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2007 : VOLUME 39
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REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:


Magic Pie - Circus Of Life
Magic Pie - Circus Of Life
Country of Origin:Norway
Format:CD
Record Label:Progress Records
Catalogue #:PRCD 024
Year of Release:2007
Time:64:10
Info:Magic Pie
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Circus Of Life (i. Welcome [3:23], ii. Freakshow [6:14], iii. What If... [8:04], iv. Trick Of The Mind {a} Song Of Decision, {b} Song Of Anger, {c} Song Of Sharing, {d} Face To Face [21:50], v. The Clown [6:07]), Pointless Masquerade (8:59), Watching The Waters (9:30)

Norway's Magic Pie created a bit of a stir with their debut album Motions Of Desire back in 2005 gaining quite a few recommendations as prog rock album of that year, despite some criticisms of there being rather too many overt references to their musical influences. However, in the intervening two years, the group has honed, even created, its own style inevitably helped by taking to the stage and performing to enthusiastic international audiences. The line-up has remained unchanged since the debut release with Kim Stenberg providing guitars and the bulk of the song writing (in conjunction with lyricists Tommy Stenberg), Gilbert Marshall on keyboards and vocals, Allan Olsen and Eirik Hanssen on lead vocals, Lars Petter Holstad on bass and Jan Torkild Johannessen on drums.

In days gone by, this album would undoubtedly have just been a single track, split over two sides of vinyl. The benefit of digital technology means that the whole 45+ minutes of the title track of The Circus Of Life can be enjoyed in its entirety in one go. Progressive rock is often derided for bands producing long meandering pieces of self-indulgence that lack coherence and structure. Although it is true that there are far too many bands who think that for a 'epic' tracks are an essential component of any progressive rock album and so over-extend pieces past limits of endurance and beyond the parsity of ideas they contain; never mind the quality, look how long it is! When extended pieces are done well they can be sources of great musical excitement, sublime and emotive passages and vehicles to transport the listener into other dimensions. Fortunately, Magic Pie have grasped this fact and have successfully managed to link five relatively disparate sections to form a coherent and entertaining piece.

From the opening scene-setting of Welcome, through the heavy prog-credentials to the fore instrumental of Freakshow, via the lovely, almost melancholy, harmony singing on What If... to the epic-within-an epic of Trick Of The Mind. Act one Song of Decision makes great use of the three lead vocalists in the group, each bringing a slightly different texture to their vocal parts. Despite the initial guitar onslaught, the bulk of the track is backed by glorious Hammond organ, although Stenberg's guitar becomes more prominent as the track progresses. A synth solo leads into a reprise of the chorus and then it is into Act II Song Of Anger, which really should be called Song of Bitterness with the opening lines "I blame it all on you; you're the reason for my failure". The anger/bitterness is musically demonstrated by the heavy riffing. Although Stenberg is being lauded as something of the latest guitar hero in some circles (some even rating him in the same league as Gilmour and Beck) I have to say I am far more enamoured with Marshall's keyboard contributions. That is not to say Stenberg is not good, if not great, as there are plenty of places where he excels, such as in the passage introducing Act III Song Of Sharing.

Starting with a more sedate vocal passage, a dose of slide guitar leads into a very 1970s hard rock guitar and keyboard passage before things are ramped up further into some furious riffing that will find favour with metal freaks. Holsted's rumbling bass gives the section gravitas with guitar and keyboard solos coming fast and furious. The energy in this piece is quite phenomenal with every musician giving their all. Act IV Face To Face reprises the chorus section of Song Of Decision with a nice harmony section bringing Trick Of The Mind to a tumultuous end. In case you had forgotten, there is still one final part of The Circle Of Life to go, Part V The Clown. Wrapping things up neatly and in grand style, with a choir provided (single-handedly!) by Kor Artig, the scale and ambition of The Circus Of Life is worthy of the subject matter. And am I deluded or is the outro fairground music the same as appears on the intro to Queen's Brighton Rock?!

If that was not enough the album closes with Pointless Masquerade and Watching The Waters. The first of these plays heavily on the vocal arrangements, passing through some a cappella sections (more in the vein of Spock's Beard aping Gentle Giant than the might Giant themselves) to lovely harmony sections. Musically, the piece is a bit of a mish-mash but engaging enough to warrant its nine-minute playing time, with a fine solo by Marshall making the piece all that more special. Speaking of the keyboard player, he is the sole writer of the last track on the album which is probably the least involved on the album. With a certain resonance to classic Kansas the piece provides a fine end to the album.

Overall, Magic Pie have proved themselves a band to watch out for. Hopefully with Progress Records behind them they will thrive and prosper. With Circus Of Life the Norwegians have made a great contender for the album of the year lists.

Conclusion: 9 out of 10

MARK HUGHES



Gavin O’Loghlen – The Poet And The Priest
Gavin O’Loghlen – The Poet And The Priest
Country of Origin:Australia
Format:CD
Record Label:Locrian Records
Catalogue #:BFSCD 0703
Year of Release:2007
Time:55:46
Info:Gavin O'Loghlen
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Autumn '86 - The Descent (6:47), I - Railway Nomads (6:39), Ii – Lovers (4:54), Iii – Jesters (5:06), Iv - The Open Road (5:44), V - The Pit (1:29), Vi - The Treadmill Part I (3:01), Vii - The Open Road Revisited (2:06), Viii - The Poet . . . . (0:22), Ix ....And The Priest (1:05), X - The Treadmill Part Ii (2:17), Xi - The Key (4:29), Xii - Like Daedalus Ascending (1:59), Xiii - The New Dawn (2:34), Xiv - Walking Shadows (2:33), Xv - Bird Of Life (1:19), Spring '87 - The Dance (3:19)

Gavin O’Loghlen & Cotters Bequest - Land Of The Vast Horizon
Country of Origin:Australia
Format:CD
Record Label:Locrian Records
Catalogue #:BFSCD 0601
Year of Release:2007
Time:56:53
Info:Cotters Bequest
Samples:Click here
Gavin O’Loghlen & Cotters Bequest - Land Of The Vast Horizon

Tracklist: Port Adelaide 1854 The Arrival (7:42), The Peramangk - Time There Was... (4:29), Baker's Flat 1855 Irish Shanty Towns (3:15), Kapunda 1856 The Cornish Miners (4:49), The Burra 1861 The Welsh Smelter (4:14), Port Augusta 1869 The Teamsters (4:13), Gulnare 1872 Death Of The Last Born (4:22), Sevenhill 1873 Johann Pallhüber SJ (3:46), Stephenston 1875 The Speculator's Waltz (2:24), Knockatuna Quorn 1879 The Farmers (4:31), Pichi Richi 1879 The Railways (3:09), Nantabra Hut 1895 The Scottish Shepherds (4:25), Udenyaka (Death Rock) (5:33)

In my relatively short time with the DPRP I’ve reviewed albums from numerous countries including Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, UK and the USA. Proof if need be that prog has a global appeal for sure. I have yet however to review a release from down under, which may or may not be an indication of Australia’s contribution to the global prog network. That’s until now that is when out of the blue two albums arrive together. Although musically quite unalike they do have a binding connection by way of musician, actor, stage director and all-round talented individual Gavin O’Loghlen.

Starting out in music playing the bagpipes at the tender age of 11, he received a degree in Drama at University and moved into music composition and performance for the theatre. This harnessed his multiple keyboard skills and progressive influences that included Genesis, King Crimson, The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd and Peter Gabriel. His current band Cotters Bequest is described as a progressive Celtic ensemble and Land Of The Vast Horizon is their third release to date. His solo album The Poet And The Priest on the other hand was written exactly twenty years ago and recorded two years later although never publicly released until now. That would account for the slightly retro sound, which despite the symphonic prog tag is a combination of 80’s synth pop and early neo-prog with a hint of Fish style vocals from the same era.

I hope my comments so far haven’t put you off because The Poet And The Priest is an excellent release by anyone’s standards. In fact I’ve developed quite a soft spot for O’Loghlen’s impassioned work possibly because it sounds quite unique from anything else around at the moment. I would suggest that the melodramatic vocal delivery is more as a result of his theatrical background rather than a direct influence by the former Marillion frontman. In that respect there are also similarities with French proggers Ange and early Genesis with Peter Gabriel upfront. Like Fish his lyrics have a nostalgic feel with references to childhood and the pains of growing up. And there are lots of words; the album is virtually wall to wall vocals. An autobiographical concept, it traces the lives of two boys with O’Loghlen appearing as ‘the poet’ of the title.

The CD inlay lists an extensive array of instruments all played by O’Loghlen essentially providing background colouring with keyboards generally and synths especially providing the focal point. The introductory Autumn '86 - The Descent is a good case in point. Opening with strident Hammond chords it continues at a stately pace with a gorgeous melody picked out by razor-sharp synth notes, piano, bass and acoustic guitar. Some wonderful choral effects with backing vocalist Margaret Smith standout against a string keys backdrop. The following Railway Nomads is also worthy of special mention. It opens with the same crashing organ chords but this is an altogether more up-tempo affair that feels like two songs in one. A Latin rhythm and passionate vocals grace the first part before a blaze of Wakeman style Minimoog announces one of the most infectious tunes I’ve heard in a while against a simple waltz like synth rhythm. O’Loghlen’s theatrical vocal delivery is at its most expressive here.

Following the highs of the two opening tracks, the bittersweet Lovers is probably my favourite song on the album. The vocals are far more restrained this time round and reminiscent of The Moody Blues and Steve Hackett in his mellower moments. In addition to lyrical electric guitar it features beautiful backing vocals by Margaret Smith and Anne Dormer. From here on the mood of the album intensifies ranging from the slow burning Jesters which builds in power in Mostly Autumn fashion, to the drama of the The Open Road with its driving urgency. The Treadmill Part I and Part Ii are the albums darkest tracks sharing the same edgy melody whilst on The Open Road Revisited O’Loghlen sounds uncannily like a completely different singer. The shorter pieces The Pit, The Poet And The Priest all make good use of rich synth orchestrations.

As ‘the poet’ reflects upon life’s disappointments the aptly titled The Key provides the albums turning point. Starting in melancholic mood with church organ, the song gains in confidence with synth providing a rousing military march. The upbeat tone continues with the stirring Mellotron of the almost psychedelic Like Daedalus Ascending and the optimistic The New Dawn which includes the albums lengthiest instrumental section featuring soaring synth and string effects. The sparkling Walking Shadows and the even better Bird Of Life contain two of the brightest and catchiest melodies you’ll likely to hear all year leaving the anthemic Spring '87 - The Dance to provide a triumphant and uplifting conclusion.

On the Cotters Bequest release, as with his solo album, Gavin O’Loghlen is responsible for all compositions, arrangements, production and engineering. Again he is credited with a ridiculously long list of instruments including guitars, bass, keyboards, drums, pipes and whistles but this time he is joined by six gifted musicians with a distinct change in musical style. Land Of The Vast Horizon is described as “A Celtic history of South Australia” with the band combining traditional and contemporary instrumentation to provide a rootsy folk sound with a progressive edge. It tells of the early Australian settlers interwoven with the arrival of O’Loghlen’s family from Ireland in 1854 and their settlement in the new continent.

Opening appropriately with waves breaking on a shore Port Adelaide sets the scene with a memorable bodhran and pipes led reel that morphs into a strident song with superb instrumental interplay and dramatic vocals. A bombastic, proggy section with heavy percussion, uilleann pipes and soaring female vocals relaxes for a heavenly ending with angelic voices. An excellent start to an album where it has to be said the quality level never falters. Songs like The Peramangk, Kapunda, The Burra and Sevenhill all feature memorable melodies with stunning choral harmonies from O’Loghlen, Anne Dormer (who also featured on The Poet And The Priest) and female lead Angelee Theodoros. In contrast Baker's Flat is a variation on the opening reel whilst the instrumentals Stephenston and Pichi Richi are graced with infectious tunes and staggering highland pipes and whistles playing from O’Loghlen and the uilleann pipes of Jack Brennan.

Following the rich instrumental interplay of Port Augusta, with accordion by Harry Theodoros and lead guitar from Jim Petkoff, the story reaches a sad moment with the delicate keys led Gulnare. This is beautifully conveyed by a poignant vocal duet supported by the lyrical violin of Stephanie Graebar. A bright synth break adds a contemporary edge to Knockatuna Quorn whilst the symphonic keys of Nantabra Hut are joined by indigenes percussion and the authentic sound of the dijeridu by Robert Shaw. The tranquil Udenyaka concludes the story with chiming acoustic guitar, a hypnotic piano motif and sumptuous Clannad style vocalising by Angelee Theodoros and O’Loghlen.

These releases display two very distinct sides to Gavin O’Loghlen. Even allowing for the seventeen year gap that separates the recordings the range and diversity is impressive. Whilst The Poet And The Priest is undoubtedly a product of its time the marriage of OMD and Ultravox with early Marillion, Twelfth Night and Pendragon works on every level. Musically it abounds with strong hooks whilst the soul searching lyrics have a personal touch that brought to mind the style of Roger Waters. O’Loghlen has also done an excellent remastering job giving it a bright and attention grabbing sound.

Land Of The Vast Horizon sits comfortably between the prog-folk of Iona, Troy Donockley, Gryphon and Mike Oldfield’s Ommadawn, and the rootsier style of Capercaillie, Planxty and Fairport Convention. The evocative story telling in an historical context is also reminiscent of Camel’s Harbour Of Tears album and Manning’s most recent Anser’s Tree. If I had to stick my neck out and decide which of these releases I prefer it would be a tough call but in the final analysis it would be Land Of The Vast Horizon by a whisker. Either way these are two excellent albums deserving of anyone’s attention. As Gavin O’Loghlen put it himself in his letter to the DPRP, a “celebration of progressive music from down under”.

Conclusions:

The Poet And The Priest : 8 out of 10
Land Of The Vast Horizon: 8+ out of 10

GEOFF FEAKES



Gordon Giltrap - Sixty Minutes With
Gordon Giltrap - Sixty Minutes With
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Voiceprint
Catalogue #:VP6003CD
Year of Release:2007
Time:63:48
Info:Gordon Giltrap
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Lucifer's Cage (4:06), Black Rose - The Raven (3:42), Heartsong (4:55), Fear Of The Dark (7:52), Angie [Angelina] (2:40), Misunderstood Man / Be With Me Always (6:06), Harlequin (2:51), Greensleeves (2:40), Fast Approaching (4:55), The Deserter (3:50), Down The River (7:57), Dance Of Albion (1:55), Oh Well (3:10), Catwalk Blues (2:00), Under This Blue Sky (3:48)

As the title might suggest Sixty Minutes With offers pretty much what it says on the label, an hour of music from the featured artist and with Gordon Giltrap being the subject of this CD. Gordon's sixty minutes spans a career that stems back many years and covers a broad cross section through his "progressive rock" phase in the mid seventies, his stint as a member of the cast from Cliff Richard’s Heathcliff musical, his tribute to Bert Jansch, along with his folk, blues, baroque and classical influenced tunes.

Earlier this year I was fortunate to catch Gordon in concert at the Hexagon Theatre, Middlesbrough where I was reminded once again (if ever I needed to be) what a truly wonderful musician he is. On that fairly cold March evening I found the man, the music and in fact the entire concert warm, friendly and engaging. Although on his own, he held the audience spellbound for over an hour and a half by his mastery of the six stringed instrument. His lyrical and melodically infectious acoustic guitar playing being a delight to behold. As with Sixty Minutes... his repertoire on that evening covered tunes from his long and illustrious career. The concert featured many of the songs you will find on Sixty Minutes..., albeit in a full blown arrangement format for much of the album.

Giltrap's progressive heyday are represented by tunes from Visionary [1976] (Awakening and Lucifer's Cage); Perilous Journey [1977] (The Deserter and Heartsong); Fear Of The Dark [1978] (Fast Approaching and Fear Of The Dark). We have a single offering from Gordon's tribute to Bert Jansch (Janschology) with the superb Angie [Angelina] along with Misunderstood Man / Be With Me Always being his "Cliff" period offering. As I had not heard or seen Sir Cliff's musical, I had misgivings about this prior to listening to the album, but my fears were soon dispelled. Two tracks from his Double Vision collaboration with classical guitarist Raymond Burley (Down The River and Under This Blue Sky). Along with these are a number of superbly arranged tunes and even a version of Peter Green's Oh Well (err yeah - oh well - the least convincing of the pieces to be found on this compilation).

Now I could go on for hours extolling the virtues of Mr Giltrap's music, however I might more easily point you to the links above and let you judge for yourself. The Samples link will take you to Gordon's MySpace where you will be able to hear acoustic versions of four tracks - and while you are there check out the imbedded Youtube footage. Or you can also visit Gordon's new website which now includes audio samples for his previous releases.

Sixty Minutes With is a fine introduction to the music of Gordon Giltrap and certainly if you have not checked out any of Gordon's previous albums then it is as good a place to start. The album nicely captures Gordon's evolving musical history whilst remaining an enjoyable listen. I'm not normally one for compilation albums preferring always to buy the original albums, however any release that might bring a few more to sample the delights of Gordon Giltrap's music has my blessing. Though sixty minutes with Gordon Giltrap is not nearly long enough!

Voiceprint have released a series of these thoughtfully compiled discs including Sixty Minutes With Rick Wakeman, Synergy, Man, Mountain and The Magic Mushroom Band. Future releases include Patrick Moraz, Trevor Rabin, Gong, Daevid Allen and presumably a whole host more in the future. As the whole series is competitively priced it might just persuade a few to explore further into the artist's discographies. Worthy purchases me thinks.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

BOB MULVEY



Speechless – Time Out Of Mind
Speechless – Time Out Of Mind
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2006
Time:50:28
Info:Speechless
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: In The Clouds (5:01), Spidercrawl (4:06), Stella (6:30), Thank You (5:19), The Big Majestic (7:52), Something Green (4:31), Spaghetti Junction (4:30), Hangover (3:26), Vader’s Boogie (8:45)

No prizes at all for guessing that Atlanta-based Speechless are an instrumental band; however, if you thought you could pigeonhole them further by reading too much into the fact that they appear to have named their debut album after a track on Steely Dan’s ultra-slick Gaucho album, think again – the Dan are but one small influence on a band who really do fuse together elements from a wide variety of sources to create a varied and fairly unique sound, encompassing jazz, funk, rock and prog, with hints of reggae and world music creeping into the mix.

Some warm keyboard melodies from synth player Robbie Hamil lead the band into opening number In The Clouds, with Hamil’s electric piano and Hammond playing contrasting nicely with Sean Tonar’s guitar work, which goes from chunky riffs in the main body of the song to some sinewy solo’s which are vaguely reminiscent of John McLaughlin’s work in the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Spidercrawl brings the funk elements to the fore, with Paul Rusek’s grooving bass at the front of the mix, although there’s a mellower mid-section which brings to mind Kansas in their quieter moments.

Stella’s first few bars are similar to those of Weather Report’s Black Market, whilst the hefty keyboard riff introduced later on has a touch of Herbie Hancock’s 80’s electro-funk track Rock-It about it; judicious use of Hammond organ manages to give the song a warmer, more vintage feel than that comparison might imply, however. The mellow, understated Thank You has shades of early (pre-hit single era) Level 42 and is a nice resting point before the more complex The Big Majestic. This is one of two tracks primarily written by guitarist Tonar, and seems to indicate that he’s the prog fan in the band. There’s a slight Latin feel to the start of the song, before heading into territory that has a strong mid-70’s era Kansas feel to it, with Hamil’s key boards even having that vintage Tony Banks’ sound at times. Tonar’s guitar work is particularly versatile and expressive here, yet never going off on a tangent – he serves the needs of the song.

Following this, standards slip a little with the light Something Green, which is only really of superior elevator music standard. Spaghetti Junction sees some energy injected into proceedings again, with Rusek’s bass driving things along. Hamil’s analog synth work mixes well with Tonar’s slick eighties hard rock-style to engaging effect, with plenty of room allowed for both musicians to trade solo’s. Hangover is definitely in the fusion mode, and blends a spacey feel with definite hints of the Middle East - think of Brand X given a modern makeover and jamming with heavier fusioners Spaced Out for a broad comparison.

This brings us to the album’s closer (and Tonar’s second composition), and my favourite of the album, Vader’s Boogie. This builds steadily from the patient drumming which heralds an atmospheric opening majoring in some rich keyboard washes from Hamil, evoking memories of Rush circa Moving Pictures – indeed, large chunks of the song could happily have fit on that album, with Tonar carving some Lifeson-style riffs that cut through the keyboards. A lighter counter-melody underpins the heaviness well, whilst there’s also room for some fine solo trade-offs between Tonar and Hamil. A great way to end the album.

With Time Out Of Mind, Speechless have produced an enjoyable and highly accessible instrumental fusion album. If its perhaps short on ‘hairs standing up on the back of the neck’ moments, and occasionally slips into ‘supermarket music’ territory, for the most part it is pleasing on the ear, and showcases some fine players serving the needs of the material rather than going off on their own ego trips. I hope we’ll hear more from these guys soon, as I can certainly see this album as a launching pad to bigger and better things.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

TOM DE VAL



Christopher - Smoke And Origination
Christopher - Smoke And Origination
Country of Origin:Canada
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2006
Time:68:48
Info:Christopher
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: The Summoning Vector (1:26), This Is Your Plague (6:44), Sunday Is Falling Apart (4:12), The Following Visual Was Staged (3:42), Spaghetti Terrorists: [I] Arms Without A Tyrant [II] Lasafey [III] The Lunatic Has An Understudy [IV] Fly Free, Cancer Angel (10:57), Sharp Knives (10:00), Frailty Scan (5:54), Purpose? (0:54), An Addendum (6:45), The Wraith's Progress: [I] The Ascension, The Geometry, The Horror [II] EMF 2 Step - Film Noir Crawl [III] The Oppressive Sphere - Amputee In A Circular Room, (8:41), The Derivative Hearts (5:14), Again (4:07)

I have to say from the very outset that this album proved to be a real challenge to review and the singularly most difficult aspect was getting started with a suitable introduction. The second was to try and put this release from Christopher into a convenient nutshell to allow me to offer a constructive review in just a few paragraphs. Well that's task one accomplished of sorts, however task two may still prove to be more difficult.

So who or what is Christopher, well the first name will have to suffice along with the fact that he hails from Ontario, Canada and that Smoke And Origination is his third solo release. Of his previous releases I have no knowledge so this release will have to stand on its own. There are no other musicians credited on the album so I will have to assume that this solely the work of Christopher - and having listened to this album for several months now I have developed an ever growing admiration for his artistry.

OK, in at the deep end and what can I tell you about Smoke And Origination. In many respects much of the music suggests it may have been written as a film score, as it has a dark, haunting and somewhat mysterious feel throughout. Add a cornucopia of subtle electronica along with an abundance of ethereal choirs, ethnic rhythms and Middle Eastern notations we are starting to build up a picture. You may be thinking I'm not particularly into film scores! Well to counteract these atmospherics are a wealth of songs, albeit in a similar vein, that flow effortlessly within the music whilst bringing forward the rich voice of Christopher himself. Christopher posses a deep and warm voice which I found pleasing to the ears along with a clever use of his upper range to add wordless ornamentations to the music. On the subject of the words, no lyric sheet came with the album, but it is clear that Christopher is a also a adept lyricist bringing literal poignancy to his music.

The album has a conceptual feel and in Christopher's words: " 'Smoke and Origination' documents life in transition. There is no grand climax or a scripted opera plot. It is an abstract recollection of life. Perhaps your life."

So is that all... not really as I have yet to touch on the heavier side of the music and I know the merest mention of words like "metal" and "gothic" will have some readers skipping merrily to the next review. However bear with me here, as although Christopher employs the metal riffing in his music, it is in general subtly mixed and adds drive and impetus rather than being the dominant feature. The choirs I have to say are thoughtfully employed and add much to the mystery of the music.

Dark, dense, atmospheric, lyrical, progressive, deep, catchy, avant-garde, interesting, challenging - all of these are words I would employ to describe the music on Smoke And Origination.

Now I have to say not all of the album worked for me and certainly some of the pieces (The Spaghetti Terrorists and The Wraith's Progress) just cried out for a visual aspect. To fully appreciate the music on this album it should be heard in its entirety, (at least once), but at just under seventy minutes this is a lot to digest in one listen... This said many of the pieces do work as songs in their own right. The jangling, acoustic guitar driven, Again, the infectious The Following Visual Was Staged and the balladic Sunday Is Falling Apart serve as three of the more accessible pieces, whilst the more metal strains of The Derivative Hearts shows the heavier side to Christopher's music. The previously mentioned The Spaghetti Terrorists adds an interesting Middle Eastern slant, but for me the stand out track has to be Sharp Knives. In one track it captures much of what appealed about this album - with a driving pulse, light & shade, subtle metallic overtones, atmospherics and a great chorus hook-line (which could have been utilised a bit more for me).

At the end of the day and regardless of how challenging, and LONG it took to review, I found this album to be a compulsive listen. Smoke And Origination is unlikely to be something you have heard before but I certainly recommend you check out the audio available from the three links above.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

BOB MULVEY



Karfagen - The Space Between Us
Karfagen - The Space Between Us
Country of Origin:Ukraine
Format:CD
Record Label:Unicorn Digital
Catalogue #:UNCR5041
Year of Release:2007
Time:65:23
Info:Karfagen
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Entering the Gate (1:54), The Great Circus (5:30), Temple Of Light (4:57), The Other Side (5:09), Sky Of Couple Colors (4:08), Masks And Illusions (6:40), The Dream Master (6:40), Labyrinth (4:44), Let Go (3:33), Wonder Valleys (4:21), Kingeisher And Dragonflies (1:48), Retrofall (5:21), Mind Games (1:21), The Space Between Us (4:17), When The Night Falls (2:13), Big Outro (2:41)

Ukrainian outfit Karfagen plays instrumental music with just a touch of ambient jazz. There are some vocals, occasional soft scat or spoken parts. Harmonica, flute and accordion also make appearances, and all these 'spices' are effective in enhancing the progressive atmosphere on this CD.

There is no question who the mastermind in this band is - Antony Kalugin. In fact my first impression of this album was that this is a keyboardist/composer, who plays a little guitar and a few other instruments, and this was mainly a solo effort produced with MIDI technology. I then looked at the rather nicely designed booklet and found band credits & pictures. So okay, it's a real band.

The compositions are catchy, creative, and have an airy whimsical quality that I like. Some of it sounds a bit like Leprechaun-era Chick Corea, partly due to Kalugin's synth sounds. The mix is keyboard-and-guitar heavy, which would not normally be a bad thing - but I do not like the electric guitar at all on this album; I find Mr. Booklov seriously lacking in imagination and rhythm. Also detracting from this effort, the drum kit playing is so subdued it sounds barely more interesting than a metronome. The bassist, however, pops out with some nice lines when you can hear them. Referring to the booklet again, I found the bass was actually Kalugin using a keyboard patch on all except one track! He also plays the flute and some of the guitars. So now it seems my first impression was worse than correct in that, excepting Kalugin's parts and the reed instruments, a MIDI band might have sounded better. Michael Pinella is a good example of what a lone keyboardist can accomplish using modern technology.

By the time you get to track seven, you know for sure Kalugin is far beyond the rest of this band's capability. Here he displays a solo piano piece on a par with Chick Corea or Kieth Jarrett, packed with variations on cool themes, and played with feeling & expression. After this track I got a definite sense that this cat has real potential, and shows an individual vision and style that is present in all the other tracks as well. I just have to wonder why he's hesitating to take flight with a band of equals. Reluctant to leave home? Family obligations? Loyal to friends in the band perhaps? Strong players in the drum and guitar roles are absolutely key in this kind of music, especially when there are no vocals. In my opinion, Karfagen sounds like a band wildly out of balance in terms of the members' comparative proficiency and contribution. Simply put (unless I am missing something) Antony Kalugin is way too good for this band.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10

JEFFREY TERWILLIGER




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