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Reviews in this issue:


Kenso - Esoptron
Country of Origin:Japan
Format:CD
Record Label:Musea
Catalogue #:FGBG 4310.AR
Year of Release:1999
Time:46:22
Info:Kenso
Tracklist: Kojinteki Kikyu (8:59), Negaikanearu Kodomo Wo Tsureteyukou (5:14), Kohan Nite (1:20), Zaiya Kara No Kikan (5:01), Chishiki Wo Koete (2:20), Gips (4:03), The Egg Of Joe (4:05), Chronos Ouranos Esoptron (2:12), Sou No Hiai (6:14), Release Yourself (4:27), Kiraku Ni Ikouze (2:19)

When I first read the booklet of Kenso's sixth studio album Esoptron I assumed that the band's style would be close to other japanese bands like Gerard and Arsnova who are very much influenced by Emerson Lake and Palmer, because Kenso's line up boasts no less than three keyboard players! Nothing could be further from the truth though, because it is the guitar played by band leader Yoshihisa Shimizu (responsible for writing most of the material) that dominates Kenso's sound, and while there are many influences on this album, ELP is not among them.
On this album, Shimizu is joined by keyboard players Kenichi Oguchi and Kenichi Mitsuda, bass player Shunji Saegusa and drummer Masayuki Muraishi.

Opener Kojinteki Kikyu is with its length of nearly nine minutes the longest piece on the album and is Kenso's ode to Focus, the famous Dutch band of the early seventies. This is in large part due to the very Akkerman-ish guitar, and the structure of the song, which reminds of Hocus Pocus (no jodeling though!). After five minutes the track seems to end, only to continue with some jazzy guitar before going back to the first half of the rack.

Steve Hackett is the inspiration for the following two tracks, the first of which could have been on any of his early studio albums. This song has some very nice melodies, and while not calm or simple, is a lot easier to digest than the previous track, which seems to overdo it at some points.

The short Kohan Nite reminds even more of Hackett, but this time the period would be around Genesis' Nursery Cryme album. The track is carried by acoustic guitar overlaid with those typical Hackett-ish distorted guitar effects.

For the heavy Zaiya Kara No Kikan Alex Lifeson seems to have walked into the studio to lay down some rhythm tracks because these sound a lot like those he did on Rush albums in the latter half of the seventies. Other than that this track does not have too much to offer, mainly because the rhythm guitar is a bit too high in the mix, drowning out the other instruments.

Chishiki Wo Koete, written by keyboard player Oguchi, is a collection of samples and weird noises and an occasional melody. Even though, this could have been a nice track if not for the hideous drum computer, which turns this otherwise interesting track into something that sounds like the results of someone trying out his new Casio keyboard.

The track is followed by Gips, which has the same rhythm, but this time done by a real drummer which leads one to wonder why the live drummer wasn't used on the previous track as well! The first part of the track is very complex, but after two minutes things quieten down with one of the nicest melodies on the album.

The Egg Of Joe starts out as a ballad, with electric guitar doing the vocal melody, an effect I like very much. The feeling of this track is Floydian, due in large part again to the Gilmour-ish guitar. A really nice keyboard-solo forms the 'chorus' of the track. The only small complaint about this track is that the drums are extremely monotonous, almost irritatingly so.

Indian flute sounds (think of the snake in the basket) form the intro to Chronos Ouranos Esoptron. For this track a drum computer has taken the place of the live drummer again, but the job is done much better. This is probably the most experimental track on the album.

The first part of Sou No Hiai reminds a lot of Yes, with Howe-ish guitar and those delicate moog sounds that were Rick Wakeman's trademark at that time. Later on the influence turns to King Crimson and Robert Fripp. This track sounds a lot like one of those jams that KC frequently plays. The second part of the track is completely different, and is more jazzy in nature.

Release Yourself features an additional guitarist. The first part is reminiscent of King Crimson circa 'Discipline' while the second part is more AOR-ish. Around the third minute Shimizu can be heard playing the Theremin. I've seen this instrument played live (Dutch band The Gathering use one) but I can't remember how exactly it worked.

Closer Kiraku Ni Ikouze is jazzy, but some parts are more in the vein of 'Wind and Wuthering' era Genesis.

Judging from this album, Kenso is not one of the most original bands around. Influences of band leader Yoshihisa Shimizu can clearly be heard in most tracks. Having said that, this is still a very enjoyable album produced by a group of musicians who certainly know their way around on their instruments. So if you're into older (seventies) prog, you'll have no difficulty liking this album.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

Derk van Mourik


Cosmosquad - Cosmosquad
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Marmaduke Records
Catalogue #:n/a
Year of Release:1997
Time:54:33
Info:See below

Unlike the band name might imply, this is not space rock, or heavy rock. Cosmosquad are a trio of guitars, bass, and drums, and they play instrumental, funky music. Expect no Rush power, or Satriani extremism. The fact that the CD is released independantly, must say something. The sound quality is not bad, but although the musicians depict themselves as highly techincal instrumentalists, the music is not of that high quality. The songs are often too long (all songs are between three and six minutes, with one song of 7:00 mins), and lack vocals to make things more diverse. Main problem is that I don't like funky music, and that DPRP is not the right place for them to earn a review. A track list didn't seem necessary.

Conclusion: 3 out of 10.

For more information about this band: e-mail jkzona@aol.com, bassbarry@aol.com, or sgaalaas@doitnow.com

Jerry van Kooten


Jump - The Freedom Train
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Cyclops
Catalogue #:CYCL081
Year of Release:1999
Time:74:01
Info:Cyclops
Tracklist: A Nation Of Friends (3:39), The Lightbox (3:04), Poison In The Sea (5:05), Personal Revolution (5:19), Alone Ahead (4:57), The Pressed Man (4:48), Shed No Tears (6:32), On My Side (6:19), The Freedom Train (4:27), Highwayman (9:38), Valediction (4:24), Used To The Taste (4:19), Judgement Day (3:53), Keep The Blues (7:40)

My CD player (relatively old) had some problems starting this CD. Reason: it is over 74 minutes long. According to the booklet they still had problems tweaking time the total playing down from a couple of hours recording to the published CD. If you have over 5 previous albums, this can be understood.

Jump, which I am talking about here, has played with Marillion some years ago and one of their previous albums has been produced by Mark Kelly (or so my fellow-DPRP mates tell me). Unfortunately, I cannot check this, as their website as given on the Cyclops site is no longer active. Alas, so far for the background info.

This album is a recording of the last concert they did with their bassplayer Hugh. In atmosphere and vocals, it reminded me very much of the Grace live-album Gathering in the Wheat, which I reviewed last year. The music is somewhat different though. Jump comes across as a quite guitar-orientated band (they use two electric guitars at times, sometimes even complemented with an acoustic). Their music focusses more on the "rock" part then on the progressive/symphonic side. It can be compared with such diverse bands as Golden Earring (Radar Love), Marillion, both Fish and Hogarth era, and the above mentioned, admittedly somewhat less well-known, Grace. The title-track The Freedom Train had a very familiar melody....and suddenly it hit me, it was identical to Lou Reed's New York. So there you have another reference (writing reviews is as easy as that)!

Now comes the most tricky part: my personal opinion. I liked the music but on an entertainment level only: it didn't invoke any chemistry. Some tracks are so average, you could actually play them on the radio and nobody would object. As for the denominator "prog", how prog is Brian Adams? But to be honest, a couple of tracks do deserve that label. So who should buy this album? Well, if you're into really complex stuff: nope. If you like an album which preserves the live-feeling, and contains down-to-earth, but sofisticated, guitar-oriented rock-and-roll, this is definitely an album for you!

The album was also featured in CDelight.

Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10.

Remco Schoenmakers


Hawkwind - Glastonbury 1990
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Hawkwind Records/Voiceprint
Catalogue #:HAWKVP 1 CD
Year of Release:1999
Time:53:00
Info:Homepage
Tracks: Magic Of The Earth (1:05), Angels Of Death (6:06), Golden Void (7:14), Brainstorm (4:50), The Door (2:57), Ejection (5:54), Sword Of Dawn (5:46), The Assassins Of Allah (3:56), Dreamworker (4:00), Shouldn't Do That (3:59), Images (7:11)

There are an awful lot of Hawkwind live albums already, and yet here's another one. The question I have always asked with another Hawkwind live album is whether it was a useful one to add to the discography. And here's one that was recorded ten years ago! Hawkwind have, of course, always been a live band more than a studio band - you have to experience them on stage, as part of an audience going either wild or out of their minds one way or another.

So, what's so special about this one then? Well, first I think it's one of the few CDs with Bridget Wishart on vocals. I say "I think" because I haven't kept in touch with their discography very much since somewhere in the Eighties. I must say it's quite a change hearing a woman singing these songs, and I mean that in a positive way. And the songs... well, a CD with Angels Of Death, Golden Void (my favourite!), and Brainstorm cannot be a bad CD. And there's more old stuff on there!

Later in the Nineties, Dave Brock was spending more and more time behind his keyboards instead of his guitar. On this release however, there fortunately is a lot of guitars. At least to me, this is what Hawkwind makes Hawkwind: great trance-matic, powerful space rock.
It's not another milestone as Space Ritual, but it sure is a great CD, with an unsual line-up. But I must admit that I have not heard Nottingham 1990... Oh man, all these live CDs... I think I'll turn back the clock to 1972, when things were less complicated, and space out for a while...

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

Jerry van Kooten


Vigilante - Edge of Time
Country of Origin:Japan
Format:CD
Record Label:Massage Records
Catalogue #:MAS CD0226
Year of Release:1999
Time:54.35
Info:Vigilante
Tracklist: Judgement Day (1.17), Tease of Influence (4.54), Prisoner of Fate (4.25), Blame & Praise (5.15), Kingdom Fall (Suicidal Wind) (6.19), Under the Strain (5.15), The Silent Majority (8.30) Burn in Agony (5.32), The Edge of Time (2.44), The Wondering Traveller (6.19), Thumbnail at You (4.03)

"Progmetal" from Japan, although by far more metal than prog. If it wasn't for the occasional keyboard-intros, some faint keyboards in the background and the short instrumental The Edge of Time I wouldn't have review this album at all.

This five-man band consists of Hideaki Niwa on vocals, Hiroshi Omoto and Kazuaki Horie on guitars, Makoto Unno on bass and keyboards and Kazuhisa Yoshimura on drums.
My promo copy came with absolutely no information about the band at all, and their webpage didn't learn me much more apart that the main man and the founder of the band is guitarist Hiroshi Omoto and that they are influenced by 80's trash/power metal and some progressive bands. The website is also where I found out that the album actually has a title!

Well, the trash-metal influence is evident as there's a lot of screaming and noise going on and it took me about three listens to notice that they actually sing in English! At times it reminds me a bit of Iron Maiden, with a bit Metallica and Manowar thrown in, but with less melody. Some parts also remind me of eighties band Survivor (The Eye of the Tiger) but donít ask me why. Hideaki Niwa's vocals are a bit like Maiden's Bruce Dickinson with a hint of James LaBrie, while the person doing the backing vocals (uncredited) tries to impersonate Metallica's James Hetfield.

So I guess people who are really into that kind of music, and don't mind inaudible lyrics (apart from the words "kill" and "death" in the bonustrack Thumbnail at You) may want to check it out, but it leaves me entirely cold.

Musically the only interesting tracks are the semi-ballad Burn in Agony and the long The Silent Majority, which has some time signature changes and a pretty cool guitar solo. For the rest it's all boring tracks with not a lot of variation.
The good points of the album are the nice artwork by Markus Schmitz and the excellent, clear production (produced by the band themselves, engineered, mixed and mastered by guitarist Omoto). But unfortunately these alone don't make it a good album.

Conclusion: 4 out of 10.

Bart Jan van der Vorst


Loreena McKennitt - Live In Paris And Toronto
Country of Origin:Canada
Format:2CD
Record Label:Quinlan Road
Catalogue #: QRCD 108
Year of Release:1999
Time:100:57
Info:Quinlan Road
Tracks CD1 (46:31): Prologue (5:00), The Mummers' Dance (3:54), Skellig (5:24), Marco Polo (4:35), The Highwayman (9:19), La Serenissima (5:55), Night Ride Across The Caucasus (6:22), Dante's Prayer (5:25)
Tracks CD2 (54:26): The Mystic's Dream (6:29), Santiago (5:32), Bonny Portmore (3:50), Between The Shadows (4:18), The Lady Of Shalott (9:05), The Bonny Swans (6:33), The Old Ways (5:03), All Souls Night (4:13), Cymbeline (6:27)

Loreena McKennitt hardly needs an introduction. The Canadian Lady Of Celtic Music is probably the best in her field, and the most successful too. Her latest studio album, The Book Of Secrets, is from 1997, and in Spring of 1998, she embarked on a thirty-three city world tour with a group of people she calls the best in the field. I, however, do not know this field well enough to be able to judge this, but when listening to this double live album, you know you hear a band of skilled musicians (almost all of them also played on The Book Of Secrets album) who know how to handle their respective instruments with feeling and care, and you can only conclude McKennitt is right.

The live shows were divided into two sets. The first contains all of the tracks from The Book Of Secrets in the same order, the second are older songs. Because she has her own style of making music, there is no change in atmosphere when changing discs. The only thing that I noticed is that The Book Of Secrets (and thus disc one of this double disc set, of course) is a bit less diverse in speed than the songs on disc two. For example, I like the swinging folky power in Santiago, or the almost Middle Eastern melody lines in All Souls Night very much. These are also part of McKennitt's music, and I don't mind hearing more of this.

The music is delicate and soft as silk. It invokes an atmosphere warm and fragile in a positive way. It takes you on a journey through the landscapes of times gone by that McKennitt's stories tell you about, or the places that inspired her to write the songs.
Besides the wonderful music, there is something very remarkable with this CD: the superb sound quality. How it is possible to get the instruments used down on tape this way, is nothing short of a miracle. Every sound is very clear, and the mix is amazing. This recording is the benchmark by which all future live recordings should be measured!

This CD is a very good representation of McKennitt's music. Whether you have any other of her albums or not, this CD makes a perfect next buy. During the mixing of this album, Ronald Rees, the man who McKennitt was to marry, drowned after a sailing accident. The profits of the sales of this album will be given to the Cook - Rees Memorial Foundation Fund For Water Search And Safety. So, if in the unlikely situation that I haven't given you enough reasons to buy this CD already, here's another one.

Conclusion: 9.5 out of 10

Jerry van Kooten


Finneus Gauge - One Inch Of The Fall
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Cyclops
Catalogue #:CYCL077
Year of Release:1999
Time:71:23
Info:Finneus Gauge
Tracklist: Open Up The Fog Lines (5.03), In A Different Hour (5.53), One Inch Of The Fall (8:38), Blogee's Lament (6.34), Unsinkable You (5.51), State Of The Art (7.14), Early Sun (5.19), Golden Pretzel (6.24), [Live Bonus Tracks]: More Wants More (7.15), A Mess Of Finesse (5.44), Press The Flesh (7.14)

Jazz, rock, fusion, experiment and prog. That's Finneus Gauge in a nutshell. One Inch Of The Fall is their second album, but the band members are more experienced. Chris Busby, the main man, was previously well known from the almost legendary Echolyn.

Frank Zappa and King Crimson are bands whose influences can be heard, but apart from that, it is original complex music. For me personally, these types of albums are always the most difficult to digest, it takes listening after listening before one becomes comfortable with the many rhythmic tricks and dissonant melodies. Only after a while, a certain preference for certain songs become apparent. The first track Open Up The Fog Lines, for instance, is quite a good track, with a dark, sometimes almost heavy, yet complex atmosphere. Some other tracks, like the title track One Inch Of The Fall just seem to go on and on.

But whether you like this type of music or not, one thing is apparent: the drumming and keyboard work on this album is excellent. The enormous energy, variation and skill of the drummer are examplatory for other bands. The female vocalist, Laura Martin, has a good ear, since she knows to keep her melodic lines sharp, even when the melody dissonates with other instruments. Her voice is a bit frail though.

Some of the songs in a one-liner: Blogee's Lament features a really jazzy style, an influence returning constantly. Unsinkable You has some vocal harmonies and melodies that reminded me of very early Yes (first album). Early Sun is a very subtle song, with acoustic guitar and brushed drums, providing the more accesible break that an album like this really needs. A really beautiful Moog melody takes over in the middle of the song, giving it a real '70's feel. The three live bonus tracks show that they can keep up the work they do in the studio on stage and are able to provide the same mystical atmosphere when an audience is present.

So we come to the core of the matter: do you like Zappa, King Crimson, Echolyn and complex prog/fusion rock in general, then I think this album can be a gem in your collection. Personnaly, I am not too fond of this type of music, I preffer the more bombastic Arena's of this Earth, but even I must admit the music crafmanship contained on this album.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10.

Remco Schoenmakers


Present - No. 6
Country of Origin:Belgium
Format:CD
Record Label:Carbon Records
Catalogue #:C7-043
Year of Release:1999
Time:47:12
Info:Carbon Records
Tracks: The Limping Little Girl (Part 1 (3:07), Part 2 (3:38), Part 3 (5:18), Part 4 (4:50)) (16:53), Le R'deur (1:58), Ceux D'En Bas (Suite) (Le Matin (4:30), Le R've De La Nuit (2:03), La Realité (1:36), Vers Le Cauchemar (1:58), Le Cauchemar Yo (3:08), Le Combat (6:15)) (19:30), Sworlf (8:31)

A band consisting of three Belgian and three American musicians, recording an album in Israel and giving assistance in mixing the tapes from Belgium over the Internet is quite an unusual combination. The results are at least as unusual as this... 'Present' can mean a gift, introducing something, not being absent, or today. For me, this CD means all of these, since this CD was sent to me without me knowing it, I haven't heard anything from this band before, the music is very present, and their sound is definitely of today.

As the bio states, Present are not stuck in a musical history, nor do they feel the urge to write something deliberately progressive. The result is, however, progressive in its non-comformity.
Present are Roger Trigeaux on vocals (he also wrote the music and lyrics) and some guitar, but mostly musical directions, Réginald Trigeaux on guitar and vocals, Dave Kerman on drums, percussion and vocals, Pierre Chevalier on piano, Mellotron and vocals, Keith Macksoud on bass, and David Davister drumming on the last track. Despite this line-up with many people singing, don't expect a lot of vocals. We are talking of heavily skilled musicians here. This is no music to be played by simply good musicians. The sounds grab your attention and won't let go, except for track number six (with reference to the CD title, of course, although this is the band's sixth album as well), which is nine seconds of silence.

It's not unnecessarily complex, but the time sigs change a lot. And when it does not, the music follows strange and unexpected melody lines, or almost a-tonal musical structures.
People reading my reviews know this is not my favourite kind of music, and that I don't have a lot of references of bands doing something likewise to offer. You probably would like to know some names, but it's hard to compare unique music with something! But I know of some names, though. Blast, for example, are in the same field, but are heavier and tend to put more notes in a shorter time spanning. If you like contemporary King Crimson albums, you definitely should listen to this as well. Somnambulist are a good reference as well, I think. Anekdoten are a bit more into melodies, but if you like them, go and find out about Present too! And if you're into Liquid Tension Experiment without the heavy keyboard layers and not because of the Dream Theater reference, you should also have a listen.

Like I said, this is not my favourite music. But this CD I found very interesting, nonetheless. The cold attitude towards technical musicianship and total lack of emotion as found in King Crimson's latest works is something Present cannot be accused of. The atmosphere created by listening to this CD is dark, humid, suffocating at times - and that's something I greatly appreciate in music: you have to feel it, experience it. When I heard this CD, I was as pleasantly surprised as I was when I first heard Somnambulist's first album. I think I'd better get Present's previous five albums very soon...

Conclusion: 9 out of 10

Jerry van Kooten


Steve Hillman - Convergence
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Cyclops
Catalogue #:CYCL069
Year of Release:1999
Time:73:30
Info:Cyclops
Tracklist: Wheels Within Wheels [(part 1) (4:26) Against All Odds (3.25), A Time That Was (1.22), Against All Odds (reprise) (3:19)] , Moongate (2.48), Flying High (3;49), The Earth Sleeps Below (4:56), Down To Earth (2:09), New Horizons (6:46), Pulsator (2:12), Obelisk (3:33), Upon The Hill (1:50), Convergence (6:05), A Time That Was (1:35), Wheels Within Wheels (part 2) (3:08), Twist of Fate (2:45), Upon Reflection (7:25), Wheels of Change (5:13), Finale (2:30), For What Is To Come...(4:15)

Over 70 minutes of mostly keyboard dominated 70's instrumentals, that's what you get on this CD. Personally, it did nothing for me. I found it dreadfully boring.

At first, you think, OK, at least it's not New Age. The rhythms and general sound is early '70 prog rock. But the level is quite amateuristic in my opinion and the melodies are not very original, let alone that they deliver some emotion. In fact I have little to tell. Hillman plays all the instruments like drums, guitars, keyboards, hammond, sax etcetera. His wife plays flute.

The first song sounds quite nice, with lots of antique keyboard work, creating a mix of those late 60's early 70's sounds of Yes, Genesis and Camel and you think "nice retro-job this guy has done". But when it turns out the whole album just continues this way, it's all too quickly over for me. It's the kind of thing that your mom is proud of, but nobody else really likes. The artwork reminds me of some paintings my aunt used to make in the 1970's. It's flat and uninspired retro-rock in all respects.

Still, it is not all horror. At times, a glimpse of a beautiful melody may be caught, when Hillman plays just the acoustic guitar and his wife a subtle flute on the first mini-epic Wheels Within Wheels for example. It can't save the album though.

Conclusion: 4 out of 10.

Remco Schoenmakers


Bass Communion - Bass Communion
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Hidden Art
Catalogue #:Hi-Art 4 / Hi-Art 4 ep
Year of Release:1999
Time:82:58
Info:
Tracks CD (59:33): Advert (0:57), 16 Second Swarm (10:55), Grammatic Oil (10:11), Drugged III (17:00), Dwarf Artillary (7:15), Wide Open Killingfield (12:57)
Tracks EP (23:25): A Grapefruit In The World Of Park (12:10), Snakebird (10:59)

Steve Wilson (Porcupine Tree) and his partner in the band No Man, singer Tom Bowness, both released a solo project at roughly the same time, on Hidden Art (for a review of Bowness' disc, see elsewhere in this issue). Steve Wilson is a man with many diverse musical talents. Take this Bass Communion, his latest release. It is a project of electronic soundscapes, minimal music, dreamwaves, background music, food for meditation... I could go on trying to find words to label this CD, but I'll continue describing the music instead.

It was a bit of a surprise to me, since something in my head connected the name of Steven Wilson to a kind of music that is either slightly or much heavier. This is not something you put a label on, but more of an experience you need to go through. You get relaxed, tense, concentrated, or whatever - but it sure does something to you. It makes you fly, but to somewhere particularly - it makes you forget you are not doing something else than flying.
The compositions come to life slowly, evolve to something you did not quite expect, but it's not very surprising either - it's very relaxing in a way, but then again, it's quite exciting, too. You don't put this in the CD player when you're doing something else - this is pure listener's music, but I'll let you decide for yourself how to call this.
There's no mention of it anywhere on the cover, but the package also includes a second CD, an EP. This EP contains two extra tracks, of which the first is the most interesting, but both tracks are in the same vein of the main CD. I don't know whether the EP is included with the official release (compared to this complimentary copy).

This is not my favourite kind of music, but then again, this might not be considered music at all. It is a very nice way of spending your time, though. It is very brave to make a production like this, and not as easy as you might think.
I am afraid this review has not done you a lot of good. You might not have the faintest idea of what this CD is about. It's very easy for me to say you have to find out for yourself, but I really can't think of anything else to say.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10.

Jerry van Kooten


Tim Bowness/Samuel Smiles - World Of Bright Futures
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Hidden Art
Catalogue #:Hi-Art 3/Hi-Art 3 EP
Year of Release:1999
Time:58:48
Info:No Man Homepage
Tracks (CD) (41:11): World Of Bright Futures (5:28), Dreaming Of Babylon (5:37), (Watching) Over Me (3:33), Sorry Looking Soldier (4:52), Two Hands (3:04), Red Eye Removal (4:15), Something Of You (3:24), Lisa/Ophelia (4:52), Small (4:35), Smaller (1:30)
Tracks (EP) (17:37): Come To Me (3:25), Never Lose Control (2:40), Something Of You (2:55), Sweet Kiss (4:08), Brightest Blue (3:49)

Tim Bowness is part of No Man, one of Steven Wilson's outfits. Both of them released albums on Hidden Art Recordings. (For Steven Wilson's Bass Communion project, see elsewhere in this issue.)

Tim Bowness joined forces with a band called Samuel Smiles. The music is delicate. There are no drums, save a couple of tracks with drum machines. A lot of piano and guitar, and vocals by Tim. It reminds me of Peter Hammill when he is at his softest, quietest, most delicate and fragile. The songs are very warm, sweet at first, but then you know there's melancholy all around you - very Hammill.
There another Hammill reference, and that's the inclusion of the song Ophelia. Well, influence is one thing, but it takes Hammill to play a Hammill song...
There's also a KIng Crimson cover on here: Two Hands. Well, I am not known as the biggest KC fan, to put it euphemistically, and I do not know the original. This rendition, however, is very much like the rest of the CD - quiet, delicate, and warm.
Well, this is not the best place (a web site for progressive rock lovers) to review this CD. But I know there are a lot of Hammill fans out there, and I would like to ask them to check out this CD.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10.

Jerry van Kooten


Rick Ray - Atomic Soldiers
Country of Origin:U.S.A.
Format:CD
Record Label:Neurosis Records
Catalogue #:
Year of Release:1999
Time:60.56
Info:Neurosis Records (see below)
Tracklist:The Daulhowz Concerto (A. Dolly the Parton, B. Salvadore the Dolly, C. Dolly the Lama, D. Dolly the Clone, E. Barbie the Dolly)(11.33), Bloppy Stuff (Part IV) (4.02), Dancing on the Killing Floor (11.27), Put your Ears on (3.14), The Organ Harvester (5.59), Atomic Soldiers (6.19), The Joke's on Me (8.27), The Plan (5.25), Victims of the Times (5.28).

Atomic Soldiers is a rock album, incorporating progressive and psychedelic influences, that doesn't achieve real solid quality. All songs were written, recorded, mixed and produced by Rick Ray, who also plays guitar, bass, percussion and keyboards and provides the vocals. The only other musician involved is Rick Schultz on clarinet and reeds. No further information is available about Ray, even on the internet, though the package lists his 8 previous album, with such titles as Neurotic Tendencies and The Key to the Bottomless Pit.

Composition of the songs is unimaginative and in production nothing seems to have been done to overcome this. Sound quality meets only a mediocre standard. The artwork consists mainly of multi-coloured drawings of glowing faces with piercing eyes, credited to someone called The Masked Cartoonist. Hardly impressive.

Ray does show some talent as a musician, producing some nice bass-lines, but his vocal performance is a let-down and his guitar solos are often simply awful. These have been mixed into the background on most tracks which adds to a somewhat psychedelic atmosphere. The addition of Schultz on clarinet only contributes to my low evaluation. The first half of the album is often dominated by a frenzy of piercing sounds produced on this instrument, which seems to stand apart from the other instruments.

There are some bright remarks to be made here, for instance concerning the lyrics, which are sometimes hilarious, I guess unintentionally, though there seems to be a lot of vindictiveness in some. Dancing on the Killing Floor is about children under the mindcontrol of the devil and seems to deal with the recent spread of shootings at American schools. It goes for the absurd, rather than for the dramatics. The Plan concerns some sort of conspiracy theory and mentions the assassinations of Kennedy and Lincoln. This slow melodic track features several muddled voices throughout and creates the best atmosphere of all the songs.

I should also mention Put your Ears on, which could be refered to as 'The Billy Jean Cover' as it takes the simple bass line from this Michael Jackson hit, then adds first clarinet and then guitar in a direct assault on your ears. The result is quite amusing, though I don't know if Ray intended it as such.

I can't really recommend this to anybody. However, if you hold some kind of grudge against the U.S. government or modern society as a whole, you might check it out for the lyrics.

For more information about this CD, contact Neurosis Records at 2557 Madison Ave. Painesville, OH 44077 (440)350-9477 .

Conclusion: 4 out of 10.

Mark Sander


Teru's Symphonia - The Gate
Country of Origin:Japan
Format:CD
Record Label:Musea
Catalogue #:FGBG 4302.AR
Year of Release:1999
Time:51:33
Info:Teru's Symphonia
Tracklist: The Gate of 21st Century (3:15), Humanizer (Dream of an Android) (6:45), Entrance the visions (3:16), Eternal Sinner (8:17), Unknown Lives (2:37), Wish (4:58), The Gypsy's Parade (3:25), End of Millennium (6:40), In the Distance (4:06), Exit for D.N.A. (6:18)

Out of Japan comes Teru's Symphonia who have been around since 1983. The Gate is their eighth album, and features ten songs clocking in between two and eight minutes. All vocals are in japanese (English translations of the lyrics are provided in the booklet) but this is absolutely no hindrance. Compare to Polish band Quidam: I can't understand a word Emilia Derkowska sings, but I just regard the vocals as an extra instrument.

The intro to the album is formed by the instrumental The Gate of 21st Century. This is just keyboards, very orchestral and bombastic, and sets the tone for the rest of the album. I strongly suspect that guitar player Terutsugu Hirayama, who is responsible for more than half of the ten compositions on the album, also knows his way around a keyboard quite well!

Even though, it is the eight minute plus track Eternal Sinner that sums up this album. Very nice interplay between guitar and keyboards (which shows talent for arranging), a solid rhyhtm section and great melodies, especially the chorus where vocals and keys complement eachother brilliantly. There are parts in this track which remind of Asgard's Imago Mundi album, and the middle part of the song is taken up by a great duel between the guitar and the keyboards (much like in Ayreon's Computer Eyes from the Actual Fantasy album).

After this onslaught the gentle Unknown Lives, penned by bass player Jutaro Okhubo, provides a welcome resting point. The first part of this track is mainly keyboards, followed by a delightful acoustic guitar solo.

Wish starts out in the Saga vein: fast keyboards supported by heavy guitar. The general feeling evoked by this album is a happy one, as opposed to many other bands in this genre, whose music mostly evokes tragedy or despair (which I'm not saying is a bad thing!). This track is a prime example of that approach and therefore reminds me much of Quidam, who also adopt that style. This track also has some great keyboard soloing, where Shouichi Sato gets to showcase his considerable talents.

Singer Megumi Tokuhisa is responsible for aptly named The Gipsy's Parade, which starts out very orchestral but then turns into a song which could have been taken from a musical. It's a jolly track, mostly keyboard oriented.

Although he has a very large role in the playing on this album, keyboard player Shouichi Aoki is responsible for just one track on the composition level. This is the four minute instrumental In The Distance, which is very gentle track somehwat in the vein of Tony Banks' first solo outing A Curious Feeling.

The album ends with the beautiful ballad Exit For D.N.A. Aoki once again produces some beautiful melodies out of his keyboards, and this track also features and extended electrical guitar solo by Hirayama.

This is a great album, easily one of the best I've heard from Japan. While Teru's Symphonia's music portrays some of the bombast that characterizes fellow Japanese bands Gerard and Arsnova, it is far more diverse than the music of those bands. There's no doubt about the talents of these five musicians, and I must especially commend the arrangements of the tracks and the feel for melody that they have.
Recommended!

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

Derk van Mourik