JAGA JAZZIST Pyramid
The Norwegian NuJazz leaders are back with another album displaying the progression of their sound. The same rhythm patterns as used in 2015's excellent Starfire are this time enhanced by new, fresh sounds from both electronica as well as electronically treated voices and instruments.
Line-up / Musicians:
- Lars Horntveth / guitars, pedal steel guitar, clarinets, saxophones, keyboards, synthesizers, vibraphone, piano, programming
- Marcus Forsgren / electric guitar, vocals
- Even Ormestad / bass
- Line Horntveth / tuba, alto horn, euphonium, flute, vocals
- Erik Johannessen / trombone, vocals
- Martin Horntveth / drums, percussion, programming
- Øystein Moen / synthesizers, clavinet, Hammond organ
- Andreas Mjøs / vibraphone, chef
- David Wallumrød / Pro Soloist (1)
1. "Tomita" (13:46) breathy, plaintive saxophone, electric piano, background synthesizer--this sounds like something from either Harold Budd's first collaboration with Brian Eno, Pavillion of Dreams, or one of WEATHER REPORT's classic 1970s albums. Eno/Ryuichi Sakamoto-like programmed percussion and synth horns enter in the fourth minute, eventually receding behind the emerging drum kit, electric bass, and electric guitar play of a lounge jazz combo. Soft, breathy horns and delicate electric guitar play continue into the seventh minute as a jazzy melody is built and embellished. Then, early in the eighth minute, all rhythm instruments cease while horns and guitars continue--kind of recreating the introductory soundscape--until 8:25 when the rhythmists return and the song reconnects with the melodic weave from earlier. All this is interrupted with a quite radical detour in the tenth minute to what sounds like a bridge but then becomes more like the drummer and bass player have gotten stuck in short time loop. Eventually they break the loop and emerge onto a landscape of colorful and joyous sunlight as multiple synths, guitars, and voices celebrate the alien sunset arrival, the end of the world, and the peaceful transition of all life forms to their simplified energetic sources. Nice. Very engaging main weave. (26.5/30)
2. "Spiral Era" (8:08) the rhythms are the same, purely Jaga Jazzist, but the melodies and spacey textures are different, catchy. (13.25/15)
3. "The Shrine" (9:06) opening with some gently, spaciously woven horns, drums and breathy bass instruments join in (I'm reminded of Markus Pajakkala's 2017 release, Brutiopianisti), gradually moving into a moderately-paced whole-band fabric. At the end of the fourth minute "large" horn section begins adding it's EARTH WIND AND FIRE-like wall of melodies and accents. Despite a few brief dream-like interludes between horn-dominated sections, this is the bulk of the song. Never thought I'd dis a JJ song, but this one does nothing for me. (15.5/20)
4. "Apex" (8:08) marginally outside the realm of disco, there is a very retro-1980s DEPECHE MODE/1970s DONNA SUMMER sound palette to this one. Too bad it lacks any interesting or even moderate development. (A key change in the third minute! The dropping out of all non-rhythm track instruments around the five-minute and seven-minute marks! A synthesizer solo in the bass end during the sixth minute! Some increased filler in the treble clef during the seventh minute!). (13/15)
Total Time 39:08
The music corresponding to the titles seem mismatched to me. I hear very little Tomita in the opening song. I hear very little Nigerian melody or rhythms in the supposed tribute to Fela Kuti, "The Shrine," and I get very little of a "symphony" feel from the overall feel and flow of the album.
85.3125 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a nice addition to any prog lover's music collection, though, in my opinion, not up to the standards of previous JJ releases.
Line-up / Musicians:
- Ross Jennings / vocals
- Charlie Griffiths / guitars
- Richard Henshall / guitars
- Diego Tejeida / keyboards
- Conner Green / bass
- Raymond Hearne / drums
1*. Prosthetic (5:58) full-on djent-metal! I actualy love the distortion effect on Ross's voice--and the opening vocal section. After that it turns into an aggressive KARNIVOOL song. Not bad. (8.5/10)
2. "Invasion" (6:42) cool start before it descends into usual acrid metal. (These plastic-sounding drums are so annoying.) The vocal reminds me of KARNIVOOL's Ian Kenny. In fact, the whole song reminds me of KARNIVOOL. (8.75/10)
3. "Carousel" (10:29) what?! Britain's Got Talent?! Tears for Fears? 0:30: Oh, good. This is Haken. (Though I still hear so much of KARNIVOOL. And maybe a little of the older LEPROUS.) The chorus at 5:00 is outright lame. The sparse slowdown section in the eighth minute is spoiled by that childish Hallowe'en bass line. Too bad cuz there's some other good stuff going on here (voice, keys, guitar, drums). (17/20)
4. "The Strain" (5:23) a horrible vocal (partly due to the effect chosen) opens this one before it turns nice-LEPROUS. Ross's voice sounds worn and old here, the chorus like KARNIVOOL's "Whipping Boy." The spacious, slowdown section in this song is better, more atmospheric--and the high octave vocal very nice. (8.75/10)
5. "Canary Yellow" (4:14) the gentler, more sedate side of KARNIVOOL. Wish it was better--more compelling. (8.5/10)
6. "Messiah Complex I: Ivory Tower" (3:57) psych guitar?! Weird! Not a bad song--until 2:15. That guitar riff is horrid--ruins it! (8.25/10)
7. "Messiah Complex II: A Glutton for Punishment" (3:38) continues the drumming here is so off-putting! Then they try to put LEPROUS and QUEEN vocals over the top! No! (7.75/10)
8. "Messiah Complex III: Marigold" (2:24) the music takes a complete turn here, into soft Neo Prog with some respectable drum play beneath the choral voices. But they couldn't let it go--had to burst into the militaristic heavy metal music. I'm not sure I can take these plastic drums any more. I'm going to have to go listen to some nice 1970s psychedelia just to get over the trauma! (4/5)
9. "Messiah Complex IV: The Sect" (2:02) something cool about all the stop-and-go epithets being spouted out here. (4.5/5)
10. "Messiah Complex V: Ectobius Rex (4:57) great start to the finale turns to DEVY TOWNSEND. They do a fairly good job of it, too! Doesn't save the epic suite, but gives me a shred of lingering hope. (9/10)
11. "Only Stars" (2:10) are they trying to elevate Ross into the realms of Einar Solberg or That Joe Payne? (4.5/5)
Total Time 51:54
* - "Prosthetic" song is a bridge between the two albums, "Vector" and "Virus"
This year's model shows a continued addiction to loud, violent forms of human expression. And it's so like several other contemporary djenty metal bands. I guess I've been waiting for their album of chamber music.
85.24 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an album that you might like--especially if you're into the TOOL-DEVIN TOWNSEND school of heavy metal prog.
ANTONY KALUGIN Marshmallow Moondust
Some completely solo ideas presented by the prolific prog maestro from Ukraine offers some pleasant, upbeat fluff to distract people from the heaviness of the COVID-era.
1. "Marshmallow” (20:20) mostly prog lite: pleasant instrumental background music with a few nice passages and themes—especially in the 15th and 16th minutes—before the PAT METHENY GROUP Latin-and vocalised section. It’s a little too cheesy and gratuitously upbeat for my tastes, but pleasant enough. And there is definitely nothing new, exciting, or innovative going on here. (33/40)
2. “Moondust” (20:20) I was 90 seconds into this one before I realized it wasn’t the ending of the previous song! The opening is very familiar—similar to both Incantations-era MIKE OLDFIELD and the light-rock side of PAT METHENY(Secret Story). The “Sesame Street” themes used in the foundation of the third and fourth minutes are a bit distracting—but it is a nice, melodic, soft passage. At 4:40 there is a subtle shift to a new motif that could be an under-development GENESIS demo. Nice sound palette and melodic hooks—especially from the Tony Banksian keys—it’s just that you know GENESIS would do much better with the guitars and drums. In the eleventh minute there is another slight shift in which male vocals whisper sing “marshmallow moon” in the background before Mellotron-like female choir voices do some DANNY ELFMAN/Harry Potter-like eerie vocal insertions. At 12:20 things are toned down for clunky bass and jazzy drums to take the Potter-theme into a jazz-lite direction—but this only lasts a bit before bare synth wash, acoustic guitar, “oboe & flutes” and fretless bass take it down into a pastoral New Age passage. Great guitar lead around the 16-minute mark before “harpsichord” and “vibes” and organ take it into a slow GRYPHON/PROCUL HARUM/FOCUS-like theme and passage—which takes us to an amped up end of multiple recapitulations of other themes woven into a cacophony of sound. (34.5/40)
I’m not even sure whether to count the condensed “medley” version of the two epics that are included with my Bandcamp “Digital Album” purchase. The version of "Marshmallow" (3. “Marshmallow Medley” [7:20]) is definitely more rollicking and captures the essence of the 20-minute version with the dynamics of an Emerson Lake and Palmer song cross-bred with a 1980s PAT METHENY GROUP song. (13.25/15)
4. “Moondust Melody” (7:20) opens as if it were the previous song, but then turns a different corner with its sound palette—though ends up still sounding like a KEITH EMERSON keyboard display over a WEATHER REPORT/GENESIS base. The slowdown section—here instituted at the end of the third minute—feels like an unnatural transition, but once you’re there it still works in a New Agey jazz-fusion kind of way. Gone are the Sesame Street references but the Procul Harum/Focus motifs become “stately wedding” slow march music. The Danny Elfman/XII Alfonso-like convergence of themes that occurs in the finale is, then, amped up but shortened and a little less satisfying. It sure goes by much faster than the beautiful long version! (12.75/15)
I like the long version of “Moondust” much better than “Marshmallow” but it still suffers from a lightness that feels And then I like the condensed version of "Marshmallow" better than that of "Moondust." Go figure!
85.0 on the Fishscales = B-/3.5 stars; a nice prog lite addition to any prog lover’s music collection. it's getting a lot of praise so, check it out for yourselves. There's a lot of ear candy here--and it's certainly better than Birds of Paradise--but some of it feels overly familiar, so let's let it percolate a bit before deciding on its final place in Prog World.
NIGHTWISH Human. :II: Nature.
Eighty-one minutes of intricately composed and performed music that, unfortunately, I feel I've all heard before. I mean, to my ears, there is never any doubt in my mind, no matter where I "drop the needle," that I'm listening to Nightwish. I love that they think that they're trying to push the boundaries on what they've already done but, in the end, it's still just variations on exactly that: stuff they've already done.
This release generated a lot of excitement in the prog and metal communities. To me, it sounds like Nightwish being . . . Nightwish! Tight, even virtuosic performances of strong compositions, it's just that I don't hear anything new or innovative. Even the all-orchestrated second disc is not anything that the band hasn't done before. Maybe it's more polished and concise this time (at 31 minutes) but it was fresher the first time.
Floor is amazing. Tuomas is amazing. Emppu is amazing. Troy Donockley is amazing. Marco and Kai are amazing. But these people are always amazing--doing exactly the same thing that their doing here. I think it's time they pull a "Remain in Light" and all do a musical chairs instrument-switch. Then let's see what comes out of Nightwish!
Excellent and amazing but I'm tired and old . . . I need something fresh and unusual to pique my interest.
But of course, I can't help but recommend it to you--for you to make your own judgments. It probably deserves four stars, so . . .
Line-up / Musicians:
- Floor Jansen / vocals
- Tuomas Holopainen / keyboards
- Emppu Vuorinen / guitars
- Marco Hietala / bass & vocals
- Troy Donockley / uilleann pipes, low whistles, vocals
- Kai Hahto / drums
CD 1 (50:37)
1. Music (7:23)
2. Noise (5:40)
3. Shoemaker (5:19)
4. "Harvest" (5:14) (8.75/10)
5. "Pan" (5:18) (8.5/10)
6. How's the Heart? (5:02)
7. "Procession" (5:32) (8.25/10)
8. Tribal (3:57)
9. "Endlessness" (7:12) a reprise of the music from "Shoemaker" with Marco singing lead instead of Floor. (13.75/15)
CD 2 (31:03)
1. All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World
I. Vista (4:00)
II. The Blue (3:36)
III. The Green (4:42)
IV. Moors (4:44)
V. Aurorae (2:08)
VI. Quiet as the Snow (4:05)
VII. Anthropocene (incl. "Hurrian Hymn to Nikkal") (3:06)
VIII. Ad Astra (4:42)
Total Time 81:40
Same old Nightwish: stellar performances of complex compositions but sounding/feeling very much the same as all previous releases.
LUNAR CLOCK The Scream of Nature
A quartet from The Netherlands uses music to express their interpretations of the works of Edvard Munch--exploring one of the sure-fire domains of the potential of progressive rock: the interpretation of other art forms through music. A little too saccharine and simple for my tastes. Could be the BEACH BOYS 2020 because of the vocals, melodies, and experimental song structures and forms expressed here.
Line-up / Musicians:
- Robin Boer / keyboards, lead vocals
- Shardan Stream / guitars, samples, vocals
- Karsten van Straten / drums, percussion
- Thefar Side / basses
1. "Frieze" (2:50) synth waves/wind with percussion and voices. Reminds me of the opening of MOON SAFARI's highly acclaimed 2008 album, Blomljud or something by New Jersey's ADVENT. (4.25/5)
2. "Skrik" (3:05) more shoreline water sounds with electric keyboards and electronic percussion open this one for 50 seconds before the band bursts forth with a two chord foundation over which Robin Boer displays his prowess on a Moog-like synth. Still more introductory and cinematic, not a fully formed song. (8/10)
3. "Sadness Under the Belt of Venus" (3:33) an interesting sound palette for the opening 90 seconds before everything turns left into a solo piano base for Robin to sing over. Nice solo instrument palette though most everything (other than guitars and drums) are keyboard generated. (8.5/10)
4. "A Winter Storm on Spring Blossoms" (4:05) BRIAN AUGER meets JOE SAMPLE with a MOODY BLUES-like rock palette in the (sparse) vocal sections until the second half when everything goes full-on rock. (8/10)
5. "Equal Adoration" (4:28) nice liturgical-like vocals and melodies over piano. Flutes only enhance the angelic feel. Once again, however, this song feels incomplete. Still, a top three song for me. (9/10)
6. "Bridge of Anxiety" (2:39) military drums and background bouncy organ are soon joined by electric guitar power chords and guitar-like synth chords. Nice Moog soloing over the top. (4.5/5)
7. "Despair (2:51) brooding piano joined by Robin's Thom Yorke/Steven Wilson vocal. Another top three song. (4.5/5)
8. "Metabolism I: The Tree of Life (2:41) opens with cheap 1990's keyboard synth strings over which electric guitar delicately cries. (4.5/5)
9. "Metabolism II: Mother Nature's Sanctuary" (6:03) (8.25/10)
10. "Metabolism III: Spring (6:42) nice PINK FLOYD-like synth foundation over which guitarist "Shardan Stream" finally gets to shine. Nice tune. (8.75/10)
Total Time 38:57
85.3125 on the Fishscales = B/four stars. Worth checking out!
ETERNAL WANDERERS Homeless Soul
A synth-oriented band from Russia that really intrigued me with their previous release. Let's see if they've lived up to the tremendous potential they showed before.
Line-up / Musicians:
- Elena Kanevskaya / lead vocals, keyboards, synthesizers, samplers, theremin
- Tatyana Kanevskaya / guitars, backing vocals, keyboards, synthesizers, samplers
- Dmitry Shtatnov / bass, keyboards, synthesizers, lead vocal (9), backing vocals, samplers, sitar, custom DSP algorithms
- Sergey Rogulya / drums, percussion
- Zhenya Kanevskiy / vocals (8)
- Kostya Shtatnov / vocals (8)
- Andy Didorenko / Violin (4)
1. "Invested with Mystery (Prologue)" (1:51) accented, heavily reverbed a cappella sung by Elena is eventually joined by subtly emerging synths and incidentals. (4.25/5)
2. "Eternal Wanderer" (4:39) a nice late-70s Renaissance like pop-prog song. Elena's voice sounds like a poor Paula Cole. (8.5/10)
3. "Transformations" (6:55) (/15)
4. "Meteor" (5:46) (8.75/10)
5. The Cradle of a Hurricane (8:13) (/15)
6. I Wanna Give My Life for You (6:40) (/10)
7. Chaos of Reason (6:21) (/10)
8. In Search of the Anti-world (7:32) (/15)
9. Homeless Soul (5:11) (/10)
10. Invested with Mystery (6:04) (/10)
Total Time 59:12
Far more "song"-oriented than their previous release, the band is successful in their growth but still have a ways to go until they've found the compositional, instrumental, and engineering prowess to reach the top tiers of Prog World.
GRUMBLEWOOD Stories of Strangers
This collaboration of some mature folk rockers will entice lovers of the old stuff of bands like Horslips, Jethro Tull and even Uriah Heep.
Line-up / Musicians:
- Gav Bromfield / lead vocals, flute, acoustic guitar, piano
- Salvatore Richichi / guitars, mandolin, banjo, harpsichord, backing vocals
- Morgan Jones / bass, harpsichord, backing vocals
- Phil Aldridge / drums, percussion, backing vocals
- Naomi Middleton / additional vocals
- Kirsty Campbell / additional vocals
1. "My Fair Lady" (7:30) good folk rock sound with fairly simple structure and performances (especially from bass and flute) and passable vocals. The second, almost-parenthetical section, beginning at 4:50, is great--very HORSLIPS-like. The sea-shanty section in the seventh minute, too. (13/15)
2. "Picturesque Postcard" (4:42) though mandolin and acoustic guitar and pacing giving this a kind of CARAVAN and MAGIC BUS feel, the song drifts cleanly onto the tracks of JTULL paths during the heavier (electrified) chorus sections. Nothing new or too exciting here. (8.25/10)
3. "Castaways" (5:17) again, I am distracted by hearing so much of other bands in the Grumblewood sound: MAGIC BUS, CARAVAN, JETHRO TULL, HORSLIPS, and even THE ANIMALS in this one. Lead singer Gav Bromfield tries to be powerful and emotional, but it just doesn't feel authentic. (8.25/10)
4. "Fives & Nines" (4:35) The compositions and instrumentation are competent but lack flair and flourish (except, perhaps, the drummer's cymbal work). Even the flute is too tight and conservative. (8.5/10)
5. "The Sheriff Rides" (6:02) feels/sounds like a fairly sedate and conservative rehashing of an old folk song--though the frail lead vocal in the verse sections is, to my mind, the most effective of the album. I like bass being front and center but I'm not feeling the connection of his lines to the subject matter. The drums are dull and the guitar work is totally supplemental. The chorus sections weaken the song considerable. I love the subtle "cave"-like background vocals lurking in the background like ghosts--very cool. I find myself wondering what this song would sound like without any bass or drums! (8.5/10)
6. "Ex Memoriam" (3:07) More and more I'm hearing the standard blues-rock chord structures of URIAH HEEP in these songs. Sounds like a Jethro Tull rehearsal. (8.25/10)
7. "The Minstrel" (8:00) More URIAH HEEP construction with a great deal of VAN MORRISON flair. This song is by far the most adventurous and polished song on the album. As it ventures into the meat of the song--the chorus and instrumental section--there is far more of a JETHRO TULL force on exhibit. But then it turns all VAN MORRISON. The bass holds down the rhythm and flow, the guitars and drums do Van Morrison-like jazz-scatting around, and the flutes and vocals provide some nice melodic threads into the overall weave. The vocal after this actually reminds me of a cross between ERIC BURDEN and Magic Bus's PAUL EVANS. Easily the best song on the album. (13.5/15)
8. "Stories of Strangers" (5:27) reminds me of a Colin Tench or Guy Manning song--though still retaining the vocal strains and stylings of Eric Burdon. The song drags a little--like a C&W ballad or song by THE BAND. During the mandolin solo in the middle it sounds like everyone wants to launch into a rolicking uptempo jam, but just can't figure out how to do it. The entrance of electric guitar power chords helps to initiate the move--and this pace feels much more appropriate for this palette of instruments. Even when the background vocalist-supported vocal returns, this is a much better pace, though still not perfect. It just feels, with repeated listens, that this song could have used a lot more practice and polishing--so that all of the band members could feel confident enough to add little ideosyncracies of personality. (8.25/10)
Total Time 44:40
Overall, the reverbed and often doubled-up vocals of lead vocalist Gav Bromfield are just not strong or emotive enough to carry this band into the realms of top-tiered Prog Folk sound.
85.0 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; recommended for you to try for yourself but it is my opinion that if this album "rocks your world" then you haven't heard enough early Jethro Tull, Horslips, Van Morrison, or Uriah Heep.
GHOST TOAST Shape Without Form
I am impressed most of all by the dedication to the "loose" concept of this album: both T.S. Elliot's poem "The Hollow Men" and the spectrum of choices that lead to man's "human" and "inhuman" behaviours--despite the fact that this is an "instrumental" album. (There are voice samples from a wide array of film and other media dispersed throughout most of the album's songs). The music is good, mostly heavy, driving its themes firmly and insistently, but there is by no means anything new or extraordinary in either the composition or the instrumental prowess on display.
This is very good, often engaging music from a fairly new band from Hungary. While I do recommend 2020 listeners to check this album out for themselves, I will continue to watch and await the development of their mastery and hope for a real stunner, a masterpiece, sometime in the future--perhaps the near future.
TELERGY Black Swallow
A tremendous and ambitious idea for a musical rock opera that falls a bit short.
Line-up / Musicians:
- Robert McClung / guitar, bass, violin, viola, mandolin, piano, organ, keyboards, flute, percussion, tenor vocals
- Bryan Hicks / William Bullard
- Pete Peterson / Eugene Bullard
- Champ Hollins / young Eugene
- Rev. Robert Thompson / eulogy preacher, church goer
- Nadine Thompson / church goer
- Emmanuel De Saint Méen / nightclub MC
- Jordan Hall / attacker 1
- Tim Clarck / attacker 2
- Durga McBroom / Marie-Madeleine Fourcade
- Lorelei McBroom / gospel vocals
- Lara Smiles / gospel vocals
- Emily Lynn / gospel vocals
- Stephanie Slabon / soprano vocals
- Dustin Brayley / tenor, baritone and bass vocals, radio newscaster
- Martyna Halas-Yates / hardcore vocals
- Chris Bonito / drums
- Todd Sucherman / drums
- Tony Levin / upright bass
- Michael Manring / fretless bass
- Steve Di Giorgio / fretless bass
- Tony Dickinson / bass
- Mike LePond / bass
- Pete Trewavas / bass
- Dave Meros / bass
- Caith Threefires / bass
- Charles Cormier / slide guitar
- Vernon Reid / guitar
- Phil Keaggy / guitar
- Gary Wehrkamp / guitar
- Timo Somers / guitar
- Stephan Lill / guitar
- Andy LaRocque / guitar
- Jimi Bell / guitar
- Jeff Rapsis / piano
- Rachel Flowers / piano
- Jeremy Heussi / keyboards, organ
- Vikram Shankar / keyboards
- Basil Bunelik / accordion
- Troy Donockley / uilleann pipes
- Magic Dick / harmonica
- Tina Guo / cello
- Adam Nunes / cello
- Tim Nunes / violin
- David Ragsdale / violin
- Mattan Klein / flute
- John Cardin / trumpet
- Mitchel Bailey / trombone
- Gus Sebring / French horn
- Tracy Crane / French horn
- Chip Brindamour / tuba
- Edie Brindamour / euphonium
- Katrina Veno / clarinet
- Thomas Gimbel / tenor saxophone
- Nils Crusberg / tenor and alto saxophone
- Bryan Campbell / baritone saxophone
1. "Georgia" (12:27) (21.5/25)
2. "Scene 1 (1:32)
3. "Chased Pt. 1 (2:53)
4. "Scene 2 (0:59)
5. "Infantry" (9:24) reminds me of TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA, DEVIN TOWNSEND, IONA, ASTURIAS (17.5/20)
6. "Scene 3 (0:35)
7. "Take to the Sky" (10:14) this one reminds me of NIGHTWISH, DIXIE DREGS, JEAN-LUC PONTY, and, again TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA (17.75/20)
8. "Scene 4 (0:43)
9. "Marcelle (3:13)
10. "Scene 5 (0:36)
11. "Le Grand Duc (4:12)
12. Scene 6 (0:52)
13. Spy (6:14)
14. Scene 7 (1:01)
15. All Blood Runs Red (7:39)
16. Scene 8 (0:51)
17. Chased Pt. 2 (3:03)
18. Scene 9 (0:48)
19. Honor (3:43)
Total Time 70:59
Interesting, innovative, refreshing but fails to blend and amount to anything more than a novelty.
MOON MEN Tales of Space Pirates
An album that has made me smile, start to finish, since the day I first heard it. Those guys are so silly! (Would that everyone
were having as much fun!)
Line-up / Musicians:
Sgt. Cthulhu Moone (Jerry King) - bass clef device, trombombulator, geetar
Eschaton Crater (Bret Hart) - pluckomatic, stretch-tone, electrospock therapy, & wheeze organ
Major Dom Fook (Dave Newhouse) - plutonian ivory tinklers & fookophones
Billzilla (Bill Jungwirth) - spoons
1. "Life Of The Automaton Accountant" (4:02) (9/10)
2. "Andy Had Gills" (for Andy Gill) (4:16) or, "But, [insert name here]! We're trying our hardest!" (8.5/10)
3. "Space Hero Theme Song" (2:52) fun in the classroom (8.75/10)
4. "Paper Ball For Kitty" (4:34) silly sounds brought into the Steely Canterfold. (8.75/10)
5. "Sliding On The Moone" (3:51) bringing in a little Southern Blues Rock cheer. Jam on it! (8/10)
6. "Graham Crackers In The Monastery" (4:40) Gong Kosmische groovin' (9/10)
7. "The Chemicals I Ate Did It" (3:17) if Mark Isham could go sinister. (8.5/10)
8. "Unknown On The Telephone" (3:15) (7.75/10)
9. "Space Opera Blues" (4:57) This one should be called: "Tuning our instruments by the campfire when suddenly we were accosted by a rogue groove to which we were all forced to jam to before we got tired and drunk (and old) and had to slow it down and quit." (7/10)
10. "Journey To The Plains Of Obmurd" (7:55) or, "Four dudes with too much time on their hands recording while watching television in four different rooms until they finally realized that they were wearing their noise-cancelling headphones." (13/15)
Total Time 43:39
My only complaint with the music on this album concerns the rather boring, simple, straight time sigs (expressed in the rather dull, plodding drumming).
84.05 on the Fishscales = B-/3.5 stars; a very good display of fun and games from the Year of the Coronavirus by some quite talented, goofy, and creative "musicians."
SLEEPING PANDORA Signs in the Sky
Meeting somewhere in between Pink Floyd and Ashra Tempel.Line-up / Musicians:
- Mathias Rosmann / guitars, synth, piano, programming
1. "Raytracing" (9:03) (16/20)
2. "Mandarine" (11:02) (17.25/20)
3. "Floating High" (16:51) (29.5/35)
4. "Tears" (10:50) (16.5/20)
5. "The Dome" (14:00) STEVE HILLAGE! (24/30)
6. "Touching Moon" (12:08) (20.5/25)
Total Time 73:54
Just a little too "plug in and jam" loose and simple.
82.50 on the Fishscales = C+/3.5 stars.
Russian band Aesythesys is back with another collection of their unique form of atmospheric Post Rock--an album that I was very excited to hear due to my love of their 2018 release, Achromata.
Line-up / Musicians:
- Victor Krabovich / guitar, keys
- Nik Koniwzski / violin, keys
- Sasha Coudray / bass
- Artem Taganov / drums
1. Exodus (5:21)
2. Black Swans (5:49)
3. 01101001 (4:52)
4. Transcendants (3:30)
5. Hello World (4:00)
6. Replicant Party (4:06)
7. Obey (3:19)
8. Better Stranger (3:46)
9. Me2 (4:33)
10. Amen D (3:41)
Total time: 42:47
Favorite songs: the race-against-time MIKE OLDFIELD-meets-TEARS FOR FEARS-like "Amen D"; the 1980s DEPECHE MODE-meets 90125 YES-like "Better Stranger"; the Berlin School/Kraftwerk-like "Hello World"
Though was really enrapt and intrigued by the novel approach to Post Rock that this band exposed me to on their 2018 album Achromata, I have found this album to be either rushed or showing the signs of burnout. There are a lot of themes here that seem to deal with futuristic, film-inspired themes and ideas, but the ideas here are too often either ill-timed or left undeveloped and incomplete.
I find Alignments to be a huge disappointment as I felt Achromata showed signs of innovation and energy that one rarely finds in instrumental, keyboard dominated Post Rock.
C/three to 3.5 star album.
So much talent here! Long-time band leader Chris Gill, a talent in his own right, enlists the creative input of legends Jon Camp (RENAISSANCE) and Robert Webb (ENGLAND) and one of my favorite up-and-coming vocalists, Matthew Corry (EMPEROR NORTON).
Line-up / Musicians:
- Jon Camp / bass
- Matthew Corry / vocals
- Rick Hambleton / drums, percussion
- Chris Gill / guitars
- Robert Webb (England) / keyboards
1. "Daughter of the Moor" (7:49) Matthew really stretching it out--showing his immensely talented and broad vocal range--but it's rendered so poorly into the mix. And the song is so one dimensional. Too bad. (12/15)
2. "The Craft" (6:34) opens with a band and never goes anywhere from there. As Matthew sings it's as if he's in another universe with absolutely no connection to the music--at least until the music goes soft in the second half. (8/10)
3. "Larkspur" (7:53) finally, something is moving, something is interesting--and Matthew's operatic vocals and lyrics are working within and with this musical tapestry. Great CHRIS SQUIRE-like bass line and love the work of Robert Webb's keys (especially the little clavinet riffs). (13.5/15)
4. "Merlin" (7:18) 2-chord instrumental over which Jon Camp's fretless ambles about. Later, Chris Gill's guitars tear it up pretty good. (12.75/15)
5. "Tupelo" (5:43) an instrumental attempt at uptempo power/heavy prog. Nice sounds and bass and guitar play but otherwise the song has no meat. (8.25/10)
6. "Witchfinder" (7:33) opens with choir and bird noises before band kicks in with slow three-chord blues-rock dirge. Then at 5:10 it's as if a whole other song has been faded into this one to take over. Chris does an admirable job with his axe trying to salvage this one, but . . . (12.5/15)
7. "Petrichor" (12:11) potential and melding but no direction or ambition. (20/25)
Total Time 55:01
So much aimless meandering! The chemistry of these mega-talented individuals just never seemed to gel. For some reason the band is content on every single song to establish a groove and then stick with that one monotonous for the length of some exceedingly long songs while letting vocalist Matthew Corry create some magic yet recording his voice terribly into the mix.
82.86 on the Fishscales = C/three stars; an album of interesting sounds and performances that somehow lacks a sense of unified direction and completion.
BREEZE The Fragile Beauty
This is an album--the fourth from this quartet from Germany--that straddles the bridge between prog metal and symphonic prog fairly well--with sound and style similar to bands like EPICA or NIGHTWISH--only without a successful convergence or outcome.
Line-up / Musicians:
- Jörg Piron / vocals
- Ottfried Mietzke / guitars, keyboards, orchestral arrangements
- Gunnar Sletta / keyboards, add itional guitars, vocals
- Hansi Arnold / drums, vocals
1. "Portrait" (8:36) great song with amazing keyboard work and orchestral arrangements, a stunning guitar solo, but weak vocals. (18/20)
2. "Circus in Town" (4:55) a very odd musical mix--almost as if part of it came from the 1990s and was trying to be mixed into the . The vocalist is a little better at staying on key than the one on the opening song, but he's not a great lead singer (lacking experience or polish?) It's as if they're trying to be RUSH with a hint of 80s metal. (8.75/10)
3. "Moth in a Flame" (7:48) a fairly pleasant STYX-like song in which several individual instruments feel as if they are working within their own different universes. Are they aware of each other? The way they use keys, space, and melody would lend credence to the possibility that they aren't--including and especially the vocalist. Weird. (13/15)
4. "The Eternal Spinning (6:52) the MIREK GIL-imitating guitarist is going non-stop from the previous song! Forcing everyone else to conform to his key, pace, and melodic sensibility. I think the keyboardist and drummer are both fighting to play louder than the guitarist--to drown him out! And, once again, it just feels as if the vocalist has no clue as to where or what or how to sing with, much less within, this music. He just sings over anything he wants, often butchering the music below. A wild deviation in pace and style at 3:26 forces me to recognize that part of the problem is probably in the over-heavy use of delay and reverb on the keys and guitar. And the fact that the two "matching" vocalists have no regard or respect for the other's style and timing. They will be no COLLAGE. I keep wondering what the music would be like were the band members all on the same page. And what's with the orchestral arrangement? Was it composed for this song--or just mistakenly mixed into it? (11/15)
5. "The Siren's Song" (6:49) two dueling guitars with straightforward prog metal open this beofre dropping away to allow the piano-based, strings-supported soft vocal. The vocalist's voice actually sounds pretty good so long as he stays in the range of his speaking voice--but as soon as he deviates from that octave, things go wonky. Still, without so many divergent ideas coming from each individual band member the song almost works. Almost. It's just too dull--and marred by the flawed vocal. (12.25/15)
6. "Secret of the Sea" (3:58) don't know where they're trying to go with this hand-panned guitar-arpeggio--to which is added a pseudo-classical tenor vocal performance. In the chorus he decays into a kind of Jamee Young (STYX) tone and style. Guitar, 1990s keyboard winds, and orchestral sthrings each seem to be operating in their own isolated vacuum--which is too bad cuz in isolation they each sound pretty awesome; they just don't work together. It's as if you tried to weave together flourescent orange yarn, warm chocolate syrup, and spaghetti (8.25/10)
7. "Boat to Utopia" (7:55) Again! How can they not listen to these master tapes and see/feel the same clash of incongruities that I do? Am I starting to lose it? (11.5/15)
8. "A Drone's Plight" (4:37) trying to overcome their issues with organ and djenty power chords. At least it's all working in the same universe. Could be an outtake from one of COLLAGE's lost unreleased albums from the 1990s. (8.5/10)
9. "The Eye of the Storm (5:52) multiple keys battling for attention with insidious BLACK SABBATH guitar and voice somewhere in there until the keys mysteriously and suddenly just disappear at the end of the first minute. Weird vocal in the soft section in the third and fourth minutes followed by over-acted narration part. Push repeat and then superimpose an over-the-top two-guitar (or guitar and synth) duel in the final minute and you've got it. (or, can anyone every really get this stuff?) (7.75/10)
10. "Lullaby (5:23) more akin to one of STEVE HACKETT's nightmare songs. Again, the soloing guitar track must have been created/recorded in one decade (the 1980s) while the keys and bass were done in the 1990s, the drums and psychedelic vocals in the 1970s, while the orchestra parts could've been done anytime.
Who are these guys and why can't they get on the same page? Another collection of very pretty tracks in the vein of 1990s COLLAGE that somehow went awry. (8.25/10)
Total Time 62:45
Despite it's wonderful sound palette and amazing talents of guitarist Orrfried Mietzke, the vocals and at-times too-predictable musical flows diminish an otherwise very enjoyable and often-impressive listening journey. Most of the songs are very odd soundscapes in which it feels as if two or three very different song ideas are being forced together. While this results in unusual and, therefore, "new" sounding musics, the differing instrumental tracks often remain very much at odds with one another throughout the song. What really hurts, and why I chose to write and publish this review--is because there are some truly wonderful sounds and ideas here . . . they're just all jumbled up and spit out in like someone's post-binging vomit. YOU GUYS HAVE INCREDIBLE POTENTIAL. Please, PULL IT TOGETHER--show us what you can really do.
82.50 on the Fishscales = C/three stars; an unfortunate case of wonderful ideas never coming to common consensual finish.
ZANOV Chaos Islands
Never a fan of Zanov's stuff, I'm always open to trying anything/everything he's released because of the respect he's garnered from other reviewers/listeners. In the end, this one is no different than the others--highly derivative, simplistic, and bland for its lack of freshness.
1. "Edge of Chaos Island" (7:19) Berlin School takes over Blade Runner (13.25/15)
2. "Inception Island" (6:22) trying to usurp some themes/styles from Inception? Fail! (7.5/10)
3. "Strange Attractor Island" (6:57) slow and plodding; nothing new here. (11/15)
4. "Three Body Island" (6:48) (12.5/15)
5. "Phase Space Island" (8:15) so TD! (Dude: It's been done!) (17.5/20)
6. "Instability Island" (7:00) some cool parts. (12/15)
7. "Emergence Island" (6:20) so JARRE! (8/10)
81.75 on the Fishscales = C+/three stars; a fair contribution to Prog World, one that I would recommend that you try out for yourselves.
An album that I could let pass were it not for the interesting and somewhat experimental constructs (intentional or accidental?) and melodies of several songs (not the opener!).
Line-up / Musicians:
- Holger Thorsin / electric guitar, lap steel guitar, piano, keyboards, drum machine, vocals
- Petter Broman / bass, piano, vocals
- Petter Berndalen / drums
- Pontus Dahlstrom / saxophone
- Tomas "Dr. X" Åkvik / lead guitar
1. "Le Voleur" (11:47) a fresh attempt at Zeuhl (really?) that is horrid! (19/25)
2. "Vildsvinsvisan" (4:29) Nice bass play with some other nice elements that never develop or fly. (8.5/10)
3. "The Long Eared Owl" (4:17) an interesting weave that could/should really go somewhere. They try at 1:30 (is this spliced in?) with a shift and then the addition of full drums and soaring lap pedal steel at the 2:00 mark. Nice melodies coming from several directions. Now this is where I hope these guys go in their development! (9/10)
4. "Anti Shadows" (4:29) the opening belies the successful jam that does ensue. The guitarist sounds like he's using the chords and sound of RADIOHEAD's "Optimistic." interesting achromatic soloing from the pedal steel in the middle. (8.5/10)
5. "Vise Versa" (6:13) a little more quirky like PINGVINORKESTERN here. (8/10)
6. "Half Man Half Me" (6:01) sounds like COLLAPSE UNDER THE EMPIRE's Post Rock with a Dick Parry-like saxophone soloing overt the top. In the third minute it turns simple JIMMY WEBB-like guitar chords and bass with some synth strings beneath. Almost a slow swing dance! Then it goes into a more electro-pop weave for the final two minutes. Cinematic. (8.5/10)
7. "The End and the End Again" (3:37) echo guitar picked and slid along the fretboard while the band members position themselves in the background. It's as if the guitarist is searching for something that will draw the other members into a jam. In the second minute it finally starts to happen. Some cool incidentals added by the drummer and keyboard player, but, truly, this is no practiced/written composition and could never be replicated. Good thing the tapes were recording. (8/10)
Total Time 40:53
An album of songs that feel as if they were taken from a weekend of taping whatever these five "musicians" threw at the mics. (I would know: I've done the same!) Some of it works, some of it fails.
81.76 on the Fishscales = C/three stars; an interesting jam band with potential and creativity.