94.0 on the Fish scales = five stars; a masterpiece of progressive rock music.
Line-up / Musicians:
- Dimi Spela / vocals
- Evangelia Kozoni / vocals
- Aggelos Malisovas / fretted & fretless basses
- Yiannis Iliakis / drums, percussion, backing vocals
- Yorgos Mouhos / 6- & 12-string acoustic guitars, electric guitar, vocals
- Marietta Tsakmakli / soprano, alto & baritone saxophones, backing vocals
- Nicolas Nikolopoulos / flute, clarinet, tenor & baritone saxophones, recorder, piano, electric piano, organ, Mellotron, synthesizers, harpsichord, clavinet, glockenspiel, backing vocals
1. "Eniania (Keepers of the Midnight Harvest)" (7:25) folk electric guitar with Mellotron flute--which is so interesting knowing what a FINE flute player they have in Nicolas Nikolopoulos). I love the whole-band choral entrance over the guitar--it sounds so pagan! Gorgeous! The band then flips on the instrumental switch in between the first two choral passages. At 3:15 the guitarist doubles the speed of his arpeggiated lines as a jazzy support ensemble kick into a sax and flute-led section. A minute later the lead instruments switch to jazz electric guitar, organ, and synth, then they trade back to the flute and saxes for the sixth minute before turning quite cinematic. The whole-band weave over the final two minutes is nothing less than astonishing--so much to listen to--all so idiosyncratic and worthy of individual attention. The final minute sees the main choral theme carried forward by recorders and organ over a militaristic style distant snare drumming. Wow! What an opener! We have really missed you, Ciccada! (13.75/15)
2. "Open Wings" (5:28) pure Ciccada Prog Folk in the JTull tradition. The lead vocals are much smoother, less operatic (Dimi's work?) and the production a little more modern (a little tighter, more intimate to the listener). Awesome guitar work--on many instruments--by Yorgos Mouhos. A wonderfully engineered, many-layered and intricately-woven construct. (9/10)
3. "The Old Man and the Butterfly" (7:52) a little heavier prog here, still folkie, but with Yorgos taking the lead vocal! Perhaps more reminiscent of early Prog Folk rockers like SPIROGYRA or even Samla Mammas Manna (in sound, not humor and quirk)--and even some of the more flower-power happy Canterbury artists (like KHAN or today's MAGIC BUS). A non-instrumental song by Ciccada that is not led by Evangelia's voice: something I never imagined! But it's great! A top three song, to be sure!(14/15)
4. "No Man's Land" (8:40) a return to the more-British school of Prog Folk--a little JTull, a little STRAWBS, even a little Pink Floyd and Renaissance--before Evangelia enters with her immaculate, uncorrupt voice. Again, I wish to point out the incredible detail and compositional skill that this band puts into each and every instrumental line of their very complex weaves; it's like watching the Bruges masters of tapestry at work! No line is rote or lame, all functioning to give more life to the whole.
And a totally fresh sound and style for Ciccada to explore--and they do it so well! A top three song for me. (18.75/20)
5. "Who's to Decide?" (4:40) more jazz-tinged (though definitely still very much shaped by their regional and, probably, local influences), this song has a lot of similarities to some of the more dark, psychedelic musics of the RPI masterpieces from the early 1970s. As well-performed and composed as the previous songs but just not my cup of tea (as BIGLIETTO PER L'INFERNO, OSANNA, MUSEO ROSENBACH, and even some LE ORME and BANCO are not to my tastes). (8.5/10)
Total Time 46:44
- Bjørn Klakegg / lead vocals, guitars, violin, flute, cello
- David Wallumrød / Hammond organ, clavinet, Fender Rhodes, harpsichord, upright piano, Prophet-5, ARP Odyssey, ARP Solus, Minimoog
- Nikolai Hængsle / electric bass, backing vocals, guitars (1,4)
- Olaf Olsen / drums
- Erik Nylander / percussion
- and the Carry Me Away Choir: Indra Lorentzen, Camilla Brun, Maria Vatne, David, Nikolai, and Bjørn
1. "Rules of a Mad Man" (5:11) reminds me of The BYRDS, The ASSOCIATION, The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, and Sweden's The AMAZING. (8.75/10)
2. "I Offered You the Moon" (7:51) an intricately woven Summer of Love-like pop psychedelic song that has an unexpected jazzy feel. Amazing Pat Metheny Group/RTF/Chick Corea-like instrumental passage in the fifth and sixth minutes. Love Erik Nylander's congas! And then the bass, Fender Rhodes, and drums really get to shine over the final 90 seconds. Wow! (14/15)
3. "Web of Worry" (3:34) As if Paul Simon wrote and sang a Stevie Wonder song. At the two minute mark, during the instrumental passage, it turns full Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. So cool! (9.25/10)
4. "So Far Away" (3:11) could be acoustic LED ZEPPELIN, BREAD, CELESTE, or PAUL SIMON. And then it goes Massive Attack unplugged at 2:20! Just brilliant. (9/10)
5. "Where the Ocean Meets the Sky" (4:25) more complex, sophisticated jazz-tinged pop psychedelia that sounds like it comes straight out of a California Pop Festival of 1968 or 69. Again, strongly reminiscent of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young from this era--especially the front-and-center bass play and perfect vocal harmonies. Brilliant and beautiful. Again, great hand percussion play to go with the gorgeous drumming and richly nuanced instrumental tapestry. (9.25/10)
6. "Carry Me Away" (3:56) has a very Brian Auger's Oblivion Express and, less, Santana feel to it. The guitar solo over the is so straight out of Eumir Deodato's 1973 world-wide jazz funk version of Ricard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" as inspired from the 1968 classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey. (9/10)
7. "Another Day" (4:45) despite its interesting instrumental palette (including harpsichord), this one drags a little too much. (8.25/10)
8. "Walking Up That Valley" (10:44) opens like it's going to break into "Hair" by The Cowsills. But with the appearance of the vocal we can see that it is a true folk song--a gorgeous one at that. Simple guitar with solo voce, gradually joined by other guitars and Hammond. At 4:30 we transition into a uptempo, more jazz-rock instrumental passage. The sound palette of guitars, bass, and snare drums and cymbals is very cool thought the flanged lead guitar is nothing too exciting. I'm quite reminded of Gadi Caplan's masterful jazzy Prog Folk album from 2016, Morning Sun. As a matter of fact, this entire album has a similarity to that wonderful album. The guitar solo over the zoom-along AMAZING-like passage in the ninth minute is astonishing! What an amazing passage! Some of Al Stewart and Donovan in the gorgeous next session. The way we're cut off from the continued jam at the end feels like robbery! One of the best prog epics of the year--maybe the best. (19.75/20)
Total Time 43:37
This is the most recent solo release from this true master of the folk-centric Prog Folk sub genre, Tirill Mohn. Her work with the original WHITE WILLOW lineup on 1995's Ignis Fatuus and her other more recent collaborative project, AUTUMN WHISPERS, are well, well worth checking out as well. During my listening of this album I found myself remarking for the first time at how similar Tirill's voice has evolved to sound like that of enigmatic American singer-songwriter, JEWEL.
93.33 on the Fish scales = five stars; a masterpiece of progressive rock music.
1. "La quinta ricerca" (3:13) opens the album with Riccardo's lute serving notice that this is going to be music that feels like it comes from five hundred years ago. When sublime singerCaterina Pontrandolfo joins in with the accompaniment some other medieval instrumental accompanying her the ancient resolve is affirmed. An orchestral finale is unexpected but wonderful. (10/10)
2. "Venti di sale" (5:29) is opened with solo grand piano for the first minute--laying down some gorgeous introductory work--before vocalistFloriana Cangiano and a full force folk ensemble rush into the void with some quite dynamically diverse music--both acoustic guitars, violin, and hand percussion, and modern (fretless bass and drums). Lacking a memorable melodic hook to make this total ear candy. (9/10)
9. "Barrio Gotico" (7:16) sees the return ofFloriana Cangiano to the vocal mic as Riccardo and a simple Spanish folk ensemble supports. Riccardo on guitar, hand percussionist Michele Maione also on board. Well performed but a little long-winded and monotonous--though the final two minutes sounds like primo soundtrack music to a classic Italian Spaghetti Western. (8/10)
12. "Piscina Mirabilis" (2:56) is a nice little solo classical guitar piece from Riccardo to close out the album. Nice. (9/10)
92.50 on the Fishscales = a five star masterpiece of progressive rock (folk) music.
Total time 64:07
IVAR BJØRNSON & EINAR SELVIK Hugsjá (2018)
Clever and transporting "Viking folk music" from Norwegian artists Ivar Bjørnson (guitarist for ENSLAVED) and drummer/singer Einar Selvik (aka "Kvitrafn" in the black metal band GOGOROTH and folk band WARDRUNA). This is a stunning album that starts out more regional Nordic folk but then begins to sound and feel more familiar Western European folk rock the further you get into the album.
Line-up / Musicians:
Einar Selvik (Wardruna): Lead vocals, Kravik-lyre, Taglharpa, goat-horn, Bronze-lure, flute and percussion
Ivar Bjørnson (Enslaved): Guitars and electronics
Silje Solberg: Hardanger-fiddle and backing vocals
Iver Sandøy: Drums, percussion and backing vocals
Håkon Vinje: Backing vocals
Anna Lisa Lekven, Laila Moberg, Marianne Evensen Østrem, Lisa Nøttseter, Lise Renee Aase, Kristine Bjånesøy Tikkanen, Linda Nytræ, Leif Østrem, Brede Lærum, Jan Helge Kordts, Jan-Ove Hansen, Richard Myhre Gåssand and Stine Kobbeltvedt: Choir under management of Stine Kobbeltvedt (4, 11)
1. "Hugsjá" (4:35) Celtic melodies with deep bass thrum and lower register multi-voice singing (are they using some throat singing?) which sounds almost like chant. Quite enthralling, mesmerizing, even consuming--like a spiritual entrainment thing. (9/10)
2. "WulthuR" (4:16) opens with a solo horn whose sound is unfamiliar to me. It is then joined by folk instruments, multiple drums, and acoustic guitars before solo voice sings. The chorus "dance" section uses deep background choir voices to anesthetize the listener. (10/10)
3. "Ni Døtre av Hav" (6:02) big drums, low droning horn-like thrum, berimbau-like stringed instrument, electric guitars, and full drum kit support simple folk melodies and both solo and choral vocal sections. Super powerful. Mr. Selvik has an extraordinarily engaging voice--as do the choir with his choral arrangements. (10/10)
4. "Ni Mødre av Sol" (5:55) opens with multiple bowed instruments setting the melodic and harmonic stage for drum and vocals. The vocal melody lines here are a bit foreign to Western 12-note scales, using semi-tones and warbles that are not typical in Western European singing traditions (as far as I know). They sound more akin to Middle Eastern or Indian scales. At 3:40 drum kit and pulsing electronic bass line fills the soundscape as choir of Nordic gods sing their worship. The never-changing foundational weave gets a bit old. (8.75/10)
5. "Fornjot" (4:41) finger picked stringed instrument is alone in support of Einar's story telling voice. At 1:05 the soundscape fills out as drums and other deep-toned instruments (church organ bass pedals?) join in for the chorus. Very dramatic, very powerful. The drums and deep thrum settle into a steady pattern for the second verse before repeating the ramp up for the second (final) chorus. (9/10)
6. "Nattseglar" (7:06) opens a bit like a louder version of a ROXY MUSIC song before electronic water and rowing sounds are faded back in lieu of a simple melody plucked on a single- or two-stringed folk instrument. Einar's lone vocals are used sparsely over the first 90 seconds, alternating with violin-like instrument, before they become doubled up with steadily increasing numbers of other vocal tracks singing the same thing, some in delay or echo of the lead. Cool effect! Full drums kick in at 3:45, but the rest of the song's weave remains the same (getting a little old). The drumming becomes more animated as the song progresses as does the activity of a late entering church organ. Instruments begin to drop off little by little starting at the 5:35 mark until we are left with a bouncy synth chord, drums, and synchronized vocal choir accompanying the final highly-electrified "bermibau chord." (13.5/15)
7. "Nytt Land" (7:48) opens like a song from an album of Sweden's THE AMAZING: heavily distorted notes and chords from an electric guitar. Multiple reverbed Einar vocal tracks with harp join in. The chorus explodes upon us at 2:20 with squeeze box-like sounds and a vocal passage from a large choir--here using the broadest aural spectrum and most Western chord structure yet heard on this album. Very engaging, even pretty, melodies and harmonies created on this one. Before the ending water sounds the large choir pumps back up for a long recapitulation of its previous explosive passage. (14/15)
8. "Nordvegen" (3:41) fast-moving folk acoustic guitar work not far from work of Jimmy Page, The Beatles, or even Anthony Phillips over which Einar sings in a lone voice reverb. Very cool song. (9.25/10)
9. "Utsyn" (5:23) a deep inner-planetary hum opens this song. It is soon joined by the balalaika-like instrument and Einar's singular voice and some acoustic guitar background strums. Then a second male voice enters to harmonize with Einar before the full "orchestra" of the full band enters for the chorus. Powerful! In the fourth minute a kind of calm between the storm passage allows for thunderous background strokes and bowed and instruments to convey the ominous calm. Around the four minute mark all hell bursts forth again but then the song finishes with just the chorus, 'balalaika' and wave sounds. (9/10)
10. "Oska" (7:29) opens with a Western rock chord structure coming from guitars, drums, strings and other synthesized banks of instruments. Einar & Co. enter singing long-held "oh"s while the Celtic-sounding Nordic folk instruments weave in a kind of reel or jig. There's a little UK folk sound and feel to this one--like Horslips, Led Zeppelin, or even Steven Wilson. It's just a long rollicking jam with full choir singing their long Tuvalu-like polyphonic notes. The horn used in the sixth and seventh minutes is absolutely awesome for building tension! Finish with the sounds of wood burning--on a large scale! Wow! (It all makes sense when one hears the translation of the word "oska"--it means "ashes"!) (13.5/15)
11. "Um Heilage Fjell" (5:26) again based in more familiar Western European sounds and structures, this one seems to be sung in tones of respect, awe, and reverence. Great plaintive vocal from Einar while full chorus and big band/big sound accompany him with a stream of supportive, sometimes antiphonal, and, later, echoing vowels and phrases. Amazing end to a stunningly powerful album. (10/10)
Total Time 62:22
92.0 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of very powerful Prog Folk--this one of the Nordic variation. An absolutely riveting album from start to finish. One of the best albums of 2018 and certainly one of the most refreshing. I think it will be quite challenging for you to go away from listening to this one without being deeply affected, perhaps even haunted.
- Antero Mentu / guitar, sitar, tambura, vocals
- Sampo Salonen / vocals, didgeridoo, doshpulur, percussion
- Panu Ukkonen / clarinet, vocals
- Kusti Rintala / drums, percussion
2. "The Charm On Your Chest" (8:07) opens with a brisk pace but then turns into an exercise in subtlety and beauty. Throughout the second, third and fourth minutes I am filled with feelings of walking alone in an enchanted and beautiful woods. At 4:10 when the percussion hits intimate a change, I envision coming out of the woods to the vision of a beautiful lake below me and mountain hillsides beyond. But then the music makes feel as if I need to run--as if I am being pursued and need to escape. Violin, mandolin, and acoustic guitar shine above the organ and percussion as the pursuit becomes more intense in the seventh minute. Horses! closing in! Is it me they're after? The voice of a spirit enchanter asks me what I'm experiencing--why I'm choosing this adventure. And I stop--all sources of terror and fear disappear--they were all of my own creation. Nice journey. And what a story it seems to be telling of young love. One of the most emotionally powerful musical pieces I've ever heard; a vertiable prog masterpiece. (15/15)
3. "Untamed" (6:29) opens with the instruments establishing a perky pace like a ballad, but then, surprise!, when the vocals (presented in multiple voice harmony) take their turn the instrumental support becomes quite sparse and quiet. This pattern continues, somewhat, though the instrumental support becomes more prominent ver the course of the song. The instrumental section that begins at the end of the third minute is quite nice, with some surprise chords thrown in beneath the soloing violin. And then, at the beginning of the fifth minute, the vocals return in a joyful and unusually constructed four- or five-part harmony. The collective instrumental and vocalise play to the songs end is rather steady and beautiful. Great song. (13.5/15)
4. "Silent Impulse" (7:13) starts out as a slow song with kind of eery, drawn out multilayered vocals singing over some simple instrumental accompaniment (acoustic guitar and violin). But the second half of the song--about the time the singers finish their work--turns into a jam with a build up of slowly increasing speed and dexterity. (12/15)
5. "Earth Child" (7:59) opens with quite a medieval feel and sound as hand drums and acoustic instrumentation repeat a brief little pattern a few times. The song then develops into more of an instrumental jam until, surprisingly, at 1:19 some very playful, festive (drunk?) vocals (led by a bacchanalian male) enter and follow along with the jamming instruments. Just as quickly and surprisingly, the music slows to a crawl at the two minute mark. The music and ensuing vocals sound almost ritualistic, give cause for a little fear and trepidation. But then the forward march signal is given and the band returns to cantoring along the path. Definitely the most COMUS-sounding song I've heard on the album. The mandolin soloing at the end of the fifth minute is refreshing. The wild orgy continues until at the end of the seventh minute everything slows, quiets, like the calm after all of the drunken regaliers have fallen asleep and the fire's flames begin to die down for lack of attention. Cool musical story tellling! (13.5/15)
6. "The Trials Of Madame Dillner" (5:11) opens as a kind of traditional folk song with standard accompaniment, single vocalist (male), and brief bridges of instrumental soli (mostly violin) between the vocal verses. In the second half of the second minute female background singers mirror the lead vocalist and mandolin joins the violin's melody making. AT 2:45 there is a shift in the foundation to more broadly fill the bass end (congas, bass, organ, lower register violin play). The vocals begin sounding so Dylan-cum-Judy Dyble-esque! Nice traditional folk song. (8/10)
7. "Min Levnads Afton" (6:36) a gorgeous MEDIÆVAL BÆBES-like rendering of a traditional Swedish folk song. My second favorite song on the album. (14.5/15)
These are very polished and professional folk musicians, people! Well worth checking out. And this, their second album, shows much improvement in composition, performance refinement, and sound engineering. An album that deserves to be heard--and one that deserves to be ranked among Prog Folk's classics! Certainly one of the finest Prog Folk albums of the new millenium!
91.05 on the Fishscales = five stars; A-; a minor masterpiece of Prog Folk music.
90.95 on the Fish scales = five stars; a minor masterpiece of folk-based progressive rock music.
2. "Uncharted Waters" (4:18) opens with a sad kind of minor chord pop feel with electric guitar and keyboard chords while Steve sings. The flute playing is great. (8.5/10)
4. "Reckoning" (9:00) opens gently, spaciously, with part-Will Ackerman, mostly-Spanish feel as acoustic guitars dominate until the light Spanish tapestry fills and settles into a supporting role for Steve to sing over. Things darken and deepen in a Porcupine Tree way in the third minute. As the song gets progressively heavier (matched by Steve's aggressive delivery of angry lyrics), I'm really liking this; that fourth minute was awesome. The fifth minute ends with a solo Spanish guitar, which is then joined by Steve's GENTLE GIANT/IAN ANDERSON-like singing in the sixth. At 6:30 an instrumental section begins imply though ominously before slowly building into a full band exposition with trilling flute, electric guitar, and violin trading solos. (18/20)
7. "Precipice" (9:42) opens sounding as if Porcupine Tree and KBB had teamed up around 2002. Great chorus with "silly life" lyric! The amped up passion in Steve's voice starting at the end of the third minute is so powerful and moving! There's a lot of familiar sound and feel here to the music of much under-appreciated GUY MANNING. Actually makes me want to cue up some of Guy's solo albums. Nice TONY PATTERSON-like vocal layering in the seventh minute--after which the soundscape broadens out with mandolin and lots of guitars in support of an instrumental section. UNITOPIA-sounding section as the vocals pick back up in the ninth minute. Glad to hear the return of that awesome chorus one more time before the song builds into its finale. Excellent! (18.5/20)
Total Time 47:07
I find it interesting that Steve had just completed a significant collaboration with UNITOPIA founder MARK TRUECK on this year's UNIVERSAL PROGRESSIVE FRATERNITY release, Planetary Overload, Part 1 - Loss--and album that I am very familiar and fond of--because there were many times, both sonically and lyrically, in which I found myself thinking I was back in that UPF album--even vocally!
90.26 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor-masterpiece of progressive rock music coming from the folk-rock angle.
Line-up / Musicians:
- Claire Northey / violin
- Samuel Maurin / bass, fretless bass (8)
- Philippe Maullet / drums, percussion (1,8)
1. "Ex-Slave" (12:47) (24/25)
3. "La Lumière" (9:10) incredible blend of gentle approaches from voice, percussion, bass, background vocals, oud, strings, keys, even drums--all topped off with an awesome electric guitar solo in the second half. (19/20)
4. "J'aurais Pu" (4:37) wonderfully deep LUNATIC SOUL-like atmospherics with vocoder-treated voice. (8.5/10)
5. "Danse Des Airs" (6:20) gorgeous intro with keyboard weave and then powerful entry of bass and rest of band. Even the jazzier third section fits and retains the engaging beauty and allure. (9.5/10)
6. "Au Ciel" (7:09) awesome ethereal vocal from Sébastion Fillion over shape-shifting strings weave. (14/15)
7. "Revoir" (7:51) (13/15)
8. "01" (8:13) (12.5/15)
9. "Ces Rêves-là" (4:22) (7.75/10)
Total Time: 66:05
90.19 on the Fish scales. A refreshingly original musical journey--with amazing sound engineering.
Another gem of prog folk music from Germany's folk masters, FAUN. Upon first listen I found high points that stood out for me, but after repeated listens I've come to love this entire album. Not quite as good as their masterpiece, Eden but back to that level (after 2013's disappointing Von den Elben). The spectrum of emotions this album takes one through is nothing short of remarkable. From nostalgia to haunted fear, celebratory joy to bitter sadness, the power of mutual support to the despair of isolation, there is nary an emotion left untouched. The romantically rhythmed ensemble piece "Cuncti Simus" is my absolute favorite.
Five/4.5 star songs: "Cuncti Simus" (3:56); "Hörst du die Trommein" (3:23); "Walpurgisnacht" (3:50); "Buntes Volk" (4:17); "Menuett" (4:57); "Hekate" (4:16); "Blaue Stunde" (4:36); "Frau Erde" (4:29); "Die Lieder Werden Bleiben" (3:19), and; "Era Escuro" (3:33).
90.0 on the Fish scales = Another five star masterpiece of prog folk from Germany's folk masters; a minor masterpiece for the world of progressive rock music.
- Gadi Caplan / Guitars
- Danny Abowd /
2. "Island" (5:33) is a gorgeous little folk song in the style of 1990s STEVEN WILSON/ PORCUPINE TREE--one that makes you appreciate more the genius of SW in that time period. (9/10)
3. "Good Afternoon" (2:25) the only song on the album that I don't absolutely love, it's more in an acoustic blues style though quite reminiscent of some of HARRY NILSSON's songs, it continues to dsiplay Gadi's extraordinary skills in vocal arrangements, lead guitar play, and production. (7/10)
4. "Vivadi Swara" (5:39) opens as a pure ROY BUCHANAN song with acoustic guitar and synth providing sparse background support for the sensitive lead electric guitar work. At 1:38 the song opens up with strummed acoustic guitar, full band support and Gadi's whispery, jazzy lead vocal. I hear a little George Harrison in this one. Such stellar songwriting and production! A true gem! (9/10)
5. "Morning Sun" (4:14) a sparsely constructed folk song that truly feels like it came out of the mucis catalog of 1970s HARRY NILSSON or the introspective side of ROBERT WYATT or JEFF BUCKLEY. Extraordinary and beautiful! I love the wooden flute play, too. (10/10)
6. "La Morena" (5:46) opens gently but with vocals joining in almost immediately. The vocals are very beautifully executed--quite like Coldplay's CHRIS MARTIN. I love the BEATLES-like contribution of the violin and Gadi's finishing vocalizations. (9/10)
7. "The Other Other Side" (5:14) from my very first listen this song has been my favorite. A bit more dynamic and electric than the previous six songs, this one also has a little more diversity in way the accompanying instruments are presented. Sounding slightly PINK FLOYD-ish, slightly Hawaiian, though mostly Harry NILSSON and STEVEN WILSON-ish, this one has the gift of an extraordinary vocal and an awesome bluesy guitar solo in the final minutes. (10/10)
8. "Lili's Day, Pt. 1" (2:49) opens with quite an different, synth-dominated trip hoppy sound and feel--here bringing to mind some of the work of some of the early Post Rock bands (like Tortoise and Bark Psychosis). Great groove! (10/10)
9. "Lili's Day, Pt. 2" (2:28) continues the Post Rock sound with its great guitar weave while adding a Dick Parry-like breathy sax to take the lead. (9/10)
10. "Lili's Day, Pt. 3" (1:50) sees a shift in the music starting with the eery militaristic drumming, minor chord synths, and more sustain-effected guitar lead. (8/10)
11. "Lili's Day, Pt. 4" (2:37) shifts into a more straight rock mellow outflow with the violin and strings synths taking the dominant lead in presenting the melodies. (8/10)
89.09 on the Fishscales = 4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music. This is a type of clear, clean, simply constructed song production I wish there was more of in this day and age. Beautiful. Do check it out: Highly recommended.
ATARAXIA Llyr (Ambient Electronic Folk) is a very pleasant neoclassical ambient world folk music album very much in the vein of DEAD CAN DANCE with a remarkably strong female vocalist singing all lead vocals while being supported by traditional instruments and synthesizers. Francesca Nicoli's enigmatic operatic mezzo soprano voice reminds me at times of ENYA or Gunnhild Tvinnereim (SECRET GARDEN) (on "Sigillat"), Ana Torres Fraile (UNIVERSAL TOTEM ORCHESTRA) (on "Quintaluna") at times of a Chinese Opera singer ("Llyr" and "Evnyssien") and others ELIZABETH FRASER (COCTEAU TWINS) (on "Klepsydra") and still others of NINA HAGEN (on "Elldamaar"). The band tends to be hide intentionally behind veils of obscurity, however they themselves call their music "a cosmogonic dark folk" ("praying for Beauty"). Beautiful music it certainly is.
Germany's Prog Folk masters' second major release and quite a step forward from Zaubersprüche in that the band loosens up a bit and diverges and varies its path from straightforward Renaissance Faire music. The album shows the band putting their instrumental chops on full display from the get-go: The first two songs are instrumentals with 2. "Andro" (3:45) using a metronomic stroke from its to really amp things up. This is a kick ass grooving, jam song. (10/10)
3. "Unda" uses some great lute, hand drums and hurry gurdy to support the recorder, voices, and bagpipes which alternate for the front and center melody holder. (9/10)
4. "Von den Elben" opens with harp and berimbao playing support for the lilting voice of first one and later, with the help of the lute and hand drums, a second female voice. Wonderful performance by the lead voice. (9/10)
5. "Ne Aludj El" has a bit of a Gypsy/Moorish sound to it despite using pretty much the same instruments as above. Upbeat and festive tune. (8/10)
6. "Deva" is just a -supported wordless vocal dirge.
7. "Punagra" (4:41) opens with some group chanting of the title before some wonderful upper register penny whistle work takes over the show. Later a balalaika solo takes center stage. Awesome percussion support on this one. Interesting key change with a little over a minute left--which, along with the chalumeaux (reeded recorder that is the predecessor to the clarinet) gives the music a bit of a Middle eastern flavor. (9/10)
8. "Wind & Geige" is a fairly simple, repetitive foundation for "geige" (violin) and whistle solos to be showcased between fairly brief lyric sections sung by the two women in harmony. (8/10)
9. "Isis" opens with a male voice reciting some spell or invocation before the same balalaika chord progression from the last song fades in to support the singing of a quite extraordinarily beautiful male voice (which kind of reminds me of Mariuz Duda's gentle upper register). Giege and harp slowly join in support of this singer. If my German were better, this lovely song might not seem so long and soporific. (9/10)
10. "Cernunnos" (5:02) is the odd duck on this album for its long narration from a male voice (Christian von Aster). Again, not knowing enough German, the significance is lost on me. Plus the musical support consists of only drums. Probably a fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm.
11. "Egil Saga" (5:10) opens with some kind of synthesized percussives in support of a single female voice. I swear these sounds goes straight back to 1980s New Wave--of which the German scene was quite advanced. (Think Bauhaus, Schilling, Nena, and Yello.) A little weird--especially for a folk song! (7/10)
12. "Fort" (3:54) is a beautiful folk song in the "Scarborough Faire" tradition with some awesome Celtic harp playing and nice three part vocal harmonies throughout. A nice high note to end the album. (9/10)
I have reconsidered my rating of this album due to it's rather narrow instrumental variation and its two rather weak songs ("Cernunnos" and "Egil saga"). Yes, wind & violin player Fiona Rüggeberg is wonderful, as are percussionist Rüduger Maul and strings player Oliver Sa Tyr. And, while this is a step forward for the band, there are great things to come!
88.83 on the Fishscales = B/four stars.
CORDE OBLIQUE The Moon Is a Dry Bone (2020)
- 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)
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
Classically-influenced instrumental acoustic folk music in the same vein as NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA, Charlie is quite the multi-instrumentalist!
Line-up / Musicians:
- Marjana Semkina / vocals (3, 10)
- Alice Barron / violin
- Georgia Hannant / violin
- Maddie Cutter / cello
- Robyn Hemmings / double bass
- Julie Groves / flute, piccolo
- Emily Suzanne Shapiro / clarinet
- Ben Marshall / cor anglais
- Thomas Stone / contrabassoon
- Lucy Brown / French horn
- Nathaniel Dye / trombone
- Maria Moraru / piano, celeste
- Elen Evans / harp
- Beibei Wang / vibraphone
- Catherine Ring / glockenspiel
- Evan Carson / bodhran, percussion
- Steve Holmes / minimoog, bass synth
2. "The Stars Turn" (3:59) same as the previous song: a gentle weave of the exact same instrument palette. A little more Steve REICHian/NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA construction here. (8.67/10)
3. "Falling Into Blue" (2:36) fast-picked acoustic guitars behind Marjana Semkina singing in her lower registers. Winds, xylophone, and Marjana's background vocals join in the chorus. Strings and tuned percussion remain for the second verse. Again, this could be a quaint little NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA song. (4.25/5)
4. "Abyss of Memory" (3:05) multiple acoustic guitars with piano and vibraphone weave this one at another moderately slow pace. The melody line repeats over and over while myriad other instruments join in and create other layers and harmony threads. Interesting. (8.75/10)
5. "The Dark Within" (4:37) guitar and strings open this one like a WILLIAM ACKERMAN tune. At 0:50 piano and woodwinds join in and it gets beautiful. At 1:30 double bass and percussion and vibes are added. It actually doesn't feel as dark as it feels full of 'disappointment' though it does get a little discordant toward the end. (9/10)
6. "Blurring Into Motion" (3:29) fast-picked acoustic guitars, piano, and soon, flute, start this weave. Strings join in at the end of the first minute (including bass). (8.5/10)
7. "From Pure Air" (4:05) harp and classical guitar open this one. A very gentle, soothing, calming song. (8.75/10)
8. "A Severed Circle" (4:35) another beautiful multi-instrumental weave that once again reminds me of the NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA though also some of Jesy Chiang's CICADA compositions as well. Very nice. A top three song. (9/10)
9. "The False Mirror" (3:28) More of the same; beautiful but basically background music. (8.67/10)
10. "Flicker Out of Being" (4:27) a pleasant song in which Marjana Semkina's beautiful, ethereal voice blends in as if it were another string or wind instrument. A top three song for me. (9.25/10)
11. "Between Two Worlds" (4:48) flute and chor anglais over guitars, vibraphone and piano in another fast shifting NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA-like song. Very nicely constructed tapestry. (8.75/10)
12. "Voice of Space" (6:35) slow and brooding piano, acoustic guitar, harp and vibes with secondary instruments providing chord accents every sixth whole note. Reminds me of many Pat Metheny song openings. Flute and winds take over lead melody over the top while celeste does another line in the middle. Strings eventually join in, thickening the weave. Another top three for me. (9.25/10)
Total time: 50:47
Michael Kops - Guitar, Vocals
Thomas Stolp - Piano, Organ
Matthias Stolp - Flutes, Saxophone
Heiko Hendrich - Bass
Ruprecht Langer - PercussionThomas Müller - Recitation
5. "Nightpiece" (7:48) (9.5/10)
7. "My Love Is In A Light Attire" (3:57) (9/10)
Total Time 52:12
88.65 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive folk music.
1. "Circadian" (4:11) dreamy folk music (in the vein of THE CLIENTELE) that lulls you to submission while some very eerie, creepy lyrics and equally disturbing heavily-treated electric guitar leads are unleashed over you. Hypnotic. (9/10)
2. "The Prize" (6:38) starts out tame and subdued (while Nick sings) though there is a full band present (drums, bass, and multiple guitars), but then goes crazy for the final 90 seconds afterwards. (9/10)
3. "Fitzrovia" (8:08) again, masterfully tranquilizing us with some beautiful music that must be conveying some deeply disturbing message (and power). The constant clock-like finger strike of a muted guitar string is perhaps the most unsettling of all noises, despite the preponderance of multiple floaty synth creepers and ghostly washes far beneath but ubiquitous with the guitar and voice. Masterfully creepy. (13.25/15)
4. "In Miniature" (4:34) beautiful guitar picking of a steel-string guitar for a minute before Nick enters with his voice, singing in a fairly fast cadence. Warbling high-pitched synth note joins after the first verse and stays with us to the end. (8.75/10)
5. "The Carousel" (1:30) like waking up and finding yourself trapped inside a wind-up music box.
6. "Islands" (8:07) cool techno-pop synth drone and synth drum program with organ beneath and various creepy incidentals injected over the top and into the sides. In the third minute, Nick's heavily reverbed voice joins with the "side" noises, sounding as if a ghost were permeating the walls, whispering messages, talking to itself while totally oblivious to our existence. (8.5/10)
7. "The Foundry" (4:23) a chilling indictment of the consequences of human submission and complicity. (8.75/10)
8. "Peacock" (2:44) lone steel-string guitar up close and personal. So intimate! (4.25/5)
9. "The Ghost of Saint Paul" (6:02) more intimate guitar, odd tuned percussive (guitar harmonic?) occasionally floating underneath as Nick sings about a long overdue or missing saint. High synth note begins floating in the background during the second verse and Nick begins doubling up his vocal withs some gorgeous harmonies. (8.5/10)
10. "Three Fires" (4:17) what a chilling song! Such a calm, beautiful voice telling such a disturbing story. The music is absolutely perfect for the conveyance of psychological instability--of detachment from causing harm and destruction. (9/10)
- Kimmo Lähteenmäki / keyboards, drums
- Jarmo Kataja / bass
- Mikko Uusi-Oukari / guitars, flute
- Jankke Kuismin / bass (2, 3 & 5)
2. "Miracle Car Wash, 1978" (13:41) a mercurial musical journey used to take us through a chunk of Damon's recounting of a snow storm, the masterfully composed and rendered music, unfortunately, makes the most sense to it's composer, often leaving us out on a lurch, wondering "Why this twist?" "Why this turn?" (25.5/30)
3. "Island Time" (5:26) a song that stands out for it's totally different stylistic approach--both constructively and vocally--from any previous Jack O' The Clock song I've ever heard. The male vocal performance here is amazing. (Damon performing in a more choir-classical style?) (9.5/10)
4. "Errol at Twenty-Three" (3:58) Damon and a guzheng open this as the story of the Blizzard of 1978 continues. Multiple voices join in with several other folk instruments and percussives in a theatric/stage-like fashion. I imagine a stage performance of this song with costumes and fast-moving sets while the music is played from an orchestra pit below. Gorgeous, complex, genius, worthy of a Tony nomination! (9.5/10)
5. "Whiteout" (1:10) a multi-track looping of voices, percussives and electric instruments. Not sure how this concludes the blizzard story. (4/5)
ARTIFACTS OF LOVE AND ISOLATION
7. "My Room Before Sleep" (2:10) Damon duet with a hammered dulcimer. (4.5/5)
8. "Into the Fireplace" (6:55) opens with "tuning" strings and winds before bursting into a thick, heavy, proggy weave at 0:45. What a delicious surprise! The singing versus return to the more sparsely orchestrated opening theme, but the thick wall of sound reappears with enough frequency to keep me on edge. the complexity of the overall weave of many instruments (and many voices) is also quite impressive, engaging, and beautiful. What a masterpiece of composition and collaboration! (15/15)
9. "Unger Reminisces" (1:27) a dreamy soundscape with commensurately dreamy effected vocals from multiple tracks of Damon. (5/5)
10. "I’m Afraid of Fucking the Whole Thing Up" (5:47) a strangely out-of-place story of an insecure, underconfident youth being told to do something useful--like going downtown to get a job. For a while I thought this second half of the album was the continuation of the Blizzard story. Musically this is more straightforward folk rock with a bluegrassy jazziness to it. (8.5/10)
11. "Double Door" (1:32) odd cacophony of instruments, voices, and field recordings. To what purpose? (3/5)
12. "A Sick Boy" (9:44) a song that has trouble hooking us both musically and lyrically--the story, and its accompanying music, are just not that engaging--are too personally projected from Damon's memories. If this is a concept album, then this is a disappointing lowpoint on which to end the album. Too bad! (16/20)
87.69 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of jazzy progressive folk music; masterful songwriting and performances that somehow keep the listener at an arm's length due to the highly personal nature of the stories they represent. What an awesome display of collaboration from a large and wide variety of instrumentalists in some quite complex compositions!
Chlöe Herington – Bassoon (9)
- Daniel Cardoso / drums, percussion
- Danny Cavanagh / bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, keyboards
- Sean Jude / acoustic guitar, classical guitar, poetry, vocals
- Kevin Murphy / bass
1. "Bethlehem" (8:28) Good song with the final minute being the highlight for me. Interesting lyrics. (16.75/20)
2. "The Hollow Hills" (6:47) (12.5/15)
3. "Sunset Hypnos" (5:23) cool NEIL YOUNG- and DAVE MASON-like feel. (9/10)
5. "Oak Machine" (8:01) an absolutely stunningly beautiufl and haunting song with amazingly sensitive multi-track vocal harmony from Sean. (14/15)
6. "Thirteen" (6:54) (12.75/15)
7. "Beneath a Woodland Moon" (4:40) (8/10)
8. "Portrait" (10:56) an attempt at a kind of liturgical Gentle Giant vocal arrangement for the first four minutes, then the electric rock instruments enter and change everything (thought there is still a SIMON & GARFUNKLE sound and feel). At the six-minute mark it slows back down for a bit--very pretty--but then goes full ANATHEMA at 7:10. The repetitive vocal and two-chord fabric that ensues goes on for a full two minutes before finally breaking at 9:00. Classical guitar over ANATHEMA atmospherics sets up a section with some very delicate, breathy slow vocals--just a few words recapitulating the opening motif and lyrics--to the end. Gorgeous finish. The rest is kind of all over the place. Still, a good song and a great ending to the album. (17.5/20)
Total time: 53:46
A brilliant debut album in the true folk-oriented prog folk tradition like those bands in the 1960s who first tried electrifying their music. The vocals are a little less polished and synchronized than their follow up,2016's Untamed, but the raw energy and passion that these youths have for their music comes busting through.
1. "Fret" (7:53) elaborate hand percussion, glockenspiel, accordion, guitar, and four-part vocal harmonies fuel this one. Solos come from from both fiddles, glock, and percussion. When compared to their 2016 sophomore album, the vocals sound much more frenzied and unpolished. (8/10)
2. "Vassal of the sun" (8:13) opens like a dirge with organ reed organ and accordion holding long low chords while the voices and guitar fill the middle and a lonely mandolin ditties around the high registers. The instrumental mid-section steadies and soothes with guitar, glockenspiel and mandolin weaving together a fabric over which the fiddles can take turns gently soloing. This is awesome! A key shift moves the song into vocal range for the final two minutes. Nice song! (9/10)
3. "Iblissa" (7:18) starts off quite unremarkably but then takes one on an amazing journey with its emotional and eery second half. Glimpses of things to come and easily the best song on the album. (10/10)
4. "Under Diana" (5:21) slow to unfold, this is more of a song of prayer to their goddess. (8/10)
5. "Nicor" (10:27) Guitar, fiddle, viola, mandola, and incidental percussion (shells, etc.) support Emil's solo vocal on this one. Good folk song with lots of frenzy and free form play in the instrumental sections. The soft four part harmonizing in the the "lie du die du die" section and the crazed vocals that follow are my favorite parts. Unfortunately, the song is lacking a bit in the way of memorable melody lines. (8/10)
6. "Darkling woods" (7:25) guitar, mandolin, fiddle, bowed double bass and harmonium support Emil's storytelling vocal on this one. It feels traditional. A second fiddle and hand percussion comes later. Emil certainly does have a totally unique singing style: the nasal part is all Dylan, the way he whisps the tail of some words--especially at then end of lines--is akin to Bulgarian folk style singing or even Leon Thomas. (8/10)
Much more crazed and untamed--like COMUS--than their next release--and less polished vocal performances and engineering/production, as well, but still, it is wonderful to hear young people of the 21st Century picking up the folk torch of the artists of the 1960s who first caught the prog bug. And these guys are serious, seriously talented, and committed to their craft. Give this one a listen. Then move to the real treat, Untamed.
- Ordy Garrison / drums
- Daniel McMahon / piano
2. Winter Shaker (3:43)
3. Swedish Purse (3:30)
4. Twig (2:12)
5. Whistling Girl (4:40)
6. Elktooth (3:17)
7. Bible And Bird (2:21)
8. Dirty Blue (4:42)
9. Slota Prow-Full Armour (5:53)
10. Truly Golden (3:33)
11. Deerskin Doll (5:33)
12. Little Raven/Shun (4:12)
Total time: 45:06
AUTUMN CHORUS The Village to the Vale (2012)
A brilliant album with folk choral type vocals set over some very pastoral music (despite the presence of drums). Unusual with an amazing male lead vocalist (Robbie Wilson) and interesting use of organ, strings, horns and effects (recorded in a church??) With only one song clocking in at less than five minutes--and three over seven--I'm not sure this album deserves the "Crossover" label; I think a "Folk" label would be much more appropriate--though the band calls themselves "Post Rock/Modern Classical"--both of which there are definite presences. There is even a strong feel of church chorale influence. As Robbie sings--and the effects cause a church-like echo--one cannot help but feel transported to some sacred or angelic venue. Amazing to have this kind of voice singing over Post Rock/Folk Rock music! "Progressive" in the truest sense of the word.
1. The opener, "Three Jumps the Devil" (7:06) (9/10), surprises with the 1:45 minute glockenspiel bells and xylophone intro before a definite Post Rock/Math Rock sound kicks in--plus horns, strings,. Then the amazing voice of Robbie Wilson enters at 2:40. So reminiscent of some of the great folk/ psychedelic voices of the late 1960s! JESSE COLIN YOUNG, TIM BUCKLEY, DONOVAN, ART GARFUNKLE, etc.
2. The album's second song, "You'll Wait Forever" (6:29) is very much like a piece of classical chamber music--with, of course, the occasional voice lead angel Robbie Wilson. Unfortunately, the strings' lead melody gets repeated a bit too often, wearing thin on the listener. (8/10)
3. "Never Worry" (4:00) offers another church-like setting for Robbie Wilson's voice to grace us with. For some reason this song reminds me a bit of a song that crosses SIMON & GARFUNKLE with TIM HOLLIS. (8/10)
4. Unfortunaely, by the time song 4, "Thief" (7:26), rolls around, the music and slow pace is getting abit old. Still, "given a chance, "Thief" does change things up a bit: it is more of a story, less chamber/ church-like, and uses piano and drums, and contains, of course, an absolutely stunning lead vocal. At 4:40 the upbeat kick in reminds one of the true rockers of Post Rock/Math Rock. (9/10)
5. "Brightening Sky" (5:24) is a dynamically diverse song with the other diversion being the intermittent presence of a female vocalist with voice almost as angelic as Robbie's. (9/10)
6. At 16 minutes in length, song 6, "Rosa", is the album's longest. A choral presence accompanies the neoclassical music of the first 4:20. After that it softens to present space for Robbie's plaintive voice. In the tenth minute starts a true Post Rock/Math Rock song à la MONO--starting very slowly, very quietly, very minimally, while Robbie sings an amazingly angelic vocal--soaring above the notes of picked guitar strings and floating keyboards like Icarus to the sun. At 12:20 the music breaks into crescendo as if the heavens had burst open with rain or sunshine. This is a sensitive epic fit for any church venue. (8/10) An amazing song. If only I understood its objective. (Should I be on my knees?)
7. "Bye Bye Now" (5:33) tugs at one's heartstrings because of the presence of the spoken voices of small children. The integration of the child and mother's (and, later, father's) voices is done over the entire song, the first two minutes of which are constructed like a very slow dirge, over which Robbie Wilson begins singing--at first in solo, and later in chorus--at the two minute mark. The song threatens to pick up at 3:00 when the little child says "Bye!" but then quiets back down, lets the child and mother speak again, then takes the final minute to fade. At the end I find myself asking, "Why? What was the purpose of this song? What was he trying to say?" (8/10)
It is definitely a stunning album, start to finish. The long intros and exceptionally patient, delicate fades throughout the album make it an exercise in DELIUS/ELGAR/BRITTEN listening. Overall, I come away from listening to this album feeling as if I've just heard bits of FLEET FOXES and THE DECEMBERISTS playing over music by SIGUR RÓS, PAUL SIMON, DIRTY THREE, RADIOHEAD, and, of course, the three composer giants mentioned in the previous sentence. Despite the breathtakingly delicate, sensitive, beautiful vocals on display in The Village to the Vale and the sophisticated 'modern classical' musical constructs, there is a musical sameness, a kind of ennui that prevents me from giving this album 5 stars "masterpiece" status.
84.29 on the Fish scale = narrowly missing the 4.5 stars, near masterpiece status. Thus, a solid four star record that is highly recommended as an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection. Check it out! Decide for yourself. But come to the experience with time, quiet, and patience: you'll be amazed at what unfolds.
Band leader, composer, and voice extraordinaire, Robbie (Lloyd-)Wilson, sadly passed away from cancer on December 13, 2016. His supreme talents have been taken from us far too early. We are so very fortunate to have this album as a testament to those skills.
Favorite songs: the VAUGHAN WILLIAMS-like instrumental, "Rauch" (6:21) (10/10), the simple, straightforward, folk-poppy "Speak to Me" (3:30) (10/10); the incredibly gorgeous, incredibly powerful closer of disc 2, "As It Shall Be" (3:17) (10/10); four star songs: The East-meets-West spiritual "The Fearless Ones" (5:42) (8/10); the slightly-oriental (RYIUCHI SAKAMOTO)-sounding "Saviour" (5:07) (8/10)
A solid four stars though a disappointment when compared to previous IONA and IONA-related issues.
As clear, well-performed and well-constructed as ever but, somehow, it's lacking the exciting freshness of past releases like Renaissance, Eden and Luna.
Line-up / Musicians:
- Fiona Rüggeberg / vocals, bagpipes, flutes, rebab, recorder, fujara, seljefloit, harmonium, chalumeaux & pommer
- Katja Moslehner / vocals, percussion
- Stephan Groth / vocals, hurdy-gurdy, cistern, whistles
- Rüdiger Maul / darabouka, davul, bendir, tamborello, riq, berimbao & other percussion instruments
- Niel Mitra / computer sampler & synthesizer
1. "Midgard Prolog" (0:50)
2. "Federkleid" (4:42) opens with birds, harp and Fiona's wooden flute. Pretty. The band joins in with the strings and drums and handclaps before the big newcomer Katja Moslehner and the choir take over. Nice vocal arrangements but nothing really new here until the final 20 seconds. (8/10)
3. "Sonnenreigen (Lughnasad)" (3:54) OK, with Fiona in the lead, and a nice melody in the chorus, but nothing new here. (8/10)
4. "Alba II Intro" (2:00)
5. "Alba II Cello" (6:10) cello is a nice addition (8.5/10)
6. "Nacht Des Nordens" (5:34) features the dual voices of newcomer Katja Moslehner and founding member Fiona then joined by the guys for the chorus. The song just doesn't do much musically. (7/10)
7. "MacBeth" (5:57) a pretty musical base for Oliver to tell this ancient story. Nice melodies and delicacy. (9/10)
8. "Gold Und Seide" (4:35) the warbly vibrato of newcomer Katja Moslehner is interesting. (8.5/10)
9. "Brandan" (3:58) one of the better songs on the album because it has something new in its sound and construct--plus it features the solo pleasant voice of newcomer Stephan Groth. (8.5/10)
10. "Odin" (5:58) (featuring Wardruna) has a nice ominous feel to its opening joined, eventually, by multiple voices, a pair of males first (with Oliver in the lead), then background female banshees. Lots of whistles and ancient strings woven together in a kind of royal processional. The collective "choir" chanting in the middle is very cool. (8.5/10)
11. "Rabenballade" (5:03) crow, bouzouki and Oliver introduce this song. Full band join in with the first chorus. At 1:10 the instrumental weave doubles in thickness--which is nice. The drwn out second half has some really nice instrumental performances and tension. One of the three best songs on the album. (9/10)
12. "Lange Schatten" (3:33) opens with a very pastoral flute which is joined by Fiona's pleasant, relaxed, upbeat pretty voice. It could be a nature song or a maiden' innocent love song. (8.5/10)
13. "Aufbruch" (4:54) pleasant song with a nice beat, nice low end, and great lead vocal by Stephan. (8.5/10)
14. "Alswinn" (3:47) a nice mediæval-sounding song with Katja singing in a pleasant lead. (8/10)
15. "Räven" (6:04) almost an Americana/C & W feel to it with Katja's pretty vibrato. (8/10)
Total Time: 65:59
The album just lacks much in the way of surprise and buildup/crescendo, the songs mostly flow at one speed without any tension or drama. The focus of the album, I know, is to explore "ancient" Scandanavian folk songs, but the music just needed a little more spice.
I don't get the addition of the "bonus tracks"--why aren't they just considered part of the album from the first place. I guess for the limitations of vinyl pressings.
83.5 on the Fishscales = four stars; B; a nice album of folk songs performed on period instruments but nothing extraordinary or essential.
82.86 on the Fish scales = Solid four stars.
A late comer as it was only released in December, this album is as haunting as it is beautiful, as unique as it is masterful, as stunning as it is stark, as amazing as it is emotional. Prog folk at its absolute best. Finnish folk at its most captivating. I don't know Finnish but, frankly, one needn't in order to comprehend the mood and emotional message of these remarkable songs. And though the album captures an overall vibe, each and every song has its own unexpected uniquity; all the songs here have a surprising variety.
A Dance with the Shadows is a collection of mostly soft and somber single-instrument based folk songs sung by the delicate voice of former WHITE WILLOW violinist, Tirill Mohn. "Vendela" (6:37) (8/10) stands out as the only faster-paced, full-band supported "prog" song. The album's finale, "When You Sleep" (5:15) (9/10) is another standout due to the contributions of the ensemble of accordion, violin, and percussion that give it its Italian café feel. Tirill is obviously a very contemplative poet/lyricist as her season-based lyrics are quite evocative of the thoughts she has during certain times of the year. My recommendation of this album pales next to her 2013 release, Um Himinjo∂ur, due mostly to the feeling that this is really a pop folk album more than a Prog Folk effort. A variation of this album was released from a different label in 2011 under the title, "Tales from Tranquil August Gardens." While it has a few more songs added to it, the packaging of the original is part of what makes it worth owning. Try the following song samples from YouTube: "Dressed in Beauty" (5:21) (9/10), "June's Flowers" (3:25) (8/10), and; "Winter Roses" (4:43) (8/10).
CORDE OBLIQUE Volontà D'Arte (2007)
Volontà D'Arte is Riccardo PRENCIPE's second release of neo-medieval folk music under the title Corde Oblique. As on the debut Respici, Riccardo surrounds himself with collaborators who are up to his vision and standards. I love the consistently high quality of composition and performance on this album. I am, however, biased toward the less-classical- and more medieval folk-orientation of two of Riccardo's future albums, 2009's exquisite The Stones of Naples and 2011's wonderful Hail of Bitter Almonds.
Album standouts include: the very Spanish-, almost GIPSY KINGS-sounding 1. "Cantastorie" (4:15) with the crystalline voice of Caterina Pontrandolfo (9/10); the medieval sounding 2. "Amphitheatrum Puteolanum" (4:29) (despite Ms. Pontrandolfo's voice being treated with reverb) (9/10); 3. "Casa Hirta" (9/10); the special piano-guitar duet on 4. "Before Utrecht" (5:44) (9/10); 5. "Atheistic Woman" (4:53) with its quirky, almost LEONARD COHEN vocal (9/10); the ANTHONY PHILLIPS-like solo guitar 9. "Pannegio" (2:42) (9/10); 10. "Cuma" (5:28) with singer Claudia Florio and her gorgeous operatic voice (8/10); the pretty piano suite "La Pioggia sui Tasti" (3:03) (8/10), and; the beautiful, more classically arranged "Piazza Armerina" (5:16) with guitar and clarinet (9/10).
FAUNS Leaf Fall (2007)
German Prog Folk family band Fauns (not to be mistaken with the German Pagan Folk band "Faun" -- with no "s") issued this very Tolkein-inspired international debut in 2007 to some critical acclaim and then their 2011 followup masterwork Awaiting the Sun before fading from sight. Whether the band still exists or the Berlin-based Hartmann family have gone on to other things or experienced some illnesses or falling outs I do not know; their music is very difficult to hear much less acquire but well worth the effort. They have quite a little back catalogue of albums that never found international release, but if you can get your ears on Leaf Fall or Awaiting the Sun you can thank me later.
2. La Ruota La Ruota
3. Foggy Dew Foggy Dew
5. Il Sogno Di Senta Il Sogno Di Senta
9. Da Una Ferita Aperta As Una Ferita Aperta
10. Major Gaudio Major Gaudio
12. Fairy Nurse Nurse Fairy
**** 4 stars: "The Groke" (6:05) (8/10); "Waiting By The Bridge" (7/10); The GENTLE GIANT-like title song, "The Hemulic Voluntary Band" (4:55) (7/10), and what could be 5 stars were the lyrics more relevant and the musical shifts more varied stylistically and in tempo: "A Dangerous Journey" (26:32) (8/10).
4 out of 5; excellent addition to any prog music collection.
Chiara Vatteroni - Celtic harp, recitato, attesa e puntiglio;
Davide Lazzaroni - Voce, recitato, flute, aerofoni modulanti, percussion, ammenicoli fonogeni, revolver, cerimonie e visioni;
Gabriele D'Ascoli - Bass, macchina di Türing, percussioni bic-palorziche, ammennicoli fonogeni, dicotomie e sfumature;
Jacopo Bisagni - Cornamuse (Uillean pipes, piva dal carner), whistles, flute, disciplina e puntiglio;
Martino Salvetti - Violin, dissolvenze e dissociazioni;
Micaela Guerra - Voce, percussion, emozioni e silenzi;
2. Le voci di Derry (5:15)
3. Geordie (4:21)
4. Gerard Duval, tipografo (7:15)
5. Pee-Wee & the quaker (4:48)
6. Una stagione all'Inferno (4:10)
7. Bettogli, 1911 (8:00)
8. Quando qui distesa (2:59)
9. An dro & Dies Irae (7:36)
10. La canzone di Salvatore (6:46)
Total time 57:35
- Anna Manusso / violin, vocals
- Enrico Cotella / keyboards, percussion
2. Guardami - Parte Prima (3:53)
3. Tema Di Gwion (2:30)
4. Le Vite Precedenti (6:35)
5. La Reggia Di Tara (3:25)
6. Englyn (4:32)
7. Chi É Il Tuo Dio? (5:08)
8. I Misteri Del Mondo (5:23)
9. Guardami - Parte Secunda (2:51)
10. La Canzone Di Taliesin (4:29)
Total Time: 41:22
While I have to agree with other reviewers that Andrew Marshall's instrumental compositions are maturing--and that his more-showcased flute playing has definitely improved--I still find the song elements, sounds, and stylings too derivative of (mostly) classic and Neo-GENESIS. The mysteriously separated two epics at the start of the album, "A House of Cards" (Parts 1 and 2), are, in my opinion, too disjointed and all over the place--they lack flow and sense-making shifts and turns--and are, again, often incorporating sounds and riffs too close to something from a classic 70s Genesis or Jethro Tull song.
I will give this album a four star rating because of the wonderful tradition of bucolic soundscapes that Mr. Marshall is championing--and for the fact that he is doing a very fine job of it. Keep on trying, keep on growing, Andrew, your masterpiece is coming.
My three favorite songs rely on sounding like classic rock proto-prog groups from the 1960s: "Prelude" (PROCUL HARUM), "The Hazards of Love 1" (TRAFFIC "John Barleycorn") and "Margaret in Captivity" (RENAISSANCE [and later, PEARL JAM]), and the others like JANIS and her HOLDING COMPANY.
3 stars. Not my favorite album. Not one I particularly enjoy. I understand the 'goodness' of it. I just don't like this music.
Line-up / Musicians:
Päivi Kylmänen: vocals
Kimmo Lähteenmäki: drums, conga-drums, organ, mellotron
Kari Vainionpää: guitar, bass
Olli Valtonen: shrutibox, taalmala
Ismo Virta: guitar, mellotron, organ, synthesizer, drums
Juha Kulmala: reading
Arto Kuronen: bass
Sini Palokangas: violin, saxophone, xylophone
Kari Riihimäki: electric guitar
1. "Ajan peili" (5:55) arpeggi from acoustic guitars are soon joined by bass and Mellotron to create a lush, gorgeous sound reminiscent of Salattu Maailma's title song. Singer Päivi Kylmänen enters toward the end of the first minute to spacious soundscape. She is joined by other vocal tracks (all her?) for the choruses. Mellotron (and flute) only appears when there is no singing. (8.5/10)
3. "Lapsen uni" (5:20) (/10)
4. "Aina lähellä" (3:11) xylophone with Päivi's gorgeously layered multi-voiced singing. (8.75/10)
5. "Kohti taivasta" (3:58) more upbeat acoustic guitar driven song with hand percussion to support Päivi's Jim Morrison-like singing. (8.5/10)
6. "Salainen oppi" (4:20) piano and voice open this one for the first verse. It sounds like a recital piece for some Russian cabaret. Soprano sax, flute, Mellotron, and some other chorded organ-like keyboard join in between the singing verses. Nice instrumental passage in the third minute with some nice saxophone interplay with the final verse. (8.5/10)
7. "Jatkuvuus" (5:00) heavier with brooding Mellotron and other synths. Great soundscape! Top three for me. (9/10)
8. "Minä olen" (11:57) opens with simple Mellotron and finger-picked acoustic guitar before wind noises take over, transitioning us to the dark turn in mood as a slowly emerging ominous electric guitar riff repeated over as 'tron and drums join. Päivi enters in the quiet of the first and second minutes with a beautiful melody and then again at the end of the heavier third minute. The first chorus at 3:40 is surprising for its spaciousness, but then the instrumental jam that follows has some cool electric guitar lead work. Not your most complex or intricately performed prog epic but effective. A quiet section starting at 5:50 has bass, slowly picked acoustic guitar, and Mellotron strings while a male voice speaks. Nice. Early King Crimsonian. Ending at 7:47, the heavier motif returns, building to a Clapton-esque rock'n'roll frenzy after Päivi finishes singing. (21.75/25)
Total time 42:22
- Giacomo Medici / vocals, guitar, percussion
- Giuseppe Cardamone / violin
- Gianluca Agostinelli / guitars
- Stefano Procaccini / guitars, bass
2. Elfish Tree (4:08)
3. Marcia della vita passata (3:58)
4. Campi di gioia (3:38)
5. Fa# come Fard (3:54)
6. Garrucha (5:51)
7. Requiem (6:32)
8. Tremere (3:45)
9. Nel fiume dentro me (3:49)
10. Medievale D451 (2:08)
11. Horus Eye (3:27)
12. Al pub (1:43)
13. Ludd di Wittelsbach (4:59)
Total time: 51:14
DANDELION CHARM Maybe Dreamers
Clever, melodic, engaging, and interesting poppy prog folk from this British husband and wife team.
Line-up / Musicians:
Clare Fowler: Vocals
John Fowler: Vocals, Guitars, Drums, Bass, Keys
1. "The Cult Of More (1:45)
2. "Stephanie (4:30)
3. "Maybe Dreamers (6:59)
4. "Not Just A Kiss (4:10)
5. "Arrogance And Blackmail (4:57)
6. "PityBomb (4:34)
7. "Afraid Of The Silence (3:38)
8. "Trying Hard (4:08)
9. "Isolate Resolve (6:21)
10. "Flicker (4:26)
Total Time 45:28
FLAIRCK Symphony for the Old World (2000)
GROVJOBB Vätarnas Fest (2000)
GROVJOBB Under Solen Lyser Solen (2001)
THE DECEMBERISTS Picaresque (2005)
CORDE OBLIQUE Respiri (2005)
THE DECEMBERISTS The Crane Wife (2006)
SCARLET THREAD Valheista Kaunein (2006)
TENHI Maaäet (2006)MOTIS L'Homme-Loup (2007)
STEVE UNRUH The Great Divide (2007)
JACK O' THE CLOCK Rare Weather (2008)
JUDY DYBLE Talking with Strangers (2009)
LEAFBLADE Beyond, Beyond (2009)
VIIMA Kahden Kuun Sirpit (2009)
MILDAKE The Courage of Others (2010)
JACK O' THE CLOCK How Are We Doing and Who Will Tell Us? (2011)
STEVE UNRUH Challenging Gravity (2011)
COMUS Out of the Coma (2012)
AALTO Tuulilabaryntit (2012)
JUDY DYBLE Flow and Change (2013)
SCARLET THREAD Never Since (2013)
JACK O' THE CLOCK All My Friends (2013)
HE MERLIN BIRD Chapter and Verse (2014)
JACK O' THE CLOCK Night Loops (2014)
AMAROK Hayak Yolunda (2015)
JACK O' THE CLOCK Outsider Songs (2015)
CORDE OBLIQUE I Maestri del Colore (2016)
FAUNS (FAVNI) Windswept (2016)
MOSTLY AUTUMN White Rainbow (2018)
FLOR DE LOTO
MEDIÆVAL BÆBES Prayer (2020)
THE WITCHING TALE The Witching Tale (2021)