REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:
Threshold – Paradox ~ The Singles Collection
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Year of Release:||2010|
CD1: Paradox [Radio Version] (4:34), Conceal The Face (5:03), Shifting Sands (3:41)
CD2: Sunseeker [Radio Version] (5:17), Fist Of Tongues (4:29), Half Way Home (5:49)
CD3: Virtual Isolation [Radio Version] (4:18), Somatography [Alternative Version] (5:39), Smile At The Moon (3:45)
CD4: Freaks [Radio Version] (3:46), Voyager II [Urban Version] (5:11), Change [Acoustic Version] (4:03)
CD5: Light And Space [Radio Version] (4:08), Long Way Home [Alternative Version] (4:02), Turn On Tune In [Compound Version] (4:21)
CD6: Phenomenon [Radio Version] (3:46), New Beginning (5:30), Round And Round [Acoustic Version] (4:02)
CD7: Mission Profile [Radio Version] (4:27), Flags And Footprints [Acoustic Version] (3:35), The Ravages Of Time [Live Version] (9:54)
CD8: Pilot In The Sky Of Dreams [Radio Version] (3:51), Elusive [Radio Version] (3:54), Safe To Fly [Acoustic Version] (3:34)
Whilst British prog metallers Threshold have never been anywhere near as big as the likes of Dream Theater or Queensrÿche – a situation surely more to do with the musical climate they initially emerged in and an unstable line-up than the quality of their music – they’ve nonetheless acquired a loyal and supportive fan base in their near two-decade existence. Since 1999, they’ve kept this fan base satiated with ‘fan club’ releases, put out on their own label in between mainstream albums, containing both live concerts and rarities and ‘alternative’ versions of material on their studio albums. Paradox ~ The Singles Collection continues this fine tradition.
On the face of it, a ‘singles’ collection seems a rather ironic pursuit for a band who’ve released very few singles, let alone had much success or radio play with them. However, the concept of this package makes more sense when explained by guitarist Karl Groom in his introductory liner notes:
“The idea behind this particular release is to present the lead track or single from each (studio) album. In addition, there are two other tracks that are relevant to each album cycle. These include songs that didn’t quite fit the style, ‘B sides’, live performances and rare recordings.”
It should be added that not all of these tracks are ‘exclusive’, in that a few have appeared on previous fan releases or as bonus tracks on the studio album, but these are almost all now hard to get hold of, and in addition there are some genuine rarities and new tracks that fans of the band are certain to get excited about.
Groom also mentions that "we have always worked as hard as possible to maintain very high standards on these (fan) CD’s", and I can testify to the truth of these words just by admiring the packaging. Encased in a sturdy, embossed cardboard box, each CD comes in its own sleeve, replete with the cover artwork from the album the lead song comes from shown within a ‘T’ shaped prism. Add in entertaining and informative notes about each track from various band members, and Threshold are already scoring points for this release before a note has been heard! (as an aside, the artwork and layout is by current guitarist Pete Morten, clearly a gifted chap.)
CD1 represents the band’s Wounded Land debut, released back in 1993, and opens with a ‘radio version’ (codename for ‘edit’ I think!) of one of that album’s key tracks, Paradox. Long a mainstay of the band’s live set, I have to say its not one of my favourite Threshold songs, being rather monotonous to my ears, and therefore for me this is one edit that works well, getting to the core of the song quickly and not outstaying its welcome. The keyboards still sound rather dated and overly dominant to my ears, however. Of considerably more interest are the two additional tracks. Both are songs that originally appeared on the band’s 1991 demo Cult Of The Immortal, and have been freshly re-recorded for this release, with a Damien Wilson vocal replacing then-bassist Jon Jeary’s original efforts. Conceal The Face was included in acoustic guise on the 2003 independent release Wireless Sessions but here it’s presented as originally intended. With its soaring, intertwining leads, Eastern-favoured riffs and plenty of crunching guitars, this is a quintessential Threshold track, if a little more straightforward in approach than we now expect from the band. Shifting Sands is more of a standard hard rocker, and is no classic, but it does have a strong groove.
On to 1994’s Psychedelicatessen for CD2, which opens with an edit of Sunseeker, one of my favourite Threshold tracks. On the face of it not much has been altered to the song, but the removal of much of its opening section – the atmospheric intro and Karl Groom’s superb, squealing guitar solo – means that it loses something to my ears.
Glynn Morgan replaced Wilson for this album, and he returned to the studio especially to add vocals to the two additional tracks on this CD, which for various reasons were deemed surplus to requirements at the time. Fist Of Tongues is a Morgan composition and is in a similar vein to his song Will To Give (which did make Psychedelicatessen). More direct and thrashy than is the norm for Threshold, at least in the verse, the song strips back a bit on the chorus, which is highly melodic and atmospheric. As Groom notes in the liner notes, Morgan’s voice – slightly rawer but perhaps a little warmer than Wilson’s – has if anything improved over the years. Halfway To Home is a very different beast, a Richard West-penned ballad in a mellow, symphonic vein, showcasing a different but equally compelling side to Morgan’s voice.
Damien Wilson returned for 1997’s Extinct Instinct album, and Virtual Isolation is a natural choice for lead-off track, being one of the more direct and instantly memorable pieces on the album. To my ears, this doesn’t sound much different from the album version, although apparently there has been some new recording done here. The more complex Somatography is given an overhaul, with the initial section – with Jon Jeary’s more understated vocals replacing the spoken word snippets and Wilson’s more operatic tones – sounding very different to the version on Extinct Instinct, although the main body of the song remains intact. The final track on this disc, Smiling At The Moon, is a song that was written between the Extinct Instinct and Clone sessions, and deemed – quite rightly in my opinion – not to fit in with the direction the band were going in at the time. It’s another West-penned ballad, not dissimilar in fact to Half Way Home, although perhaps a little simpler and more straightforward in style. It’s a well worked song, with a typically excellent Groom guitar solo to round things off.
CD4 sees us reaching the Clone (1998) era. This is the first album I heard by the band, and I still have a soft spot for it. The album showcased a rawer, more guitar-led approach, as embodied by the raging lead-off track Freaks, which suffers little through being tweaked a bit here and there for this edited version. Wilson was of course replaced by Andrew ‘Mac’ McDermott for this album, and Mac does a great job singing lyrics meant for his predecessor.
The two additional tracks are alternative versions of songs from Clone, and were both previously included on Decadent, the first fan club release from 1999. The ‘urban version’ of Voyager II is actually quite a substantial overhaul of the original, which was one of the more progressive, symphonic tracks on the album. This version has a darker, less ornate feel to it, with the guitar a little higher in the mix. Mac’s vocals are more subdued on the chorus than on the original and in a lower key. Although the choir-led passage – pivotal to the main track – is missing, some progressive touches remain, including the use of a mellotron in the song’s middle section – definitely a rarity on Threshold albums! Change is a song I never cared for much in its original form – an AOR-ish track that sounded too much like Bon Jovi for my liking! – and the more restrained, understated acoustic version presented here is definitely an improvement, although it’s still far from my favourite Clone-era song.
2001’s Hypothetical still stands – in my opinion – as the pinnacle of the band’s achievements, and again the three tracks presented here all appeared on the album, albeit two of them in radically different versions. I don’t have much to say about the edit of Light And Space, but the version of Long Way Home presented here is a radically different beast to the more familiar one which remains a mainstay of their live shows. This is actually the original version of the song, penned by West between Threshold commitments. The guitar crunch is replaced by an almost glam-rock style groove on the verse, whilst the bridge and chorus are dominated by shimmering synths. The ‘compound’ version of Turn On Tune In features an acoustic-led verse; although the chorus follows the original it is significantly less heavy. Both of these versions are interesting alternative takes, but I doubt I’ll be listening to them much in the future, if I’m honest.
CD6 kicks off with Phenomenon, the punchy opener from 2002’s Critical Mass. Again the tweaking here doesn’t alter the song’s effect much. New Beginning was included on the bonus disc included on the special edition of the album; apparently it was excluded from the album proper due to what the band thought was a predominance of mid-tempo songs. It’s a solid, slightly ominous track with a powerful chorus, and I think it should have been included on the original studio release as it’s definitely stronger than at least two of the songs that made the final track listing on what is, for me, one of the band’s weaker studio efforts. The third track is an almost all-new acoustic version of the CM track Round And Round; only Mac’s vocals remain from the original. This rather repetitive song isn’t one of the band’s greater achievements, although it does work quite well in this format.
An edit of the excellent Mission Profile kicks off the seventh CD, which represents 2004’s Subsurface – again, this sleek edit sticks pretty closely to the album version. The balladic Flags And Footprints works well in acoustic format, as you might expect. It was released as a b-side on the download only single Pressure, so this is its first appearance on CD. The disc finishes with a live version of The Ravages Of Time (originally on Hypothetical), which was one of the songs left off the Surface To Stage fan release. It’s a solid rendition which differs little from the original album version – although Johanne James’ drum work seems a little more powerful and frenetic here. It almost seems strange hearing Mac sing this now, as this is one of the songs that Damien Wilson has really made his own since his return to the band.
The final CD features material from 1997’s Dead Reckoning, the band’s most recent studio album to date. The edit of Pilot In A Sky Of Dreams is easily the ‘radio version’ which differs the most radically from the original - stripping down a 10 minute track to under four, the focus is very much on the balladic section of the song, with just a brief snatch from the up-tempo section which dominates at least half of the album track. The other two tracks here are something of a disappointment – an edited version of Elusive and an acoustic run through Safe To Fly, neither of which differ from, nor add much to, the originals. Personally I would have preferred some versions of Dead Reckoning tracks (either live or studio) with Wilson on vocals, although perhaps these are being stored up for a future fan release.
Overall, this is clearly a collection into which Threshold have put in a good deal of time, thought and effort, and it is bound to be of interest to their existing fan base. It almost goes without saying that newcomers might not want to start here – better to go with one of the studio albums (I’d suggest Hypothetical or Subsurface) or the recent, Inside Out-released ‘best of’, The Ravages Of Time – but may want to return to this after they’ve acquainted themselves with the band’s back catalogue. Personally speaking, not all of the alternative versions here work, but kudos to the band for attempting something different, and the ‘new’ songs included – Fist Of Tongues, Half Way Home, Smile At The Moon, plus the two reworked demo tracks – give the collection added value for fans. All in all, this is a worthwhile, beautifully presented box set from a band who look after their fans better than most.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
TOM DE VAL
IZZ – The Darkened Room
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Record Label:||Doone Records|
|Catalogue #:||DR8 - 669563|
|Year of Release:||2009|
Tracklist: Swallow Our Pride (5:16), Day Of Innocence (2:56), Regret (4:32), Can't Feel The Earth Part I (4:39), Ticking Away (2:47), Can't Feel The Earth Part II (10:36), Stumbling (5:23), The Message (3:07), 23 Minutes Of Tragedy (7:00), Can't Feel The Earth Part III (5:07)
Confession time. I got into IZZ because of Ed Sanders’ 1998 DPRP review of their debut, Sliver Of A Sun. Bought it there and then, in fact. In that recommended review Ed stated that the band “might be the best thing to come from the USA since Spock's Beard and Salem Hill”.
My River Flows in 2006 and 2007’s Live At Nearfest also garnered DPRP recommended status. Dave Sissons, reviewing the latter, said “IZZ are one of the best modern American symphonic progressive rock bands to emerge in (relatively) recent years, and should be considered alongside Echolyn, Glass Hammer and Spock’s Beard as being at the fore-front of the genre. Often garnering critical acclaim, they have yet to achieve the large fan base they so richly deserve”.
Prophetic words. Their latest, The Darkened Room, released in November 2009, has to be a contender for album of the year. Or, for that matter, of any year.
IZZ have consistently delivered innovative and original records and have a unique original sound. They cite their influences as The Beatles, Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, Radiohead but this does them an injustice. With a wall of sound Spector would be proud of, the band is eminently worthy of every gushing review they have garnered for their work so far.
Part of an ongoing series, the album forms what bassist John Galgano terms part one of a two album series, work on which is already ongoing. There is, apparently, a concept but the band is not offering up their own explanation, preferring the listener to form their own opinions.
A six-piece for this album, all band members play out of their skins – Paul Bremner further raises the bar for progressive rock guitar playing - but if any one player is to be singled out for praise then special mention must be had for the bass playing of John Galgano which swirls and swaggers and rages and soars. His brother Tom produced, engineered and recorded the album and the sound is beautifully fragile in places, sometimes jarring and discordant, yet always symphonic and expansive. This is as good as American symphonic prog gets.
Ten tracks, then, three of which comprise the Can’t Feel The Earth suite, interspersed throughout the album. Now I’m not sure why they have done this. Maybe it was to assist the overall feel and flow of the album. Nevertheless, if you want to hear the whole unadulterated piece, get your MP3 player out. The male/female interplay of the vocals is a wondrous thing. There’s so much going on in this song cycle it needs a review of its own.
Highlights are too many to name here. Swallow Our Pride kicks things off, with a Mogwai drone, before the achingly beautiful male/female vocal harmonies kick in swooping in and out of soaring symphonic bombast before an odd Cygnus X-1 moment. And an abrupt end.
Leading into the pure unalloyed joy that is Day Of Innocence. When the female harmony kicks in I defy you not to get goose bumps and when Bremner lets loose with the electric after a gorgeous acoustic workout you will be smashing the glass on your emergency air guitar cabinet.
The bass playing on Regret will shake you to your foundations. Chris Squire fans, get ready to love this. Talk Talk anyone?
Stumbling starts off like gangbusters then the symphonic section kicks in and that’s when the broad smile will form. A bit of free-form jazzy exploration as always underpinned by Galgano’s fat bass sound then a Men At Work guitar coda leads you into The Message with vocal harmonies going head to head with Bremner’s intricate guitar work.
23 Minutes Of Tragedy, with Trick Of The Tail era guitar section, early PT synth stylings, a Floydian explosion culminating in a Tangerine Dream climax with Hogarth-esque warblings, leading into a bit more mid-70s Genesis is perhaps the most formulaic track. Doesn’t make it any worse, mind.
Part III of Can’t Feel The Earth concludes matters. Suitably grandiose, swirling multi-layered synths across a relentlessly driving rhythm interspersed with those wonderful vocal harmonies.
From the opening electronic drone of Swallow Our Pride to the abrupt climax (part of the concept perhaps?) this is a staggering album. Tell your friends.
There’s also an MP3 download, that’s not on the album but which is part of the concept – Places To Hide – which can be downloaded for a small fee HERE.
Conclusion: 10 out of 10
IO Earth - IO Earth
CD1: Introduction (6:04), Storyteller (5:00), EEEE (4:47), Interlude (0:41), Smoky Wood (4:47), Come With Me (7:47), Opus 2 (2.42), Mountain Start To Fall (3:47), Loops (3:47), Symphony (5:27), Light And Shade (4:28), Home (6:36), Creation (7:12)
CD2: Sun Is Going Down (3:50), Interlude (1:38), Harmonic (8:32), Take Me (5:25), Come To Me [Reprise], (4:02) Outro (4:08)
IO Earth is the brainchild of Dave Cureton (guitars) and Adam Gough (keyboards) two school friends from the 90’s who have worked together on many projects with others over the years, but who always had a dream of working together on something that, quote ” was fresh and new - Something that would challenge the ears, hearts and minds of its listeners”.
Well in IO Earth they have certainly achieved their goal. Considering that this is a debut, this is an absolutely remarkable album, being a roller-coaster ride of power, melody and emotion, combining rock, classical, opera, dance, ambient and jazz into a unique and dazzling work of huge scope and imagination.
Covering two CD’s they have produced over an hour and a half of musical excellence split into 3 movements: - Water, Earth and Air. Via these themes we are taken on a journey encompassing long dynamic guitar led instrumentals with references to
Latimer, Oldfield, Gilmour, Satriani, Beck, powerful atmospheric and melodic keyboards, think Vangelis, Wakemen, Reed, haunting ambient electronica and highly evocative and emotional vocals.
The band comprises Dave Cureton, guitar & other instruments. Adam Gough, keyboards & other instruments. Richard Cureton, drums & percussion. Christian Nokes, bass. The musicianship on the album is of the highest quality, all the players proving to masters of their instruments, although to my mind Dave Cureton’s guitar is the highlight of the album. The vocals are strong with superb performances by Claire Malin, Louise Braggins and Steve Balsamo of Chimpan A. The production is crisp, clear and powerful and credit should be given to Miguel Seco who engineered, mastered and produced the album.
A new band, a debut work, this is one of the best albums to have come out recently. It is not often you hear a new piece of music and fail to find any points of real criticism. For lovers of inventive, complex, powerful, symphonic music this album is an absolute must. Can’t wait for the next one.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Anthony Phillips - Missing Links Volume IV: Pathways & Promenades
Tracklist: The Golden Road To Samarkand (1:32), Promenade (4:01), Sceptred Isle (2:45), Danza Cuccaracha (5:41), Fallen Idol (2:21), Cascades (2:07), Sky Dawn (6:15), Misty Mountains (2:33), It's All Greek To Me (2:26), Haven From The Sea (2:23), Heavenly Gene (2:17), Ironclad (2:37), Water Gardens (2:35), Night Train (1:01), Sleeping Giant (1:38), Sombrero (2:36), Irish Lament (1:26), Aurora (3:02), Without You (1:38), Sad Exodus (2:29), Summer Of Love (3:09), Light Rain (3:18), Halycon Days (5:53)
When Anthony Phillips left Genesis in 1970 following the release of their debut Trespass album it took a full seven years before he resurfaced but he very quickly made up for lost time. He supplemented his ‘official’ releases which began with 1977’s The Geese And The Ghost with a series of mostly solo instrumental albums headed by 1978’s appropriately titled Private Parts & Pieces. This didn’t appear in the UK until April the following year however when it was issued free with the first 5,000 copies of Ant’s Sides album. Both releases still sit proudly in my vinyl collection. This series continued for several years with the most recent
Private Parts & Pieces X appearing in 1999. Missing Links Volume I was released ten years earlier and as the title implies this is the fourth in that particular collection and brings together pieces previously available only on compilations along with hitherto unreleased library music tracks.
Although Ant is the only musician credited (except for Joji Hiota who provides percussion on the concluding Halycon Days) the overall sound is more expansive than his earlier instrumental works which concentrated on solo acoustic guitar and piano pieces. After quitting Genesis, Ant immersed himself in music spending his time studying, writing, arranging and recording as well as developing his piano technique alongside his guitar skills. This album, as much as any of his previous works, is a testimony to his dedication. Keyboards, piano and guitars are utilised and overdubbed to provide a rich kaleidoscope of sonic textures with often hauntingly beautiful results.
With 23 tracks of sheer musical poetry it would be a daunting task to undertake a full track by track appraisal (as is my normal reviewing style) whilst on the other hand it would seem pointless to single out any one track for special mention. To give an overall flavour I’ve selected six of my favourite pieces although I could have just as easily focused on any combination of tracks from the album. Although some pieces flow seamlessly into one another the overall impression is one of diversity as much as it is coherency.
Sceptred Isle is lush and melodramatic with magisterial orchestrated keys that have an almost gothic quality. This would make great mood music for a Hollywood epic depicting a bygone age of mist shrouded castles and knightly battles from the pen of someone like Hans Zimmer or James Horner. Danza Cuccaracha has a distinct Spanish flavour thanks to beautifully played solo classical guitar that echoes the work of composer Joaquin Rodrigo. The aptly titled Cascades features atmospheric tumbling keys and percussion and like several of the pieces here could easily be attributed to the sometimes minimalist style of Hollywood composer Thomas Newman.
Sky Dawn finds Ant in familiar territory with ringing 12-string guitar and a simple but gorgeous melody that could have come from the original Private Parts & Pieces album. It acutely displays the mastery of his 12 string technique which played an integral part in shaping the early Genesis sound. If memory serves me well when legendary DJ John Peel first heard 10cc’s I’m Not In Love he likened the lush backing track to the sound of waves on sand which would also provide a good description for Summer Of Love. The surging ambient keys are very Tangerine Dream like supporting a memorable synth theme.
Like Ant, I’ve saved possibly the best track until last. Halycon Days opens with delicate electric guitar overlaid with washes of rich sonic textures. It develops into as majestic keyboard melody that evokes both Vangelis and Jon Anderson (circa his Olias Of Sunhillow album) providing a fittingly stately conclusion.
With all music composed, arranged, performed and produced by Anthony Phillips this collection displays a depth and maturity that is not always evident in his previous work. In addition to the names I’ve mentioned already Mike Oldfield and Troy Donockley would be suitable comparators as would the romantic 20th century classical style of the likes of Sibelius, Debussy, and Ralph Vaughan Williams.
This is one of those situations where I’m torn between a DPRP recommendation (based on my personal bias towards the work of Ant Phillips and this album in particular) or a rating that I feel would closer reflect the average tastes of visitors to this site. In the end I’ve plumped for the latter. Even some of my esteemed colleagues have voiced their indifference towards acoustic based music although that is only one element of the bigger picture here. Albums of this nature are often collectively (and sometimes dismissively) categorised as ‘new age’ or even ‘chill out’ although in this case such labels would be a tad deceiving if not unjustified.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Robert Svilpa & Paraesthesia - A Fine Line Between...
Tracklist: The First Piece In The Puzzle (4:57), Mirror Mirror (4:33), Temple Of Lost Souls (16:54), Frantic (6:19), In The Shadows (6:53), The Only One (4:16), Mesmerize (9:48), Adagio In A Minor (5:22), Atonement (5:13), As Time Goes By (6:35), Drawing The Short Straw (8:00)
First thing I have to say is that circumstances for this review were not ideal. I received a burned CD-rom with the artwork printed very small. When trying to find information on the internet I found that his website does not contain information about
Robert Svilpa and that the Record Label can not be found using Google. So all background information is from other progressive rock internet sites and his MySpace site, which is not very informative, but does contain almost fifty bands named as being an influence. What I can read on the prints is that Robert Svilpa is joined by Paraesthesia which consists of Paul Harrington (keyboards) and Mark Parris (bass). Robert himself plays guitar and keyboards and does the vocals and there are three different drummers on this album: Andy Edwards, Zsolt Galanti and, last but not the least of the three, Nick D'Virgilio. On Mesmerize he is joined by his Spock's Beard colleague Alan Morse.
The music of Robert Svilpa is classified as neo-prog and I can fully agree with that. Fifty bands is a huge number of influences but the best thing I could come up with is a cross between Pendragon and Saga. The 'new' Pendragon that is, A Fine Line Between ... is neo prog but the sound is contemporary, not old fashion. Also elements of Marillion, BJH and Transatlantic. The link with Spock's Beard is mainly the participation of the two members mentioned above, musically I do not hear that much resemblance.
The album starts very predictably with an instrumental opener, The First Piece In The Puzzle, immediately followed by an 'easy' rock song, Mirror Mirror. Temple Of Lost Souls is the major piece on this album, which features pieces of the legendary speech from Barack Obama, the "Yes we can" speech is perfectly mixed into the song, but I can say that for all the elements in Robert Svilpa's music. All tunes are very accessible and the songs are very well constructed and Robert Svilpa is a good song writer. This album also has parts of speeches from Steve Jobs and professor Stephen Hawking mixed into the music. The balance on this album is good.
An epic song like Temple Of Lost Souls is followed by a couple of shorter songs that are not that complicated but when needed some more complicated stuff is delivered. Frantic, In The Shadows and The Only One are all great songs that are catchy without becoming too predictable. After which it is time for some more challenging stuff with Mesmerize, almost ten minutes long and features the Spock's Beard duo. This instrumental song starts with keyboard music like that of Jean Michel Jarre and jumps back to that on many occasions. Alan Morse's loose way of playing the guitar is distinct, but I would not classify this as a Spock's Beard song. Though more challenging than the easier rock songs on A Fine Line Between ... you will not find music that will blow your mind, all is held well within the limits of that.
This album does however go from one recognizable sound to an other and next featured band as a recognizable influence is Arena. Another symphonic song, Adagio In A Minor also reminds me a bit of of the Nolan/Wakeman albums. Up until now all music is instantly likable for a symphonic fan like me but Atonement is a song that I skip. I really do not like electronic drum beats and it is used during some parts of this song, why oh why? It is also the only song on which the vocals do not sound very clear.
As Time Goes By is another instrumental song that again is all over the place without really stepping out of line. A guitar riff that reminds me of A.C.T is followed by a Pendragon part and like that the song changes to something else without becoming incoherent. The first part of Drawing The Short Straw is mellow but in the second part there is a lot of room for symphonic instrumental soloing, stretched guitars and atmospheric keyboards all over the place. Neo-prog all the way.
I started reviewing this album blank because not much information can be found on this release, but in the end it is all about the music and that is well taken care of. It is neo progressive rock with many old fashion aspects without sounding old fashion.
Robert Svilpa does not push any musical boundaries but he very nicely combines elements from well known symphonic bands and the songs are constructed in a way that they sound accessible without becoming too predictable. If you like the bands named in this review then this album will be a good addition to your collection, not renewing but very enjoyable.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Steve Morse Band – Outstanding In Their Field
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Record Label:||Edel Company|
|Year of Release:||2009|
|Info:||Steve Morse Band|
Tracklist: Name Dropping (4:58), Brink Of The Edge (4:41), Here And Now And Then (5:05), Relentless Encroachment (4:53), Jon Deere Letter (4:41), More To The Point (4:27), Time Junction (5:14), Unnamed Sources (4:29), Flight Of The Osprey (3:19), Baroque‘N Dreams (3:14), Rising Power [live] (9:25)
I am very much into instrumental albums and in particular guitar oriented album. I receive or buy most of my music on the road somewhere or it is bought by relatives. Likewise this album by the Steve Morse Band, which I stumbled upon by accident. I did not even know they were working on new material. The band still has the same members as the last album with Steve Morse playing guitars, Dave La Rue handling the basses and Van Romaine playing the drums. In my humble opinion this has been and is a terrific line-up with outstanding musicians, they truly belong to the best in their field.
The album opens with a blast; they roll in steaming with an almost heavy prog song, Name Dropping, not entirely heavy prog or prog metal but it comes close. I could imagine guitarists like John Petrucci or Joe Satriani playing this song. The second piece of music even takes it a bit further. Brink Of The Edge also reminds me of music played in Transatlantic where of course Roine Stolt and Neal Morse play guitars. Both songs are heavy but yet again have slow and easier bits.
Going on to track 3 Here And Now And Then, starts of mellow even like a Bruce Springsteen song but alas this changes into a beautifully played Southern rock song, which could be played by the Allman Brother’s band. It is almost as if it costs Steve hardly any effort to play such a beautiful song.
After this short break of heavy music we go on with heavy music again when Relentless Encroachment starts. This track feels familiar from the start; it continues a more heavy approach where Brink Of The Edge ended Relentless Encroachment continues. The song also has a little retro feel to it. Some really good bass playing by Dave Larue. The song gives me a Rush feeling.
Continuing with John Deere Letter, first time I heard this musical extravaganza I thought to myself this is like the old Dixie Dregs music, Steve plays the guitar in a manner I really like. At breakneck speed and with a Southern classy feel to it, similarly to how he played with the Dregs.
More To The Point has a feel to it like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai create in their music, especially Vai, the song has rough edges combined with smoothly played bits. Fast moving forward easily growing on you while you listen, a very good driving tune by the way.
In Time Junction Steve once more surprises me with his virtuoso style, again a lot of nice bass lines in this tune as well. It really gives an idea how good a bass player Dave Larue is.
Unnamed Sources goes on in a very melodic style, a slower song, full of emotion, well played - not to smooth and not to rough, just right.
Going on to Flight Of The Osprey, starting with an acoustic introduction this time, continuing with standard background hard rock riffs, playing a melody over it. More or less a classic hard rock instrumental, I could even here ’70s Ted Nugent where he plays Free For All.
Ending the studio recording with a classical piece of guitar, John Williams of Sky could not have done this better, a baroque bit of guitar and bass of outstanding class.
The last track on this CD is a live recording. I must say I do not like live recordings they never seem to really capture the atmosphere and true happening a live performance is. The song however is a good piece of music, nothing wrong with that although in my opinion a waste of space on the CD. Too bad, 10 tracks were enough.
Overall the CD is well worth listening if you are into guitar music and instrumental albums in particular. Again a shame about the live track - I might have given the CD a full 8, now it gets stuck with a fat 7 out of 10.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Fantasmagoria - Day And Night
Tracklist: Crusader (4:06), Blue Rice (3:40), Into The Sea (5:11), MNK (5:36), The Sparrow (6:08), Anticlimax (6:57), Omoplatta (4:29), Travelling Space (5:18), Joanni (7:23), Lights That Fall Down The Hill (5:34), Epic (5:09)
In terms of leading and soloing instruments, prog has always been keyboards’ paradise and, to a lesser extent, a nice space of expression for proficient guitarists. Violins have never been a particularly promiscuous presence on progressive music, but there are a few big names, bands such as Dixie Dregs, UK, Kansas, Curved Air and King Crimson, as well as talented performers including Eddie Jobson, David Cross, Jerry Goodman and Bobby Steinhardt, who’ve contributed some marvellous sounds with their skills on this beautiful string instrument.
Now we can certainly add the talents of Miki Fujimoto to that illustrious list, as her performances on this Day And Night are truly remarkable. The letdown is that, though the band around her, collectively known as Fantasmagoria (somewhat innocently accompanied by the “Violin Progressive” tag, as indicated on the CD sleeve), is undoubtedly a proficient bunch of musicians (excellent playing by Junpei Ozaki on guitars, Ryuichi Odani on keys, Naoki Kitao on bass and Masataka Suwa on drums), the pieces that are presented lack some punch and personality; also, the somehow weak production (which is correct enough, but also a bit thin and amateurish).
From opening tracks Crusader and Blue Rice, it’s made clear the musicians are technically proficient, and show some admirable versatility, but also fall on some repetitiveness and a few clichés; see both songs for the same, identical swing/jazzy breakdown (later used again on the metal-ish Anticlimax).
For more fusion flavoured sounds, please enjoy Into The Sea and Omoplatta (which strongly reminds me of that quirky Flower Kings instrumental, The Unorthodox Dancinglesson); if you fancy loudness and power, MNK is a healthy slab of Planet X/Derek Sherinian progmetal frenzy.
Day And Night is promising enough, and Lights That Fall Down The Hill and Epic (which, by the way, is not epic at all, and not even the longest cut on the CD) are excellent tracks that prove it, but certainly the way to become as big as Kenso or Ars Nova, to name but a pair of important names in Japanese progressive music, is a long one.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Ixion – Garden Of Eden
|Country of Origin:||Netherlands|
|Year of Release:||2009|
Tracklist: Golden Cage (12:17), Edge Of Insanity (7:24), My Princess, My Queen (3:17), Storm (7:19), Comfort Zone (3:57), The Virus (8:16), Garden Of Eden (5:12), Trapped (8:24)
Ixion is a project by the Dutch musician Jankees Braam, who during the daytime has a job as computer programmer, but in his spare time he is the sound-engineer for S.O.T.E, Knight Area and Ulysses among others as well as multi-instrumentalist musician. Jankees plays bass, bass pedals, guitars and keyboards and Garden Of Eden is his third release. On this release former members of the band he used to play in (Sangamo) and friends from Ulysses (singer Michael Hos), S.O.T.E. (Gerton Leijdekker and Peter Boer) and ex-S.O.T.E. member Emile Boellaard were the musicians. Also as guests on this album were Eveline van Kampen (Illumion) and Sylvester Vogelenzang de Jong (guitar), Esther Ladiges (vocals: Illumion, Unicorn), Gerben Klazinga (Knight Area), Linde Faber on cello, Martijn Bos on the grand piano and Irma Vos on violin. For the recordings amongst others the Knight Area studio was used and Peter Boer did the mastering. All compositions, lyrics and artwork were done by Jankees, as well as a good share of the recordings.
The album opens with a very diverse track: a majestic, keyboard driven prelude, then some disturbing beeps and radio-noise, followed by a beautiful bombastic instrumental piece with a lot of keyboards, violin, guitar, bass pedals and drums. Next part is a rather mellow symphonic piece, sung by Michael Hos. It could have been Knight Area or Ulysses and the synth solo by Gerben is a nice one and reminds me of the sound of Eloy. The intonation however is rather extraordinary and far from the simple E, A and B chord structures. Several transitions where the key is changing with half a tone for example but still the music sounds very pleasant altogether. I'm not too fond of Hos' vocal, although I must emphasize that's more personal to my opinion about the music. Especially the part in this track but even more in some others, where he has to sing in the upper limits of his reach, I just don't like it anymore. In the mix it sometimes feels as if the vocals are not blending with the music very well but that instruments and vocals are totally different entities instead of the sound of a band.
Edge Of Insanity is a track in the same vein but obviously with different melodies. A lovely tune is My Princess, My Queen. Catchy melody, an opening by the cello and a nice combination of keyboards, lead guitar, bass, bass pedals and gentle drumming. This one's well sung by Hos. Storm has two faces: one is the more the jazzy side sung by Esther Ladiges and the other is the more proggy side sung by Michael Hos. About halfway there's an interlude by piano and an almost classical piece with piano, cello, bass pedals, synth and a mellow tuned guitar. Ladiges' vocal is very emotional with her more powerful voice the music returns to the first theme.
A mix of Eloy and Knight Area can be heard in Comfort Zone, sensitively sung by Ladiges. The Virus is yet another intriguing composition. An instrumental opening is followed by a rather complex piece, sung by Hos. It has a lovely chorus, think Arena for instance, but with Jowitt playing only his bass pedals. Good guitar solo by Sylvester . The first 1/2 minute of the title track reminds me a bit of the first minute of Changes by Yes (90125) but Jankees switches to this awesome combination of a jazzy feel (piano, Ladiges' voice, gentle guitars and drums) with the symphonic bombast of the heavy bass pedals and the classical influences of the violin. The final track shows influences of S.O.T.E. and thus it's no wonder it has a complex structure with both very melodic parts and less easy to 'consume' material.
It takes a few spins before the music can get to you and I certainly think this is not an album for each and everyone interested in melodic 'prog'. Fans of S.O.T.E. and Ulysses can't go wrong and I'd advise anyone with a preference for bass pedals to check this album out. Music with a distinctive style, daring because it's rather complex, not always easy listening but my compliments for Mr. Braam for his perseverance and for sharing his musical thought with us. An elaborate and honest album , progressive in the real sense, that's what Garden Of Eden is to me.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
MENNO VON BRUCKEN FOCK
Höstsonaten – Autumnsymphony
Tracklist: Open Windows To Autumn (5:53), Leaves In The Well (5:00), Out Of Water (4:12), Nightswan I (3:01), Nightswan II (3:21), As The Night Gives Birth To The Morning (6:00), Tress In November (4:26), Elegy (3:51), Autumn’s Last Breath - The Gates Of Winter (5:56)
Höstsonaten is a side-project of Fabio Zuffanti about whom I can profess to have no knowledge other than this album. However, on the strength of Autumnsymphony, I shall certainly be investigating his other projects because there is a tremendous amount of inspiring and interesting work here. Zuffanti’s day job is with Finisterre, an Italian outfit who have been around since 1993 in Italy’s strong progressive music scene, for whom he is a composer and keyboard player. However, alongside these two endeavours he is also involved with 11 other ventures! Höstsonaten is not a band as such, they are a loose collective of musicians that change according to the needs of the writing that Zuffanti is undertaking. Autumnsymphony is the third work in a quadrology dedicated to the four seasons. Winterthrough and Springsong accompany this most recent addition. Anyway, I urge you, dear reader, to follow the links to Fabio’s sites and investigate all of this for yourself because I am merely parroting what I find there.
To the more pressing matter of this new offering, Autumnsymphony is, in my estimation, as fine an introduction to the nature and quality of Zaffanti’s output as anything else may be. The compositional work and the interesting and unusual line up of artists who realise it are fresh and original. The album credits list a compelling collection of musical instruments and players to whet your appetite for something that might just have that intangible something which impels you to hear what they might do with this variety and particular combination. Zuffanti himself handles bass guitars and pedals, mellotron, minimoog, and Fender Rhodes as well as electric and acoustic guitars. But this is not a one man band by any means and non of these instruments has a stronger identity in the final mix than any of the other assembled instruments which include: cello, violin, and viola; flute, oboe and piccolo; stick bass, double bass, saxophone, trumpet and a couple of surprises I’ll save for later. All of these combine to represent what Fabio promises is his ‘deepest love for progressive rock, jazz, folk and ethnic music’. So does Autumnsymphony bear this out and does Fabio keep his promise?
Opening track Open Windows To Autumn has the feel of a 70’s movie theme, think Taxi Driver without the menace or perhaps Lalo Schifrin’s ‘Bullit’ theme (Shifting Gears), especially the opening minutes, with it’s rolling bass figure counterpointed by insistent brass. I may be overstating the resemblance a little because there is a more distinctly jazz feel to this track than the aforementioned classic movie themes. This is, in moments, Miles Davis-lite; Bitches Brew but without the bitches or the brew, more of a coffee morning for sociopathic housewives, perhaps? Maybe I’m being unfair in this description because what Hostsonaten do share a similarity with in their particular jazz style is British jazz-fusion group Nucleus, with whom Allan Holdsworth cut his teeth. Suffice it to say that there’s definitely something disorienting and slightly unsettling about this track as it descends into a chaotic swirl of flute and stumbling drum patterns competing with dissonant strings and mellotronic pads before resolving into a lovely, simple theme to presage track two, Leaves In The Well. Structurally this echoes the arrangement of Opening Windows… in that its instrumentation is sparse and distinct to begin with before developing into a more complex and layered climactic sequence which then settles into a closing coda that echoes its beginning. However, aside from its tempo, Leaves In The Well is a different creature from the opener. A classical acoustic guitar carries the melodic arpeggio on a gently picked pattern and is joined by a mournful, sustained electric guitar that weeps its strain with increasing urgency over a swelling progression of chords. This is a gorgeous, elegiac piece that segues into Out Of Water where the same refrain is carried on by a violin over a piano and cello arrangement; asserting a new identity whilst retaining its musical link with the first two pieces. Again, the sparse instrumentation allows everything to breathe and develop organically, but in this case, an abrupt and clumsy (though obviously intentional) switch jumps the track into a new mode. Suddenly we have a tripping and bouncing jazz quartet fronted by a strident flautist filling our sonic foreground whilst, in the background, the main theme struggles to make itself heard before the jazz party dissolves away as quickly as it came. In keeping with the seasonal idea of the title, I get the impression that this is like one of those stunning September or October days where Summer makes a fleeting reappearance, flooding the world with light and warmth. Reminding us briefly of carefree afternoons and long nights before the reality of Autumn sinks in and tightens its grip.
I find it impossible to detach myself from the overall seasonal theme of the album. Höstsonaten have done a wonderful job of musically evoking the shift in the seasons. This opening trilogy, and I do think they should be considered as a trilogy because of the way in which the musical ideas reflect and echo each other begins the story. There is a sense of deceleration, of growing entropy and loss coupled with beauty and wonder through the musical ideas here. Nightswan I and II continue to convey this but the melodies and the instrumentation have changed somewhat. Nightswan II is delicious and a real highlight of the whole album. It’s the first up-tempo number and a bit of welcome relief from the slightly oppressive feel of the opening. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it but, for me, this evokes the migratory impulse of birds. The music has a strong feeling of flight and the rush of avian life to find warmer climes, carrying with it a spirit of adventure, excitement and anticipation. As Night Gives Birth To The Morning is really quite an extraordinary piece. I can’t say I’ve heard anything quite like it before, largely because of the complimentary use of both a trumpet and bagpipes. Yes, bagpipes! With a trumpet! This first half of this track reaffirms Autumn’s advance and has the quality of a last post salute reiterated in the dolent cries of the pipes. You can almost see the trees shedding leaves; bare against a cold, white sky as the earth shifts from green to brown. The second half is a complete shift as a jazzy rhythm section accelerates the decline into Autumn proper with a fantastic double bass (brilliantly supported throughout the album by Pietro Martinelli) and drum partnership underpinning an eerie kind of ululating synth spirit whilst the lead trumpet trills and stabs at the gradually freezing air. Heavily reverbed flutes lead us into Trees In November. I’m really not sure what’s going on here, or whether I like it, but again, you have to marvel slightly at the level of invention that this album contains. This track is characterised by a rippling jazz guitar solo in the style of Pat Metheny or Al Di Meola but also has a silly little ditty to begin with, crushing, deep blasts of heavy bass synth and a heralding brass section before ending with a kind of Tyrolean folk melody picked out on koto!
The penultimate track Elegy and the closer, Autumn’s Last Breath – The Gates Of Winter bring the album to its inevitable and predictable conclusion; Autumn is, after all, always going to end and be usurped by Winter’s long grey mudflats and
Elegy reminds just what is coming. Featuring a vocal melody sung beautifully with an operatic cadence by Simona Angioloni it is simply dripping with funereal tears and welling sadness before the last track delicately picks out the musical themes that began on track one through piano and strings. But there is a weakness here, a frailty that has been unfelt in its precedents. Even as we reach the final measures and the motifs we have been through are reintroduced in steadily building layers we are reminded that the majesty and resplendence of Autumn and the shift from season to season is as fleeting as all of life.
So, it’s quite a Zen ride this album; an evocative journey that is symphonic in its storytelling but not in its orchestration. Yet its orchestration is definitely the best thing about Autumnsymphony. This is the most original sounding piece of work I’ve heard in quite some time and I would definitely recommend it to you on the strength of that. This would be a unique addition to anyone’s collection regardless of their musical taste; it crosses boundaries and genres in an accessible way. It is by turns
sombre and reflective, curious and deft of touch. It is brief, no single track exceeds its musical idea longer than can be sustained, they each make their point succinctly and leave. Yet the whole has a coherence that is greater than the sum of its parts. It mixes jazz with classical chamber music styling and retains a sense, the merest of thoughts, a brushing and half-remembered dream of Nordic progressive folk in the vein of Anglagard.
In spite of all of these wonderful sounding things, it also lacks something. It lacks range. Its subject matter defines and contains it. Beyond those confines it loses value and can exist only as a thing in itself. It is delightful and absorbing to listen through attentively in one whole sitting and makes for gratifying background music while you work. However, range is one of those qualities that I think delights fans of progressive music. We are drawn to complex vistas so that it takes us time to travel them; to unravel their mysteries and unlock their patterns. This album reveals itself too easily, perhaps even a little obviously and therefore wears thin quite quickly. In the final analysis, this may appear slight criticism but it impacts on my final score in that it falls just short of a DPRP recommendation. Much as there is a very great deal to be admired and applauded in this album, I cannot see myself returning to it often other than as an ambient soundtrack. Maybe this is merit enough for you too?
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Sendelica – The Girl From The Future...
|Country of Origin:||UK/USA|
|Year of Release:||2009|
Tracklist: Standing On The Edge (3:19), Manhole Of The Universe (12:05), Hazelnut (9:38), Dark Disco (9:13), The Girl From The Future (5:02), Glory Bee (5:25), Several Species Of Furry Humans Gathered Together In A Cave Grooving Like Groovy Picts (13:55)
So I was checking out the DPRP writers’ pipeline deciding what to order for my next batch of CDs for review, when I came across The Girl From The Future Who Lit Up The Sky With Golden Worlds, the latest release from psych-space-stoner collective Sendelica. The band’s recorded audio resume includes an EP, a pair of limited edition experimental releases, and three conventional full-lengths including the one being reviewed here.
Looking at the band’s Myspace page, I noticed that some of the recording and engineering of the CD was done not just in the band’s home base of Wales, but also at Brown University, here in my hometown of Providence, Rhode Island. The local angle had me hooked on reviewing the CD, and despite a few sonic bumps here and there I’m glad I opted to review it.
Sendelica is made up of Welshmen Pete Bingham (ex-Kald) on drums and electronics and Glenda Pescado (The Surf Messengers, ex-Nick Turner’s All-Stars) on bass. Rounding up the core line-up of the band are Boston area musicians Geoff Chase (Axemunkee and a list of other credentials too numerous to mention) on drums and Ed “Vizzie” Guild on electronics. Welshman Paul Fields provides support on percussion with compatriot Lee Relfe helping out with saxophone.
Additional assistance comes from R.A. Fish who contributes rainstick and percussion on one track each, the cryptically-nicknamed Nemesis on vocal samples, and America-side engineer Brian Knoth providing additional guitar on two tracks. Welsh recording sessions were engineered by Pedro Kaldini.
The first 100 copies of the strictly limited edition CD came with a bonus DVD of a film entitled Sendelica’s Sleepwalker Fever Movie. The promo CD for this review came without the DVD.
Nemesis’ vocal samples coax in Bingham’s guitar and Chase’s drums on the slow-core of Standing On The Edge, a heady track that may make you reminisce about smoking a “tucker” (Bostonspeak for joint) and listening to Black Sabbath as a teenager, taking in the glow of the Blue Cheer poster on the wall while your mother yells at you to turn it down.
Some of the research I did on this band turned up The Orb as a pointer, but my perusal of the CD did not bring up any Orb commonalities. So the lack of Orbisms was disappointing to me, as this is a band that I favour. There are however some electronics on
Hazelnut, a track featuring a disciplined drum workout from Chase which could serve as sort of caffeine agent like the coffee referenced in the tune’s title.
The electronics show up again on Dark Disco, sounding like they could have been created by some knob-twiddling coming from Vespero’s studio. Nemesis’ vocal samples, a liberally paced groove from the rhythm section and Steve Rothery-like guitar from Bingham create a sort of organic house, as opposed to any disco.
As far as the production of the CD goes, the guitar to me is pretty abrasive and the drums give off a modest sheen. The songs to me are composed acceptably. This CD will most likely appeal to fans of Seventies-style stoner rock. Those who favour something more crisp and clean may not find it here.
The CD artwork features a psychedelic design, courtesy of Zonder Zond, including what appears to be a woman swimming underwater.
An area of opportunity I see for the band to improve with their next release is to incorporate drum programming and more of an electronica sound to attract today’s listeners, while keeping the stoner guitar riffs.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Jelonek - Jelonek
Tracklist: BaRock (3:08), B.East (3:30), Vendome (3:06), Akka (2:36), Steppe (4:53), A Funeral Of A Provincial Vampire (3:26), Lorr (3:56), Beech Forest (2.46), War In The Kid’s Room (3:05), Miserere Mei Deus (2:07), Mosquito Flight (4:01), Elephant’s Ballet (3:15), Pizzicato-Asceticism (6.46)
Michal Jelonek is lauded as one of the most talented violinists in Poland. Following a musical education culminating in a university diploma, he has worked over the past two decades with some of the countries leading orchestras, and has played violin on over 30 albums recorded by many of Poland’s most prestigious artists.
Jelonek is supported by: - Andrzej Karp (bass) Pawet Grzegorczyk (guitar) Grzegorz Stawinski (drums) Karol Ludew (drums) Artur Lipinski (drums) Dawid Somlo (percussion) Robert Fijatkowski (guitar) Justyna Osiecka (cello)
This is a good album though not progressive rock in its purest sense. With all compositions composed by Jelonek, the album combines baroque classical, heavy rock and Celtic / Eastern European music avoiding the clichés that can accompany such a fusion. Imagine soaring, melodic and energetic violin driven by a Prog’ Metal rhythm section that is almost Sabbath like in its intensity. The classical side of the music is very evident, with obvious similarities to Vanessa Mae and to some extent Julian Lloyd Webber. In addition to the more conventional violin sounds, there are some more modern pieces of a haunting ethereal nature that remind me of Ed Alleyne Johnson. Between these extremes there are elements of Fripp, Iona and Paatos combined with sublime string orchestration.
To my mind two tracks in particular stand out - A Funeral Of A Provincial Vampire and War In The Kids room. All the trademarks of the album are there; frenetic violin, loud thundering bass and drums, but there are also time changes, mood shifts, synths’ and orchestration. The compositions are fuller and more mature and give the listener something to get their teeth into. The stand out track though is Machinehat, opening with a robotic industrial beat that jars the teeth, it proceeds with a violin refrain that is repetitive and sticks in your mind, the music continues building in intensity leaving the listener with a sense of intimidation.
The overall presentation of the CD is excellent, the artwork conveying the nature of the music well. The production is very good the quality of the sound being clear and crisp.
This is a good album, which will appeal to lovers of the violin in rock music. If you bought a Nigel Kennedy or Vanessa Mae CD in the past but now hide it, here is one you can leave out on the shelf without embarrassment! An eclectic mix, but it works.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Yam – Assumptions
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Catalogue #:||BF 009|
|Year of Release:||2009|
Tracklist: Alright Armageddon (6:50), Gaseous Clay (6:28), Dreamland (6:05), Kiss (3:49), Kodiak Camera (3:53), Make Time for Hugging (4:14), StonesThrowAwayFromBeer (6:05), Responsible Person (4:04), Falling Rockstar (1:42), The Man Who Invented Syphilis (3:21), The Great Molasses Disaster Of 1919 (9:37), 12 Nights Of Terror [untrack] (9:06)
The press blurb states that the three piece:
“YAM, formerly called You & Me, is an all-original Dallas, TX progressive rock, indie band that is driven to become the 501st greatest band of all time. Rocky, punky and intense, but peppered with melodic undertones and fun atmospheric touches, YAM is a great accompaniment to your library if you like bands like Pavement, The Damned, The Who and Ween”.
Now, is it me or are these are not bands whose work would be relatively under-represented in the music collections of most prog fans?
Their MySpace cites their prog/punk roots, but with “new flavours of techno, country and punk”.
Such is the interest in prog now that bands of literally any description are proudly nailing their colours to the prog mast. A genre that proudly proclaimed once to have ‘killed’ progressive rock now has the temerity to call itself progressive. Where am I and why am I in this hand basket? This record has a few “proggy” moments, but most readers here I’m sure won’t be rushing out to the record store. It’s reviewed entirely as a ‘progressive’ album.
That’s not to say those with punkier tendencies and a liking for drunken karaoke vocals won’t get plenty out of it. Track by track then.
Alright Armageddon – starts like The Clash and ends as though very early BOC and The Beach Boys got it on and had a love child. With added “shazam”. By way of the Doors.
Gaseous Clay – a Mogwai-esque soundscape that gives way to a bass groove reminiscent of the Stranglers before a fragile vocal refrain leads into what sounds like Pete Townsend playing Rush power chords. A bit of jangly meandering leads back to that Mogwai wall of sound. Recommended track, this one.
Dreamland – shouty vocals over a repeating faux Brown Sugar guitar riff. A big disappointment after the previous track. Worse still, it fades out, then comes back.
Kiss – Neil Young is in the house. Only his voice is a thousand times more evocative. Young’s voice makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. This vocal effort doesn’t. Hard as it sounds, the vocals take a distinct turn for the worse mid way through. Jason English doesn’t have much of a range, although he does play bass and keyboards, so is eminently more talented than I am. Nice mouth organ.
Kodiak Camera – Chirpy electronica and distorted guitar – think Rust Never Sleeps and you won’t go far wrong. Nice garage-y riff, great bass work underpinning it but then, those vocals kick in again. Imagine Roger Waters’ tortured angst. As interpreted by a karaoke singer. Things do improve, before they worsen again but it is a better vocal effort than on Kiss. The music’s good too.
Make Time For Hugging – Back to those vocals – No, no and thrice no. Why the hiccupping? My initial listening notes included the line “this is what happens when a drunk gets hold of a Bontempi organ and does a Sex Pistols cover” The track does not get better with repeated listens. Avoid.
StonesThrowAwayFromBeer – robot vocals through a vocoder of some sorts. Mogwai do instrumentals for a reason.
Responsible Person - a nice electro-punk riff that cribs the Stones with quiet spoken vocals low in the mix. And a nice bombastic ending over a spoken vocal. It then goes off on one, like the Pixies and at the drive in went out for coffee, and had extra shots. Think the ending of Fight Club with a washing machine vibro accompaniment. Well, ours shakes all over the kitchen.
Falling Rockstar – ‘Roger Waters’ is back. And that title? Falling Rockstar. This is not though, by any stretch of any imagination, The Wall.
The Man Who Invented Syphilis - comes on like gangbusters, with weird vocal harmonies, competing for prominence in the mix with a kick-ass riff and some great bass work. Hearing the word syphilis repeatedly resonate and rebound across your cans is a tad weird, but the fluid bass guitar of Jason English is a joy to listen to.
The Great Molasses Disaster Of 1919 - a Doors–like swirling keyboard intro. Good, albeit mainly spoken vocals. When English tries to sing the limitations of his vocal armoury are highlighted. His style does serve this song though. Good lyrics, bluesy riff, interspersed with vintage keyboard washes.
12 Nights Of Terror [untrack] – a ‘hidden’ track in that you have to wait a while for it to kick in. Don’t wait.
Conclusion: 4 out of 10