REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:
Nemo – R€volu$ion
|Country of Origin:||France|
|Year of Release:||2011|
Tracklist: Liberté, Egalité, Insurrection (2:23), Je Suis Un Objet (5:43), R€volu$ion (5:08), Aux Portes Du Paradis (2:21), Seul Dans La Foule (9:36), Chiens En Laisse (5:35), Loins Des Yeux [Barbares Parties VIII a XII] (24:30), Notes Pour Plus Tard... (6:43)
André De Boer's Review
How anxious can one be, awaiting a new album from a band that ranks your top five? A band that already has three DPRP highly recommended albums on its name? A band that proved itself to me in a live setting at the Dutch ProgFarm festival back in 2008.
However high expectations always mean the risk of a big disappointment. I had already listened to one track, Je Suis Un Objet, in advance on the band’s MySpace page. No worries there and now I can say that R€volu$ion does not fall short of my expectations. On the contrary, after giving this a lot of spins I can easily say that I’m addicted again.
The opening track reminds the listener of Nemo’s entire back catalogue in a compressed way. It feels like Nemo wants to make a: ‘Listen, this is who we are’ statement. The opening instrumental builds up the tension at the very end so it enters Je Suis Un Objet in a natural way. This is a song that is a showcase of the complex composing and playing skills these guys have. Jean Pierre Louveton’s lead guitar, David Zmyslovski’s guitar, as well as Guillaume Fontaine’s keyboard really magnify this track. As always, Itier’s drumming lines the whole thing up smoothly and the song just sticks on you. As does the entire album of which I particularly like Seul Dans La Foule.
As always Nemo show they know the true meaning of both the words ‘progressive’ and ‘eclectic’. The much-appreciated fusion aspects shown in their six previous albums are hard to find on this one, apart for some fusion-ish elements in Chiens En Laisse. Instead they have managed to present an alternating acoustic ecology that will make this an album to love and cherish. If you don’t believe this is possible, you can spend twenty five of the best minutes of your life to Loins Des Yeux. How do they come up with this great stuff with all its coherent changes and variety? As a marginal comment, the rather high dose of bagpipes at the end is somewhat annoying.
The line-up would be incomplete if I did not mention Lionel B. Guichard’s bass lines, beautifully exampled in Loins Des Yeux which constantly adds up to Nemo’s unearthly sound.
Some listeners say the band suffers from singing in French. I do not agree. Maybe Nemo would reach a broader audience, but I think they are not aiming for that. If one loves true progressive music, the language should not be a borderline. It might even give Nemo an extra edge.
The lyrics continually go deep. Due to the album’s release date it is almost like Nemo predicted the recent revolutions in a string of Arab countries. But this is not what this album is about. It is way beyond that. The concept is about money and economic crises, nicely pronounced by the currency signs in the album title.
With this new album Nemo leaves me with amazement and utter admiration. My conclusion relates to the very high quality of all tracks and is easily condensed into one unmistakable exclamation mark. Out of this world and Highly Recommended!
Andy Read's Review
Nemo is a band with which I’ve had an uncomfortable relationship over the years. All of their albums have had parts that thrill me and parts that frustrate me – usually in equal measures.
This is the seventh studio album from the French quartet. After spending a month with R€volu$ion I’ve found our relationship continues in a similar vein, but this time there is much more of the thrill and much less of the frustration.
What I’ve always enjoyed about Nemo’s music, is that here is band clearly intent on following its own musical vision. The blend of fusion, art rock, neo prog, and more metallic elements means that the words ‘sounds like’ are pretty worthless in a review. I admire them for that.
Equally the band’s insistence on singing in their native tongue wins my respect. It may alienate some listeners and make appreciation of their lyrics impossible for those who left French in the secondary school classroom, but it really adds to the bands distinct identity.
I’d say there is less of the fusion and more of the metallic elements on this album, especially in the guitar work, as on the opening to Loins Des Yeux.
The vocals of Jean Pierre Louveton may not be to everyone’s taste but again he adds to the band’s unique sound. On the whole I personally enjoy his contribution, but there are some frustrations when he looses control of his melody and sounds a bit too much like a singer in a sub-par college band – the repetitive chorus of the title track is not the album’s most sophisticated moment. Here and there the instrumental sections sound bloated and repetitive for my tastes. A few ideas such as the extended bagpipe solo just don’t work at all.
However as I said at the start, there are plenty of thrills to be found on this record. Two tracks stand out for me. The fantastic opening song Je Suis Un Objet, should really be combined with the beautifully flowing piano-led instrumental Liberté, Egalité, Insurrection. Here the band manages to combine all of their elements into one absorbing slice of progressive rock. This is classy.
On the other end of the scale, the epic Loins Des Yeux twists and turns across almost 25 minutes and is titled as a five-part extension of the title track from Nemo’s 2009 album
The production is superb as is the packaging. I like the clever use of money symbols to emphasise the concept behind the album title. As ever with Nemo, the musicianship is top-notch, especially the guitar playing as shown by the solo in the middle of Notes Pour Plus Tard...
Overall, R€volu$ion is a subtle and natural extension (progression?) to the discography of one of the most distinctive, modern, heavy prog bands on the scene today. Nemo has expanded its sound in some areas but remained easily recognisable across the whole. As a result, existing fans should have little hesitation in adding this to their collection.
Personally I think Nemo is a band that will always challenge me as a listening experience. Having said that, this is easily the Nemo album that I’ve enjoyed the most. Its almost worth buying just for the fabulous opening song.
Thanks to the magic of modern technology you can make your own minds up, as the band has made the whole album available to listen on this webpage. I’ll be interested to see how these songs translate to a live setting when I catch the band alongside Fish, Lazuli, Riverside and Magic Pie at the Fifth Anniversary Progressive Promotion Festival in Germany at the end of September.
ANDRÉ DE BOER : 9 out of 10
ANDY READ : 7.5 out of 10
Not Otherwise Specified - Judgment
Tracklist: Intro (2:20), Serenity (7:49), Another Way (5:12), Pulse (8:54), The World Today (8:11), Morning (9:12), Judgment (9:26), Perfect (6:48), Rise To Meet You (10:50)
As a reviewer and a passionate music lover my system is always on the go playing some stunning and some not so stunning music which at times can be a little frustrating. Frustrating for various reasons, but one reason for me is that when you think things can’t get much better somebody out of the blue steps up to the plate and throws a curve ball that makes you re-assess all those thought processes. Why am I telling you this? Well here is one of those rare moments.
Not Otherwise Specified has just released their debut album Judgment. I say their album, but in reality this is the brainchild and gifted talent of one Craig Kerley, a gentleman from Atlanta Georgia. Craig Kerley will probably be unfamiliar to most people, but for the eagle eyed out there, you may recall his name from his vocal contribution to the excellent Rodrigo San Martin album There’s No Way Out, along with the rather talented Jelena Perisic, another artist that is very much worth checking out, (who is doing some really interesting things musically also). Any of you that have heard Rodrigo’s stunning album will know what I am talking about.
Craig has taken the whole process on-board, not happy with just writing, producing and engineering the album, he has played every single instrument and performed every vocal passage. Some may think that in today’s musical world there is nothing unusual about that, and I suppose to some degree there isn’t; the stunning thing though about this album as a whole is the absolute quality. Craig has obviously spent some time crafting these nine songs, time that has been efficiently and wisely spent. He has now chosen this time to share his hard work and endeavours with anyone who is prepared to listen. I would suggest that you sit up and rise to his challenge as Mr Kerley has the potential to have a very, very bright musical future.
The short but atmospheric Intro opens up the album, a piece that is powerful, which sets out the stalls for the rest of his massive production, an instrumental that segues into Serenity a song that powers its way through the speakers and starts to display the real dynamics and virtuosity of Craig, a piece that features some rather interesting time signatures and musical phrasings. The whole feel and vibe just delivers that spine tingling wow factor. Musically it is perfect; each instrument supports and highlights the importance of its interaction and the construction of the song. Keyboards are akimbo as are the guitar parts, the rhythm sections are dynamic and the lead work just scales heady heights, something that is very noticeable throughout the whole album.
Another Way follows the path of Serenity, with some fine keyboards tones opening the song and very deftly underpins the whole song, which is reinforced with some adroit drumming. The whole tone may have a more hard rock approach, but the more you listen the more that reference fades away. As ever Craig is more than competent in handling the six string where he manipulates all the correct notations.
Being humble in a musical approach is not something that registers here as Pulse takes a slightly different musical approach, an approach that is highly layered and one which on initial listening could be missed. It is times like this that you fully appreciate and understand how gifted Craig Kerley really is. Even his vocal intentions punctuate and accentuate his abilities. Again when you think he has finished the song the whole show steps up a gear.
Musical expression is the order of the day here, the use of language and musical dialect, a use that is effective and is what makes up The World Today. The whole song is filled with melodic passages, Craig’s passionate vocals a tool that heightens the emotion of the music tenfold. The obvious solo spots fill the gaps quite cleverly which really holds the listeners attention.
Morning one of my favourite songs along with Rise To Meet You, works on many levels. The vocals are really used as an extra instrument, an instrument that participates in creating mood, emotion and atmosphere. This for me is what Craig Kerley is all about, constructing emotional, powerful songs that you just want to play over and over again, a song that swoops and sweeps, hitting those guitar tones that sends shivers down your spine as the whole piece builds to a climax.
Judgment stalks the listener again seeing that effective hard rock approach working in perfect harmony with the unmistakable prog elements. There are no note filling exercises here, every piece presented is perfectly slotted in. This is music with a more aggressive punch that is enjoyable and intriguing at the same time. I once quoted thus about his vocals on the said Rodrigo album,
“Craig Kerley has a more passionate vocal approach, almost filled with angst, a cry of anger, resigned, loss of self-belief, questioning his belief and understanding”.
That is a statement that still stands true today and probably the statement that is reinforced by Judgment. The one thing to add to this is that this is also true about his musical approach too. A lot of vocalist would love to have the depth that this guy displays, a perfect rock voice that works well in the field of prog too.
Penultimate track Perfect rises to the challenge of its name, a questioning prose that is dominated by statement; built on the back of that are fitting musical preludes that seriously punctuates the vocal presentation. The unification of guitar and keyboards really sets the mood and sentiment, which makes for a very strong track.
Rise To Meet You see’s Judgment being brought to a close; it has the whole package that is NOS / Craig Kerley rolled into one and for me is the standout track. The song itself displays its authority incorporating the wish list of a powerful song; it has balance, musically, melodically and passionately presented. The magic of his musical creations just swirl around, journeying, imparting its beauty, showmanship of the highest order, you can actually feel his emotions through his music, something that is quite evident throughout the album.
This is an album that has been built on themes of personal discovery, an album that has been inspired by Dream Theater, Pain of Salvation, Spock’s Beard, Pink Floyd and Genesis, an album that should be heard and an album which for me is absolutely stunning.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Marillion – Marbles [Re-issue]
CD 1: The Invisible Man (13:37), Marbles I (1:43), Genie (4:54), Fantastic Place (6:13), The Only Unforgivable Thing (7:13), Marbles II (2:03), Ocean Cloud (17:58)
CD 2: Marbles III (1:51), The Damage (4:36), Don’t Hurt Yourself (5:48), You’re Gone (6:26), Angelina (7:43), Drilling Holes (5:11), Marbles IV (1:26), Neverland (12:11)
Marillion – Somewhere Else [Re-issue]
Tracklist: The Other Half (4:24), See It Like a Baby (4:29), Thankyou Whoever You Are (4:42), Most Toys (2:44), Somewhere Else (7:46), A Voice From the Past (6:12), No Such Thing (3:58), The Wound (7:11), The Last Century for Man (5:26), Faith (4:09)
Jewel case or digibook? If you’re like me, with respect to a CD’s packaging you’re a digibook man (or woman), to do a wordplay on a certain Rush song title.
UK neo-proggers Marillion picked up their critical stride with the release of Marbles in 2004, in my opinion on par with Anoraknophobia as one of the stronger releases since the Afraid Of Sunlight and Brave discs of the mid-1990s. Marbles was available in three versions when it was released. For die-hard devotees it was available as an online pre-order 2CD deluxe campaign edition, an oversized (and overpriced) hardback digibook housed in a slipcase. A 2CD jewel case version via the band’s website was also released. For the more passive listener, Marbles was also released to retail as a single jewel case CD. Although the single CD was a truncated version, it did contain as bonus material a remix with the European release and enhanced video content with the North American release.
The marginal follow-up effort Somewhere Else came out in 2007, in a standard jewel case and released to retail only.
For those who need an introduction, Marillion was formed in 1979 and is made up of Steve Rothery on guitar, Peter Trewavas on bass, Ian Mosley on drums, Mark Kelly on keyboards, and Steve Hogarth on vocals. Hogarth has been the vocalist since the 1989 release of Season’s End, and prior to that the simply nicknamed Fish handled vocals, for the first four albums.
When DPRP first put the 2 CD version of Marbles under the round table reviewing microscope in 2004, the album received on the low end a rating of 6 out of 10 (with the single disc version coming in an extra point higher from the same writer) and on the high end a rating for the 2 CD version a 9.5 out of 10. Three years later, our review of Somewhere Else saw the band examined under much more critical scrutiny, again deployed as a round table review and no rating being higher than a 7 out of 10.
Although a relatively brief period of time has passed since Marbles and Somewhere Else were released - seven years for Marbles and just four years for Somewhere Else - the record label Madfish has taken the liberty of reissuing both of these recordings in hardback digibook packaging, with photography, illustration and design courtesy once again of Carl Glover. The packaging of the Madfish reissues includes photographs and illustrations not used in the earlier versions’ packaging.
The most significant question to pose with regard to the new Madfish reissues is: does the new hardback digibook packaging of Marbles and Somewhere Else improve upon the packaging of the earlier released versions? Neither Madfish reissue contains bonus tracks, so if you are inclined to upgrade to the new version of each of these two albums, it comes down to their packaging as the main factor in deciding whether or not to plunk down the cash.
Marillion first strayed from the jewel case format with the release of Marillion.Com (also soon to get the digibook reissue treatment from Madfish), and at the time it came housed in a slim digipack and slipcase. Then, with the special edition of the following album Anoraknophobia and a few releases later with the deluxe campaign Happiness Is The Road dual efforts Volume 1: Essence and Volume 2: The Hard Shoulder, the packaging came in hardback digibook form, with the artist and title printed upside down on the spine and which I find quite annoying. This printing error thankfully did not happen with the Happiness Is The Road slipcase, and has not happened with the Madfish reissues of Marbles and Somewhere Else.
I do not have the 2007 jewel case version of Somewhere Else for comparison, but the new reissue contains a 36 page booklet stapled into the binding of the digibook, with several photographs I did not recognize from the 2007 booklet. Glover’s photography tends to a point to evoke the early design team Hipgnosis as an influence. One of the photographs in the new booklet for the Somewhere Else reissue is the very last photograph in the booklet and is especially striking, depicting several airplanes in very close proximity to each other against the backdrop of a blue, cloudless sky. The font used in the lyrics and corresponding song titles is more legible to read. The earlier “hand written” font has been mercifully eschewed this time around, although it still appears in the track listings in the booklet and on the back of the digibook as well as on the digibook’s spine (save for the catalogue number which I assume is in a more legible font for legal reasons).
The packaging for the reissue of Marbles has changed significantly, most obviously from the jewel case version but also from the deluxe campaign edition. I do not have either of the jewel case versions of Marbles to make a comparison, but with regards to the deluxe campaign edition the slipcase has been done away with and the size of the package has been reduced from its original six and a half by six and a half inches to standard CD size.
The band name, marble logo and album title now appear in the upper left hand corner on the front of the hardback digibook. Opening the deluxe campaign edition digibook and placing it upside down would reveal the two-sided cover art of a teenaged boy striking the trademark Marbles pose, holding marbles in front of his eyes. With the new reissue, the photo of the boy is completely on the cover of the digibook, cropped on the top and bottom and zoomed out. It also appears on the back cover of the digibook, un-cropped, further zoomed out, and replacing the picture of a teenaged girl from the back of the earlier digibook. The track listing, not to be found on either the slipcase or digibook cover of the earlier version, makes its way for the first time on the back cover of the Madfish reissue.
As the new reissue is a retail release, the original “thank you” list of fans who pre-ordered the deluxe campaign before its release is not included.
One gripe I always had with the deluxe campaign edition of Marbles was that the CDs were placed through small button shaped pieces of foam adhered against CD shaped pockets in the inside digibook covers, and the pieces of foam would often lose their adhesive and fall off. The Madfish discs now snap neatly onto circular pieces of plastic against plastic housing.
With the new reissue of Marbles, Madfish has reduced the number of booklet pages from the deluxe campaign edition’s 130 to a trim 36.
The teenaged girl from the back cover of the deluxe campaign edition slipcase shows up without holding marbles in front of her eyes on one of the left facing pages of the Madfish reissue booklet, with a corresponding picture of an elderly lady holding marbles in front of her eyes on the right. Before and after juxtaposed imagery, perhaps?
The picture of the girl without marbles and her geriatric counterpart are two of nine new photographs and illustrations not used in the deluxe campaign edition release. And several other photographs have been zoomed out to make the central photograph element smaller and thereby conforming to the new booklet’s size.
The trademark psychedelic “Angelina” illustration has been zoomed in and cropped, and a photograph of raspberry coloured marbles has gone from a two page spread in the deluxe campaign edition booklet to one page in the new booklet, and has been rotated a quarter of a turn to the right so that the horizontal rows of marbles become vertical.
One illustration shows a silhouette of a girl holding marbles in front of her eyes in a red and blue motif, slightly evoking noted artist Shepard Fairey.
The much smaller size of the new Madfish reissue makes it much more convenient to store than its bigger, bulky predecessor. Especially if you live in a small apartment like me.
With respect to these Madfish reissues, the next question to pose is this - have Marbles and Somewhere Else withstood the test of time in regards to the music? On Somewhere Else, the denseness of No Such Thing, the post-prog of The Wound and See It Like A Baby, and the edgy, bouncy rollick of The Other Half allow these tunes to stand strongly over time, but unfortunately the recycled use of piano style keyboards and ¾ time signatures along with Mosley’s overused habit of incorporating the shell edge of the drum he’s playing to this day make Somewhere Else an uninspired affair. An overall amount of under produced sounding drumming has not helped, either. All this despite the album reaching the UK top 30.
And with respect to the test of time for Marbles, the four title mini-ballads on the album are these days perhaps fleeting at best, due to their respective brevities, but nonetheless are strategically sequenced across the album to lock its continuity into fortified place. The cinematic epics of Neverland and the 18-minute Ocean Cloud (the latter regrettably sacrificed from the single CD version) are as strong today as when Marbles was first released. Today I see the other epic, The Invisible Man, as panoramic, rather than the collage of structure changes it came across as sounding back in 2004.
Thick, dense tracks like Fantastic Place and The Only Unforgivable Thing continue all this time to provide Marbles with some vast deepness.
The loop laden, accessible You’re Gone continues to hook my ears across the years, rhyme notwithstanding. The other single from Marbles, Don’t Hurt Yourself, is somewhat corny in its Cheryl Crow feel but nonetheless continues to emit an infectious breezy groove.
The Damage and Drilling Holes have always been too abrasive for my taste, but perhaps add a little variety to Marbles and could appeal to those listeners who go for a harder edged sound.
You’re Gone, Neverland, and the title track from Somewhere Else can be listened to in full by visiting Marillion’s MySpace page (link above). Many other Marillion songs can be found there as well.
For room for improvement with future Marillion reissues, I would suggest that Madfish make the booklets removable and not stapled in so they are easier to handle. And as the Madfish reissues of Marbles and Somewhere Else do not contain liner notes, it would be an area of opportunity for Madfish to include liner notes with future reissues to give the consumer some insight into the history of the album’s recording and release.
So does all the luxurious packaging bespeak the contents of the music within? The Marbles hardback digibook certainly does, but regrettably the hardback digibook of Somewhere Else is a tome of deception that only serves as a lure or gimmick to sway the unsuspecting consumer into buying a CD that is marginal at best.
Marbles: 8.5 out of 10
Somewhere Else: 5.5 out of 10
Jolly – The Audio Guide To Happiness (Part 1)
|Country of Origin:||Norway|
|Year of Release:||2011|
Tracklist: Guidance One (0:54), Ends Where It Starts (5:24), Joy (4:39), Pretty Darlin’ (3:51), The Pattern (6:25), Storytime (3:49), Guidance Two (1:01), Still A Dream (5:56), Radiae (4:14), Where Everything’s Perfect (6:10), Dorothy’s Lament (3:36), Intermission (0:007)
Jolly are a rock quartet from New York, a band with a mission, as they try to bring their listeners to a higher state of happiness.
“JOLLY's latest release, The Audio Guide to Happiness (Part 1), takes these concepts to a new level. It is a self-reflective sonic journey scientifically tailored to guide the listener through the strata of his/her own emotional make-up. The listener is subjected to musical mood dynamics and key lyrical triggers while the brain is fed corresponding binaural tones. These tones are carefully and deliberately interwoven within the music to support all appropriate peaks and valleys throughout the experience.
Through extensive research and surveys from over 5,000 subjects, JOLLY has combined the art of musical production with sociological and neurological data, packaging it all into one cohesive system comprised of four phases. The first two phases make up part 1 of The Audio Guide to Happiness.”
Hello?..........Everyone still here?
So it’s not just music; it’s a concept. A concept that was first introduced to unsuspecting listeners on their debut album Forty Six Minutes, Twelve Seconds Of Music that got a favourable review by the Tom De Val. I agree with Tom that the music doesn’t need all these gimmicks. They tend to distract the listener from what’s really important namely: the music. And the music on this album is fine, really. With or without those binaural tones. I can’t help imaging the band laughing their heads off while reading the internet forums where people are telling each other how they are trying to hear those tones. It certainly gets the band happy! I also suspect that they do not take themselves too seriously considering the fact that they open and end the album with a sweet lady who gives instructions how to enjoy the music. She’s one of the audio guides.
The other audio guides are the band members Anadale (guitars, vocals), Anthony Rondione (bass, vocals), Joe Reilly (keyboards, samples) and Louis Abramson (drums). I must say that halfway through the introduction of that sweet talking lady, I nearly entered a state of perfectly calm tranquility, but then the band decides to intervene by starting the quite heavy Ends Where It Starts. That shock didn’t make me happy, guys. It’s a great song though, which immediately makes it clear what Jolly are about: Highly intelligent, slightly heavy songs with strong melodies. Think Porcupine Tree (In Absentia), The Third Ending, Amplifier and Oceansize. It is powerful modern progressive rock. The songs are dominated by Anadale’s guitars, Abramson’s fierce drumming and the very upfront and aggressive bass playing from Rondione. The keyboards are used to add colour to the songs (lots of piano), although they do not tend to take centre stage. It makes the album sound, IMHO, a bit one dimensional at times, which is countered by the enormous drive of the songs. Anadale has a strong voice and he comes up with some very good vocal melodies, (including a little grunting now and then) and harmonies.
For me the more atmospheric tracks are the strongest ones, tracks like Joy with its beautiful piano motif and great chorus. Storytime and Radiae are a bit more varied and the instruments have some space to breathe. In certain songs I also hear a slight resemblance to British indie rock bands Doves (Storytime and Radiae) and Muse (Pretty Darlin’). Finally, The Pattern, is a great heavy prog track with a killer instrumental finale.
With their second release Jolly deliver a powerful, complex but still very accessible record. I think that there are a lot of progressive rock fans that will like what Jolly is doing. Especially if you’re into the heavier modern progressive rock sound - this is an excellent album.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Combination Head – Museum
Tracklist: The Curator (3:59), Particle Zoo (6:26), Turn Me Down (6:35), Thyrotron (3:50), Truth Seeker (5:25), Consumer Fool (6:18), Museum (4:25)
As we’ve reported previously in these pages, producer and keyboardist Paul Birchall is a man of many talents with a diverse background that’s seen him work with pop acts as well as more recently being a member of the jazz/blues outfit the Snake Davis Band. It’s his love of progressive rock and his own band Combination Head that attracted the DPRP’s attention however. The latest album Museum follows the 2006 self titled debut
Combination Head and its 2008 successor Progress? Like its predecessor, Museum is a combination of instrumental and vocal tracks written mainly by Birchall and guitarist/vocalist Gareth Moulton. Together they provide the band’s mainstay supported by a fluid line-up of drummers and bass players.
The opening instrumental The Curator sets lightweight synth splashes against a meaty, tumbling organ riff and the resulting sound could be described as ELP meets 80’s electro-pop. To my ears it’s an incongruous mix despite some sharp guitar work whilst the thin, synthetic drum sound (apologise here to credited drummer Wilson Minto) doesn’t earn any bonus points.
Bubbling Vangelis style synth effects introduce Particle Zoo with a strident organ rhythm underpinning the (ever so slightly) processed lead vocal. The galloping drums and bass pattern has a certain edginess that recalls prime Genesis contrasting with an effectively dreamy instrumental interlude around the midway point. A melodic synth solo in the Martin Orford mould is sadly cut short before it has a chance to make its mark.
As a song, Turn Me Down fills the narrow void that divides the Alan Parsons Project and American AOR with an appropriately catchy chorus. Birchall livens up the latter half with a neat fuzzed organ break although Moulton’s histrionic guitar solo tramples everything in its path.
The instrumental Thyrotron gets off to a slow and hesitant start and as a consequence it’s a full two minutes before it eventually surrenders to Moulton’s overblown metallic shredding over a flatulent bass synth line.
Truth Seeker is another instrumental but this time with a good deal more drive and purpose. Led by a lively syncopated piano motif, it maintains an urgent but still very tuneful pace with melodic guitar and keys exchanges bringing classic Camel to mind. The semi improvised piano solo is a brief diversion before it rushes to a climatic and satisfying conclusion. For me by far the best track on the album.
Consumer Fool returns to Alan Parsons’ territory this time edged with a cool, jazz-funk vibe (reminiscent of Sade’s Smooth Operator with the addition of a lush choral arrangement). An engaging song and the lyrical synth and piano in the latter half add a Flower Kings dimension to lift it above the ordinary.
With its female gospel choir like intro, the title track Museum is perhaps trying to evoke the spirit of Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon but thanks to the sunny, upbeat arrangement it sounds closer to Heaven 17’s Temptation. The synth and acoustic guitar melody is undemanding but uplifting nonetheless bringing vintage Gordon Giltrap to mind. The sudden fade brings it and the album to an unexpected and disappointingly hurried close.
I’m really unsure of what to make of this latest release from Combination Head, it seems to promise (and withhold) more than it actually delivers. With a playing time of well under 40 minutes, it feels like the album is cut short in its prime especially considering the quality of the last three tracks. That said its graced with Birchall‘s usual fine production job and tracks like Particle Zoo, Consumer Fool, Museum and Truth Seeker in particular are well above average and definitely worth checking out.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Al Garcia - All Things Must Converge
Tracklist: Labyrinth (7:26), The Eternal Cycle (7:17), Lingua Franca (5:55), A Distant Mirror (5:57), Two Shakes (4:22), As Luck Would Have It (4:16), I've Been Known (5:13), Simulacra (7:41)
Multi-instrumentalist Al Garcia returns with album number three and the follow up to the DPRP recommended Alternative Realities from 2006. Gosh is it really five years since I reviewed that album? Well for those who missed my review and presumably Al's album then a quick re-introduction to Al Garcia. Al's music would best fall under the broad umbrella of progressive/jazz-rock/fusion with the man himself writing and performing all the instrumentals. He plays guitar, guitar synth/keyboards, bass, drums and percussion on All Things Must Converge.
Again for those who haven't come across Al Garcia before, then if you have a liking for adventurous instrumentals that derive influences from Holdsworth, Mahavishnu, RTF, Di Meola etc, then you could well be in for a treat here.
Certainly the voicings Garcia employs have the Holdsworth mark stamped firmly on them, but this would be Allan Holdsworth in his more rocky/proggy moments. It's not however all Holdsworth and certainly tracks like the Latin(y) Lingua Franca bring Al Di Meola to mind. Elsewhere the influences of Eric Johnson, Pat Metheny, John McLaughlin and Frank Gambale rear their heads. Then again with A Distant Mirror we have an early 70s prog feel - church organs, a strong guitar motif and a baroque influence conjuring Dutch legends Jan Akkerman and Thijs van Leer. The brief middle section - Gryphon perhaps?
Al Garcia is also an exemplary bass player and his mastery of the instrument resonates throughout, whether it be the fluid and percolating Jeff Berlin lines, the deftness of Percy Jones or the melodic Jaco fretless work, there is much to admire here. If I was to have any misgivings then it would be with the drumming, not that its bad particularly or even a distraction, it just doesn't quite display that same magic that Al is able to extract from his various fret boards.
As with Alternate Realities Al has penned a consistent and entertaining album and much of what I wrote for that album applies here. Each and every track is well written, constructed and performed and there are no filler tracks to be found on All Things Must Converge. What else can I say, well another thing I like about Al's music is that it remains accessible throughout. Now it would be all too easy with the man's obvious talent to end up with an album that would appeal mainly to guitar and bass players, however I don't believe this is the case. And although the music is complex and intricate it is also melodic and structured. There is also a airy, lightness to the pieces that not only allow the music to breathe, but as an aside gives a clarity to the pieces.
Before I conclude a little mention for Continuum, a band that features Al Garcia on bass along with Christopher Garcia (drums & percussion), Craig Ochikubo (keyboards) and Damon Zick (saxophones). Well worth checking out.
In my review of Alternate Realities I remarked that the album initially fell just short of a DPRP recommended tag, but one final listen swayed my decision. This time around I didn't need that final run through. So I'll concluded again with: "if finely crafted, melodic fusion instrumentals are you bag, then I can recommend this album to you unreservedly. Top drawer stuff!"
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
P.Y. Marani - Outline
|Country of Origin:||France|
|Year of Release:||2010|
Tracklist: The Harryman's Dream (9:35), First Foundation (8:40), Brave New World (5:45), Ubik (9:05), The Rediscovery Of Man (7:30), Solaris (3:45), Goodbye 1984 (18:50)
Outline is the debut album for French guitar player Pierre Yves Marani. On this album he also plays keyboards, bass and is accompanied by drummer Xavier Richard. A debut album from a not so famous musician needs a well known name as a guest to draw attention to it. And like many musicians recently he got Derek Sherinian as a guest, maybe it is only from my perspective but I get a lot of CDs with Sherinian as a guest musician, could also be a coincidence. His contribution only lasts one minute and fifteen seconds. Along with Sherinian some unknown French musicians contribute on guitar, bass and even saxophone, but the main event is P.Y. Marani himself. And I must say he has done a pretty good job about that. The album is all instrumental and in my opinion he found a great balance between the technical stuff and melody. It is not dreamy, flowing from one melody to another that sounds almost like the first one, and not a shredder album but still enough depth in the structures to really make you sit down and listen more intensely.
Only seven songs but several large pieces of music, kicking off with the opener The Harryman's Dream, which is almost ten minutes. Starting Marillion-like with a heavier edge is alternated with mellow parts with clear melodic guitar solos. In the second part more changes, more proggy. First Foundation has a more Satriani sound, with very odd rhythms and the solo guitar melody kind of rubbing against it. This track is more for guitar people, occasionally there is a keyboard theme but Marani's guitar is the main dish. Brave New World is a more progressive song, with some weather sounds pushed in and at a slow pace where lot's of things pass by. Above all Marani shows his skill and control over his instrument. Some guitar players play well but you can hear they, at times, need to push their effort. Marani plays beautiful and difficult stuff with a natural ease, demonstrating great control over his instrument.
Ubik is the center-piece and the song with Derek Sherinian playing as a guest. More aggressive from the start and THE song on the album. Also different is bass player Matthieu Gervreau, as mentioned Marani usually plays the bass himself. Gervreau is allowed a solo spot and he does a great job on that. A jazzy guitar solo by Denis Cornardeau is also a good part but not as noticeable because the next guitar solo by Marani himself is as impressive. The Sherinian solo is also good, you can definitely hear his trademark sound. Ubik is a great piece of music.
The Rediscovery Of Man features Nicolas Garcia as a guest playing a guitar solo. He has a more floating style, alternated with fast pieces and not really my kind of guitar player. Personally I like it better from the second Marani's takes over. Solaris is an ambient song with Serge Servant on the saxophone. A short song but nice to hear something different on this album.
Goodbye 1984 is over eighteen minutes long, phew... As mentioned Ubik is THE song on this album and I think this last track should have been about the same length as Ubik. Lengthy keyboard parts that remind me of Vangelis, although not as bombastic. The Spanish guitar bit is great but as a whole this song does not contain enough interesting parts to make it worthy of an eighteen minute track. Still, a minor flaw considering the whole album.
Outline is a good instrumental album with well crafted pieces that are nice to listen to but also have enough depth to give it more attention. The sound is very good and the quality of music and the sound throughout the whole album is of a high level. Maybe Marani needs the name Sherinian for a marketing purposes but musically he is well capable of creating a great album by himself. If you like instrumental, mainly guitar, albums then you will not go very wrong with this album.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Simeon Soul Charger – Meet Me In The Afterlife
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Catalogue #:||OAM 004|
|Year of Release:||2011|
Tracklist: Vedanta [The Nothing] (5:46), God Lends A Hand (2:41), Through The Trees They Talk (4:54), Tooth (2:10), And He Skinned Them Both (8:00), Please (6:35), Europe’s Garden (6:19), Europe’s Garden Reprise (2:04), Into The Afterlife (6:15), Song Of The Sphinx (2:52), A Child’s Prayer (1:15), Dear Mother (2:48), The Swallowing Mouth (11:09)
Simeon Soul Charger (SSC) who released two independent EP’s now release their first full scale album through the label of German prog rock band RPWL, Gentle Art Of Music. Originally hailing from Akron, Texas, they have now settled in, for at least half a year, (according their web pages), in Freising, Germany, the hometown of label owners RPWL.
Now who are Simeon Soul Charger? They are a band consisting of four members: Aaron Brooks (vocals, guitar & keyboards), Rick Phillips (guitar & vocals), Spider Monkey (bass) and Joe Kidd (drums & vocals). You may call SSC a bunch of weirdos, music afficionados
but what they have accomplished with this first full length album is stunning.
I will throw in a comment before I begin - "this is not prog as you might know it". But we can discuss the subject on whether something is or isn’t progressive music for ever - as there are that many different ideas and opinions around. So in the case os SSC I will go through the album track by track (not in too much detail), naming some pointers, and let you make your own mind up.
- Vedanta [The Nothing] – Who is this? Sounds like the voice of The Darkness, but no it’s Aaron Brooks of Simeon Soul Charger. Aaron has a broad range in his voice from high to low providing a smooth take off for a debut album. Almost instantly appealing.
- God Lends A Hand – A collection of styles - rock meets rap meets, well just try this - its a special mix between a lot of musical influences and has become a terrific example of mixing different styles.
- Through The Trees They Talk – Put on your tight pants, get a guitar, learn how to play - let’s make some noise. Nah, you’ll find yourself in the ages of Hair music. The Gary Glitter period or Sparks. Or in more recent times The Darkness. The high pitch in the vocals and the riffing character of the music is a debt to this. A very catchy song, that could easily be a single release.
- Tooth - Instrumental track with no real pointers to any well known bands and not particularly one of the stronger tunes from the album. Nice but no more than that.
- And He Skinned Them Both – Driving music, influenced by Sparks maybe, but Queen most certainly. It has the characteristics of an old Queen song, whereas the mid section reminded me of Status Quo. Both of which I cannot say by name right now. A cool song that just goes on a little too long, becoming an intrumental extravaganza. Too bad.
- Please – With the use of a mandolin and banjo as well as some other obscure instrumentation this has a more progressive folk feel to it. And a tragic feel at that - a song about loss and one that might be compared to Buffalo Springfield or may be The Strawbs.
- Europe’s Garden & Europe’s Garden Reprise - Heavy riffing, fast playing nad cool vocals. Pointers once again towards the newer bands in the rock scene like The Darkness. Again the middle section has a guitar solo and a bridge, much in the veins of the old ‘70’s rock bands. All sounds cool in this modern jackett.
- Into The Afterlife - Starts with acoustic guitar, then vocals followed by vocal harmonies (which to my ears are a bit out of tune). Then around 1:30 into the song, percussion steps in forming a nice little ditty, which around the 4:00 mark introduces a strong bass line making way for a rocking outro to this song.
- Song Of The Sphinx - Or maybe a chameleon? SSC change their music with almost every song. With an acoustic guitar beginning, banjo stepping in, the Sphinx here is a bluesy folk song. in a singer-songwriter mould.
- A Child’s Prayer - A nifty little ditty that Simon & Garfunkel could have produced, given the chorus, harmonies, strong lyrical sense and nice acoustic guitar backing. A Child’s Prayer segues into Dear Mother - a modern version of Bob Dylan perhaps. Awesome lyrically and a return for the Queen-like harmonies later on.
- The Swallowing Mouth - A carnival-esque song, I cannot really determine which influence here is biggest, the Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull part, as the song has a resemblance to Passion Play. Or Three Dog Night with their lyrically and carnival-esque approach in their songs. I think I’ll go for the latter. Eleven minutes of pure fun both musically and lyrically. This is what music is all about with even The Mars Volta springing to mind.
All in all it has become more detailed than I had anticipated - so on to the conclusion.
Not exactly prog, is this album by Simeon Soul Charger, but then again a while ago I have reviewed an album by a Dutch band called Modest Midget, who also mixed in many styles. Was it prog? Not in a true sense perhaps, so I called them retro-prog. Simeon Soul Charger isn’t retro-prog, more likely rock with a huge ‘70’s influences. Crossover prog or prog related that’s what the music is. The boys definitely have made an album I would like to recommend, highly entertaining and on the strength of this a band I would like to see in a live setting.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Dynamo Bliss – 21st Century Junk
Tracklist: Fear Of Clouds (8:32), Closer To The Heart (3:39), No Sense In It (3:38), Thin Air (7:00), Bird Of Passage (4:03), Mausoleum (5:30), White Cherry Hill (5:53)
As so often happens with this reviewing lark, life places barriers on activities that previously one might have taken for granted. Not being a professional journalist, the trials and tribulations of modern day living, and all that goes with it, often times get in the way of doing the deed, so to speak. Given that a decent, fair review takes at least half a dozen listens, and the peace/space/time to do said listening, it’s unfortunate that sometimes even the most diligent amateur reviewer gets behind. And you need a good chunk of time to commit all your listening experiences to paper, so that readers of the site are given the best overview you can of an album.
Most of my purchases over the last ten tears or so have been informed by DPRP reviews so I take this role quite seriously, as you might imagine.
There’s nothing though, in my experience, quite like Swedish prog to perk you up and cheer away the stresses and strains of the emotional rollercoaster that is life, 21st century style. As Dynamo Bliss put it, in No Sense In It, “I’ve been keeping my madness inside” which is never healthy. Admittedly my exact set of circumstances isn’t exactly replicated in those experienced by everyone else that visits this site, but you know what I mean.
I’ve listened to this record a lot over the past couple of months. And I have to say it’s very good indeed.
One day you came upon brutality
The world was bursting at the seams
But faced with radical realities
You rather lose yourself in dreams
The band formed in 2005 in Umeå / Sweden and comprises Mikael Sandström (vocals, guitars), Stefan Olofsson (vocals, bass) and Peter Olofsson (drums, percussion). It should come as no surprise, upon listening, that Stefan and Peter had been in a Beatles cover band called The Posers.
They started recording this, their debut album, in 2008, and it was released two years later as a digital download only. In late 2010 they signed with newly founded Swedish label Aerodynamic Records to release the album on CD and this is, in fact, the first album on the label.
They’ve been described as The Beatles meet Marillion in a time warp (who) stop to pick up Be Bop Deluxe along the way which is a pretty good summation of the Dynamo Bliss sound. As a Bradford lad I’m obviously attuned to anything Be Bop Deluxe (or, for that matter, Smokie) related. Influences are cited in the blurb on the internet as Pink Floyd, Electric Light Orchestra, The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Stackridge.
The strength of the vocal harmonies impress from the get go, all the more impressive as this is a three-piece band. Less a power trio, though, than a flower trio. It’s fantastically tuneful, uplifting pop/prog and the musicianship is first rate. The Beatles and ELO influence is obvious, and the wonderful vocals lead one immediately to think of Moon Safari.
At less than 40 minutes in length, though, it’s more an EP in these days of 70 minute long albums. So it loses half a point. It’s still a very good album, and it’ll be on the car CD this summer, definitely. The booklet, and packaging is great, and promises good things for this new label.
The lyrics are incredibly thoughtful, and far from jolly, but this is the perfect summer album. Despite such passages as “I’ve traded all my thoughts for a gun”. Since going on a pistol-toting killing spree is guaranteed to dampen the mood of even the most dysfunctional suburban barbecue. In fact I think it’s the counterpoint between the upbeat music, and the excellent, albeit dark lyrics that makes this such an attractive package. No Sense In It will appeal to Blue Oyster Cult (circa 1971) or Stalk Forrest Group fans everywhere, for the way it morphs East Coast psychedelia with 21st century Swedish pop by way of English first wave progressive rock. Well, Sergeant Pepper was the first truly ‘progressive’ record. Surely?
Hogarth era Marillion fans will definitely dig Thin Air, all piano, and wonderfully phrased vocals, before Gilmour-esque guitar fills and spoken samples by a young boy. The solo is pure Floyd, too. All in all a cracking track.
Mausoleum continues the BOC theme, this time circa Mirrors maybe, by way of Supertramp.
White Cherry Hill has some lovely atmospheric Hammond and other assorted keys and might as well be an outtake from Buck Dharma’s Flat Out album. With the addition of some lovely flamenco.
Just as Junk Intro began the album, then so Junk Outro closes it. Think The Beach Boys and you won’t go far wrong.
Alas the time has come to say goodbye
The pleasure all was on our side
It’s time to face the cold reality
It’s time to wake up from your dream
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Galleon – In The Wake Of The Moon
Tracklist: Stages (7:13), Wallflower (6:18), Childs Play (7:38), In The Wake Of The Moon (6:32), War At Home (9:53), Over The Hills And 3 Feet Under (5:44), Mr. Murphy (5:29), Rain (8:53)
So this, the second of new label Aerodynamic Records’ current roster sees a return for personal favourites Galleon with this, their ninth album.
I bought From Land To Ocean (2003) based on the DPRP review, and followed this up with 2007’s Engines Of Creation, also a DPRP recommended release. The 1995 album King Of Aragon is considered by many a highlight in a career that dates back to 1992’s Lynx.
The band deserve plaudits for consistently making high quality neo-progressive rock music, for 20 years, flying in the face of what the mainstream deems ‘cool’, ‘hip’ or ‘with it’. And this current record sees them very much at the top of their game. Galleon make progressive rock music that people like me like. Very much...
It all starts off with strident IQ keys and guitar chops, and the listener is left in no doubt that classic era Genesis are a touchstone for this band. The keyboard solo two and a half minutes in should leave no doubt as to the neo-credentials of Galleon. It’s very English music, played by some very talented Swedes. The swing of the piece is so reminiscent of early Marillion but it’s the IQ sound that I just can’t budge from my mind grapes (one for you 30 Rock fans, there). You’re never, ever going to dance to this stuff, given the time-changes on offer, but you’ll definitely tap a foot or two. Head nodding will be done too, in that reverential (middle-aged male) prog fan way. In which I’m a black belt. Fifth dan.
The musicianship is superb, as always, and Göran Fors’ voice is perfectly suited to the material. Lyrically there are weaknesses, but hey, how many Brits or Americans can speak, write or sing in Swedish? Heck, a lot of them can’t even cut it in English. Innit?
Soaring synths make second track Wallflower a standout, whilst the bass line on Child’s Play is the perfect counterpoint to the more spacey, rockier synthesiser sound that should have Erik Norlander/Rocket Scientists fans nodding appreciatively.
There’s plaintive piano, too, on the title track, and a Simple Minds opening rock-a-long awaits you on War At Home, before it all becomes a bit discordant, and angular. Crimson Generator anyone?
School yard sounds and a baby’s cry signify that Over The Hills And 3 Feet Under (as though the title didn’t give it away) is going to be a bit, well, sad. It’s quite a bit It Bites, circa Eat Me In St Louis (trivia fact – EMISL was the second CD I ever bought – the first was Rush’ Hold Your Fire). You could, in fact, quite easily sing “and the ice melts into water…” over the poignant instrumental soundtrack.
Mr Murphy is Galleon does quirky, choppy XTC, by way of Genesis’ Harold The Barrel and, musically, some of the Abacab/Genesis era keyboard stuff.
Album closer Rain is another attempt at an IQ - style epic, but never quite pulls it off. Indeed it just ends mid solo, as though the band were just getting into their stride before they realised that they’d left the gas on. With almost twenty minutes playing time left (based on the maximum for a CD these days) it’s a bit of a – well - rubbish ending. Sorry guys, but what were you thinking?
Now I like Galleon, and From Land To Ocean is a gem, but this I’m afraid falls a wee bit short of that meisterwork.
Nevertheless, it’s still a good purchase if you like clever, well played neo-prog with that Swedish sheen. The sound quality is great, and the package is nicely put together. So, it’s still very good, and a worthy album I’ll listen to from time to time but it loses half a rating for the shockingly abrupt ending.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Slychosis – Mental Hygiene
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Year of Release:||2010|
Tracklist: Geistly Suite (7:51), Importance (7:34), Fallen Tiger (6:53), Things Unsaid (5:14), Odessa (5:44), Angelus Novusaum (7:26), When The Fog Clears (6:01), Midnight (6:43)
Slychosis, from Mississippi, U.S.A., have been around since 2004 with a fluctuating line-up which has stabilised on this third release to Gregg Johns (guitar, keys & vocals), Todd Sears (vocals & percussion), Ceci Whitehurst (vocals) and new bassist Clay Pell (bass).
This review has taken a long time to complete as on some plays it sounds OK and I think I have a grasp on it but this just seems to fade on the next listening. DPRP’s Bob Mulvey gave both of their previous albums,
Slychosis (2006) and Slychedelia (2008), mixed reviews and unfortunately most of his observations still hold true. Despite Johns taking more of a back seat vocally and Whitehurst officially joining, the band’s vocal weaknesses are still an issue, this being rectified to some degree on the final track, Midnight, which sees guest Bridget Shield adding her soulful voice. The writing is quite inventive at times but the execution slightly sloppy, flat and plodding, particularly the drums, resulting in an album that fails to deliver what it would have done in more capable hands. This is disappointing as Johns and his colleagues are certainly trying hard to make a breakthrough and deliver an album worthy of their wide ranging influences. However, after three albums, none of which quite making the grade, maybe a change of tactic is needed.
The material frequently changes direction and tempo but generally outstays its welcome and fails to impress in the way it was intended. The three-part mini-epic Geistly Suite (with guest guitarist Jeff Hamel of Majestic and a collaborator with Johns in Proximal Distance) is quite inventive incorporating jazzy keys, Saga guitar breaks, an epic section and straight rocking finale but suffers from weak vocals from Sears and Johns, a lack of sharpness in the execution and the ubiquitous poor production. The early-Marillion influenced Fallen Tiger also suffers from Sears’ dismal vocals and whilst Whitehurst’s lead on Importance is a slight improvement the performances only drain away any dynamic that the material has. The effects added to the vocals here and there probably make them sound worse than they would have done as this further muddies the mix.
There is more positivity and energy about Things Unsaid and the production values seem higher, but again the execution is lacking despite the vocal being a better fit within Ceci’s low-pitched range. Bones Theriout of Abigail’s Ghost adds a well rendered metallic guitar solo to what otherwise is a lighter and more melodic piece. The instrumental Odessa sees the guitar alternating between Prog Metal chugging and a distinctive IQ influence. Both of these tracks are enjoyable but could have been realised better. The best track in the set is Angelus Novasaum, epic and atmospheric with more Marillion influence and a good vocal from Ceci which eventually loses its way somewhat. The addition of trumpet towards the end is out of place making for a brief and pointless distraction. When The Fog Clears is similar in many ways, starting strongly but let down by poor delivery and the mix of metal with soulful vocals on Midnight doesn’t work.
As on the last album the work of surrealist Ukrainian artist Vladimir Moldavsky adorns the cover and booklet and this is probably the best part of the package. The album certainly improves as it goes along but the troughs are too deep for the peaks to rescue it. There are occasional forays into Prog Metal territory but classic Prog is the main field of operation but with disparate styles being merged together, sometimes more successfully than others, there is a lack of satisfaction despite some good melodies. Slychosis need to find their niche and push their strengths rather than let themselves down with their weaknesses. There are certainly some very good ideas on this album but they are let down by a lack of sharpness in the execution.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10