, Chamberlin M1, Moog 15 Modular, Hammond organ, grand piano, Yamaha CS-30, Ondéa, Bird organ, Wurlitzer electric piano, Clavioline, Hammond Solovox
- Mattias Olsson / drums, tuned, untuned & detuned percussion, electric guitars, baritone guitars, Wurlitzer electric piano, turntables, speak & read, Vako Orchestron, Optigan, Gizmotron, Chamberlin Rhythmmate
With:
- Hampus Nordgren-Hemlin / electric bass, additional electric & acoustic guitars, Fender VI, Jenco & Schiedmayer celestes, Vako Orchestron, Hohner Bass 2, Hohner Guitaret, Omnichord, Jerry Jones electric sitar
- Akaba / vocals
- Stina Hellberg Agback / harp (7)
- Hanna Ekström / violin & viola (7)
- Anna Dager / cello (7)

1. "Poppy Seeds Intro" (0:59) a cappella voices setting a mood and melody line (4.5/5)

2. "Poppy Seeds" (2:05) picks up the melody and chord progression from the "intro" and translates it into instruments with tuned percussion instruments added to expand and embellish. (4.5/5) 

3. "Chamber" (3:36) guitarish and bellish instruments with massive bass drums, Mellotron, and computer scratches morphs into a bass and guitar-heavy KING CRIMSON/TONY LEVIN-sounding piece at 1:30. Alternates with soft "flute", "harp" and electric guitar section two times. (8.75/10)

4. "#1" (10:38) one of the most effective, perfect prog epics of 2020! Quite a heavy, full, almost Viking sound to it from the opening. Very impressive bass and drum playing with astonishing keyboard sound arrangements. (19/20)

5. "Tower Mews" (2:01) treated piano amid multiple 'tron tacks (flutes, strings, voices). I got shivers! Very Ant Phillips-like. (4.5/5)

6. "Today" (1:24) repeated voice saying "Today I'll go crazy" with a full wall of African rhythms & percussives, flutes, "saw" and more. (4.5/5)

7. "Poppies in a Field" (12:34) keyboard dominated slow rock opening is quickly established to support the poppy vocals of Akaba. (No pun intended.) With the third minute the music detours down a dark alley--VDGG-like. Then Mellotron and waves of bells/percussion give an introspective interlude for the fourth minute. Return to the heavy prog theme from the opening for the fifth and sixth minutes before another cycle through a gentle dream-scene in the seventh. At 8:32 begins a very cool, almost YES-like sophisticated section that is my favorite. The final scale down at 10:45 leads into a section of a bizarre, almost "alien," soundscape, which, strangely, takes us to the song's end. Otherwise, there are some very cool experimental sounds woven through both the heavy and pastoral parts of the song, but ultimately, as a whole, it fails to achieve anything cohesive, much less great. (21.5/25)

8. "The Last Bridge Organ" (2:36) interesting sci-fi/Blade Runner-like outro. (4.25/5)

Total Time 35:53

I don't know who Hampus Nordgren-Hemlin is or where he came from, but the dude plays a mean bass! And I really respect the sound experimenting that Mattias is so into. No wonder he and Ketil Vestrum Einarsen make such a good team!

89.375 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection and a real tribute to a long-time master of our beloved genre of music. On the down side, the album is a bit short (35+ minutes) with only two proper prog songs and six rather brief "vignettes." BUT, if you like this, check out the other Tom Doncourt stuff Mattias is releasing on behalf of his dearly departed collaborator.




VESPERO The Four Zoas

The Russian Kosmische jam band is back with their most polished, cohesive album in a long time (perhaps since By the Waters of Tomorrow!)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Alexander Kuzovlev / guitars
- Alexey Klabukov / keyboards, synthesizer, trumpet, slide whistle
- Vitaly Borodin / violin
- Arkady Fedotov / bass, synthesizer, recorder, noises
- Ivan Fedotov / drums, drum machine
with:
- Alexandra Starkova / cello (4)
- Anna Anshakova / viola (4)
- Evelina Butenko / violin (4)
- Ilya Lipkin / solo guitar (7)

1. "Urizen" (11:48) the first 5:30 is the prettiest, spaciest music Vespero have done for a long time, but then, when things come busing out, it is spoiled. The drums are a disaster--they don't fit. (21/25) 

2. "Tharmas" (8:29) a song in which, after the long intro, all cylinders are firing in perfect synchrony. The Jerry Goldsmith-like sliding electric guitar notes in the opening two minutes are okay, but it is after the two-minute mark that we get some truly awesome performances from the guitars (electric and acoustic), bass, drums, and synths. One of the best songs I've ever heard from Vespero--and my favorite on this album. One of the best songs of 2020! (19/20)

3. "Beulah" (5:27) here violin and guitar create the principle weave, waving up and down through several octaves as they do. Simple bass and synth support with over active drums (which later gets the bass going into hyperdrive, too). Nice guitar and violin play but the song never seems to step into phase. And the lull and shift into acoustic 12-string and pan flute at 3:15 is simply weird and unfitting (this despite my knowing nothing about Beulah). (8.25/10)

4. "Luvah (8:44) another great jam with another weird violin-led intro. The solid bass and drum blues-rock rhythm pattern that drives the meat of the song while guitar and synths space out is so captivating--It's like you want to live in that groove! Some of Ivan's best drumming in a long time. Beautiful full-band entry at the six-minute mark--great weave. Beautiful! (18.75/20)
 
5. "Urthona (5:59) JEAN-MICHEL JARRE, BLACK SABBATH and STEVE HILLAGE in the studio at the same time! At 2:15 we switch to Studio B with FELA KUTI and RANDY CALIFORNIA's SPIRIT going at it. Synths and guitars finish it off, balsting away at each other, in the fifth and sixth minutes. High-powered jam! (8.75/10)

6. "LOS (8:37) grooving drums and bass, soling Farfisa organ, and Afro-pop guitar create an interesting and quite lovely, quite engaging song. The middle section could come from a KHAN, EGG, or ANTIQUE SEEKING NUNS album. Another very melodic, high quality composition with some nice soli and harmonized group weaves. My other top three song from this album. (18.75/20)

7. "The Emanation of the Giant Albion" (21:02) nice to hear a proper mix of all of the instruments--and some awesome guitar sounds--and a great final five minutes. (35/40)

Total Time 70:06

89.31 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of instrumental progressive rock music and an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection..




OVRFRWRD StarStuff

These serious proggers from Minneapolis have done it again--and the quality and improvements just keep getting better with each release!

Line-up / Musicians:
- Mark Ilaug / electric & acoustic guitars
- Chris Malmgren / keyboards, piano, Moog, Mellotron
- Kyle Lund / bass
- Richard Davenport / drums, percussion
with:
- Bryan Hanna / congas
- Paula Gudmundson / flute

1. "StarStuff" (5:09) awesome space music instrumental with an A-B-A-C-A-B structure! (9.5/10)

2. "Firelight" (5:37) opens with dirty Hammond organ giving us warning for what's ahead in a URIAH HEEP kind of way. By 0:50 the full soundscape has been revealed, by 1:45 the soloing styles of the guitar and organ--at least until the halfway point, at which time the organ serves notice that "part 2" is about to be unleashed. Some cool riffs, motifs, and tempo shifts in that second half thought the song ends feeling kind of unresolved. (8.75/10)

3. "Let It Burn [King George]" (5:58) strumming guitars, acoustic and electric, with flute, bass, organ, piano, and drums filling the space quite sumptuously. Nice switch up at 1:44. This music reminds me of early FROM.UZ. The pastoral flute and tinkling piano and cymbals is nice--but then the flute unexpectedly goes off running, leaving the rest of the band to try to catch up. Nice! Bluesy guitar solo around the 4:00 mark is inspired by the flute, but then takes it further--almost into heavy metal or at least ROBIN TROWER territory. Nice. (9/10)

4. "Look Up" (8:21) a very pleasant excursion into jazz-rock fusion territory--turning more bluesy-psychedelia as the guitar takes over and wails. This is, for once, a rather full and complete sounding song--but, I hate to say it, but it is screaming for a vocalist and some lyrics. (13.5/15)

5. "Daybreak" (2:48) opens with an emotionally-bouncing chord at the low end of a solo piano, which is then joined by the right hand. By the end of the first minute, both hands are moving around the keyboard in a contemplative improvisational way. I'm so reminded of both MAGMA's "Coltrane sundia" as well as an early MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA piece. (4.5/5)
 
6. "Zathras" (4:35) picking electric guitar and arpeggiating piano weave in and out of each other's paths in a minor key before being joined by cymbals, bass, kick drum, and Mellotron strings and then, finally, around 2:30, full drums. Nice full-band cohesion in expressing this four-chord progression. Wah-ed electric guitar solos in the fourth minute with a more-restrained THE CURE "The Kiss" kind of way. Great ideas and execution but, yet again, the song feels unfinished, unresolved--like it's just a jam. (8.75/10) 

7. "From Parts Unknown" (6:25) a little more sparse and spacious--kind of Post Rock-ish--in the opening of this one. The chord progression here is quite similar to that of TOM PETTY's "Free Fallin'" which, for me, is a negative. Nice drumming and solo guitar performances. Like the slow flange of the strumming guitar as the piano and drums start to go crazy for the finish. (8.5/10)

Total Time 38:53

A band who seems to love taking a riff, sound, or chord progression from other classic bands songs to inspire their own jams. All band members are quite proficient instrumentalists, and competent sound engineers, but in order to achieve that top-tier status and recognition, I need to see more development and "finishing" of song ideas. Also, several of these songs are really begging to be sung over. Time to take the next step, boys!

89.29 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection; some very fine performances of a diverse palette of instrumental prog rock.




NEON HEART Neon Heart

Inventive modern Krautrock from these Stockholm-based band of Swedes.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Magnus Nordén / drums
- Johnny Karlsson Kern / bass, vox
- Björn Wallgren / guitar
- Petter Kärnekull / electronic viola
- Daniel Borgegård Älgå / saxophone

1. "Hashima" (09:52) fairly boring and exceedingly steady rhythm track over which heavily-treated guitar, viola, and sax weave a very airy, spacious, and loose tapestry of floating music with just a hint of Middle Eastern sound. (17/20)

2. Det händer ingenting (07:27) opens with heavily-effected and echoed solo voce before bass, toms, and buzz guitar set up rhythmic riff-oriented tracks of their own. I feel as if this is the kind of music Brian Eno would facilitate from the TALKING HEADS or even the DOORS were he producing an album from them today instead of 1980 (or 1969). Odd sounds creating an even odder yet-super interesting and surprisingly engaging and hypnotic sonic weave. (13.75/15)

3. "Dagarna försvann" (03:59) deep, primal groove with experimental electronic noises coming form guitar and viola. In a very weird coincidence, a DAVID BYRNE-like vocal issues forth from Johnny Kern. Again, the groove and soundscape is so trance-inducing. (9.25/10)

4. "Till dig ännu en gång" (09:09) very interesting modern soundscape of modern sounds, effects, and stylings filtered into a Krautrock form. The bass line is almost Reggae. The vocalist is almost Adrian Belew. The horn notes and fuzzy electric guitar give it a 1960s feel. The effects on everything make it sound so acid rock. Then odd plucked muted-viola notes are somehow added to the mix in the third minute throwing everything into a small world cacophostry, beginning the unsettling process of what seems like the unraveling of world order. Quite new and unusual. Kudos! (18.5/20)

5. "Tupolev in the air" (08:55) has a little bit of an acoustic jazz feel due to the bass and drum play, while atonal viola is plucked and fuzzy guitar buzzes and cries. There's a little KOOP-like feel in that repeated, hypnotic rhythm track. Sax and heavily-fuuzzed guitar strums sounding like a bank of Caribbean horns enter in the fourth minute really throwing things off. Then the bass and drums slowly, almost imperceptibly begin to shift the rhythm track, changing the speed, as well, becoming a straightforward CAN-like song. Interesting how they got all these wild "synthesizer" sounds without using keyboards. (17.25/20)
 
6. "Dagar försvinner" (03:19) more experiments with four or five tracks playing their linear music in what feels like each their own separate universe. Somehow it all stays fairly close together, works as a "loose weave." Nice melodies from the viola, vocalist, and saxophone. Intriguing! An entirely alternate universe version of song #3! (9/10)

Total Time 42:43

An amazing album of completely new sounding music that has totally caught me off guard! I am stunned and under their spell. I find it interesting that the weakest song is the long instrumental opener. Had I stopped listening there, I would have missed something extraordinary!

89.21 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music pushing the boundaries of Krautrock farther than I've heard them pushed in years!   

If you check out this album, please either skip the first song or don't stop there:  There is some amazing music to discover in the rest of the album!




MOTORPSYCHO The All Is One

The Scandinavian veterans (with all kinds of excellent gusts) are back with their annual contribution. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Bent Sæther - bass, vocals, guitars, Mellotron
- Hans Magnus "Snah" Ryan - guitars, vocals, piano
- Tomas Järmyr - drums, vocals, guitars, Mellotron 
With:
- Reine Fiske (Katatonia, Landberk, Morte Macabre, Paatos, Dungen, The Amazing, Elephant9) guitar, Mellotron
- Lars Horntveth (Jaga Jazzist, Amgala Temple) - guitar, clarinets, saxophone
- Ola Kvernberg (Steamdome) - violin

1. "The All Is One" (8:50) a lyrics-oriented song until the instrumental section begins around 4:35. Amazing use of Mellotron in that section. (17.25/20)

2. "The Same Old Rock (One Must Imagine Sisyphus Happy)" (5:18) acoustic guitar! Steven Wilson-like vocal! Then it kicks into old rock territory (The Who!) It's a Who song with some Steve Howe-like guitar lead playing beneath it all! (8.5/10)

3. "The Magpie" (5:36) (8.5/10)

4. "Delusion (The Reign of Humbug)" (2:44) acoustic guitar and solo voce alone in a reverb chamber. Gorgeous. (5/5)

- N.O.X. ∞ (42:38) :
5. "Circles Around the Sun, Pt. 1" (9:11) nice, gentle keys before raw, acoustic viola joins in. At 1:50 whole band kicks in, creating a deep, ULVER-like groove. Heavily distorted almost cinematic multi-voiced vocals enter at 3:40, singing an eerie melody that creates a pretty but Danny Elfman-like environment. This is f*king brilliant! Aside from the little interlude songs, by far and away my favorite song on the album. (19.5/20)
6. "Ouroboros (Strange Loop)" (8:23) a repetitious jam song that feels as if it was created out of Chris Squire's "Schindleria Præmaturus." (17.25/20)
7. "Ascension" (3:37) spacey PINK FLOYD-ish instrumental with soft weave of stringed instruments --before the violin goes crazy in the second half. Brilliant and beautiful! (10/10)
8. "Night of Pan" (15:33) nice display of discipline even if the format was used on Death-Defying Unicorn. (27/30)
9. "Circles Around the Sun, Pt. 2" (5:54) Motorspycho being both motor and psycho. It's okay. An unfortunate ending to an otherwise stunning 42-minute epic. (8.25/10)
-
10. "A Little Light" (2:19) two acoustic guitars--until the freaky, horn-like end. Thank you, Allman Brothers and David Gilmour. (4.5/5)

11. "Dreams of Fancy" (9:37) combining riffs that are familiar from old classic rock songs as well as the band's own repertoire, they create a kind of hodge-podge LED ZEPPELIN song. (Think "The Rain Song.") Poor lyrics, poor singing, nice melody in the chorus. Letting Reine Fiske loose in the instrumental sections is the highlight. (17/20)

12. "The Dowser" (2:46) strummed electrified guitars with two vocalists singing in harmony. Nice. Beautiful chorus. Almost CSN&Y. (4.75/5)

13. "Like Chrome" (5:03) heavy BEATLES-like start before turning pure XTC! In the middle when we hit the instrumental section, it gets heavier before returning to the Andy Partridge stuff. Interesting! (8.5/10)

Total Time 84:51

85 minutes is a long sitting. I was prepared to dislike or be bored by this album (How much new and fresh music can a band come up with over 31 years and 24 studio albums?), but the sound is so good, the band so tight (especially the drums!), and the instrumental choices and weaves still so creative and fresh that one can't help but like it. 
     Some of the songs here are more oriented toward the lyrics than I'm used to hearing from Motorpsycho; when I listen to Motorpsycho it's not the lyrics I'm listening to but the music. The sound engineering on this album is fine, the music polished if starting to sound somewhat repetitive of stuff they've done previously. 

89.14 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music. Despite containing some absolutely stunning pieces, there is too much music being rehashed here. 




PYRAMID THEOREM Beyond the Exosphere

Some wonderful sound innovations by this band from Toronto contrasted by some very old sounding metal music sounds and tricks. Weird! Upon re-listening to this album for the second and third times I even found myself wondering if songs #2 & #3 were recorded 30 years ago--or if it was even the same band members that recorded them! 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Stephan Di Mambro / keyboards, guitar, vocals
- Sam Ermellini / guitar, vocals
- Christian Di Mambro / bass, vocals
- Vito De Francesco / drums, percussion

1. "Beyond the Exosphere" (17:53) Some absolutely brilliant, gorgeous, and powerful musics side-by-side with some rather blasé run-of the mill metal--which is disappointing as this could've been one of the year's stellar epics. Still, my second favorite song on the album. (32/35)

2. "Under Control" (4:48) Time warp! we're in the 1980s! (8/10)
 
3. "Freedom" (4:39) More old metal! What happened to the band that made that excellent opening epic? (8.25/10) 

4. "Closer to the End" (7:06) some cool effects--like the choral vocals and the alternating machine gun bass and kick drum riffs alternating with Mellotron "ohs." My third favorite song on the album. (13/15)

5. "Intonate" (6:48) great multi-voiced vocals throughout. Best song on the album. (14.5/15) 

Total Time 41:14

89.12 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece collection of songs, some reaching metal prog perfection while others feel as if they were pulled out of some 1980s metal-by-numbers playbook. 




THE OCEAN Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic

My introduction to this eclectic prog metal band from Germany. You'll want to hear this one for yourselves. It's good!

Line-up / Musicians:
- Loïc Rossetti / vocals
- Paul Seidel / drums
- Mattias Hägerstrand / bass
- Peter Voigtmann / keyboards
- David Ramis Åhfeldt / guitars
- Robin Staps / guitars
With:
- Jonas Renkse / vocals

1. "Triassic" (8:31) slow, spaced out electric guitar strums accompanied by flutey-trumpet sound are soon joined by bass, low synths, stick percussion, and drums. Very cool development and build as chunky goes into an early, pre-singing solo. Singing doesn't even begin until the third minute as sticks, strums and chugging GENESIS Duke-like rhythm guitar back robotic multi-voice vocals. Very cool! Brief growled chorus before moving back into the same motif for the second verse. The second time through the chorus sees a drawing out of the growls--this time being antiphoned by the robotic choir--before we trans into an instrumental section for two-tracks of guitars soloing. Near the six-minute mark we move back into the chorus--version II with robot voices answering/alternating with growler. Then the growler gets complete lead for the 7:00 mark until finally being rejoined by the robot voices and then returning to a repeat of the two-guitar instrumental section. Brilliant song! (19/20)

2. "Jurassic | Cretaceous" (13:24) Part TOOL, part LEPROUS, big part OPETH, there is enough refreshing creativity here to make me want to listen and like this music, but, in the end, aside from its lyrics and despite it's awesome intro, it is 80% rehashing what other Death Metal bands have done before. (26.25/30)

3. "Palaeocene" (4:00) standard growl death metal. Aside from the lyrics, there's nothing new here. (7.75/10)

4. "Eocene" (3:57) using a different singer with a more melodic, gentle, KEVIN MOORE/CHROMA KEY-like approach--until the chorus, then it turns more like Bath/Leaving Your Body Map-era MAUDLIN OF THE WELL. The second verse sounds more like French band KLONE. Well done, if lacking any real climax. (9/10) 

5. "Oligocene" (4:00) ANATHEMA or VOTUM-like atmospheric opening has me tuned in. Completely. Now this is a band I could follow! (9.5/10)

6. "Miocene | Pliocene" (4:40) steady psych/kosmische music over which vocalist growl-screams his message. I like the fact that he's singing slowly enough that I can understand his lyrics. (They're in English). The chorus is interestingly in a multi-track vocal format that sounds incredibly similar to LINKIN PARK. For music/songs like this I can tolerate the growling vocal deliveries. (9/10)

7. "Pleistocene" (6:40) more KEVIN MOORE/OSI like pulsing music over which the LINKIN PARK voice sings plaintively (or like a human Einar Solberg (LEPROUS). Growls scream the chorus. Second verse has high-pitched upper octave background singer mirroring the lyrics and lead vocalist's melody. After the second verse the music amps up and shifts into a slightly higher gear (third and, later, fourth)) while growler likewise increases the emotion behind his rant. It's effective! The chord play around the 6:00 mark is straight out of the LEPROUS/PROGHMA-C handbook. Nice ending and, though interesting and creative, overall it somehow falls a little short of great. (8.75/10)

8. "Holocene" (5:47) a steady, pleasurable song that has an OSI, TONY PATTERSON, or LUNATIC SOUL feel and sound to it. It keeps me engaged but disappoints in its failure to intensify and/or climax or resolve. (8.75/10)

Total Time 50:59

89.09 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of creative, inventive heavy progressive rock or experimental/post metal music. Definitely highly recommended for every prog lover to to check out.  




ABEL GANZ The Life of the Honeybee and Other Moments of Clarity

An album of highly emotional, confessional, even reverential songs. One of the finest crafted albums of 2020.

Line-up / Musicians: 
Davie Mitchell: Guitars
Jack Webb: Keyboards
Mick Macfarlane: Vocals, Guitars, Bouzouki
Stephen Donnelly: Bass
Denis Smith: Drums, Vocals (6)
David King: Guitars, Keyboards (1, 6), Drum programming (6)
With
Alan Hearton: Keyboards (1, 5, 6), Vibraphone (5)
Fiona Cuthill: Fiddles & Recorders (1)
Alex Paclin: Harmonica (1)
Snake Davis: Saxophone (1)
Emily Smith: Vocals (2)
Frank van Essen: Strings (4)
Stevie Lawrence: Low whistles (6)
Signy Jakobsdottir: Congas, Percussion (6)
Marc Papaghin: French horns (6)

1. "The Life of the Honeybee and Other Moments of Clarity" (12:38) a smooth, gorgeous, STEELY DAN-like gallavant through melodic bliss. The only flaw with this beautifully sounding song is that it could use some dynamic changes--even subtle ones (other than introducing soloists). Otherwise, this is one of my favorite LP songs of 2020. (23.5/25)

2. "One Small Soul" (5:52) part VAN MORRISON, part BRUCE HORNSBY or ANDREW GOLD, part GARTH BROOKS, this one has a bluesy Country-Western sound and feel to it--even the story the lyrics tell. It has a nice little interlude in the third and fourth minutes before returning to the opening form. (8.5/10)

3. "Arran Shores" (2:40) a solo steel-string acoustic guitar instrumental that sounds like a Windham Hill guitar piece. (4.25/5)

4. "Summerlong" (5:22) piano opens and establishes a DAN FOGELBERG "Same Old Lang Syne" ballad. It's very pretty, very well arranged (with strings) and touching lyrically. At 3:15 drums and bass kick in to launch the song in a new direction. Chunky bass and soaring synth solo definitely gives it that proggy feel. At 4:25, though, it returns to the opening piano with vocal to the end. (8.75/10) 

5. "Sepia and White" (13:38) don't let those opening sounds turn you away, this song develops into quite a nice, well-constructed and, as par for the album, emotional song. (25.75/30)

6. "The Light Shines Out" (6:16) BLUE NILE-like drum machine with low synth wash opens the song before recorder solos. The Blue Nile reference is enhanced by the Robbie Robertson-like voice that sings the lyrics but the real ticket to seal the fact of this being a Blue Nile tribute is the use of many Blue Nile catch phrases throughout the song's lyrics--like "closing time," "headlights shining," "ticker tape parade," "radio waves," and many others. And I haven't even mentioned the other instrumental riffs and sounds that come straight out of Blue Nile songs. I can't think of a better band to pay tribute to--especially as its one that seems to receive far less praise or credit than it deserves. (9.25/10)   

A pristinely composed, performed, and rendered album (one of the best sounding albums of 2020). Also, this album presents an ensemble of truly heart-felt and heart-wrenching songs--which seems rare in Prog World. 

88.89 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece and a very welcome addition to the Crossover/Folk side of Prog World.




CORDE OBLIQUE The Moon Is a Dry Bone

Riccardo is stepping way outside his usual sound and style palettes with this panoply of "nufolk" songs, most of which contain layers of heavily-treated (electrified) instruments. Even some of the vocals are more rollicking and quirky than anything I've ever heard from a Corde Oblique album before.  

Line-up / Musicians:
- Riccardo Prencipe / classic acoustic and electric guitars, ebow
- Rita Saviano / vocals on tracks 3, 8, back vocals on tracks 2, 6, 7
- Edo Notarloberti / violin
- Umberto Lepore / bass
- Alessio Sica / drums
- Luigi Rubino / piano on track 8
- Michele Maione / frame drums, percussions
- Carmine Ioanna / accordion
- Caterina Pontrandolfo / vocals on tracks 4, 6, 10, back vocals on track 7
- Denitza Seraphim / vocals on track 5
- Maddalena Crippa / spoken voice on track 7
- Sergio Panarella / vocals on track 6
- Andrea Chimenti / vocals on track 2
- Miro Sassolini (vocals on track 9)

1. "Almost blue" (3:01) I was not ready for this heavily-effected instrumental, but I like it! (8.75/10)

2. "La strada" (4:24) aside from the male vocal in the lead, this could come from any other Corde Oblique album. Great song base, violin display, and background vocal. (8.75/10)

3. "The moon is a dry bone" (3:04) She was a momur! Factor in some cabaret Burzaco and you might get what it is I feel I'm hearing. I like it! (9/10)
 
4. "Le grandi anime" (3:48) discordant guitar chords somehow conveying a very familiar Corde Oblique melody. I swear: Caterina Pontrandolfo could sing the clothes off of a monastery of monks. A wonderful addition to the great Corde Oblique catalogue. (9/10)

5. "Le torri di Maddaloni" (4:12) opens with 90 seconds of lute-like guitar play with subtle accordion in the background. Then it switches to hand drum over which a coven of witches led by Rita Saviano chant their pagan chant. At the end of the third minute after nylon string guitar enters, there is a lull and tehn an evening out and beautification of the music. Feels deeply antique. (9/10)

6. "Il figlio dei Vergini" (4:30) classical guitar and accordion (beautiful!) with the one and only Caterina Pontrandolfo singing a over the top. In the second minute there is an awesome wordless vocalise and b-vox chants as the guitar and accordion dance beautifully with each other. Then, in the third minute, there is a amped up fast rhythm (led by hand drum) over which Caterina returns to the original melody. The
 song then finishes with an an unusual right turn with Sergio Panarella lending his vocal talents to sing wordlessly over first a bare-bones section and then a full band. Interesting--and very different--song. (9.25/10)

7. "La casa del ponte" (5:39) like a film soundtrack with spoken word vocal and both fast and slow dynamics and moods. At 3:40 the coven of witches returns to sing their curses or dirges (in Italian, of course) over the band (with some damned fine drum and bass play). Another interesting and wonderfully fecund song. (9.25/10)

8. "Temporary peace" (4:58) Another Riccardo interpretation of an ANATHEMA song from the 2001 album, A Fine Day to Exit). Lead vocal (in English) from Rita Saviano and piano from Luigi Rubino. (8.75/10)

9. "Il terzo suono" (2:14) another off-beat mélange of styles that is very unlike anything I've heard from Riccardo before. All-male vocals, performed by Miro Sossano. (4.5/5)

10. "Herculaneum" (3:18) any chance to hear the sublime voice of Caterina Pontrandolfo--here with accordion, strummed acoustic guitars, and hand drums--is welcome, a highlight. Lovely to hear the accordion expressing itself so fully and prominently.  (8.5/10)

11. "Almost Blue part two" (3:41) a multi-guitar instrumental with effects rendering a kind of shoegaze sound to it. Pretty, melodic, but nothing very new or exciting here. (8.5/10)

Total Time: 42:49

88.81 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of Progressive Folk music--one that truly spans the full spectrum of Prog Folk, musica antica to modern NuFolk.




HIBISCUS BISCUIT Reflection of Mine

Some of the freshest psychedelic space blues rock I've heard in a long time--with awesomely chameleonic vocalist and guitarist Ricardo Moreira in the lead.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Ricardo Moreira / guitars, vocals
- Sy Dyson / keyboards
- Jason Campbell / bass
- Aidan Young / drums 

1. "Wake Me Up" (4:47) those jazzy keys (Fender Rhodes) beneath wonderful multi-effected guitar and vocals are amazing! One of the best songs I've heard from 2020! (9.5/10)

2. "Sunflower Fields" (6:16) more standard blues-rock. (8/10)

3. "Don't Mind My Mind" (4:33) How unusual! Could be a 1950s pop-crooner with some 1960s blues-rock. (Think STEPPENWOLF or CREAM.) Turns CAN-like for the final 90 seconds. (8.75/10)

4. "Velvet Sundays" (5:23) What if you combined the singing of Alex Crispin (Diagonal) with 1969 The Doors' musicians? This. My second favorite song on the album. (8.75/10)

5. "So Long" (3:54) slowing it down with some gorgeous chord progressions, vocal melodies, and sonic landscape. What a talented vocalist! (8.75/10)

6. "Abelha De Agua" (2:43) acoustic guitar play with Portuguese lyrics sung in a delicate folk voice. (4.5/5)

7. "Keep On Rising" (3:33) bring in the funk! Brian Ellis, Tame Impala, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, and Syd Arthur come to mind here. (8.5/10)

8. "Orange Trees" (5:53) using "Riders in the Storm" chords, the singer uses a more loose, Liam Gill (SYD ARTHUR)-like approach to the vocal. Very cool. Lyrics akin to something ANDY PARTRIDGE would pull. Segues into a pretty little instrumental interlude in the middle before the Fender Rhodes takes over. Finishes strong with a fiery guitar solo over thick-laden Black Sabbath-like sonic walls. My other top three. (9/10)

Total Time 37:02

Just when I'd pretty much given up on the Space/Psychedelic sub-genre something like this appears. And I love the singer's versatility and the way he tears it up on his lead guitar at the end of every song. Big props to the solid bass, drums, and keys, as well.  

88.67 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of refreshing psychedelia. Keep your eyes and ears open for this young mega-talented singer-guitarist, Ricardo Moreira. 




LA MASCHERA DI CERA S.E.I.

Fabio Zuffanti is back with another release from his most successful prog project. While the band's previous release, 2013's La Porto di domini was, to my ears, a flop (especially for being the successor to LE ORME's highly acclaimed 1973 release, Felona e Sorona), the compositions, recording, and performances here are fairly strong. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Alessandro Corvaglia / vocals, guitars
- Agostino Macor / keyboards
- Fabio Zuffanti / bass
With:
- Martin Grice / saxophone, flute
- Paolo Tixi / drums

1. "Il tempo millenario" (21:43) opens with a very familiar heavy feel and sound á la their previous album, La porto di domini. At 1:20 it moves into a prettier, more laid-back pastoral flute-centric passage before reverting to bare bones for the vocal section to begin at the end of the third minute. The vocals are pretty good! At 4:00 we move back into an up tempo, rather ominous section until 4:30 when everything takes a surprising turn into a pulsing, PINK FLOYD-like jazz-rock passage--with even the saxophone and organ perpetuating the PF vibe. The toned down section beginning in the seventh minute is pretty with its sparsely populated drawn out instrumental spaciousness. I like this very much. Imagine a pregnant GENESIS passage with Peter Gabriel performing his theatric storytelling and then the instruments bursting out from their hiding places to punctuate the drama of PG's epic story. Piano and harpsichord lay out a new and different (more Il Balletto di Bronzo-like) motif in the twelfth minute before we move into a clavichord-supported and Mellotron-drenched vocal section. I don't care for these heavily affected vocals--but they quickly withdraw from these for a spell before shifting at 13:30 into high speed romp into Hammond and sax rock and roll. The power vocals here try to be theatric but feel a little over top (as the music is a bit under-the-top). Just weird Hammond play and solo (more like a Halloween parody). Even when the pace and sax redouble at the 16:00 mark I am distracted by the weird, almost comical Hammond--which, unfortunately, detracts from the power and force being attempted in the vocal in the early eighteenth minute. The pensive passage that follows is better--great drums and sax help to almost drown out the Hammond. At 18:27, then, we downshift into a floating soundscape that lends itself to the sensitivity of Alessandro's vocal--but then once again it breaks into a kind of triumphant celebratory passage at 18:20--very RPI and Genesisian (think La Coscienza di Zeno and Supper's Ready's As Sure as Eggs Is Eggs). There are definitely some great parts to this song--and a mastery of "classic" prog and RPI forms and palettes here--but not enough to make the whole stand out on its own as a new classic. (35.25/40):
- i. L'anima in Rovina
- ii. Nuvole Gonfie
- iii. La Mia Condanna
- iv. Scparazione
- v. Del tempo sprecato

2. "Il cerchio del comando" (9:57) a very strong, stereotypic RPI song whose good quality and appeal, unfortunately, for me, drop significantly once the vocal joins in; the melody and performances in the choruses are just weak. The TULL-like passage around the 6:00 mark is its only saving grace. (17.25/20)

3. "Vacuo senso" (13:30) (27.25/30):
- i. Prologo (3:35) (8.5/10)
- ii. Dialogo (1:50) - gorgeous slow section with one of Alessandro's best vocals. (5/5)
- iii. Nella rete dell'Inganno (3:05) - RENAISSANCE meets & plays COLTRANE's "My Favorite Things" (literally) and then turns into TRAFFIC jazz! Don Pullen! (4.75/5)
- iv. Il risueglio di S (1:30) - some powerful IL BALLETTO bravura. (4.5/5)
- v. Ascensione (3:10) all bass & 'tron Neo Prog cheese. Bring it home, boys! (even though it's been done a hundred times before). (4.5/5)

Total Time 42:41

Trying to overcome my usual biases against this band due to their past inconsistencies is a challenge--especially when the music on this album only serves to reinforce those biases. One GREAT song, two okay, all three long playing, two epic suites (my bandcamp version of "Vacuo senso" is 13:30.) Still, I have to agree with other reviewers that this band keeps getting better.

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




ELLESMERE Wyrd 

More polished Neo Prog of the symphonic RPI sort from ambitious Italian Roberto Vitelli. Top notch, sound, musicianship and composition for anyone into those things. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Roberto Vitelli / bass, guitars, bass pedals
- Fabio Bonuglia / keyboards
- Mattias Olsson / drums
With:
- Tony Pagliuca / keyboards
- Tomas Bodin / keyboards
- Fabio Liberatori / keyboards
- David Jackson / saxophone
- David Cross / violin
- John Hackett / flute
- Luciano Regoli / vocals
- Giorgio Pizzala / vocals

1. "Challenge" (7:26) cinematic piano jazz with eerie synth and percussion sounds. 'Tron comes in at the end of the second minute to signal a change. The new motif takes off in a BANCO kind of way, supporting soli from a variety of synths, violin, organ, and electric guitar. Another thematic shift at 4:10--this one setting up the joinder of vocals. The violin play is so dextrous yet subtle--it's crazed yet almost goes unnoticed within the tapestry. The vocalist really shows his strength with some very high, sustained notes in the sixth minute, then things fade into the wind--which then bleeds into the next song. (13.25/15)

2. "The Eery Manor" (6:24) wind from "Challenge" is carried forward by the crazed flute playing of John Hackett. The next instruments to join in give it a classically-tinged Gothic feel, John Hackett stiil going crazy, then it goes very classic RPI (LE ORME Felona e Sonora) in the second half of the second minute. At 3:15 we switch into more abrasive IL BALLETTO-like motif but then alternating into some absolutely gorgeous melodic themes over the next two and a half minutes. (8.75/10)

3. "Endeavour" (8:24) smooth opening with great sound palette across the board: Aarp synth in the lead, arpeggiated guitars, bass pedals, and syncopated drums. 45 seconds in an oddly recorded, oddly placed voice begins talk-singing with a melancholy passion. Flutes and vocalized "da-da-te-da-da de-da-dum"s play into a kind of chorus. Then raunchy Hammond organ leads us into another mre unsettling theme within which electric guitar, bass and saxes offer quite frenzied, untamed solo lines. At 4:55 we come out and smooth over again--though the sax is still a bit crazed, the lead guitar presents in a calm, heroic way. A couple more rounds in and out of chaos occur before we seem to resolve the conflict and emerge into the light of victory. (17.5/20)

4. "Ajar" (8:05) a take off/variation on some of the themes and riffs from YES's "Gates of Delirium" Still, the best song on the album. Vocals don't make themselves known until the fourth minute (with Trevor Horn-like flanged bass!). Weird reverse spoken passages persist here and there. Smooth yet-edgy sax solo (so controlled and adept by virtuoso David Jackson!) in the sixth minute. Love the grand entry of the 'Tron and saxes for the final 45 seconds. (13.75/15)

5. "Endless" (13:14) incorporating a riff that is familiar to me from an old KNIGHT AREA song (2007's "Under a New Sign") as the main melodic hook throws me a bit off. And then once I think I've gotten over it, the similarities persist--at least for the first 5:20. The fact that it holds nearly the exact same pace and sonic palette (embellished by the saxes and flutes) is also a distraction. But then in the seventh minute the new melodic territory takes us into another familiar and gorgeous ear worm. this one from Another transition, this one more complete, at the 7:00 mark takes us into Camel-meets-Paul Reynolds (Flock of Seagulls) before turning full-on Phil Collins-era GENESIS (Duke and later especially) before returning us to the KNIGHT AREA fold. Great drumming--on a par with Phil Collins' strongest, most bombastic. At 11:00 we weirdly transition into an entirely different, more KRAFTWERK/JEAN-MICHEL JARRE-like synth-pop section--to the finish! What?!?! Please explain! The song is good, the musicianship and composition excellent, it just feels a bit . . . borrowed. But then, didn't most of the great masters of Classical Music lift and borrow riffs and themes to "play with" from all of their predecessors? (22/25)

Total Time 43:33

Creative music making that often takes us right to the edge of "acceptable bombast." The songs have a modern originality to them while also paying homage to many past RPI masterpieces and styles. Though there are plenty of original twists and effects used in the making of these songs--each with its own (though the "crazed" soli from the seasoned veterans is a pretty common thread throughout)--I still think Roberto's compositions lie perhaps a little too firmly within the "safety" of classic RPI.

88.53 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection--especially if you are wanting to hear embellishments and expansions on themes and works of the RPI masters that have gone before.




INNER PROSPEKT Canvas One

Line-up / Musicians:
- Alessandro Di Benedetti / Keyboards, Piano, Percussion, Vocals
With:
- Federico Tetti / Guitars (3,5,7,8)
- Daniele Vitalone / Bass (5)
- Massimo Sposaro / Acoustic Guitars (1,8)
- Giovanni "Giò" Maucieri / Drums (5,8)
- Nicolas Bonneyrat / Drums (3,7)
- Jordan McQueen / Drums (1)
- Nicole Carino / Vocals (7,10)
- Daniela di Pasquale / Vocals (1,5)
- Flower Rising / Vocals (2,4)
- Anne Jasmine / Vocals (3,9)
- Mercedes Bralo Cisternas / Harp (1)

1. "Anime d'Inverno" (8:06) operatic singing of Anna Jasmine reminds me of Megumi Tokuhisa of Pazzo Fanfano di Musica or Hiroko Nagai of Mr. Sirius. Great bombastic prog finish. (13.5/15)

2. "Sometimes" (4:21) lounge jazzy.The vocalist (Flower Rising) has a distinctive MARIANNE FAITHFULL/FIONA APPLE-like voice and style. (8.5/10)

3. "Goin' Down Under" (7:09) Lead male singer (composer Alessandro Di Benedetti) is a cross between DAVID BOWIE, The Strawbs' DAVE COUSINS, and GUY MANNING. I like the lyrics. (12.75/15)

4. "The Endless Turnaround" (1:32) piano and Flower Rising lounge song. Beautiful. (5/5)

5. "Punto di Non Ritorno" (11:17) a bit of a "Mad Man Moon" start (gorgeous)--which even continues when Alessandro shifts into full gear for his vocal (in Italian). Cool stark centrepiece that is followed by a monstrous romp through a land of giants and then an awesome MAD CRAYON-like section in the ninth and tenth minutes. Then the finale is graced by the wonderful voice of Daniela di Pasquale. (18/20)

6. "L'Errore" (1:06) piano, synth strings, and "flute." (4.5/5)

7. "Evening Dust" (5:32) Nicole Carino sings over funky/trip-hoppy piece before alternated by Alessandro singing the second verse. (8.5/10)

8. "The Land of the Fools" (14:41) (26.25/30)
9. "From Her Side" (2:54) (4.75/5)

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




DAVID BRONS Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

If you like your IONA a little heavier, this Celtic-Tolkien rock opera may be your cup of tea. And what a roster of guests helping him out!

Line-up / Musicians
Dave Brons (Celestial Fire): Electric guitar, orchestration, arranging, and easy piano (7,8,9)
John Biglands: Drums and cymbals, acoustic guitar ( 11)
Daniel Day: Bass, low whistle, and classical guitar (5)
Mark Swift: Piano and organ
With:
Dave Bainbridge (Iona, Celestial Fire): Mixing, additional keyboards, electric guitar and percussion
Sally Minnear (Celestial Fire): Lady Galadriel narration, lead vocals, ethereal vocal looping,
Catherine Ashcroft: Uilleann pipes and low whistle and tin whistle (14)
Maria Mullen and the Great Yorkshire Chorus: Choir and improvised vocal textures.
Jane Bryan: Flute, alto flute and piccolo.
Ian Brons: Cello
Stephen Bradnum: Trombone, french horn, bass trombone, euphonium, tuba.
John Dey: Trumpets
John Clay: Cornet
David Hogan: Clarinet and soprano saxophone
Frank Van Essen (Iona, Dave Bainbridge, Celestial Fire): Violin, violas and the violin solo (5)
'Red' Rich Davenport: Gandalf narration.
Jaiden Vai Brons: Vocals (9, 11)
Kai Rohan Brons: Frodo's narration (12)

1. "The Song Of Illuvatar" (4:56) very IONA-like instrumental (with opening narration). (8.5/10)

2. "EÄ" (6:09) aggressive electric guitar-led opening turns soft with solo piano base before falling into more calmly-paced song in which lead guitar is cleverly mirrored by female vocalise and full choir. At the three-minute mark things pause for a reboot as the breathy voice of Sally Minnear sings a few words. Then a more Celtic-oriented "reel" with full prog and choir regalia. The guitar playing is impressive throughout and the choral support works nicely. Very good Celtic prog. (9/10)

3. "Into The Perilous Realm" (5:10) The words sung by Sally and choir in the middle and end seem almost inconsequential--as if they are intended to provide another thread into the musical weave, not convey anything through the English language they use. Odd. Nice melodies and very tightly performed, mature composition, though. (8.75/10)

4. "Awakened By Starlight" (6:19) starting off very gently, with a piano/keyboard base, the song slowly builds behind a strong John Serrie-like melody before reaching for stratospheric heights in the fifth minute. Again, no words, despite singers. (8.75/10)

5. "Under The Same Sun" (5:02) fast-picked nylon string guitar is joined in the second minute by Celtic instruments and orchestral instruments. Has a Hans Zimmer/Pirates of the Caribbean-feel lurking beneath--which bursts forth at the two-minute mark. (8.67/10)

6. "The Shire : A Long Expected Party" (4:46) once again, narration opens this, and then guitar and traditional Celtic folk instruments start expressing their interpretation of the events in the title. This song is very similar to an IONA song from their 2000 masterpiece, Open Sky. (8.75/10)

7. "The Pass Of Caradhras" (3:36) more Pirates of the Caribbean-like music follows the first Gandalf set up, but then the Grey Wizard speaks again, causing a shift in the music--all of which is recovered at 1:55. Two very skilled guitarists having their fun. (8.67/10)

8. "A Prayer For The Fallen" (2:11) somber piano echoes through the Vale in this sad song. Hallelujah. (4.25/5)

9. "The Riders Of Rohan" (4:18) piano and a young girl's breathy voice open this before rolling bass and swirling keyboard arpeggi move us into a interest and very theatric chase theme. (8.75/10)

10. "Minas Morgul" (4:30) dark and brooding with excellent help from the orchestral instruments. By now the John Mitchell/Devin Townsend-like guitar shreds are feeling similar--impressive but a bit like a two-trick pony. (8.67/10)

11. The Ring Bearers (6:56) acoustic guitar finger play opens this one. Piano and low bowed bass and strings join in as Sally Minnear sings for a bit. But by the end of two minutes she's pretty much done and the instrumental performances have taken over--plus, once again her efforts feel as if they are placed second to those of the instruments. Still, this is my favorite song on the album--there's some nice stylistic and dynamic shifts in this song that many of the others lack. (14/15)

12. The Houses Of Healing (3:50) echoed upper-octave piano play opens this (over gentle strings). The piano moves down and speeds up as traditional Celtic folk instruments join in. At 2:30 all the power electric prog instruments and motifs take over. The end of this one has a Roine Stolt or AYREON feel to it. (9/10)

13. All The End Of All Things (3:35) weepy lead electric guitar playing over deep organ-like sound palette. Part Colin Tench, part Jeff Beck, this is a nice bit of guitar playing. It comes bursting forward at the end of the second minute with some orchestrated walls of sound progressing a bombastic four-descending chords motif before backing off for the final 30 seconds. (9/10)

14. White Shores And A Swift Sunrise (6:03) feels like a genuine Irish "goodbye/fare-thee-well" song--before turning Disney at the beginning of the third minute with the full choir singing--with lyrics! Great etheric IONA-like protracted outro. (9/10)

Total Time 67:21

While it's instrumental performances are impressive, overall the album's string of songs all seem to lack something in the melody department for my tastes.

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




KARFAGEN Principles and Theory of Spektra

Yet another full-length and fully-packed prog release from Ukrainian prog workhorse Antony Kalugin--one in which he has surrounded himself with some very talented musicians (and, thus, the Karfagen moniker).

Line-up / Musicians:
- Antony Kalugin / keyboards, vocals, percussion
With:
- Ivan Goritski / drums
- Max Velychko / acoustic & electric guitars
- Oleg Prokhorov / bass
- Maria Baranovska / violin (1,4,6)
- Elena Kushiy / flute (1,4,6)
- Alexandr Pastuchov / bassoon (1,4,6)
- Lesya Kofanova / flute (5)
- Helen Bour / oboe (5)
- Sergii Kovalov / knob accordion (5)
- Kostya Ionenko / additional bass (5)
- Eddie Mulder / nylon, electric & bass guitars (3)

- Phase 1:
1. "Levitation" (9:45) feels so stiff and formulaic--as well as an obvious lift of a couple STEVE HACKETT themes (I think from "Carry on Up a Vicarage" or "The Steppes"). Also rated down from feeling incomplete--as if it could have/should have had vocals and lyrics. (17/20)
2. "Hunter" (6:02) sounds dated in both style and sound--as if it came from the 1980s or perhaps 1990s. Nice instrumental performances but nothing new or refreshing here. More 1980s TONY BANKS/STEVE HACKETT sounds and themes in the fourth minute. Still, not a bad song. Cool ADIEMUS final minute. (8.75/10) 
3. "Phantasmagoria" (12:58) opens with New Age GOBI-like nylon string guitar for the first minute. Then keys take over in teh second minute: very sparse, slow, and protracted soundscape. At the two-minute mark the guitar returns--with flute and electric guitar. The sound palette and chord progressions here are borrowed from GENESIS: "Can-Utility and the Coastliners" and "I Know What I like (In Your Wardrobe)," mostly. Out of the pause at the three-minute mark we enter into a Mellotron-washed soundscape in which bubbling synths, electric piano, repetitive bass, and other keyboards and sliding guitar echo-effects (reminding me of ROBIN GUTHRIE) turn into a texturized AL DI MEOLA world (think "Calliope" from Scenario) taking us to 7:23 where everything drops away to give us a return to the reflective GOBI-like guitar and synth washed background from the opening. At 8:35 we then launch into a faster, broadened soundscape in which electric guitar solos for several seconds before everything reverts to open space for some more classical guitar fiddling. At 10:15 we expand again as synth and then electric guitar take turns soloing over the gentle pastoral landscape. A pleasant song that falls very closely into the Marshmallow Moondust category of soothing background music. Again, no vocals or lyrics. (21/25)
- Phase 2:
4. "Birth of a Star" (7:04) gentle Fender Rhodes play opens this before full complement of rock band instruments bursts forth around 0:30. In the second minute the sound morphs into a Ska-based FOCUS-like ballad with flutes and melodic electric guitar soloing like Thijs and Jan, respectively. The presence of violin and a variety of keys and a second flute and bassoon make it even more beautiful. Things get a little quirky Steve-Hackett-like in the fifth minute before almost turning Weather Report but, instead, are steered into a very proggy multiple-guitar peak, topped off by nylon string guitar entrance and then taking things over, bringing us back down to Earth. (13.75/15) 
5. "Calypso" (10:57) another song that is tailored in a quirky fashion that is most similar to (and perhaps even imitative of) the long-standing habits of Mr. Steve Hackett. Turning once again to principle collaborator guitarist Max Velychko and his gentle-yet-bold classical guitar in the long middle section results in my favorite passage of the album--which we eventually clomb out of in a brilliant way around the 8:30 mark. Great broad prog rock sound palette uspports some wonderful keyboard synthesiser and then electric guitar soloing though to the eleventh minute when things drop off for a pause but then return with the same wonderful palette and themes for a quick but satisfying finish. By far the best song on the album. (19/20)
6. "Gravitation" (7:26) opens with a long 90 second intro which seems to ramble and flounder before being rescued by the entrance of the full band and the song's two main themes--both of which could easily have been joined by vocals (but are not). There is beauty and satisfaction in this instrumental version  of the song, but something in me wants Antony to "prove" his symphonic prog "mettle" by injecting lyrics/libretto into his operatic tunes. (No easy task, I know.) Another tune that occasionally feels as if previously-discarded "prog-by-numbers" themes have been somewhat unnaturally spliced together. However, Antony has here done one of his better jobs of synthesis and integration. (13.25/15) 

Total Time 54:12

Though often derivative, Antony's creativity and preponderance of energy is to be admired. I just hope he's not thinking that it's his sole job to keep Prog World afloat in these stark and barren times--like a prog super hero. 

88.33 on the Fishscales = B+/four stars; a strong submission to the prog lexicon and my favorite release of 2020 from indefatigable prog professional Antony Kalugin (& Co.) In fact, it is my opinion that Principles and Theory of Spektra is far superior to either Birds of Passage or Marshmallow Moondust. A very nice finish to the year!






PURE REASON REVOLUTION Eupnea

This was a totally unexpected pleasure! Since the band’s last studio album, Hammer and Anvil, was released in 2010, I had thought they were kaput.
     Other reviewers comment on the “return to the form of their debut (The Dark Third)” while some have noted what I feel is a more accurate description of Eupnea being a kind of perfect mélange of all three of their previous albums. The atmospheric spaciousness of TDT is definitely present in spades—as as re the wonderful multiple layered vocals of Chloë and Rob--but the heavy chord play and darkness of Amor Vincit Omnia and Hammer and Anvil are also quite present. Where this album shows its weakness, I’m sorry to say, is in the lyrical content. WTF are they talking about? These lyrics are too banal, too personal, and not poetic enough to stand alone without interpretation. And then, with Jon's nicely laid out song-by-song run through (on louder sound website) it brings more clarity and significance to each song's lyrics but it shouldn't have to be this way. I'm looking for transparency with the sensuality of Baudelaire, not hidden meaning within a sub-functional vocabulary. It’s very disappointing to me when so much effort is spent on creating such beautiful, meticulously charted vocals when the messages being conveyed are naught but nugatory persiflage.
     Still, many people are remarking on the band’s newfound “confidence” and maturity and I will second this: the way the music is spread out and in no hurry to start, develop, or finish indicates to me a band that is very confident in what it is doing—enjoying every note and every nuance of each song’s journey. And it pays off as this spaciousness allows for the listeners to have some really meaty material to sink into—and sink deeply!

Music: 8.75/10; sound/production: 9/10; lyrics: 7/10. Unfortunately, this is not an instrumental album.

Five star songs: 2. “Silent Genesis” (10:20) (18.25/20); 4. “Ghosts & Typhoons” (8:45) with its amazing second half (18/20), and; 6. “Eupnea” (13:23) (26.5/30).

Four star songs: 1. "New Obsession" (5:07) (8.67/10); 3. "Maelstrom" (5:44) (8.33/10); 5. "Beyond Our Bodies" (4:28) (8.5/10)

While the music is not quite as exciting and diversified as their debut, it's also not quite as frenetic in its dynamics as the others. I'd like to see more of a whole-band effort rather than a glorified kind of solo project, but, here we are.

88.25 on the Fishscales; B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music. It's so great to have Pure Reason back! And I'm happy for the positive outcome of Jon's daughter's premature birth.




GREEN CARNATION Leaves of Yesteryear

After a 15 year absence, these Norwegian veterans are back with an amazing album of strong songs--so well constructed and composed as to have both spaciousness and density, great melody and harmony, uniquity and cleverness, as well as an outstanding vocalist in Kjetil Nordhus and great sound production. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Kjetil Nordhus / vocals
- Michael Krumins / guitar
- Terje Vik Schei "Tchort" / guitar
- Kenneth Silden / keyboards
- Stein Roger Sordal / bass, guitar
- Tommy Jacksonville / drums

1. "Leaves of Yesteryear" (8:03) opens with the metal sounds and ANATHEMA-like keyboard atmospherics we expect before shifting into a more ULVER-esque ominous spaciousness. The dominant metal riffing sounds like a cross between URIAH HEEP and OPETH. Weak chorus. Nice FLOYDian interlude in the middle. Turns full-on Death Metal at the six minute mark, but then returns to a more symphonic heavy prog style for the finish. (13/15)

2. "Sentinels" (5:42) BLACK SABBATH-like simplicity to the heavy opening, turns a speed corner at 1:10 into more modern metal style for the chorus section. Cool guitar play with syncopated chords and space in the middle before falling back into a machine gun chorus section. Clever codas here and there to transition from Sabbath section to bullet-pace and back and forth. (8.5/10)

3. "My Dark Reflections of Life and Death" (15:35) nice slow, spacious, ominous intro before everybody comes crashing in at 2:12 with an alien spacecraft synth in the lead. This switches to electric guitar in the fourth minute as the hard-driving music continues to establish itself. At 3:30, then, there's a pretty little interlude barely containing a lot of potential energy. Then Kjetil begins singing as the band comes back to full throttle. Some cool textural shifts going on beneath his singing. Everything comes to a standstill at 5:30 for some spacey synth notes before Kjetil burst into the fray with a deep tenor and the slower-paced metal chord progression accompanies him. Another standstill at 7:10 which gets filled by a distant-sounding rolling bass and then treated electric piano. Kjetil's John Wetton voice returns with some tom-tom play and piano arpeggi with the bass and synths before a nylon string guitar's up-sliding arpeggi take over. By the end of the tenth minute, the four-chord organ-led heavy metal progression and Kjetil's projecting voice return but then there is another shift into more symphonic palette for a RIVERSIDE-like guitar solo and singing section. This pattern continues, building in intensity, with both singing and instrumental sections, until 13:15 when an almost disco beat establishes to enter a full-on multi-instrumental metal onslaught in which Kjetil does not return until the final 45 seconds. Certainly a labyrinthine song. (27/30)

4. "Hounds" (10:09) great simplicity for a metal song with great melodies and other hooks (including Kjetil's strikingly-similar GREG LAKE voice). My favorite song on the album. (18/20)

5. "Solitude" (5:05) piano, acoustic guitar and gentle background keys and bass are not what you expect from one of the innovators of the metal world early 21st Century. Nice song but never really goes anywhere special. (8.5/10)

Total Time 44:34

My first impression is that Kjetil Nordhus must have been taking GREG LAKE/JOHN WETTON elocution/singing lessons over the past 15 years:  the similarities at times are uncanny. 

88.23 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music--and a great comeback from these long-absent veterans.




VICTOR GO The Leap

Very good, very interesting and diverse Neo Prog from Ukrainian veteran. I hear Keith Emerson, Pendragon, Andy Didorenko, and many classic and classy Neo Prog hooks and tricks in this music. Victor is definitely a gifted composer and engineer--the sound mixing (and choice of instrumental palettes) are always a notch above average or classic Neo Prog. Emerson keys, fretless Jeff Berlin-like bass, solid somewhat-Bruford/Alan White-like drums; and Allan Holdsworth-like electric guitar with vocals all over the place.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Victor Go / All vocals
- Victor Go / All instruments

1. "Once Again" (5:15) nice catchy pop-prog. The instrumental parts are interesting and refreshing. The nasal vocal tone needs some getting used to. (8/10)

2. "2020. Hopes and Alarms" (3:39) A top three song for me. (9.5/10)


3. "Last Hope" (6:54) excellent prog song with a slightly dated keyboard sound palette. Once the vocals enter I find myself reminded of some of JON ANDERSON's solo material as well as a lot of JOHANNES LULEY's projects
. (13/15)

4. "Pilot. Dream" (3:30) slow building atmospheric instrumental--until the dance hall rhythm tracks of the third minute. Interesting and fresh! (9/10)

5. "Tension" (6:39) piano-bouncing classic rock foundation given a barrage of proggy incidentals. Vocal is like one of THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE's poorer ones. (8.5/10)


6. "Pilot. Conceit" (2:49) a jazzier, almost ADIEMUS/World Beat take on the "pilot" themes. Cool! (8.75/10)


7. "Flywheel" (6:27) A tension-filled, top-notch Neo Prog song and one of my top three. Victor's best vocal tracks on the album. (9.25/10)


8. "Pilot. Anticipation" (4:24) very cinematic. Good. ALAN PARSONS PROJECT/TONY PATTERSON-like. (8.75/10)


9. "2020. Move On" (8:37) what if Keith Emerson played with BRUFORD instead of Dave Stewart? This is what we might have gotten. 
80s YES/ASIA-ish bombast for the second half. Such an amazing imitation! Also reminded of JON ANDERSON/TREVOR RABIN-era YES. (18.5/20)

10. "Pilot. Triumph" (3:09) a little hokey in its Broadway pit-orchestra imitation, yet competently executed. Unfortunately, the vocal takes away a little. (8.25/10)

11. "Everlasting Quest" (Bonus Track) (6:00) electronica? Kind of. If you combined 1978 jazz fusion with Klaus Schulze, this might've been what you got. Interesting, to be sure. (8.75/10)

Total Time 57:58

Victor Go has the unusual talent of being able to successfully forge multiple familiar musical styles and instrumental styles into interesting and engaging songs. Very well worth your while to check out for yourselves--especially if you like solving musical puzzles/games (e.g. "Where have I heard that before?") My suggestion to Victor: experiment with guest vocalists to sing your songs; you might find it adds new life, new dimensions to your music.

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




WOBBLER Dwellers of the Deep

I've been an avid follower and champion of these Norwegians for over ten years, however I think they may have overstayed their their adherence to the choice of YES imitation. As skilled as they are, as remarkable are the "new Yes songs" that they produce, I think it has gone too far. I want to hear more original sounds and more original ideas. Though Rick Wakeman, Chris Squire, and Jon Anderson (and to a lesser degree, Steve Howe and Alan White) should feel flattered, I'm afraid that no one will ever hear of Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo, Marius Halleland, Lars Fredrik Frøislie, Kristian Karl Hultgren, or Martin Nordrum Kneppen because everyone who hears a Wobbler album will only be hearing and comparing them to Yes.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo / vocals, guitars
- Marius Halleland / guitars, backing vocals
- Lars Fredrik Frøislie / keyboards
- Kristian Karl Hultgren / bass
- Martin Nordrum Kneppen / drums 

1. "By the Banks" (13:49) My daughter's name is Persephone. I'm not sure yet whether this song is worthy of sending to her. The main rhythmic pattern and rising and falling chord progressions that the song returns to over an over throughout is memorable enough in a kind of Uriah Heep-approach-to-"South Side of the Sky"-kind of way--and it is intra-dispersed with many divertissements and stylistic and instrument choice deviations to keep it interesting, but I'm not sure what element or aspect of the Goddess of the Spring and Queen of the Underworld they were going after, cuz I'm not feeling it. The most interesting part of the song, for me, is the unusual (and modern) instrumental bridge from 12:27 to 12:36. The end seems reverential but also quite final due to its abruptness--which, again, leaves me unsure as to what they were trying to express. The construction and instrumental performances are all top notch, it just lacks some (26.5/30)

2. "Five Rooms" (8:28) Wow, that was an odd opening: portentous organ preceding a racehorse start (a bit too wild and frenetic)--like Drama YES. things settle down in the YES-like third minute, and then feel solid YES until the frenzy continues--this time more controlled and smooth than the first time--at the end of the fourth minute. The first "new" (non-YES) idea comes in the middle of the fifth minute (though the drumming style may be non-Yes throughout). (17.5/20)

3. "Naiad Dreams" (4:24) opens with 90 seconds of solo classical guitar. The voice of Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo enters, singing a verse over the solo guitar before other instruments (bass, glockenspiel, pedal steel electric guitar) finally join in. Thank goodness for the fact that Andreas's voice is distinctive and different from Jon Anderson's, so that a song like this can take on it's own identity instead of being categorized as a "Yes imitation." The addition of the "female(?)" vocalist in the second half is awesome. (8.75/10)

4. "Merry Macabre" (19:00) opens with piano, which is then joined by cymbal play, glockenspiel, and bass before the full band breakout in the second minute. It almost sounds like an opening for a MAGMA Zeuhl song. But then the band launch into a full-forced heavy YES onslaught with Andreas singing over the top with the passion of PETER HAMMILL. 
     I really like the STEPHEN STILLS lead electric guitar meandering around over and within the weave during the second and third minutes of this one--and then the 1980s rhythm guitar arpeggi in the instrumental fourth minute. The organ play is wonderful. 
     A sparsely populated section in the fourth and fifth minutes provides a little respite before the next (jazzy) full band section at 6:25. There is an interesting bounce to the Hammond in the eighth minute. Then it gets a little jazzier (ANDY TILLISON-like) in the ninth and tenth minutes before softening into a gorgeous early-KC/ANEKDOTEN-like portentous weave at 9:30. Andreas joins in briefly to offer some simple words in the eleventh minute before an excellent (and wholly original) instrumental passage with psychedelic-treated voice mixed within ensues. It's almost REINE FISKE/PAATOS-like here. Awesome as the craziness builds and builds well into the fourteenth minute before a MiniMoog at 13:30 leads a shift toward a less-pleasing more rock section. At 14:30 everything drops out for piano and Andreas singing. This sounds like German band ANYONE'S DAUGHTER! The solo piano runs off into a very classical-sounding passage until an old synth joins in during the seventeenth minute and then the whole band jumps back in with an insistent pace reminding me of MOTORPSYCHO. Nice keyboard and cymbal work in this passage as the vocalist(s) try to wrap it up. Overall a pretty cool journey into the "darker" side of Wobbler (which really isn't very dark). (35.25/40)

Total Time 45:41

The mastery of composition and performance is still there. The sound production is superb. The YES-sound and -style patterns are still dominant, but there may be a little more variety on display here than on previous Wobbler releases. Though the multi-voice vocal harmonies are excellent (probably even better than those of YES), I feel too often that these guys are going too far to try to replicate the Yes weaves. Also, this album, for me, lacks the memorable melodic hooks of the two previous albums.

88.0 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection--especially if you adore 1970s Yes music.




LUNATIC SOUL Through Shaded Woods

The folk side of master songwriter and singer Mariuz Duda.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Mariusz Duda / vocals, all instruments

1. "Navvie" (4:03) powerful and deeply engaging in a FAUN kind of way. My favorite song on the album. (9.5/10)

2. "The Passage" (8:57) dull and boring. (17/20)

3. "Through Shaded Woods" (5:51) a little too repetitive and drawn out (8.75/10)

4. "Oblivion" (5:03) That voice! Great use of zither, synths, and hand percussives. A top three song from me. (9/10)

5. "Summoning Dance" (9:52) nice start but, as is often the case with Mariuz Duda's Lunatic Soul songs, it fails to deviate from the foundation, only adding pretty and interesting incidentals here and there. Nice vocal melody and performance(s)--especially in the choruses. (There is an uncredited female voice singing background harmonies in the choruses). I like the use of piano, mandolin, and synths. When it goes slightly house/disco in the sixth minute, it's an interesting distraction, but then it goes rock with the fuzzy electric guitars and THIN LIZZY-like multiple guitar riffing. At the 8-minute  mark there is a gap of stillness before returning to a full soundscape of all that has occurred before while synth strings lead over the top.   (17.5/20)

6. "The Fountain" (6:04) a beautiful and very different song, vocal. Reminds me a little of a modern version of the 1970s band BREAD--or of something from Andrew Lloyd-Weber's Phantom of the Opera. (9/10)

Total Time 39:50

88.4375 on the Fishcales.

Special Ltd Edition Bonus CD:
1. "Vyraj" (5:32) a lively pagan folk romper in the vein of many of the more recent circle dances of FAUN. Mostly instrumental but some nice shifts in the soundscape along the way. (9/10)
2. "Hylophobia" (3:20) the heavier, almost rockin' side of mariuz cannot be denied (he's done it for far too long with Riverside). Add the folk percussion instruments and you have an aggressive almost folk music similar to that of Ivar Bhørnson and Einar Selvik on their 2018 Viking folk masterpiece, Hugsjá. (A little more drum reliant than Ivar and Einar's work.) (8.5/10)
3. "Transition II" (27:45) opens with the very familiar breathy synth sounds from the opeing of Marius' 2010 epic "Transitions" from Lunatic Soul's second album, II. Added intstruments and sounds show early on that Mariuz is definitely developing this version quite differently than the original. At the four-minute mark the addition of a fuzzy guitar to the layers signals a completely new direction and, within the minute, we have moved completely into the territory made familiar by MIKE OLDFIELD. Is this further confirmation that Mariuz has caught the Mike Oldfield Syndrome in which an artist gets lured into the pattern of going back and redoing, remixing, or refreshing old songs/ideas? The section here from the seven-minute mark sounds exactly like something from the mind (and discography) of Mike Oldfield. At 12:30 we begin to move out of Mike Oldfield territory as two guitars, bass and synth wash enter a more New Age soundscape. (I know one of Mariuz' heroes is Vangelis.) In the eighteenth minute, then, we move over into the more relaxing, bluesy side of the 21st Century New Age psychedelia--like a cross of old Pink Floyd with At 20:50 Mariuz starts a whole new song with vocalise, and a catchy multi-chord progression strummed by his electric guitar. This is cool. This is a difficult song to rate because of its multiple themes and palette choices. In the 26th minute, Mellotron like vocal banks introduce a kind of Gregorian-chant version of the original sound scape complete with a long decaying synth finish. (47.5/55)

Total Time 36:37

With bonus material = 87.58 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection--especially if you are A) a lover of Mariuz Duda's voice and B) you like the pagan folk vibe á la FAUN and WARDRUNA.




ZIO Flower Torenia

A rock opera!

Line-up / Musicians:
- Jimmy Pallagrosi / drums, percussion
- Olivier Castan / keyboards
- Lzi Hayes / bass (2, 3, 5, 8, 10)
- Marc Fascia / guitars
- Hayley Griffiths / voices
- Joe Payne / voices
- Franck Carducci / voices
- Heather Findlay / voices
- Cagri Tozluoglu / keyboards (6, 8, 11)
- Alfonso Alfano / accordion (11)
- Alex Lofoco / bass (6, 7)
- Richard Henshall / guitars (7)

1. "Ride Along" (2:19) (4.25/5)
2. "X-Ray" (6:23) That Joe Payne delivers. (8.5/10)
3. "Wings Inside" (3:23) Hayley Griffiths delivers. (8.75/10)
4. "Gold And Power" (2:35) (4/5)
5. "Straight Up From Underneath" (7:04) (13/15)
6. "Jupiter" (7:04) a top three song for me. (13.25/15)
7. "Erwin's Opera" (6:49) a masterpiece--vocally and compositionally. Great lead guitar work from Haken's Richard Henshall. Best song on the album. (14.5/15)
8. "Inner City Shorroma (7:51) my other top three song. (13.5/15)
9. "Ma Petite Histoire" (1:29) Heather Findlay still has it! (4.25/5)
10. "Interstellar List" (5:52) 80s hair band power prog. (8.25/10)
11. "Flower Torania" (2:06) accordion and piano with Hayley and Heather. (4.5/5)

Total Time 52:55

A little too campy and/or predictable or even stale Neo Heavy Prog. The vocal performances are filled with personality--but more like the kind of pomp deserving of a theater stage. The instrumental musicians are proficient but exhibit nothing exceptional or truly memorable (except for the guests).

87.95 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of theatric prog and a very solid contribution to the Prog World lexicon.




GALIA SOCIAL Rise

Pretty, melodic CARSON SCHNACKENBERG-like vocals and song constructs performed by technically impressive instrumentalists. Jazzy like MONOBODY with a hint of STEELY DAN. Heavy on the reverb.

Line-up / Musicians: 
Colbonix - Drums
LoG - Guitar, Programming

1. "Open" (1:50) awesome opener setting the stage for that which comes next. (4.75/5)

2. "Follow" (5:10) very pretty song construction, sounds, and melodies. Impressive guitar play. (9/10)

3. "Colors" (5:22) more great sound and melodies. (8.75/10)

4. "Aim (7:12) great opening moves into more nice sound and melody-making. A little more passion and dynamic range in the vocals and bass here. Cool space-ambient section in the second half. (13.25/15)

5. "Fire (5:35) the jazz-funky side of LoG turns into a bit of a PREFAB SPROUT-like song before, again, turning space-ambient for the final minute and 45. Nice! (8.75/10)

6. "Victory (7:00) interesting jump-start music over which vocalist sings with long sustained notes. Astonishing final 90 seconds for the combination of vocal and frenetic guitar play. (13/15)

7. "Rise" (9:14) (17.25/20)

Total Time 41:23

An excellent collection of songs in the vein of PLINI, ALCEST, THE ARBORIST, and THE MERCURY TREE. My only complaint is about the tedium of uniformity in the sound throughout the album.  

87.94 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of eclectic/crossover progressive rock music.




HAIL SPIRIT NOIR Eden In Reverse

Mirroring the ULVER / OPETH path.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Haris / synths
- Theoharis Liratzakis / lead vocals, guitars
- J. Demian / bass, acoustic guitars
With:
- Lars Nedland (Borknagar / Solefald) / vocals (4)
- Ioannis Giahoudis / drums 
- Dimitris Dimitrakopoulos / vocals

1. "Darwinian Beasts" (2:18) great song that introduces the futuristic sound and music that is to follow. (4.25/5)

2. "Incense Swirls" (7:14) sustained synth note is followed by pounding rock marching us forward. Jakub Roszak (RETROSPECTIVE)-like voice enters to begin telling us the story as the music trots along. Bass gets some interesting lee-way during fourth minute. Then vocalist(s) return singing int two different octaves. Nice! Scaled back instrumental passage in the fifth minute is cool--and is followed by a return to the higher-voiced chorus. The the marching beat is reestablished over which some interesting not-flashy synthesizer solos preceding the introduction of a new theme: a guitar arpeggio. Underwhelming ending. (Just prepping us for the next song?) (13.25/15)

3. "Alien Lip Reading" (6:36) great thick atmosphere with a very satisfying PAIN OF SALVATION-like wall-of-sound melodies, chord shifts, and feel. A top three song for me. (9.25/10)

4. "Crossroads" (5:09) opens with Gregorian chant-like effected male vocal before guitars and band launch into a drag race to the next song at the one minute mark. The simple and straightforward metal with simple synth riffs are fairly funny for their generic sound. The only saving grace is/are the vocals. What voices! (8.25/10)

5. "The Devil's Blind Spot" (3:42) guitar and synth created horn sounds open this one before full band enters to establish the foundation. But then it stays instrumental (other than some kind of growlish screams). Builds to a solid one minute finale. (8.75/10)

6. "The First Ape on New Earth" (7:26) it's off to the races from the opening note. The computer-esque drone voice of the lead singer is half BLUE ÖYSTER CULT half PAIN OF SALVATION--and the lyrics couldn't be more appropriate to both. Great tremolo strum in the fifth minute to pick things up. This, then, leads into a couple of nice whole-band power weaves. Very cool. Great bass play. Nice melodies that gradually, subtly worm their way into one's brain. Another top three song. (13.5/15)

7. "Automata 1980" (10:20) opens like a TODD RUNDGREN/TANGERINE DREAM/ "Twilight Zone" electronica experiment. Drums join in during the third minute while keys continue to do weirdness only. At 3:45 deep male voice enters with bank of Mellotron angelic voices. At 4:45 drums stop for cymbal crashes and heavily-treated choral voices singing "oohs" until 5:45 when the music smooths out into an equal palette of guitars and synths and more solid, laid back metal drumming while vocals become multi-tracked to sound multiplied. tremolo guitar slo in the eighth minute is very cool--gives the song a kind of "Court of the Crimson King" feel to it. Finishes with a Berlin School like sequencer sound as Gregorian voices vocalise in the far background. My favorite song on the album and oh, so different from the others! (18/20)

Total Time 42:45

My favorite aspect of this music are the vocals: they are excellent. It is also very refreshing to hear such adventurousness from a Prog Metal keyboardist!

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




LOGOS Sadako e le mille gru di carta 

Italy's prog revivalists are back with another collection of songs that seem to pay homage to some of the great RPI albums of the 1970s. I hear frequent snippets of BIGLIETTO PER L'INFERNO, LE ORME, BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO, MAXOPHONE, PANNA FREDDA, and even GENESIS and RICK WAKEMAN in a lot of this music as well as very keyboard-dominated music.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Luca Zerman / lead vocals, keyboards
- Claudio Antolini/ keyboards
- Fabio Gaspari/ bass, guitars, mandolin, vocals
- Alessandro Perbellini / drums
With:
- Elisa Montaldo / vocals (4)
- Federica Zoccatelli / saxophone (2)
- Massimo Maoli / guitars (6)
- Simone Chiampan / drums (4)

1. "Origami in SOL-" (2:16) instrumental introduction. Sounds like JOURNEY, STARCASTLE, GOBLIN, and ELP. (4.5/5)

2. "Paesaggi di insonnia" (11:27) Organ-dominated RPI in the BANCO and LE ORME vein--though Luc Zerman keeps reminding me of vocalist PAOLO FARINA. So many dynamic stops and starts, shifts and twists, I can't help but feel a bit lost, or confused. Love the stripped down passage beginning in the fourth minute with its use of sax and its familiar melody line (from LA COSCIENZA DI ZENO's 2013 masterpiece, Sensitività). Saxophone emerges from its murky effect to become the dominant soloist (with, of course, the multiple keyboards) until the next shift at 8:30, a sparse vocal section which is eventually joined by a slowed down chunky bass-dominated motif until 9:40 when a whole-band chord progression begins chugging along, pre-empting a heavy VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR-like sax-led section at 9:40 to the finish. (18/20)

3. "Un lieto inquietarsi" (10:48) opens with some very melodic synth riffs being explored with start-and-stop accompaniment. After half a minute, the light is green and the band takes off in a fast, thick, forward motion. BANCO-like tangent in the third minute takes us on a left turn down a different street--kind of dream like in the BALLETTO DI BRONZO tradition. Return to previous theme before shifting back to opening motifs. Another dream shift at the end og he fourth minute leads into a brief mediæval passage in the fifth and sixth minutes--which I like--but why does it exist? Why is it here? What story & moods are they trying to convey? (This series of questions makes me believe that non-Italians should be banned from reviewing RPI music.) Why is it followed by the organ-dominated section? Why do the vocal melodies not fit with those being repeated by the keyboards? To me, this song is a mess of non-sequitur motifs strung together in a pattern that is as abstract to me as one of Charles Beaudelaire's fleurs du mal. (16.5/20)

4. "Il sarto" (6:00) opening with Procul Harem organ and pop-Italia strummed guitar, the song sounds and continues to sound as if it was lifted off of an album (or live outdoor concert performance) in the late 1970s. Nice pop song, nice vocals (grace á Il Tempio delle Clessidre's wonderful Elisa Montaldo) maybe even a hit, but, again, why/how does it fit into this theme? (Or, is this not a concept album?) (8.5/10)

5. "Zaini di elio" (12:38) opens with blatant Duke-era GENESIS opening before adding a harpsichord and Arp synth to cover switch to a BANCO sound. But then, whoops, we're back to a Wakeman-Duke-like coda before dropping into a slower, more MAXOPHONE-like section used to support the first vocals. The complex instrumental section that follows feels straight out of the LE ORME Felona album before reverting to the bombastic Duke-theme for some Wakeman-like soloing. The flow of this song is, at least, much more coherent and less jagged than the previous two epics. The romantic buildup to and in the tenth minute works really well until the melody-mirroring choral vocalise starts to shift (are they off key or just providing counterpoint?) and then weaken again with the key shift in the twelfth minute. Otherwise, this song works! (23/25)

6. "Sadako e le mille gru di carta" (21:20) simple MIDI-ed piano, synth organ, and children's playground noises (Ah! The pre-COVID days!) open the first two minutes of this true epic. When the full band kicks in in the third minute I am fully in a LA COSCIENZA DI ZENO song--but then everything drops away to allow solo MIDI-ed "warped" piano to have the full stage. Male vocals enter and sing powerfully, really telling this story in the way that the Italians do so well! LE ORME-like instrumental section takes over in the fifth minute. Nice. Easy on the ears, fully accessible. Then, in the sixth minute, a Japanese sound & riff enters to colour the story in a different way. Unfortunately, this diminishes the power of the vocals when they return. And then the PAT BENETAR motif filling the first half of the eighth minute is disappointing, but then some ELP flourishes and a Duke-era GENESIS-like passage restores some faith and hope as we enter the tenth minute in a pleasant, easy-on-the-mind way. At 10:10, we take another turn, using EMINEM's beat from "Lose Yourself" before the band turns back to finally expose the Sadako theme as used in artist Marica Fasoli's YouTube video (how I found out about this album). A MIKE OLDFIELD-like recapitulation of previous themes using different sounds then ensues before we return to vocals late in the fifteenth minute. The lead vocalist here again sounds so much (to me) like PAOLO FARINA (it makes we want to hear his 2014 masterpiece, "Fiori, frutti, farfalle"). More rehashings of previously revealed themes--except for the chunky bass, many having that LE ORME feel and sound (we are now in the dénouement--the rest of the song follows the same form and themes, just building upon them). Unfortunately, these last six minutes tramp on a little too ploddingy. Overall, the song is very accessible, especially melodically, but it's a little too cliché-bombastic and simple to be called "perfection." Wonderfully engineered, though! (35/40)

Total Time 64:28


Nothing really new or Earth-shattering here, just well-crafted, well-produced prog/RPI. I'm not sure if I like the simpler, more straightforward music of the opener, the title song, and "Il Sarto" or the complex game of Pac-Man that "Paesaggi di insonnia" and "Un lieto inquietarsi" take me on, but it's all good. Definitely an album that I'll want to return to--up there with the LA COSCIENZA DI ZENO and UNREAL CITY albums of the past decade.

87.92 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music and a wonderful effort to resuscitate and pay homage to many of the sounds, themes, and styles of the old RPI masterpieces. 




FREN Where Do You Want Ghosts to Reside?

A remarkable debut album of solid, mature compositions from this classically-influenced "jazz" quartet from Kraków, Poland.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Michal Chalota / guitar
- Oskar Cenkier / piano, organ, synthesizer, Mellotron
- Andrew Shamanov / bass, synthesizer
- Oleksii Fedoriv / drums

1. "Twin Peaks" (4:41) effectively used Mellotron flutes with PINK FLOYD/Post Rock (MONO) music beneath. Nice! (9/10)

2. "Surge" (9:43) jazz-bluesy, slow to develop/display instrumental prowess--though heavily drenched in Mellotron and early MOODY BLUES-like sound palette and feel. Moves toward a more ÄNGLAGÅRD-like palette and style in the fourth minute, though it never quite reaches the pace and precision of the Swedes. Denigrates into a more BLUE ÖYSTER CULT palette and style in the eighth minute--which, then, plays out to the end. (16.75/20)

3. "Goraca Linia" (2:59) rousing raucous of classical-jazz-infused rock. (9/10)

4. "Pleonasm" (12:02) classical-jazz piano intro turns at 1:04 into RENAISSANCE "Trip to the Fair" intro. Pretty awesome! Piano and jazzy electric guitar blend together perfectly over solid bass and drums rhythm track. Drops a little in refreshing innovativeness with stereotypic jazz guitar solo in fifth minute. Returns to a RENAISSANCE quality movement in the sixth before segueing into a nice piano-supported rock guitar solo and more tightly performed staccato whole-band chord play. Eighth minute sees a guitar-supported piano solo before bombastic crescendo of "power chords." This is followed by spacious soft section in which piano plays sensitive solo before dueting with jazz guitar. I'm also reminded of AFTER CRYING as I listen to the music being attempted here. Great outro.(22.5/25) 

5. "Heavy Matter" (6:23) Opens with jazzy bass line, add piano, add electric guitar, add drums, and you've got the intro to what becomes a SANTANA-like groovin' jam (though a little more shape-shifting than Carlos' typical work). Superlative guitar soloing in the sixth minute! Wow! Technical skill of Colin Tench with emotionality of David Gilmour. (8.75/10)

6. "Time to Take Stones Away" (8:41) set up by a high-quality whole-band chord progression, electric guitar soars before music segues into more classically-tinged ALAN PARSONS-like section. At 4:10 we get a shift into a bass-line-led section that initially has a CURE-like feel until going back to a rapid fire jazz-rock whole-band chord progression at the six-minute mark. Piano solos between recapitulations of this "riff" and final slide into denouement. Pretty cool song! (17.5/20)

Total Time 44:29

Though I've heard the Änglagård comparisons, I only felt them once, in part of the epic "Surge." Otherwise, there is quite an eclectic sound and stylistic palette used.  

87.89 on the Fishscales = B-/four stars; a near-masterpiece of refreshing jazz- and classically-tinged instrumental progressive rock. Definitely a band to watch for future development.




ESP PROJECT Phenomena

The two man group of veterans Tony Lowe (music & instrumentation) and excellent vocalist/lyricist Damien Child come through with a collection of very enjoyable Neo Prog songs. 

Line-up / Musicians:
Tony Lowe / All Instruments
With:
- Damien Child / Vocals (1-6)
- Alison Fleming / Vocals (7)

1. "First Flight" (7:28) an excellent two-part song with the first being of rich, atmospheric, top quality Neo Prog and the second being a drum-led outro with a PINK FLOYD-like palette. A top three song for me. (13.75/15)

2. "Before Saturn Turned Away" (7:58) gorgeous vocals over some pretty simple and straightforward music. Another two-parter. The first part reminds me of the José Maria Blanc (Pablo El Enterrador) album that came out in 2018 if it had some lead singer from and old Mike Rutherford or Steve Hackett album. Also a little of TONY PATTERSON. (13/15)

3. "Telethesia" (7:51) sounds like a cross between TONY PATTERSON's Equations of Meaning and something by FISH or DAVID GILMOUR (solo). Lots of voice samples and annoying organ in the middle until the full-scale church organ is unleashed--then the song really takes off. It sounds like something off of Genesis Duke--but then it slows back down for the vocals to reenter for a bit before kicking back into drive. Interesting dynamics and chord structure. (12.75/15)

4. "Fear of Flying" (6:32) opens in full form with cool bass play and guitar arpeggi. The vocal is, at times, a little too impassioned for my tastes--like something from a stage musical, but the music is interesting enough to keep me fully engaged. Again, very interesting (unusual) chord progressions used throughout. Again, there are strong suggestions of Genesis Duke (and ABACAB) in this. (8.75/10)

5. "Living in the Sunrise" (6:38) For Tony to try to replicate oboe/clarinet/or cor anglais with a keyboard was unfortunate for this song's intro. In the second minute, it kicks into full speed with a very thickly textured wall of synth washes and Damien's fairly tempered vocal. Again, the unusual chord choices make for some very interesting textures and weaves. My third top three song. (8.75/10)

6. "Sleeping Giants" (6:08) That Joe Payne comes to mind as I listen to the vocal performance on this gorgeous Neo Prog song. My favorite song on the album. (9/10)

7. "Seven Billion Tiny Sparks" (9:00) another multi-part song, the first of which just plods along a little too trudgingly. The second section is better, followed by a weird kind of time warp before things clear out for a sensitive vocal from guest Alison Fleming over some spacey, then atmospheric TONY PATTERSON-like music. Could be a Kate Bush ballad. Gorgeous electric guitar solo in the final minute. (17.5/20)

I am intrigued by Tony's chord sensibilities as well as Damien's ability to find a fitting though often edgy and distinctive melody line with his beautifully modulated voice. Definitely and album and duo worth revisiting.

87.89 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of well-formed progressive rock music.  






WILDFLOWER Season 2

Very fun and accessible modern jazz. There is a KOOP-like accessibility to this music--even though it retains its form and sounds firmly rooted in jazz.

1. "Under the night sky" (5:11) opens with a very engaging bass line, syncopated percussion rhythms and smooth, pretty sax play. A shift and key change at 1:20 catches me off guard, but then things return to "normal" about 20 seconds later. Following an ABACAB song structure, it happens again at 2:30 as the saxophone wails and the drummer plays all over the place. The bass player is definitely the anchor of this operation. (8.75/10) 

2. "Mirage" (5:18) the song that got me hooked into this album, opens with breathy saxophone scales before a very cool bank of flutes & clarinet (reminding me of my favorite Freddie Hubbard albums) and KOOP-like bass line enter. Very cool! Drums enter and are left alone with bass for a few seconds before sax begins a slow re-entry. Very reminiscent of KLAUS DOLDINGER! Flute bank returns at the end of the second minute letting me know that this song is also going to follow a ABACAB format. Hypnotic and VERy danceable! (9.5/10)

3. "Fire" (5:47) founded on an odd-tempoed but very hypnotic and very solid KOOP-like bass riff, the drums are entertainingly wild and the sax is impassioned. Even contains an old-fashioned jazz drum solo in the fifth minute. (9/10)

4. "Distant thunder" (4:49) founded on a very simple, slow melodic motif, there is a lot of space and subtle nuance to throughout--even when the sax steps up to take the complete lead. Nice if a little too repetitive and drawn out. (8/10) 

5. "Rush" (3:10) opens with a quick pace and another complex but brief bass line that becomes the foundation for everything else to build and grow upon. Not as melodically pleasing or engaging as previous songs, but it's fun to listen to the athletic ranting of the sax and drummer as well as the Jaki Liebezeit-like steadiness of the bass player. (8.5/10)

6. "Light in the sorrow" (5:20) opens with clarinet, rumbling bass, and wild cymbal play, sounding quite a lot like JOHN COLTRANE's A Love Supreme before bass and sax take on a waltz-like dance with Eastern European/Middle Eastern melodic sensibilities. Very interesting and very cool! Love the bass play! Love the clarinet! The melody almost sounds like a play on some Negro spiritual or church song. (9.25/10)

7. "Where the wild things dance" (5:50) repeating rock bass line is joined by bamboo flute and percussives. Background harmony accents are provided by sax and clarinet. Again, the bass is holding the line while everyone else goes expressing themselves--their wildness! The woodwind chorus harkens back to something I've heard from the 60s or 70s, just can't pick it out of my memory banks. Things get really loose and wild in the fifth minute but then come back to center at 5:00 . . . before disintegrating again as we approach the end. Weird but cool. (8.5/10)

87.86 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive jazz fusion.





THE BARDIC DEPTHS The Bardic Depths

Rather straightforward, simple Neo Prog with some lush atmospheric soundscapes and pulsating prog that have been set up to support the existential and anti-war themes as were discussed between authors C.S Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia) and J.R.R. Tolkein (The Lord of the Rings). 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Dave Bandana / Vocals, Bass, Guitars, Keyboards, Percussion (3), Flute & Harmonica (6)
- Brad Birzer / Spoken Word (1,4,5)
With:
- Peter Jones (Camel, Tiger Moth Tales) / Saxophone (3), Vocals (7), Spoken Word (1)
- Tim Gehrt (Streets, Steve Walsh) / Drums (1,4,7)
- Gareth Cole (Tom Slatter, Fractal Mirror) / Guitar (3), Lead Guitar (5), 1st Guitar Solo (7)
- Robin Armstrong (Cosmograf) / Backing Vocals (1,4), Keyboards, Strings & Hammond Organ (1), Acoustic Guitars (2), Drum Programming (3, 6), Bass & 2nd Guitar Solo (7)
- Paolo Limoli / Keyboards & Piano (1-6)
- Kevin McCormick / Lead Guitar (1), Acoustic Guitars (3)
- Glenn Codere / Backing Vocals (1,4,5)
- John William Francis / Spoken Word (1), Marimba (2,7)
- Mike Warren / Cello (6)
- Lilly Miller / Spoken Word (4,5)
- Richard Krueger, Henri Strik, Scotty Scott, Andreas Mowinckel, Tony Bridgeman, Martin Holmes, Phil Ball / Spoken Word (1)

1. "The Trenches" (8:35) a two minute intro of passages from letters written between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein between the two World Wars over atmospheric synth washes then vaults into motion to support a fairly easy-going but steady music with a familiar proggy sound palette. Then, int he fifth minute there is a shift as a more slow military march with synth flutes and synth strings plays while soldiers' voices can be heard beneath saying things like "Fire!" At the six minute mark a more insidious proggy motif takes over to support Dave Bandana's vocal. At 7:45 everything drops out leaving a treated "distant" vocal to sing its dirge. (17/20)

2. "Biting Coal" (7:50) slow, oscillating atmospherics underline samples of conversations in some Scandinavian language for the first half before things take a turn and Dave sings a Roger Waters-like vocal over gently-strummed acoustic guitar and lush atmospheric synths. (12.75/15)

3. "Depths Of Time" (12:35) one of the most unlikely and unexpected masterpieces of the year 2020! (23.5/25)
a. - The Instant - emotional sax play over spacey synth washes and some ticking from a clock. (8.5/10)
b. - The Flicker - 1980s New Wave techno disco adult jazz! Could be THE THE or SIMPLY RED. Very cool and unexpected. Refreshing and very engaging! This could've been a hit for NEW ORDER or DEPECHE MODE! (5/5)
c. - The Moment - return to plaintive sax but this time over full band at half the speed and half the everything of The Flicker." Brilliant sax play, Peter Jones!--enhanced greatly by the heavy reverb. (10/10)

4. "Depths Of Imagination" (5:01) slow, thick PINK FLOYD-like music to support spoken word recitation of a passage from C.S. Lewis about creating the "fairy" world. In the second minute things turn a little more bluesy as Dave sings about the brotherhood of writing about imaginary worlds. Not much meat or variety to the song. (8.25/10)

5. "Depths Of Soul" (6:40) spacious space sounds enter and fade beneath a simple quote from Tolkien before sax, bass, and drums kick in to support lead guitarist Gareth Cole's attempt to establish melody and mood. When everything finally gels and shifts into drive at the end of the second minute, its pretty cool PINK FLOYD motif that Dave sings over. The Peter Jones (TIGER MOTH TALES) sax soli in the fourth minute is great--as is the "Lothlorian" chorus and background synths and organ in the next section. (8.75/10)

6. "The End" (7:37) electric piano and flute sound opens this before being joined by Dave's sad lyric and sad cello. Very frail and emotional. At 1:45 it's as if a whole new song starts, but it's just a lane change--to speed up a little. Dave's got a very pretty melody and sound construct here. Harmonica and deep bass notes alternate with piano chord hits in the fourth minute creating a little discordant tension. Piano then tries to take us out before giving way to organ and cello. At 5:25 there is a little pause with some pitch-bent synth chord before the song kicks out onto another side-street--this one with tom-tom play, bluesy guitar and Mellotron male chorus bank while Dave sings his final verse.   Very engaging song. My favorite on the album. (13.75/15)

7. "Legacies" (9:28) there's a very serious intention to the this song as a delivery mechanism for a message: "We define the edge"--as well as more quotes read from the Lewis-Tolkien letters. Nice that it's supported by very nice music and some great solos in the end from Dave's synthesizers and then a running duel between guitarists Gareth Cole and Robin Armstrong. My second favorite song on the album. (18/20)

Total time: 57:46

A very pleasant listen if somewhat singular in its palette and mood (i.e. other than "The Flicker"). 

87.83 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a surprisingly solid near-masterpiece of atmospheric, thematic progressive rock music. An album that I think I'll return to quite often for a while.




ZOPP Zopp

Competent modern prog done in the Canterbury style most similar to Dave Newhouse's Manna/Mirage though I find Egg, Hatfield and the North, Supersister, and The Muffins also come to mind. Fine sound engineering and overall production for this sometimes simplistic and basic imitation of the best sounds of Dave Stewart, Robert Jan Stips, Phil Miller, Richard Sinclair, and others.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Ryan Stevenson / keyboards, Mellotron M4000D, Hammond organ, Arturia analogue synthesiser, Korg CX-3 organ, piano, Hohner Pianet T, bass, electric guitars, Nord Electro synth, voice, sound design, noises, field recordings, percussion
with:
- Andrea Moneta / drums, percussion, drum recording
- Andy Tillison / piano (6), Hammond organ (3), Leslie processing (2,5,6), co-production (3,6,9)
- Theo Travis / flute (6)
- Caroline Joy Clarke / voice (1,7,8)
- Mike Benson / tenor saxophone (9)

1. "Swedish Love" (1:32) pure and delightful Hatfield and the North . . . until the eerie/bizarre second half (4.5/5)

2. "Before The Light" (6:05) Eggish with some Supersister sprinkled in (8.75/10)

3. "Eternal Return" (5:06) I hear Supersister, Cos, The Muffins, and a little Khan in the first half of this one. The big pause in the middle brings forth a little Jean-Luc Ponty and Mike Oldfield feel! (8.25/10)

4. "Sanger" (3:20) sounds like The Muffins with Hugh Hopper's bass! (8.5/10)

5. "Sellanrå" (3:29) an interesting sound experimental starting with the organ start and some nature noises and then piano arpeggi and sparse echoing electric guitar notes and, later, faraway female vocalise. I actually really like this. (9.5/10)

6. "V" (6:37) using Andy Tillison as the time holder! Again, The Muffins and Manna/Mirage come to mind. Great bass and some really awesome Dave Newhouse-like melody lines. (8.75/10)

7. "Being And Time" (4:33) more regal and pretentious, like Black Sabbath or Deep Purple, but then turns into more melodic stuff á la Manna/Mirage. (8.67/10)

8. "Zero" (4:52) again, the individual layers of the tapestry are surprisingly simple, but the whole impresses as if some kind of Dave Stewart, Mike Rutledge, Dave Sinclair or even Alan Gowen composition--though, again, I hear Dave Newhouse melodies. (8.75/10)

9. "The Noble Shirker" (9:19) The most full and sophisticated song on the album, done in a style like AMOEBA SPLIT's 2016 album, Second Split. The sax is fun. (17.75/20)

Total time: 44:53

87.81 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music exploring the jazzier Canterbury veins.




OTEME Un Saluto alle Nuvole

More great refreshing avant lounge jazz from this laid back yet-inventive Italian band. I love their musical vision:  It's so different from anyone out there! Every song on this album contains, begins with, or is built around a speech sample.

Line-up / Musicians: 
Irene Benedetti: voice, flute, piccolo
Valeria Marzocchi: voice, flute, recorder
Elia Bianucci: clarinet, bass clarinet
Lorenzo Del Pecchia: piccolo clarinet, clarinet
Stefano Giannotti: voice, guitar, electric guitar, banjo, componium, percussion
Emanuela Lari: voice, keyboards
Valentina Cinquini: harp, voice
Vittorio Win Fioramonti: voice, double-bass, electric bass, chromatic harmonica
Antonio Caggiano: vibraphone, percussion
Riccardo Ienna: drums
Blaine L. Reininger: violin
Edgar Gomez, Gabriele Stefani: vocals

1. "Chiudere quella porta" (3:10) opens with raspy old man's spoken words. Turns folk classical before a more traditional Euro-jazz element slips in to move the song forward. Otherwise, this is almost an avant choral piece. From the department of YUGEN or FACTOR BURZACO. A top three song for me. (9/10)
 
2. "E c'è qualcuno" (3:46) opens with middle aged woman speaking before acoustic guitar and double bass enter to provide the foundational sound for lone male singer and, later, elaborately constructed multi-voiced chordal weave. Flutes, clarinets, harp, vibes and other hand percussives all help fill the rich sonic field. Nice. (8.75/10)

3. "Un ricordo bello" (5:16) The sounds of either setting the dinner table or putting away the dishes in the kitchen sound while young woman speaks over the top. Vibes, organ, and lone female voice enter to sing over the continued sounds of dishes and silverware being manipulated. Clarinets, flute, and soloing classical guitar provide an instrumental middle before singer returns to finish. More FACTOR BURZACO reminders. (8.75/10)

4. "Dieci giorni" (6:29) metal ticking of a bedside alarm clock over which middle aged man speaks and then military-like countdown before drum rhythm and bowed double bass interplay take over. More instruments are gradually, singularly added to the weave--clarinets, harpsichord, harmonica, male and female singers, piano, harp, flute, even raunchy electric guitar, building and building over same six-measure rhythmic pattern. Then they're all equally systematically deconstructed to the closing explosion. (8.5/10)

5. "Gli angeli di san cataldo" (3:28) odd electronically-filtered percussive noises over which violin, classical guitar and flute play. There's a bit of tango or even Stephane Grappelli here. Harmonica joins. Spacious, discordant, tension-filled, and plain weird. (8/10)

6. "Quando la sera" (5:41) harp-supported choral display--were it not for the traditional instruments and syncopated rhythm structure (or un-structure) this could almost be a piece written for a liturgical reading. The banjo- and clarinet-supported center section contains the singing voice of a much younger female than we've heard before. More avant chromaticisms fill the spaces between the vocals. Intriguing. (9/10)

7. "Turni" (11:57) opens with the speech of a young woman. She is eventually joined by a background of what sounds like African field chanting--which then bleeds into the electro-rhythm-tracked musical weave of double bass, vibes, and organ. Lone male voice sings over this simple, spacious weave and is eventually joined by a woman--the two interacting as if in a conversation. It's actually quite beautiful.Though the music and main melody span the entire eleven minutes, it's quite hypnotic. Plus, there are plenty of "guest visitors" adding their ten cents along the way to make it interesting. Another top three song. (22.25/25)

8. "Una mamma disperata" (8:15) a pretty classical guitar chord progression is all that supports the main male singer's solo voce. At 0:48 more instruments and a whole host of other vocalists join in. The harp is especially interesting. Bass clarinet and harmonica--and, later, wild and reckless piano--take over in the instrumental passage between the second and third verses. At 3:28 the drummer begins to really mess with the rhythm--almost "forcing" the other instruments to fall away for his nearly two-minute solo. Then Stefano Giannotti and the male singer restart, the song replicating all it had done from the start only in a more condensed, faster fashion--leading to a festive folk-jazz jam before the scaled-down final verse. (17.5/20)

9. "Per i giorni a venire" (7:37) opens with the recorded speech of a wise woman before children's electric piano takes over at 0:40 to introduce the main chord progression and melody of the ensuing uptempo jazz song. This is really pretty! At the five minute mark everything kind of cuts out, disintegrates, for a chaotic "Also Sprach Zarathustra" kind of children's collaboration in cacophony. The harp and maybe the clarinet seem to be the only ones trying to keep it together. A top three song for me. (13.5/15)

10. "Un saluto alle nuvole" (1:40) harp and harmonium duet. As if next to the open air campfire. (4.25/5)

Total Time 57:19

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




ELECTRIC ORANGE Encoded

Now this is different! I like variety--and bands that experiment and grow. The album starts out with some very unusual and different sounds and styles (for Dirk Jan Müller) but then seem to revert to more traditional Kosmische Musik forms and styles. I would love to hear more "new" stuff like the opening song, but, still, I do love the serious dedication Electric Orange puts into their Krautrock revival releases.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Dirk Bittner / guitar, lap steel, voice, percussion, samples
- Dirk Jan Müller / hammond, minimoog, vocoder, nyx
- Tom Rückwald / electric & acoustic bass, drop guitar
- Georg Monheim / drums, percussion, water tap

1. "Partial Encode" (8:33) an excellent and refreshing opener using vocoded voice for vocals and a kind of straightforward Euro-rock groove to engage and hypnotize us. In the sixth minute the vocals get muddy and the music seems to "lose its way" (purposely), but the rhythm section slowly recovers in the seventh minute and we end on the hypnotic groove that started it all. (18/20)

2. "Low" (2:53) a very spacey, Blade Runner-like interlude. (4.25/5)

3. "Ekoshock" (8:05) Kosmische organ play with fast-pulsing bass underneath, both intensifying into a swirling cacophony before an American voice sample is used to bridge into a more hypnotic and traditional Kosmische rhythm track. Guitars and organ add incidental noises from beneath or from the periphery while the pagan dance rave goes on in the center. Very hypnotic and trance psychedelic. (13.25/15)

4. "Ghost In A Bag" (5:51) themed around the invisible that is electricity, there is a JIMI HENDRIX-like feel and construction to this one with lots of feedback and extemporaneous vocals thrown at us from all directions. At 2:05 a British-voiced psychedelic talk-vocal enters and takes the lead. Very trippy. In the fourth minute, after the voice has finished his incantation, a more heavy psych rock song takes form and carries on until the chanter returns around the five minute mark. Very cool, different, and interesting. (8.75/10)

5. "Prawn (3:32) more spacey synths, syncopated electric guitar hits, tribal drumming and bass rolling in the low end. Very traditional Krautrock of the CAN/TD order. (8/10)


6. "Passage (8:42) another Kosmische jam combining he space synth/keyboard sounds of TANGERINE DREAM-like music with the low end rhythm section of JAKI and HOLGER. The keys are the highlight at the forefront while the steadiness of the rhythm tracks provide the ocean of transport necessary to enjoy the show. (17.75/20)

Total Time 37:36


87.50 on the Fishscales = B+/four stars; an excellent example of modern Kosmische Musik and a wonderful contribution to the prog lexicon. If you're craving some wonderfully engineered trance-inducing Kosmische Musik, this is your album to check out.




MOURA Moura

I'm not sure how this received its "Prog Folk" categorization! Are DEEP PURPLE or BLACK SABBATH Prog Folk?

Line-up / Musicians: 
Diego Veiga: vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, harmonic
Hugo Santeiro: electric guitar, 12-string acoustic guitar, classic guitar
Fernando Vilaboi: hammond, synth
Pedro Alberte: bass
Luis Casanova: drums
With:
A Irmandade Ártabra:
Belém Tajes: vocals, aturuxos
Pedro Villarino: bass drum, tarrañolas, tin whistle
Miguel Vázquez: tambourines
Antonio Prado: can, tambourine and effects
Pablo Reboiras: hurdy-gurdy
Susana Pérez: clarinet
Brais Maceiras: accordion

1. "Eira" (08:58) after an awesome atmospheric mystical folk intro of 1:50, the song kicks into a that reminds me of the eclectic British band DIAGONAL or psychedelic rockers HYPNOS69. The heavily treated vocals continue to try to infuse a spacey-psychedelia into the mix, thought music is quite a bit of heavy blues-rock. At 5:45 some new instruments come to the fore (electric guitars, Hammond organ, alien synths) while the main 4-chord motif continues beneath. A entropic passage of cacophony with about a minute threatens to derail everything, but then the band comes back together for a smooth finish. (17/20)

2. "Da Interzona a Annexia" (08:51) opening in full heavy psychedelia, there is a lot more DEEP PURPLE in this music than Prog Folk! The vocal enters after the 90 second opening using some of the same heavily-effected sounds--though with multiple voices and chorus. In the sixth and seventh minutes a traditional folk melody is sung like a chant by the group over the same monotonous music. Guitars and synth try to spice it up after that till the end. (16.75/20)

3. "O curioso caso de Mademoiselle X" (13:42) opens with all traditional acoustic instruments playing some Galician melodies (the Galician band A Irmandade Ártabra). Moura joins in with a slow blues-rock three-chord motif (picking up the main melody established by A Irmandade Ártabra) at 2:27, adding searing lead guitar during the fourth minute, but the singing (using the usual heavily-treated voice of Diego Veiga) doesn't begin until 4:00. At this point, it sounds a bit like a ROBIN TROWER song. When the chorus kicks in it sounds like we're listening to some heavy psychedelic band from the late 1960s--CSN&Y or VANILLA FUDGE come to mind. It's very good! 
     At the end of the eighth minute the guitars and drums disappear to make way for a simple bass riff to support a parade of dreamlike cacophony (spacey synths, organ, harmonica, repeat and echoed keys and guitars) which is finally melded back into a simple semblance of sanity by the quite drums and twin guitars slowly playing their lead melodies. Very cool! (Especially the "School"-like harmonica.) Then a BLACK SABBATH-like "Iron Man" riff takes over at the beginning of the thirteenth minute, taking us out till the end's swirling Hammond chord. (27/30)

4. "Ronda das Mafarricas" (07:03) mystical organ, finger bells, and heavily-treated voice singing a Moorish melody open the first 90 seconds of this before other hand percussives and heavy, deep guitars and bass join in. Accordion is added to the mix. It sounds like a merger between IRON BUTTERFLY and Ash Ra Tempel or Amon Düül. A guitar starts soloing in the fourth minute and then THIN LIZZY-like twin guitars appear around 4:30. Synth solo, guitar solo during background lull in the sixth minute as hand percussives and celebratory folk voices take over--until SEVEN IMPALE/MOTORPSYCHO-like guitars and band come back into the mix till the finish. Thanks to the participation of traditional Galician folk band, A Irmandade Ártabra, this is the most diversified and developed song on the album and, therefore, the most interesting and my favorite. (13.5/15) 

Total Time 38:34

The heavy blues-rock psychedelia presented on 80% of this album is fairly simple in terms of compositional constructs and musicianship. I get pretty bored with four- or five-chord riffs being endlessly repeated over the course of eight or nine minutes--unless there is something extraordinary going on over the top--which there is none of here. Despite the drawbacks, this is definitely an album that grows on you with repeated listens.

87.35 on the Fishscales = B+/four stars stars; a solid revisitation to the heavy blues-rock psychedelia of the late 1960s and early 1970s.




SCARLET HOLLOW A Window to October

Lush electric guitars and synth performances and arrangements from Gregg Olson with solid rhythm section and interesting female vocals help elevate this music to my list of recommended listens.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Allison VonBuelow / vocals, acoustic guitars
- Gregg Olson / electric guitars, synth
- Jeff Mack / basses, bass pedals
- Jay Setar / drums, percussion
With:
- Teresa Russell / guitars, guitar solo (5)
- Massood Jamille / tablas (2)
- Stephen George Geyer / guitars, end guitar solo (9)

1. "Adventures in the Kings Garden" (6:23) vocals a little too like HEART/Grace Slick. (8/10)

2. "From Sea to Infinity" (5:11) tablas used to great effect. Nice keys and vocals. (8.75/10)

3. "A Window to October" (7:05) gorgeous composition with fine performances all around. (13.25/15)

4. "The Forgotten" (4:23) solid prog soundscape but nothing too exciting or special. (8.5/10)

5. "Skipping on Frozen Fire" (6:24) interesting song palette for a deeply personal lyric: kind of dreamy. I like it! Nice guitar soloing in the final two minutes! Great vocal! One of my top three. (8.75/10)

6. "Jupiter's Calling" (4:04) more nice, lush, atmospheric prog music on display for this laid back and very enjoyable instrumental. My second top three song. (9/10)

7. "LVX" (4:55) continues the deeply engaging sounds of the previous. Allison's voice is really working within this one. Nice space-ambient outro. (8.75/10)

8. "Pendragon's Cove" (2:03) solo acoustic guitar with some floating background touches from Gregg's electric. Then he starts soloing. Nice. (4.75/5)

9. "Crimson Lights and Dark Waters" (9:12) 'tron! Acoustic guitars. Sensitive electric lead. Bass and gentle drums. ANNIE HASLEM-like vocal kind of doesn't work--until the gorgeous Annie Wilson-like chorus. Nice work, Allison! Bravo! Sensitive interlude in the fourth minute precedes a change of pace and style for the next section. Love the chunky bass and Mark Knopfler-like guitar! For some reason, I feel as if the vocal should be ... more. This could have been much more powerful. (17.5/20)

10. "I Am Divided" (7:57) feels like a more amped up re-take on the previous song--more as if HEART had done it. The tempo shift at the midpoint saves this one from dustbin doldrums. (13/15)

11. "Possibilities" (4:12) another ballad with layers of mixed/awkwardly paired sounds. Gorgeous albeit brief guitar solo. (I think it's the tone that wows me most.) (8.25/10)

12. "Dream Currents" (7:10) I like this one for its stylistic and tempo variances from the rest of the album. Again, Allison's voice is treated and mixed differently than the rest of the sound--making it feel oddly separate. (Too much compression or something?) Love the b vox choral vocals at the end! My other top three song. (13.25/15)

Total Time 68:59

There were several times that the soundscapes and guitar soloing reminded me of Frank Marino's Mahagony Rush from the 70s and 80s. 

87.32 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a consistent collection of beautiful, lush, mature prog compositions and a welcome addition to Prog World. Reminds me a lot of Dam Kat and her band, Children in Paradise.  




JOHN HOLDEN Rise and Fall

I was really not ready to listen to any new music this year until I was given notice from Bandcamp that John Holden had released a new album. Some of you may remember John's 2018 debut, Capture Light, the one that stirred none other than Maestro Steve Hackett to endorse and proclaim it's success, and an album that earned a B+/4.5 star rating from me. Well, John is back and much of the same amazing guest list from Capture Light is back contributing to eight brand new, amazingly sophisticated, mature, and polished religiously- or classically-tinged songs. Back are brilliant guitarist Oliver Day, singers "That" Joe Payne (THE ENID, METHEXIS, ZIO), Peter Jones (TIGER MOTH TALES, CORVUS STONE), Sally Minnear (daughter of GENTLE GIANT keyboard wizard, Kerry, who has performed with DAVE BAINBRIDGE), and Jean Pageau (MYSTERY), as well as Nick D'Virgilio (TEARS FOR FEARS, GIRAFFE, THUD, SPOCK'S BEARD, MIKE KENNEALY, COSMOGRAF, DAVE KERZNER, BIG BIG TRAIN, THE FRINGE), Oliver Wakeman (yes, THAT Wakeman; YES, STRAWBS) and Vikram Shankar (GRIOT, GRAVITY, LUX TERMINUS, THREADS OF FATE, SILENT SKIES, OUR DESTINY), and single song contributions of Billy Sherwood, Jon Camp (RENAISSANCE), Michel St.-Pere (MYSTERY), and Zald Crowe.

I don't know how John has attracted such a stellar cast of collaborators, but I'm so glad he has: his compositions, so steeped in religious and theatric traditions, are rendered here, as on Capture Light, beautifully, with absolute top quality skill and the highest quality of engineering and production. I usually don't begin writing reviews this early in the year, but this album was an auto-buy for me and has been on regular rotation since it came out--and I still can't get enough of it. 

Five star songs: 6. "After the Storm" (6:08) (Sally Minnear singing) (9/10); 4. "Dark Arts" (7:06) (Joe Payne singing with the bombast of Boy George; Billy Sherwood's awesomely chunky bass; Oliver Wakeman's delicious synthesizer play; Zald Crowe's awesome lead guitar work/solo) (13.5/15), and; 1. "Leap of Faith" (10:11) (Peter Jones singing) (17.75/20).

Four star songs: 2. "Rise and Fall" (6:22) (Jean Pageau singing) (8.75/10), 5. "Heretic" (9:18) (Joe Payne singing) (17.25/20); 7. "Ancestors and Satellites" (8:56) (17/20), and; 3. "The Golden Thread" (4:53) (Joe Payne & Lauren Nolan singing) (8.25/10).

87.14 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent album of theatric progressive rock music.

P.S. One of the most stunning sculptures and/or album covers I've ever seen!



SANGUINE HUM A Trace of Memory

Once more the boys from Oxford release an album of excellent musicianship, engaging sound, and wonderful production covering  a bunch of banal songs that fail to grab or keep a hold.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Joff Winks / guitar, vocals, piano (3), string arrangements (2)
- Matt Baber / keyboards, synths, drums (4), field recordings
- Brad Waissman / bass, Chapman Stick, upright electric bass
With:
- Paul Mallyon / drums (2,5-7)
- Andrew Booker / electronic percussion (1), drums (3)

1. "New Light" (3:04) An instrumental to open the album containing one of the most interesting and completely engaging sound palettes I've ever heard from this band. (8.75/10)

2. "The Yellow Ship" (13:08) opens with a RADIOHEAD sound and feel until the vocals enter, then it's all STEVEN WILSON. It then slogs delicately along for the entirety of its mostly-instrumental thirteen minutes despite several failed attempts to break the chains (at 6:15, 7:55, and 10:35). (21/25)

3. "Pyramids" (4:50) opens with a very strong similarity to STEVEN WILSON's latest more-poppy song styles; though it's still quite definitely prog, it's got that RADIOHEAD simple-feeling complexity. Interesting and different. I like it. (8.75/10)

4. "Thin Air" (4:45) an instrumental with an odd mixture of faded in and out synthesizer sequences over which low notes of a guitar are plucked before bass, electric piano and programmed-sounding drums (Matt Baber) play. Nice build and bridges take us to the three-minute mark where a reverse-noted electric guitar solo is let loose before switching into jazz chords. Nice acoustic guitar and electric piano arpeggiated chord sequence leads us into the Post Rock (Monobody)-like finish. (9/10)

5. "Unstable Ground" (4:10) ominous chords and arpeggi woven together within a syncopated, odd time signature over which Joff sings. The music again reminds me of Chicago avant jazz/Math Rock band MONOBODY. Great section in the third minute. Return to the ominous mood for the final minute. Good stuff. (8.75/10)

6. "Still as the Sea" (3:22) piano and guitar arpeggi interwoven with piano-right hand and Joff's vocal melody-making. At 1:20 we transition into a powerful LYLE MAYS-like jazz piano motif--by far my favorite motif on the album! This is what I've been wanting from SANGUINE HUM ever since they threw away the Antique Seeking Nuns! (9.5/10)

7. "Automaton" (8:49) an instrumental to end the album. A little more interesting and unusual than the rest but still nothing to get too excited about much less quite home about. (17/20)

Total Time 42:08

87.11 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection. The song "Still as the Sea" is, for me, worth the whole price of the album. 




IOEARTH Aura

More laid back, atmospheric Neo Prog from these now-veteran Brit proggers--their fourth album since their self-titled 2009 debut.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Dave Cureton / guitars, vocals
- Rosanna Lefevre / vocals
- Adam Gough / keyboards, vocals
- Luke Shingler / soprano saxophone, flute
- Jez King / violin
- Christian Nokes / bass
- Tim Wilson / drums, percussion

1. "Aura" (7:52) very laid back and slow to develop--like a classic PINK FLOYD or UNITOPIA song. It even had a David Gilmour-like guitar solo in near the end. (13.25/15)

2. "Waterfall" (11:24) spacious drums, piano, bass, synth washes, and female choir vocals open this slow-paced song. It's like ENIGMA-treated PURE REASON REVOLUTION. At 2:45 everything falls away while piano continues as sole accompanist to Rosanna Lefevre's lovely vocal. (She sounds a lot like FREQUENCY DRIFT's wonderful 2011 vocalist, Antje Auer.) At 3:30 the full band jumps back in, giving Rosanna a little break, but then she returns to sing her next verse. Rosanna's vocalise in the seventh and eighth minutes is pure delight as she slips in and out of operatic mode. Though flute and violin are purportedly in the mix throughout, I cannot really pick them up in the mix (until the very end). A very nice, solid prog epic. (17.75/20)

3. "Breathe" (8:36) more pretty soundscapes with gentle, etheric vocals (and samples of radio interview) but, once again, the song's development is so slow and incremental that the tendency is for the listener (me) to get bored long before the somewhat-interesting subtleties and idosyncracies arrive. (17/20)

4. "Resonance I (3:05) (/10)
5. "Circles" (6:15) straight out of Giancarlo Erra's NOSOUND playbook, this spacious, atmospheric song starts with spacey atmosphere and almost-spoken male vocals before the band kicks in and Rosanna begins wafting her lilting vocalise around in the mix. An eerie Gothic pregnant spaciousness takes over in the middle before the band kicks back in and Rosanna's vocalise continues winding around while male and female vocalists sing some kind of subdued, chanted lyric together. Effective. (8.75/10)

6. "Shadows" (6:18) piano If the band's video has anything to say about this song, it's about a now-homeless war veteran (Baltic wars of the 1990s? or the Middle East conflicts?) and the memories that haunt him: friends lost in battle, lost daughter (or children as collateral damage), lost homeland. Dave Cureton gives quite an impassioned vocal in the second half. (9/10)

7. "Resonance II (2:23) (/5)
8. "The Rain" (18:02) another song that is only separated from the UNITOPIA catalogue by the talented vocals of Rosanna Lefevre (who is used here as the second/relief vocalist)--and by the distinction that not even Unitopian songs develop this slowly, this simplistically. Don't get me wrong: there are definitely some nice sylistic choices here--and more dynamic shifts than on any of the previous songs--it's just . . . nice background music. The various spoken people samples in the thirteenth and fourteenth minutes try to give it a hopeful perspective but, in the end, it just feels pessimistic. (30/35)

Total Time 63:56

87.04  on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; an excellent contribution of atmospheric neo-progressive rock. 




KARFAGEN Birds of Passage

I"m sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings but this album makes Antony sound tired--as if he's running out of fresh ideas, scraping the bottom of his vast and formerly-full barrel--as well as if he's tired of being Mr. Perfectionist in the engineering room and tired of being Mr. Perfectionist with every performance on every track. There are a lot of nice ideas here, a lot of nice performances, but they sound hodge-podged together, spliced together instead of worked out and re-worked out. Mostly a flimsy prog-by-numbers rehash of old ideas.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Antony Kalugin / keyboards, vocals, percussion, composer & arranger, programming & mixing, co-producer
With:
- Tim Sobolev / vocals
- Olha Rostovska / vocals
- Mathieu Spaeter / guitar
- Aleksandr Pavlov / nylon guitar
- Maria Baranovska / violin
- Alexandr Pastuchov / bassoon
- Elena Kushniy / flute
- Konstantin Ionenko / bass
- Viktor Syrotin / drums, percussion

1. "Birds of Passage" (Part 1): (22:40) Antony is starting to sound tired. (38/45)
- a) Your Grace
- b) Against the Southern Sky
- c) Sounds That Flow
- d) Chanticleer
- e) Tears from the Eyelids Start (Part 1)
2. "Birds of Passage" (Part 2): (21:11) (35.33/40)
- a) Eternity's Sun Rise - nice little acoustic guitar rant (4.75/5)
- b) Echoing Green - an exercise in experimental chord progressions? Nice second half--especially when the contributions of other musicians & vocalists join in. (17.33/20)
- c) Showers from the Clouds of Summer - nice feeling set up by piano and treated incidentals. Easily the best, most emotionally evocative section on the album--even the PAUL SPEER-like electric guitar solo. (9.5/10)
- d) Tears from the Eyelids Start (Part 2) - ambient outro. (4.25/5)
- bonus tracks:
3. "Spring (Birds Delight)" (4:34) a wonderful African-influenced song. (9.25/10)
4. "Sunrise" (5:23) New Age-like flute-led instrumental. Pleasant but nothing exceptional or ground-breaking. (8.67/10)

Total Time: 53:56

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




MANNA / MIRAGE 3 "Faces"

1. "There Was No Flower, and The Autumn Leaves Fell" (8:50) (/20)
2. "Monkey in His Head" (5:54) some very smooth, catchy melodies and chord shifts. Nice bass  and lead guitar play. (9/10)
3. "Atomic Buddha" (5:27) (/10)
4. "The Island of Dr. Noreau" (3:03) (/10)
5. "Tunnels and Domes" (5:44) (9/10)
6. "Road to Palace Oblivion" (4:38) an exercise in percussive discipline. (8.25/10)
7. "Fly Away" (4:43) (/10)





Special Mention:



THAT JOE PAYNE By Name. By Nature.

The ever-theatric Joe Payne, known to some of you as the stunning voice and theatrical lead of four of  THE ENID's 20teen's albums, Shining, Invicta, First Light, and The Bridge and their impressive follow up tours, Nikitas Kissonas' 2015 masterpiece, METHEXIS's Suiciety, two JOHN HOLDEN albums, Rise and Fall and Capture Light,  2020's excellent ZIO debut, Flower Torania, as well as numerous solo singles releases.

1. "The Thing About Me" (2:53) showing off Joe's amazing soprano vocal range. (9.25/10)

2. "By Name. By Nature." (5:35) part ANDREW LLOYD WEBER, QUEEN, GEORGE MICHAEL, and ART OF NOISE--all camp and bombast (at his own expense!). Not really proggy, but fun. (8.25/10)

3. "Nice Boy" (3:37) more campy techno pop in the PET SHOP BOYS/ART OF NOISE vein. (8/10)

4. "In My Head" (3:19) piano and lots of incidentals floating around (including full choir and strings) while Joe sings in a deeply emotional ADELE kind of way. Gorgeous song! Incredible vocal. Should be a Top o' The Pops hit. (10/10)

5. "What Is The World Coming To?" (5:48) opens sounding like a modern BOY GEORGE song (tame). Harpsichord becomes the main foundational instrument in the second parts of each verse, the chosrus has a very QUEEN-like quality with its 'wall of voices' background vocals. (8.5/10)

6. "Love (Not the Same)" (6:36) opens like a torch burning soul screamer--not unlike a CHRISTINA AGUILERA song or her version of "It's a Man's World." There's a lot of GEORGE MICHAEL coming out of that bluesy, strings-supported chorus. Great vocal coming in the second half from Ms. Amy Birks. Great song! Could be (should be) a pop hit. (10/10)

7. "I Need a Change" (8:22) set up as a kind of progified gospel song. (16.25/20)

8. "End of the Tunnel" (6:33) a very powerful ELTON JOHN-like song and performance. My favorite song on the album. (10/10)

Though the vocals only deserve superlatives, some of the musics and musical styles represented here are a bit off the mark (of popularity). For a theatrical stage performer, this would be an amazing c.v.