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2009 : VOLUME 15
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REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:


Saga – The Human Condition
Saga – The Human Condition
Country of Origin:Canada
Format:CD
Record Label:InsideOut
SPV
Catalogue #:IOMCD 310
SPV 28072 CD
Year of Release:2009
Time:47:16
Info:Saga
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: The Human Condition (6:51), Step Inside (4:56), Hands Of Time (5:29), Avalon (4:48), A Number With A Name (4:51), Now Is Now (4:12), Let It Go (4:47), Crown Of Thorns (5: 46), You Look Good To Me (5:22)

When Michael Sadler announced his departure after 30 years of fronting Saga, many, if not all Saga-fans must have thought it would be the end of the band. Brothers Ian and Jim Crichton plus Jim ‘Daryl’ Gilmour prove all of them wrong! With Brian Doerner on the drums, recording but not touring just yet, they started a search for a new singer. They found Rob Moratti, frontman and composer in another Canadian band ‘Final Frontier’, giving up his former band to bring new élan to Saga and record a new studio album. Moratti, living in Toronto, decided to pick up this huge challenge to step into Sadler’s shoes. The result of the combined efforts is The Human Condition

An ambient atmosphere with spacey keyboard sounds lead into an almost entirely instrumental opening, with dazzling guitars and keys playing ultra fast loops and solo’s. Multiple overdubbed voices by Rob, with him only singing “Running From The Human Condition” whilst the end of the song seems to end in the same way it began. Yet another piece of top class instrumental music by these progrock veterans!

Except for the first track all the other songs fall within the time limit of 4-6 minutes and therefore perfectly suitable to memorize and sing along - but… it’s not that easy: Saga apparently don’t want to became an AOR act and wants to remain true to its progressive roots as well. So in Step Inside, again with a keyboard dominated opening, is followed by fairly heavy & dark riffs and the clear, clean midrange voice of Rob Moratti who can be heard in full. A ‘shivers down my spine’ beautiful chorus in another key (it changes several times in fact) make this track one of my most loved ones. There’s some awesome guitar playing by Ian too by the way.

Hands Of Time is a rather slow song, more pop than rock and Rob shows the quite impressive range of his voice. An up tempo nice pop/rock song, a bit like Arena, with rich keyboard layers and we hear Jim’s vocals too. Some of the keyboard sounds like bagpipes and Ian showcases his remarkable, characteristic sound again. The old Saga-sound returns in A Number With A Name, but there are a few bits where the music comes close to Gentle Giant.

A delightful tune with great harmonies by Rob and nice bass pedals in Now Is Now, is again a song with several changes in key - so more progressive and less “easy to sing along”. Ian’s heavier riffs, the trademark of Saga appear to lead to a tune in the vein of the songs on an album like Full Circle but the different vocal lines and a totally different voice give the music another dimension. The weird, seemingly out of tune piano/keyboard is another difference with the older stuff, while the pumping bass and the orchestrations give Ian the opportunity to excel once more.

Crown Of Thorns is another song with a great variety unlike ordinary rock or AOR songs. Still it has a lovely catchy chorus and a breathtaking guitar and synth solo. Sadly though we have reached the last track already, You Look Good To Me. With its bass pedals and fairly simple structure, it seems like a pretty straight forward track but, yet another interlude and the ultimate keyboard wizardry by Gilmour followed by a short solo from Ian.

It isn’t fair to compare this line-up with the line-up with Sadler and Negus and for the older fans it might be advisable to listen first. Being an old fan myself however, I cannot draw any other conclusion than both Moratti and Saga passed their first test. Saga did well to avoid a singer trying to sound like Mike Sadler and I think they made a very good choice. The saga WILL continue, it’s different but still very solid and sounding vital & fresh! Check them out live because the European tour is about to start!

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

MENNO VON BRUCKEN FOCK



Echolyn – Cowboy Poems Free
Echolyn – Cowboy Poems Free
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Just For Kicks
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2000/2008
Time:59:14
Info:Echolyn
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Texas Dust (5:16), Poem #1 (1:33), Human Lottery (5:32), Gray Flannel Suits (4:47), Poem #2 (0:59), High As Pride (6:45), American Vacation Tune (5:18), Swingin' the Ax (3:15), 1729 Broadway (6:01), Poem #3 (1:50), 67 Degrees (5:21), Brittany (6:34), Poem #4 (1:30), Too Late For Everything (4:33)

In 2000, four years after their previous release When The Sweet Turns Sour and five years after the classic As The World album, Echolyn resurfaced with one of their most accessible recordings to date. Bassist Tom Hyatt was absent on this occasion but essentially the line-up of Christopher Buzby (keyboards, backing vocals), Brett Kull (guitars, lead and backing vocals), Paul Ramsey (drums and percussion) and Ray Weston (bass, lead and backing vocals) remained intact with additional support from Jordan Perlson (drums, percussion). More than eight years on and Cowboy Poems Free has been dusted down and given a fresh lick of paint by way of a sparkling re-mastered sound and a stylish digi-pack sleeve featuring all new artwork. Not only is it a welcome upgrade but it also provides a convenient excuse for the DPRP to reflect on one of the better releases from the turn of the millennium.

In his review of the original, Remco Schoenmakers gave a pretty good account of each individual track which I won’t try to emulate here, save to say that the band produced a refreshing collection of songs to kick start the decade. They’re style of progressive rock to my ears remains typically American, i.e. a skilful blend of chorus friendly tunes, rich vocals and compelling but not over tricky instrumental work. A key ingredient of the bands sound and appeal for me is the dual lead vocals and song writing team of Kull and Weston. I’m a huge fan of Kull’s expressive voice in particular which is reminiscent of Justin Currie, lead singer and songwriter with the excellent Del Amitri. Style wise, whilst they draw on several influences they forge their own unique sound which in hindsight includes Spock’s Beard at their most tuneful.

From the energetic but melodic guitar and organ driven opener Texas Dust to the poignant closer Too Late For Everything Echolyn remain inventive but always instantly accessible throughout. Highlights include the busy rocker Human Lottery with its fiery instrumental interplay and the catchy chorus laden American Vacation Tune and Gray Flannel Suits. The latter has more than a hint of Supertramp about it. The mellow acoustic led 1729 Broadway on the other hand is very reminiscent of Porcupine Tree at their most reflective. My personal favourite however is the acoustic backed High As Pride with its lush harmonies, neat slide guitar work and stirring synth solo.

This time around the lyrics have been clearly reproduced in the CD booklet revealing a literary scope that evokes an American way of life from times past. Particularly emotive is the graphic account of war and the individual struggle captured so movingly in songs like 67 Degrees, Brittany and Too Late For Everything. Given that the words are from the pen of four writers, Brett Kull, Ray Weston, Greg Kull, and Chris Buzby it’s remarkable how seamlessly they mesh into a cohesive concept. Like their other releases, Remco’s rating of the original album guaranteed a DPRP recommendation and with this makeover ensuring that it sounds as fresh and bright as it ever did I see no reason to buck that trend.

Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10

GEOFF FEAKES



Kataya - Canto Obscura
Kataya - Canto Obscura
Country of Origin:Finland
Format:CD
Record Label:Presence Records
Catalogue #:PRECD-008
Year of Release:2008
Time:47:16
Info:Kataya
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Opening Marsh (4:19), Lento (3:00), Ahava (4:01), On A Moose (4:40), Valaistu (2:58), Putkivaara (7:16), Avojaloin (4:14), Canto Obscura (3:18), Mindfrost (3:19), Karahka (3:51), Lento Reprise (1:07), Koera (5:13)

Kataya is a folk-prog-ish ambient band from Finland and Canto Obscura is their debut album. The band consists of three members and this album features some top class guest appearances. The inspiration for Canto Obscura comes from the deep wild forests of Finland. The ambient music sounds very natural and warm, mostly instrumental but at times beautiful vocals, no lyrics by the way, many oh's, ah's and yeah's. Nowadays many ambient albums contain industrial loops and noises so it's very nice to hear an ambient album that still mainly uses real instruments.

Opening Marsh sets the mood with acoustic guitar and warm keyboard sounds. Nature sounds have been added to amplify the mood and the electric guitar is mixed in perfectly with the acoustic sounds. Lento is more lively and features beautiful female vocals by jazz vocalist Johanna Iivanainen, a resemblance to Great Gig In The Sky is a bit far fetched but I could not find anything that comes closer.

Ahava has a long acoustic intro and then nicely transcends into a guitar tune as if it were the soundtrack to a Western movie. The beginning of the song is very mellow but the end is more dramatic when the female vocals kick in. On A Moose features a more up-tempo drum rhythm and after a guitar solo the rhythm stops and the song continues in a very ambient and mellow vein. This song reminds me a bit of Quidam.

Valaistu is the playground for the soprano sax of Linda Fredriksson with very beautiful melodies in a steady jazz rhythm. Putkivaara is over seven minutes and varies a lot with many organ sounds and some great guitar solos. Like the majority of the album this song is ambient but some parts of this song really rock. Avojaloin is a great compact song with a lot of progressive influences, beautiful melodies and lengthy solos, though not overdoing it on that part.

One might assume that the title track will be an epic song with many changes. Wrong - at just over three minutes this is a nice song with some Vangelis sounds at the end. Mindfrost contains a bit of an industrial rhythm I was so happy to miss. This song features spoken words and it reminded me of Jean Michel Jarre. Needless to say this is not my favourite song but it is also not a song I skip. Karahka brings back the ambient forest sound of the opening of the album. This is the sound of Kataya that I like best - it really is distinctive for their music. For some reason the melodies of Lento are revisited in Lento Reprise accompanied by a nervous rhythm, a bit unnecessary and thankfully only one minute of length. Koera is a huge sounding end piece that starts very ambient but ends with very dramatic sounding vocals.

This album accidentally crossed my path and I am happy about that. Kataya have created a great piece of music and while listening to this album you can feel yourself walking through the woods of Finland. This album never becomes boring because of over stretched soundscapes, all parts of which are perfectly balanced. Ambient music is a strange thing, you either love it or you fall asleep. For me many albums fall into the second category but Canto Obscura falls into the first one. Certainly worth a DPRP-recommendation and I ask people who do not always fancy ambient music to listen to the beautiful music of Kataya, you might switch - just like me.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

EDWIN ROOSJEN



Nathan Mahl - Exodus
Nathan Mahl - Exodus
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Unicorn Digital
Catalogue #:UNCR-5058
Year of Release:2008
Time:59:28
Info:Nathan Mahl
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Burning Bush (7:20), Let My People Go (6:06), The Plagues (6:21), The Parting (7:38), Down From The Mountain (7:25), 40 Years (7:14), The Last Climb (2:50), Canaan (5:14), Zipporah’s Farewell (2:50), The Price Of Freedom (6:30)

Despite perhaps suggesting it, Nathan Mahl is not the name of a solo artist, but rather the slightly unusual moniker of a progressive rock band from Quebec, based around the talents of keyboard player Guy LeBlanc, who readers may have encountered playing with Camel in the early part of the twenty first century and on their (final?) album A Nod And A Wink in 2002. Nathan Mahl originally formed in 1982, although following their 1983 debut Parallel Eccentricities, there was a long period without any studio recordings. LeBlanc returned, with a new line-up (and one that has continued to fluctuate ever since), in 1999 with The Clever Use Of Shadows, which appears to be something of a fan favourite. The next few years saw the release of the three volumes of the conceptual Heretic trilogy, before the original line-up reconvened in 2003 for a re-recording of The Clever Use.., entitled Shadows Unbound. Since then there’s been sporadic live activity, and a recording for the Finnish Prog fanzine Colossus’s Odyssey project, but Exodus represents the first full album of new material by the band for some six years.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given its name, Exodus is a concept album, comprising what the band describe as ‘a loose interpretation of certain events that are described in the second book of the bible’. LeBlanc and Co appear to have taken an approach that shows these events from different character’s view points. I’ve seen Nathan Mahl described primarily as a ‘prog-fusion’ outfit, but whilst this label might have adequately covered their earlier dabblings, it doesn’t really fully convey the wide range of musical styles employed on Exodus to tell this historical tale.

The album kicks off with Burning Bush, which begins as a piano-led ballad with vocals, before a lengthy instrumental section which is probably one of the most fusion-y (and strongest) on the album, LeBlanc getting to deliver plenty of groovy Moog and Hammond solo’s whilst guitarist Tristian Vaillancourt adopts an appropriately Eastern feel to his playing and bassist Guy Dagenais drives things forward with a funky bassline.

Unfortunately the album takes something of a dip over the next few songs, with the band diving into heavy rock territory – not something that suits them that well, to be truthful. Let My People Go has a vaguely bluesy feel and is agreeable enough for a while, but the onslaught of widdly solo’s Vaillancourt delivers are more Yngwie Malmsteen than David Gilmour, and seem to go on forever. The Plague kicks off as a folk-orientated piece – the kind where you could call the violins that crop up ‘fiddles’ – but again it becomes overly dominated by Vaillancourt’s histrionics. The Parting is more of an 80’s style AOR rocker – the vocals are pretty feeble, but the song is partly saved by some quality keyboard work and a soaring, more melodic solo by Vaillancourt near the track’s conclusion. Down From The Mountain brings some funk elements back, and features the dodgiest ‘rap’ since Rush’s Roll The Bones – presumably a tongue-in-cheek effort? The song does have a decent rhythmic base and a good chorus, but like all these rockier tracks is rather handicapped by a production that sounds thin and compresses much of the guitar work.

From this point on, however, the quality of the music improves substantially as Nathan Mahl explore other musical territories. 40 Years is dedicated to Camel mainman Andy Latimer; you might think that gives some sort of a clue as to the music contained within and sure enough - following an introductory section that is almost the prog equivalent of a prison worksong, all gently lumbering rhythms and mournful chanted vocals – we’re soon into classic late-period Camel territory, with Vaillancourt’s solo’s far more in keeping with the general style of Nathan Mahl’s music, echoing those of both Latimer and David Gilmour. Vocally it’s also the strongest track on the album. The short The Last Climb is a semi-acoustic ballad with some passionate vocals, echoing the lyrical theme – the guitar playing here edges into classical territory. Next up are a couple of instrumentals – Canaan is an enjoyable romp which sees the band at their most neo/symphonic, with LeBlanc finally getting to let rip and show off his full inventory of modern and classic keyboards, whilst Zipporah’s Farewell is a more melancholy, ethereal piece. This leads us to the finale, and thankfully the album goes out on a high note with The Price Of Freedom. Introduced by a sublime melodic guitar solo, this mellow, mid paced number benefits again from a fine organ solo from LeBlanc, with the keyboard work gelling well with the violin playing of guest musician David Peterson. It sounds like some of the lyrics were squeezed in to fit with the music rather than vice versa, but that’s a small criticism in the scheme of things.

Overall, Exodus is a hard album to rate. As I’ve stated above, there’s plenty of gems, particularly in the latter half of the album, but the band’s take on hard rock, which dominates the first half of the album, is really not to my taste (and this from a big hard rock fan). Overall there’s plenty here for many readers of this site, and there’s enough for me to want to investigate their earlier albums. The news that Vaillancourt has left the band since the recording of Exodus may mean a different direction is taken on the new album, which is apparently already in the making, and I’ll be interested to here what Nathan Mahl come up with next.

Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10

TOM DE VAL



Level Pi - Electronic Sheep
Level Pi - Electronic Sheep
Country of Origin:Germany
Format:CD
Record Label:Musea/Dreaming
Catalogue #:DR 8464
Year of Release:2008
Time:65:26
Info:Level Pi
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: String Theorie (15:24), S.E.T.I. (8:44), Elfenstaub (8:21), Dishwasher (10:18), Traumphase (6:08), Theta Null (16:31)

Germany's Level Pi (aka Uwe Cremer) release second album Electronic Sheep, the follow up 2006's Entrance. This time round, the album has been self released by Cremer and is available directly from the artist as a custom made CDR. As with the debut album, Electronic Sheep is inspired by the more ambient side of Krautrock, particularly the keyboard dominated artists like Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze, the style of which is prominent throughout. Largely focusing on dreamy, atmospheric music, the opening track, String Theorie, resonates with the spirit of Pink Floyd's Shine On You Crazy Diamond, albeit without the guitar and vocals. Very relaxing and, at times, almost hypnotic the waves of sounds dominate until beyond the half-way point when the style becomes more Tangerine Dream like with a discernable melody pushed along by an interesting drum rhythm. This second part is heavily layered with each layer being quite distinct and easily followed by the listener but at the same time combining and interacting well with the other layers to provide an interesting amalgamation. Despite being over 15 minutes long I think the track fades out too soon!

S.E.T.I., which just in case any of you are unaware stands for search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, begins at a slow pace with a simple beat overlaid with cosmic spacey sounds. After about three minutes things change somewhat as several interference patterns emerge disrupting the flow until eventually snatches of disembodied voices are heard. So looks like the search was successful! The conclusion of the track melts smoothly into Elfenstaub, which is a bit more lively and has a flavour of Jean Michel Jarre about it. Dishwasher uses a looped recording of, you guessed it, a dishwasher as a basic rhythm. The piece is more experimental and avant garde, although didn't really hold together too well for me, rather too abstract for my tastes. With Traumphase we are back to a more regular which, as the title suggests, is rather more dreamy in nature, drifting along with the minimum of fuss. Again, a bit sparse for my liking, but ideal for relaxation or when unobtrusive music is required. Final track Theta Null is another lengthy composition clocking in at sixteen and a half minutes. Another slow burner, the first six minutes continue the slow atmospheric vibe before a lively beat starts up and more strident keyboard sounds are utilised. Drums are introduced alongside the electronic beat as the tempo increases giving the opportunity for some wilder sounds to be added. The final part of the song reverts back to the slower structure which draws the album to a close with an amazingly long fadeout.

Electronic Sheep is rather a mixed bag with the opening and closing tracks being more amenable to the reviewer who is generally not that fond of electronica and keyboard albums. What Cremer has come up with is a decent enough effort that is bold enough to experiment with different aspects of electronic music and present it in a more 'proggy' manner. On the whole though, the laidback and ambient manner is rather too low key for my tastes with the music disappearing into the background too easily. Certainly stylish and accomplished for what it is and fans of the artists referred to in this review will find lots to enjoy within the hour plus of music on this CD. Others should be a bit wary, although the excellent String Theorie is certainly worth checking out.

NB: Shortly after this review was published Level Pi signed with the Musea/Dreaming label. The album was re-issued and now features new artwork (as above) and a bonus track entitled Sonnenwind.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10

MARK HUGHES



Estygya – Los Ojos Verdes
Estygya – Los Ojos Verdes
Country of Origin:Spain
Format:CD
Record Label:Margen Records
Catalogue #:0108/2
Year of Release:2007
Time:51.59
Info:Estygya
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Preludio (2:10), Boceto De Un Cuadro (4:04), La Caceria (6:25), La Fuente De Los Alamos I (3:12), La Fuente De Los Alamos II (11:33), La Fuente De Los Alamos III (3:43), Los Ojos Verdes (19:42), Epilogo (1:04)

Estygya (from Barcelona) is another promising new Spanish prog band (along Senogul, Taifa, Neverness and Albatros) that sounds very fresh and dynamic on their debut album entitled Los Ojos Verdes. Released in 2007 on the Spanish label Margen Music who also hosts other interesting Spanish bands like Zyclope, Onza and Pi2.

Most of the music in the 8 songs is rock-oriented, (often Metallica and mid-Seventies Rush come to my mind), but also delivering a lot of variety and very tasteful colourings: from dreamy with wonderful strings and flute, to bombastic with choir-Mellotron-like arrangements in Preludio; to the orchestral keyboards with twanging guitar, warm Spanish vocals and a slow rhythm accompanied by theatrical vocals and again those majestic choir-Mellotron-like arrangements in La Fuente De Los Alamos Part I; then the dreamy, with acoustic rhythm guitar and Floydian guitar work to bombastic with howling electric guitar runs and sumptuous keyboards in La Fuente De Los Alamos Part III.

The two epic compositions are loaded with moving and howling guitar runs and biting wah-wah drenched guitar solos and contain lots of interesting musical ideas like the parts featuring mellow organ and fat synthesizer flights in La Fuente De Los Alamos II and swinging, Latin-American inspired piano and flute with acoustic rhythm guitar in the title track.

Due to this tasteful eclectic musical approach, the splendid guitar play and the inspired Spanish vocals (you have to be up for the, at some moments, slightly theatrical undertone), Estygya succeeds to keep my attention in every song. A band to discover!

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

ERIK NEUTEBOOM



Antiklimax - Aurora Polaris
Antiklimax - Aurora Polaris
Country of Origin:France
Format:CD
Record Label:Musea/Dreaming
Catalogue #:DR 8452.AR
Year of Release:2008
Time:52:27
Info:Antikilmax
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Landing (1:49), Air (5:16), The Lake (2:52), Etaiset Aanet (4:53), Nightlife (5:37), Crystal Broken Chords (4:47), Northbound (9:22), Slowdown (5:06), Derelict Stations (5:34), Away From Her (3:42), Epilogue (3:26)

One of my favorite neighborhood restaurants offers on their drink menu absinthe, rumored among Parisian bohemian circles in its late 19th and early 20th century heyday to produce a psychedelic high when consumed. Unfortunately I was not drinking any when I listened to Aurora Polaris, the sophomore release from French musician Vincent Bénésy under the moniker Antiklimax.

On Aurora Polaris, Bénésy is joined by Finnish keyboardist Jaana Palonen, whom he recruited for the project over the internet. In addition to keyboards, she also provides music and lyric writing as well as vocals for a few tracks. Bénésy himself plays keyboards, guitar, electronic drums, and melodica. Rounding out the lineup is Margus Mets, credited with “sound design, final sound and ambience”; Annette Garau, who lends vocals to one track, and keyboardist/guitarist/glockenspiel man Vincent Coubert, guesting on one track.

On his MySpace page, Bénésy writes that for the project, he had about 50 demo tracks to pick from. Post-production and remixing seems to be regrettably amiss, as the finished product does not sound like much more than a bunch of unfinished demos strung together.

On Air, Bénésy’s electronic drums are carefully placed, but as on many of the CD’s tracks they do not pack a whole lot of punch. The music on the CD is so flat, dull, uninspired and lethargic I started thinking to myself: hmmmm. . . absinthe? No-Doz? Both?

Etaiset Aanet is harder edged, but the same stumbling meter and some cheesy synths thrown in make it a clumsy mess.

Admittedly Bénésy’s electronic drums gather some signs of life here and there, like on Nightlife, which starts off with some ambience from Mets evoking Robert Fripp.

Coubert takes over the controls on Crystal Broken Chords, generating some flute and harpsichord sounds through his keyboards, along with some delicate guitar and spacey glockenspiel. The ambient lounge sound would make Combustible Edison proud.

Ms. Palonen shows off her vocal prowess on the aptly titled Slowdown, a lullabye-like number offering some hints of Krautrock and an afterthought of trailing ambience from Mets. His ambience elements serve as postscripts for many of the CD’s tracks, and takes up the majority of closing track Epilogue. It arrives not a moment too soon.

The colorful CD booklet features a modern, if not futuristic, computer graphic design, and could serves as a lure to hook one into listening to the mostly disappointing CD.

The best time to listen to this CD would probably be late at night when you are falling asleep. It’s not something I would recommend busting out at your next dinner party.

For their next offering I suggest Antiklimax focus more on the electronic drums and fortify their sound with something more groovy and danceable. Perhaps a remix version of Aurora Polaris would not be a bad idea.

Conclusion: 4 out of 10

JIM CORCORAN



Tachyon Believers - Waldorv City
Tachyon Believers - Waldorv City
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CDR
Record Label:Indepenedent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2008
Time:42:50
Info:Tachyon Believers
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Everything Is Under Control (5:19), Mesma Go (3:35), Standing Pt.1 (2:54), Jelly Dream Ideal (4:54), Advice (4:24), Waldorv City (4:37), Standing Pt.2 (2:48), Cloud Dweller (5:16), Guilty (1:24), The Sort Out (4:45), Over? [K.E.A.] (2:53)

Perhaps I should try writing a review of Tachyon Believers’s debut album Waldorv City in the same style as its music. Ok, I’ll do it. Ready? Here goes:-

It’s not very good.

That’s it.

Unfortunately, Tachyon Believers’ style of electronica/ambient falls well short of the mark. Judging by Waldorv City they have failed to grasp that there is a difference between minimalism and musicality. You can have both but, crucially, one does not imply the other. Waldorv City is minimalist but it is neither musical nor pleasantly ambient, remaining only as an example of a misguided attempt to emulate one’s musical heroes. At best, Waldorv City sounds like Yazoo on a bad day but without the benefit of Alison Moyet’s voice!

Like Yazoo, this band are a duo. Lewis Gill and Peter Newton are based in the north of England and have both been actively involved in the music scene since the late 1980s. They formed Tachyon Believers with the intention of composing and then sequencing music on computers. That they’ve done so is not the problem: the problem is the lack of anything enjoyable to listen to on Waldorv City.

The album’s compositions alternate between very simple attempts at ambient - these focus on no more than a few notes or sine waveforms, generally with a single sentence occasionally spoken on top - and what might be termed basic “electro-pop”: a simple rhythmic phrase repeated constantly on some cheap-sounding electronic instrument, often also with a voiceover and with synthesized drums on top. The choice of actual sounds, a key element in ambient, is poor, as is their manipulation. This is not ambient music that draws you in and transports you to other worlds. No, it is simply dull. Similarly, the electro-pop numbers are pale and flaccid, lacking inspiration in either composition or tonal elements. Progressive rock fans are often critical of the synthetic keyboard sounds from the 1980s - this soundscape would be amongst the most dire from that period despite the benefit of more than 20 years of progress. It really is that poor.

Cloud Dweller comes closest to breaking the general rule: it has the most musical development within its minimalism and is the most interesting of these compositions but, compared against a more stringent measure than the other tracks on Waldorv City, it is still insipid. As for the others, all that remains to be done is to quote the words of Advice, surely the most appropriate on the whole album: “Try again... try again... try again... oh forget it!”

Conclusion: 2 out of 10

ALEX TORRES




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