Reviews in this issue:
- The Pineapple Thief - 3000 Days
- Nosound – A Sense Of Loss
- Indukti - Idmen
- Daevid Allen - Now Is The Happiest Time Of Your Life
- Various Artists - Progfest '97 [DVD]
- Midas - Beyond The Clear Air
- Midas - 25th Anniversary Concert & Early Rare Tracks
- Siddhartha – Trip To Innerself
- Galea – Theo’s Drive-In
- Aaen Anima - Aaen Anima [2EP]
The Pineapple Thief - 3000 Days
CD1: God Bless The Child (4:47), Shoot First (4:15), Part Zero (7:29), 137 (5:02), We Love You (8:35), Clapham (4:28), Dead In The Water (5:33), Kid Chameleon (7:02), Tightly Wound [Acoustic] (5:34), Remember Us (16:08)
CD2: The World I Always Dreamed Of (7:12), Wretched Soul (5:00), All You Need To Know (4:14), Vapour Trails (8:57), How Did We Find Our Way (3:56), I Will Light Up Your Eyes (7:24), Subside (5:00), Private Paradise (11:46), Snowdrops (5:56), Too Much To Lose (14:49)
Last year Pineapple Thief moved from Cyclops to the Kscope label, part of Snapper Music, releasing their excellent album Tightly Unwound. With the band's back catalogue currently being out-of-print and waiting for re-releases on Kscope the old CDs were beginning to sell like ridiculous priced hot cakes on eBay. For those people who discovered the band last year but weren't as lucky as I was to snatch up the last copies of their album there's good news. Band leader Bruce has selected, remastered and remixed some of the band's best material for their first compilation album.
In the last nine years (roughly 3000 days, hence the compilation's title), Pineapple Thief released 7 studio albums, 3 EPs and 3 limited edition CDs. With this productive output it's certainly the right time for a compilation and fitting two discs isn't a difficult task. Choosing the right songs from this wealth of material is. 3000 Days represents every Pineapple Thief album. The band's debut, Abducting The Unicorn - their only album I haven't really been able to get into so far - is only present with the long Private Paradise (you can tell the early phase from the track, but for historical completeness it's good to have it included). What We Have Sown, an album that was compiled of outtakes and leftovers and surprisingly impressive from that point of view, is present in the form of All You Need To Know, which without a doubt is the best short song on that CD. All of the other albums are present with 3 or 4 songs, making this compilation a well-balanced retrospective that offers a good overview of the band's back catalogue. Looking at the relative popularity of the band's albums and the playing time of their representing songs the balance is also close to optimal.
Special mention goes to Tightly Wound, which appears here in the beautiful acoustic version that was released on one of the Dawn Raid EPs. The running order is worth mentioning as well. Presenting the songs in chronological order would have been an option but shuffling the material from the different eras turns out to be an excellent choice. It makes the album much more of an adventure to listen to and stresses the diversity in the bands oeuvre.
If I was to make a list of Pineapple Thief songs to compile on a 2CD compilation album it would be very, very close to the tracks on 3000 Days. This is no big surprise since Bruce frequently consulted the band's fans on what to include or not. This has for instance resulted in the fan-favourite epic Remember Us closing the first disc. Definitely one of my favourites as well, this song alone is worth the price of the CD for those who cannot get a legal copy of the Variations Of A Dream album at the moment. There's just a few songs I'm missing on this CD, like Bruce's personal favourite on the last album, Different World. The unexpectedly immensely popular 27+ minute epic What Have We Sown? has also been omitted because of lack of disc space. A shame, since dropping one other song would have made it possible to include it. Everybody fan would be able to pick one (I personally could have done without Dead In The Water or How Did We Find Out Way, nice songs but not as good as the alternatives) but as always the contents of a compilation will always remain a topic of debate. Nevertheless, as mentioned before, with so much excellent material there's hardly any reason to complain. Still, with 15 minutes of disc space remaining I would have liked Bruce to throw in 2 or 3 more songs. There's still so much excellent stuff to choose from ...
Bruce remixed and remastered some of the material. Mostly this involves improving the sound quality and some of the improvements come as a real surprise. Especially the material from the first two albums has been patched up substantially. The screech at the start of 137 for instance scared the shit out of me when I played 3000 Days the first time. Playing back the original version proved that it has always been there, but hidden in the background. This song has also been shortened, removing most of the guitar solo at the end.
The double album is offered at the very reasonable price of 11 pounds. For this you get two discs with more than 140 minutes of music, a slipcase (still can see the point in these things) and a nice 24 page booklet with all lyrics and some short liner notes by Bruce for each song.
I rarely get very excited about compilation albums, and to be honest I wasn't very anxious to hear this compilation either. However, 3000 Days is an excellent collection by an amazing band that has very quickly become one of my favourite contemporary (prog) acts, a rarity in itself. If you don't yet own most of the band's back catalogue and if you are struggling to find their earlier stuff this is definitely a release that will keep you very happy until the re-issues. For those who already have the band's albums it's still worth considering buying it to save yourself from having to do your own best-of CDs and because it offers you improved quality for some of the material.
This leaves us with those of you who haven't heard (of) this band yet. I'm extremely grateful to one of my DPRP mates for pushing me into checking this band out. This opened up so much amazing music for me, music that's exactly in the style I like. 3000 Days offers you an excellent chance to get to know the diversity of 'The Thief', from the long prog-rock adventures (Remember Us, Part One, Too Much Too Lose) and heavy exclamations of frustration (Wretched Soul, Shoot First) to the painfully beautiful melancholy (Clapham, I Will Light Up Your Eyes, Snowdrops) and excellent bittersweet pop-rock songs (All You Need To Know, The World I Always Dreamed Of). This compilation should be part of any prog rock lover's collection, just like this underrated band deserves a lot more recognition than the 25,000 albums they've sold in 3000 days. Check out the album sampler !
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Nosound – A Sense Of Loss
Tracklist: Some Warmth Into This Chill (7:55), Fading Silently (8:27), Tender Claim (8:07), My Apology (5:41), Constant Contrast (5:42), Winter Will Come (15:39)
When I read back my review of Nosound's second album Lightdark from just a year ago I still feel that I can stand by the rating I gave it. It is a beautiful atmospheric album that still gets regular spins in my CD player. However the other side of that positive rating is the fact that I feared that it would be very difficult for Nosound to match the quality of Lightdark on their new album A Sense Of Loss. After listening to the new album a lot I can say that this fear proved to be unnecessary. A Sense Of Loss is another Nosound album of great beauty.
That does however not mean that it is a "Lightdark 2"! There are changes. Nosound's musical development can even be compared with the development Talk Talk went through. With each album they became less electronic and by the time they released Spirit Of Eden all synths were gone. And that’s sort of what seems to happen with Nosound. I do not mean that Nosound sounds like Talk Talk, although the drums that start of the album do have that Spirit Of Eden/Colour Of Spring atmosphere. What I mean is that Giancarlo Erra opted for the “less is more” spirit. Less synths and more - as Erra mentions on the promo sheet – “a natural overall sound”. This means more emphasis on piano, acoustic guitar, drums, bass and vocals. In other words a more stripped down band performance. It also means that Nosound is more vulnerable because the quality of the songs has to be good. A large part of the keyboards on the earlier Nosound albums are replaced by a real string quartet from Rome; The Wood Quartet. They were especially formed for A Sense Of Loss. And what a great addition to the more stripped down arrangements of the songs they are! With these beautiful string arrangements they add a lot of emotion to the songs. Most of the songs on the album have a moody almost mournful atmosphere which fits the lyrical content of the tracks as most of the songs deal with leaving, letting go and breaking up. Some of the lyrics sound very personal. For instance on the beautiful My Apology Erra sings: “Surrounding walls you create. Do you see me? Please, this is my apology”.
Also My Apology along with Fading Silently and Constant Contrast all start of with acoustic guitar, piano and vocals but by adding drums and the string quartet in different parts of the songs they keep things varied. The first three songs are all about eight minutes so to keep the stripped down songs interesting enough you have to have good arrangement skills. And Nosound are becoming experts in arranging, because there is never a dull moment on the album. There are numerous times the songs really move me. The chorus of Fading Silently for instance is beautiful and the string quartet adds even more emotion. But do not expect an ambient CD. Despite this other approach the songs still sound powerful. And this is immediately apparent on album opener Some Warmth Into This Chill.
The closing fifteen minute Winter Will Come is an impressive way to end the album. It’s also a bit different from the other tracks on the album. If the other tracks leave you speechless and moved Winter Will Come will shake you up when in the chorus Erra adds distortion effects to his vocals and heavy electric guitars kick in. That makes you sit up again! After that the song gets quieter again, until the string quartet starts playing a beautiful melody that gives way to another dose of heavy guitars and fierce drumming. After another quiet section drummer Gigi Zito (whose excellent and versatile drumming plays an important role on the album) starts a marching drum rhythm backed by the string quartet and Erra’s vocals: “....I’m dying in your heart. The summer has gone and winter will come. It arrived.......and left us behind”
In little more than a year Nosound has released another beautiful and impressive album. And although this is not ‘happy’ music its unearthtly beauty makes A Sense Of Loss one of the finest releases of 2009 - IMHO. Buy!
Conclusion: 9.5 out of 10
Indukti - Idmen
Tracklist: Sansara (8:12), Tusan Homichi Tuvota (9:03), Sunken Bell (2:29), ...And Who's The God Now ?! (10:25), Indukted (6:51), Aemaet (8:25), Nemesis Voices (6:19), Ninth Wave (11:32)
Warning, this album is not for the weak minded. Not really knowing quite what to expect this album really struck me out of the blue. The cover looks like that of a horror movie, a bit like The Blairwitch Project and the music is of the same order. Idmen is the second album from this band that consists of five permanent members and uses the cooperation of a variety of guest musicians. Four guys that would be sufficient to become a standard rock band, Piotr Kocimski (guitar/saz), Maciej Jaskiewicz (guitar), Wawrzyniec Dramowicz (drums) and Andrzej Kaczynski (bass). The quintet is completed with Ewa Jablonska on violin and to make Indukti more out of the ordinary, besides saz (a lute-like instrument) and violin they also use the dulcimer and trumpet. All the main members of Indukti all instrumentalists, on the first album S.U.S.A.R. it was Mariusz Duda from Riverside who provided the vocals, whilst on this new album three vocalist appear. The music of Indukti is (if possible) best described as a combination of Tool, Riverside and Meshuggah, with many complex structures, ambient pieces and sometimes very heavy math rock parts that even reach the heaviness of Sepultura. Now some people might find it mindless noise but I for sure am intrigued by this progressive rock album.
Sansara starts heavy with complex rhythm structures and overlaying is a melodic violin. It is an instrumental track and remains heavy a long time until the last two minutes where it is more ambient and the violin is more dominant. The complexity never overpowers the song structure, but at times you can not tell if the drummer counts to five, four or seven or in which direction. Tusan Homichi Tuvota features the vocals of Nils Frykdahl (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum). What I can understand from the lyrics it is about a village that is hunted by an animal that eats the chickens and the rabbits. The vocals are very intriguing and suck you into the music, powerful heavy voice with some grunting. This song really captured me and it is impossible not to listen to it over and over again, you could almost say it is hunting me.
Sunken Bell is a short and easy piece of instrumental music that I usually do not appreciate but with Indukti it makes a welcome break. ...And Who's The God Now ?! starts with drumming from Wawrzyniec Dramovicz, for me his performance on this album is the best of this year. The vocals of Maciej Taff (Rootwater) are slowly increasing in power only to eventually erupt in heavy grunting. Just like Tusan Homichi Tuvota this song is also about ten minutes long and both songs keep their interest for the whole duration. The title ...And Who's The God Now ?! indicates some religious aspects and maybe this is why this song reminds me of the album Slaves For Life by Amaseffer, the vocal lines and the use of the saz give the same sound as that album.
Indukted sounds like Sepultura on their Roots Bloody Roots album, the same intensity and rawness. Complex parts with jazzy influences but also many heavy parts. Aemaet is also a continuation in that style but with more influences from strange instruments. Indukti by now sure won my heart, the music is very intense and nerve recking, I like it.
Nemesis Voices is the third and last song with vocals, this time from Michael Luginbuehl (Prisma). His voice is not as dark and heavy as the previously mentioned vocalists and Nemesis Voices is as close as Indukted gets to a "normal" song. Many Riverside influences can be found in this track. Ninth Wave is a very diverse song with slow parts where trumpet and violin provide soulful melodies, but of course these mellow parts interrupted by heavy parts with many complex schemes.
It is not often I am surprised by an album but Indukti sure did that in a very positive way, their music struck me and keeps me intrigued time after time and with each spin the complex structures amaze me. I was also amazed that this was their second album but for sure their debut album will soon be part of my collection. Nonetheless and though I am really amazed by this album, I can imagine that other people might label this album as mindless noise. Therefore I can recommend this album to fans of Riverside and Tool, others will do well to first try some samples.
This album should come with a warning sign, when caught by Idmen it will hunt you a long time.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Daevid Allen – Now Is The Happiest Time Of Your Life
Tracklist: Flamenco Zero (1:46), Why Do We Treat Ourselves Like We Do? (6:51), Tally And Orlando Meet The Cockpot Pixies (3:15), See You On The Moontower (5:40), Poet For Sale (3:26), Crocodile Nonsense Poem (0:59), Only Make Love If You Want To (5:32), I Am (11:08), Deya Goddess (6:42)
I have previously reviewed this album’s predecessor Good Morning and, although that one remains my favourite of Daevid Allen’s solo output, Now Is The Happiest Time Of Your Life runs it a close second, so I was delighted to receive this handsome and great sounding reissue.
Opening with a brace of tunes that stylistically very much follow on from the Good Morning album, the rest of the disc is more eclectic – acting as a primer for much of the rest of Allen’s oeuvre.
So, after the self-explanatory Flamenco Zero (which is indeed a solo Spanish guitar piece) and the floaty, dreamy, hippy song Why Do We Treat Ourselves Like We Do? with its world music flavours (including Tablas), we then get the childish fairy-tale storytelling of Tally & Orlando Meet The Cock-Pot Pixies in which Allen introduces his (then) young children to the Gong Mythology. It’s a twee curio, which some of you might find a bit embarrassing. (Incidentally, Orlando Allen – when grown-up – fetched up in the hybrid group Acid Mothers Gong alongside his father. I wonder if he finds this track amusing now?)
Things improve considerably for See You On The Moontower, a rollicking romp of a song, with a bounce-along rhythm and sprightly fiddle-playing - a bit out of character but great fun nevertheless.
Then we have a glimpse of Allen the poet, with two verses – the first set to music, the second just spoken. The best of these is the melancholic, bitter and angry rant Poet For Sale, whilst Crocodile Nonsense Poem is stream of consciousness, erm, nonsense.
The closing trilogy of tunes is Allen at his most musical and meditative, evoking dreamy atmospheres and spacey soundscapes. The lengthy I Am is a beautiful Gliss piece, sure to help you relax and forget your worries, whilst Deya Goddess, evoking the spirit of Allen’s Majorcan home, with a mix of acoustic and electric instruments, is just gorgeous. Spanish duo Euterpe are again along for the ride. I wish that their collaboration with Allen had been longer lasting, as it produced some beautiful music, of which this album contains quite a bit.
All in all, this remains one of Allen’s best records and would make a good intro to his work outside of Gong. If you loved the original vinyl album, you’ll love this smart CD reissue too – no extra material, but retaining the charm and eccentricity of the original work. Delightful!
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Various Artists - Progfest '97
Tracklist: The John Wetton Band In The Dead Of Night, Soul Survivor, Rendezvous 6.02, Battlelines; Le Orme Madre Mia/Prima Aqua, Folona & Serona; Arena Sirens; The Flower Kings Humanizzimo; Spock's Beard Go The Way You Go, Thoughts; Bigelf Neuropschopathic Eye; Sinkadus Attestupan
Reviewing not one but seven live performances that occurred more than twelve years ago is a little disconcerting when I consider all the events (both personal and otherwise) that have transpired since then. My now adult offspring were still at primary school in 1997, the twin towers were still casting their shadows over New York and the millennium celebrations was still three years away. In fact I was so not looking forward to the prospect that this DVD sat on the shelf for several weeks before I could muster up the enthusiasm to put it in the player. When I eventually did however what greeted me proved to be a very pleasant surprise indeed.
According to Voiceprint (and they should know) Progfest ’97 makes its DVD debut here having been previously released on video and as a double CD. The latter was reviewed by the DPRP back in 1998 and has also been recently rereleased. It benefits from additional tracks omitted from the DVD but for me the visual element more than compensates. Although picture quality is not the most pristine I’ve ever sat through its certainly very watchable whilst the live sound reproduction is clear and sharp. It was recorded over two evenings on Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th May at The Variety Arts Theater in Los Angeles, the regular home for Progfest between 1993 and 2000. On the face of it the international line-up was a pretty strong one although it’s worth remembering that Spock's Beard, The Flower Kings and Arena were all (relatively) new kids on the block at the time. John Wetton and Le Orme on the other hand were there by virtue of their grandfather rights whilst Bigelf and Sinkadus did their bit to entertain the early arrivals.
The running order on this release differs from the event itself and disappointingly doesn’t include the full set list from each band. Missing from The John Wetton Band’s performance for example is Starless, undermining Voiceprint’s suggestion that the DVD shows Wetton performing King Crimson material. What you do get however is two UK songs, one Asia tune and a solo track. They all find the bassist in fine voice with the only fly in the ointment for me being guitarist Billy Leisengang’s clumsy staccato intro and overblown soloing which makes little concession to the original tunes. Thankfully the dependable partnership of Martin Orford (keyboards) and Thomas Lang (drums) keep things on an even keel particularly during the faithful interpretation of the UK standards In The Dead Of Night and Rendezvous 6.02.
Despite their longevity Le Orme (the headline act from Friday evening) are a band I’ve yet to witness live and here they prove to be an absolute delight. They open with Madre Mia which features bassist and vocalist Aldo Tagliapietra sitting centre stage cross legged on a carpet strumming a sitar in true George Harrison fashion. Once he’s on his feet they move swiftly into Prima Aqua, a catchy instrumental with twin keyboardists Michele Bon and Francesco Sartori in playful mood. The highlight is the epic Folona & Serona, a genuine slice of Italian prog with equal measures of symphonic, grandeur and bombast. Even the obligatory drum solo form Michi Dei Rosi doesn’t outstay its welcome. They only downside is the hyper active stage cameraman who can’t make his mind up who to focus on.
Next up is Arena with only the one offering Sirens (from Pride) but an excellent opportunity nonetheless to witness the stellar line-up of Mick Pointer, Clive Nolan, John Jowitt, John Mitchell and Paul Wrightson in all their bombastic glory. Wrightson’s melodramatic delivery (standing like a prisoner chained to the stage) does full justice to the songs pomp and drama with suitably gothic organ from Nolan. A pity then that during the 15 minute performance the cameras capture only fleeting glimpses of the keyboardist whilst Pointer for his part is only visible from the neck down. Jowitt fans on the otherhand will welcome the first rate footage of the bassists animated stage presence.
Following Arena’s (intentionally) dour stage wear, The Flower Kings look a little out of time and place in their multicoloured hippy shirts. The audience however is treated to a majestic Humanizzimo with Roine Stolt’s soaring solos providing the best guitar work thus far. Tomas Bodin’s keyboards sound grand and orchestral and wisely positioned stage front he doesn’t suffer the same camera shy fate as Nolan. An impressively fast and tricky section driven by Jamie Salazar’s rat-ta-tat snare sound features a really neat guitar duet between Stolt and Hasse Fröberg.
Thankfully both Spock's Beard songs included on the CD make it onto the DVD (albeit in reverse order) as they are easily the most impressively performed of the entire event. As they launch into Go The Way You Go you may well ask who the familiar looking guy is with shoulder length hair performing centre stage. Why it’s none other than a youthful Neal Morse with brother Alan to his left providing some truly inspirational guitar work looking anything but the archetypal guitar hero in his baggy shorts. To his right, and in contrast to Neal’s own diminutive solo keyboard, Ryo Okumoto wins the prize for the most extravagant rig of the festival. A stunning Thoughts again finds the camera work all at sea as it remains fixed on a bemused Dave Meros leaving Nick D'Virgilio mostly unacknowledged during the tricky Gentle Giant inspired harmonies he shares with Alan and Neal.
Fellow Los Angeles band Bigelf have their work cut-out following the mighty Beard (who they opened for during the actual event). Despite the bands youthfulness Neuropschopathic Eye proves to be old school prog in the vein of 21st Century Schizoid Man era King Crimson and The Nice. Even Damon Fox’s vintage keyboard rig looks like something out of the ark. Sweden’s Sinkadus also have a retro feel with the free flowing Attestupan having something of early Camel about it mainly to Linda Johansson’s lyrical flute playing. Unfortunately her flat and toneless vocals fail to match her instrumental abilities. The rest of the band certainly know their stuff especially the superb Fredrik Karlsson and Robert Sjöback respectively providing the colourful keyboards and tasteful guitar. It ends on a grand note sounding not unlike Italy’s CAP with bassist Michael Stolt this time providing the (more agreeable) vocals.
In conclusion watching Progfest ‘97 proves to be a very enjoyable way of passing a couple of hours with the limited exposure for each band meaning that none outstay their welcome. And three at the very least (Arena, The Flower Kings and Spock's Beard) left me wanting more. Another point in its favour is the otherwise scarce video footage of these bands currently available from the 1990’s. The DVD packaging is basic with no booklet or pics to speak of although the inner case does list the line-up for each band. Unfortunately several names are misspelt including no less than three members of TFK’s and the festival dates are also incorrect.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Midas – Beyond The Clear Air
Midas – 25th Anniversary Concert & Early Rare Tracks
Tracklist: Line – Line II (11:24), Drums Solo - Through My Heart (7:37), The Slough Of Despond (14:41), On The Earth - Gaillarde (3:43), La Festa (5:23), Toccata (5:46), Illusional Landscape (8:21), Knights In The Night (5:42), Views Of My Childhood (5:58)
Musea and Japanese record company Poseidon have partnered up to jointly release these two albums by Japanese progressive rock band Midas - not to be confused with the British band of the same name who have a big following in Japan, but who purvey a more traditional form of rock influenced by the likes of Muse, The Mars Volta, The Strokes and The Foo Fighters. No, this Midas are influenced by the keyboard-led symphonic rock bands of the early 1970s: Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Rick Wakeman-era Yes are the ones that most readily come to mind. Also, perhaps because of the extensive use of the electric violin as a front-line rock instrument, the comparison with Curved Air is inevitable, but to these ears the band’s soundscape is closer to that of contemporary Finnish band Overhead (substituting the flute for violin and increasing its use) – ie, more systematically melodic and softer.
Credit, then, to these companies for bringing these albums to our attention as the music is definitely worthy of wide dissemination. The lyrics are sung in Japanese but, despite the lack of understanding, this does not hamper the enjoyment of the music as the vocals are well sung by the singer and violinist Eigo Utoh: he is able to carry a rich melody with his singing and this complements the music well in the more symphonic passages. Utoh is the “star” of this band – certainly to progressive rock fans it is his violin which adds that extra dimension of sonic colour that differentiates Midas’s music from that of similar bands. It is a rich texture that adds much beauty to this music, whether in the symphonic passages or in others where the band flirt with pacey, driving rock styles, as well as with folk. How much there is of traditional Japanese music influence in Midas’s music I cannot tell: certainly there are motifs recognisable as folk or folk-rock that are used, but they could just as easily have been derived from Western folk idioms. All very pleasant though!
The other highly enjoyable element was the keyboard and synthesizer playing palette, which are perfectly integrated with the violin. Eisho Lynn plays a range of keyboards and synthesizers and always seems able to choose the right sound for the occasion. Gorgeous! Guitar is also used, but rarely as a front-line instrument: it is the array of keyboards and the violin that hold centre-stage; basically, for the guitar in a normal band, read violin here. It works.
Neo-prog is actually the most apt label for these two albums, as the band was not formed until the 1980s. Beyond The Clear Air dates from 1988, whereas the early tracks from the 25th Anniversary Concert & Early Tracks album predate that by a few years. The earliest tracks, recorded live in 1983, are an arrangement of a Bach toccata and Illusional Landscape. These earliest tracks are the most derivative – obviously so in the case of Toccata! – but also from a soundscape point of view; additionally, the electric violin had yet to be introduced and so the band's effective trademark is absent. The Beyond The Clear Air recordings are much more assured compositionally and stylistically. Green Forest is a bonus track added to the original 1988 album and dates from 1991. The 25th Anniversary Concert & Early Tracks is newly issued: the first five tracks were recorded in Osaka on 19th October 2008. Midas disbanded after the release of the Beyond The Clear Air album, reforming again in the early 1990s, and they have released three studio and a live album since then, all available through Musea.
All fans of symphonic prog and its later neo-prog derivative would enjoy the music and at least one of these albums is worth purchasing. The better one for an initial outlay would be Beyond The Clear Air: the band put in a polished performance, the soundscape is lush and varied, alternating between pacey rock and melodic passages, the production sound is very good and the bonus track fits in seamlessly with the four original tracks. Whilst the 25th Anniversary Concert & Early Tracks is enjoyable, the quality of the last four early tracks – and their sound recording – is not up to that of the other material: so possibly is for completists only.
Beyond The Clear Air : 8 out of 10
25th Anniversary Conert & Early Rare Tracks : 6 out of 10
Siddhartha – Trip To Innerself
Tracklist: A Trip To Innerself (10:15), The Explorar (6:51), Desert (3:30), Baroue (3:57), Nervous Breakdown (11:51), Beyond Destiny (9:33), Distant Cry 6:42), Black (8:45)
This is the first progressive album from Turkey that I’ve ever heard. There are probably more progressive bands from that country but if you realize this album was recorded in the summer of 1998 and mastered in New York some 10 years later, you can appreciate it hasn’t been easy for Siddhartha to get their music released. Finally this new American label decided to take a chance. The line-up is Özgür Kurcan (guitars, vocals), Ege Madra (guitars), Ulas Akin (bass), Völkan Yildirim (keys), Orkun Öker (keys) and Kaan Sezgin (drums).
The title track is instrumental and the music is in the vein of Hawkwind, but these guys bring their own cultural inheritance to the table with a more modern sound. Lots of psychedelic influences but still powerful and melodic music, played surprisingly well. In the second track, undoubtedly there are some southern European folk influences and a guest vocalist with a pleasant voice. Desert is a track with an atmosphere from the mid sixties; the use of solely acoustic guitars and the dreamy voice of Kurcan adding to this laid back feel. Baroque is at first a beautiful symphonic piece in the vein of German prog bands like Janus and Anyone’s Daughter, while the second part features the same melody but a third keyboard player is added to enrich the sound even more.
There are lots of echoing guitar sounds at the start of track four, Nervous Breakdown, followed by instrumental music in the vein of early Eloy. A bit more psychedelic with lots of soloing, mainly on one chord and after extensive laughter, a short vocal piece and then back to guitar solo’s based on probably the three most used chords in pop & rock music. The same Eloy sound returns in Beyond Destiny and Kurcan too, with his dreamy voice. Original changes in key are quite okay and prevent the listener from losing touch. Although there are nice orchestrations and a piano, I can’t hear the necessity of a third keyboard player, while the same three chords mentioned before are used to play all guitar solo’s on.
Distant Cry reminds of the more psychedelic pieces by Porcupine Tree. The weeping electric guitar and spacey keyboards emphasize the fact the music is meant to be psychedelic! A beautiful symphonic last part with lots of keyboard sounds as well as piano. The last track of the album is sung by female vocalist Nil Karaibrahimgil, certainly not the best I’ve heard. Half singing, half speaking the words as in a prayer, while the background music is psychedelic as well as somewhat ‘underground’ with some south European style influenced piano soloing, followed by wah-wah guitars. The Eloy sound returns once more and this time spoken words by a male voice. After a short silence the album is rounded off by a beautiful symphonic theme, which we heard earlier on the album.
Overall an interesting album because it shows progressive music is alive almost in any corner of the world! A nice addition to ones collection for all those interested in collecting prog from all over the world, but as well for fans of prog in the old fashioned psychedelic way.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Galea – Theo’s Drive-In
Tracklist: Drop (4:16), Static (4:10), Parentheses (3:55), Downpour (3:52), Rescue Me (3:28), Partition (5:01), Seventy Three (4:10), Split (3:45), Pressure Desert (3:25), Lift Me Up (5:03), Departure (3:59), Beyond (4:48)
My interest was piqued in Galea when, checking out their MySpace site, I saw they were supporting the (should have been) legendary Galactic Cowboys on a few select reunion shows in their home state of Texas. For those not in the know, the Cowboys were a, in my mind criminally underrated, band from the same production stable as King’s X who existed throughout the nineties and had a sound not unlike a more metallic version of their more famous peers, with (in their earlier days at least) a pronounced spacey, psychedelic flavour.
Galea, a husband and wife ‘power duo’, if you like, have clearly taken a leaf out of the Cowboy’s musical book, as their sound is certainly not a million miles away – although its perhaps equally influenced by US power-pop outfits such as The Posies. This is even more understandable when you see that the Cowboys’ erstwhile drummer, Alan Doss, not only engineered and mixed the album, but pounds the skins as well.
Sonically, this is raw and punchy, whilst the songs are generally mid-paced and lead by some powerful riffing. That’s not to say that melody is neglected – there’s plenty of pleasing, chiming guitar work here, whilst the duo, Chris and Mary Howell, provide some fine harmony vocals. Chris’s voice actually reminds me a little of King’s X’s Ty Tabor.
The songs that make up the first half of the album are generally pretty strong and catchy, the highlights being the driving opener Drop and the sprightly Rescue Me. A criticism that could be levelled with this half of the album is that its rather one-paced and one dimensional in sound; however, when they do mix things up a bit on the second part of the album – such as on the dirge-like Split and the vaguely country influenced Departure – the results are underwhelming and the album rather runs out of steam. Points off also for including an annoying ‘hidden track’ which appears a few minutes after you think the album has ended – seriously guys, that’s so1990’s.
I’ve kept this review pretty brief as, as you’ve probably noticed, the actual prog quotient here is minimal. However I think the album merits inclusion on the site as I know many prog fans have a soft spot for power trios such as King’s X, and this album, for all its faults, is likely to appeal to many of those fans. Galea are certainly a work in progress at the moment but there is definitely something here that makes me think they are capable of better things in the future.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Aaen Anima - Aaen Anima [2EP]
EP 1: Pýcha A Svéhlavost [12:36] Pýcha a Svéhlavost (Live Edit) ~ To See the Fifth Dimension, Dialogue, Aaen Eyja, Pýcha a Svéhlavost Nikdy Nepředcházejí Pád / Pride and Free Will Never Precede the Fall, Ethera, My Ancient Life In Egypt, Sentence 7, Náklonnost k Zvířatům A Stromům, Lhostejnost K Lidem / Affinity To Animals And Trees, Indifference To Mankind (12:36)
EP 2:Nikdy Nepředcházejí Pád [28:21] Nikdy Nepředcházejí (Unplugged) [Infinity / Lipfinity (Nekonečno – Rty – Nekonečno], Jdi Do (Svého) Středu / Va à (Ton) Centre, Náklonnost K Přírodě, Lhostejnost K Lidem / Affinity To Nature, Indifference To Mankind; Aaen Eyja, Walking Through The Midnight Sun, Ethera, My Ancient Life In Egypt] (13:18), Pád (Edit) [Infinity / Lipfinity (Nekonečno – Rty – Nekonečno) Jdi Do (Svého) Středu / Va à (Ton) Centre, Náklonnost K Přírodě, Lhostejnost K Lidem / Affinity To Nature, Indifference To Mankind; Aaen Eyja, Walking Through The Midnight Sun, Ethera, My Ancient Life In Egypt, Ethera] (15:03)
Any aficionado of fine dining will tell you that it’s all in the presentation - including but not limited to the restaurant’s atmosphere, the shiny silverware, the crisp, colorful tablecloth; and a bottle of vintage wine. And of course let’s not forget the rainbow of colourful ingredients and cornucopia of varied textures in the appetizers, salad, soup, main entrée, and dessert.
From that standpoint it seems as though my “dining” experience of Czech duo Aaen Anima has been less than memorable. They’re not prog and lean more to mostly acoustic avant-garde, certainly not overstaying their position at my reviewing table.
The band has been around since 2002 in one configuration or another, and has retained its current line-up since 2006. The simply named “Aaen” handles vocals, electric and acoustic guitar; and “Saaashky” plays acoustic guitar and violin.
My appetite for this band went quickly downhill upon a cursory sifting through what is apparently the packaging for their latest effort Aaen Anima 2. It was recorded in 2008 and has now been “released” as a 2 EP affair, with each of the two EPs each burned home-made style onto CDs. “Ahem, waiter, this food is burned?” The sad excuse for a booklet that came with the EPs is nothing more than photocopied paper with a scribbled track listing and credits, chicken scratched among lines and a few things crossed out. So I knew I would taste some funky chicken upon listening to the EPs, with no celebratory dance to follow. The track listing is Czech in some places and English in others, and while the scribbled Czech handwriting was difficult to make out I was relieved to find a more legible track listing on the band’s website.
As there are only three lengthy tracks spread across the two EPs, I shall touch upon all three. Pýcha A Svéhlavost (Live Edit) is the sole track of the first EP. Like the other two tracks it is divided into subsections. And while the overall absence of any understandable concept or theme based lyrics is prevalent on Aaen Anima 2, as I listened to Pýcha A Svéhlavost (Live Edit) there does appear to be a sequence of sections to the music, which is mostly minimal acoustic guitar from Saaashky interplayed with some noise-based electric guitar from Aaen. His somewhat raspy and somewhat screamed vocals make their way into the picture as well. If you stretched your imagination you could probably come up with early Pink Floyd as a pointer. The song fades out with a clip at the end.
The first track on the second EP is a rambling solo acoustic guitar piece. I’m not sure which member of the duo plays this piece as he is not specifically credited. It is rather tolerable, but a waste of talent in this setting. The sound quality is horrid; it sounds like it was recorded in a parking garage with lots of tape hiss in the background.
The second track on the second EP is simply entitled Pád (Edit) and is basically more of what is heard on the first EP.
While Aaen Anima 2 leaves a sour taste with me, perhaps it is a taste that is best acquired by the avant-garde community. The duo would possibly be easier on my musical palette in the future if they were to bring in some musicians to provide the elements they have incorporated into their work in the past, such as bass, keyboards, clarinet, and programming.
While perusing the section of the band’s website that offers their music for download, I noticed that their previous recordings have front cover art that appears to be somewhat more professional than the front cover art that came with Aaen Anima 2. I would strongly suggest to the duo to once again put together a front cover of some artistic nature that will make a better presentation than scribbled handwriting. With that said, I realize that along with the qualities of being honest, basic and down-to-earth within the DIY ethic often come budgetary constraints. This is where Microsoft Word may come to the rescue. If you are adventurous and want to download free MP3s of the band’s music - CLICK HERE.
Regrettably, I cannot tip the waiter.
Conclusion: 3 out of 10