REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:
Tinyfish – The Big Red Spark
CD: The Loose Ends (3:11), Rainland (6:54), A Million Differences (2:05), Bad Weather Road (6:20), I'm Not Crashing (4:36), Building The Machine (3:16), Refugee (2:24), The Big Red Spark (4:51), Weak Machine (3:28), Activation (0:38), The Final Act (2:36), The Loose Ends Pt II (2:42), Wide Awake At Midnight (10:21)
Bonus DVD Interview, The Sarcasm Never Stops (5:17), Ride (5:26), Eat The Ashes (3:19), Let's Get Invisible (4:02)
Brian Watson's Review
Let’s cut to the chase, for those of you who only scan read the first few lines of our reviews (you know who you are) – THIS IS THE BEST CONCEPT ALBUM SINCE Metropolis Part 2.
That’s me shouting BLT, colon dash question mark comma exclamation mark.
And no, I haven’t quite got the hang of this social networking malarkey. But then I’m not cool, hip or “with it”. Apparently.
I don’t buy moisturising or hair products of any kind and think people who watch the X Factor should be set on fire.
Tinyfish have, since 2006, also done their own thing regardless of popular convention or without regard to what was ‘in’. Hardly prolific, they’ve released, effectively, one album in four years. 2009’s
Curious Things doesn’t really count, seeing as it was a collection of unreleased songs recorded to their 2006 eponymous
debut. Yet Geoff Barton, whose opinion I rate highly, has recently awarded The Big Red Spark the only 9/10 rating he has ever given in his progressive rock review section in Classic Rock Magazine (the one written by people who actually know what they’re talking about).
So, just who are Tinyfish? This, from their (highly professional and informative) website FAQ section:
Q. Who are you?
A. We are Tinyfish; four - no, five - no, four musicians from South London who love to make progressive music. Simon Godfrey sings and plays guitar; Jim Sanders plays guitar and occasionally sings; Paul Worwood plays bass and bass pedals; Rob Ramsay speaks, triggers samples, writes our lyrics and occasionally plays the harmonica. Leon Camfield plays the drums and assorted percussion for our live gigs in a smaller, whiter Chester Thompson way.
I’ve seen them live a number of times and if you want to see pictures then head on over here. If you’d like to recreate the live Tinyfish experience in your living room, or for that matter any other room in your house you use for entertaining, then look at the pics and play their albums. Loudly. Or get yourself a copy of their cracking 2009 5.1 Dobbly (© spinal tap) offering from Metal Mind. Recorded in Poland, no less. The most excellent Mr Geoff Feakes in his review commented that
"All in all this is a superb package that is well up to Metal Mind’s normally high production standards with first-rate camerawork and sound recording. As far as existing fans are concerned it naturally comes highly recommended but would also be an excellent starting point for those who have yet to plunge into the melodious world occupied by Tinyfish."
And I wouldn’t disagree one bit. I just wish more prog fans knew about the band. I wish, I wish, I wish…
Three wishes? I gave everyone a single wish…
The Loose Ends is the opening scene of the suite and sees an old professor, finger poised over the ‘on’ button of a huge machine called The Big Red Spark, ready to switch it on. The rest of the album is seen as a flashback to events leading up to this moment. The spoken word intro was performed by Simon Godfrey’s father.
It’s a huge, cinematic, symphonic opener, which will blast the roof off when played live.
Rainland is as heavy as heck, with awesome guitar work throughout by Jim Sanders. There’s more than a touch of the early DTs about this one early on. Simon recorded the drums in John Mitchell’s studio in Reading apparently. That was two years ago. Not easy, recording an album by yourself…
A Million Differences is a post creation moment as the Professor tries to relax after drawing up the initial plans of his great invention.
This music for this song started out life as a tune that was submitted for the first Tinyfish album but didn’t make the cut. When the concept behind The Big Red Spark was first put together, the band soon realised there was a lot of potential for incorporating a number of classical elements to the music. So, said original track was rearranged, and some new elements were added. Particularly noteworthy is Jim’s “Brian May guitar orchestra” solo at the end. Which is fantastic.
Bad Weather Road was, apparently, a troublesome song to record. According to Simon:
“even though the demo sounded great, try as we might we just couldn’t get that energy to translate to the album version. I was about to give up the ghost when in a moment straight out of the Brian Eno handbook, our bass player Paul patched his bass through the filter section of a Moog synth which created a bubbling noise that gently rose up out of the note right after he played it. In addition, our producer Mike Varty put the opening bars through an external speaker and recorded the results, which give it the sound of someone listening to the band from outside the room”.
It’s got a great Blue Oyster Cult Shooting Shark vibe to start, reprised midway through and even later on. The song gets funkier, and jazzier as it progresses. Like the theme from a Bond film. Which DPRP CD review editor Bob ‘Blofeld’ Mulvey (pictured removed ;0) would know all about. Great use of quiet/loud bits too.
I’m Not Crashing is “possibly the oldest song on the album as the tune dates back to a tune (Simon) wrote… in Hammersmith back in the early noughties”. A lot of that demo survived, especially the e-bow feedback guitars. Lyrically, and musically it’s prog/pop Holidays in Eden-era Marillion with what Simon describes as “Jim’s ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ melody guitars”.
Building The Machine is an almost entirely classical sequence (bar a few guitars). Simon “was after an Elmer Bernstein circa ‘The Magnificent Seven’ feel, but I think it came out sounding more Sergei Prokofiev’s ‘Peter And The Wolf’. The story is really propelled along, War Of The Worlds style. It’s utterly intoxicating and the climax makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
Refugee was one of the last tracks to be recorded for the album and as such it was recorded entirely on the band’s new Pro Tools 8 system. There’s an utterly fantastic spoken word performance by Iain Houston. The piano part is Simon “trying very hard (and failing naturally) to be Mark Hollis from Talk Talk”.
The title track is suitably anthemic, in a Frost*y, It Bitesy way and is based on a dream Simon had. Now, I dream about rolling around on a pile of money with the Scottish weather presenter from the BBC Breakfast programme, but hey, each to his own. The guitar work and soloing is a tour de force and the best I’ve heard this year. And it ends like an outtake from Wind And Wuthering.
Weak Machine is all acoustic-y and slow build-y, in a Marillion style with the benefit of some slide guitar, and mellotron and organ by a certain Jem Godfrey (who he?).
Activation brings us back to the moment at the beginning of the album where the professor switches the Big Red Spark on. It’s the shortest track on the album but features all three voice performers.
And so we’re into The Final Act, the last track to be recorded and completed for the album (literally days before the mixing sessions). It’s a semi-instrumental reprise of Rainland that serves “as a backdrop to the fiendish multi-dimensional doomsday machine doing its fiendish multi dimensional dirty work”. Godfrey plays lead guitar, apart from the slide solo...
The Loose End Pt II rounds out the suite and is a suitably orchestral, trumpet-y, cinematic climax. There are little nods to albums like Pacific Ocean Blue by Dennis Wilson and Skylarking by XTC in there.
Three wishes? I wish I had been spared this wish
Wide Awake At Midnight is the longest song on the album with amazing bass work by Paul Worwood, stunning Rotherty-esque soloing and fantastic vocal harmonies. Think Beach Boys and Pat Metheny. As to whether this song is part of The Big Red Spark suite or not Simon hasn’t quite decided yet. Nevertheless it’s my favourite song on the record because of its energy, its overall vibe and said vocal work. And the guitar playing is sublime. It encapsulates just why I love Tinyfish. The world's smallest Progressive Rock Band.
For a self-release the sound quality is quite stunning. The booklet is fantastic, but you’ll need your glasses to read it. I spilt a bottle of Lucozade over mine in the car, so it’s a bit stuck together.
This is a brilliant album that everyone who loves prog needs to go and buy right now. Wink, comma, smiley face asterisk. Nose.
NB: Just before their performance at this year's Summer's End Festival, (Concert Review Special imminent), I spoke to Simon Godfrey - read the interview here...
Geoff Feakes' Review
Although this is the fourth Tinyfish review to appear in these pages in reality it’s only the band's second album. Following the 2007 debut Tinyfish they have also released a short collection of early songs entitled Curious Things and the
One Night On Fire DVD recorded live in Poland (both from 2009). This new album was also scheduled for the end of 2009 which could have led to overexposure so the delay due to technical issues is probably no bad thing. As before, band leader Simon Godfrey provides the lead vocals, rhythm guitars and drums, joined by Jim Sanders (lead guitar), Paul Worwood (bass) and Rob Ramsey (lyrics). With the band's sound mostly guitar driven there is a welcome injection of keyboards from Godfrey himself assisted by brother Jem (of Frost* fame) and Mike Varty (Credo, Shadowland).
Tinyfish are one of those bands that circle around the periphery of mainstream rock whilst incorporating enough proggy elements to keep reviewers (and hopefully readers) on this site satisfied. The Big Red Spark is undoubtedly a huge leap forward for the band and it’s impressive that they’ve managed it in just one step (not counting the aforementioned Curious Things collection). It’s brimming with confidence, skilled performances and some excellent material. The opening track The Loose Ends is full of Floydian style atmospherics where the narrator played by Peter Godfrey (father of Simon and Jem) introduces the concept behind the album, a machine called The Big Red Spark. With introductions out of the way the strident, almost metallic Rainland takes over with a big and powerful sound thanks to the crisp production of Mike Varty and Simon Godfrey. It’s also blessed with an infectious chorus and overall the song has that solid ring of Threshold and Magnum about it.
Another spoken section follows where the bands lyricist Rob Ramsey sets the scene during A Million Differences followed by a majestic guitar and military drum bolero that has all the bombastic hallmarks of early Queen. The slow burning Bad Weather Road with its stop-start arrangement is not for me one of the strongest songs here but it’s followed by the superb I'm Not Crashing with a memorable guitar driven vocal hook that lodges in the brain. As he continues to unfold the story in Building The Machine, Ramsey is joined by a classical style orchestral backdrop courtesy of ‘The Big Red Strings’ (as they’re so called in the CD booklet). The lilting Scottish brogue of Iain Houston picks up the plot as the Refugee which gives way to the truly magnificent title song. The Big Red Spark was one of the highlights on the One Night On Fire DVD and it sounds suitably monumental here.
After some unassuming acoustic slide guitar work, Weak Machine erupts after the second verse into a dense wall of sound not unlike Frost* with Jem Godfrey appropriately credited with providing the Mellotron. Godfrey senior returns for the brief Activation, setting the scene for the explosive The Final Act. Here Sanders’ searing guitar playing is to the fore and the song also includes a particularly gutsy vocal performance from Simon G.
The Loose Ends Pt II returns to the haunting theme of the opening track with the addition of rippling piano providing a perfect introduction to the show stopping finale Wide Awake At Midnight. It’s a fine showcase for Sanders’ cutting guitar work which alternates between melodic, soaring flights in the vein of Magenta’s Chris Fry and punchy staccato riffs which do sound very familiar in places. Godfrey compliments Worwood’s solid bass playing with some pretty nimble drumming in addition to supplying the catchy vocal hook around the halfway mark. The ending is a heady rush which concludes on an emotional high making this for me a strong contender for track of the year.
The first 1000 copies of the album come with a bonus DVD which includes a band interview and four songs that didn’t fit within the concept of the main disc. After trying it in two computers I was unable to get the DVD to run and it kept freezing in my standalone player. Upon inspection I discovered that the person who packed the disc must have been eating a treacle sandwich at the time and after some judicial cleaning it worked fine. The interview is fairly enlightening, providing a potted history of the band up to, an including the lengthy recording of The Big Red Spark. Of the four songs which are audio only (pretty pointless for a DVD I reckon), Ride and The Sarcasm Never Stops standout. The former is an epic ballad of sorts with a silky smooth performance from guest singer Geoff Wootton whilst the latter is a powerful rocker that brings to mind the urgency of early 70’s Deep Purple.
Most everything about the The Big Red Spark is faultless, right down to the spoken sections which compliment rather than obstruct the music. Apparently the band has been labouring over this one for the past three years and the meticulous attention to detail shows. Whilst it’s only their second official release, the rich expansive sound puts the work of many other bands in the shade and belies the relatively small line-up of personnel that are Tinyfish.
BRIAN WATSON : 9 out of 10
GEOFF FEAKES : 9 out of 10
Steven Wilson - Insurgentes
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Year of Release:||2010|
|Time:||Disc 1: 75:05|
Disc 2: 80:00 (app)
|Encoding & Sound||DTS 5.1 Surround|
DVD1: Insurgentes (75:05)
DVD2: Bass Communion/Pig Live In Mexico City (31:48), Alternate Ending Scene (2:22), CPH:Dox Premiere (15:44), Bonus Audio Material: Desperation (6:16), Veneno Para Las Hadas [early version] (7:49), A Western Home (3:09), Deadwing Theme (1:47), Collecting Space [demo version] (4:34), Insurgentes [Sweet Billy Pilgrim mix] (5:20)
Steven Wilson is an interesting man. Not just because he plays in many different bands that are of high interest to us prog fans (Porcupine Tree, No-Man, Blackfield, Bass Communion to name a few), but also because of his opinions on and visions for
the music industry. Anybody who has read interviews with the man knows that he's extremely passionate about music and the way it's presented. And those who have had the pleasure of meeting him in person - like I did with last year's
interview - will know that there's a lot more behind what on the surface sometimes might seem a morose and melancholic person. Those personality traits are much more connected to the way he presents his work that the actual man himself. While watching the DVD one can even catch him with a sense of humour a few times ('What kind of music do you make?' 'Weird shit!').
2008 saw the release of Wilson's solo album Insurgentes. At the time Wilson was also working on a documentary with long time collaborator Lasse Hoile. Hoile's responsible for most of the visual presentation of Wilson's projects in the past 10 years. An extract of 18 minutes of this documentary was released on the DVD that came with the limited edition and 2 disc releases of the album. Unfortunately work on the Porcupine Tree album
The Incident resulted in the documentary being shelved temporarily. That's a shame really, since the film could have taken advantage of the momentum of the album release. What's more, the inclusion of the full length documentary would have made the (in my opinion) otherwise disappointing limited edition box set a lot more interesting. Also, with the footage and interviews being 3 years old and the rate of developments in technology and the music industry, some of the opinions are already slightly outdated or we are already quite familiar with them from many of the interviews with Wilson.
But now it's finally here, released with a bonus DVD with extra material. And was it worth the wait? I think so. I found the road movie of Wilson travelling the world while recording Insurgentes and giving his opinions about the state of the music industry highly interesting. We see him working and visiting Mexico, Israël, Sweden, the US (working with John Wesley) and Japan but also his old primary school. Indeed, Wilson let's us have a peek at his childhood, meeting his parents and seeing the recording and effects devices that his dad built for him when he was a teenager. It's no big surprise that Wilson was bad at sports and good at music and how he spent all of his time in his bedroom writing and recording stuff.
Those of you expecting lots of background information about Wilson's various bands will be disappointed. There's only short glimpses of Wilson's projects and the film really focuses on the man himself and his opinions. There's a couple of interesting cameo's in the movie though, among whom Aviv Geffen of Blackfield, Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt and even Trevor Horn, who gives his opinion about the quality of MP3s.
The documentary was not specifically made for Wilson fans but for the general audience. I'm not convinced that it's extremely well suited for that target group. Sure, people who have a general interest in music and the industry will find this an interesting film. But there's also some elements that make the film hard too watch for those not familiar with Wilson's work. And even I myself find some of the stuff rather uncomfortable. I can deal with the fragmented way of editing. The film constantly jumps back and forth between places and subjects. One moment you're in Wilson's old school, the next at a TV interview, the next at collection of rotting dolls hanging from trees in Mexico and then back at the school. In a way this non-linear approach keeps the film interesting for the whole of it's 75 minute duration.
Less enjoyable, to me and most probably the general public at least, are the avant-garde experiments of Wilson and Hoile that are thrown in throughout the movie. Accompanied by music from the Insurgentes album, which is not always the most accessible stuff to begin with, but combined with weird footage of people with bird heads and gas masks this is a bit too much. Sure, it works well in music videos, concert backdrop films and album artwork, but it does not really add anything to this film (besides having you think frequently 'What the f*ck am I watching?!'). As a matter of fact, I can imagine a lot of people being put off by it.
Another weakness of the film is that there's no dialogue or discussion as far as Wilson's opinions are concerned. It's really a one-sided story and sometimes things are not as black and white as Wilson presents them. It would have been interesting if he'd started a discussion with the 'blank planet' kids that he claims lack a natural sense of curiosity.
Wilson does his utmost to explain his dissatisfaction with MP3 music that has resulted in music becoming software files, which are easily downloaded and discarded and don't have the same power as saving up for, choosing and enjoying an album with extraordinary packaging. Very true, but Wilson ignores the advantages of MP3s. Even people who prefer to listen to music on quality home stereos will see that MP3s and iPods enables us to take our beloved music with us anywhere we want. I for one would not want to carry around a collection of CDs and a CD player while travelling around the world. Also, I think that Wilson makes his point quite clear and does not need to film footage of him destroying iPods in various ways to get the message across. If anything this childishness takes the edge of the whole argument. I also found Wilson's opinion that only in music and art criticism can hurt rather ignorant. As an employee of a computer company he might have been indifferent, but to say that nobody with a 'regular' job cares about criticism is simply not doing people justice.
Having said that, the openness and honesty of Wilson's conversations can be very moving at times. Him reminiscing about his childhood is fascinating, but when he explains his fascination with pictures of dead babies and his fear of having kids because of the potential loss it's the most fragile Steven Wilson you'll ever see.
The DVD comes with a bonus disc that has some interesting material. The main film contains some footage of Wilson performing as Bass Communion with PIG. The bonus DVD has a 31 minute film of this concert, combined with more of Hoile's art house footage. Whether you like these pointless experimental soundscapes is a matter of taste. Personally they're not really my cup of tea. There's a short alternative ending for the documentary with Wilson behind a church organ and a more interesting home video filmed from the audience at the screening of the documentary at the CPH:Dox International Documentary Film Festival. Wilson and an unrecognisable Hoile get on stage to answer audience questions about the film. Also very interesting are some 30 minutes of studio outtakes. These include alternative versions of songs from the Insurgentes limited edition and some previously unreleased material. It does make me wonder why, if this material was available, they didn't put it on the limited edition of the album straight away. I always considered the meagre 24 minutes of extra music on the second disc of that box set a real rip-off. The video for Harmony Korine and two film trailers are also supposed to be present on the 2nd DVD, but they could not be found on the promo copy I received.
To come to a conclusion, this is a film that any music lover and especially fans of Steven Wilson's work should definitely see at least once. I'm not sure if it's the kind of thing that you would play again very often. I probably won't, since it's not a rockumentary or 'making off' film but as I said it's about the man and his opinions. As Wilson himself admits, it is indeed very self-indulgent, but I think it ranges from interesting to fascinating at the same time. If you're really into the music of Bass Communion or Wilson the bonus DVD also has a lot to offer.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Nosound – Sol29
|Country of Origin:||Italy|
|Year of Release:||2005/2010|
CD: [76:39] In The White Air (6:57), Wearing Lies On Your Lips (4:20), The Child’s Game (2:46), The Moment She Knew (9:38), Waves Of Time (2:07), Overloaded (6:13), The Broken Parts (6:24), Idle End (9:43), Hope For The Future (5:57), Sol29 (10:02), Idae 14 (3:24), The Red Song (3:57), The World Is Outside (5:11)
DVD [83:15] Sol29 2005 Mix - In The White Air (6:57), Wearing Lies On Your Lips (4:20), The Child’s Game (2:46), The Moment She Knew (9:39), Waves Of Time (2:07), Overloaded (6:14), The Broken Parts (6:25), Idle End (9:44), Hope For The Future (5:58), Sol29 (10:02), Videos - Sol29 [new video] (10:02), Contemplating Neptune (3:01), Contemplating Mars (2:37), Contemplating Moon (3:23)
You can go home again. Italian project Nosound shows us that with the Kscope CD/DVD reissue of the 2005 debut Nosound release Sol29.
Our esteemed friend and former colleague Bart Jan Van Der Vorst gave Sol29 a fairly strong review up its initial release five years ago. So as Nosound wunderkind Giancarlo Erra revisits Sol29 with three bonus tracks and a bonus DVD, I shall offer a revisiting of the CD with this new review.
The DVD contains the 2005 mix of Sol29 along with a new ten-minute video of the title tracks, and the three ambient/experimental audio/video tracks originally found on the DVD-R release The World Is Outside.
Now a full-fledged band in their own right, Nosound began as a one-man affair under the stewardship of Erra, who prior to Sol29 only had a few demos under his belt. From writing to production, Erra wears the many hats of a multi-instrumentalist on Sol29. There is one contributor, Alessandro Luci, who plays bass on a few tracks.
His bass broods somberly on Overloaded, a tune recalling early King Crimson in its use of acoustic guitar and mellotron style keyboards. Overloaded is one of seven vocal songs on the thirteen track audio CD, with the rest being instrumentals.
Instrumental track The Moment She Knew offers up ambient synths and heavy drum programming from Erra, and some bass from Luci evoking The Wall-era Pink Floyd.
Floyd references are on display as well on the strongest of the CD bonus tracks, The World Is Outside. The three bonus tracks were recorded during the original Sol29 sessions, but released instead on the aforementioned DVD-R and now here.
The stark, restrained nature of the recording has commonalities with On an Island-era David Gilmour. Obvious pointers also signal to label mates No~Man and collaborator/compatriot Stefano Panunzi.
The Broken Parts showcases whirring electronics that could have come from the studio of The Resonance Association, ostensible theremin style elements, and some wistful dark guitar just crying out to be heard.
Pop the DVD in, grab some wine and cheese, and via the artistic photo stills that go with the 2005 mix of Sol29 you’ve got yourself your own little art opening. While listening to and viewing the 2005 tracks on the DVD, I was symbolically transported to different points in time. The stills of a Ferris wheel (Hope For The Future) and of a swing set (Overloaded) symbolize childhood, while the new ten-minute montage style video of the title track and some of the other photo stills through their depiction of winter scenes symbolize old age.
A journey through space is symbolized as well. The titles of the 2006 The World Is Outside videos say it all- Contemplating Neptune, Contemplating Mars, and Contemplating Moon; with panoramic planet views, moonscapes, and pictures of man landing on the moon courtesy of NASA and NSSDC. The cinematography of the videos to an extent evokes the film Koyaanisqatsi and the director’s cut of Pink Floyd: Live At Pompeii.
The CD booklet is colourfully presented with evocative photos, artwork and designed courtesy of Erra. Lyrics and some liner notes are included as well. The booklet, CD and DVD are housed in a locking jewel case, with the two discs one on top of the other.
Sol29 will appeal mostly to fans of melodic post-prog. If you’re seeking something rockier, this isn’t it.
It can be argued that due to some recycling of musical themes here and there across the CD that if anything it creates for continuity. With that said my rating comes in half a point under recommended.
The “room for improvement” rubric does not apply here, as this release is from several years ago and has already been followed by two more releases.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Radio Massacre International – Time & Motion
Disc One: Kairos (17:10), The Clockwork Time Dragon (13:29), Aeon (10:37), Chronos (12:21), Equatorial Pitch (9:09), Fission Ships Pt. 1 (15:42)
Disc Two: Maybe A Last Look At Joe's House (14:42), Fission Ships Pt. 2 (24:17), Nine:Four:One (21:17), 30 Years [Slight Return] (18:17)
If my calculations are correct this is probably Radio Massacre International’s millionth release, two of which have previously made it to the pages of DPRP. To redress that disparity slightly, here’s the third. (I think it’s actually about 45 albums that they’ve done which is a lot by anyone’s standard!)
Time & Motion varies greatly from their Syd Barrett tribute, Rain Falls In Grey, being a return to purer electronic landscapes with added wind instruments. The trio of Steve Dinsdale (electronics, drums), Duncan Goddard (electronics, bass), and Gary Houghton (guitar, guitar) are augmented by Martin Archer (woodwind, electronics) and over two sprawling discs have space (no pun intended) to allow the pieces to develop and flow at their own pace.
Kairos is a long and stately wash of sweeping sound with sporadic changes. Mournful sax gives it a Travis & Fripp feel at times. Occasional Hawkwind whooshes and Jean Michel Jarre bell chords are well deployed as the piece develops with a Tangerine Dream sequencer rhythm. This is forward looking stuff with an appreciation and knowledge of what has gone before. An example being the effective use of Pink Floyd’s gull effects from Meddle. The guitar and sax offer brief solos that give the austere electronics a warmth and humanity that many such artists lack.
The Clockwork Dragon features fine sax and bluesy Gilmour-esque guitar with hypnotic electronic rhythms. There is a travelogue feel to this one like being on a rail journey watching towns and countryside slide past the window and out of view.
Aeon is a stately, thoughtful mood piece without rhythm. It rolls slowly past picking up and discarding sounds like a dirty ambient snowball before moving straight into the more accessible Chronos with more Dave Gilmour influenced guitar and overlapping rhythmic pulses that give it a laid back groove.
Equatorial Pitch features synthesised rain forest sounds and a plodding rhythm that morphs into sequencer with distant soloing guitar.
The chucklesome pun in the title of Fission Ships suggests both Sci Fi and the everyday, the track being split into two halves separated by the first track on disc two, Maybe A Last Look At Joe’s House. Pt.1 starts with a disconcerting wooziness and develops into a sort of hazy industrial nightmare. In space. This is difficult stuff and not for the faint hearted although R2D2 makes an appearance at one point to lighten the mood. No rhythm? No problem for RMI and everything turns out nicely with a tranquil finale. Pt.2 is another sedate and winding piece with no rhythm. Not much goes on within the LONG running time and this will almost certainly try the patience of all but the most seasoned ambient-head.
The aforesaid ...Joe’s House is a moody, spacey affair to start and I suspect that Joe’s house may be on Venus. Soon drums appear and with guitar and bass arriving we get a nice dose of RMI’s version of Space Rock with some great soloing from Houghton.
Nine:Four:One is another long ambient piece that drifts without grabbing the attention. You could probably write a thesis on it but it isn’t a track you’d choose to listen to very often.
After a solid 45 minutes of ambient and a long intro 30 Years [Slight Return] starts to open out with guitar and the initial thought is of a passing resemblance to the start of Shine On You Crazy Diamond. This changes as sequencers and sax blend together to push the piece in a new direction. Wordless vocals also make an appearance as the track gains momentum. A good end to what is mostly a very fine piece of work.
All of the pieces are lengthy with very high production values and most develop from their starting point through various shifts in texture or rhythm. This music is not easy to pigeonhole and if you like
electronica there is much for you here. The same goes for Space Rock, Psychedlia and Prog. The sheer scale of this two and a half hour slab of music will send some prospective listeners running for the hills before they’ve even heard a note and the sounds within are certainly not for everyone but RMI stay true to themselves and what they are about by producing interesting, intelligent and rewarding music that is highly effective and offers more than may be apparent from first appearances.
There is certainly an argument for self-editing as a single disc would be a more attractive listen but this is not part of the RMI modus operandi. An effort needs to be made to fully “get” this and RMI, as masters of their craft, deserve to be heard as they intend it.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Soft Machine – Bundles
Tracklist: Hazard Profile Part One (9:18), Hazard Profile Part Two (2:21), Hazard Profile Part Three (1:05), Hazard Profile Part Four (0:46), Hazard Profile Part Five (5:29), Gone Sailing (0:59), Bundles (3:14), Land Of The Bag Snake (3:35), The Man Who Waved At Trains (1:50), Peff (1:57), Four Gongs Two Drums (4:09), The Floating World (7:12)
”Soft Machine needs no introduction”, were the words of DPRP’s chief editor Bob Mulvey, introducing their re-mastered album Bundles (originally released in 1975) to the DPRP’s reviewers team. Well, to be honest, I didn’t know them. Of course, I had heard of the band, as many musicians in later decades referred to Soft Machine as an important influence to their work. But no, I had never heard their music.
The jazz-progrock band mostly is put in the same category as the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report. In my imagination this band must have influenced many subgenres: I hear a bit of the classic progrock of
Focus, some of the German jazz rock of for example Passport, and also Camel in their jazzy period (Rain Dances).
As I quickly learned, Soft Machine appears to be quite a phenomenon. Amazingly, over the years, about 25 musicians have formed part of the band, including Andy Summers (who later became world famous with The Police). Bundles was their eighth album and they already had quite a career before that. Although successors to the band (under the names Soft Ware, and Soft Legacy) played gigs until very recently, artistically they peaked in the seventies. The first five albums are generally highly rated by reviewers in that era, and praised for their creativity, mixing rock with psychedelic and jazzy influences. However, Bundles was received with mixed reactions. One of the reasons might have been that the band recruited a guitar player for this completely instrumental album, while for the previous albums, they used all kinds of instruments, but not a guitarist.
Well, it is precisely this guitarist which makes Bundles interesting in my view, because the musician in question is no one less than Alan Holdsworth. I know him from the sublime first UK album, the contributions he made to Bill Bruford's solo work and of course his own solo albums. It was really a discovery to me to hear Holdsworth in his earlier years.
What makes Bundles interesting is the spontaneity of musicianship. It sounds as if the music is played live, without any overdubs or overdone effects. Significant in this respect is that Holdsworth’s solo’s for several songs were overdubbed while in the end the band decided that his very first take was the best. So these first takes made it to the final album. (Rumour has it something similar happened with Steve Rothery’s magnificent guitar solo in Marillion's Easter).
The best parts of the CD are when Soft Machine is getting into a groovy loop and starts to build up some kind of cadence in which one of the soloists goes nuts. And it’s not only Holdsworth who is doing solo’s, as we also have the saxophones of the main composer Karl Jenkins or the keyboards played by Mike Ratledge. A good example of what I mean is Hazard Profile Part Five, when Ratledge completely goes out of his mind playing a synthesizer improvisation, while it is as if the rest of the band, especially drummer John Marshall, is trying to aggressively hunt him down.
Anyway, after listening to this album I must confess that I am a bit
embarrassed that I didn’t know Soft Machine before. At the same time, it is nice to find out that there are still ”classics” to discover. For those of you who feel the same way, Bundles might be an interesting catch: you can now buy the fully re-mastered (from the original tapes) version of Bundles with the original artwork and extensive comments by music journalist Sid Smith.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Sunchild - Invisible Line
Tracklist: Postcards From The Past [Part I] (1:39), The Invisible Line [Part I] (6:22), Raindrops (6:28), Amalgama (5:07), A Moment In Time (5:13), Time & The Tide (11:19), Fading Light (3:30), Recollections (1:32), Line In The Sand (14:36), Postcards From The Past [Part II] (5:19), The Invisible Line (8:21)
From the mind that brought you Hoggwash and Karfagen, Antony Kalugin has created a masterpiece with Sunchild’s Invisible Line. Together with a collection of very talented Ukranian musicians, Antony delivers a progressive gem of superior quality. I will admit ladies and gentleman, that when I chose to check out this album, I really did not have high expectations. However, I am happy to report that this album is a keeper! I have kept it in rotation for two weeks straight and I expect you will too. There is a gravity well nestled inside of this music; you will be sucked in and you may never want to leave.
I found myself invited in by the warmth of the opener, Postcards From The Past [Part I]. Antony invites us to hold his hand and hold on tight, because we are going on a ride “together as one at the speed of light”. As this song invites the listener in, the next song, The Invisible Line [Part I] bombastically builds and sets the vehicle in motion. While the song progresses you can get a preview of the journey ahead, multiple instruments, turn on a dime smooth transitions, and the exploration of previously hidden spaces.
The next 3 songs are a trinity of pure bliss. From the slow atmospheric entry of Raindrops into the synth driven Amalgama, and finally dropping into the ever so jazzy A Moment In Time the music introduces the listener to a serene pastoral landscape. A quiet valley swims into view so picturesque that you will want to build a summerhouse in the digital ether. These 3 songs have to be my favourite set of songs on the album. I just get sucked in.
However, if you are looking for music that is more proggy, check out the excellent epics Time And The Tide and Line In The Sand. Here in these epics you will find the smooth calm of the previous songs, filled with sax and brass, as well as the hard edged deep digging progressive sensibilities that most neo-prog fans are seeking.
The influences I detect in this album are numerous. While Antony will tell you that he favours Floyd, Camel, and The Flower Kings, what I hear is a stretching undercurrent of Genesis. Add to this some Marillion, Phish (yes Phish), and The Tangent and you will have a picture of how Sunchild presents themselves.
If I have to be critical about this band, then I would say that they are nothing new in the progressive landscape. The ideas presented here have been presented by multiple bands many times. However, what is here is solid and powerful. It is certainly not an affront to the genre but rather weaves together a friendly and familiar mixture of prog’s genetic material. It does not matter if Sunchild is the bastard child of Genesis and Floyd, the fact is - you will want to play with this child, run and jump in puddles, and watch cloudscapes melt as you lay in the grass together. If this is the direction that this band is going, I want the season ticket! Sunchild will have a new album emerging from the cocoon in November, I will be waiting with open arms… see you in the meadow.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Hemina – As We Know It [EP]
|Country of Origin:||Australia|
|Year of Release:||2010|
Tracklist: Lonesome Angel (1:18), And Now To Find A Friend (10:49), For All Wrong Reasons (4:54), With What I See (5:39), The Hunt (1:42)
The perrsonel of Hemina are Douglas Skene (acoustic & electric guitars and lead vocals), Mitch Coull (acoustic & electric guitars and vocals), Andrew Craig (drums & percussion), Jessica Martin (bass guitar and vocals), Phill Eltakchi (keyboards and vocals).
In my constant surfing around the internet for new music and bands, especially from the progressive rock scene I stumbled upon this unknown band from the land down under - Australia. One name from the band line-up sprang out as I heard that before, Douglas Skene, although I could not remember where I had seen it. Not long after it was clear to me as Douglas was or is a member of Anubis.
Doug founded Hemina in 2008 as an outlet for his progressive metal ideas and ever since the start the band have been prolific in songwriting and composing, so much so that there is enough material developed to record two full blown albums. This EP is a taster for the upcoming full length album and three of the tracks on the EP will be included in that album.
We are dealing with a true progressive metal CD here. You could easily call it a concept EP as all songs combine fully with each other and it is like listening to one song with five different chapters. The compositions have a real flowing interface to them. Whilst listening I was constantly reminded of the works of a now very renowned band in progressive metal field, the band in question of course being Dream Theater. As a matter a fact the sound of the vocals even has a James Labrie feel to them. This is probably not intended this way, but it gives the CD a completeness not very often seen in the world of progressive metal. You will have noticed I have not broken down the CD into track by track, I have not done so because I feel it is One big long brilliant roller coaster ride into the blistering world of Progressive Metal in its ultimate form.
Although done in the more classic way of progressive metal it still is outstanding - the only downside it’s a mere EP with a length of just 24 minutes. Too bad as I am hankering for more. Get this, do not let it go to waste, it is awesome.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Mandibulbe – Praxis
Tracklist: Génération Addict [I. Part One - Game And Porn] (7:48), Generation Addict [II. Part Two - War And Terrorism] (4:07), Mandibulbe (3:45), Initializing (2:55), Rouleau Compresseur (6:47), Metalbulle (7:39),
Métalloïde [I. Part One - Métacyclique] (5:36), Métalloïde [II. Part Two - Métazoaire] (4:11), Métalloïde [III. Part Three - Métaplasie] (3:26) Net Intelligencia (4:31)
What’s in a word? Have Mandibulbe been very clever with their word play?
Praxis - In Ancient Greek Praxis referred to activity engaged in by free men.
Praxis - Praxis is used by educators to describe a recurring passage through a cyclical process of experiential learning.
Praxis is also key in meditation and spirituality, where emphasis is placed on gaining first-hand experience of concepts and certain areas, such as union with the Divine, which can only be explored through praxis due to the inability of the finite mind (and its tool, language) to comprehend or express the infinite.
I personally think they have, as their musical approach and boundaries touch on the above.
Mandibulbe’s Praxis is a somewhat strange affair really, which consists of nine guitar orientated/driven tracks, but don’t let that put you off, as what is on offer here, caters for everyone’s needs, and also involves one vocalised track. This is definitely not your straight ahead guitar orientated album, it incorporates the element of experimental work too, which is used to great effect, creating what I would consider a truly progressive metal album.
Guillaume Fenoy (guitar and machines), Sofiene Yahiaoui (guitar), Romain Gayrai (bass) and Sebastien Touzeau (drums) are the musicians concerned in this creation, which sonically calls to mind bands such as King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Deep Purple, The Mars Volta, Tool and Gojira, which I know at first glance looks odd, but trust me it works.
The approach is very much rooted in the 70’s, but which possesses a very clear and modern production sound. On the whole the album is much layered, with differing styles presented, taking the listener on a journey, incorporating harmonies, melodies and experimentation; working in conjunction with each other and also in opposition.
A lot of thought has gone into how these pieces have been structured to make sure that your attention is held, because as with a lot of guitar oriented albums, they can become dull real quickly. This truly is a powerful and complex album, taking a refreshing approach to the style. There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that Mandibulbe are a very tight outfit, punctuating perfectly the presented passages. Even within the mix of the album, all the instrumentation is very clear and well defined with time changes akimbo.
Generation Addict the album opener is a two part act which features some powerful progressions confirming that Mandibulbe mean business, which is a sentiment that is confirmed throughout the whole album. Even on the shorter pieces like Mandibulbe and the more sedate Initializing, their work is just so busy; sonically you are being distracted all the time from the main focus by the bands interjections, which create and add depth to the whole occasion, which in turn, what keeps this whole work interesting. Other standout tracks are Metalbulle, with its precise and powerful melodic approach, whilst Gayrai and Touzeau create a solid construct behind the work of Fenoy and Yahiaoui, who in turn create some stunning guitar interaction. The Three piece act that is Metalloide just oozes class, with its succinct and emotional framework, both sedate and aggressive, which just builds. This for me really highlights and confirms Mandibulbe’s ability to be able to write great instrumentals, confirming in no uncertain terms what this band is all about. In saying that, just when you think you have got the measure of what this band are about, it’s curve ball time, with the album closer Net Intelligencia, seeing the band adding a somewhat aggressive track, both musically and vocally, having a more basic metal feel, until you scratch under the surface.
This really is a smorgasbord of musical interaction that really is worth investigating time in. Give it a go. You have nothing to lose.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Crimson Glory - Strange And Beautiful
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Record Label:||Atlantic Records|
|Year of Release:||1991/2010|
Tracklist: Strange And Beautiful (6:16), Promise Land (5:22), Love And Dreams (5:29), The Chant (3:45); Dance On Fire (5:27), Song For Angels (5:19), In The Mood (5:55), Starchamber (7:28), Deep Inside Your Heart (5:13), Make You Love Me (4:05), Far Away (4:44)
Crimson Glory - Astronomica
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Record Label:||Rising Sun/|
|Year of Release:||1998/2010|
Tracklist: March To Glory (3:30), War Of The Worlds (4:09), New World Machine (4:14), Astronomica (4:59), Edge Of Forever (5:46), Touch Of The sun (5:56), Lucifer's Hammer (4:25), The Other Side Of Midnight (4:29), Cyber-Christ (5:13), Cydonia (5:47)
Crimson Glory - In Dark Places… 1986-2000
CD 1: Crimson Glory ~ Valhalla, Dragon Lady, Heart Of Steel, Azrael, Mayday, Queen Of The Masquerade, Angels Of War, Lost Reflection Bonus Track: Dream Dancer
CD 2: Transcendence ~ Lady Of Winter, Red Sharks, Painted Skies, Masque Of The Red Death, In Dark Places, Where Dragons Rule, Lonely, Burning Bridges, Eternal World, Transcendence Bonus Tracks: Lonely (remix), Lonely (videoclip)
CD 3: Strange And Beautiful ~ Strange And Beautiful, Promise Land, Love And Dreams, The Chant, Dance On Fire, Song For Angels, In The Mood, Starchamber, Deep Inside Your Heart, Make You Love Me, Far Away Bonus Track: The Chant (videoclip)
CD 4: Astronomica ~ March To Glory (instrumental), War Of The Worlds, New World Machine, Astronomica, Edge Of Forever, Touch The Sun, Lucifer's Hammer, The Other Side Of Midnight, Cyber-Christ, Cydonia
CD 5: Astronomica ~ War Of The Worlds (remake), Astronomica (demo version), Touch The Sun (demo version), Edge Of Forever (demo version), (bonus track), Dragon Lady (live), Eternal World (live), Painted Skies (live), Queen Of The Masquerade (live), Lost Reflection (live)
Having created a sound of their own and an army of fans wanting another dose of high-octave, high-octane Prog-inspired metal, all they had to do for album number three was build and develop on the pioneering foundations they had carefully laid.
Sadly, instead of going forward by finely tuning their tried and tested recipe, the band re-entered the kitchen with a basket of fresh ingredients, a few leftovers from the previous meal and started to create a new recipe.
The result has the flavour of a typical hard rock album. The riffs were still there but the song writing was simpler and the progressive elements discarded. Midnight’s vocals; the band’s unique selling point, were toned down in every respect. Even the lyrics were reborn. Gone were the sci-fi themes. In were expositions on inner revolution, sexual drive and the animalistic nature of man.
The change in style reflected changes in the band. Midnight, credited for contributing to just one song on each of the first two albums, was far more involved here.
Original drummer and guitarist Dana Burnell and Ben Jackson had also left the band. Jackson had not been replaced, meaning the twin guitar assault, such a strong ingredient to the band’s sound, was absent on this album. Burnell was replaced by Ravi Jakhotia, whose tribal rhythms take the sound into additional unexpected territories.
I remember buying this at the time it was released. On first play I had to check the album sleeve. I thought they’d put the wrong disc inside.
Midnight is comfortable in the mid-range, but in terms of bluesy hard rock it’s a bad karaoke of Paul Rodgers or Eric Martin. The tribal drum rhythms are just out of place in a roast beef and mint sauce sort of way.
I do quite like the Led-Zep groove on the title track. Promise Land, Starchamber and The Chant have their appeal. They just about make this album worth grabbing - if ever you see it in on Ebay for little more than the postage cost. The rest of the tracks range from the dull to the unlistenable.
As a Midnight solo effort, released a few more albums into the Crimson Glory career, this would at least have possessed a curiosity value. As the third Crimson Glory album, history stands it as one of the most ill-advised changes of direction in musical history.
Shortly before the start of the tour to promote this album, Midnight quit. The moment had been lost. Neither Crimson Glory nor their lead singer fully recovered their musical credibility.
After trying and failing to resurrect his career with Crush and then Erotic Liquid Culture (honest!), in 1998 guitarist Jon Drenning returned to Florida and decided to give it another try. With Jeff Lords back in the ranks, there was a renewed twin guitar option. Formal Savatage musician Steve Wacholz was put behind the drum kit to ensure there were no tribal rhythms. The recruitment of ex-Leatherwolf singer Wade Black completed the picture.
Musicallly this was a return to the style of the band’s first two releases. There are some superb songs on here and the dual guitar work is top class. In many respects, Drenning and Lords were rolling back the years to great effect. There’s plenty of power and melody, some nice twists and turns in the arrangements and the Egyptian vibes work well.
The problems I have with this record are twofold. Firstly Wade Black is a metal screamer in the Rob Halford mode. Great at what he does, but it‘s a style that I find repetitive and overpowering for the music.
I think that all of these songs were actually written for Midnight’s voice. They’d sit far more comfortably with his textures and range. Indeed, a few years after its release there was serious talk of re-recording the whole album with Midnight behind the microphone. Sadly, now one can only image what that would have sounded like.
The second problem is that in the intervening decade, the world of progressive metal had moved on. Big names such as Dream Theater, Queensrÿche and Fates Warning alongside hundreds of smaller bands had taken the genre in many different directions. The genre was unrecognisable from the early seeds sown by the first incarnations of Crimson Glory. Astronomica sounded stale and dated in comparison.
For metal fans and completists there is plenty to enjoy on this record. For those of a progressive nature, then just accept that Crimson Glory’s career had ended a decade earlier.
The latest in the Metal Mind re-mastered series offers the complete discography of this influential progressive metal band, all in one little box. Spread over five CDs it captures the entire recorded output of Floridian masked metallers Crimson Glory.
In addition to the four albums released by the band between 1986 and 1999, there is a selection of live tracks, demos, videos and remixes.
The first two CDs here cover the band’s first two albums. I revisited and reviewed both the
self-titled debut and
Transcendence when they were released as limited edition re-mastered CDs by Metal Mind a year or so ago. Apart from the addition of a video clip for the single Lonely, the content here is the same.
The third and fourth albums from the band are reviewed above. Again the only addition is the video clip for The Chant on Strange
The fifth CD is filled with various bonus material. The first four tracks are demo versions and a remake from Astronomica. They appear to be pretty advanced demos and don’t vary too much from the final versions. The five live songs were recorded at the Mantee Civic Centre in Florida in 1989. However if you have the later version of the original Astronomica album, then you will already have the last three of these live tracks from the bonus disc. All three are fantastic versions especially Painted Skies and Lost Reflection. Although from the same show, for some reason the other two live songs included here are not of the same standard.
The 60-page booklet sounds good until you realise that much of it is actually the lyric sheets from each individual album. There is an extensive band history. This is split into chapters dealing with each album amid a scattering of magazine cuttings and live posters. Whilst well written, it is only a cut and paste exercise of historic online and magazine interviews with various band members. No new interviews or comments from band members. Again, for those with a knowledge of the band, there is little new information to be garnered.
So that’s what you get. Even for completists, I’d have thought there is very little new content here to warrant the not inconsiderable outlay. For those like me, who already have the re-mastered versions of the first two albums plus the previously extended version of the Astronomica album, then again you’ll have most of this already.
However for those of you who only have the vinyl versions or for the seriously curious, then this is a great way to capture the career of Crimson Glory in one place. This box set is limited to 1,000 copies. I have one and two friends have already bought theirs, so anyone interested had better start saving up soon!
Having firmly established what this is not, let me tell you what it is. Rotor play dirty and Rotor 4 is nine tracks of chthonic, leaden-heavy, sludge rock. I’m not averse to such things, so what I’m about to say does not come from a place of ignorance. Rotor are part of the family of bands like Baroness and The Capricorns on one hand and Sonic Youth or Oneida on the other. Throw in a little Karma To Burn, Kylesa, Keelhaul and just a very light dusting of Electric Wizard’s doom with a nod in the direction of High on Fire’s volcanic fury and The Melvins spiky derangement and you’ll get a sense of the ancestry.
However, Rotor are very much the poor, dumb cousins of this tribe and all of their relations do this sort of thing much better. Sure, they’re raucous and raw and appropriately loose, sounding very, very much like Baroness on their first two EPs (First and Second) or perhaps a little like Kyuss on Wretch, but this is Rotor’s 4th album since 2001 and they’ve been in existence since 1998 (Christos Ampatzis reviewed 3 in 2008, which you can read
here). I don’t know and I haven’t heard the other three albums, but this smacks of a band stuck in the early stages of their evolution. By Baroness’ fourth release (The Red Album), they had developed a sophistication to their songwriting and, perhaps more importantly, they had learned how to translate the blistering heat and energy of their shows into the studio. Perhaps this is the root of the problem I have with this album. I’d lay good money that Rotor are an exceptional live proposition, but they are unable to translate that proximity into the potentially anodyne studio setting. It’s a problem The Capricorns never managed to overcome. I’ve seen them live on many occasions and they were always excellent. Their albums sucked, sounding lifeless and spongy; the sonic equivalent of a wet loaf. Perhaps Rotor have fallen prey to the same circumstance?
The album opens with a short and misleading piano refrain, attempting clumsily to wrong-foot the listener before the clamour of Gnade Dir Gott sets the tone with the same turbo-charged, repetitive, staccato riff played a variety of ways backed by rolling, thunderous, tribal drum patterns. Karacho/Heizer could be the same song but with some extreme fuzz-bass. An3R4 brings vocals into the mix for the first time, but it differs little from the preceding two tracks in any other regard. Having said that, I really like the vocals that switch between Rob Echeverria’s (Helmet) grizzling whine and the full-throated bellowing of say, John Baizley (Baroness) or Troy Sanders (Mastodon). The whole thing has an early Killing Joke vibe that takes me back to 1980 in a trice.
This is a lumbering oaf of an album. The best thing about it is the cover art which is an amazing painting in Acrylics of a strikingly gorgeous but very dangerous looking redhead who has an octopus coming out of her ears. ‘Nuff said. Avoid.