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2012 : VOLUME 01
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REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:


Magenta - Chameleon
Magenta - Chameleon
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Tigermoth Records
Catalogue #:TMRCD0911
Year of Release:2011
Time:49:59
Info:Magenta
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Glitterball (4:30), Guernica (7:03), Breathe (4:23), Turn The Tide (6:21), Book Of Dreams (7:35), Reflections (2:08), Raw (4:15), The Beginning Of The End (4:40), Red (9:04)

Three years since their last studio album and 18 months on from their last gig Magenta return with their fifth album, Chameleon, which promises a temporary change of direction prior to the release of a more symphonic album later in 2012. The core of the band remains Christina Booth (vocals), Chris Fry (guitar) and main man Rob Reed (keys/bass/guitar) with drums from Kieran Bailey and Martin Rosser’s additional guitar on two tracks.

The first thing to notice about Chameleon is the stripped down sound, very different to the layered approach of their earlier albums. Most of the songs are short and punchy, alternating through the track list between up-tempo numbers and more thoughtful songs that cover many emotions and settings. With Tina providing all of the lyrics for the first time the songs have a different spin which is interesting but overall I think the earlier material is more focused and self-contained giving the albums a sense of whole. Here it is more a collection of good songs, most of which should work well in a live setting embedded into the bands set as evidenced by Glitterball and Guernica in the recent Summer’s End set. The simpler and harder style may have taken its cue from the Metamorphosis writing sessions but the decision to record it over a much shorter period than their usual way of working in order to maintain the rawness and energy takes the material somewhere new.

The aforementioned Glitterball makes for a bouncy and forthright opener, Reed’s keys picking up the pace into a moody chorus and Fry’s guitar showing the usual nods to Steve Howe, particularly during the instrumental mid-section. With a fuller sound this could have come from Metamorphosis but overall it is a more straight ahead Magenta than of old. From the outset and throughout the album acoustic guitar is prevalent varying the textures nicely.

The mood changes for the string intro to Guernica, more serious and wistful prior to the jolting launch into the more bombastic pace of the track proper. The basic guitar/keys/drums set-up is clear here with fewer embellishments than you might expect, acoustic guitar again adding colour. Tina’s voice has lost none of its power and character and as always she puts her stamp on the material from the start and this is a fine track that shows the effectiveness of the new approach the band has taken.

The rockier Breathe is built on Fry’s guitar with additional Yes influences to start and effective multi-tracked vocals but also includes an acoustic section and a brief Reed solo managing to pack a great deal into a short period of time. Turn The Tide slows things down making for a more relaxed interlude focusing on Tina, the languid nature reminiscent of an ocean swell. Once again Fry’s weapon of choice is acoustic for much of this track but there is an extended electric solo towards the end. I’m not sure if the keyboard sound choices work that well but overall this is a good track and very different from what has preceded it while remaining clearly Magenta.

Book Of Dreams is arguably the best track on Chameleon, a low-key intro bursting out on typically mirrored guitar and keys with an effective drum pattern that pulls the track in an interesting direction while some of the elements remind me of recent Big Big Train. The chorus soars and Fry contributes a perfectly weighted solo while piano and choral vocals show another dimension in the mid-section. Tina emerges backed by acoustic guitar to launch back into the track to finish. Lovely stuff.

The importance of the acoustic guitar to this period of Magenta’s development is evidenced by the inclusion of a Fry solo piece, Reflections, that clearly demonstrates his facility with the instrument. The polar opposite of this comes in the form of Raw which, as the title suggests, is abrasive; a tale of sexual politics with hard-edged guitar and driving rhythm. Tina’s voice bristles with emotion on this track that is indicative of the change of direction.

The Beginning Of The End is all about guitar textures; angular to start, smoother and then plucked with a Howe influenced solo later on. The song itself has a chorus to die for and string support to the verses, very catchy and sure to be a favourite. Finally Red, the longest track by far, opens with a cool sampled guitar effect and thoughtful vocal before becoming a quite straightforward number and, despite the swelling build to a couple of peaks, proves a bit of a letdown to close the album as it just goes on too long.

The much vaunted hard-edge is not present throughout and there are still elements of the traditional Magenta sound although it is more sparse and stripped back. By alternating rockers with more serious or emotional tracks the momentum is maintained while performances throughout are all very good. However, there appears to be something lacking that makes it less exciting as an album than some of their earlier releases. The symphonic sound is all but gone replaced by, on the face of it, simpler songs which although not a bad thing in itself leaves the material sounding somehow “smaller”.

Chameleon is well named as it shows the versatility of a band who have received a positive kick back into action via the freshness of this material and the new facet it offers them. There is no doubt that Magenta feel that this is the right course for them to be currently following but in the long run I am looking forward to hearing new material more akin to their previous releases, possibly with the inclusion of some of the elements featured here as although this is solid contemporary rock with a pop edge it overall lacks the bite and thrills of Magenta at their best. Nevertheless it is great to have them back.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

JEZ ROWDEN



Knitting By Twilight – The Weathering
Knitting By Twilight – The Weathering
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:It’s Twilight Time
Catalogue #:R069
Year of Release:2011
Time:39:29
Info:Knitting By
Twilight
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: A Thousand Islands (3:59), Clouds And Stars (2:43), Heavy Water (5:54), Biddeford Pool (4:30), Harold’s Budds (5:59), The Doorman’s Dairy Dream (4:09), Rainy Day Trains (6:35), Weathering (5:41)

Do yourself a favour, don’t listen to this while sat in front of the computer, put it on that frequently under-used piece of technology in this speeded up day and age, the hi-fi system, which if you’re like me, resides in another room away from the “office”. You will be rewarded in kind when the many and varied subtle intricacies of the ambient world of Knitting By Twilight is revealed to you in all its aural splendour.

Hailing from New England and led by the multi-talented percussionist/keyboardist John Orsi and more than ably assisted by Mike Merando (on four of the seven tracks various guitars, and sometimes bass) and Manny Silva (“a thousand guitars” on A Thousand Islands) KBT take us on a gentle and beguiling tour through seas of unclichéd ambience.

Heavy Water highlights the Hindi rhythms that pop up from time to time, giving the sound what at first listen appears to be an unfocussed centre, but after several plays uncovers a different kind of rhythmic logic for our tired Western ears to appreciate.

John seemingly can make any found object into a percussion instrument, and they are all lovingly listed track by track along with the more conventional things to hit. For example on the delightful Biddeford Pool he plays “evelyn’s metals, belltree and roto tom” over the sound of a babbling brook and his own keyboard washes. A summery watercolour vision opens up that is by turns evocative and contemplative. Orsi’s style and restraint is a lesson in percussive subtlety, and any number of testosterone fuelled prog skin bashers could do worse than take a leaf or two from John’s book. On A Thousand Islands he also plays something called a “boomywang” and this and other percussive exotica designed by the Hammerax Cymbal Company feature throughout. I wonder what a “boomywang” looks like? Google, here I come!

Harold’s Budds gives all the clues in the title that you need in order to guess where at least a good proportion of John’s influences lie, and a lovely thing it is too. As well as Harold Budd another obvious influence is ambient Brian Eno particularly on the opening track A Thousand Islands, probably the closest we get to a conventional tune on the album, and in the synth sound on Rainy Day Trains. The latter uses dissonant rhythms to the great effect to give the impression of a train swishing along a wet track, Mike’s ebow guitar playing a prominent role in addition. Weathering sees the return of “evelyn’s metals” and has an almost Oriental feel at the beginning, leading to long keyboard chords before the mantra returns.

Listen to this album enough times and its impressionistic and meditative qualities will reveal themselves to you slowly over time like a repeated mantra will take on otherworldly qualities for the yoga devotee. Maybe that sounded pretentious but it was not meant to, for that is the effect that this album and this kind of music has on me. OK, there are few toe-tapping moments here, but if you’ve read this far then I wouldn’t expect that was what you were looking for. This is the band’s sixth album, and as they’re new to me if the earlier works are of a similar bent I shall definitely be delving!

At a mere 39 minutes long for once I wish an album were longer. Far too often bands seem to over egg the pudding where filling up a CD is concerned, often over-stretching ideas, but the reverse is true this time. If you are a fan of Eno and Budd, along with David Sylvian, Jade Warrior, Thomas Dolby etc, you will love to chill out to this, I’m sure.

Finally, the highly tasteful if somewhat difficult to store A5 sized three fold out cover reveals the painting Biblis by William Bouguereau a name yours truly, a bit of a philistine where painting is concerned, is not familiar with. Suffice to say it features a reclining Rubinesque nude draped over a stream. All most tastefully done and very romantic, it dovetails with the music perfectly. Were it not for the behemoth of a cover that is Correlated ABC by Pythagoras it would win cover of the year, no question.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

ROGER TRENWITH



Level Pi - Dunkelstunde
Level Pi - Dunkelstunde
Country of Origin:Germany
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Year of Release:2011
Time:59:15
Info:Level Pi
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Winterabend (8:44), Der Flug Des Fernraumschiffs (6:17), Absent Friends (5:58), Das Versteck (6:18), Orange Template (13:23), Tougenkyou (9:37), Dunkelstunde (8:55)

Uwe Cremer returns with Dunkelstunde (Dark Hour), his third release under the name of Level Pi and following on from the excellent 2006 debut Entrance and the more keyboard based electronica of 2008's Electronic Sheep. The music is still heavily inspired by classic Krautrock but this time round Cremer has moved away from the lowkey keyboard dominated music by adding plenty of guitars throughout. Even where synthesisers predominate, such as at the beginning of Der Flug Des Fernraumschiffs (poorly translated it means "The Flight Of The Lone Spaceship") the melodies and arrangements are more enticing and appealing. Tangerine Dream are still the major influence, around the mid Virgin period of Tangram and Force Majeure, which happen to be my two favourite albums by the German masters!

The album has a very good flow to it which keeps the listener engaged, particularly with the different guitar sounds, such as the strident and domineering lead on Absent Friends and the more incisive attack on Tougenkyou. There is also considerable breadth to the album, providing an abundance of variety which again helps to grab and maintain the attention; various different rhythmic patterns are cleverly instilled; harmonious melodies flow in and out with each track but never breaking the captivating spell that the album induces.

Orange Template, the long track of the album, begins with what sounds like a single note being continually bowed on a cello which instantly builds the tension, heightened when the drums begin beating out an unconventional pattern. Taking the concept of a 'slow build' to another level, Cremer manages to gradually bring in new elements with the result that the whole piece is akin to an early Pink Floyd jam. Anyone with any affinity for Live At Pompeii or the like should certainly hear this track as it is of the same ilk and of the same quality.

There is little more I can add without becoming repetitive. But where I fail as a reviewer, Cremer succeeds as a musician. Dunkelstunde Is a fine album that matches the promise of the debut album and throughout the whole running time never fails to disappoint.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

MARK HUGHES



Long Distance Calling – Long Distance Calling
Long Distance Calling – Long Distance Calling
Country of Origin:Germany
Format:CD
Record Label:Superball Music
Catalogue #:SBA04542
Year of Release:2011
Time:56:09
Info:Long Distance
Calling
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Into The Black Wide Open (8:32), The Figrin D’an Boogie (6:08), Invisible Giants (7:10), Timebends (8:12), Arecibo [Long Distance Calling] (5:53), Middleville (8:30), Beyond The Void (11:40)

In 2011 Long Distance Calling released their third album. Each of their previous two albums appeared two years apart from one another and so far we at DPRP we have not reviewed any of Long Distance Calling's previous releases. Did we miss them or was the reviewing schedule just to full? Who knows, but right now I have the latest album in my CD player and I am having a difficult time trying to figure out how to review it. I don’t want to merely say this is a fantastic album, even if I do believe it is.

Long Distance Calling originate from the Münster area of Germany and consist of five musicians - David Jordan (guitar), Janosch Rathmer (drums), Jan Hoffmann (bass), Reimut Van Bonn (ambience), and Florian Füntmann (guitar). Musically they fall into the so called post rock genre. A genre mostly known for its long songs based around a theme which never seems to end and where the songs are built around this theme and then spun out as far as they can be. And what’s more the tracks are mostly instrumental.

So the seven songs presented to us here are well structured and composed, each with its own theme. As I often say the title of the song can give you a rough idea as to where the song may lead. So let us briefly run through all the songs and try and fill in the blanks - with no lyrics to help us the title will have to tell the tale.

Into The Black Wide Open: The title nearly gives it all away. Dark intonation, with a long stretched theme and a wide open sound, orchestrated like guitars with lots of riffs. A power house of a song.

The Figrin D’an Boogie: Is in fact based around a boogie - some sort of post rocking dance song with a refreshingly catchy melody line and boogie style rhythm. Absolutely fabulous bass playing starts the song, giving it the right intonation from the start.

Invisible Giants: Is a song with a nifty little tune and I hear the boys of Coldplay or Radiohead. This track has a slightly pop song element instead of a heavy rocking post-rock sound.

Timebends: Pretty much what the title implies it to be - a nice little ditty full of bends, twists and turns. With some pretty cool bass lines, the theme for this song seems to be changed and bent over and over again.

Arecibo [Long Distance Calling]: The guitar sounds seem to be crying out to us - shouting "hey hello here I am". The whole tune is a piece of very well suited driving music, with the heavy pounding beat in the background, a relaxing middle section, before the ever pounding rhythm in back - driving everything towards the end of the song.

Middleville: is the only "song" on the album and "lyrics" are provided by guest artist John Bush from Anthrax. Like all previous LDC albums we have have one vocal track, here the vocals give the song a push towards alternative rock bands like Stone Temple Pilots and/or Alice In Chains.

Beyond The Void: The last tune on the album is the best of them all in my humble opinion. As often is the case the best is saved for last, or as a bonus. Beyond The Void tries to give us a view on the otherside of the void, through the melodic guitar and ambient theme. I often get a feeling I am in some sort of cave, far underneath the soil of the earth, I can even hear and feel the waterdrops falling upon me - a very relaxing piece of music.

It is of course more difficult to keep people's attention when playing instrumentals, but I believe this album is a great example how you can do so. The album was over before I knew it.

The music here would appeal to people who like music by Scale The Summit, God Is An Astronaut, Explosions In The Sky and Crystal Palace to name but a few. Good music that makes you feel good, whole and relaxed.

Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10

GERT HULSHOF



The Anabasis - Back From Being Gone
The Anabasis - Back From Being Gone
Country of Origin:Various
Format:CD
Record Label:10t Records
Just For Kicks
Catalogue #:10T10053
Year of Release:2011
Time:80:55
Info:The Anabasis
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Rome (14:15), Fly (6:50), Carpe Diem (5:48), Vikings (17:29), Epiphany (5:57), Egypt (23:53) Bonus Track: Fly Remix (6:49)

Time for an oddity. Back From Being Gone is the debut album from neo-prog-metal outfit The Anabasis, but there's a twist. It appears that no two musicians on the album ever stood in the same room playing with each other during recording. Consequently, The Anabasis are the next in the recent wave of 'Internet bands' who record all their music seperately and then paste it together via emails. A few volumes back, I reviewed {CLOSEDLOCKEDSEALED} by Hess & Franzen, another album which was made over the web. I had thought it difficult for two people to co-ordinate the production of an album without any physical contact. However, in this case, it seems that over a dozen musicians have had to carefully plan and execute their music with only their email accounts to guide them. There's barely a hint that these parts were recorded separately, as all the instruments sound perfect and are all completely in time, even in the more complex sections of the album.

It appears that priority has been given to the concept of the album. With track names like Rome and Vikings, you can guess that this is going to be a historically based album. Indeed, lyricist George Andrade reveals that this album is about the importance of The Roman Empire in the history of mankind. Great attention has been paid to the lyrics of the songs, with certain lines even recurring, painstakingly translated into Latin. Quotes from Julius Caesar, as well as other historical figures, are abundant throughout the music, and the music even reflects the 'ancient' themes.

Sadly, though perhaps unsurprisingly, the music does not quite match the lyrics. It seems that music which has been created over the Internet can only be so good. The musicians are more than competent, and the complexity of the tracks is more than enough to qualify as progressive. However, the music can seem formulaic and uninspired, even annoying at times. Take the opening track, Rome. This song is entirely too repetitive, and seems to drag on. For example, the noisy main guitar riff which gets frustrating very quickly is repeated a total of ten times. The chorus also seems a bit overused, this being repeated merely four times in the song (although it feels like more). As luck would have it, these two parts of the song are to be repeated in the closing track Egypt as well (thankfully in a more bearable format).

In general, the album suffers from being too samey. There's very little variation between tracks, and the beginning of one track may sound just like the end of the preceding one. Given that this album is over 70 minutes long, this tends to cause a general sense of ennui in the listener. The consequence of producing this album over the internet is that some of the life has been sucked out of the album. The creativity that would probably arise from the musicians sitting in a room together is absent.

It seems that bigger is better here, as the three shorter tracks, Fly, Carpe Diem and Epiphany are mainly forgettable. The bonus track is a remix of the former song, but even listening to them back to back, I cannot tell the difference. Without a doubt, Egypt is the best track on the album. At nearly 24 minutes, this track goes through a range of moods, and is the only track on which the musicians get a decent sized instrumental to show their chops. The guitar solo towards the end holds genuine emotion, and the final sections of the suite are truly uplifting. All in all, it's a remarkable end for what hasn't been such a brilliant album.

On the whole, this is the kind of album that deteriorates after a few listens. While there are some good ideas, the spirit of prog doesn't seem to be there. It feels like too much priority has been given to the theme of the album, and not to the music itself. The music should provide a strong foundation for the concept and without this foundation, the concept itself crumbles. It'd be quite easy for the unsuspecting prog fan to see the track lengths and just pick up this album out of the blue, so I suggest listening to clips of the album via the link above before making any final decisions. This album goes to prove that recording over the Internet is not as conducive to making good music as being together in a studio is.

Conclusion: IV out of X

BASIL FRANCIS



Collision Process - Collision Process [EP]
Collision Process - Collision Process [EP]
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2011
Time:16:56
Info:Collision Process
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Sleep Now Forever (3:31), Revelations (4:16), Breaking Point (3:41), Divide (5:26)

Collision Process is a prog metal band from Birmingham, a band whose approach is for those with a penchant for the heavier end of the musical spectrum. This is an EP that has been balanced with power and aggression featuring a mix of clean and screamo vocals that are both twisted and tormented and more importantly they haven’t lost sight of harmony. Adam Cooper (lead vocals), Matt Glover (guitars), Dave Payne (drums), Jon Walters (guitar and vocals) and Dan Willett (bass) mean business and aren’t accepting any substitutes.

The band has taken the stance of producing this ditty themselves, which has allowed them to find the perfect stage for their songs, without any interference from the outside world. This isn’t a case of so much of knocking at the door, waiting to be invited in; this is pure and unadulterated savagery that kicks the doors open featuring a fresh sound that has been very cleverly constructed.

The opening salvo of Sleep Now Forever and Revelations may on first listen sound somewhat generic, but in all actuality that is the cleverness of the approach as the band grabs you by the scruff of the neck and shakes you to your foundation. The band has been fearless providing crunching guitar work and some tidy technical time changes too. The groove could quite easily be dismissed as cacophonous but be under no illusion, this is the real deal.

Breaking Point features an urgent, compulsive and addictive approach as does the EP closer Divide which demonstrates that there is more to this music than you first thought. Musically the time changes really develop the whole atmospherics, powerful drumming with a culmination of forceful bass passages and stunning guitar work and as if that wasn’t enough, the rapid drum display is relentless and exhausting, which only leaves the vocal approach, something that may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but here it does add semblance and feeling.

The added bonus is Matt Frederick’s visual cover art which is somewhat intriguing too, a display that draws you right into their world leaving you under no illusions as to what is contained within this sixteen minutes plus exercise.

Don’t under estimate the power of Collision Process; this is prog metal with attitude and an emphasis that leans towards the metal end of the scale. You have been warned. PLAY LOUD.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10

JOHN O'BOYLE



Tinkicker – The Playground At The Edge Of The Abyss
Magenta - Chameleon
Country of Origin:Denmark
Format:CD
Record Label:MALS
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2011
Time:58:20
Info:Tinkicker
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Skeletons (0:22), The Playground At The Edge Of The Abyss (3:58), Li'l Mary (4:39), Man With The Evil Eye (4:02), Flowers In The Asphalt (3:01), Reflections From The Sun (3:08), New Values (2:36), Success? (4:57), Son Of The Syringe (4:36), S.O.S. (2:01), Household Glove And The Lord Above (2:16), Neon Lights And Transvestites (3:56), Jimi Is Dead (5:03), Therapy (3:11), Make Up Dreaming (3:41), Playground Revisited (0:53), The Great Escape (5:49), New Message (0:11)

Formed in 2006 by composer Soren Lindberg and lyricist/drummer Klaus Herfort, Tinkicker is a Danish band mixing many elements of classic heavy rock and metal with a few trimmings of Heavy Prog. The fact that the band’s singer, Klaus Bastian, was recruited whilst seen singing at a wedding reception in a Meat Loaf covers band gives a heavy indication of what to expect.

Their first album, a heavy rock opera entitled Soliloquy Of The Transparent Boy was reviewed on DPRP and described as an ‘ambitious but flawed debut’. Tom De Val suggested they ditch the concept approach to concentrate on the songwriting next time.

Well the band has ignored his advice, developing a sophomore album that again follows a concept storyline. Playgrounds... consists of musical portraits of characters from a down-on-its-luck city slum. Each song takes a different subject such as Mary the teenage prostitute, Frank the successful bastard and Jimi the junkie. Add in some abuse, suicide, and childhood demons and it entertains and adds to the package but isn’t the happiest reading.

Playgrounds… is an honest album sitting firmly in the old skool of classic rock. The main focus will interest fans of Sabbath, Uriah Heep, The Who and Triumph. I haven’t seen an album design quite like this since the 80s. There is a punk, NuWave vibe to some of the songs (Buzzcocks, Generation X) with some progressive touches in the vein of early Rush. However those who seek the more complex forms of progressive music may not find too much to demand repeat listens here.

Highlights for me are the melodic Li'l Mary and the Green Carnation-esque Therapy. Almost all the songs are between three and four minutes. At over five minutes and with some unconventional riffage, The Great Escape is probably the most progressive song.

This is an album with both feet enthusiastically in the past, from a band seemingly quite happy to stay there.

Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10

ANDY READ



Massimo Izzizzari - Electrifying
Massimo Izzizzari - Electrifying
Country of Origin:Italy
Format:CD
Record Label:Lion Music
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2011
Time:50:23
Info:Massimo Izzizzari
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: High Tension (5:52), Lithosphere (5:47), Attraction (6:04), Sweet Memories (5:31), Plastic Theater (6:01), Funny Walk (6:16), Romance (2:31), Little Hero (6:34), Natural Evolution (5:49)

Massimo Izzizzari has been blasting away on the guitar since the age of eleven, has studied the likes of Joe Satriani, Greg Howe, Yngwie Malmsteen, Pat Metheny et al, has starred in numerous fusion style bands and has reached the finals of national guitar competitions in his native Italy, so it is no surprise that his second solo album Electrifying is a feast of technically gifted geetar wizardry.

Although largely rooted in fusion styles this entirely instrumental album also takes in rock, funk and acoustic ballads, Massimo also contributing keyboards and effects, all over a solid if unspectacular rhythmic backing provided by Azeglio Izzizzari (drums) and Mario Mazzenga (bass).

The way Massimo charges through all kinds of sounds and styles like a magpie hotwired into a Marshall stack puts me in mind of Jeff Beck. I can also hear Allan Holdsworth particularly when the guitar synth gets wheeled out. I’d imagine this guy is highly entertaining in a live setting, and unlike some fellow gifted axe wielders just about manages to avoid excessive shredding on his album which also avoids sounding overly sterile which can be a trait of this kind of music.

This is the kind of record that deserves to be played loud while you get ready for a night on the tiles or whatever your nocturnal bag is, it will have you dancing round the room (ok, gently nodding if you’re my age, you don’t want to put your back out now, do you?) and it will put you in a great mood. It would also serve well as background music, as there is nothing here that is too demanding.

A pleasant offering from a virtuoso plank spanker, and if you’re into Jeff Beck it comes highly commended.

Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10

ROGER TRENWITH



Aican – Art Saves/Kills
Aican – Art Saves/Kills
Country of Origin:Italy
Format:CD
Record Label:R.I.A.G
Catalogue #:R069
Year of Release:2011
Time:46:07
Info:R.I.A.G Info
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Golem (4:35), Infinite Light (6:38), Pulse (3:37), Art Saves/Kills (11:00), You’re Part Of My Freedom (6:43), Gentle Kick (4:11), Primal Earth – Primal Breathe (9:19)

From the Russian town of Yekaterinburg, some 1800km east of Moscow on the Eastern side of the Ural Mountains, Aican really do come from the back end of beyond, both geographically and from a Western influence point of view. Luckily for them in these days of the interwebby thang, you could be on the Moon and still stream all the latest cool sounds from anywhere you like, so their geographic isolation is not really felt sonically on this their first album.

Formed in 2009 Aican offer a line up of two guitars, bass and drums, and on Gentle Kick a guest saxophone, who together cook up a storm of post-rockisms with a slight leaning more towards the “rock” rather than the “post.” They have an innate understanding of the power of dynamics and light and shade and the album veers from simple melody to crushing Mogwai style heaviness within the structure of one song with an ease belying their comparative inexperience – opener Golem being a prime example.

Yekaterinburg is famous a centre for Russian classical dance, but there is no effete pirouetting from this bunch, although they are capable of nice subtle moments such as the atmospheric opening to Infinite Light. There are some generic metalisms present, the sort of syncopated riffing that Tool and dozens of others were doing years ago (Infinite Light again), but I don’t hold that against them as for a first album it’s an accomplished if not stunning effort. Any soloing is kept brief and to the point, the band preferring tight ensemble playing, which is the right choice as far as I’m concerned.

Pulse builds and fades in a nice fashion and leads into the title track Art Saves/Kills which at eleven minutes long is the “epic” of the album, although I found it a bit predictable, following the Mogwai template a bit too closely. If an instrumental can be a love song then You’re Part Of My Freedom wins that award. The smoky sax on Gentle Kick adds another dimension to the music, and the guitar work on this song shows another side to the band – nice!

According to RAIG Records Primal Earth – Primal Breathe is the band’s tribute to “the KC veterans”, but to these ears it is more rock oriented than KC and has a fine wah guitar interlude as it builds in intensity. It also reminds me of the heavier end of Porcupine Tree. There are worse things to be influenced by, it has to be said.

Art Saves/Kills is a worthy if not groundbreaking debut for Aican, and this is certainly a band worth keeping an eye out for in the future for they show enough ability here to indicate that they could be capable of producing something special down the line.

Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10

ROGER TRENWITH



The Moor - Memoirs Of Rossum
The Moor - Memoirs Of Rossum
Country of Origin:Sweden
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2011
Time:42:10
Info:The Moor
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Memoirs Of Rossum I: Mani.Festo (8:14), Candlelight [From The Rossum.Archives] (5:59), Memoirs Of Rossum II: Re.Seduction (4:16), Neo Futurist Fantasy [From The Rossum.Archives] (6:21), Memoirs Of Rossum III: Finale [Über Alles] (7:35) Bonus tracks (only available on CD): Candlelight.Remodelled (8:36), Alternative.One (2:29)

While the band's website claims that The Moor is a state of mind, and that Memoirs Of Rossum is a nightmare rather than a conventional album, devotees of science fiction will definitely recognize the reference to Czech author Karel Čapek's play R.U.R. (Rossum's Ultimate Robots), which introduced robots to popular culture, in the title of the Swedish outfit's third recording effort. A concept influenced by the likes of Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick, Memoirs Of Rossum deals with such weighty issues as the human condition in a market-dominated society that worships at the altar of productivity.

Hailing from the Swedish town of Falköping, where they were formed in 1985 by keyboardist Kenneth Magnusson and vocalist Hans Möll, The Moor released two albums in the Nineties (Every Pixie Sells A Story in 1993, and Flux in 1996), before going into a 15-year hiatus. Their current incarnation, revolving around a core quarted of Magnusson, Möll, guitarist Klas Edmonsson and drummer Jonas Fäldt, is international in scope, featuring Hawkwind founding member Nik Turner on saxophone and German writer and media artist Knut Gerwers on spoken vocals, as well as bassist Stefan Renström of symphonic proggers Simon Says; while the album's striking artwork is credited to American web designer Francis Manucci. Memoirs Of Rossum contains material that appeared on The Moor's previous albums, as well as more recent compositions. Basically an EP augmented by two bonus tracks, it is one of those albums that - while intriguing and thought-provoking in terms of lyrical content - may leave listeners baffled as regards the musical aspect.

Considering the title and subject matter, it will not come as a surprise that Memoirs Of Rossum is heavily biased towards the electronic side of things, with synthetizers and other effects playing a starring role. The extended line-up featured on the album allows for the presence of all the traditional rock instruments as well as saxophone, but it is the electronics that any listener will notice first, and not necessarily with pleasure - since the music possesses a noticeably harsh, industrial quality, intensified by the regular, almost mechanical pace of the drumming and the liberal use of treated vocals. Indeed, "robotic" is one of the first words that will come to mind when listening to Memoirs Of Rossum - which is clearly an intentional effect. The space rock matrix is unmistakable, with nods to such influential bands as Hawkwind (not just on account of Turner's contribution) and Ozric Tentacles - though without the organic, ethnic-flavoured elements so prominent in the latter band's opus.

The album - to all intents and purposes a glorified EP, barely clocking in at 42 minutes with the addition of two bonus tracks - is structured in a rather peculiar, not particularly cohesive fashion. The eponymous suite, split in three parts, is interspersed by two "vintage" tracks, Candlelight and Neo-Futurist Fantasy, which had originally appeared on The Moor's debut - though with some additional elements written expressly for this album. Candlelight (also included in a longer, "remodelled" version), with its sharp, trance-like beat that made me think of a "dance mix", is softened by the gentle chimes of a glockenspiel; while Neo-Futurist Fantasy, in keeping with its title, is almost pure Eighties-style electronics. The three sections that make up the title-track play the spacey card with eerie, cinematic keyboard layers, plenty of special effects and half-recited, half-sung vocals. Though Nik Turner's atmospheric sax inserts inject a measure of warmth, the music emanates an aloof, almost martial mood, dominated by the whooshing, wheezing sounds wrung out of the synthesizers.

Though fans of space rock and electronics in general may find Memoirs Of Rossum a worthwhile proposition, the album is very much an acquired taste, and - while it contains some interesting moments - it will feel a bit too chilly and detached to the average prog fan, with its heavy emphasis on robotic, industrial beats and occasionally jarring electronic effects. Moreover, while listening to the album, it is hard to dispel the impression that it has all been done before, and better. Its nature of near-archival document - coupled with the lack of consistent information on the band and its current activity - is bound to create a sense of frustration even in those who may be attracted to The Moor's musical offer. Indeed, Memoirs Of Rossum resembles those "from the vault" recordings that have been unearthed and released years and years after an outfit's demise rather than anything fresh and relevant for today's oversaturated progressive rock scene.

Conclusion: 5.5 out of 10

RAFFAELLA BERRY



TheRoom - A Casual Believer/A Multitude Of Angels
TheRoom - A Casual Believer/A Multitude Of Angels
Country of Origin:UK
Format:Download
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2011
Time:11:46
Info:TheRoom
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: A Casual Believer (5:41), A Multitude Of Angels (6:06)

TheRoom (also stylised as ‘The Room’ and ‘theRoom’) are a brand new British ‘prog’ group consisting of former Grey Lady Down members Martin Wilson on vocals and Steve Anderson on guitars, along with along with drummer Andrew Rae, keyboardist Steve Checkley and bassist Andy Rowe. The band’s website explains that they have firm roots in progressive rock, but that the band wished to create something more accessible to music fans.

Their new single, available to download from iTunes, CD Baby and other such websites, consists of two songs which will appear on their debut album this year, A Casual Believer and A Multitude Of Angels. Unfortunately, neither of these show any promise for the band. Both tracks are equally bland and show minimal creativity; bad signs indeed, especially for a band that call themselves prog. In fact, they call themselves ‘prog-lite’ as if they don’t especially enjoy being progressive. Unfortunately for them, the idea of making accessible prog has backfired, as the music here doesn’t appeal to proggers or non-proggers. Think neo-prog but without the prog. The keyboards on the track do nothing to help the song, and instead make TheRoom sound like a bunch of Credo-wannabes. Unlike Credo however, the song structures are very ordinary, rendering both tracks completely forgettable. Even Anderson’s brief guitar spot on A Multitude Of Angels can’t save the day.

After three or four listens to these tracks, I still cannot find anything even remotely redeeming. The ‘progressive sensibilities’ that the band describe on their website simply do not exist here. For the band’s sake, I hope that they’ve left the better stuff for the album. This may have just been a taster, but the taste is very sour indeed.

Conclusion: 2 out of 10

BASIL FRANCIS



Us - The Road Less Travelled
Us - The Road Less Travelled
Country of Origin:Netherlands
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2011
Time:58:05
Info:Us
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: The Road Less Travelled (20:48), The Signs Of Our Times (12:24), Days Of Wonder (11:47), Shadowworld (12:52)

Never has such ugly artwork been so apt for an album! Us is a Dutch progressive band, which comprises solely of one member, founder Jos Wernars. This wasn't always the case, but it seems that one by one, members have disappeared from the group until Wernars was the only one left, turning Us ironically into a solo endeavour. The Road Less Travelled is the ninth album to be released under the Us name.

Four epic-length songs make up the hour on this record, with the title track clocking in at over 20 minutes. If you think this is a good thing, you are sadly mistaken. The production and sound quality of this album is truly dire, rendering the whole album unlistenable. Instruments consistently get in the way of each other, and in particular the drumming is rather unpalatable. What I'd originally thought was a badly programmed drum machine is in fact Jos banging away on a cheap-sounding electric kit. The drums don't seem to keep the time so much as lose it, and the whole effect has more than once made me feel a little nauseous. Listening to a particular song is like trying to peer through a frosted glass and make out what's behind it, a constant strain on the listener.

'What is underneath this swamp of bad production?' I hear you ask. Something that seems quite proggy actually, is the answer. His production skills may be on the fritz, but he's certainly an ambitious guy. To write, record and produce four epic-length tracks single-handedly cannot be an easy task. In fact, last year he even put out a 43 minute track on his album Feeding The Crocodile, although I haven't listened to this, and given the evidence of this album, I'm not sure I want to. Between verses and choruses that sound like they could be catchy in a perfect world, Wernars takes the listener through some odd jerking instrumentals. Wernars also sings most of the lyrics, leaving some for his wife Marijke, although I cannot say I particularly enjoy his high-pitched vocals.

Reviewing can be difficult, especially when it involves hurting artists who are just trying their best. I have sent emails back and forth with Wernars, telling him what I think of his album, and asking whether he'd like to see a review or not. Amazingly enough he agreed, saying that 'whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger'. It plagues me with guilt that I must criticise his album so, but this album really is an abomination on the ears. The very fact I used the word nauseous in this review determines the outcome. Mr. Wernars is a really decent person, and I recommend you support him by buying some of his albums, but for your sake stay away from this!

Conclusion: 1 out of 10

BASIL FRANCIS


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