Reviews in this issue:
- Demians – Mute (Duo Review)
- No-Man - Wild Opera (Remastered)
- FramePictures – Remember It
- Jade Warrior – Kites
- Jade Warrior – Way Of The Sun
- Klotet - Det Har Aldrig Hänt Och Kommer Aldrig Hända Igen
- Serge Keravel – Must
- Hope To Find – Still Constant [EP]
Demians – Mute
Tracklist: Swing Of The Airwaves (7:27), Feel Alive (4:33), Porcelain (5:33), Black Over Gold (6:10), Overhead (6:33), Tidal (3:47), Rainbow Ruse (5:31), Hesitation Waltz (6:46), Falling From The Sun (4:10)
John O'Boyle's Review
Peeps, I am going to open this review with a bold statement, so we all know where we stand. Mute, Demians’ second album is a must buy, (I never thought I would start a review that way). This really is a no nonsense release from the one man show, (well in the studio), a gentleman called Nicolas Chapel a.k.a. Demians.
As with his first album Building An Empire, Chapel wrote and recorded all the tracks. Demians’ first album Building An Empire received a very impressive 9.5 out of 10 from the DPRP team, (if this album is not in your collection shame on you).
For the uninitiated it is time to take heed, as Demians has arrived, make no mistake of that, even with that so called difficult second album, (sophomore for posh people), Mute which is stunning. What makes it even more impressive is that yet again this has all been crafted by one man, the true definition of a solo project, as was his first album. When Chapel takes this into the live arena the project becomes a trio.
Mute in approach is heavier than Building An Empire and sounds somewhat more polished, (this is not to say the production of Building An Empire wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination). This is probably due to there being a better budget and it not having been recorded in his bedroom. This time there are no samples, just pure instrumentation, which adds warmth and depth to the overall feel.
Swing Of The Airwaves opens up the album, a complex piece with its huge guitar riffs and driving tribal beats and rhythms, which is a song that deals with the idea that every human is an antenna, receiving and transmitting information throughout his life, making everyone unique and yet a part of the world. Vocally Chapel is on the mark, with some stunning guitar work in support which reminded me slightly of U2’s Edge in places.
Feel Alive again is another pounding guitar riff driven track although slightly more melodic in approach. A track deals with the numbness, and the anger of wasting your time because of something out of your control. The fast passed musical interludes reinforce the powerful and emotive track, including some absolutely stunning bass and drum work.
Porcelain slows things down taking a somewhat subdued approach with the use of keyboards and synth effects. The song builds with some great interplay from both drums and guitar, with Chapel’ lyrics and vocal presentation adding real emotion, building as the tone of the track rises.
Black over Gold is another piano led track, proving that Chapel is adept at what he turns his hand to. The more you listen to this track the more complexity you realize the track has. This is a very dark and brooding track that reminded me of The Cure (Disintegration era in places), in approach and structure, again featuring that stupendous Edge sounding guitar riff. This to me displays Chapels vocals at their best, for me being the best track on the album.
Overhead starts out with the acoustic guitar, mellow and breezy, being musically different in approach to anything on either Building An Empire or the other tracks on Mute, with its Middle Eastern sounds. As the song travels along its journey the guitars build, creating a heavy sound with vocals to match, but still retaining its melody as it concludes.
Tidal and Rainbow Ruse, take a more basic rock structure approach, without any integrity being lost. The instrumentation is still second to none with some stunning guitar lead breaks, with the songs being more layered than would first appear, losing none of the melodic impact that is presented on the rest of the album.
Hesitation Waltz starts off slow building into a huge crescendo, with its wall of guitar feedback and pounding drums. The songs rhythm builds and develops leaving a lasting impression firmly stamped in the listened head. Guitar feedback and pounding drum beats have never sounded so good working in conjunction with each other, with the songs climatic fade out, leaving clamouring for more.
Nicolas Chapel states, “It's my way of putting in a song all the everyday noise everyone experiences, human contact slowly disappearing from everyday's life”.
Falling From The Sun closes a very good and worthy album. The song is piano led featuring Chapel's signature emotional and somewhat somber vocals, which are reinforced by the tone of the piano and the inclusion of some stunning cello, double bass and violin orchestration. Personally for me this is the strongest lyrical track on the album and a very apt and appropriate closure.
Something that really impressed me about Chapel is that he is not afraid to take you on a musical journey into the dark recesses of his mind, laying bare, expressing his thoughts and emotions. As a one man musical machine he can allow himself to drive his music in any direction he so desires, without having to consider others working around him, this has got to be a massive plus for him and can only be a good thing in my eyes.
For purveyors of bands like Porcupine Tree, Oceansize, The Cure, Queensryche and 25 Yard Screamer, (or prog metal in general to be honest), this is an album that you are going to absolutely love, no doubt about that. Mr. Chapel could have created and recorded and album that sounded just like Building An Empire, but he chose not to. As with progressive rock, the operative work is progressive, with Mute that is exactly what Chapels achieved, natural progression. The album was written and created after having taken some time out, which only leaves you wondering where does Nicolas Chapel go from here?
“I'm falling for the sunrise glowing on your face.” You got that right Nicolas.
Gert Hulshof's Review
Nicolas Chapel alias Demians delivers his second album with Mute. After only the first notes a comparison springs to mind which I would have never believed possible at first, the music, or shall I say creations, Mr Chapel makes remind me of a remarkable musician from Sweden - Daniel Gildenlow. I see all you guys raise your brows wondering why? Easy answer actually, both musicians will never do a record that is similar to their last. That is why.
Building An Empire was an album full of progressive rock music whereas Mute on the other hand leans toward alternative rock. As soon as I put on the album the first track Swing Of The Airwaves gave me hints of bands like Muse, Coldplay and the likes. Even a comparison with the more heavy Coheed And Cambria would hold. What this song does from the start is it rocks, oh yes. The pounding of the drum like a steamroller why might hear from a Muse song and nicely performed choruses a la Coldplay.
Second track sees Demians, heavy riffing, shredding guitars and fast moving. Do I Feel Alive - I am really enjoying the energy that pours from this song and I can hardly sit still on my chair. Nicolas plays a soft bridge to give me some rest, but then starts the thumping bass, building up the energy again until the end.
Porcelain starts out very fragile - keys, drums even a fragile sounding voice. Building nicely up into a climax with fragility all around whilst doing justice to the title of the song. I hear Steven Wilson and Porcupine Tree waiting around the corner. A beautiful mellow song, full of melancholy.
Black And Gold starts where Porcelain left off with a piano introduction, again a fragile voice, but this time almost jazzy sounding and Nicolas Chapel lets us feel how intense his music can become. Black And Gold gives me hints of another of Mr Wilson’s projects No-Man along with bits and pieces of the influence by Radiohead may be. Again an emotional song with a furious end section. Beautiful lyrics. Great composition.
5th track has an acoustic guitar introducing us to Overhead. The song continues in a mystical, Eastern setting - violin.
Going further into this album I feel there are so many touch points with all of Steven Wilson’s projects, that it makes me think that Nicolas had himself a good listen to how these mellow type of songs are built up by people like Wilson and the aforementioned Gildenlow (who can do this in the same manner). Back to Overhead starting with its mellow sound only to turn very loud and heavy in the last half of the song. Lots of shredding and violent sounding theme. Angry, people have done wrong! Suddenly all stops.
Tidal is loud, rough with shredding guitar which brings to mind Devin Townsend and Strapping Young Lad. This is a very roughly arranged composition, tight playing of guitar, bass and keyboards. The drums are driving as this song moves forward at high pace - just like a tidal wave.
Track number seven, Rainbow Ruse, starts with a few notes on the piano before growing into a heavy metal song, onlt to return to a mellow, emotional built up song. An almost screaming, no a screaming Nicolas trying to outvoice the loud shredding guitar. I feel I am listening to a song that could well have been played by our Polish friends Riverside. Dark intonation, heavy guitar and ditto voice. Nice guitar solo. Yes a heavy progressive rock song.
With Hesitation Waltz we start very mellow once more only to have the track built up again into a very heavy rock song. So far so good and Mute is a well built up piece of craftsmanship by a good musician. I only hope all the energy that has been put in to making this record can be met performing it alive on stage. It will certainly be very hard to get this across in a live environment.
The last track Falling From The Sun is a very sensitive, emotional ballad - dark and full of tranquillity and melancholy.
As a conclusion I think Mute has become a great album with good quality songs, however it still needs to settle with me. I had high expectations and they haven’t all been fulfilled. My favourite songs are the first and last from this album, but I cannot get used to all the rest - so far they have not found the right click yet...
No-Man - Wild Opera (Remastered)
CD1 - Wild Opera: Radiant City (3:31), Pretty Genius (3:51), Infant Phenomenon (3:21), Sinister Jazz (4:18), Housewives Hooked On Heroin (4:39), Libertine Libretto (3:20), Taste My Dream (6:09), Dry Cleaning Ray (3:26), Sheeploop (4:01), My Rival Trevor (4:20), Time Travel In Texas (4:24), My Revenge On Seattle (4:42), (Silence) (2:00), Wild Opera (3:06)
CD2 - Dry Cleaning Ray Plus: Dry Cleaning Ray [Remix / Edit] (2:53), Sweetside Silver Night (4:02), Jack The Sax (4:17), Diet Mothers (4:56), Urban Disco (3:17), Punished For Being Born (2:18), Kightlinger (2:44), Evelyn [Song Of Slurs] (4:04), Sicknote (8.57) Bonus Tracks: Hit The Ceiling (3:05), Where I'm Calling From (3:48), Housewives Hooked On Heroin [Alternate Version] (3:45), My Rival Trevor [Alternate Version] (4:38), Time Travel In Texas [Radio Session] (4:02), Pretty Genius [Radio Session] (3:48)
Two years after releasing the wonderful Flowermouth album Bowness and Wilson took a completely new direction. Gone were the ambient dance beats, replaced by an overload of repetitive trip-hop sampling and industrial distortion. As the extensive liner notes in the booklet of the re-release of Wild Opera explain, it was a style that the band would never return to. And personally I'm very glad they didn't.
It's not that No-Man never changed their style. Each record or period in the band's history, whether it's Speak, Flowermouth, Heaven Taste, Returning Jesus, Together We're Stranger or Schoolyard Ghosts has it's very own style. But there's a common sound in all of these albums. On Wild Opera the band stray very far away from this sound and as far as I'm concerned it results in some pretty unpleasant music. It might be the music scene in the mid nineties with bands like Portishead and Massive Attack that inspired this change. Whatever it was, the result was the same as with Porcupine Tree's Signify that was released around the same time: some pretty good stuff but too much over-the-top experimentation turning it into one of the (relatively) weaker releases in the band's history.
Many of the songs on the album use samples and loops. Nothing wrong with that but they do make the tunes sound very repetitive. Now, add on top of that a lot of distortion in the guitars and vocals and the typical No-Man sound has evaporated. As such this record is to the rest of the band's catalogue what Wilson's Insurgentes is to his work with Blackfield, No-Man and Porcupine Tree. Really, I wouldn't complain for a second if I would never have to listen to tracks like Radiant City, Infant Phenomenon or Libertine Libretto again. And even when the music is not intrusive than it borders on boring and dragging, as in Sinister Jazz, Sheeploop and the 'hidden' title track.
Having said that, it's not all bad. The two singles that were taken from the album, Housewives Hooked On Heroin (with the excellent lyrics "not even housewives hooked on heroin could understand the awful mess I'm in") and Dry Cleaning Ray are less intrusive and quiet enjoyable. The album even has a few songs that refrain from the experimentation and are typically No-Man (Taste My Dream and the beautiful My Revenge On Seattle). And finally there's a few songs that have become No-Man classics: Pretty Genius, My Rival Trevor and Time Travel in Texas (the latter with a rather annoying soundscape in the outro). Still, considering that some of these songs are also available on the Mixtaped DVD and the All The Blue Changes compilation album you should really think for a moment if you want to invest your cash in this re-issue.
Eight months after Wild Opera was released, No-Man followed it up with what is often referred to as an EP, even though it was 42 minutes long. Dry Cleaning Ray - included in this re-issue of Wild Opera as a second disc - consisted of 3 remixes of tracks from Wild Opera and six new tracks. Regarding the remixes: Dry Cleaning Ray is a shorter version of the original, Diet Mothers is an alternative version (interesting, but no improvement) of Pretty Genius (with the track title missing in the lyrics) and Punished For Being Born is a completely unrecognisable (and unlistenable) remix of Housewives Hooked On Heroin by Muslimgauze. This ain't music; it's just noise.
Quite remarkable is the track Jack The Sax. Not that it's a outstanding tune, but it very obviously uses the same acoustic guitar chords that Wilson also used for Wake As Gun on the outtakes album Insignificance during the Signify era. Obviously he was trying out different bits of music in different bands at the time. This might be another explanation why both Signify and Wild Opera both sound like a 'stray from the path'.
As on Wild Opera the second disc is a mixed bag of hits and misses, but unlike disc one there are no real standout tracks here that have become No-Man classics. Sweetside Silver Night is a lovely tune but the repeated guitar/bass sample really gets on my nerves after a while. Urban Disco could have been fun as well if it hadn't been for the endless samples and distortion. Kightlinger is a short instrumental improvisation not unlike Porcupine Tree's Metanoia sessions from the same period. It was written, recorded and completed in 42 minutes and is as interesting as this makes it sound.
Steven Wilson pulls out his hammered dulcimer for Evelyn [Song Of Slurs] but it doesn't make this dragging piece any more enjoyable. Sicknote, the last song on the EP, is referred to as a prototype for Mixtaped. I understand the comparison as Sicknote is also drumless, stretched out and has several weird sound effects. While both songs are not among my No-Man favourites this might indeed be the most interesting song on Dry Cleaning Ray for No-Man fans.
The bonus tracks that are added on disc two should make your collection of music from the Wild Opera era complete. Still, a thing or two seem to be missing. While Hit The Ceiling (another dreadful song written, recorded and completed in one hour) and Where I'm Calling From (more typical No-Man but still B-side material) have been included from the Housewives Hooked On Heroin single, the Scanner Remix Housewives Hooked On Methadone is missing. Also missing are the outtakes from the Wild Opera sessions that appeared on the Lost Songs: Volume One collection. We do however get radio performances of Time Travel In Texas and Pretty Genius that were previously released on the rare Radio Sessions album. Also, there's two alternative versions of Housewives Hooked On Heroin and My Rival Trevor, both with different drum patterns, among the bonus tracks.
Now, of course all of the above is just my own opinion. Whether you should or should not purchase this album depends on your own musical taste. Our former reviewer Nigel reviewed the album a long time ago and seemed to be more pleased with it than I am. Then again, Nigel was always much more into experimental, avant-garde stuff. Maybe that's your taste as well? The liner notes describe the music as "a bold and snappy mixture of grimy beats, chopping guitars, frequently distorted vocals, brooding bass, overt samples, loops. And short songs". Sounds appealing ? Give it a try. If not, better stick with any of the band's other classic albums.
As far as a rating for the album is concerned. From a historical perspective in the development of the band this re-release is very interesting. Also the packaging and re-mastering has once again been done with the utmost care, as such it's a labour of love and the collectable value is high. Finally, musically - when compared to the bands other work - the full set is mediocre at best. Taken all of this - the pros and cons - into account I arrive at the...
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
FramePictures – Remember It
Tracklist: Memories Faded Away (8:57), Remember It (5:35), Call For Me (13:38), Don’t Trust My Eyes (6:49), Why Nobody Cares (7:21), Shadows Black And Grey (9:49), My Will To Live (25:58)
I’m going to begin with a couple of asides before I get into the meat of this review; an entrée or aperitif, if you will indulge me? Firstly, Remember It has been available as a digital download for some time now. I’ve had an MP3 copy since April so I’ve had a few weeks to get to know this one. The physical CD was released on July 13th and a week prior, a review copy arrived through my post box. My reviewing process is always the same - I listen to the music several times through a variety of sources: my PC, which has a fairly standard sound card but a nice 5.1/Stereo speaker set-up achieving a very solid listening station with dynamic range; I also listen through headphones directly via this system (not the PC headphone socket); A CD Walkman and headphones on the way to work; then the acid test, I play it through the HiFi but I like to have familiarised myself with an album before I treat myself to a genuine HiFi experience, listening closely, immersed in sound. Obviously, a lousy MP3 version of an album precludes all of this and, even though I did burn a CD Audio version of the album to ‘go through the motions’, I am deeply aware of the inadequacies of the MP3 as a data container for music and similarly aware that what I am hearing is a sub-standard version of the original. Nothing could have vindicated my ‘snobbery’ more acutely than listening to the CD version of this album once it arrived. It came alive. It came alive to such an extent that it has pushed my score up by two whole points. Without the CD, I would never have come to realise that the production is first class and a bit different. Artur Jorge, the band’s drummer, handled production duties and, in terms of sound-staging he has built the album around the drums which sound massive – it’s as if the drums are a giant stage upon which the other musicians are balancing their performances and it works supremely well. Anyway, I need to say it, there is no substitute for CDDA quality (well, there is, but it’s irrelevant here). What’s more, the MP3 rip, which I purchased entirely legally, was of a particularly poor quality. Well done iTat.
And so to the main menu. For starters, FramePictures describe themselves on their MySpace page as, amongst other things, ‘Post Prog’. What does that mean? There’s a bit of post-anything these days: Post-Rock, Post-Punk, Post-hardcore, Post-Pop, etc, but what does this identify and is it helpful? Does ‘Post’ in this context mean ‘After’? After Prog? Or does it mean postmodern? Postmodern Prog; in other words, we’ll borrow fragments, splinters, and shards of anything that has ever been considered prog and reassemble it in a manner of our own making. If by ‘Post-Prog’ they intend the latter, then I totally get it because that’s what this is. Remember It takes flashes, specks, moments, strands, molecules and atoms from the prog genetic code and fashions a new prog creature which is recognisable but different; not so much genetic cloning as engineering or forced evolution - mutation. This is 21st Century Prog, the same as 20th Century Prog but with knobs on.
As a species, we humans are naturally inclined to suspicion of anything that interferes with the natural order of things (unless it’s a car), which instinct has elicited the sensible aphorism to not fix a thing unless it’s broken. With this in mind, I wonder whether FramePictures are setting themselves up as the new Illuminati, secretly guiding the Progverse from underground caves where they live on algae and breathe methane, to discover new kinds of technology, understanding and forms of communication. Or are they the musical equivalent of Dr. Moreau performing cruel but well-intentioned vivisection on what are already highly adapted forms? What is for certain is that they come from Portugal and are five young musical scientists using guitars, keyboards and drums to carry out their experiments. This is the first publication of their findings. The research team are Tiago Delgado who sings, Artur Jorge who drums, Helder da Silva who plays guitar, Ricardo Drumond who plays bass and Mafalda Brogueira who plays keyboards. Standard laboratory conditions would seem to apply, then, except Mafalda is the beautiful female doctor; always a welcome addition to see women having an indispensable and substantial role in a male dominated world. (For Christ’s sake, Bradshaw! You only create a rod for your own back with these stupid extended metaphors, nobody cares! Get on with it! – Ed.)
It would be easy to say that, in essence, what FramePictures play is sophisticated and original prog metal. There. Review done. However, this would be to pigeon-hole them too handily and pigeon-hole them into the wrong box to boot. Yes, the characteristic markers of prog metal abound but there’s more to it than that. The album begins with a heraldic theme on grand piano and remains a prominent feature of the song, reminiscent of Jem Godfrey from Frost*. Each player gets the chance to shine on every track. In this case Helder da Silva provides a good melodic guitar solo dashing through a range of techniques and voices and Mafalda glides an effortless Moog solo underpinned by some lovely bass figures. An odd thing happens in the very catchy chorus when Tiago uses a melody that is part Tears For Fears and part Salem Hill. This mid-‘80s slant to the melodies is repeated in track 2 where the chorus is distinctly coloured with a vibe that Duran Duran or their side-project, Arcadia might have used – don’t let this in any way deter you though. The song itself is a fairly standard melodic rock song with a funky, jazzy verse, the aforesaid Duran Duran-like chorus and a lovely middle section that sounds like Pieces Of Eight-era Styx. Again, there’s an excellent Moog solo followed by another great melodic guitar solo, all carried on the wonderful bass arrangement by Ricardo Drumond. I’ll take just a moment to single him out for special praise here. The bass playing on this album is superlatively good. Just as Geddy Lee provides a signature note to Rush’s sound, so Ricardo does for FramePictures. What he’s doing propels everything and it’s highly crafted, virtuoso playing throughout. Whether it’s the slap-bass of Don’t Trust My Eyes or the half-tempo jazz/fusion of Why Nobody Cares which treads boldly into Helmet Of Gnats or Karcius territory, Drumond’s work is consistently dynamic, multi-faceted and never less than compelling, exciting and interesting.
The opening brace occupy 15 minutes and already, what I have come to realise is, the way in which this band take fairly standard structural modes from prog metal, AOR and hard, melodic rock then combine them with influences from jazz fusion, pop and old-school prog makes them an unusual proposition. Their strength lies in the interesting choices they make and their apparent determination to not always go for the obvious. I find this engaging. For me this is most clearly demonstrated in track 3, Call For Me where things get serious and track 5, Why Nobody Cares, both of which are excellent. They are difficult, uncategorisable, and elusive tracks using varied styles to supplement each instruments solo pieces as well as bonkers polyrhythms in tightly structured, instrumental interludes. The weak point, I’m afraid I have to say is Tiago. It seems that his vocals are almost uniformly heavily vocoded so as to sound slightly robotic. This may be because he’s simply not good enough to carry it on his own – he sings with bags of conviction, and if vocalists were awarded merits for straining every sinew then this would be a very creditable performance, but his voice is breathy and unsupported making it thin and slightly whiny in places (sorry Tiago, it’s just my opinion, but it’s my honest opinion). Or, it may be to cover the rather heavily accented delivery (which it doesn’t), or it may be a conscious and deliberate aesthetic choice for reasons that are unapparent. In any case, Tiago is simply no match for the intricacy of the musical accompaniment. Coupled with the inconsequential lyrics, this is an area the band could seriously improve upon!
Whilst I’m being critical, I shall address the closing track, My Will To Live. At 25 minutes and sub-divided into seven parts, it’s presumably a labour of love intended as the album’s keynote centrepiece. As you may imagine, it attempts several stylistic developments over its course: from the symphonic introduction to celebratory pageantry to melancholy introspection; from romantic classicism to choppy and aggressive heavy rock (Dio era Rainbow). The finesse of the musicianship remains consistent but overall, as a piece of music (I won’t describe it as a song), it doesn’t really work for me. The dynamism and originality of the preceding tracks is not sustained here. The songwriting seems ponderous and clumsy, the melodies provide nothing to hang to and by the time Part VI has come around I’m completely lost and irritated. It’s a big shame to have the album go out on a damp squib like this, but it would appear FramePictures are not yet quite ready to tackle the epic, long-form composition. A brave but ultimately flawed effort.
So to my closing thoughts. As you can see, I’ve had a lot to say and this album has provided me with a complex, engaging, and provocative task. My mind has shifted back and forth in attempting to summarise and has been incapable of doing so with any clarity or ease. I hope, dear reader, that I have managed to communicate something of the positive thoughts and feelings I harbour for Remember It in such as a way as to pique your interest, as I believe FramePictures to be an exciting prospect. Much as I love Dream Theater and Symphony X, for me the archetypal, crackerjack master-builders of progressive metal, it is great to see the genre being challenged and developed like this. For me it’s the second stand-out debut of 2010 after Haken’s Aquarius. Pursue.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Jade Warrior – Kites
Tracklist: Songs Of The Forest (3:13), Wind Song (4:05), The Emperor Kite (1:58), Wind Borne (6:52), Kite Song (3:04), Land Of The Warrior (3:29), Quietly By The River Bank (3:20), Arrival Of The Emporer: "What Does The Venerable Sir Do?" (1:07), Teh Ch'eng: "Do You Understand This?" (2:32), Arrival Of Chia Shan: Discourse And Liberation (4:10), Towards The Mountains (2:04), The Last Question (0:36)
Jade Warrior – Way Of The Sun
Tracklist: Sun Ra (3:31), Sun Child (2:44), Moontears (4:04), Heaven Stone (5:27), Way Of The Sun (6:01), River Song (5:03), Carnival (2:17), Dance Of The Sun (4:55), Death Of Ra (7:21)
During the 1970’s the term progressive rock covered a fairly broad spectrum of bands and artists with Jade Warrior being one of the most distinctive and original. That’s at least true of the four albums they released on Island Records between 1974 and 1978, Floating World, Waves, Kites and Way Of The Sun. The band was brought to the attention of Island boss Chris Blackwell by Traffic frontman Steve Winwood after their record deal with Vertigo fell through in 1973. They had been around since 1970 with three previous albums to their credit and by that point they were a three piece which included bassist, vocalist Glyn Havard. Blackwell however had other plans and recognizing the inherent talents of the two key members Jon Field (flutes, percussion, keyboards) and Tony Duhig (guitars) he signed them as an instrumental duo.
The 1974 Island debut Floating World received a good deal of interest, attracting comparisons with Tubular Bells released the year before (Field had played flute on Oldfield's seminal work). Reviewers were also quick to note the jazz influences although in truth Jade Warrior occupied their own middle ground somewhere between these two camps. In a similar musical vein, Waves followed a year later and featured the aforementioned Winwood amongst the guest musicians. By the time 1976’s Kites came around the supporting line-up had swelled to no less than ten including a string quartet. The musical content remained consistent with previous releases however as symbolized by the stylish album artwork with its reoccurring image of a levitating Samurai warrior.
By this point Field and Duhig had fully established their unique but very recognizable musical style. With few concessions to 70’s trends (including other prog bands at the time) their often ambient moods involved slight melodies that relied more on atmospherics and shifting sound patterns. Although (like Oldfield) the music would occasionally swell to climatic peaks, it’s the timbre of the individual instruments and the haunting atmosphere created that held the interest rather than any obvious tunes or hooks. The arrangements were also very rhythmic employing a variety of ethnic percussion sometimes tribal, sometimes Latin and sometimes oriental adding a world music sensibility.
Kites was probably their most accomplished work to date with an almost cinematic depth to the opening pairing of Songs Of The Forest and Wind Song. This is thanks to a brassy fanfare, Clodagh Simmons’ heavenly girl's choir, exotic percussion, Field’s flute flurries (try saying that after a few beers) and shimmering violins. I was partly reminded of Mike Oldfield’s wonderfully expansive Incantations. The rest of the album however doesn’t quite live up to its promise of an epic musical journey even though each track blends seamlessly with the next. The jazzy but mellow Wind Borne includes electric piano doodling and some neat acoustic guitar and double bass picking but the lightweight Latin rhythm ventures a little too close to easy listening territory. Duhig provides some moody electric guitar throughout although his phrasing resembles tone poems rather than contributing any discernable melodies.
Despite the excellent remastering by Esoteric, the overall production is a tad flat and uninvolving in my opinion and as such Kites can only really be fully appreciated on head phones. No such problems with Way Of The Sun however which appeared two years later. Overall the mood is more upbeat and tuneful than previous releases helped no end by the sharp production and a greater sense of dynamics than its predecessors. The guest musicians also brought with them more traditional rock instrumentation including drums and sax. Duhig’s trademark and innovative guitar technique was now fully developed with a piercing but always melodic tone that had the same appeal as the Hackett’s, Latimer’s and Gilmour’s of this world.
The evocatively titled Sun Ra and Sun Child both have a lively, playful spirit with lilting flutes and harp during the latter harking back to Hergest Ridge era Oldfield. Moontears conveys an air of mystery with an evocative flute theme underpinned by rippling guitars whilst the acoustic playing during Heaven Stone evokes Greg Lake’s rhythmic style in ELP’s From The Beginning. The title track Way Of The Sun is one of JW’s most vibrant ever with solid bass, drums and a persistent guitar groove adding a distinct Santana flavour. River Song on the other hand alternates melodic electric guitar lines with chiming acoustic guitar playing ala Anthony Phillips before mutating into a restless jazz affair. The short but catchy Carnival is a real highlight with blistering electric guitar and saxophone interplay that would liven up any prog-fusion album. The penultimate Dance Of The Sun builds in layers to a dramatic and uplifting conclusion leaving Death Of Ra to provide a peaceful and dignified finale. Here the poignant guitar theme sounds uncannily like Greg Lake’s C’est La Vie with a soft tide of flutes and a touch of classical guitar to close.
When their four-record deal with Island came to a close, Jade Warrior released one further album in the 70’s (a compilation of Vertigo era material) followed by two releases during the 80’s. Sadly Tony Duhig passed away in 1990 from a sudden heart attack leaving Field to continue to the present aided by bassist Dave Sturt and a returning Glyn Havard in 2005. This has resulted in the band’s most recent and well received album Now which appeared in 2008 coinciding with a resurgence of interest in the UK.
Jon Field was once quoted as saying “One chord, if it’s beautiful, will last us all day”. Something of an exaggeration perhaps but it does at least encapsulate their ideology and musical approach. Whilst I would find it hard to claim that every Jade Warrior album was an essential purchase I could convincingly argue that no 70’s prog collection would be complete without the inclusion of at least one. For me personally that would be Way Of The Sun although Kites along with Floating World and Waves, which have also been reissued by Esoteric, are also worthy of your attention.
Kites : 6 out of 10
Way Of The Sun : 8 out of 10
Klotet - Det Har Aldrig Hänt Och Kommer Aldrig Hända Igen
Tracklist: Gastronomika Proportioner (2:25), Sket Man Väl I (2:33), Dödad av Döden (3:32), Falska Pengar (2:38), Hjärnsubstans (2:22), Hållplats Hades (2:37), Oj ! (1:26), Ekot Från Avgrunden (3:55), Atomvinter (3:06), Kapten Sjöbjörn (2:58), Brakander Boogie (3:19), Det Har Aldrig Hänt och Kommer Aldrig Hända Igen (7:00)* ~ *hidden bonus track after 3:30
Klotet’s 2008 debut, En Rak Hoger was reviewed by the DPRP’s Dave Sissons who described the band as having “a somewhat unusual flavour and a lot of promise” so the question is, I guess, whether they have fulfilled that potential with this, their second release.
Inspiration for the Swedish quartet comes from the ‘classical’ Scandinavian school: Kebnekajsie, Flasket Brinner and the recently departed Bo Hansson. It is entirely instrumental, and each track seamlessly blends into the next. It has a gloriously retro-feel, drenched in the sound of Messrs Hammond and Rhodes. And I’d swear that a young Jean Jacques Burnel was playing bass. In a late ‘60s/early 70s East Coast psych-rock band. Like Soft White Underbelly, for example, or the Stalk Forrest Group. Maybe they should put an umlaut on the O? And in case you’re wondering whether I’ve been taking my meds by mentioning such a leading light of the ‘safety pin and spitting’ brigade, then Klotet describe their sound, on their MySpace page as “we play punk prog music for the whole family”
There is much to like too for fans of early Kaipa, Trettioåriga Kriget, as well as the ‘new wave’ of incredibly talented Swedish bands such as Beardfish, Karmakanic, Ritual and the modern incarnation of Kaipa to name but a few. Now, if there’s one thing I absolutely adore about Swedish sympho-folk/prog it’s that it serves as a deliciously joyous counterpoint to some of the deeper, darker offerings in the prog canon. Now, I love Discipline, and Unfolded Like Staircase is for me the best ‘modern’ prog album there is but boy, is it bleak. Same goes with Crimson, VDGG, Floyd and a host of pale (and not so pale) modern imitators. Some of it is definitely not to be listened to after a bad day at work and a bottle (or two) of Pinot, put it that way. And I speak from experience, here. Klotet somehow manage to blend the two sub-genres, with the uplifting bits of Scando-prog dovetailing with the more furrowed brow seriousness of other artistes. There is, for example, a ‘hidden’ track, with spoken word samples that I understand, from the interweb, may be from the Swedish Prime Minister. Whose name escapes me.
Ominous footsteps and a brooding orchestral section lull you into a false sense of security before we’re into the first track proper. The next half an hour or so positively flies by, evoking soundtracks for long-forgotten TV shows about ‘kooky’ families with unfeasibly tall butlers and hairy relatives. Albeit who like to surf. And maverick teenage crime-fighting ensembles. With a talking dog. Damn those pesky kids, indeed.
At just over 35 minutes it’s more an EP than an LP (that would be an ELP, then?) so there may be some who, buoyed by the promise of the debut, were expecting more and consequently feel somewhat short-changed. A lot of bands record songs longer than this, for heaven’s sake. But it’s still brimming with invention, humour, and seriously good musicianship. Even if you’re not a fan of purely instrumental music it’s well worth a listen. But, given its length I do wonder whether it was, to use a term from Afraid of Sunlight, ‘knocked out’ to appease a record label. It has been two years, after all...
All in all, then, a worthy album – too short, though, but one you’ll return to from time to time.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Serge Keravel – Must
Tracklist: C-U-C-Me (4:06), War Dogs (3:49), Love Me (3:08), A Quiet Moment 4:25), Walk With Us (4:13), Seven Clouds (3:38), Stranger’s Beat (4:24), A Wish For Two (4:39), Bounced Off (4:12), Soul Mates (4:12), For Keeps (4:08), Do I Know You? (4:33), Rumbling (4:14), Mysterious Analogies (4:53), Blue Agenda (3:54)
Serge Keravel is a French-Canadian multi instrumentalist, born from a Breton father and an Italian mother. Influenced by artists like Keith Jarett and Joni Mitchell and admiring artists like Peter Gabriel and Bjork he began to explore music at a young age. Must is his third offering consisting of relaxing instrumental music, using electronics for effects, percussion and drum sounds which gives a musician like Keravel the opportunity to do everything himself - but the hazard is that the overall sound becomes unnatural and thin. With the help of Pierre Messler, Keravel managed to reduce this hazard of possibly unnatural sounding drums to an absolute minimum.
Throughout the album one can appreciate that Keravel is primarily a keyboard player. Most of the orchestrations, accompaniment, solos and bass sounds come from keyboards. Just like Derek Sherinian, Serge sometimes likes to use his keyboards to mimic the sound of a guitar, but he also uses sounds of a flute or any other instrument to keep the listener’s attention focused on his music.
In the first track we have some haunting sounds and then the electronic drums come pounding in. Multiple keyboard layers with the melodies played by different sounding synths and all in a rather slow rhythm. In War Dogs the sounds of a aeroplane, then some synths, drums and the piano as the predominant accompanying instrument. All melodies are friendly, catchy but never aggressive.
Almost New Age music in Love Me - lovely theme but the percussion and drums sounds make the track resemble one of the many by the German outfit Enigma. Whereas some slow jazz influences like in the earlier Gino Vannelli works can be distinguished in Walk With Us - the lead melody played by synths with sounds like ‘classic synth meets organ’ and in the second part a more guitar-like sounding. Another lovely melodic tune, with some oriental flavours, is Walk With Us - sometimes the music reminds of early works by Yanni. The same kind of atmosphere, slow dance music, as in Dancing Fantasy we hear in Seven Clouds, smooth and soft melodies with subtle piano playing. Another name that pops up when I hear this music is the Spanish EM artist Psycodraemics aka Salva Moreno.
Stranger’s Beat has a firmer beat and the organ in the second part gives the music a slightly harder rocking edge, but everything within the limits of pleasant, joyful music. Flutes open a New Age oriented track called A Wish Or Two - mainly soft, smooth jazzy music featuring piano, acoustic guitar sounds and a nice synth-bass. A more rhythmic sound and a piano are to be found in Bounced Off, with all kinds of orchestrations and organ as accompaniment, and a cello as solo-instrument.
The melancholy of the late Pete Bardens can be heard in Soul Mates but the lead instruments is a slightly distorted synth, just a little bit sounding as a muffled guitar. The bass sounds in For Keeps show even more jazz influences because they sound like a fretless bass. Again piano in the centre with smooth groovy rhythm patterns. Sometimes these synth sounds resemble the very distinctive sounds by Jan Hammer’s synth as he used to play them in for example Miami Vice. Do I Know You is basically variations on two chords, expanded with another two in the ‘choruses’. Simple but very nice, and Serge uses an accordion sound here.
Slightly more up tempo is the track Rumbling with a lot of percussion going on, bass sounds and subtle pipe organ as lead instrument. New Age meets soft jazz again in Mysterious Analogies, nice but nothing unexpected. The final track is called Blue Agenda. Once more the name of Yanni pops up but the difference here is the piano who Keravel uses much more than the Greek American. A nice and more up tempo finale to an album that I’ve enjoyed listening to very much.
The compositions tend to be quite straight forward and rather simple in origin although much attention is given to details and most of the music is orchestrated and arranged extremely nicely. I do miss some tension in the music however or a melody that keeps running in my mind like forever. Furthermore I would not call this kind of music progressive rock, but I would rather characterize this type of music as ‘instrumental electronic music with a progressive edge’. Serge did a very fine job and if you want to relax but don’t want to fall asleep, this kind of music would be perfect - also very suitable to listen to this music as a concentrated listener because of the many little details: it’s a journey full of discoveries.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Hope To Find – Still Constant [EP]
Tracklist: The Grand Opening (6:59), Walking Walls (6:10), Witness Of Happiness (7:23), City Soul (6:48)
Progressive rock from Turkey, certainly not a country very widely known where progressive rock is made, but maybe Hope To Find can start to change all that.
Already founded back in the year 2003 by guitar players Zafer Yüksel and Seçkin Can Koyuncu, Hope To Find try to express themselves through melodic progressive rock and by combining all of the influences of each of the band members into their compositions. To complete the line up we have Alper Dağalp (keyboards), Erdem Korkmaz (bass) and Orkun Sen (drums).
In gathering more information about Hope To Find I had a brief e-mail interaction with Zafer who told me that they are now trying to find a vocalist to join the band to give him more freedom to play the guitar. This now seems a necessity as the other guitar player, Seçkin has left the band for personal reasons. Thus leaving Zafer on his own, so anyone interested in singing with Hope To Find needs to be from the land of Turkey and live in the area of...
Enough introduction. Musically we find Hope To Find in the midst of the Polish stream. The intonation and melody of the music has a certain feel you get when listening to Satellite or Riverside, perhaps even Acute Mind or Division By Zero. Although the latter two are much heavier and darker in their approach.
Musically and production wise I have no remarks to make regarding the material on this first EP by Hope To Find. I find all the songs easy to listen to, no hard stuff. I believe the band have it in themselves to make a name, but clearly need to find a sound of their own to do so. Good music but not special. I sure hope they find their singer soon and hopefully give us a full length effort in the near future...
Conclusion: 7 out of 10