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Issue 1999-003Reviews in this issue:
IQ - The Lost Attic
Tracklist: The Universal Scam (5.05), Wintertell (3.01), The Last Human Gateway (middle section) (4.01), Hollow Afternoon (1999 recording) (4.41), Apathetic and Here, I ... (7.26), N.T.O.C. (Resistance) (4.49), Eyes of the Blind (3.14), Barbell is In (12" Lizard Mix) (6.29), The Bold Grenadier (3.38), My Legs (2.16), Fascination (5.53), Hollow Afternoon (4.51), Awake and Nervous (radio session) (7.10), Just Changing Hands (radio session) (5.17), Widow's Peak (radio session) (8.52).
It's taken a while, but now it's finally there. IQ's long anticipated rarities album! And it has been well worth the waiting. For those of you who might fear another thrown-together item like J'ai Pollette d'Arnu, do not fear ! The Lost Attic is far from that.
The CD features no less than 15 tracks, of which 8 songs have never been released before (in that version). The songs came from different sources. Let's have a look at the various categories.
Fan Club Singles
In the years 86, 87, 88 and 92 IQ released special singles as gifts for the members of their fan club. These singles either contained different, re-recorded versions of existing material or demo versions of new songs. Three out of the seven songs which have been released on those singles have been included on The Lost Attic.
First of all there's the '92 re-recording of the middle section of The Last Human Gateway. It starts in a wonderful acoustic way and finishes with a bombastic manner with dominating bass pedals. Some of you might know this version from the Forever Live album since it was played live at that gig.
Bold Grenadier is a traditional English folk ballad and was recorded in '87 with Martin Orford and Mike Holmes on keyboards and Paul Menel on vocals. This track illustrates what a great vocalist Paul was and also features some weird sound effects of running water and wind-chimes to cover-up the click track which ended up in the recording.
And then there's the '87 re-recording of Fascination with Paul Menel, which appeared on the same fan club single as Bold Grenadier. This version is probably the fastest one around and includes a lot of experimental keyboard playing as well as a rather strange ending. In my opinion, it's not as good as the version on Seven Stories into '98 and Paul's vocals sound rather flat. Still great to finally have this one in my collection.
Besides the fan club singles, IQ also released a special one-sided single specially for the occassion of their (in)famous New Years Eve performance on the 31st of December 1984. The song on this single (of which only 500 copies were pressed) was Hollow Afternoon and was also played live during the concert for the first and last time. As you can imagine, the item became one of the most sought after IQ rarities. The quality is not very good because it had been recorded in a hurry (with a drum computer ! horror !), but the song itself is very nice indeed.
The Lost Attic includes the three songs which were recorded during a session for the BBC and were broadcasted twice in mid '84: Awake and Nervous, Just Changing Hands and Widow's Peak. The quality of these songs is quite good since producer Tony Wilson had put a lot of work into the session. All three songs have a slightly sharper and heavier edge than their official recordings and seem to have a more dimensional sound. The band even prefers the BBC version of Widow's Peak above the one which eventually appeared on The Wake. Personally I can't say I definitely prefer one of the two. I'm not quite keen on Peter's singing in Just Changing Hands though.
Two tracks on The Lush Attic were previously released on compilation albums. N.T.O.C. (Resistance) first appeared on the 'SI Compilation Disc Too' released in '93. The music of the track originated in the 'Menel years', when it was still called Over the Moon. If I remember correctly the lyrics Paul had written were about sex with an alien and therefore not deemed useable some in the band. Eventually Peter wrote new lyrics and it also became the first track on which John Jowitt would play bass. The track is very unlike IQ, it's a rather straight-forward and rather 'poppy' rock song. When I got my hands on the mentioned SI album it took me quite a while to get used to, but now I really like it. It makes a good live song as well.
IQ also contributed to the Geoff Mann tribute album Mannerisms when the former Twelfth Night singer died of cancer. Mike Holmes took the emotional acoustic ballad Apathetic and Here, I ... from Geoff's Second Chants album wrote a completely new sequencer intro, followed by Geoff's original song in a 'plugged' version and finally an amazing full band climax. I've always adored this song (both the original and amazing Holmes treatment of the track).
The CD also features three new recordings which the band finished in the
last week of January this year. Two of these were tracks which had origiannly been intented for inclusion on Subterranea. The first one, Eyes for the Blind is a beautiful ballad which had been performed under the working title Big Pouf Hair (not to be confused with Big Pouf Piano which became Laid Low/Breathtaker). It reappears here as a beautiful ballad which might be compared to Speak my Name.
The Universal Scam is another Subterranea outtake. It had been recorded under the working title Jap Track because it was meant to be a bonus track on the Japanese release of Subterranea (which never actually saw the light of day). The music for the track had been written years before in the early Nineties when Ledge Marshall was in the band. With the music laid down in '97 and the vocals last January this finally developed into a wonderful catchy song in the vein of Tunnel Vision and great guitar riff and drum fills.
When Peter Nicholls could not turn up to finish the aforementioned two tracks in the first studio session in January the rest of the band decided to kill time by re-recording Hollow Afternoon. The result does the song much more justice than the original elsewhere on the album and shows what a good song it actually is.
There's three more tracks which have not been discussed so far. The first one is the wonderful 12" remix of Barbell is In. This is a real treat if you like the original reggea version of that song and brings back great memories of the Eighties when I seemed to buy every 12" remix of Top 40 hits. Instead if just remixing the 7", the band actually re-recorded the whole song for this extended version. Therefore the quality is also much better.
Wintertell is an acoustic ballad with Pete singing and Mike on guitar. It's got a very Sixties feeling and reminds me of both For the Taking and very early Yes albums. It was a track which did not make it on Tales From The Lost Attic. One of the reasons not to use it was that is was not representative of the band. I have to agree on that one.
Finally we have My Legs which is a short radio play written by Mike and performed by Peter, Ledge and Tim talking in funny, distorted voices through a cardboard tube. It's typical Holmes and Ledge humour and it's a bit beyond me to be honest. Fortunately it's rather short, so just consider it to be a bonus to fill the remaining minutes of the CD.
The quality of the tracks varies quite a lot. It's very obvious from listening to certain tracks that they did not have the original masters anymore and had to use some of the actual fan club singles as a master. You'll hear the occasional crackle and pop.
Besides these and Wintertell most of the other stuff sounds very good though.
I'm quite sure that not everybody will prefer the choices of every song on the album and will miss certain bits and pieces. Some of the things which seem to be missing are Beef in a Box, the hip-hop version of No Love Lost, the acoustic version of Magic Roundabout and several others. Personally I would have switched the BBC sessions and My Legs for these. But then again, you can't make everybody happy. I wouldn't have minded though if they would have made this one another doubles (there have been tentative plans to do that).
The 20-page booklet is another splendid piece of work by Tony Lythgoe. As with the previous album, Seven Stories into '98, it contains loads of pictures from the period 1983-99, all lyrics of the songs on the album, comments by the band members on the individual songs, a two-page history of the band and all relevant information about the various tracks. The only thing I found rather strange is the fact that the back of the booklet features 4 band pictures of different era's of the band with the various logo's below. Strange enough, none of these four are of the 'Paul Menel years'.
There's actually a bit of an in-joke in the pictures on the page with details about Apathetic and Here, I .... See if you can figure it out.
Conclusion: This rarities collection is something which is a definte must have for all IQ fans. Since the material on the album is very good (this is not a collection of 'turned down songs') it's also an interesting album for anybody who wants to discover IQ since it demonstates the many sides of the band. Go ahead, buy it !
The album can be ordered through GEP by using the special orderform.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10.
Terra Mystica - Carsica
Tracklist: I. Altaria: Awakening (4.32), Metamorphosis (1.42), Circus 01
(3.34). The Heart and the Waves (3.00), A Dance Like Rain Drops (5.18),
Rhinoceros in the Cathedral (5.29), Journey into the Center (3.44), Terra
Mystica (4.23). II. Ignis: Ireland - Carsica (4.25), Ukraine's Child
(2.26), Carmin (4.34), El Ji (4.43), Inside Penetralia (4.12). III.
Laccus: Finale (4.23). Empty (bonus track) (3.29).
Above tracklisting contains the English translations of the original Slovenian song titles.
Sometimes we receive something very remarkable at DPRP. Recently a package arrived which had a strange rattling sound when you would shake it. At first I was afraid that someone had smashed the CD which was obviously inside, but after opening it the sound proved to be the result of three little pebbles which were captured in the empty space below the inlay tray left of the cover. 'What a simple but nice and very effective gimmick', I thought. The CD came from Slovenia, which made the fact that this was an enhanced CD with an interactive multimedia presentation even more amazing. Not really something you would expect to come from that part of Europe.
Terra Mystica's Carsica is a multimedia project incorporating music, video, photography, dancing poetry and design. When the CD is inserted in your PC's CD-Rom drive an enty screen appears which enables you to choose the Slovenian or English language. Once inside the program you can browse through the (English translations of the) lyrics, play the video of Rhinoceros in the Cathedral (which features a lot of ballet), view pictures of the project members, have a look in the studio where the CD was recorded and at some live performances (with loads of pictures). All of this is accompanied by sound effects and animations.
Plans for the project originated in 1995 when the band Angel
Heart teamed up with eight other musicians, forming Terra Mystica. The CD
was recorded in 95/96 and was followed by quite some (local) media coverage
and concerts. In 98 the CD was reprinted for the 3rd time, including the
described multi-media presentation.
The base band consists of 12 musicians playing a wide range of instruments like guitars, flute, harmonica, piano, percussion & drums, bass, violins, trumpet and harp. Six other musicians also collabotated in the project, not to mention the dancers, poet and tecnhical staff.
So what about the music ? It's a mixture of progressive rock, classical music, ambient, jazz & ethnic. Strings play a very important role on this CD. The album consists of 3 parts with several sub-tracks (see tracklisting). Altaria was inspired by the Slovenian "Kast" and it's underground caves. It takes the listener through the symphonic rock beauty of Awakening, the classical piano/strings piece Metamorphosis, the weird clowns-act music of Circus 01, the Oldfield-ish The Heart and the Waves (which also sounds a bit like a trimmed down version of Kate Bush' Cloudbusting), the New Age A Dance Like Rain Drops with its brass section which could have come straight from Pink Floyd's Summer '68, the majestic tubular bells and 'underwater- guitar' of Rhinoceros in the Cathedral, the 'ska with harmonica' of Journey into the Center and finally the Bjork-like vocal chants of Terra Mystica. Fine piece of music !
Ignis features 5 vocal parts sung by Veronika Sulic. Personally I'm not really crazy about her voice, but fans of Bjorn will love it. The sections in this song feature more folkish influences, but there's also a part with nice chuncky bass and the poppy Inside Penetralia. The vocals spoil this part for me, but some of you might love it.
Laccus/Finale is another classical string piece which strange enough ends with one and a half minute of silence. The bonus track Empty finally is very different from the rest of the album. It's more of a straight-forward alternative rock song with a regular band.
To get a taste of the project and the music, why not visit the Terra Mystica Homepage ?
Conclusion: Although not all of the music is very accessible and I don't like everything on the CD I am very impressed by the whole production. 8- out of 10.
Ankh - ...Bedzie Tajemnica
"Ha, another new Polish prog band!", I can hear you think. Not exactly true. Ankh's debut album was released in 1993, and this band is not your typical prog band.
Progressive they are, but I know for sure some of you would not agree. To those of you who like to think of Arena and the likes when I say "progressive rock", stop reading. Ankh's music is progressive in the way they play their compositions. It's rock with a manic violin player. This makes an interesting combination and provides the emotion so much forgotten in this kind of music. Sometimes haunting, sometimes melancholic, sometimes depressive, sometimes aggressive. OK, they're not the first to use a violin, but still they're very different to a melodic outfit like Kansas.
When I learned about this band, I bought their first and second albums on CD, and a tape of an acoustic radio session (not available on CD). This album, ...Bedzie Tajemnica, is their third CD. I thought the second album was a bit less than the first, since the first was weirder, more frantic, while the second was more polished. This new album, however, has got that special atmosphere that marked the first album.
Lyrics are in Polish, as you might have guessed by the title. For the English speaking part of the world, there are some strange characters in the Polish alphabet, that I will not try to copy in an HTML page, since most of you probably do not have the multi-language fonts installed. The Polish lyrics fit the music well, and they don't bother me at all.
Not all lyrics are in Polish, by the way. The first album contains a song partly in English, at the acoustic radio session, the band played Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart, and this CD contains a very nice version of King Crimson's 21st Century Schizoid Man. The violins make this a very interesting rendition!
Compared to the previous albums, the line-up is supported by a second violin player, which should make the sound a bit fuller, although to my taste it might have been even fuller than it is now, to emphasize the craziness even more. On two of the songs, lead vocals are performed by Agnieszka Dudek, the female singer. The first time I heard her voice, she reminded me of Anika Batko, former lead singer of other Polish (now defunct) prog band (although their last efforts were far from prog) Albion: a bit child-like and clear voice and long syllables. I am not saying she has a bad voice and I have nothing against female singers, but I am just used to and prefer the dark male voice of Piotr Krzeminski. A nice change, though, for a couple of songs.
I always find it very hard to describe what bands are comparable to another. In the case of Ankh, it's even harder. The music is dark and bombastic, but also melodic and sharp. The mix between those elements is one of the reasons it is so interesting. No long solos, but the creating of a certain atmosphere. I should mention Dutch band The Gathering here as well: the dark mood created by Ankh reminded me of them. Also no brilliant guitar play, but highly effective for this kind of music: aggressive, sharp, and dark.
In Poland, I think it is EMI who are doing the distribution of the album. However, you might find it very difficult to get hold of this CD outside of Poland. Please contact the band for details. The official web site is under construction and is still in Polish, but more parts are being translated into English as well. I really hope they will include soundbites soon (hey, don't we have a Soundbites page?!) and that this review is making you curious to the sound of Ankh. They deserve more attention than their home country can offer.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10.
E Motive - E Motive
E Motive was sent to me, after a fellow reviewer said it was too complex and too much jazz rock. It was more a CD for me, he said. And yes, it is! The complexity isn't too bad. I mean, it's not as complex and as jazzy as I thought it would be, after that first warning. E Motive consist of some experienced musicians, who like to jam. In this field of music, that's not very common. I like improvisation, because it shows what the musicians feel, and not what they think. Too much music has been made that has been thought over. (However, some bands seem to feel the need to improvise into useless cacophonies...)
OK, so it's not your everybody's cup of tea. Well, too bad. The music is complex in a way that it demands attention. Song structures are not necessarily complex. The band refer to King Crimson, but I like this kind of music better than good old KC. E Motive are more melodic, have more harmony and are more consistent.
The improvisations are more complex, but they still maintain a certain structure, that makes you listen to a real band instead of a seemingly useless gathering of solo musicians that dare to bugger my ears. Well, maybe my ears aren't trained enough... At least this CD, and that's what this review is all about, is very enjoyable. No neo-prog cliches and no Genesis clones. Fresh, but still that early prog feel.
The music has something that is not typical American. The overall sound is Seventies, as well as Nineties. An old feel to new music. It reminds me, however, to a bands like Lift, Pentwater, and Mirthrandir, who all had recordings from the Seventies out on CD (all on the Syn-phonic label, by the way), also from the USA. If you like those, you should definitely try E Motive as well.
I am glad I got this CD to review. Although it's not one that can be played at all situations, it certainly will become one well listened to.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10.
Morte Macabre - Symphonic Holocaust
Tracklist: Apoteosi Del Mistero (4.16), Threats of Stark Reality (2.59), Sequenza Ritmica Tema (7.02), Lullaby (8.02), Quiet Drops (6.43), Opening Theme (2.50), The Photosession (7.10), Symphonic Holocaust (17.51).
Morte Macabre is a project based around members of Scandinavian outfits Landberk and Anekdoten. The magic word of their album Symphonic Holocaust is Mellotron. Steve Hackett once said about this reverred instrument: "I know people still like to use them, and they sound really good; string samples recorded in 1952 apparently by three ladies.... odd to think the uses they've been put to."
And the mellotron has been put to all of its uses on this album. The first track Apoteosi Del Mistero takes you back to King Crimson's In The Court of the Crimson King whereas a track like The Photosession reminds one of Anglagard.
All of the tracks on the album are actual or imaginary soundtracks to Horror movies, including such classics as City of the Living Dead, Rosemary's Baby and Cannibal Holocaust.
As you might have guessed, Morte Macabre explores the darker side of the symphonic spectrum. Carried by the melancholy sound of the mellotron (played by all four members!) and Stefan Dimle's heavy bass this album makes for music that you shouldn't play when you're depressed!
The album is almost entirely instrumental except for female vocals on the track Lullaby which also features violin. Electrical guitar is used only sparingly, but takes a leading role on the Goblin cover Quiet Drops and the 17 minute title track.
Although I didn't like everything on this album (the vocals on Lullaby just sounded a bit childish to me) there's enough on this album to make it worthwile. The highlights are those tracks that contain substantial guitar parts, like the aforementioned Quiet Drops and Symphonic Holocaust. However diverse an instrument like the mellotron can be, its diversity is limited and this means that some of the songs sound a bit too much alike.
Clear influences are seventies King Crimson, especially because of the use of the mellotron and violin. A more contemporary band that Morte Macabre can be compared with is Anglagard, although I value their Hybris album a little bit higher.
To conclude, if you're into dark progressive music and like bands as Landberk, Anekdoten and Anglagard, you will certainly like this album.
Conclusion: 7+ out of 10.