REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:
Yes – Union Live
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Record Label:||Gonzo Multimedia|
|Year of Release:||2011|
|Time:||DVD 1 118:00|
DVD 2 342:00
CD 1 50:42
CD 2 48:36
DVD 1 California - Shoreline Amphitheatre - August 8th 1991: Intro/Firebird Suite, Yours Is No Disgrace, Rhythm Of Love, Heart Of The Sunrise, Clap/Mood For A Day, Make It Easy/Owner Of A Lonely Heart, I've Seen All Good People, Solly's Beard, Saving My Heart For You, Whitefish/Amazing Grace, Rick Wakeman Solo, Awaken, Roundabout.
DVD 2 Pensacola - Pensacola Civic Centre - April 9th 1991: Firebird Suite, Yours Is No Disgrace, Rhythm Of Love, City Of Love, Heart Of The Sunrise, Leaves Of Green, Concerto In D/Clap, Make It Easy/Owner Of A Lonely Heart, And You And I, Drum Duet, Hold On, Shock To The System, Solly’s Beard, Changes, Take The Water To The Mountain, Soon, Long Distance Runaround, Whitefish, Amazing Grace, Lift Me Up, Wakeman Solo, Awaken, Roundabout, Starship Trooper Denver - McNichols Sports Arena - May 9th 1991: Firebird Suite/Yours Is No Disgrace, Rhythm Of Love, Shock To The System, Heart Of The Sunrise, Clap/Mood For A Day, Make It Easy/Owner Of A Lonely Heart, And You And I, Drum Duet, Hold On, I’ve Seen All Good People, Kaye Solo/Changes, Solly’s Beard, Long Distance Runaround, Whitefish/Amazing Grace, Lift Me Up, Wakeman Solo, Awaken, Roundabout Bonus Audio 5.1 mixes: California - Shoreline Amphitheatre - August 8th 1991: Shock To The System, And You And I, Lift Me Up Bonus Audio Stereo Tracks: London - Wembley Arena - June 29th 1991: Shock To The System, And You And I Burgettstown - Star Lake Amphitheatre - July 24th 1991: Drum Duet, Changes
CD 1 California - Shoreline Amphitheatre - August 8th 1991: Intro/Firebird Suite, Yours Is No Disgrace (15:06), Rhythm Of Love (5:04), Heart Of The Sunrise (10:16), Clap/Mood For A Day (6:26), Make It Easy/Owner Of A Lonely Heart (6:24), I've Seen All Good People (7:26)
CD 2 California - Shoreline Amphitheatre - August 8th 1991: Solly's Beard (6:25), Saving My Heart For You (4:55), Whitefish/Amazing Grace (10:05), Rick Wakeman Solo (4:21), Awaken (19:01), Roundabout (10:14)
Much has been written about Yes’ 1991 studio album Union which time and space precludes me from dwelling upon on here suffice to say that it was one of the most disappointing releases in the bands long and illustrious career. Boasting an eight man line-up of members past and present, it was in fact the work of two separate bands (the so called Yes-West and ABWH) resulting in a fragmented collection that was anything but a ‘Union’. A more appropriate title would have been the one chosen by Steve Howe for his solo contribution Masquerade (one of the better tracks). The worldwide tour that followed however (featuring the combined talents of Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Tony Kaye, Chris Squire, Alan White, Steve Howe, Bill Bruford and Rick Wakeman) was a resounding success. The unique experience of an eight strong Yes was also a bootleggers dream. I can recall for instance visiting an independent record store in Leeds in the early 90’s and coming across at least a dozen different versions, most in double CD format.
Surprisingly despite the demand and obvious commercial potential a much anticipated official video/CD release failed to materialise although further changes in personnel, management and label probably all played a part. Almost twenty years on however the patience of Yes fans has seemingly been rewarded with the release of this ‘special limited edition deluxe package’, but was it worth the wait? My verdict will come later but in the meantime I’ll unravel the contents of this expansive set to see what it has to offer.
DVD 1 features the final date of the tour recorded at the Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, California on 8th August 1991. It’s the same venue where ABWH recorded
An Evening Of Yes Music Plus two years earlier and unlike the rest of the Union tour it was not staged ‘In the Round’. The venue was presumably chosen to overcome the technical difficulties of filming a revolving stage. This particular recording has only previously been commercially available on video and Laser Disc in Japan although it has been possible to track down inferior DVD copies mainly thanks to the internet. A courtesy glance at the track listing and the 2 hour running time and it’s clear that this is not the complete show as performed on the night (with And You And I being an obvious casualty). Yes concerts typically last over 2½ hours or more and this was no exception. I can only presume that the decision to edit the footage to a convenient two hours was done with TV schedules in mind.
The good news is that the remaining footage provides a fitting memento to a memorable tour and evening. Dubbed ‘Around the World in Eighty Dates’ the tour saw two line-ups putting their past differences aside and performing collectively as a solid unit. The set list was a shrewd combination of classic Yes and Yes-West material with (unsurprisingly) only a token nod to the Union album. Even then the songs selected from the latest album underwent continuous change with this particular show featuring a rare airing of Rabin’s catchy (if much derided) Saving My Heart. Given a makeover complete with a shuffle reggae rhythm it works surprisingly well with a raunchier delivery then usual from Anderson looking cute in his silk pyjamas with gold braided shoulder pads (ala Michael Jackson).
The show kicks off however with the welcome return of the Firebird Suite (dropped by both Yes-West and ABWH) followed by the almost obligatory Yours Is No Disgrace. I say almost because for my money Siberian Khatru is the ultimate Yes opener but no matter, YIND provides a suitable showcase for the collective talents on stage. In particular the two guitarists have a field day with back-to-back extended solos (rare for Yes) and the contrasting styles couldn’t be more apparent. Sporting tight jeans, a white vest and sun bronzed skin Rabin is the epitome of macho good looks, matched by the shredding runs from his familiar battered guitar. Howe on the other hand, in his designer print shirt with tied back hair and pallid complexion, is the essence of British cool playing with intense precision. It’s much the same story when they switch to acoustic for their respective solo spots. In Howe’s case however the track listing is incorrect. Whilst he did play the usual combination of Clap/Mood For A Day for most of the tour, on this occasion following a short blues rag to warm up, the proverbial Clap is paired with a rare airing of the delicate Georgia’s Theme.
For older Yes fans in the audience unfamiliar with the 90125 tour and subsequent 9012Live album, Rabin’s Solly's Beard will have been a revelation. A master class of showy technique, it’s as good a rendition as he has ever given, demonstrating (in the wider scheme of things) just what an underrated guitarist he is. There is also a hilarious segment prior to his performance where Squire is seen polishing Rabin’s stool behind Anderson’s rambling introduction. In fact humour is in welcome abundance throughout the show, particularly during Your Move where Wakeman standing stage-front (leaving Kaye to play the organ part) distracts Rabin resulting in fits of laughter and several missed vocal cues by the guitarist. The friendship that developed between the two men during the tour is plain to see to the extent where Wakeman was afforded the opportunity to add synth solos to both Rhythm Of Love and Owner Of A Lonely Heart. The latter he plays on a keytar whilst going walkabout in the crowd (much to their delight) before returning to the stage to go face to face with Squire for a climatic bass/keyboard ‘duel’.
The luxury of having two guitarists, two keyboardists and two drummers on stage is clearly obvious with the songs in the main benefitting with the additional fills and embellishments. Squire on the other hand needs no support with his monumental bass sound upfront throughout. When they played ‘In the Round’ there was no discernable physical division between the band members but here on a ‘flat’ stage Yes-West are conspicuously positioned on the left hand side with ABWH on the right. Anderson of course having a foot in both camps takes up a neutral central position next to Squire with the two guitarists to the extreme left (Rabin) and right (Howe). Behind and above them are (from left to right) Kaye, White, Bruford and Wakeman.
It’s only in the long shots where the full line-up can be fully appreciated although there are some excellent views from the side of the stage showing Rabin, Squire, Anderson and Howe performing in unison. The full spectacle of a concert is rarely captured on camera and here the lighting appears rudimentary with the eight man line-up being the main visual attraction. Having become accustomed to HD TV and Blu-ray in recent times it’s hard to remain objective about DVD but to my eyes the picture quality here is excellent particularly for a twenty-year old recording. Colours are sharp and vivid (particularly in the case of Howe’s shirt) and likewise the sound quality is crisp and clear.
There are numerous highlights on DVD 1 not least the fact that it’s a rare opportunity to witness an eight-man Yes live. Further highlights include the bizarre image of a chain of roadies marching across the stage (Madness style) during Saving My Heart with empty Budweiser boxes on their heads, the anxious look on Rabin’s face during the same song after switching from acoustic to electric guitar only to find its not plugged in, his impressive duet with Wakeman during Catherine Parr, Squire milking the audience for all their worth during a showy Whitefish, an epic Awaken and to close, a suitably muscular Roundabout. Its also no small feat that they delivered such a tight and cohesive performance particularly with complex arrangements like Yours Is No Disgrace and Heart Of The Sunrise which could have been chaos given the number of musicians (not to mention egos) on stage.
DVD 2 comes with a disclaimer from Gonzo Multimedia stating that “the bootleg footage is raw and the sound and picture quality is not to the standard of normal commercial releases”. That being the case I was pleasantly surprised by the footage from Denver performed ‘In the Round’ at the McNichols Sports Arena on May 9th (my birthday no less) in 1991. Unlike Shoreline it was not taken from the master tapes so picture quality is not as it could be with colours often washed out but the sound (a soundboard recording like Shoreline) is excellent even though the balance could be better with Anderson’s vocals and Squire’s bass being too low on occasions. It was obviously recorded with the bands consent (Anderson makes reference to it as he encourages the audience to sing along to I've Seen All Good People) and it’s very professionally shot from several cameras. Long distance images are sometimes hazy and could almost be in black and white but things improve no end when the band members are caught in close-up under the spotlights.
Overall the staging is more spectacular than at the static Shoreline with the band drifting past the cameras thanks to the revolving stage and the outer limbs of the lighting rig opening and closing like the petals of a giant inverted flower. The audience is also better miked which adds to the overall atmosphere. As this is the complete show, more of Rabin’s songs get an airing where both Howe and Anderson (having conspicuously less to do) often switch to acoustic guitar. Howe does of course come into his with a superb solo spot this time featuring Mood For A Day as credited. The inevitable Long Distance Runaround is trotted out for the umpteen time and the good news is And You And I is here in all its glory. The bad news is Shock To The System is also here, ABWH’s clumsy attempt at a Yes-West style song although ironically Rabin and Squire seem to having fun with it.
Throughout the Denver show the band are very animated, roaming all over the circular stage with the motion allowing the framing of two or musicians to constantly change. I’m normally no fan of drum solos but here the opportunity to witness the combined might of White and Bruford in full flight is a rare and entertaining experience. It also gives the other band members a chance to leave the stage and change their clothes. Interestingly, the riff that provides the basis of this Drum Duet would appear six years later as the intro to Mind Drive on the Keys To Ascension 2 album. After another fine Roundabout (with a flower lodged in the neck of Howe’s acoustic guitar) the show ends with much congratulatory hugging all round with band members showing some very genuine signs of affection.
When it comes to bootlegs the Pensacola, Florida recording is the genuine article and as this was the first date of the tour the title ‘First Union’ pasted into the footage is very apt. It’s the full 3 hour show only this time filmed from the audience with the camera positioned some distance from the stage. The end result is some very jerky zooms but again the sound is very good (for an audience recording) although as is the norm the people close to the recorder have far too much to say for themselves. What makes this show particularly unique however is a rare outing for Take The Water To The Mountain from Union followed by an excellent rendition of Soon. Take The Water as it appears on the studio album is the end product of much butchering by the producer; if you want to hear the song at its best try and seek out The Perfect Union double CD which includes the full length version. This time for his solo Howe chooses Vivaldi’s Concerto In D which is a welcome change and to close this particular show there is the bonus encore of Starship Trooper which sees Rabin and Howe standing side by side hammering out the finale.
An added bonus to round off the second DVD is several audio only songs recorded at various venues during the tour including tracks missing from the Shoreline footage on DVD 1. The sound is mostly excellent (especially the 5.1 surround tracks) although unfortunately there are no animation or band pics to go with them so unless you enjoy watching a motionless menu screen I suggest (like me) you find something else to do whilst listening. Given the space available, it’s a pity that these tracks were not included on the two CD’s that come with this set.
The two CD’s are a welcome addition allowing for the first time the Shoreline Amphitheatre gig to be enjoyed free from the confines of a DVD player. The majority of Anderson’s between song banter and audience applause has been cut resulting in an almost continuous (and welcome) flow of music. In this audio only format the structure of the set-list becomes even more transparent, seesawing between 70’s and 80’s material with the solo spots accounting for a quarter of the running time. It has to be said that the Howe/Rabin soling during the extended Yours Is No Disgrace losses something of its magic minus the visuals and its interesting to note that democracy dictates that they have exactly the same playing time during their individual solo spots. Compared with a Wembley Arena bootleg from June 1991 in my collection this recording holds its own understandably well although to my ears the epic London version of Awaken has the edge.
Before concluding I should also give a mention to the packaging. Understandably given that there are four discs involved it’s a fairly elaborate foldout affair, housed in a slip case and includes a replica of the original tour program, a stage crew sticker and a back stage pass. The booklet is very informative and includes an album by album history of Yes up to Union, plenty of photos and a detailed track listing with full compositional credits.
Congratulations should go to Gonzo Multimedia for putting this whole package together and in such style. Even though there has been a tide of Yes related DVD’s in the past decade, Union Live is undeniably a unique experience. Despite any infighting that may have gone on behind the scenes before and after the tour, it’s an entertaining insight into both the meticulous virtuosity of the 70’s line-up and the infectious energy of the 80’s incarnation. It addition to the many memorable moments I’ve mentioned above I’ll part with one particularly enduring image. With rivalries momentarily forgotten it’s the rare and uplifting sight of Anderson bringing Rabin and Howe together to share a microphone for the triumphant finale to All Good People. So finally back to my earlier question, was it worth the wait? A most unequivocal Yes!
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Leader Of The Starry Skies (VA) -
A Tribute To Tim Smith : Songbook 1
Leader Of The Starry Skies: A Tribute To Tim Smith, Songbook 1 | William D. Drake & His So Called Friends – Savour (5:29), Ultrasound – Big Ship (5:36), Oceansize – Fear (2:20), Mark Cawthra - Let Alone My Plastic Doll (4:03), The Trudy – Day Is Gone (3:36), Stars In Battledress – Founding (4:24), Max Tundra [Feat: Sarah Measures] – Will Bleed Amen (4:45), Julianne Regan – Shaping The River (2:17), Knifeworld – The Stench Of Honey (5:25), The Magic Numbers – A Little Man And A House (4:34), mikrokosmos – Is This The Life (6:22), North Sea Radio Orchestra – March (3:30), Robert White [Feat: Andy Partridge] – Lilywhite’s Party (5:10), Rose Kemp Vs Rarg – Wind And Rain Is Cold (4:53), Katherine Blake – Up In Annie’s Room (2:15), Steven Wilson – Stoneage Dinosaurs (4:16), The Scaramanga Six – Home Of Fadeless Splendour (4:55)
Leader Of The Starry Skies (VA) -
A Tribute To Tim Smith : A Loyal Companion
Leader Of The Starry Skies: A Loyal Companion | Silvery – Spell With A Shell (3:21), Eureka Machines – Arnald (2:47), The Gasman – Gloomy News (2:03), Bug Prentice – My Trade Mark (3:46), Sidi Bou Said – Victory Egg (3:48), Panixphere – To Go Off And Things (1:50), Local Girls – I Hold My Love In My Arms (1:37), Sterbus – Dirty Boy (7:56), Jason Pegg – Tree Tops High (2:53), The Scaramanga Six – Everything Is Easy (3:56), A/C Woods – Joining The Plankton (2:15), Spiritwo – Dead Mouse (4:01), Agency – All Spectacular (2:56), Idiotbox – Nurses Whispering Verses (5:35), Sarah Cutts – The Barnacle Tree (2:52), [hidden track]
Cardiacs have vigorously divided opinion for over 30 years now, the undying devotion of their supporters tempered by the vitriolic views of those unable to let this unique and peculiar music get under their skin. Truly the most ‘Marmite’ of bands, the fact that Cardiacs never established a wide ranging appeal is not surprising given the quirkiness of their music which is almost impossible to describe being a colossal noise with influences from, amongst others, Gentle Giant, Frank Zappa and modern Classical with a Punk attitude. Leader and writer Tim Smith’s personality and snotty childlike aura permeate the material and when you’re hooked you stay hooked, the songs infecting you like some beautiful disease. Try these 2007 rehearsal clips for
As Cold As Can Be In An English Sea and Jibber And Twitch for size. They have influenced a wide range of artists including Mike Vennart (Oceansize), Mike Patton (Faith No More/Mr Bungle), Tool, Thom Yorke (Radiohead), It Bites, Blur, Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree), The Wildhearts and They Might Be Giants. To date, mentions of Cardiacs on DPRP have been few and far between so this release is a golden opportunity to change this and hopefully open a few more minds to this truly great band.
My own Cardiacs journey took 20+ years from first hearing to finally appreciating the majesty of the unique music that has sprung from Tim’s very strange mind. They supported Marillion on the now infamous 1984 tour that saw them bottled off almost every night despite the protestations of Fish on whose invitation the band performed. At the time, being young and at the start of my musical education, I had no frame of reference for what I was hearing which was laugh out loud ridiculous; these odd people in matching uniforms playing jerky stop/start music which was too far removed from what I knew to compute. I didn’t partake but understood why the startlingly impressive bottling was happening. Looking back I am both ashamed and appalled at the narrow mindedness of it all as that night robbed me of decades of enjoyment and thrilling gigs as for years I would readily slate Cardiacs as an abomination despite the fact that I had never actually heard any of their recordings. Luckily I had the good fortune to run into a group of enthusiasts who talked me round and supplied me with audio and video evidence to correct my wrong thoughts. It was nothing short of a revelation. I love Prog, a lot of Punk and many other genres in between and beyond but I had never heard the like and was immediately captivated. It was like hearing the world anew and things would never be the same again.
Fortunately, I got to see the band again in 2007 and this ranks as one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. The band were superb, the music awe inspiring and the audience so devoted that their enthusiasm spread like wildfire. I gleefully snapped up tickets for the 2008 tour before the terrible news emerged that Tim had been stricken with, ironically, a heart attack and stroke. Hopes that he would make a swift recovery and the band would carry on have come to nought and it now seems highly unlikely as the severity and long term effects of Tim’s situation become apparent. This compilation is the result of hard work and love by various friends and colleagues plus others touched by Smith’s influence, all proceeds going directly to Tim to help with his care and welfare. As the promo has it:-
“This is not just a tribute album. It is an endeavour borne of love. Tim Smith composer, principal songwriter, lead singer and guitarist of Cardiacs and numerous other seminal music projects suffered a severe stroke in 2008. The artists on this record have come together to celebrate Tim's unique music, to further it's dominion and importantly, to raise funds for Tim, who is at present unable to do many of the things we all take for granted.”
So, to the music. High profile names have stepped up to contribute including Steven Wilson, Andy Partridge (XTC), Oceansize, The Magic Numbers, Julianne Regan (All About Eve), Katharine Blake (Miranda Sex Garden / Mediaeval Babes) but many of the rest will be unfamiliar. Cardiacs alumni are well represented by William D. Drake, Mark Cawthra, Sarah Cutts, Kavus Torabi (Knifeworld), Bic Hayes’ mikrokosmos and associated conglomerations North Sea Radio Orchestra, Sidi Bou Said, The Trudy and Panixphere. ‘90s disciples Ultrasound reformed especially to help the cause. The uptake of artists coming forward to offer support was so great that the bonus disc, ‘A Loyal Companion’, was put together with 15 further tracks (including a hidden one). This bonus is now only available to download but is well worth getting and there is talk of a tribute gig being organised to further benefit Tim.
All of the acts involved give their all and the results go a long way to showing the true depth and beauty of Smith’s songs by giving them a twist and an alternative lick of paint. The material comes from Tim’s solo Extra Special OceanLandWorld album plus Sea Nymphs, Spratley’s Japs as well as all eras of the parent band. The spiralling melodies and abrupt changes of direction are relayed in new settings, some stripped down and much more accessible but retaining the feeling of the originals. The mastering and production by Mark Cawthra, Bic Hayes and Jo Spratley is of a very high quality and the whole package is beautifully realised.
Unfairly underrated by choosing to be different this unique talent deserves to be heard more widely. Not everyone will like it, of course, but at least listeners will get the chance to make up their own minds. You just can’t rate an undertaking like this as the reason for it existing far outweighs the content. Luckily the content is sublime, get a copy from here.
Silent Call - Greed
Tracklist: Every Day (5:37), I Am My Nation (6:05), Through The Endless Night (4:57), All That Might Be (5:14), Dream Tomorrow (6:45), Turn The Tide (4:15), Unbreakable (4:25), Falling From Grace (7:15), When The Angels Call Your Name (4:21), The Wages Of Greed (5:37), Clavain' Tale (4:27)
Hailing from Stockholm, this is the second album from another Scandinavian band seeking to combine elements of melodic hard rock with progressive metal.
After a demo (Divided) in 2006, the band’s debut album was released in 2008. Creations Of A Chosen Path was well performed but sounded rather derivative and lacked enough decent melodies and riffs to warrant repeat listens.
Greed is a major step-up in class with eleven tracks that compare favourably to the likes of Seventh Wonder and Darkwater in their more progressive moments and to Leverage and Vision Divine when treading a more melodic metal groove.
There are five standout songs: Every Day, All That Might Be, Dream Tomorrow, When The Angels Call Your Name and The Wages Of Greed. Here the melodic hooks and riffs are memorable. It’s the slightly extended instrumental sections where the band’s progressive leanings really shine through. On these five tracks the band really does get an enjoyable balance between these two elements.
Falling From Grace is where the band is given a bit more space to really shows off its musicianship. A clear production allows everything to shine through.
The consistency isn’t quite there in the quality of the remaining songs where my attention tends to wander off. There’s seems to be a lyrical storyline running through the album, for those who like to explore that aspect.
Vocalist Andi Kravljaca appeared on the first Seventh Wonder album and spent some time with fellow Swedes Elsesphere. His pedigree also includes guest vocalist on two tracks of the first album by English pogmetallers Aeon Zen. His clear, high-pitched delivery frequently reminds me of Michael Luppi, which is no bad comparison.
Overall, for fans of any of the above bands who like their melodic metal with a good helping of prog or who enjoy ProgMetal with an abundance of melody, then this just about wins a recommendation.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Jeavestone – 1+1=OK
|Country of Origin:||Finland|
|Record Label:||Presence Records/|
|Year of Release:||2010|
Tracklist: Laser Fluxus Bombus Interruptus (4:55), The Tipreader (3:58), Future Shock (5:42), Mirror Monologue (5:05), Hot Summer Fun (4:17), Do It Right (2:49), Factory (3:33), Your Turn To Run (5:24), Poet’s Eternity (5:42)
Just a warning at the start of this review: Jeavestone are from Finland! And the Scandanavians have always claimed that they are a strange people compared to the rest of us. Jeavestone fits the bill. First there’s the title; 1+1=OK. What does that mean? And secondly; all the band members use aliases (Kingo, Mickey Maniac, etc, etc). But also musically the band does things differently. It is progressive rock what they play but on their third album they adopt a sort of “Gentle Giant-anything-goes” strategy. This is an album full of surprises and unexpected twists and turns. And above all it’s great fun as these seriously talented musicians do not take themselves too seriously.
Instrumental album opener Laser Fluxus Bombus Interruptus sets the tone and gives a good indication of what to expect. The track opens as a modern progressive rock tune somewhere in between Saga, A.C.T and maybe a bit of Haken, but then develops into a dark and brooding beast that seems to end in total chaos. Then suddenly the songs changes colour again and we’re in Camel country with some beautiful flute playing. And all of this within the space of five minutes.
Then there’s the Balkan music meets rock of Hot Summer Fun (listen to the totally over the top heavy metal guitar solo!). The heaviness of The Tipreader and the light reggae shuffle that is Factory. This track is also graced with a beautiful chorus and a sitar solo(!!).
Echolyn and Gentle Giant come to mind when listening to the wonderful Do It Right and Your Turn To Run. The start of the beautiful album closer Poet’s Eternity reminded me of King Crimson’s
I Talk To The Wind with it’s beautiful flute melody. But halfway in the song it’s Gentle Giant again. What a great track!
As you can read a lot is happening in these songs but still Jeavestone pull it off to make the album sound coherent. There is no senseless mucking about. All the tracks are to the point and the funny things they put into the songs never gets the listener distracted from the fact that this band writes good tunes. As I said before the musicianship throughout is excellent. The guitars are mostly to the fore but the use of sounds and emotions is varied with the other instruments adding different colours (listen how the drums add to the factory atmosphere in Factory). Lyrically there is also plenty to enjoy:
“Things that you say, things that you do
That you want us to beware of but we haven’t got a clue”
...in Mirror Monologue or:
“Under the sun, hot summer fun
Breath of the wind making hot love to everyone”
in Hot Summer Fun.
1+1=OK is a highly entertaining album that is not only packed with great adventurous songs but also brings a smile to your face.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Yogi Lang – No Decoder
Tracklist: Can't Reach Out (2:20), Sacrifice (9:30), Our World Has Changed (5:26), Sail Away (5:16), Our Modern World (2:58), No Decoder (5:30), Alison (3:48), A Million Miles Away (8:08), Say Goodbye (4:40), Sensvalue(4:57), A Better Place For Me (3:40)
The press release for the solo album of RPWL’s singer Yogi Lang starts with: "Just in time for the bands 10th anniversary, Yogi Lang contributes the final piece for RPWL’s unmistakable sound." This must be the case then, preceding him in making solo efforts are Chris Postl with Parzival’s Eye and Kalle Wallner with his Blind Ego project. So this is original band member number three - Yogi Lang - with his own solo outing.
The musicians helping Yogi Lang with this solo creation are: Guy Pratt (bass), Manni Müller (drums) Torsten Weber (guitar) and Carmen Maier (percussion). Yogi does keyboards and of course vocals. He also uses some special guests on the album: Dominique Leonetti (vocals) and Hubert Trenkwalder (accordion) on Alison. Anne de Wolff (violin) on Say Goodbye. Ian Salmon (narrator) on A Million Miles Away. Ferdinand Settels (sax) and RPWL buddy Kalle Wallner (acoustic guitar) on Sail Away.
This final piece in the RPWL sound has more liking to this famous sound than the other two efforts of Wallner and Postl. Now it must be said that apart from being the band's lead singer, Yogi Lang does most of the production for RPWL. This may be the main reason the overall sound on this album resembles the RPWL sound that much. Moreover RPWL started out as a Pink Floyd coverband with loads of influences from the band in their later works. Well No Decoder has loads of influences of Pink Floyd present. Not only Guy Pratt playing bass, who is a former member playing on Floyd's later records. No it is apparent that Yogi Lang is very much influenced by Waters, Gilmour, Wright and Mason or Pink Floyd and his creations have a mellow feeling and allure often found on Pink Floyd albums.
I really do like this approach, Yogi Lang’s voice is one that suits these easy going melodies very well. I would not call No Decoder a concept album, but I find it very hard not to listen to the complete album in one session. So far I have not listened to just one song, every spin has had me listening to the whole album. And I can tell you that I find it a great listen from beginning until the end, nearly an hour worth of music seems to pass me by much too quickly. I must add that I really do think Yogi Lang knows how to bring across his message both musically and lyrically.
Further to that, the special guests on the various songs give an extra edge to these songs. Just listen to the subtle voice of Lazuli’s Dominigue Leonetti along with the accordion of Hubert Trenkwalder giving Alison that extra touch. Or the violin of Anne de Wolff in Say Goodbye also a wonderful addition to the song - just finishing it off.
Another special note goes to the artwork, Judith Reichart has done a wonderful collage for the cover of No Decoder. The art work really needs a closer look as it is not as simple as it looks - you really need to look closer.
Yogi Lang has made the mosaic whole - delivering a solo album of the same high standard we have got used to with RPWL and the other solo efforts by Wallner and Postl. In my opinion this is a complete album worth every penny and a must have for the RPWL fans of course - but they probably have it already by now.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Sehnsucht – Wachstum
|Country of Origin:||Russia|
|Year of Release:||2010|
Tracklist: Wachstum (10:50), Verstehen (4:38), Cosmic Drugstore (5:49), Kosmische Meerbrandung (8:01), Cosmic Testpilot (5:16), Langsamer Tanz (6:48), Meat Of The White Cosmic Geishas (5:48)
Russian born Sehnsucht who were formed in St. Petersburg in 2008 present their heavy psyche, space rock, free improv, kraut rock, trippy psychedelic freak outs on this their debut album Wachstum which was recorded live in the studio by the current line up of the band, which consists of Michael Linov (bass), Timur Samatov (guitar), Boris Popov (drums) and Catherine Lutsevich (keyboards).
Once the music starts the rollercoaster ride through the subconscious of your mind it will pulse your synapse, your neural network, all your neurons, conducting impulses along your hair like cytoplasmic extensions, the nerve fibres, causing a form of ecstasy which makes this music an aural experience, something that is reinforced by the album artwork created by guitarist Timur Samatov.
Wachstum the opening track which translates to growth in English is a fine example of what this band is all about. The band manipulate sonic soundscapes, creating an improvised wall of noise that slowly paces the astral space with its repetitive chord structure, with interjections of spacey synth work that allows the rhythmic interludes to gently manipulate your mind. As the piece travels its journey the chord structures build in meter, wavering from its sleepiness, building into a strong psyche, space rock sculpture, still hypnotic in its approach, improvisation of the highest order. Verstehen opens with a sense of urgency again utilising a hypnotic repeating rhythm being somewhat slightly more basic in its approach. The indelible guitar work of Samatov sets the piece off, being coerced by Lutsevich’s swirling ethereal synth work. Cosmic Drugstore has a similar meter to Verstehen allowing Samatov to display his dexterity, but the real stars of the show here are Popov and Linov who allow the rest of the band to interact around their sonic soundscapes. There is just nothing to not like about this music. Kosmische Meerbrandung sees Linov’s outstanding bass work leading this piece, an atmospheric interaction that possesses an air of confidence, everybody falling into line weaving their tones around the solid structure almost polyrhythmic in approach. Towards the end of the piece, Sehnsucht up the ante increasing the meter, which works really well, adding dimension and substance.
Cosmic Testpilot, now there’s a fantastic Hawkwind song title if I ever heard one, with its eastern tones and phased guitar passages oozing quality, could be lifted of a Hawkwind album such is the nature and structure of the track which just sees the music transpiring into madness with its sonics, especially Popov’s outlandish drumming and Lutsevich very clever synth work. Langsamer Tanz the penultimate track has Samatov’s guitar work domineering the whole proceeding whilst Popov and Linov’s work shadows his creations. The music itself is layered, which after several listens really opens up and changes the dimension of the piece especially on the closing section where the meter and timber sounds fractious. Meat Of The White Cosmic Geishas really grabs the bull by the horns taking an aggressive attitude and approach, being the most improvisational track on the album, chaos pursues but the band still manages to keep the music in the realms of reality, spacial reality that is, not within the realms of normal existence, making it a very fitting closing track.
Sehnsucht pulls its influences from the likes of Can, Ash Ra Tempel, Guru Guru and you can even hear the presences of the space rock demi gods Hawkwind thorough this album. The band has recorded and album of deft, dexterous music that skilfully and cleverly displays its prowess, with each repeated play offers something new in its sonic presentation. This is a hypnotically beautiful album that isn’t polished but remains adventurous yet uniquely raw. These guys may well be fairly new to the scene, but one thing that can be assured is that they are no pretenders.
R.A.I.G has delivered yet another stunning release from their roster which has impressed these ears, very much so. The beauty of the label is that if you hop over to their myspace page there is a bounty of great music available for download which I guarantee will have you investigating / investing in their other releases. It is all very addictive and very good. I would love to spend some time out in Russia watching and discovering their musical identity.
Sehnsucht may translate roughly into a deep emotional state. To me Sehnsucht should translate into a classy heavy psyche, space rock, free improv, kraut rock, trippy psychedelic freak out band.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Haiku Funeral – If God Is A Drug
Tracklist: Izkuplenie (6:05), The Holy Connection (4:28), Fungoid Moon (7:52), If God Is A Drug Pt. 1 (3:09), If God Is A Drug Pt. 2 (4:51), If God Is A Drug Pt. 3 (3:33), Seven (1:30), The Trees Are Killing The Sky (5:47), City In The Sea (5:07), Bright Red Seeds (2:44), Infected (2:53), They Dreamt Of Coffins (4:35)
Haiku Funeral – Hell
Tracklist: Hell (11:06)
Brutal Icy Melodies
Black Noise Combustion
What better way to start off a review of a band with a name like Haiku Funeral than with, well, a haiku? Two releases from this band to go over in this review. On If God Is A Drug, their third release, Haiku Funeral is made up of William Kopecky (Par Lindh Project, Kopecky, Far Corner, Yeti Rain, Snarling Adjective Convention, Parallel Mind, Michael Angelo Batio, and others) on four and five string fretted bass, fretless bass, vocals, wind drums, and, to quote the CD credits, “hallucinogenics”; and Bulgarian black metal stalwart Dimitar Dimitrov (Glades of Gloom, Corpus Diavolis, Unhealthy Dreams, also has recorded and performed dark electronica as DJ Dimitrov and Daemonicreation) on synthesizers, vocals, wind drums, electric guitars, programming and “delirium”.
The style of music the duo plays pretty much falls into the category of dark electronic metal. The vocals of Kopecky, who is nicknamed in the CD credits as “WMK”, often sound like they are coming from the “rubber room” of an insane asylum, like on the nerve-shattering Infected. The tune also showcases some icy synthesizers from Dimitrov, nicknamed in the CD credits as “DIM”.
The Holy Connection offers up brooding bass and processed hip-hop style vocals from Kopecky along with airy synthesizers and militant programming from Dimitrov. A bouncing industrial section featuring icicles of bass synthesizer evokes Nine Inch Nails, and the song ends with whispered vocals from Kopecky pointing to Lycia as a commonality.
The Trees Are Killing The Sky features bleak synthesizers and programming from Dimitrov evoking early seventies Tangerine Dream, and rumbling washes of static bass from Kopecky. Some plaintive synthesizer croons from Dimitrov give way to distant crashing wind drums.
If God Is A Drug Pt. 2 displays nomadic lagoons of quicksand bass from Kopecky and insecticide synthesizers from Dimitrov.
The CD, in a limited release of 50 copies, comes in a half-size DVD case with a folded glossy sheet of lyrics and credits and a business card sized promo sticker.
Also released by Haiku Funeral is Hell, a 3” CDR with the sole and title track exactly 666 seconds in length. It features, as listed in the credits, Dimitrov on vocals and electronics and Kopecky on fretless bass and vocals. The track offers up dark symphonic howling electronics from Dimitrov and slowly bouncing bass and whisper-style vocals, the latter of which takes on a disturbed tone as the track descends into sonic darkness with explosive electronics from Dimitrov. His electronics flow into a heartbeat style groove, pulsing into the picture with foaming rabid growls of bass and deranged vocals.
The CDR is packaged in a thin plastic sleeve with a simple, homemade style card inlay.
Both of these recordings for me were interesting with my initial perusals of them, but I do not find Haiku Funeral exactly hooking my ears and reeling them in like a tarpon in the Florida Keys. I found the overall sound of the music to be devoid of tempo, meter, or any rhythmic punch. Perhaps this is what the band intends, but I feel that there could be an opportunity for increased, if not mass, appeal for the band if they kicked the rhythm a little with some industrial dance beats.
Haiku Funeral will most likely appeal to fans of dark, crashing black metal. Fans of Barbara Striesand and Enya should be advised that Haiku Funeral is, shall we say, an acquired taste.
If God Is A Drug: 6 out of 10
Hell: 6 out of 10
Neural Mass - Final Warning
|Country of Origin:||Canada|
|Year of Release:||2010|
Tracklist: Monoxyde World (9:14), Trailor By The Swamp (6:29), Female Disaster (3:12), Cold Temptress (4:48), 3 Days (2:38), My Death Girl (4:30), Viral Zoonosis (3:19), Actions In The Nervous System (6:49), The Undertaker's Last Customer (11:28), Final Warning (5:11)
The main man behind Neural Mass is Gary X Floyd, who plays a lot of instruments and is supported by Sylvain Rodrigue on the drums. Steve Otis, who now is a full member, plays additional guitar on the album. Also on the album are Mark Tremblay (guitar and bass) and Hugues Jomphe (sax and clarinet). Final Warning is a concept album, a journey to the end of the world.
The music of Neural Mass is very diverse with a lot of keyboard sounds and complex structures, but also very heavy parts. These guys know how to play their instruments however the sound quality is not really satisfying. Monoxyde World is an instrumental track that is all over the place, but I cannot make heads nor tails of it. Trailor By The Swamp has more structure and lyrics and then the second problem of this album rises to the surface. Now some vocalists are not technically superb but can get by, but in this case they are just really bad. The keyboard solo is bearable on this song but the rest of the track is far below par. Female Disaster is a nice piece of music but on Cold Temptress the poor level of music continues. A Pink Floyd like song but very bad and the vocals are truly horrible.
3 Days is very experimental, a lot like Univers Zero, whereas My Death Girl is once again a very bad song. In fact the remaining part of the album only the song The Undertaker's Last Customer has some nice moments. The album has some parts with a narrator voice which is done very poorly and The Undertaker's Last Customer has a lot of them.
Sad to say Final Warning is not a good album. The guys from Neural Mass know how to play their instruments but it takes more than that to create a good album. Some tunes really are very good but it is put aside by parts that are very, very bad.
The narrator voice is also a bad idea, the sparse moments that are good on this album are spoiled by these words.
Conclusion: 3 out of 10