Sunday, November 13, 2022

Top Albums for the Year 2005, Part 2: The Near-Masterpieces

  Somewhere beneath the level of timeless masterpiece status lies a group of albums whose quality and merit deserve categorization of something like "near-masterpiece." These are albums that have either achieved a Fishermetric score of between 90.0 and 87.0 or whose high points or quality level make it remarkable enough to remain affixed in my memory.

From the Year 2005, you will find below seven (7) albums releases deserving, in my opinion, of the "near-masterpiece" designation as well as one prog-related special mention.  


4.5 Stars; The Near-Masterpieces 

(Ratings of 89.99 to 86.67)




10. NOSOUND Sol29

Having started with LightDark I was a bit worried at how other NOSOUND albums would be heard. I am pleasantly surprised at how much I like Sol29. It has much more of the feel of the softer side of STEVEN WILSON's PORCUPINE TREE music--the early stuff that I love so much. Also, I was quite surprised by the diversity on this album. As opposed to the near uniformity or constancy I hear and feel from 
LightDark, each song on Sol29 seems to have an identity on its own, a freshness, too. Where I can see where LightDark came from, I am relieved to see that Giancarlo has other directions he can (and has) chosen to explore. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Giancarlo Erra / vocals, all instruments, programming, producing & mixing
- Alessandro Luci / bass (2,4,6,13)

1. "In the white air "(6:57) (13.75/15)
2. "Wearing Lies on Your Lips"  (4:20) PORCUPINE TREE-sounding with a great bass sound (8.75/10)
3. "The child's game" (2:46) (4.25/5)
4. "The moment she knew" (9:38) organ. Instrumental with a great ride-cymbal-drenched slow buildbefore the key-skating calm period beginning at 5:35. Ramps up into full rock glory at 6:51 with two different searing lead guitar solos from two separate lead guitar sounds. This plodding rhtyhm track beneath the guitars gets a little monotonous, otherwise, such a great song! (18.25/20)

5. "Waves of time" (2:07) like an étude in ambient music. (4.25/5)

6. "Overloaded" (6:13) two-part two-chord acoustic guitar soft Pink Floyd-like prog. Weird Mellotron vocal banks in the middle followed by more Anthony Phillips-like acoustic guitar passage to finish.(8.25/10) 

7. "The broken parts" (6:24) PINK FLOYD-sounding, too much so, in the STEVEN WILSON/AIRBAG kind of way, but, it's pretty guitar chords and pretty Steven Wilson-like singing with some cool synth work within and organ and electric guitar solos in the final instrumental section. (8.75/10)

8. "Idle End"(9:43) really cool alternation of bombastic band music and delicate guitar arpeggi-based atmospheric music within which Giancarlo's awesome doubled-up whispered vocal plays out. (Can't get enough of that long instrumental outro!) (18.5/20)

9. "Hope for the future" (5:57) acoustic guitar based. Pretty, atmospheric, but a little too monochromatic. (8.25/10)

10. "Sol29" (10:02) sounds to me very much like The HEARTS OF SPACE theme music--warbling crystal sounds with distant synth-generated vocalise floating above, eventually joined by synth strings chords. A beautiful ambient piece. (18/20)

Total Time: 64:07

Highlights for me include the  (), the  "The Broken Parts" (8/10), the LightDark previews in "The Moment She Knew" (8/10),  , and  of "Sol29" (9/20). This collection of songs is, IMO, an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection.

89.80 on the Fishcales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of beautiful, atmospheric progressive rock music.




11. OCEANSIZE Everyone Into Position

A drummer who "refuses to play in straight time signatures." How fun--and challenging--is that? Music that sometimes sounds like 90's grunge ("You Can't Keep a Bad Man Down,"), TOOL's post-grunge "The Charm Offensive"), like THE CURE   ("New Pin"), Math Rock ("Music for a Nurse"), like SIGUR RÓS's Post Rock ("Mine Host") or rages with the greatest Shoegaze-Grunge-Metal artists of all time ("You Can't Keep a Bad Man Down"), straight Metal ("A Homage to a Shame") and Death Metal ("No Tomorrow"), and even contains a retro song sounding as it's from the 60s era of stoner-psychedelia ("The Last Wrongs").

Line-up / Musicians:
- Mike Vennart / guitar, lead vocals
- Steve Durose / guitar, vocals
- Richard "Gambler" Ingram / guitar
- Jon Ellis / bass
- Mark Heron / drums

1. "The Charm Offensive" (7:19) starts the album off with an edgy, grungy sound that builds as each lyrical stanza is sung. Nice rondo of interwoven, harmonizing vocal lines in the last two and a half minutes. (13/15)

2. "Heaven Alive" (6:20) starts with a very strong U2 sound and feel to it--like the Joshua Tree/Rattle and Hum era. As it builds into its chorus it shifts into a more metallic sound. The 3:30 background vocals blows its cover, bringing it back into the realm of progressive rock. (Kind of like THE REASONING or WEST INDIAN GIRL.) Overall a decent, pretty interesting song--thanks to the bass, keys and b-vox. (8.75/10)

3. "A Homage to a Shame" (5:52) is the album's truly metal song. Sorry, Back in Black and Second Life Syndrome are great, but Metal is just not my cup of tea--this despite the amazing drumming, great chorus vocals, and cool production nuances and subtleties. (8.5/10)

4. "Meredith" (5:26) A true classic of rock and roll music. The repetition of lyrical lines is used so effectively over the simple, beautiful electric guitar arpeggios. And the "I wanna cut you to the bone" lyric is so chilling yet engaging! Great use of effects to treat the vocal--and what emotion-packed singing! Awesome low, low bass throughout. Simple drums. And those two guitar arpeggios in different octaves! Music doesn't get much better than this! (10/10)

5. "Music for a Nurse" (8:16) is a classic example of  pure Math/Post Rock in the MONO/MOGWAI/ CASPIAN vein--except for the Jeckyll & Hyde ROBERT SMITH/BONO vocals singing over the top. Great song with a fantastic, crescendoing climax around the 6:30 mark. Fades out with some odd 'nuke the computer' sounds. (17.5/20)

6. "New Pin" (5:11) begins with a computer sequenced of computer noises before THE CURE's bass, drums, and guitar rhythm section from  "Disintegration" joins in. The vocal is also rather ROBERT SMiTH sounding--at least until the very pretty chorus with rather cheery background singing similar to something like STEREOLAB or IVY comes in. Great song. Surprisingly original sounding. (9.25/10)

7. "No Tomorrow" (7:10) begins like a pleasant TRAFFIC or TOOL song before shifting to a near-death metal song for its chorus at the 1:34 and then a little more permanently at the 2:40 mark. Metal sound continues to dominate both musically and in the singing pretty much through to the end. Fitting for the lyrical content, I suppose; just not my choice for 'listening pleasure.' (13/15)

8. "Mine Host" (4:10) opens with a prolonged space-ambient introduction within which some voice samples sounding like Steven Hawking's computerized voice repeating numbers over a very engaging three-octave keyboard arpeggio which is soon joined by pickings of a dirty electric guitar. At 2:15 drums, bass and a very quite BONO-like half-spoken singing voice begins singing almost beneath the music. Very dreamy, mesmerizing song. I like it! (9/10)

 9. "YouCan't Keep a Bad Man Down" (7:36) RAGE! I said, RAGE! If you want to jump up and down, scream, break things, bash your walls in, then THIS IS YOUR SONG! (15/15)

10. "Ornament/The Last Wrongs" (9:21) begins very sedately, gently (especially as compared to the super-adrenaline pumping from the previous song), until, at the 2:50 mark, the alarm goes off in the form of heavy guitars--which then just as quickly recede while two guitars, a keyboard, and some light drumming play, note-for-note, very gingerly--as if uncertain or afraid to disturb the silence. 5:00 sees a return to heavy guitars until at 5:20 there is a discernible mount and sound shift (must be the transition to the "The Last Wrongs" part of the song). At 5:30 an odd (for this group) kind of early YES- or MOODY BLUES-like chant of harmonizing vocalists sings over both the heavy and soft parts. Ends with a very eery-sounding, 60's-ish organ. Interesting, to say the least. (16.75/20)

Total Time 66:41

89.44 on the Fish scales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music. Despite the sometimes lean toward the grunge-metal sound, this is a great album: very diverse, very creative. OCEANSIZE has a very original sound and IMHO has created a very distinctive sound and niche in the prog world for itself. They are, in my opinion, one of the few groups pushing the music envelope into new and fresh directions. And Praise Be Odd Time Signatures! A flawed 4.5 star album that I'm going to praise because of their bold innovativeness, their amazing lyrics and vocal presentations (and I am NOT a lyric person), and their contribution to the true spirit of 'progressive rock' music.




11. MEDIAEVAL BAEBES Mirabilis

The Mediaeval Baebes are an all female Renaissance/folk vocal group whose members fluctuate from album to album, and song to song. I include Mirabilis in the realm of progressive rock because the vocal arrangements, song choices are so sophisticated, so well engineered with lots of interesting modern recording effects and techniques, and because the supporting cast of 'medieval' folk instrumentalists are of such high caliber. The album is a mesmerizing, fascinating listen to diverse, virtuosic performances from start to finish.

1. "Star of the Sea" (3:32) (9/10). Let's you know what you're in for from the beginning.

2. "Trovommi Amor" (4:39) (7/10). A song that fails to really get up and go anywhere.

3. "Temptasyon" (3:20) (9/10).

4. "San'c fuy belha ne Prezada" (1:36) (7/10).

5. "All for Love of One" (3:39) (10/10). Simple but gorgeous.

6. "The Lament" (3:27) (7/10). Lackluster vocals brings down some extraordinary instrumental performances.

7. "Musa venit Carmine" (3:27) (10/10). Amazing arrangement of myriad vocal layers all performed over an ensemble of hand percussives.

8. "Kilmeny" (3:59) (9/10). Another unexpected and beautiful arrangement of layers of vocals and wonderful Renaissance instrumentation.

9. "Lhiannan Shee" (2:56) (8/10). One of the group's signature eerie yet mesmerizing vocal arrangements.

10. "Umlahi" (2:15) (10/10). Beautiful, church-like vocal arrangement, almost a cappella (finger cymbols).

11. "Cittern Segue" (0:52). A brief solo instrumental that feeds into:

12. "Return of the Birds" (3:45) (8/10). a very upbeat dance-like medieval song sung in ensemble form in a foreign language. (Latin?)

13. "Tam Lin" (4:24) (10/10). An incredibly stripped down and eerie version of this traditional Celtic folk song. The few and seldom modern effects and incidentals add immeasurably to the eeriness of this song.

14. "Scarborough Fayre" (3:24) (8/10). Yes, the same one we're all familiar with (thanks to Simon and Garfunkle) only arranged in a truer-to-traditional medieval folk 'dance' tune.

15. "Come My Sweet" (3:21). An upbeat ensemble piece that builds as it goes along. (10/10)

16. "Märk Hure Vår Skugga" (3:43) (10/10). A traditional Scandinavian folk song performed in a very delicate, bare-bones style.

17. "The World Fareth as a Fantasye" (4:08) (10/10). Is a beautiful song-a-long dance to Nature song with wonderfully uplifting instrumental performances and sultry, siren-like vocal performances.

18. "Away" (2:20) (8/10) ends the album with a very classical Palestrina-like sound.

88.89 on the Fish scales = B=/4.5 stars; a masterpiece of Progressive Folk music and a near-masterpiece of progressive music.




12. SEIGES EVEN The Art of Navigating by the Stars 

A German band led by the stalwart Holzwarth brothers (bass and guitars), the band has its roots in Prog Metal--where much of their previous music may have fallen, but this one would be more appropriately labeled Heavy Prog, in my opinion, or even Crossover (due to the remarkably smooth and harmonic CSN&Y-like multi-voice vocal harmonies.) 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Arno Menses / vocals
- Markus Steffen / electric & acoustic guitars
- Oliver Holzwarth / bass
- Alex Holzwarth / drums
With:
- Walter Dorn / flute (8)

1. "Intro: Navigating by the Stars" (0:30) effected baby noises with background synths. 

2. "Sequence I: The Weight" (10:14) heavy, rolling bass and guitars with solid drums and a few rounds of gattling guns set the stage for sparse musical support of vocalist Arno Menses opening salvos--which are surprisingly soft and pretty. His voice (and the music) sounds a bit like RUSH's "Fly by Night" but the music develops and shifts in many more surprising directions--especially the CSN&Y-like perfect harmonized choral voices. At 4:20 we shift a couple gears into a faster pace for an instrumental section --though still sounding surprisingly like RUSH. Great song with some incredibly engaging music and vocals (both Arno and the harmonized collective banks); where it falls short is in failing to deliver a "knockout punch." (18/20)

3. "Sequence II: The Lonely Views of Condors" (6:14) a good song with interesting music and lots of nice use of space; they just don't deliver enough melodic hooks in the music or in the vocals. (8.5/10)

4. "Sequence III: Unbreakable" (9:00) third song in a row in which the guitarist is using the same chorus effect. When the bass and drums join in to underline the slow pace, I'm reminded of both Nina Hagen's amazing debut band (SPLIFF). And then the vocals enter reminding me of soon-to-arrive on the scene IAN KENNY from Aussie band, Karnivool. At 3:50 we switch into another "Fly By Night" motif for 100 seconds of instrumental "discipline" and soli. Then everything cuts out save for some delicately picked acoustic guitar as Arno sings plaintively. When he is joined by choral bank harmony singers it signals a shift back into more upbeat pacing--where the music almost becomes straightforward classic rock. Though they're rather infrequent, the CSN&Y-like bolts of vocal lightning are so bewitching. Still, there is something lacking… (18/20)

5. "Sequence IV: Stigmata" (8:22) more RUSH ideas taken further and made Seiges' own. Until the fifth minute, I hear a lot similarities to WOBBLER's Rites at Dawn in this song, but then it almost goes Post Rock and Brothers Johnson "Strawberry Letter 23"! GREAT shift/change at 7:40--so close to the end--to give us a kind of TOOL ending! (17.5/20)

6. "Sequence V: Blue Wide Open" (5:13) a cappella choral vocals open this one before giving way to a weave of picked acoustic guitars (at least three). In the second minute, Arno's classic rock voice sings--using two tracks to time his continuos delivery--which the guitars continue to pick away. Just before the two minute mark, the guitars switch to strumming for the chorus, but then they cut back and turn to a display of classical flourishes (two or three tracks) before returning to the picking weave of the opening section. There's a little Steve Hackett/Genesis feel here--as well as FIREFALL ("Strange Way [to Say I Love You"]). Pretty song with some awful nice guitar play and recording ideas. (9/10)

7. "Sequence VI: To the Ones Who Have Failed" (7:26) if Rush were composing for TRIUMPH, TOTO, AMBROSIA, or REO SPEEDWAGON. Then it turns THIN LIZZY in the middle instrumental section before returning to the TRIUMPH motifs of the opening half. Nice song. (13.25/15)

8. "Sequence VII: Lighthouse" (7:41) guitar harmonics with plaintive singing by Arno, but then the harmonized choral approach enters to set up the slow ramp up to full power. As we get to third gear in the fourth minute, I'm again reminded of some of the country-tinged song and vocal sound palettes. Nice classical guitar solo in the fifth minute is followed by a relaxing pastoral flute solo before everything shifts into fourth gear. Little River Band and Ambrosia come to mind here. Very nice song--also very unexpected (on a "metal" album). (13.25/15)

9. "Sequence VIII: Styx" (8:55) sadly, this one has the weakest songwriting and instrumental showmanship on this otherwise-wonderful album--almost "RUSH--for-beginners, by-the-numbers". It's not until the 4:45 mark that the band seems to finally come alive--and it does in fine fashion, in a kind of KING CRIMSON way--at least until it returns to the Southern Rock sound/style with Arno's vocal. (What happened to all of those magical choral vocals?) Fortunately, the wonderful final two minutes help salvage some of the magic. (17/20)

Total Time 63:35

There is a lot of RUSH-influence in these songs: sounds, chords, riffs, changes/shifts, drumming, even the vocals. And yet, they manage to make it sound fresh and like it's all their own. Plus, they use--to great effect--much more space and spaciousness than Rush. I love the unusual prominence of the bass and the fascinating way in which the instrumentalists play off each other both harmonically and rhythmically. Truly interesting and refreshing. Again, if this is "metal," then I'm a convert! (It's not: I'm not quite there yet.) Also, if this is a concept album, I've not found it (i.e. the common thread).

88.52 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a wonderful addition to any prog lover's music collection and one of my favorite "heavy" albums of the Naughties. 




13. GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT All Is Violent, All Is Bright

Though I am a relatively new- and late-comer to the "Post Rock/Math Rock" and seemingly related "Experimental/Post Metal" Progressive Rock sub-genres, I am fascinated and enjoying these two areas immensely. IMO, here is where "progress" is truly being made in music--where boundaries are being challenged, the envelope being pushed. The work of Sigur Rós and Toby Driver alone lead the way in what I call the groundbreaking, mind-opening progress happening in music recently. The 60s saw The Beatles, Lou Reed, and King Crimson pushing the envelope. The 70s had Robert Fripp, Brian Eno, and Christian Vander exploring untested territories. The 80s saw the compositions and productions of the likes of David Byrne, Mickey Hart, Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel and others trying to bring attention to and appreciation for musics, instruments and musicians of the world. (The 80s also saw the advent of the computer age with things like 'midi,' 'sequencing,' 'sampling' and the Fairlight exerting considerable influence, while on the quiet artists like David Sylvian and Robert Fripp continued to test sound in the forms and structures that we call 'music.') In the 90s we saw Mark Hollis, Sigur Rós, and Radiohead pushing boundaries. Which brings us to the most recent decade, the first of the 21st Century, in which we were witnesses to the innovation, courage, and artistry of Toby Driver (an asterisk of mention to the members of Animal Collective.) While my diatribe admittedly reflects an Anglo-American-centricity, I hope you readers will accept the fact that, for good or not, most of the music made publicly accessible through commerce has been able to rise to the public eye (and ear) through Anglo-American corporate endorsement. With all of this in mind, my review of God Is An Astronaut's All Is Violent, All Is Bright constitute's my first in this sub-genre. The reason being, it is the first "Post Rock/Math Rock" album that I have heard that I absolutely love start to finish, every song in the collection. No album from Sigur Rós, Red Sparowes, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Russian Circles, Mogwai, Mono, Don Caballero, 65Daysof Static, Do Make Say Think, or Explosions in the Sky has captivated me so well as All Is Violent, All Is Bright. ULVER's Shadows of the Sun is the only one yet I've heard that I like more, but it is a very different experience from the Post Rock/Math Rock experience I receive from the others mentioned. I would not even place Shadows of the Sun in this category, it is so different.
            Some Post Rock/Math Rock album/artists are a bit too harsh/too metallic for me (Russian Circles, Godspeed come to mind), some too repetitive or formulaic in their patterns and structures (Mono, Explosions, even, at times, Sigur Ros). A few are less consistent with the high standard/quality (Mogwai, Do Make Say Think, and 65Days). For some reason I prefer Red Sparowes (especially Every Red Heart Shines Toward the Red Sun), much of Sigur Rós (Ágaetis ByrjunTakk..., and ( ) [untitled]), and this God Is An Astronaut album.
            What I like so much about this album is its diversity, it's atmospheric sound field, and its use of catchy melodies. While Post Rock/Math Rock does seem to have its formulaic structures, the songs on this album each have their own identities, each have disparate styles and 'influences.' Plus, I have to admit, I rather like their relative brevity. The tendency within this sub-genre is to go a bit long. Once or twice an album is great, but every song eight to twelve minutes? No thank you. Unfortunately, I just don't have time to listen to songs like that all day. I also quite enjoy GIAA's use of vocals: they're like a fifth instrument--another keyboard or a violin or something.

1. "Fragile" (4:34) is the album's introductory piece that reminds me very much of an older SIGUR RÓS song. Nice slow beat, building slowly, with a very SIGUR RÓS-like use of voices, even through the requisite slam of drums, cymbals, bass and synths which arrives at the 2:40 mark and then disengages a minute later for a very slow and peaceful fade. Short, sweet, and to the point. (8.667/10)

2. "All Is Violent, All Is Bright" (4:14) is right out of a CURE playbook: rolling bass, guitar effects, background keyboard effects, same drums, Cure cords and definitely a Cure pace. Beautiful song. Awesome finale beginning at the 3:15 mark. Go crazy, Robert! I mean, Kinsella brothers! This one could've bee a little longer.  (8.5/10)

3. "Forever Lost" (6:22) is BUDD/ENO meets COCTEAU TWINS/MASSIVE ATTACK. Great soundtrack music. Great atmospheric piano and synths. Typical build and climax. (8.667/10)

4. "Fire Flies and Empty Skies" (3:55) begins with more fast-tempo CURE-ish bass and guitar until the drums enter followed by the song's melody played on sliding up and down a guitar's fretboard. Something is so pleasantly familiar about this song and its melodies. The isolated distorted bass beginning at 3:15 mark and flowing to the end as the song's outro section is a great touch. Some OCEANSIZE feel here, too. (9/10)

5. "A Deafening Distance" (3:49) slows the pace down until the drums and guitar power chords double time at the 2:40 mark. Great synth melody eeking its presence out from behind the rhythm section. (8.5/10)

6. "Infinite Horizons" (2:28) slows it down to an almost ambient pace with a very ROBIN GUTHRIE-like feel and sound. Nice. (8.667/10)

7. "Suicide by Star" (4:38) Begins like an ominous yet intriguing soundtrack song. A Jason Bourne movie theme or something. Builds with the drums and lead guitar moving up to the foreground at the 1:30 mark. Great song, great feel, my favorite song on the album. Reminds me of U2's early experimental work with BRIAN ENO and DANIEL LANOIS--like "Boomerang" and others from the Unforgettable Fire period. Awesome. I love the end/climax where the bass drum is pumping frenetically while the ride cymbal paces calmly along at the same slow pace with which it started. (10/10)

8. "Remembrance Day" (4:16) begins with quite a different feel than the rest of the album--like a CHROMA KEY piece--with piano, bass keyboards and very treated/synthesized vocals. Then at the 1:48 mark the woofer-low synthetic bass, drums, and sliding guitar sounds enter. Wow! Space has never felt so cool! Then the 2:48 mark sees the song take a different turn into a more upbeat, uptempo, up-power level with a new melody line introduce on synths(?). The song finally decays back to the echoed piano. Cool and unusual! (9/10)

9. "Dust and Echoes" (4:13) again begins with such a different feel. Kind of pop-mainstream with weird synth washes flowing, floating behind the rhythm section. If you've ever heard the great music of PERPLEXA and/or WEST INDIAN GIRL, this has that same awesome, upbeat psychedelic feel. The song builds by the 2:40 point, vocals again serving a very cool and important role, before interestingly decaying early into an unusually long (for this genre) fadeaway. Great song. Another fave. (9/10)

10. "When Everything Dies" (10:00) is the album's only real long song (10:00 minutes). Beginning with another HAROLD BUDD-treated by BRIAN ENO piano, the main difference is the eerie and unsettling presence of a synth bass. A shift occurs at the 3:00 mark into a more pounding, speedy version of the intro piano them joined by a very treated, almost electronic MASSIVE ATTACK-like drum riff. Some FRIPP-like guitar arpeggios join at the 4:25 mark as the background rhythmatists build the intensity of their chords until 5:20 everybody drops out save the drums, bass and synth-wash, which then also drop out and fade until from 5:55 to 7:30 we are left without sound! Everything has apparently died! The first sounds to reenter our aural atmosphere are synthesized waves on a beach sound followed by a computer-robot sounding synth riff floating around the L-R aural screen. By 9:00 a piano, very distant drum beat, and new synth make their presences known before finally all fading away in the end. Weird, eerie and interesting. Not as heavy as ULVER's Shadows of the Sun LP and message, but interesting. (18/20)

11. "Disturbance." (3:44) Another ENO-BUDD sounding piece--as if from the Apollo album, or from the 2001: A Space Odyssey soundtrack--definitely presents as if we are in space or on a space journey. More of a concept finisher than a song with its own interesting presence. (8/10)

Great album; one of my favorites from this subgenre.

88.33 on the Fish scales = B+/four stars; an excellent and highly engaging, melodic masterpiece of Post Rock music (a rare thing) though perhaps not as highly deserving in the overall world of progressive rock music. For the sake of it's high consistency and for being one of the standards by which I measure other albums from this sub-genre.




14. KVAZAR A Giant's Lullaby

Viking Prog? Nordic jazz? Scandinavian bossa nova?

Line-up / Musicians:
- Andrè Jensen / vocals, piano, Rhodes, Mellotron, synth, 6- & 12-string acoustic guitars, mandolin, sampler
- Jon-Erik Gretland / guitar
- Ronny Johansen / Mellotron, synth
- Christian Torp / bass
- Kim A. Lieberknecht / drums, e-drums, loops, programming
With:
- Trude Bergli / vocals (2)
- Tom Roger / flute (2,10)
- Odd Andre Holm / saxophone
- Alexander Knøsmoen / guitar (3,5)
- Endre Tønnesen / bass (3,5)

1. "Flight Of Shamash" (9:13) Viking Prog! Gregorian Chant-like vocals with atmospheric heavy prog. An astonishing and unexpected song. (18.5/20)

2. "Choir Of Life" (5:36) more traditional folk oriented instruments open before the rock/prog/jazz instruments join in with female vocalise. (9.25/10)

3. "untitled 1" (1:30) jazz-folk-prog interlude with Spanish-style acoustic guitar soloing over the top. (4.25/5)

4. "Dreams Of Butterflies" (8:30) female singing in English over jazz-rock-folk fusion. (18/20)

5. "untitled 2" (1:49) lounge jazz guitar with combo (4.25/5)

6. "Spirit Of Time" (8:42) space blues--not far from early Pink Floyd or Procul Harum or even Blind Faith. (17/20) 

7. "Desert Blues" (6:13) psych/space rock with female Arabian vocal turns jazz-psych with sax, electric guitar, synths and other looped samples forging a OZRIC TENTACLE/JAGA JAZZIST mixed soundscape. Very interesting! (17.75/10)

8. "Sometimes" (5:09) lounge jazz (bossa nova!) with female lead vocals, jazz electric guitar, and rompous full chorus. (8.75/10)

9. "A Giant's Lullaby" (9:42) an psych-jazz variation the classic "Summertime" that builds and morphs in several directions (sometimes all at once!)--holding fast to a jazzy foundation no matter what speed or instrumental palette used. Very interesting, imaginative, and well executed. (18/20) 

10. "Dark Horizons" (8:03) haunting melodic prog with a slight hint of jazz. Single lead male voice is interesting choice for the finale (especially given the way the album opened.) At 3:35 full chorus of voices, male and female, perform. Over the course of the second half of the song the band takes us through folk, bluesy psychedelia, Broadway, and--sometimes all at once! Fascinating! (13.5/15)

87.40 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent addition of unusual prog music fit for any prog lover's music collection. 



Special Mention:



STEREOLAB Oscillons from the Anti-Sun

A three-CD collection of outtakes, demos, remakes, and alternative cuts of old songs from the eight Stereolab EPS released before Mary Hansen's death. This is the best collection of Stereolab songs in the world.


CD 1
  1. "Fluorescences" – 3:23 (from the 1996 Fluorescences EP) (10/10)
  2. "Allures" – 3:29 (from the 1997 Miss Modular EP) (9.5/10)
  3. "Fruition" – 3:50 (from the 1993 Jenny Ondioline EP) (7/10)
  4. "Wow and Flutter" – 3:07 (from the 1994 Wow and Flutter EP) (10/10)
  5. "With Friends Like These" – 5:50 (from the 1999 The Free Design EP) (9.5/10)
  6. "Pinball" – 3:13 (from the 1996 Fluorescences EP) (7.5/10)
  7. "Spinal Column" – 2:53 (from the 1997 Miss Modular EP) (9/10)
  8. "Ping Pong" (Unreleased LP Version) – 3:02 (9/10)
  9. "Golden Ball" – 6:26 (from the 1993 Jenny Ondioline EP) (7/10)
  10. "Cybele's Reverie" – 2:55 (from the 1996 Cybele's Reverie EP) (9/10)
  11. "Nihilist Assault Group (Parts 3, 4, 5)" – 7:12 (from the 1994 Wow and Flutter EP) (mislabeled as Parts 1, 2, 3) (8/10)
  12. "Off-On" – 5:24 (from the 1997 Miss Modular EP) (9/10)
CD 2
  1. "Jenny Ondioline Pt.1" – 3:53 (from the 1993 Jenny Ondioline EP) (8/10)
  2. "Young Lungs" – 6:33 (from the 1996 Cybele's Reverie EP) (9/10)
  3. "Escape Pod" (From the World of Medical Observations) – 3:57 (from the 1999 The Free Design EP) (8.5/10)
  4. "Moodles" – 7:23 (from the 2001 Captain Easychord EP) (11/10)
  5. "You Used to Call Me Sadness" – 5:10 (from the 1996 Fluorescences EP) (10/10)
  6. "Captain Easychord" – 2:53 (from the 2001 Captain Easychord EP) (9/10)
  7. "Les Aimies Des Memes" – 3:55 (from the 1999 The Free Design EP) (9.5/10)
  8. "French Disco" – 4:26 (from the 1993 Jenny Ondioline EP) (6.5/10)
  9. "Transona Five" (Live) – 5:42 (from the 1994 Ping Pong EP) (7.5/10)
  10. "Moogie Wonderland" – 3:34 (from the 1994 Ping Pong EP) (8.5/10)
  11. "Canned Candies" – 4:13 (from the 2001 Captain Easychord EP) (10/10)
  12. "Narco Martenot" – 4:23 (from the 1994 Wow and Flutter EP) (7/10)
CD 3

  1. "The Noise of Carpet (US Single)" – 3:07 (from the 1996 "Noises" single) (8.5/10)
  2. "The Free Design" – 3:45 (from the 1999 The Free Design EP) (9/10)
  3. "Les Yper-Yper Sound" – 5:18 (from the 1996 Cybele's Reverie EP) (9/10)
  4. "Pain Et Spectacles" – 3:31 (from the 1994 Ping Pong EP) (8.5/10)
  5. "Ping Pong" – 3:03 (from the 1994 Ping Pong EP) (9.5/10)
  6. "Long Life Love" – 7:06 (from the 2001 Captain Easychord EP) (8.5/10)
  7. "Jenny Ondioline" (Alternate Version) – 6:08 (8/10)
  8. "Heavy Denim" – 2:49 (from the 1994 Wow and Flutter EP) (7.5/10)
  9. "Brigitte" – 5:46 (from the 1996 Cybele's Reverie EP) (8.5/10)
  10. "Miss Modular" – 4:13 (from the 1997 Miss Modular EP) (10/10)
  11. "Soop Groove #1" – 13:06 (from the 1996 Fluorescences EP) (9/10)

87.43 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; an excellent collection of progressive pop rock songs. So many amazing songs. And I haven't even seen the DVD yet.



The Rankings for 2005


1. ODYSSEY: "The Greatest Tale"
2. FAUN Renaissance
3. KOENJI HYAKKEI Angherr Shisspa
4. THE MARS VOLTA Frances The Mute
5. KATE BUSH Aerial
6. NIL Nil Novo Sol
7. FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM Mourning Sun
8. PAT METHENY The Way Up 
9. RIVERSIDE Second Life Syndrome
10. NOSOUND Sol29

11. OCEANSIZE Everyone Into Position
12. MEDIAEVAL BAEBES Mirabilis
13. SEIGES EVEN The Art of Navigating by the Stars 
14. GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT All Is Violent, All Is Bright
15. KVAZAR A Giant's Lullaby
16. ANTHONY PHILLIPS Field Day
17. WILLOWGLASS Willowglass 
18. SIGUR ROS Takk...
19. THE EVPATORIA REPORT Golevka
20. MY EDUCATION Italian

Honorable Mentions
THE FUTURE KINGS OF ENGLAND The Future Kings of England
RED SPAROWES At the Soundless Dawn

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