Reviews in this issue:
- Steve Thorne – Crimes & Reasons
- Frames - In Via
- Harvest - Chasing Time
- Stabat Akish – Nebulos
- Father Golem – I/O
- Notturno Concertante - Canzoni Allo Specchio
- Docker’s Guild – The Mystic Technocracy (Season 1: The Age Of Ignorance)
- Sendelica - The Satori In Elegance Of The Majestic Stonegazer
- October Tree – The Fairy’s Wing
- Oshean - Live
Steve Thorne – Crimes & Reasons
Tracklist: Already Dead (5:08), Bullets & Babies (4:46), Crimes And Reasons (4:23), Everything Under The Sun (4:37), Fadeaway (3.42), Moth To Flame (8:05), Blue Yonder (4:36), Making Plans (6:19), Modern Curse (4:34), Distant Thunder (8:05)
Steve Thorne is one of those great unsung heroes of prog who goes about his business putting out a succession of consistently absorbing albums, all crafted with a great deal of finesse and feeling. Their hallmark is his ability to surround himself with some of the finest musicians in the business and it is not hard to see why they want to play on albums of a quality such as this.
This veritable one man band writes sings and plays a dazzling array of instruments on each and probably he has upped his own personal ante even more on Crimes & Reasons because of financial considerations this time around.
Getting it all off to a raucous start is Already Dead, a quiet acoustic guitar and stabbing keyboards suddenly exploding quickly and hypnotically into a slab of pulsating rock, Nick D'Virgilio's metronome drumming keeping it all grounded and heavy, as Thorne goes into a rant about the life of a waster. A big chunky guitar solo in the centre keeps it all ticking over nicely.
Tony Levin, Gary Chandler and D'Virgilio make appearances on Bullets & Babies, one of the outstanding songs in the collection which has a wonderfully doomy air on a glorious melody, allowing Thorne to give full vent to his view of a "sick society" through his wonderfully expressive voice, offering some beautiful harmonising on the chorus line. Chandler rocks out with a big scuzzy guitar against Thorne's angry acoustics. There is so much to this song with lots of deep keyboards in the mix and Levin's thunderous bass rising and falling throughout.
Crimes & Reasons, the title track, has a lilting melody punctuated by D'Virgilio's powerful drumming with Thorne playing all the other instruments to great effect. It summons up echoes of Talk Talk, and this will not be the first time their influence will shine through here.
Thorne does the human condition very well and Everything Under The Sun is a gentle acoustically-driven song about a woman in the autumn of her life, reflecting on what she has sacrificed along the way. Thorne sings this with terrific tenderness and Martin Orford's flute gives it such a hauntingly sad air.
In complete contrast comes Fadeaway which is Thorne's rant against the riots of last year and politicians in general. Bob White and Tony Levin provide a huge rhythmic undercurrent as Thorne spits out the insults and curses with terrific venom - and guitar and keyboards growl away too.
Perhaps the highlight is Moth To Flame, which has the most haunting keyboard loop running through and as Thorne explains, there is a direct link between this track and Julia on Emotional Creatures : Part One. It has the most plaintive of melodies with Martin Orford's delicate flute and Thorne's use of other keyboards and guitars weaving some magical lines throughout. Halfway through, it steps up a gear with D'Virgilio adding a weightier measure when Thorne delivers the most searing guitar solo.
Blue Yonder has a much looser and more relaxed feel to it as, with the help of Bob White on drums and Gary Chandler on guitar, Thorne recounts the story of a renegade who hits the road and goes in search of who knows what.
Making Plans just features White accompanying Thorne who plays another huge array of instruments on a song which channels Talk Talk beautifully. It is on this track that you appreciate the many talents of Mr Thorne in both the way he can craft a song to virtual perfection. This one would not sound out of place on a BBC Radio 2 show either because it has a strong commercial edge as well as a huge melody line.
Back to the vitriol as Modern Curse makes no bones around what Thorne thinks of gold-diggers and the culture of celebrity. Again, D'Virgilio gives a driving beat to this chunk of anger all dressed up in a big rocky number.
To conclude is Distant Thunder, a mellower, slower and gorgeous tune on which Thorne's voice continues to stun with its emotion and power. Again, he has only used D'Virgilio to accompany him and his drums kick in halfway through as the whole tempo and mood shifts up a gear with strong keyboards dominating the landscape.
Self-produced not surprisingly, Crimes & Reasons is another terrific showcase for the multi-talented Mr Thorne and his ever-changing moods. But it is his voice which is the cornerstone to his songs because not many singers can carry a melody quite as effortlessly as he can especially on the more melancholic numbers.
If, as he says in the interview with DPRP, the next album will be his last, it will ultimately be our loss as this album yet again proves what a fine ambassador he is for prog rock in both its conception and delivery.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Frames - In Via
Tracklist: Entrance (1:02), Departure (7:14), Encounter (6:06), Calm Wisdom (2:10), Stir (5:40), Reflections (6:55), Eris (8:25), Don't Stay Here (8:45), End Of A Decade (5:58), Coda (6:57)
Germany's Frames return for their second full length release following their debut Mosaik in 2010. The quartet of Jonas Meyer (guitar), Manuel Schönfeld (keyboards), Kiryll Kulakowski (drums) and new boy Hajo Cirksena (bass) maintain their post/prog rock instrumental fervour that was so evident on the last release. However, unlike so many of the numerous post-rock bands that are currently plying their trade, Frames seem to have added something extra into the characteristic intermingling quiet and loud passages that have come to define the genre. Yes, the dynamic shifts are still present, but a greater focus on melody, the frequent prominence of Schönfeld's piano and showing more restraint in the less frequent heavier passages add something characteristic and special to the music.
Lush soundscapes predominate, be it in the more overall mellow numbers such as Calm Wisdom, with a lovely cello passage and an ambience akin to the more reflective side of Sigur Rós, or the heavier tracks like Departure and the excellent End Of A Decade. Some interesting chord changes in Stir make up for a rather slow beginning where the drums are a trifle too loud and complicated for the more gentle backing, a 'mistake' perpetuated at the end of the number, although it does lead nicely into the glorious Reflections, a number that covers a wide range of tempos but never sounds discordant or piecemeal. However, the band manage to top it with the next track Eris which really has a grand orchestral feeling. One could imagine this music with a full orchestra behind it rather than just the keyboard generated strings and other accompaniments, modern classical music indeed, and worthy of the classification. The thunderous guitar insertion a couple of minutes before the end is in complete contrast to the often haunting melodies of earlier in the composition. Don't Stay Here follows along similar lines: an engaging piano line, a lovely xylophone (which makes appearances fairly frequently throughout the album), and Cirksena laying down a bass line that in places is positively delightful. Literature fans may be intrigued by the inclusion of Herman Hesse reading, in his native German, his poem Stufen (Steps), the recitation split between the tracks Departure and Coda. An interesting addition it does work well, adding a sense of gravitas to the sometime often solemn proceedings. The musical closing passage is simply sublime, drawing the album to a perfect conclusion.
The album is more of a symphony of interconnected and interlocking sections as opposed to a collection of discrete tracks. As such it is best devoured as a whole rather than shuffled between tracks. Indeed the digital files DPRP were sent for review purposes are replete with inappropriate splits meaning that each track could really only be listened to properly in context and what comes before and after (hence, don't consider the track timings above to be 100% accurate!). On the whole, In Via is an album that should find fans amongst both the post rock and prog rock fraternities. If you are yet to explore any so-called post rock bands then Frames are a suitably appropriate starting point.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Harvest - Chasing Time
Tracklist: Roundabout (5:21), Intuition (4:33), The Spell (3:29), The Machine (5:25), Time Lapse (5:21), In Debris (4:32) Yesteryear (3:14), Unknown Skylines (5:33), Silent Run (6:23), Stars (8:11)
Back in 2009 I was fortunate enough to be sent a new CD from a relatively new and talented band called Harvest. Like a breath of fresh air, Underground Community was an excellent debut by any standards and now three years on the follow-up Chasing Time features the same line-up of Monique van der Kolk (vocals), Jordi Amela (keyboards), Jordi Prats (guitars), Roger Vilageliu (bass) and Alex Ojea (drums). Although based in Barcelona, the band member's names reveal their Dutch-Spanish origins as does Monique's vocal timbre which contains no hint of an accent.
The opener Roundabout is not as the title would suggest the famous Yes song although enticingly the intro is very similar. Instead it's a mid-tempo rocker with rhythmic piano, a driving guitar riff and an edgy but compelling choral hook. Monique's attractive signing is a real asset, sitting somewhere between Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks and Magenta's Christina Booth. Intuition is taken at a more measured pace with lighter than air piano and vocals although with a solid bass line and drum pattern. Although not over showy, the guitar solo is a real scorcher. The hypnotic, slow burning The Spell is possibly my favourite song on the album with a sensitive vocal from Monique offset by Prats' abrasive riff.
Initially the breezy The Machine put me in mind of the aforementioned Fleetwood Mac until the halfway mark where it hits its gutsy stride. Time Lapse is a wistful acoustic ballad with Monique dueting beautifully with guest and ex. Pallas man Alan Reed. The string and woodwind arrangement (all courtesy of keys) is quite magical and I think I've changed my mind – this is my favourite song on the album. A dramatic instrumental intro to In Debris resolves into another mid-paced rocker enhanced by spacey slide guitar from guest Steve Rothery (the band are Marillion fans after all) contrasting with the sunny Yesteryear with a lovely choral arrangement which on this occasion brings Heart to mind.
Unknown Skylines contrasts mellow verses with an edgy but memorable chorus plus a Middle Eastern by way of The Beatles flavoured mid-section. Delicate piano and vocals provides a hesitant start to Silent Run which hits a powerful riff around the four minute mark providing a powerful coda. The fairly lengthy Stars suitably closes the album and eight plus minutes allows enough time for restrained vocal sections to blend seamlessly with dynamic instrumental parts where the piano is nimble, the guitar edgy, and the drums and bass on top form.
In truth I did not find Chasing Time as immediate and attention grabbing as its predecessor although in its favour it's another superb album from Harvest with very little to fault it. The songs are varied and fairly catchy, the performances high and the production first rate. If pigeonholing is necessary, then file under Gazpacho, Mostly Autumn, The Reasoning and current Marillion.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Stabat Akish – Nebulos
Tracklist: Nebulos (4:40), Un Peuplier Un Peu Plié (5:32), Sprouts [part 1] (3:11), Sprouts [part 2] (1:57), Sprouts [part 3] (1:19), Sprouts [part 4] (3:57), Troïde (7:31), Le Serrure (2:32), Soft Fate (1:25), Boletus Eduus (2:52), Dynamique Cassoulet (2:28), Fast Fate (0:35), Le Chiffre (4:05)
Stabat Akish was formed in Toulouse in 2007 and this is their second album, and it is a bit of an oddity that took me quite a few plays to grips with it. Kicking off with the title track, led by a Crimsoid bass line played on acoustic double bass, the song freewheels into some free-jazz squawking on various saxes and follows this up with two saxes playing off one another to a fast percussion-led ending. This leads me to think "yep, it's going to be an album of jazz-tinged avant prog with a fairly dark undercurrent."
Wrong; the title track is somewhat atypical of what follows. Despite having listened to this a few times I can't seem to find a central focus, although the musicianship is of a high standard throughout. Obviously taking a cue from early Zappa, maybe it's the Gallic humour that goes over my oh-so-Anglo head, but the album seems to go through many changes without really a defining moment.
The instrumentation features various saxes, keyboards, vibraphone, marimba, drums, percussion and the basses of leader, composer and arranger Maxime Delporte. The tracks Soft Fate, Fast Fate, and Le Chiffre are given added timbre by trumpet and trombone.
Some fantastic vibraphone playing lends Un Peuplier un Peu Plié (simply a nonsensical French play on words) a cool jazz vibe that is abruptly replaced by the ending section which uses a tune that sounds not a million miles away from the Steptoe & Son theme tune. That reference may be lost on our non-UK readers but suffice to say it is intentionally comedic, although I doubt that the band has ever heard of the Brit 60s and 70s sitcom!
Sprouts is not actually listed as parts 1 to 4, but the tune is split into four on the CD, but without gaps between the sections. "Part 1" has traces of Gentle Giant about it with an added helping of Univers Zero-like angularity. Some fine sax blowing over a militaristic beat is "part 2" and "part 3" features Sarah Roussel's spoken word interludes, lost on me I'm afraid, over a film noir musical backing. Following that is the laid back and smoky "part 4", a lovely piece of music, languorous sax to the fore. This for me is the highlight of the album as it tends to avoid the musical slapstick of what has gone before, and comes after.
Troïde features a seven minute phone conversation, featuring more of Sarah Roussel's bizarre humour, apparently regaling someone with the problems she's having with her sprouts! I read that elsewhere and as most of it is not in English I'll have to take their word for it. The music here is a slow funk shuffle that sounds like the kind of backing Miles Davis used on his mid eighties albums. Unfortunately it drags a bit if you can't follow the narrative which is a shame. I'm not saying it should be in English as they've every right to use their native tongue (and probably others I'm not conversant with); I'll just have to quit complaining and get on with it!
The comedic feel returns on Boletus Eduus, which adds an Arabic atmosphere with a metronomic rhythmic backing and with high farce ends with a sheep's "blaaart". Following this is the slightly bonkers Dynamique Cassolet, and these two tracks are where the album loses its focus for me I'm afraid. It's still fine music but seems to meander a bit, and I've never been one for comedy in music unless it is the raison d'etrê (Bonzos, etc), although I have to say the Zappa-esque crazed crooning at the end of Dynamique Cassoulet made me smile.
The album ends with Le Chiffre, who was a villain in the 007 movie Casino Royale, and it is a suitably daft and fun end to proceedings. Stabat Akish had the kudos of having their first album released on John Zorn's Tzadik label which for some unknown reason would not release this album. Maybe the wacky humour was a bit too much for the highly respected and serious avant-jazzer?
Fans of AltrOck's output, and fans of Mother's era Zappa should have no problem with this, and I'm hoping it will grow on me over time.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Father Golem – I/O
Tracklist: Perfect Chaos (7:30), Circle Of Light (9:49), Sole Survivor (7:24), Last Man On Earth (9:30), Infrared (8:20), The Evercycling Journey Part 1 - Trapped Among Gravity Fields (4:32), The Evercycling Journey Part 2 - Impact! (7:36)
It took me quite some time and spins to get this album into my system. I wondered why this happened and it all came down to the simple conclusion that this is an album that is very well thought over and is very well crafted, but on the other side lacks one or more striking tracks that keeps your mind busy for a while as well as it lacks some definite innovative factors. I did manage to get the album into my system and when I did, I realized this album really does have a lot to offer. This band excels in intriguing guitar parts, both lead and bass, a strong rhythmic section and the fantastic variable styled voice of singer Dani Castro.
Almost every track has something of its own and something special to admire. Still, for me the opening track Perfect Chaos is the most impressive one. Starting off instrumentally with a nice little twitch of Spanish flamenco-ish guitar mixed in, to make sure there can be no doubt about the origin. This slowly increases until some heavy riffs tell us what progmetallers Father Golem really stand for. High quality progressive metal with good and sometimes even phenomenal guitar, bass and vocals. I especially like Castro’s flexible voice that fits perfectly to the music’s texture and reminds of great singers akin to the likes of Damian Wilson. A very fine track.
The second track Circle Of Light has parts of geniality as well as disappointment when halfway the song turns into something easy and predictable. A thriving drum however intervenes in time and recovers one’s attention towards a fine, no sorry, a superb guitar solo and ultimately a vocal tour de force to leave you with a profound impression at the end. Third song Sole Survivor is good but rather common. It has its moments and again these moments are steaming guitar driven. Last Man On Earth mixes quality with a sing along. If you hear Castro sing this tempting song, you sneakily try to imitate him, even if you’re in no way able to do that (like me). This song even has a bit of rapping nicely incorporated. Monstrously good.
Infrared is not interesting (though I like the jazzy saxophone at the end) but the closing track The Evercycling Journey, split into two parts, certainly is. The first part is named Trapped Among Gravity Fields and is the album’s inevitable ballad. A seriously fine track to fall in love with; overall and with the little non electronic string section it offers in particular. Part two, named Impact, is designed to end the album in style. Solid guitar textures and equally solid vocals leave you with the right impression of this Spanish progressive metal band.
I must say this album is my first encounter with the band that was founded back in 1999. Father Golem released two albums before, The End Of Poetry in 2001 and Nemesis in 2006. They seem to have had a hard time with personnel changes while aiming for a new progressive approach and worked really hard to get this done. This fighting spirit maybe explains the quality and the effect this joyful album has. So that leaves us with the question ‘why does this band’s name refer to a Golem?’. There is nothing plump, nothing chunky or nothing chubby about their music. On the contrary, the album is well worth investigating and will certainly please you if you’re into the heavier side of progressive rock.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Notturno Concertante - Canzoni Allo Specchio
Tracklist: Ahmed L'Ambulante (6:18), Young Man Gone West (3:47), Come Il Vento (4:37), Le Anime Belle (6:08), On Growing Older (2:15), The Price Of Experience (4:45), Canzone Allo Specchio (4:30), La Milonga Di Milingo (3:46), Lei Vede Rosso (7:01), Ark En Ciel (1:55)
Notturno Concertante have been around for some time now, with four albums released in the early nineties and then in 2002 they produced the album Riscrivere Il Passato. Not much after the millennium, although they contributed to several prog rock tribute albums for bands like Genesis and Camel. I do not know their early works but Notturno Concertante is on many sites noted as playing in the style of Marillion, symphonic/neo prog. I do hear some of that influence but I hear more from Italian progressive rock like Premiata Forneria Marconi. I first heard this album on the internet and it immediately grabbed me as the music of Notturno Concertante is progressive, yet very accessible and the moment I heard it I wanted to have it.
The album opens with some Italian chanting, I always get a sunny feeling from that. Nice violin and great melodies give me the feeling of a vacation at the beach. Young Man Gone West is filled with beautiful melodies by acoustic guitar and flute, great instrumental track. The title is English but no lyrics, I'll come back to that later. On Come Il Vento you can hear the resemblance to Marillion, however the piece does not change enough to make it as good as the first couple of songs. It is so much different on Le Anime Belle, that song is a beautiful musical journey filled with tear-jerking melodies. Great song with a lot of emotion put in to. Growing Older is an acoustic instrumental tune and another track with an English title, who came up with that? The Price Of Experience is the only English song with lyrics but I hardly noticed that, I thought it was still Italian. Good song but I feel a bit weird when listening to it with the lyrics in front of me, next time all Italian please.
Canzone Allo Specchio has the potential of Le Anime Belle but it does not really deliver. Still some nice tunes but overall I have the feeling it could have been so much more. Nice flamenco on La Milonga Di Milingo, really shaking for progressive rock. Nice for a warm evening with a glass of wine and dancing away into the night. After that Lei Vede Rosso kind off falls into a black hole. Neither meat nor fish. The cold electric guitar solo also seems a bit misplaced after all the warmth and emotion. Ark En Ciel is a nice ending to an album that at times is beautiful but overall a bit incoherent.
Notturno Concertante play accessible neo-prog and this album is likeable from the first spin. I did not lose interest in this album and after several spins I still like listening to it. Sometimes an album becomes better and better after several spins but this one does not improve that much. Also after several spins it does not evolve into the brilliant album for which it has all the potential. On the other hand it has some songs and tunes that are truly marvellous. An album interesting enough to check out.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Docker’s Guild – The Mystic Technocracy
(Season 1: The Age Of Ignorance)
Tracklist: A Matter Of Energy (2:05), A Mystic Technocracy (6:44), Darwin’s Tears (8:14), Norse Cosmogony [Part 1] (4:43), Norse Cosmogony [Part 2] (2:48), Judeo Christian Cosmogony (6:17), The Divine Comedy (6:09), Legion Of Aliens (4:54), Loving The Alien (7:13), The Gem Of Love (7:01), The Secret Of DNA [Part 1] (3:03), Oracle (5:13)
Brainchild of Douglas Docker, the first of a planned five part series called Docker’s Guild delivers The Mystic Technocracy, (Season One: The Age Of Ignorance). Doug’s forte draws the keyboards to the forefront throughout the album, but the talent he has accumulated for this project pulls bona fides from a depth chart sufficient to mark this down as a consortium of veterans with aplomb.
Some notables include: on guitar, Guthrie Govan (Asia) and Jeff Watson (Night Ranger), and on bass, Tony Franklin (Blue Murder), on drums we have Magnus Jacobsen (Miss Behavior) and Greg Bissonette. Many vocalists joined the ranks such as John Payne (Asia), Göran Edman (Yngwie Malmsteen, Karmakanic), Tony Mills (TNT, Shy), and front man Douglas R. Docker performs lead vocals.
The music piles in pop influenced prog rock with the AOR catch basin to help describe the less active elements. The music was written to facilitate a story line and the way the music tends to get out of the way for the words explains how the prog elements take a back seat, bypassing opportunities to shine.
The subject matter is interesting and seems to be a recurring theme in this genre made familiar by author David Icke. The story delves into the contrived alien origins of religion and their use as a control mechanism for humans leading to their eventual demise.
The sci-fi laced themes should appeal to fans of space rock artists such as Ayreon’s Star One and The Consortium Project, but with a keyboard backbone rather than heavy guitar. Light melodic metal with ample ebbs and flows seems apt enough, but the results come across without enthusiasm, partially due to the flat mix.
The album plays like many respectable albums of this ilk: it has some catchy riff-based tunes, (none very complicated) and common time phrasing. What’s lacking is energy and momentum. The momentum that starts at the beginning comes crashing to a halt with Norse Cosmogony with a long narration and a language change. The keyboards and melody coming out of that narrative sets a tone for the album that sounds formulaic and dated.
Hopefully the follow up to Season 1 pulls out some more modern ideas and can use cleverness in the delivery rather than laying down mostly straightforward 20th century sounding tracks like Loving The Alien which sounds like a nice new wave tune from the early MTV era in the ‘80s. Furthermore, in the track Judeo Christian Cosmogony the music started into a funk-laced jam and before it even got started it pulled back into the mundane. Luckily the song pulls together a great finish but, again, the energy was not allowed to properly build in order to create any emotional attachment.
The extensive music background of Douglass Docker gives reason to glance at this work if this genre and the melodic metal subset appeals to you. Doug’s pedigree details considerable classical training and study of music at university with an exhaustive detail of accolades.
Overall it is a listenable album with some fine points. The story and music deserve more thrill rides and emotional impact – less narration, more tension. Maybe it’s true that too much schooling tempers the angst that begs artists to take chances. Here we seem to have a work dwelling in safety. Great concept; I love the sci-fi and topical content but I expected more and still expect more from Season 2.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Sendelica - The Satori In Elegance Of The Majestic Stonegazer
Tracklist: Magical Ninin (9:21), Aetheraland (4:09), Satori In Elegance Part I (3:39), Satori In Elegance Part II (7:14), Satori In Elegance Part III (15:15), Satori In Elegance Part IV (4:00), Preseli Daze (11:53), The Majestic Stonegazer (4:27)
Sendelica are a psychedelic space rock band that hail from Cardigan in Wales and are primarily an instrumental outfit who exist somewhere in the netherworld mixing elements of early Pink Floyd, Hawkwind and even The Orb into their instrumental space rock.
This album is their seventh and latest and the first that I have had the pleasure of hearing but if like me, you grew up with those classic early Hawkwind albums Do Re Mi and In Search Of Space then Sendelica are probably going to be worth your time and effort investigating as they harken back to that whole Space Ritual era of psychedelica and Space Rock that Hawkwind bought to most rock fans attention.
The opener Magical Ninnin kicks off with a wall of sound and a howl of feedback before a lightly distorted guitar line appears that works itself into a riffing groove where it stays for the entire nine minutes of the song. There is some serious riffing going on here but even so there is a strong and memorable melody that keeps the song from being a random freak-out or workout. Sendelica’s songs may not have vocals as such but they certainly have structure, colour and depth and they both rock out and have a deep groove running throughout them.
Aetheraland the second track begins on a more gentle vein with some delicate flute being played over a gentle guitar part, this builds and builds reaching a crescendo then falling back to ascend again, a very simple yet effective track.
Tracks three to six are a four part title song Satori In Elegance Parts 1-4 which together total around 30 minutes in duration, but each has its own identity within the overall piece. Part one begins very gently with a simple guitar motif that is repeated throughout against this is a saxophone wailing to great effect with the overall effect sounding vaguely middle eastern after about a minute and a half of this the guitar steps to the forefront playing a solo melody line the song then reverts to its original pattern with a further return of the solo guitar motif at the end.
Part two opens with a crunchy guitar riff that stays for the entire song rising in and out of the foreground, this features a great use of wah-wah to give a spacey feel ad vibe to the song, set against this main riff is a wailing guitar that is slightly lower in the mix with a solo guitar at the three minute mark, this is a very well-constructed song that show’s Sendelica’s skill in their music, there is nothing overly complex going on at all but it is definitely a case of the sum being greater than the individual parts.
Part three begins on a far gentler note with some good acoustic guitar being played cleanly but with some short delay added before a solo guitar takes up a simple yet effective melody played with a distorted sound to it. It actually sounds deliberately discordant and grating at times, which I’m not sure if it really works or not. It sounds out of key at certain points giving way to some electronic sounding parts and a synth line that picks up from the guitar before the bass comes to the fore - carrying on with the melody from before and with random keyboards playing over the top of it. Overall it’s a good strong track.
Part four again begins gently with some gentle guitar and birdsound and stays pretty much the same throughout. It is a good finish to an interesting suite of songs.
Track seven, Prezelli Daze, starts with a distorted delay and echo driven guitar merrily wailing away which continues for the duration before ending in a squeal of feedback. This is the most guitar dominated track on the disc with some good ensemble playing ably supporting the guitar playing.
The final track the Majestic Stonegazer is very Hawkwindish with a phased guitar chugging away and with good use of delay.
So In summary if you are a fan of early Hawkwind or Pink Floyd or The Orb and the like, this will probably appeal to you. I wouldn’t class it as overtly progressive really, but it’s a good example of current Space Rock and would certainly fit in well late at night at the end of a great party when everyone is winding down. On this basis I would give it...
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
October Tree – The Fairy’s Wing
Tracklist: The Fairy’s Wing (8:12), Dark Carnival (6:11), Parallels (2:12), The Ogre (4:05), Into The Glade (0:52), Howl (5:47), Mirrors (2:53), Mortis Urgan (4:20), Cult Of The White Witch (4:14), Epiphanies (7:57)
Got the album? Then read the book!
October Tree is a new branch of the USA ProgRock project Canvas which has I believe released a couple of albums so far. It grew when guitarist/vocalist Greg Lounsberry invited his wife Tammy to sing guest vocals on their upcoming album. Impressed with the outcome, they decided to embark on a new musical project with Tammy on lead vocals.
It is a concept story album based on Greg’s allegorical tale about fairies. Nothing new in that. What I think is groundbreaking is that the story can also be purchased along side the album as a Kindle mini-book. That is something I’ve not come across before.
Sadly for me, that’s about as innovative as this project gets. Musically, October Tree is a folksy, autumnal mix of Alan Parsons Project, Procol Harum, Camel and Barclay James Harvest, with a female singer. At times I’m also tempted to draw comparisons with Fleetwood Mac but Tammy's low range voice doesn’t have the depth, theatricals or appeal of Stevie, Lindsey or Christine.
The songs are all toe-tappingly mid-paced with jolly melodies. After a few spins I found nothing really stuck in my memory. By the third spin it was still like listening to a new album. For some bands that could be a selling point but I don’t think that’s the intention here. The lyrics too can be rather clumsy as they try to tell the story.
The main songs are interspersed with a variety of shorter numbers, some sung by Greg, others instrumental. The couple are boosted with a collection of family members and colleagues from other projects. Son Daniel provides a Hammond, there are synths from Chris Cobel, guitar by Greg, and John Swope and Matt Sweitzer's rhythm section.
The album’s available as a digipak or as a download from the band’s website and also from CDBaby. I do enjoy this type of music on occasions. However here the melodic lines and the performances are just too non-descript to warrant any more time. If you don’t mind music that is struck in the 70s, and if likes of Camel, BJH and APP form the basis of your musical collection, then you may wish to investigate further.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Oshean - Live
Tracklist: Noise (7:44), Sailor Song (6:59), 7/6 (5:31), Sea (6:16), Morning (4:58), Prayer (7:53), Rain & Wind (6:59), Mountain Song (6:26) Additional unnamed track: (4:47)
This album from experimental "shoegazers" Oshean just wore me out, with the sheer intensity of the music at its height, (and there are many a peak), a veritable onslaught of sound...
Well if you are still with me, you've probably gleaned that this isn't going to be one of my top ten for 2012 but, hand on heart, I can't say Live is a bad album. It has power and depth, the problem is there's just too much power and not enough depth and that is a shame as the more delicate sections reveal some of the stronger moments on the album, which include some soothing violin parts.
Before pressing on with the music perhaps a little insight into the band. Information on Oshean is scarce, probably why this album has passed many by. The six page booklet that accompanies this release is simple, as the front cover artwork suggests, inside however, the eight images relating to each of the tracks are visually pleasing - but still no information. Googling it doesn't immediately bring up the desired results and when I eventually tracked them down on MySpace, little more was revealed. Now this may well be that the band are from Russia and there is a language issue, I hope so as I would be dismayed to find that they were striving for this level of anonymity. Even their MySpace has the misspelt URL?
So from what I have gathered Oshean are a four piece band - I shall follow their stance here and not reveal their names, but surmise that we have guitar, bass, drums and violin with one of the cast providing the vocals. The overall sound of Live is much more dense than this basic line-up suggests, so I'm assuming here that this isn't a live album. And live refers more to being 'alive' or 'living'. Could be wrong of course and further research might reveal a fuller a picture - but folks life is too short and getting shorter...
Most striking aspect of Oshean's sound is the guitar(s) and to be truthful I would have paid good money to hear a track with the delay pedal off! It's like U2's The Edge on steroids. In fact all the multi-layered guitars are replete with varying delays. Bass and drums tend to be less noticeable, drifting in and out of the music, but add impetus when they do emerge. The violin, when audible is a definite plus.
The real downside for me are the angst riddled vocals - again not that there's particularly a problem with the tuning so as to speak, just the delivery. Now I know I'm probably in a minority here and I am all for passion and emotion within the vocals, but there seems to have been this growing trend over several years now, where it is assumed that we have great vocalists if they wring out enormous levels of emotion from every note, syllable or word uttered. Personally I don't find it impassioned and normally just irritating to listen to a vocal line delivered in a fashion where said vocalist has just been told that his entire family has been cruelly murdered. So half way through Sailor Song I really wanted to throttle the singer in this band... Enough said.
As mentioned earlier I don't believe Live is a bad album, just not an album for me. It kicks off well enough and Noise I found quite enjoyable, but again and as mentioned above, by track two the veneer was running thin. There are moments, sections even entire tracks throughout the album that are enjoyable. Each track taken individually has merit, however this is a case of too much, too often, with the end result being that the parts are greater than the sum. If we throw into the melting pot the rather plodding tempos and lack of variation in mood - then this is probably why I found it difficult to get through the album in one sitting. However if your leanings are more towards the more emotional end of post-rock, with liberal doses of space rock thrown in for good measure then this could well be an album for you. As pointers, (but not necessarily comparators), if you possess albums by some, or all of these bands: Anathema, Gazpacho, Quidam, early Porcupine Tree, latter day Marillion, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Sigur Rós - then you may well find something you like here.
Conclusion: 4 out of 10