Reviews in this issue:
- PBII - Plastic Soup
- Univers Zero - Relaps (Archives 1984-1986)
- Ephemeral Sun – Harvest Aorta
- Abarax- Blue Room
- Michael Gill – Blues For Lazarus
- Six Gallery - Breakthroughs In Modern Art
- TNVVNüM - Ourobouros
- Nic Potter And Guy Evans - The Long Hello Vol 2
PBII - Plastic Soup
Tracklist: Book Of Changes [You Know, My Work Is Done, Life Is In Danger] (8:33), In The Arms Of A Gemini (7:01), Ladrillo (2:17), Loneliness (8:41), The Great Pacific Garbage Patch [Spit It Out, Plastic Soup, Down Hill From Everywhere, Changing Habits] (12:48), Criticize The Critics (6:07), It's Your Life (4:44), Fata Morgana (3:56), Living By The Dice (8:39), Cradle To Cradle (6:20)
Where other bands desperately hang on to an old and well known name, PBII, with of course a small hint to the old name, chose a new name even with three original members. Originally starting as Plackband in the seventies but somehow never got to record an album. After more than twenty years they reformed and some of the old material was released in 2000 on the album The Lost Tapes. In 2002 they released a new studio album called After The Battle and then suddenly things calmed down again. In 2007 Plackband reunited at the after party of the Symforce II Festival, under the new name, PBII. Ronald Brautigam (guitar), Tom van der Meulen (drums) and Michel van Wassem (keyboards) are still there and they are joined by Harry den Hartog on bass.
And now in 2010 PBII releases a new album called Plastic Soup. The change of band name did not result in a complete turn in the music, it is still very neo-progressive rock and though they sound a lot fresher than on After The Battle, I can still clearly hear it is the same band. As references you can easily choose Marillion, Genesis, IQ and Arena and from the latter two bands a guest musician is playing on this album, respectively John Jowitt and John Mitchell.
The new album Plastic Soup is a strong statement to get attention for the environment and the title refers to a garbage patch in the Great Pacific ocean. Part of the booklet is used to get attention for this problem, explaining the aspects of this problem. Even the Dutch Minister of Environment is allowed to share her thoughts and PBII is now working with the Department of Environment on a video to again put the attention on this environmental problem.
I am probably not alone in fearing this was going to be a preachy album about how we should live with the trees and the birds and sure they put a lot of attention on the pollution issue, but on this album it is concentrated in one song, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The opener Book Of Changes is split into three parts: You Know is very neo-progressive and not that far from their music on After The Battle. My Work Is Done is an instrumental part with many keyboard solos and a very good bass solo, whereas Life Is In Danger is more theatrical sounding. In The Arms Of A Gemini starts with a groovy guitar riff that reminds me of Spock's Beard. The sound is not as complex and more accessible, also very powerful and a heavier side rises to the surface - a highly addictive song. Ladrillo is an instrumental piece with the bass in the leading roll. Pink Floyd-like with at times the speed of heavy metal speed-bass-player Joey DeMaio from Manowar, another great solo spot for the new guy. Loneliness is in the same league as In The Arms Of A Gemini, the beginning is even more groovy and powerful, sounds like heavy Knight Area stuff. The center part is more mellow but this song never classifies as a ballad.
The main topic on this album is pollution and the most preachy song in this album, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, starts with a speech from oceanographer Charles Moore. You will find some world music influenced parts with flutes but the biggest part is progressive rock. A great song about an interesting topic but never too preachy. Criticize The Critics is more political orientated, easier constructed and cleverly placed just after the grand epic piece. When I read the title I was afraid that they meant music reviewers, just like RPWL on This Is Not A Prog Song, this is not the case, phew. It's Your Life is a ballad with female vocals by Heid Jo Hines, another great song and great vocals and on the extra DVD there is a live video of this track, absolutely marvellous.
Fata Morgana is another instrumental track with a lot of bass but this time by IQ's John Jowitt. He plays great but I am still impressed by the bass playing of Harry den Hartog, he is a great addition to the band. Living By The Dice is more bluesy and jazzy and less rock influenced. The rhythm is more complex and changing all the time, not an easy groove and requires some more attention. Cradle To Cradle is all over the place, slow/fast and mellow/heavy alternate many a time, everybody gets a final solo spot and the lead guitar on this song is by Arena's John Mitchell.
PBII has returned to the progressive rock scene and with one giant step placed them amongst the top bands. A new name with a familiar sound with a fresh twist. The music is still very progressive rock and is not a drastic change from After The Battle, they did manage to lift the entire level of their music. The new bass player Harry den Hartog is a good replacement, very good solos and also a lot of groove comes from him. Plastic Soup deals with the problem of pollution but never becomes preachy, only The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is really focused on that topic.
The album comes with an extra DVD with the album in a 5.1 mix, a live recording of It's Your Life and a video of the church organ recording. The guest performances by IQ's John Jowitt and Arena's John Mitchell make this album a bit more interesting but are not necessary to lift the level of this album, PBII is more than capable of doing that themselves. If two such musicians blend in nicely with the rest of the album this can only mean it must be a good album, highly recommended.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Univers Zero - Relaps (Archives 1984-1986)
Tracklist: L’Etrange Mixture Du Docteur Schwartz (4:04), Presage (10:08), Parade (8:15), Ligne Claire (3:57), Emanations (12:34), Heatwave (8:47), The Funeral Plain (18:10), L’Etrange Mixture Du Docteur Schwartz ~ [free-style version] (4:46)
Univers Zero were one of the founder bands of R.I.O (Rock in Opposition which was setup by a collective of progressive bands in the late 70’s in opposition to the music industry that refused to recognise their music), and here we have Relaps (Archives 1984 – 1986). This is a live album that covers two of Univers Zéro’s albums from the aforementioned period, these being Uzed (1984) and Heatwave (1986) and a previously unrecorded track Ligne Claire thrown in for good measure. During this period the line up of the band changed with the loss of Mergenthaler and the acquisition of Delory, Hanappier and Kirk.
Univers Zero (1984) line~up Tracks 1, 2, 3 and 4: Daniel Denis (drums), Dirk Descheemaeker (clarinet, bass clarinets, soprano saxophone), Christian Genet (bass), Andre Mergenthaler (cello, alto saxophone), Jean-Luc Plouvier (keyboards).
Univers Zero 1985/1986 line~up Tracks 5, 6, 7 and 8: Daniel Denis (drums), Dirk Descheemaeker (clarinet, bass clarinets, soprano saxophone), Christian Genet (bass), Michael Delory (guitar), Patrick Hanappier (violins, viola), Andy Kirk (keyboards), Jean-Luc Plouvier (Keyboards).
What we have here as anyone who is familiar with this band is a collection of instrumentals, recorded throughout Germany and Belgium that include some very complex and convoluted musical passages that are played to a very high standard.
The opening track L’Etrange Mixture Du Docteur Schwartz sees the saxophone taking charge supported by some very dynamic rock drum, bass and keyboard playing having a Zappa King Kong and Hot Rats feel to it. The freeform version of this track is archaic in approach but doesn’t loose any of its structure and with the inclusion of Delory, Hanappier and Kirk the track comes across as being far more dynamic.
What is evident whilst listening to this album is that the band is quite at ease playing short instrumentals as well as long passages. Presage and Parade clocking in at just over eighteen minutes between them having a more structured feel loosing none of the sense of complexity. There is some absolutely wonderful wind instrumentation throughout Presage, tying so precise with the other instruments, shifting gear and time change at will. The rhythm section is just phenomenal holding these complexities together so well. Parade moves in a similar vein but having a harder edge to it with Plouvier keyboards and Denis’ drum work holding it altogether wonderfully. Ligne Claire has a more dare I say it commercial feel to it and sounds almost as if it’s incomplete. It offers a platform for more saxophone soloing.
Emanations recorded live in ’86 is up next and offers more complex passages and has a menacing feel to the metre of the music, coming across almost as if it’s an incidental soundtrack piece, which to be honest could be said for quite a lot of this genre. Think Erasurehead and you are probably somewhere near.
Heatwave starts the proceedings for the last three tracks on the album recorded in ’85. It has an eastern feel the way the saxophone pulls and engages the rest of the instruments through the track with some outstanding drum work from Denis. This again has a Zappa feel to it although it comes across a bit heavier than what Zappa would have recorded in places. The Funeral Plain coming in at just over eighteen minutes starts off slow and atmospheric building regimentally as time passes building into a crescendo of ecstasy. This for me is by far the best track on the album allowing the band to rock out in a more structure way with each musician throwing in a little of their own personality without it sounding too contrived. This is a real powerhouse of a track.
All in all this is a quite a good album from a very respected and influential band, who by all accounts suffered from line up changes throughout their time, and when you hear the complexity of some of the music I can understand why. To be involved and committed to something as intricate as what is offered here would take its toll on most people. The bolstering of the band to a septet does make a difference to the whole affair giving the whole process more depth and body, this is not to say by any means that what was on offer by the band prior to becoming a septet is weaker, as it’s not.
Listening to this album reminded me of Red and Starless And Bible Black era King Crimson, Wurdah Itah and Kohntarkosz era Magma. This is a challenging album in places and is not going to be everybody’s cup of tea, but if you like to be challenged and you are prepared to stick with the band as they conjure their magic on the eight pieces on offer here, you won’t go to far wrong.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Ephemeral Sun – Harvest Aorta
Tracklist: Springsong (12:56), Prism (9:39), Memoirs (4:53), Harvest Aorta (41:56)
Ephemeral Sun hail from North Virginia, USA and according to their website bio they began life in 2002 from the remnants of a local “doom metal outfit”. Their 2004 debut album Broken Door saw the band refine their approach moving into a more atmospheric and experimental form of prog metal, receiving a resounding thumbs up from the DPRP as a result. Their follow up Harvest Aorta finds the quartet of Brian O'Neill (guitars), John Battema (keyboards), Charles Gore (bass) and Jeff Malone (drums) raising the bar higher still. It’s an all instrumental affair with just four tracks concluding with a piece that’s destined for a respectable position in our own ‘Long Songs List’.
The opening Springsong is an apt title for this time of year although the tone (to begin with at least) is dark and gothic with heavy weight power chords underpinned by keys hovering ominously in the background. It soon gives way however to a lilting guitar and piano theme that reminded me a little of Germany’s Everon in their sweeter moments. It continues with several variations on the main theme juxtaposing solid staccato riffing with soaring outbreaks of proggy guitar and synth.
Clocking in at a little under ten minutes, Prism is for me the albums most satisfying piece where the prog influences are even more acute. That’s mainly due to the impressively diverse guitar work which takes in the likes of Nick Barrett, Steve Rothery and John Petrucci. A busy and urgent guitar and organ intro sets the pace for some powerful guitar and synth exchanges. The atmosphere is fast, rhythmic and bombastic for the most part bringing Dream Theater readily to mind. In contrast Memoirs is a mellow piano led interlude where the lightweight guitar picking has a distinct Mark Knopfler flavour. It’s engaging enough but comes across as little more than a peaceful respite before the main event.
The mammoth title track Harvest Aorta goes by faster than its forty-two minutes running time would suggest, always a positive sign. A number of sequences however do not always evolve naturally from the previous one so I’m not entirely convinced that it hangs together as one continuous piece. But then again with works of this duration that is so often the case and it does display a multitude of colours and contrasts which become more evident each time it’s played. The metal riffs have that agreeable crunch factor whilst piano is classically lush at times. Guitar, organ and synth sound suitably aggressive or majestic as the mood demands whilst the solid drumming and bass work is at its absolute best here. It all comes together in a blazing wall of sound to end on an apocalyptic note. The only part that didn’t really do it for me is a lengthy and ambient mid section that reveals bits of Floyd, Vangelis and Yes in its spacey effects but ultimately feels like an excuse for the dramatic build that follows.
Ephemeral Sun should be applauded for this ambitious venture which like the most enduring of music is a slow grower. Although the melodies are often slight, it’s the strong sense of dynamics and expressive range of playing that carries the day. Whilst the production occasionally lacks the polish of some acts both the power and subtleties in the music are convincingly conveyed and the depth and energy on display thankfully avoids much of prog metals posturing pitfalls. A band to look out for in the future then although I don’t think their name, which is possibly a tad too pretentious for its own good, will linger in my memory as long as the music.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Abarax- Blue Room
Tracklist: Cry Out For Me (2:24), Autumn Storm (7:19), Sermons & Lies (9:25), Life (8:05), As We Spoke (8:40), Arena (5:19), Red Roses & Bullets (6:08), Howard’s End (10:56)
“When every wall has fallen
And violence is your pleasure
When every bone is broken
And misery is your treasure
Cry out for me”
The opening of Abarax’s Blue Room, beautifully intoned by Andre Blaeute, suggests that what you are getting into here may be a warm blanket, or a quiet oasis of calm in the midst of a storm. Instead what you are getting is a release of collective cultural tension. Amidst the offerings on Blue Room, Abarax call attention to the need for a shift in world consciousness. In Autumn Storm they paint a picture of a torn land. In Sermons And Lies they call down the false and untrue, money greedy hounds of the world. If anything, Abarax seem to be looking for a place where we can all lie in peace beneath a blue sky full of clouds. In Life they even suggest they would like to lie down and watch the cows and sheep graze and squirrels hide their nuts in the grass. As we move further on, some warmth arrives in the form of As We Spoke possibly the most infectious piece on the album. But even this warmth washes away in the songs Arena (possibly the worst song on the album due to the lyrics), and Red Roses And Bullets which according to lyricist Howard Hanks both make you bleed. Not the sigh of relief you needed perhaps, but perhaps if we scream together we can get through it all.
Musically, Blue Room seems to have taken a turn away from the Floydian sound that characterized this band during The Crying Of The Whales. If you can imagine a spectrum with Pink Floyd at one end and Queensryche at the other, this album falls more on the side of the Ryche and perhaps above showing that they can and do have the ability to transcend their influences. Vocalist Blaeute has become clearer sounding and richer with the years. Dennis Grasekamp and Howard Hanks' guitars may have some echoes of Gilmour, but they lean more towards prog metal than blues. In fact the whole band seems to just fall in line behind every song, lead by Dennis Graskampe. The musical territory that Abarax explore is not unknown to most of us, melodic, guitar driven, familiar and fresh at the same time perhaps it is something akin to a warm blanket in the midst of a storm after all. As I listened to this album, I felt like a teenager again, full of quiet rage, taking a drive in my old Honda circa the late 80s. In fact I rolled down my windows and sang loud, rebellious in the face of all that is unholy in contemporary music. I wanted everyone to know this band was loud and proud and I wanted to share the vigour of the music with all. I wanted the folks on the road to be disgusted with me, and I wanted some of them to say “See, there is still good music in the world”.
Overall, I recommend this album to those who are fans of 80s guitar driven soundscapes. This album is not about creating dramatic contours in the progressive landscape, it is instead more of a nostalgic comfort pillow. I found it thoroughly enjoyable and a welcome reprieve from the mainstream offerings. If Blue Room is any indication of the direction this band are heading, then I am ready to lie in the grass and watch the squirrels while Abarax paint their next picture, perhaps a cry of relief after the tensions of the world have settled, or possibly another scream at those who would keep us from relaxing. Either way I’m on board.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Michael Gill – Blues For Lazarus
Tracklist: Merlin’s Journey (8:07), Blues For Lazarus (6:42), Arrakis (8:03), Tomorrow’s World (3:57), Here Comes The Flood (5:44), Memory Of A Dream (3:40), Colorado (3:55), Stay The Night (4:33), Rain (5:15)
I first became familiar with cyberpunk novelist William Gibson when I read an article on him in Wired magazine back in the nineties. I picked up his first novel Neuromancer, and was hooked, having read everything by him since. Gibson and a few other writers serve as a source of inspiration for some of the tracks on Blues for Lazarus, the debut release from California musician Michael Gill.
Writing and performing music since the tender age of seven years old, Gill studied keyboards at the Grove School of Music in Los Angeles and also studied at the University of California in Berkeley. His education also includes an MBA from St. Mary’s College. He has produced recordings in the jazz and folk genres and has writing credits in theatre, a documentary, industrial films, television commercials, and planetarium shows. His musical CV also includes performances in a number of bands.
On the CD, well-produced by Gill, he plays piano, synthesizers, keyboard bass, and Hammond B3 organ. Vocal on various tracks are aptly delivered by “Snappy” Dave Cowden, Rick Ellis, and Callie Lou Thomas. Additional vocals are served up by Sylvia Herold. On the Gibson-inspired track, there is something credited as “The Voice” (Cowden, Ellis, Thomas, Dave Lichtenstein, Ann Oyama, and Gill). Electric guitar is played by Tom Valdez and Damian “Dan” Petruzzella, with Glenn Harris on the 12-string acoustic. Bass duties are handled by Rob Fordyce, Scott Urquhart, and Mike Ejé Jacobs. Amy Brodo contributes cello on one track. The saxophone great Dave Koz plays alto sax on one track, with Gary Meek contributing tenor and soprano on others. Michael Oliver, Brad McKeague, and Dave Weckl share the drum stool (not at the same time).
The CD of nine finely composed tracks is a combination of instrumentals, vocal pieces, and one cover. While the title track evokes a little bit of blues to a point, the title of the CD appears to be symbolic only, as this is nowhere near to being a blues recording. It’s rather more of a modern affair, with bits of gospel, prog, jazz, funk, and adult contemporary along the way. Closing track Rain, penned for Gill by Annie Appel, features her Thoreau-style words delivered expertly by the vocal pipes of Thomas, and lilting piano elements from Gill falling like the subject matter of the tune.
The cover is of Here Comes The Flood by Peter Gabriel. It features an unadorned piano based intro from Gill, vocals from Thomas, and some tenor sax soloing from Meek. I’m not a big fan of early Peter Gabriel, preferring his later stuff, so this track though acceptable just didn’t have me feeling it.
The instrumental Arrakis offers up some funky bass from Fordyce, awakening piano from Gill midway through, and a lot of guitar and sax soloing from Valdez and Meek respectively. The presence of the saxophone on much of this CD gives Gill’s imprint of prog that contemporary flair and dare I say radio friendly potential.
The professionally executed CD cover art comes from Mark Ulriksen with design by Liz Kalloch and concert photographs by Mark Liebman.
If you like your prog with an updated twist you may dig this CD. If you’re looking for Close To The Edge or like, Lady Gaga, you won’t find it here.
Keep the music coming, Mr. Gill!
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Six Gallery - Breakthroughs In Modern Art
Tracklist: Bermuda Triangles (3:44), A Live Nativity Scene (3:55), Built To Last (4:18), Say Matte (3:34), Edie & The Marble Faun (3:13), Glaciar De Las Lágrimas (4:36), Just Hey (3:03), Honestly, Really? (3:37), Fish Milk (1:50), Smile Like A Switch (7:59)
Six Gallery formed in the summer of 2005 as a four-piece instrumental band in Athens, Ohio. The next two years saw them release two EPs and play around 100 shows throughout the American Midwest and Northeast. In November 2008, they added vocalist Daniel Francis and originally released this album in June of 2009. In December 2009, they signed a worldwide deal with Superball Music, home of amongst others Oceansize and Pure Reason Revolution.
The label describes itself as one that seeks out “keen, young rock acts with a stylistic range that is centred on independent and alternative music, as well as acts that transcend genres and include a variety of contemporary directions”. They focus on “innovative music with commercial ambitions” and this effort fits the bill perfectly.
The band comprises Will Vokac (guitar), Alex Weinhardt (bass), Ben Schreiber (guitar, keys), Benji Miller (drums) and Daniel J. Francis (vocals, guitar).
As you may have gathered guitars feature pretty heavily in the mix so if you like said instrument in general, and A Perfect Circle in particular I’d suggest you keep reading.
For all you sub-genre people (you know who you are) this is towards the alt-prog, art-rock/post-rock end of the spectrum. Now, as someone with pre-cons for inventing new genres (see my review of Random Touch’s latest if you don’t believe me – "IPHRAGSEFUIJFN" anyone?) I would offer up emo-prog as summing up the Six Gallery sound. But what do I know?
The record company compare the bands sound to contemporaries Minus The Bear, Maps And Atlases, and Aerogramme. I have never heard of these bands I’m afraid so cannot fully comment. If you have then a) you really need to get out more and b) you may have an idea what to expect.
First off, there are no sword and sorcery epics on offer here, so you cape and mellotron people may want to put away your wizard outfit. Mine, it has to be said, is neatly folded but taking up much needed wardrobe space. With all but one song under the five minute mark the individual tracks tend to coalesce around the signature Six Gallery vibe. Check out Honestly, Really? which is perhaps the most radio-friendly distillation of the band’s sound. “But what is that sound, Brian?” I hear you ask. Well…
Ben Schreiber's finger-tapped guitar sound makes me think immediately of Francis Dunnery, and the spot-on vocal harmonies, for example on opener Bermuda Triangles, makes me double think of a certain band FD used to front.
As mentioned, there’s A Perfect Circle vibe running throughout the record, anchored by Schreiber’s swirly guitar sound bolstered by, variously, emo choruses, surging rhythms, driving bass lines, simple but highly pleasurable riffs, a bit of distortion, ballads, lovely warm vocal harmonies, foot tapping moments aplenty, duelling guitars, Crimson-esque guitar harmonics and anthemic climaxes.
Smile Like A Switch is the longest piece, a second under eight minutes, and ends the album with a heavy, grungy distorted guitar sound reminiscent of Mogwai over a fragile vocal refrain. Leave the track playing and you’re rewarded with a lovely hidden acoustic guitar workout that proves, if proof were needed, that we’re dealing with a bunch of really talented musicians here and ones eminently worthy of a recording contract with one of the bigger players in the alt-prog universe.
The band are embarking on a European tour in May of this year, playing six dates in the UK, four in Germany and one each in France and Luxembourg. Details are on the website and on the strength of this record I’d highly recommend them as a live act.
I’ve only had an mp3 download to review but the album proper is now available through all the usual outlets.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
TNVVNüM - Ourobouros
Tracklist: Intro (2:00), Double Heeliks|Biheeliks (4:20), Seagull|Kajakas (3:29), State Of The Dream|Elstado Del Sueno (6:35), The Trckster|Trikster (3:53), Ambrosia|Ambroosia (4:10), Birth Of The Butterfly|Liblika Sund (2:59), Solar Eclipse|Paikesevarjutus (6:08), Bad Chemicals|Halvas Kemikaalid (5:31), Earthbound|Ilm (5:30)
TNVVNüM is an abbreviation for "Toele Nakku Vaadates Volb Naha Ukskoik Mida" which stands for "Facing The Truth You Can See Anything" and TNVVNüM are: Ekke Västrik [acoustic & electric buitars, bells & Tibetan singing bowl (8)]; Mihkel Maasing [organ, piano (7 & 9), Tibetan singing bowl (8), backing vocals (10)]; Martin Peiken [bass]; Oliver Koit [drums, percussion & additional synth (4)]; Cameron Devlin [engineering & production]. Guest performers on the album: Vallo Toomla - [vocals (8 & 10)]; Joosep Kørvits [cello (7)]; Tanel Velleste [percussion (4)].
TNVVNüM play mostly instrumental music of an eclectic nature and every song has a palette of melody and imaginary sounds which seem to create its own type of image in your mind. The music is eclectic in a way that it is entertaining, sometimes it has a psychedelic 60’s feel to it. Although the material isn’t straight forward it is not too hard to be taken in by the sheer playfulness of the music. These guys have done a great job in creating an album with a lot of positive atmosphere to it. The intro song does not do much more than what the title says, it introduces the music. Going straight into Double Heeliks, you can even feel a certain witchcraft in the song. Moving on we go out into the open where you hear the sea pounding at at ship whilst the Seagull is flying over hoping to catch a fish from your boat.
For the fourth track State Of The Dream we move into the psychedelic world, once ruled by such bands as Pink Floyd in the late Sixtees and the song reminds me of Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. It has a dreamy effect on me. Going on with a more post/math rock tune in Trikster. This is a tricky song. Ambrosia, is a very eclectic moody type of song very intense, with a beautiful bass underneath to let you feel the song at its fullest - good melody. Next we can almost hear the butterfly getting born, once agin a great melody, dreaming away, imagining the cocoon setting the butterfly free into the mad world.
Solar Eclipse has vocals, sung in Estonian so I cannot make any sense out of what he is singing or saying. I just close my eyes an imagine a solar eclipse, it’s funny how this really works at least for me. Next track is Bad Chemicals - listening to the song it seems as though I am listening to a musical detective, lots of variations. Do we get to see who did it? Or...
Last track is Earthbound, it does not keep me Earthbound whatsoever I am wandering off into far away places. The song has a very high Pink Floyd feel to it with some of the guitar sounding like Gilmour during Pigs On The Wing. Again present are the vocals and as one of the two songs with actual vocals can it just be a coincidence that Solar Eclipse and Earthbound are vocalised, or was there an intention?
There is a certain retro feel to the complete album and this has everything to do with the organ sounds throughout. This also gives the album a more eclectic feel, stepping aside to psychedelia every now and again. This album is well worth the listening and be prepared for those retro feelings and psychedelic sounds. Not bad, not bad at all, keep up the good work and keep the train rolling.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Nic Potter And Guy Evans - The Long Hello Vol 2
Tracklist: Surfing With Isabelle (4:12), Elsham Road (3:35), Dolphins (3:56), Carnival (2:56), Broken Chain (2:34), Hidden Drive (2:20), Indian (4:06), Zen (3:11), Agua Blanca (4:14), Welcome Mouth (3:12)
Potter and Evans should need no introduction as the rhythm section of a couple of incarnations of Van Der Graaf Generator as well as Peter Hammill's K Group. However, their association goes back to before VdGG when both were members (Potter as a 17-year-old) of the final line-up of psych-blues band The Misunderstood. The Long Hello series of instrumental albums (which ran to four volumes) were recorded by combinations of Nic Potter, Guy Evans and David Jackson with the odd contribution by Hugh Banton, all ex-members of VdGG. The first volume was recorded in 1974 during the hiatus that split the two Generator eras and was largely improvised music but totally unlike that of the parent band helmed by Mr Hammill. The final three volumes all appeared in the early 1980s with Volume 2 being recorded, largely at the home of Guy Evans, in 1980 and released in 1981. Potter handles bass, guitars and keyboards, Evans adds drums, percussion and bamboo flutes whilst old mate Dave Jackson adds horns to five of the tracks.
Recorded in a somewhat primitive manner using an old valve desk (reportedly the one that Hendrix recorded Are You Experienced? on) the quality of the recording has stood the test of time rather well, although the music does sound rather dated at times. The first five tracks were all written by Potter who throughout his solo career has presented a rather diverse spectrum of material ranging from solo keyboard music to longer band-based works (such as the excellent Blue Zone). Opener Surfing With Isabelle would be ideal as a theme song for a TV programme such as 'Top Gear' as it has a driving atmosphere and seems to be a number I would associate with the likes of Jeremy Clarkson! Elsham Road is rather a more jaunty number with a bouncing bass line and catchy lead synth. Jackson intrudes with a typical sax performance which is followed by a brief guitar solo. To the best of my recollection this album is one of the few to feature Potter on lead guitar and he comports himself rather well. Dolphins is very much an 'electronic' number somewhat predating a lot of the synth bands that took to the charts a few years later. The primitive beat box and rather cheap sounding synths really dates this piece (which I think was also released as a single), although if you removed the sax pieces and slowed the song right down it would make a reasonable Kraftwerk song! It is back to a rather fuzzed guitar and a heavy bass for Carnival which is interesting enough even with the somewhat extraneous added weird noises. Last of the Potter solo compositions is the gentler Broken Chain with acoustic guitar and various flutes providing a nice piece of music that could conceivable be used for a multitude of purposes as backing music to, for example, a television programme.
Hidden Drive, the name of Evans' home studio, and Indian are both co-compositions. The former track could well have an improvisational basis with Evans providing an energetic percussive backdrop and Potter adding random synth and guitar lines over the top. Indian is rather more structured and employs more instruments with a full drum kit, several synths and a very engaging bass line. Somewhat ominous in disposition, the piece stands out as fitting in more with contemporaneous styles than some of the other numbers. The final three numbers are from the pen (and drumsticks) of Evans and are rather more experimental than what has come before, particularly Zen and Aqua Blanca, on which Evans plays all the instruments. As would be expected these two tracks are rhythmically and percussive heavy and once again, their use as atmospheric music in some television programme can easily be imagined, particularly as Aqua Blanca inexplicably reminds me of the Amazon! Final track Welcome Mouth is more ambient in nature with Jackson once again adding some suitably addictive sax. The album closes with the sound of the sea at Welcombe in Devon, recorded by Evans standing in a four-foot swell - more authentic than using a library recording, I just hope the recording took place on a warm day!
Of course, the music is nothing like VdGG or Hammill solo for the obvious reason that Hammill himself is not included (he was only involved in one number across the four Long Hello albums, writing the lyrics and singing The Homing Of Homer on Volume 3 [The David Jackson album] which is well worth any Hammill/VdGG fan hearing). However, this volume, like the others, has its subtle charms but, from experience, I know that it is unlikely to occupy a substantial amount of time in my CD player. It is somewhat ironic that it is the VdGG completists that are most likely to be purchasers of this reissue when the style of music would undoubtedly find greater favour amongst people who happily remain oblivious to that most progressive of prog bands.
Conclusion: 5.5 out of 10