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2010 : VOLUME 32
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REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:


Morphelia - Waken The Nightmare
Morphelia - Waken The Nightmare
Country of Origin:Germany
Format:2CD
Record Label:Vośsphor Records
Catalogue #:LC18260
Year of Release:2009
Time:CD1 59:47
CD2 57:39
Info:Morphelia
Samples:Click here

Tracklist:

CD1: Walk Through The Park (3:57), The En-Trance (From The Outside Coming In) (1:20), Hunt In The Hall (10:29), In The Captain's Room (6:00), Never-Ending Steps (8:01), Blue Chamber (4:36), 365 Windows (From The Inside Looking Out) (10:14), Mirror Labyrinth (Lost In The Way) (8:37), From The Room Of Silence (6:16)

CD2:Imaginos (A Taste Of Evil) (6:47), On The Roof (A Taste Of Freedom) (7:44), In The Hall Of Stormy Oceans (15:42), The End Is The Beginning Of The End (From the Inside Coming Out) (27:17)

They say the best things in life are worth waiting for and that’s mostly true of this double CD from Morphelia which was released in 2009 but has only just recently made its way to the DPRP. It follows their 2003 debut Prognocircus which passed us by completely but no matter, Waken The Nightmare provides a fitting introduction to this talented quintet from Niedersachsen, Germany. Following their formation in 2001, Kurt Stwrtetschka (vocals), Guido Fröhlich (guitars), Renko Rickerts (bass), Günter Grünebast (keyboards) and Elmar de Groot (drums) honed their Saga and Dream Theater influenced repertoire into what can be best described as retro neo-prog. In other words think Marillion, IQ, Pallas, Pendragon, Abel Ganz et al circa mid to late 80’s and you won’t be too far off the mark.

They balance their very British melodic sound (which includes Nick Barrett sound-alike vocals) with powerful guitar riffs which are more typical of the aforementioned Dream Theater and Saga. This is particularly evident during the lengthier songs like Never-Ending Steps, 365 Windows and Mirror Labyrinth where Fröhlich is able combine his metallic tendencies with soaring guitar flights reminiscent of Rothery, Latimer, Gilmour and co. The latter song especially features some lively guitar and synth exchanges propelled by Rickerts’ relentless bass pattern.

Walk Through The Park gets things off to a memorable start with a rippling piano into before making way for a gloriously melodic main theme that reaches a triumphant conclusion in The En-Trance. They get into their heavy stride with Hunt In The Hall with a bombastic tone that brings to mind Shadowland. Here Stwrtetschka’s melodramatic vocal style is ironically more in the vein of Barrett’s Pendragon colleague Clive Nolan. In addition to the lyrics, Stwrtetschka is responsible for the albums concept which is based on a reoccurring dream from his youth. For me, his storytelling approach and surreal imagery harks back to Peter Gabriel’s treatment of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.

Like several of the tracks here, In The Captain's Room builds to a powerful ending but it’s not all pomp and bluster from Morphelia. Blue Chamber is dominated by Grünebast’s symphonic synth washes and elegant harpsichord whilst the poignant From The Room Of Silence features twin acoustic guitars with that crisp ringing tone usually associated with Anthony Phillips. This is one of the album's most endearing songs with an intriguing electric sitar break around the midway point.

Disc Two and Imaginos (A Taste Of Evil) opens with celestial organ that creates a suitably gothic atmosphere putting me in mind of The Phantom Of The Opera. It’s certainly an effective way of drawing the listener back into the story and a contrast to the uplifting On The Roof (A Taste Of Freedom) that follows. This is driven by a compelling Marillion flavoured jangly guitar riff and combines a catchy melody with some inspirational guitar work. The penultimate In The Hall Of Stormy Oceans for its part skilfully manoeuvres between melancholic Genesis style acoustic sections and a strident main song with a marching rhythm that returns to familiar Saga territory.

The album reaches its natural conclusion with The End Is The Beginning Of The End. Not only does it reprise several of the main themes, it provides a perfect encapsulation of the bands musical ambitions. Following a lengthy intro of electronic keyboard effects and drones (ala Pink Floyd’s Welcome To The Machine and Shine On You Crazy Diamond) it gradually picks up pace byway of a searing and sustained guitar solo that David Gilmour would be proud of. Stirring keyboards and chunky power chords all play their part with de Groot’s animated drumming leaving its mark during the more up-tempo moments. This is not about tricky time changes however, each section is allowed to breathe and develop before progressing naturally into the next. The songs principle guitar hook doesn’t appear until over 20 minutes in with Fröhlich at first tantalising the listener underpinned by more Floydian synths. It blossoms into a majestic coda with Misplaced Childhood era Steve Rothery playing before being prematurely cut short by the sound of a door slamming.

With Waken The Nightmare being only their second album, Morphelia have set themselves a mammoth and ambitious undertaking which they pull off in some style. Two hours of music can be daunting prospect (for both band and listener) but this is an easily digestible album that improves with each successive play. They may not be the most original of bands but their melodic and superbly structured style will be appreciated by prog fans regardless of individual preferences. And they certainly know how to successfully handle an extended tune to the point where the second disc proved to be the more satisfying of the two for me. Special mention should also go to the digipack gatefold sleeve which provides a suitably lavish packaging for this release.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

GEOFF FEAKES



Patrick Vega – 8 Bullets
Patrick Vega – 8 Bullets
Country of Origin:Austria
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2010
Time:34:56
Info:Patrick Vega
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Bullets (3:04), Words Of Power (3:28), Can’t Make Up My Mind (3:46), Hear My Train’ A Comin’ (3:00), Alice’s Nitemare (3:56), Oceans In Between Us (4:10), Washed Away (4:43), Novocaine (3:52), No Surrender [remix] (4:11)

Patrick Vega has released his second album in the guise of 8 Bullets. His first album simply named Vega was reviewed here, achieving an impressive 7 out of 10. The recording consists of Patrick Vega (guitars and bass), Glen Sobel (drums tracks 1, 3, 6, 7) and Oren Halmut (drums tracks 2,4,5,8 & No Surrender)

Guitar shredders are ten a penny really, most of them having a unique signature/sound, hell some don’t even bother to try and hide their influences, but that’s a whole other story. I, as you, could spend the next five minutes naming umpteen awesome guitarists, which I/you will try and draw comparison to/against, which is the down fall of guitar shredders. For them to standout in a crowd, they have to have that joie de vivre that le facteur X otherwise they become dull, uninspiring, their albums are listened to once and then gather dust. The secret is to keep it short and succinct adding a few wow factors along the route, maintaining good melody and memorable tones. This is something that Patrick Vega has achieved, making it a most likeable album. 8 Bullets is not a pretentious album by any stretch of the imagination, it holds your attention throughout. What we have here is a guitarist who can ply his trade and entertain at the same time.

This is not a prog rock album per se, but what we have here is a good mix in style and presentation, which if I am to be honest, in the way the tracks have been approached, I honestly don’t believe adding a vocalist to the mix would make them any better. The right balance for me has been struck, featuring short passages, good melody, good pedal technique and some fantastic leads. The production and mix of the album is very impressive indeed, guitar, bass and drums levels having perfect balance.

It was commented in the review of his first album, “The synthetic drums here aren’t that bad but when you know they’re there you can’t get away from it and they do sound clunky at times. The feel that would be added by the use of a good drummer is missing and, as all the best bands know, a band is only as good as its drummer”. Mr. Vega has addressed this comment and what a difference it has made.

The approach of the tracks presented here are modern, powerful and confident. Vega has no intention of slouching and to be quite honest there aren’t any filler’ on the album, which I tip my hat to.

Bullets the opening track defines the tone for the rest of the album, having a slight Joe Satriani feel to it, without being plagiarist. As an opening track Vega has chosen well, allowing his guitar techniques to come to the front without being over facing, being fully supported by some rather excellent drum work.

Words Of Power sees Vega building lead breaks over some very powerful chord work but never becoming over imposing. The increase in metre part way through was kind of interesting, not necessarily required, not really adding anything.

Can’t Make Up My Mind has a really nice bass line, featuring a beautiful melody, with the guitar work somewhat slower than say Words Of Power. I really do like the feel of this track, the tone, metre and feeling; you can just imagine Vega's face on some of the lead breaks.

Hear My Train’ A Comin’ uses an opening effect to emulate a train running the rails, featuring a somewhat harder guitar sound and firm drum beats, you can almost imagine the thousands of tons barrelling down the tracks trying to reach its destination. This is a track that has been very cleverly built.

Alice’s Nitemare is another powerhouse track displaying Vega's dexterity and technique as does the opening track Bullets. It features a very strong rhythm propped by some fantastic lead and pedal effects.

Oceans In Between Us is where Vega has really developed his melodic passages to perfection, using them to great effect, creating some really driving crescendo work, oozing absolute quality. The solos are just note perfect for my taste. Wow.

Washed Away opens with some rain effects that pave the way for some sad emotional guitar lead work featuring some very interesting underlying guitar passages that direct the whole piece. This is a multi-layered track with some stunning pedal effects contributing to another storming track.

Novocaine displays some great pedal work, sounding vaguely like Satriani including an awesome sounding bass line holding the piece together. I love the way the track builds, the power and magnitude of each note.

No Surrender is built around a really funky bouncy bass and guitar passage, which hits all the right passionate tones throughout, a more than fitting closing track. All the instrumentation is really allowed develop and grow with maturity.

I am not going to perform the usual reference points here as I honestly believe that this would do a disservice to Patrick Vega as an artist and what he has created here. I will add this though, if you like talented, passionate and classy guitarists that aren’t pretentious, believing that structure and melody is as important as the lead breaks, then this is your man and an album for you.

Patrick Vega has produced something special here, with its rather eclectic but approachable rhythms, rather tasty lead work and unusual tunings, which all in all has created a stunning album. This time round Vegas has utilised all his strengths maximizing them to great effect, never once outstaying his welcome, sticking to what had to be done without be distracted or self indulgent. This is a highly recommended album for guitar album lovers, which I can assure, you won’t be disappointed. Patrick Vega is going to be a name to be reckoned with if he gets the correct exposure and continues to produce work of this quality.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

JOHN O'BOYLE



Vangough – Game On!
Vangough – Game On!
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2010
Time:49:01
Info:Vangough
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Wily's Castle (3:22), Marine Fortress (3:39), Simon's Revenge (9:25), Your Darkest Hour (3:15), The Turtle King's Lair (4:16), Green Hill Terror (5:01), Corneria (3:40), The Killer Instinct (5:01), Torvus Bog (7:13), Coral Capers (5:29)

Vangough is a progressive metal band from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma led by producer, composer, lyricist, vocalist, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Clay Withrow. He is joined here by Abe Hartley (keyboards), Brandon Lopez (drums) and Carlton Dorsey (additional bass).

2009’s self-released Manikin Parade has garnered rave reviews across the prog metal community but we are through the looking glass a tad with this latest instrumental offering, as each song is inspired by different video games from the past twenty five years. Now, it sounds like it should be all R2-D2 bleeps and quirky electronica but boy, are you in for a treat.

What we have here is a bona fide slab of awesome instrumental symphonic prog-metal with more hooks than you can shake a stick at.

In a recent interview, Clay said he saw the album as a “re-imagining” of video game pieces, rather than a tribute and also mentioned he wanted the album to go against critics’ expectations, not wanting to be pigeon-holed into sounding like this band or that band.

So, with apologies to Mr Withrow, Dream Theater are clearly a big influence, and fans of Pain of Salvation, A.C.T, Enchant, Symphony X and their ilk are going to be air drumming like Duracell bunnies wired into the mains. There are quieter, more contemplative moments too, very Tangerine Dream-ish, with lovely subdued guitar (think Rothery meets Gilmour by way of Steven Wilson). The production is outstanding and the whole thing is mixed by Sterling Winfield of Pantera fame.

On their MySpace (which they are no longer updating) they describe their sound like “a trip to Jupiter on the back of a mystical Unicorn or a purple sunrise of melodic cocaine”. No, I have no idea what that means either, and I have no frame of reference regarding video games. Helpfully, Withrow has done some notes for the top quality fold out cardboard sleeve, which explain the influences, game-wise, of each track.

The band’s website have some tracks to listen to, together with supporting notes. To give you a flavour:

The song Simon's Revenge is a tribute to the game "Super Castlevania IV" from the Nintendo Entertainment System (the game was originally released in 1991). The song ambitiously combines five different songs from the game into one.

The song Corneria comes from the "Star Fox" game - also a Nintendo game, dating back to 1993. This song is quite the action-packed game-soundtrack that should appeal to all game-freaks out there.

So, if you like prog metal and video games you are going to be like a dog with the proverbial two asterisks. If you just like prog metal you are still going to love this. Highly recommended.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

BRIAN WATSON



25 Yard Screamer - Cassandra
25 Yard Screamer - Cassandra
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2007
Time:57:13
Info:25 Yard
Screamer
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Backlight (19:24), Insomnia (4:49), Boys in the Window (3:38), Cassandra (29:21)

25 Yard Screamer are a prog metal power trio consisting of Matt Clarke (acoustic and bass guitar), Nick James (acoustic and electric guitar, keyboard, vocals) and Donal Owen (acoustic and electric drums, percussions) Cassandra being their third release. They are a band that have passed me by, sounding like Rush, Marillion, Porcupine Tree and to some degree Metallica. Messer’s Clarke, James and Owen have produced a storming album which certainly falls into the premiership of prog metal. There is NO doubt about that, the album tracks Backlight and Cassandra are of epic proportion. The subject matter is very dark, brave and intriguing, but there is light at the end of the tunnel though and it’s not the front off an on coming train. Having just seen this band at the Progeny 3 festival, I can also confirm that they lose none of their intensity live, they are well worth seeing and I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

The vocals that are presented throughout the album are more than a nod and a wink to the Steve Hogarth’ school of phrasing and Steve Rothery toned melodic guitar passages, but still retaining originality. I would say the band have been heavily influenced by Marillion’s Brave and Rush in how they also approach their musical structure.

Backlight opens up the whole affair, its driving rhythms racing encased by Owen’s sublime drum work and Clarke’s pounding bass passages. James allows his guitar work to build emotional crescendo’s twisting and turning, building character. The double whammy happens when James’ perfectly toned vocals hit the stage. The subject matter is morbid, junkie, suicide! I’ll let you work it out, but it is very thought provoking, the word play alone will send a shiver down your spine.

Insomnia has Owen’s signature drum beats and percussion work all over it, with atmospheric and moody guitar interludes perfectly positioned adding depth. The meter of the song is somewhat slower than Backlight but really does display Owen’s very accomplished talent.

The Boy In The Window speeds things up having a modern spaghetti western type musical approach if that kind of makes sense. The guitar rhythm races along supported by Owen and Clarke, which you can imagine them having fun playing this, especially with its great chorus hook. Lyrically this track reminded me of Rush with its very clever word play.

Cassandra is an epic piece of work and a brave topic to cover. 9/11 is never going to be an easy or fun subject but 25 Yard Screamer have taken a mature and intelligent approach to the subject and produced a magnificent track. The opening lapping waves and interview samples from victims are very touching, especially the lady describing how people were jumping from windows to escape. James’ keyboards builds atmosphere then G.W.Bush comments, “Today we’ve had a national tragedy”. James’ layered keyboards continue to lead the way for that great drum sound and some very interesting guitar patterns. The bass passages are to die for in places. This song structure here is very much in the vein of Rush and the melodies of Marillion, again the use of some very intelligent and emotional word structures really elevates this to the next level. Having listened to this track several times I can picture the scenes, such is the strength of this song.

Although 25 Yard Screamer wear their influences on their chests, they have produced one damn fine album. This is an album full of all the glorious aspects we have come to love and expect from high quality prog metal, which doesn’t occur half as much as it should sadly. Its swirling melodies, soaring musical interludes, driving drum beats and crashing crescendos really do set the standards. Other bands need to sit up and pay attention to what has been created here, as the gauntlet has been thrown down.

If I was to recommend that you buy just one prog metal album this year Cassandra is the one, no question. This can’t be my album of the year for obvious reasons, but it certainly is my find of the year. These Welsh boys have done themselves proud. Messer’s Owen, James and Clarke I tip my hat to you, and I look forward to our paths crossing in the future. People ignore this album at your own peril. This really is a MUST BUY album.

Conclusion: 9.5 out of 10

JOHN O'BOYLE



The Dreaming Tree – Progress Has No Patience
The Dreaming Tree – Progress Has No Patience
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:BOMTDTCDO3
Year of Release:2010
Time:61:28
Info:The Dreaming
Tree
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Silence Won't Steal (5:38), Arcadia (3:02), Grown Too Small (5:15), Love And The Heart (4:21), Moult (8:52), Ophidia (8:15), Slender Versions Of The Truth (6:46), You The One (6:24), Tide And The Mast (1:48), Whisper Song (5:59), The Only Truth (5:01)

In his review of Grafting Lines And Spreading Rumours, the 2007 debut album from The Dreaming Tree my colleague Gerald commented on the lack of consistency in the material and that in his opinion the album and the songs were too long. Whilst Progress Has No Patience is 12 minutes shorter, the songs themselves still weigh in at an average of 5 minutes plus. It is however a more coherent and focused work although there are still some unexpected twists along the way. The band retains a neat line in quirky, tongue-in-cheek song titles and despite the serious subjects covered I also detected a welcome sense of humour that’s never too far below the surface.

If their website pics are anything to go by, TDT are a relatively young outfit comprising Chris Buckler (vocals), Dan Jones (guitars), Jim Peterson (bass), Neil Ablard (drums) and Steve Barratt (keyboards). As Gerald observed, their style is often difficult to pigeonhole although to my ears well crafted mainstream rock with elements of hard rock, prog and American flavoured pop-jazz are the order of the day. Fronted by Buckler’s confident voice which bears more than a passing resemblance to Kevin Patterson of Fiction Factory fame (remember Feels Like Heaven from the mid 80’s?) they display exceptional instrumental prowess particularly from the lead partnership of Jones and Barratt.

The opening salvo of Silence Won't Steal and Arcadia are both good examples of the bands heavier side and although melody wise they’re not the strongest of songs here they have an edgy urgency that serves their purpose of grabbing the listeners attention. Stark riffs and heavy rock solos abound contrasting with the vocals which sound slightly Tears For Fears-ish in places. The following pairing on the other hand Grown Too Small and Love And The Heart demonstrate the bands commercial sensibilities being catchy and breezy pop-rock affairs with a nice line in smooth harmonies. The first takes a quirky turn however when it embarks on an impromptu jazz excursion with superb piano and guitar picking whilst the latter incorporates a lively jazz-funk keys solo. In their own way they both bring to mind a contemporary UK version of Steely Dan.

Next up is the two longest offerings Moult and Ophidia which are the closest the album comes to a traditional prog style. That being said, Moult is a rather laidback affair interspersed with heavyweight bluesy guitar outbursts in the vein of Alvin Lee and Leslie West and although extremely well played it didn’t really do it for me. Ophidia on the other hand is possibly my favourite track here and the albums main claim to prog fame. A solid riff, melodic guitar lines and a dynamic and confident vocal melody are propelled by an infectious rhythm. It also boasts an assortment of keyboard fills including organ, synths and piano, and overall the busy arrangement put me in mind of Frost*.

Slender Versions Of The Truth has probably the albums best intro with rippling piano punctuated by crashing power chords but disappointingly eases into a pedestrian and mellow ‘blue-eyed soul’ groove. It perks up however with a fast and tricky (if a little a little over the top) instrumental break around the midway point. Similarly You The One fails to live up to its gutsy Pete Townsend style opening riff whilst the lightweight guitar picking during Tide And The Mast sounds a little too country-fide to my ears despite the songs undeniable feel-good factor.

The mellow Whisper Song lives up to its name being a relaxed tune with spacey guitar effects. Here Buckler’s crooning strays a little too close to MOR territory for comfort in my opinion and overall it’s a rather meandering (some might say hypnotic) affair. The concluding The Only Truth is better although again it doesn’t strain the decibel levels. It opens with beautifully melancholic piano that could easily be from a contemporary Hollywood romance whilst the heartfelt vocal is perfectly pitched for this delicate ballad.

Although this is a much improved second album from The Dreaming Tree I would have to echo some of the sentiments from the review of their debut release. The band’s eclectic approach could in theory give them a broader appeal but ultimately may work against them. A mainstream audience will certainly warm to the tuneful melodies in songs like Grown Too Small and Love And The Heart but may struggle with the band’s instrumental eccentricities. Likewise diehard prog fans I’m sure will approve of the bands dazzling displays during Ophidia and Slender Versions Of The Truth for example but may fail to appreciate the band’s soul-pop inclinations. One thing’s for certain, no one will have any issues with the crisp and dynamic sound courtesy of Threshold man Karl Groom who along with the band themselves produced, engineered and mixed the album.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

GEOFF FEAKES



Neverness – The Measure Of Time
Neverness – The Measure Of Time
Country of Origin:Spain
Format:CD
Record Label:Musea Records
Catalogue #:FGBG 4835
Year of Release:2009
Time:59:09
Info:Neverness
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Behind Your Face (11:36), The Measure Of Time (7:23), The Letter (9:15), Reign Of Fools (10:35), Rest In Pieces (11:01), Shadows Of The Past (11:07)

This is Spanish band Neverness’ 3rd studio album, and we’re in space/psychedelic prog territory according to the record label. To these ears we’ve got Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, Hogarth-era Marillion, Rush, Pineapple Thief, King Crimson and VDGG poking their head above the water. DPRP reviewed their 2007 effort Cuentos De Otros Mundos Posibles, that album garnered a creditable 6/10, although was deemed not one for the prog purists due to the over use of 70s heavy rock guitar. The sound on this new one does seem a little less guitar-centric, giving greater prominence to a range of suitably proggy keyboard sounds. There’s even a theremin kind of thing chucked in at the end of The Letter.

Where guitars are higher in the mix, they can compliment the songs, like on the title track, rather than overpowering them. As well as the occasional Deep Purple, Blue Oyster Cult “rawk” stylings, there is nice use of staccato alt/prog guitar, spacey synths, early Rush-like exuberance, and an undeniably good sense of rhythm and song structure pervades the record.

There’s not a song under 7 minutes, and three that clock in at over 11 minutes. Which is nice. If you like long songs.

Vocally, Javier Nieto has a nice Steve Hogarth thing going on, and sounds remarkably like Xavier Phideaux in places, most noticeably on The Letter. This one does plod a tad, though. Nieto co-wrote the lyrics, which are all in English, as well as taking photographs for the cover.

Musically we’re poring over the moody Marillion songbook, with added harder edged Porcupine Tree guitar stabs and Floydian psychedelia. Reign Of Fools throws in a guitar riff that you’d swear was from Matthew And Son by Cat Stevens.

For a big label release however the spelling mistakes – track 4 for example is listed as “Reing Of Fools” on the back cover and inner booklet; and the lyrics to Behind Your Face include the line “human beigns” – are pretty inexcusable. Which is a shame because the overall package is of a high quality.

It’s a more than competent, well-produced record, as befits a Musea release and fans of the above bands will find much to like.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

BRIAN WATSON



Geoff Leigh & Yumi Hara – Upstream
Geoff Leigh & Yumi Hara – Upstream
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:MoonJune
Records
Catalogue #:MJR027
Year of Release:2009
Time:59:09
Info:Yumi Hara
Cawkwell
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Upstream (7:12), The Mountain Laughs (5:28), The Strait (7:41), Stone Of The Beach (5:41), A Short Night (5:08), At The Temple Gate (7:43), Something About The Sky (3:45), Dolphin Chase (10:52), The Siren Returns (5:39)

If Syd Barrett’s mind was an echo chamber, the music of Geoff Leigh & Yumi Hara may be what you would hear inside. On their collaborative release Upstream, Leigh (Henry Cow, Slapp Happy, Hatfield And The North, Mike Oldfield, Radar Favourites, Univers Zéro, Ex-Wise Heads) handles flute, soprano saxophone, zither, percussion, nose flute, voice drone, and electronics. Ms. Hara (Hugh Hopper, David Cross, Frank Chickens) is responsible for keyboards and vocals.

The duo serve up an offering of avant-garde, disturbing to the point music that repeated listening through headphones could send you on a one-way trip to the ha-ha hotel.

The Strait features dark bass-end piano from Hara and random plucks on the zither strings from Leigh, with his screeching sax sounding like the quack of a duck that overdosed on its medication.

The zither gets in on the action again on Stone Of The Beach, which sees Leigh throwing down some analog style electronics, small gong-like percussion, and backwards tape effects, all of it taunted by Hara’s vocal edge.

On the CD, Hara’s vocals are wordless at some points, and ostensibly singing in another language at others. She has a pretty singing voice, but this does not overshadow the hideous quality of her wails and shrieks, which Ian Gillan would howl with approval at. They do get tiresome towards the end of the fifty-nine minute CD. So many banshees, so little time.

Leigh is a talented multi-instrumentalist, though he focuses mostly on his woodwinds, the flute in particular taking on Asian flavours on much of Upstream.

On Something About The Sky, Leigh emits voice drones that together with Hara’s vocals create a chorus of craziness, with percussion chiming like the pealing bell in a holy demon’s church.

This recording is insane, I tell you. Even those most discerning armchair psychotherapists will not be able to diagnose this CD with active listening. And as I mentioned earlier, best not to wear headphones, as the overdubbed insanity could summon the voices in your head.

If you dig avant-garde music, you may want to check this CD out. If you seek conventional songs, this isn’t it.

The CD packaging is in glossy gatefold format, wit the credits and track listing printed on the back.

For a sophomore release, I would suggest that the duo take a crack at some English word-based lyrics. Bringing in David Cross would be a cool idea, too.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10

JIM CORCORAN


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