REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:
No-Man – Love And Endings
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Record Label:||Burning Shed|
|Year of Release:||2012|
Tracklist: My Revenge On Seattle (6:02), Time Travel In Texas (4:51), All The Blue Changes (6:10), Pretty Genius (3:58), Lighthouse (8:16), Beaten By Love (3:58), Wherever There Is Light (5:09), Mixtaped (9:32), Things Change (8:24)
Burning Shed, left-field music distributors of choice, and an increasingly successful outfit both artistically and commercially is a cottage industry run by Tim Bowness out of deepest darkest Norfolk… ok, Norwich. It is also a boutique label whose main band is Bowness’ own No-Man and also includes artists as diverse as Roger Eno and The Resonance Association on their small but perfectly formed roster.
Back in 2011 the label decided to stage a 10th anniversary party at Leamington Spa’s delightful and charmingly appointed Assembly, a gig that turned out to be the best of last year for me. After an impromptu set by The Resonance Association in the upstairs gallery where original artwork for some of No-Man’s albums were on display, and on the main stage acoustic sets by No Sound’s Giancarlo Erra and Bruce & Jon from The Pineapple Thief, between which we were treated to a brief but intriguing set from the mighty Theo Travis, the main attraction took to the stage. This album is No-Man’s set in its entirety, with, as far as I can tell, no editing or overdubbing.
In an atmosphere of near reverence the one guy “whooping” it up sounds slightly out of place amongst eerily polite applause as the band ease us into My Revenge On Seattle. No-Man have this effect on people for Tim’s songs are gorgeously constructed left-field pop-prog of the highest order and demand due respect. If your bag is heaviness however, you would not be disappointed as the band do this by building up intense atmospheres with occasional dissonant guitar thrashes from twin guitarists Michael Bearpark and Steven Wilson giving the songs a much harder edge than on the studio albums. Yes, it is that Steven Wilson, as I’m sure you know, and I am also sure you knew that No-Man was actually Steven’s first band proper, pre-dating Porcupine Tree (the band rather than the one man bedroom experiment) by some two or more years. At the gig the audience’s attention soon began to recognise the band as a whole as Steven was enjoying not being the focal point for once; that accolade soon falling on Tim’s shoulders as indeed it should do.
This rockier tone is apparent on the second, and my favourite song of theirs Time Travel In Texas, a song, as Tim puts it, “…about dislocation, unprovoked cruelty, abduction and fear of the unknown”. This is an unusual foray into the abstract for Tim this as most of his lyrics concern human failings in relationships and their myriad affectations of one kind or another. Michael and Steven riff away like good uns on this beast of a song. More typical of the No-Man oeuvre is the following All The Blue Changes which musically and lyrically is a sad gossamer-thin thing of delicate beauty that builds into an atmospheric and cathartic climax. Changing up a gear the simple chord progression is led by Steve Bingham’s violin and joined by Steven doing a Mogwai impression on his Gibson while Michael picks out the melody and Stephen Bennett’s textural keyboards fill any sonic gaps. Wow, we need a breather after that and the alt-ballad Pretty Genius, possibly No-Man’s most well known song, calms us down and finds light for the protagonist at the end of a dark tunnel in exalted fashion.
The rhythm section of Pete Morgan on bass and the drums of Andrew Booker hold down the relatively straightforward beat in an uncomplicated and efficient manner. The main solo instrument throughout is Steve’s violin as both guitarists contribute subtle runs or walls of sound rather than solos, but the undoubted star of the show is Tim’s glorious voice, an instrument in its own right. Breathy and expressive, and if comparisons must be made, and I’ll concede that they can be helpful, then I’m put in mind of David Cassidy fronting a post-rock-prog band; no, really!
A surprise was the inclusion of Beaten By Love, a song written way back in 1987 and never performed live before. Slow and menacing, it sounds like something The Cure might have recorded around the time of Pornography, for it is a dense and brooding thing. Sadly it is shorn of the “blistering white noise guitar solo” of the original, which apparently prompted Steven’s dad to refer to the song as “The Groaner”!
Mixtaped is another favourite of mine and it gets a thorough going over here, feedback squalls rising and falling as Steven, Michael and Steve fire off one another, sparks flying, as Tim tells us he’d “kill for that feeling, once again”. The song is stretched almost to breaking point and then released like a rubber band pulled to within a millimetre of its life and then let go. While the sonic turbulence unfolds at the end of the song Tim sits on the drum riser looking like a schoolmaster who knows he’s got his pupils eating out of the palm of his hand, before signing off by reminding us that you would still “kill for that feeling, once again”. The audience applaud in a rather stunned fashion as the band takes their bows and leave the stage. I defy anyone not to be impressed by this.
The DVD, shot with only two cameras as it was, still manages to convey some of the crackling atmosphere at the gig, an atmosphere that writ large “this is an event and you are lucky to be here”, and credit must go to Dion & Joanne Johnson on that front. Also included is a montage of photos from the gig, and luckily for you there are very few audience shots either here or on the main feature so my ugly mug is nowhere to be seen.
It’s four years now since the last studio album, the flawless and perfectly formed Schoolyard Ghosts, and No-Man are not a band to be rushed, but this gig last year documented with loving care on this release is to be followed by more gigs later this year, so one can only hope that the Sleeping Beauty that is No-Man will gift us more of their superbly crafted music in the not too distant future on a new studio album.
If you do not own any No-Man music, this fine release is as good a place to start as any, and after a while you’ll be hooked.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Overhead – Of Sun And Moon
Tracklist: Lost Inside Pt. 2 (5:03), Berlin (4:13), An Afternoon Of Sun And Moon (5:14), Aftermath (5:12), Syriana (4:07), Grotte (3:40), Last Broadcast (7:05), Alive (7:51), Angels And Demons (7:26)
Four years in the making, Finnish progressive rockers Overhead return with their latest album complete with 3D cover and 3D specs!
Starting in 2002, the quintet has released a trilogy of albums (Zumanthum, Metaepitome and And We’re Not Here After All). In doing so they became one of the biggest sellers on the French Musea label. A series of tours and festivals across Europe led to the band’s first DVD (Live After All). They completed a successful first phase of their career and celebrated 10-years of making music with their biggest European tour yet.
Having signed a fresh deal with the rising German label Progressive Promotion Records, I think it would be fair to see Of Sun And Moon as a fresh statement of intent from the band as they set out on the second phase of their musical adventure.
I’ve yet to track down a copy of the debut, but I’m a big fan of both of the band’s last albums. Their big dynamic range, the mixture of progressive, folk and classic rock stylings, their addictive spinning of grooves, the abundance of emotion and the immediately recognisable voice of Alex Keskitalo has given Overhead’s music a sound like no other.
There is a nice analogy within the new album title, which I think describes the music on this album rather well. Like the sun and moon, it is an album of contrasts. Like the Finnish winter there is a lot of darkness. Like the Finnish summer there is a lot of brightness. The contrasts are continued through a lyrical theme dealing with the life-death dichotomy.
In terms of the songwriting, this is probably the most direct and accessible of the band’s records. The majority of tracks clock in around the five minute mark. Despite this, Overhead has retained the diversity and unpredictability.
As shown by the opening video track, Berlin, the music here is rockier with more of the classic rock energy and less of the folk. Yet it is still immediately identifiable as Overhead, mixing the melancholy, the melodic and the moods to great effect.
As before everything is driven by the superbly expressive drumming of Ville Sjoblom and the grooving bass lines of Janne Pylkkonen. The keys and guitars are used to offer a wide variety of palettes for the different songs.
Highlights for me are the aforementioned direct rock of Berlin (see the video link above), the more atmospheric Aftermath, the catchy Angels And Demons and jazzy, bluesy, Jethro Tull-inspired instrumental Grotte. Only one song Last Broadcast doesn't work for me at all.
Top Tip? The trippy groove, woven around the pop melodies of the title track offers a great listen whilst flicking through the 8-page booklet with your complimentary 3D mini specs!
In summary: Of Sun And Moon sees Overhead maturing their sound with a not insignificant shift in musical direction yet manages to retain the band’s roots. It is the sort of album that should pick up new fans as well as satisfying the old. Put me down as highly satisfied.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Rodrigo San Martin - Eyes
|Country of Origin:||Argentina|
|Year of Release:||2012|
|Info:||Rodrigo San Martin|
Tracklist: Wide Open - Con Las Ojos Abiertos (19:52), Wide Shut - The Mask (7:14), Destroy The Signal (3:23), Amenecer (5:42), Interludio (1:33), Ahora (6:20)
Eyes is Rodrigo San Martin’s third release and first album proper with a band. As an album it is broke down into two parts, Eyes Wide Open and Eyes Closed which gives it that homely feel of the good old days of vinyl. This is the album that could possibly take the said gentleman into the major leagues, where in all honesty he has stepped up to the plate and hit a home run.
This was the album that was meant to be De Rien’s debut, but that was not to be for whatever reason? It is worth noting that all the members of the said band do appear on this album though, which is a bonus. Eyes is a fitting successor to his previous releases 1 (One) and There’s No Way Out both of which I highly rated here at DPRP Towers and introduced me to both Craig Kerley (Not Otherwise Specified) and the fantastic vocal tones of Jelena Perisic, a vocalist I highly rate, who is not afraid to challenge. These are two artists that you seriously need to investigate as is the awesome multi-instrumentalist Fernando Refay; there is a picture building here that one needs to delve into further as a music lover if you haven’t already done so.
So the participants here are Jelena Perisic (vocals), Craig Kerley (vocals), Fernando Refay (keyboards), Sergio Lopez (bass), Ludmila Clemente (drums), Tamara Szych (vocals) and the mastermind Rodrigo San Martin (electric, acoustic and lap steel guitars, mellotron, Hammond organ, Moog synths, Arp pro soloist, piano, vibraphone, pads, atmospheres, orchestra arrangements and backing vocals), who all work in synchronicity delving into their musical souls to create this stunning album. Rodrigo is perceived as a very important figure in the resurgence of Argentina’s prog scene and on listening to this album, one can understand why.
The musical presentation is interesting, dynamic, elaborate, complex and rather infectious with its varied approaches. The mix of the album may not have been afforded the big bucks that some bands have, mores the pity, as that would have really added to the whole affair, and that alone is the only negative that I can attribute to this album.
The opening piece Con Los Ojos Abiertos whose prime directive is that of quality and class; this is how to write and perform stunning music, a song that opens with such thought provoking lyrics, “You’re trying to deny what’s happening around you, you’re the perfect example of how everything went wrong”. Jelena Perisic captures the moment perfectly, sedate and passive, vocal tones to die for that embodies the story being told. On the arrival of part two of the seven piece suite the interaction of all the participants steps up a gear, dynamic and convoluted musical soirees that change the whole tone of the movement, swinging between elements that are not dissimilar to Pink Floyd one minute and Porcupine Tree the next, a repeating theme throughout the whole piece and that is the beauty of what is on offer here. Fernando Refay’s keyboard tinkering is a sound to behold adding further structure, atmospherics and character, perfectly complimenting Rodrigo’s guitar styles and adept playing; in all honesty the contributions by each participant captures the moment perfectly.
The second part of the conceptual piece Wide Shut which opens with Perisic and Refay interacting in harmony, beautiful and mesmerizing music that waltz’ around the room. As a song it showcases a few things, firstly Fernando Rafeys stunning agility, Rodrigo’s ability to write stunning songs that offer diversity that can contain individuals attention without ever becoming insipid, over baring or pretentious, a song that manages to capture all that is new and old school and as ever embedded powerful lyrical context. In part three of this movement, Coda we hear Jelena offer up, “Long ago, we used to be one, but they made you leave me behind, Let me out, don’t be afraid I will set you free, take off the mask, Stop hiding from me stop hiding from yourself”. The mournful, sad and pleading way these words are delivered almost bring a tear to your eyes.
Destroy The Signal the shortest song here with its barrage of opening sonics see’s Craig Kerley step up to the microphone adding his input to this rather infectious and somewhat memorable song, that embeds itself into your psyche becoming part of your conscious personality.
Amenecer which translates to sunshine, a song that is sung it the native Spanish tongue by the delectable Tamara Szych, the first of two numbers that she takes the lead on, the second being the album closer Ahora, which is sung in English. Amenecer is filled with some excellent interactions, Sergio Lopez bass lines throughout really underpin the song whilst Ludmila Clemente, Martin and Refay add the depth; the whole approach though is finely balanced by Szych’ sultry tones. Ahora is preceded by Interludio a rather fantastic and emotion musical passage that segues nicely; Ahora has a retro 70’s sound reminiscent of Uriah Heep in places, a powerhouse song that again showcases the talents of these guys, being an excellent example on how to close an album proper. As with the opening lines from Wide Open Ahora closes with, “Now you left me I can fly once again and feel alive, know you can tie me no longer, I’m getting stronger all the time, know your departure has saved me I fly away, Home again, Home again”.
It is worth noting that the accompanying artwork is very visual and eye catching, which compliments the whole package which again has been kept in house and created by Jelena Perisic. Rodrigo has a knack of being creative and surrounding himself with people of the same ilk, people who are passionate and believe in their artistic intentions.
I highly recommend this album and in all honesty as I stated earlier he does need to be investigated further as the music here has true expression; as an artist, Rodrigo’s approach continues to be inventive. Surely there must be a major label on the side lines waiting to pick this guy up?
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Quidam – Saiko
|Country of Origin:||Poland|
|Record Label:||Rock Serwis|
|Year of Release:||2012|
Tracklist: Haluświaty [Halluworlds] (5:22), ... lato [... summer] (2:40), Obok mam [I Don't Give A Damn] (4:42), Walec [Roller] (4:40), sPotykanie [sTrip] (5:08), Dodekafonix (Dodecaphonics) (4:32), ... jesień [... autumn] (3:13), Ostatecznie [Ultimately] (3:56), ... zima [... winter] (5:02), Saiko (3:03), ... przedwiośnie [... early spring] (5:35), Wiosna [Spring] (5:44)
I’ll begin with a confession, although Quidam have been around for over twenty years and have featured on the DPRP review pages since 1998, my own experience of the band thus far is limited to their appearance on the occasional compilation CD or DVD. Time to put matters right with the band’s sixth and latest full length studio offering Saiko which despite my unfamiliarity with the band I would suggest is something of a departure from their previous recordings. And even though my preconceptions were low, the starkness of sound and arrangements took me by surprise. At its best this approach is especially evocative whilst at other times it sounds a tad minimalist.
First the good news, there is some excellent song writing in evidence which the often basic arrangements actually serve to highlight. Take the opening pairing of Haluświaty and lato for example where Bartek Kossowicz’s emotive lead vocals are served well by Maciek Meller’s restless guitar playing which strays from the jangly repetition of U2’s The Edge in the former to the weeping beauty of Jan Akkerman in his Focus Moving Waves days in the latter. Walec is another strong effort where guest Natalia Grosiak’s sweet English vocals provide an engaging contrast to the song’s hard as nails central riff and Kossowicz’s anguished Polish vocals. In fact Kossowicz sings in his native tongue throughout the album, a conscious departure from the band’s more recent recordings.
Listening to the song sPotykanie is one of those frustrating situations where the vocal hook sounds vaguely familiar but you can’t quite put your finger on where you’ve heard it before. Either way it’s a lovely track with a simple but effective drums and piano backing. Despite the slow tempo Dodekafonix on the other hand has a nervous energy that blossoms into a magically uplifting chorus. Also standing out perhaps because it sounds like nothing else on the album is Obok mam which despite the title translation (I Don't Give A Damn) is a bright and breezy jazz flavoured affair with tasteful keys and flute embellishments from Zbigniew Florek and Jacek Zasada respectively. So far so good.
So where does it go wrong for me? Chiefly, after demonstrating such disciplined musicianship elsewhere, the band led by Meller indulge in rambling instrumentals in the shape of jesień and the especially disappointing przedwiośnie, a long winded semi-improvised dirge with spacey, ear piercing sustained guitar and echoes of early Pink Floyd. The only saving grace here for me is the excellent drumming of Maciek Wróblewski. The other issue for me is that songs like the title cut Saiko and Ostatecznie (despite Mariusz Ziółkowski’s probing bass lines) are easily forgettable whilst the albums longest track Wiosna never seems to get off the starting blocks proving to be an unsatisfying closer.
If variety was one of the band’s goals when they set out to record Saiko then they’ve certainly succeeded, each track sounds in marked contrast to the proceeding one. And as well as sporting some of the strangest song titles ever (even some of the English translations make little sense) the album has a spontaneous, almost live sound (especially in the drum department). In particular it benefits from Robert Szydło’s transparent production which cannot be faulted. Amongst the fine individual performances I would also like to single out Bartek Kossowicz for special mention whose passionate voice enlivens every song. I’ll also award the album an extra point for having the conviction to sing in Polish rather than the almost obligatory English.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
OHMphrey - Posthaste
Tracklist: Devil's In The Detail (7:46), The Sun Also Rises (6:35), Tom Bombadil (4:42), The River Runs (6:24), The Shoemaker's Back (6:07), Ramona's Car Wash (4:59), Reggaelic (7:46), Firestarter (live) (10:05), 20/20 (live) (19:30)
OHMphrey is a pure jam band merging the talents, and names, of members of OHM and Umphrey's McGee. The individuals concerned are guitarist Chris Poland and bassist Robertino Pagliari from OHM along with Umphrey's guitarist Jake Cinninger, keyboardist Joel Cummins and drummer Kris Myers (recently seen pounding the skins at NEARfest as part of the Mike Keneally Band). Whereas Umphrey's McGee studio albums are solidly based around songs with jamming left to the live arena, an area where they excel, with OHMphrey there is more spontaneity in the instrumental tracks laid down on this, their follow-up to 2009's self-titled debut. Largely composed 'in the moment' all five musicians contributed to the creation of the music exhibiting, as Poland states in the press release, "a kind of synchronicity" where each member was able to contribute parts that jelled with suggestions from their band mates.
The album starts with the riff heavy Devil's In The Detail, a sonic onslaught whose heaviness becomes more understandable when one learns that Poland used to be a member of Megadeath! The contrasting styles of the two guitarists blend well together and with the exception of a middle section where keyboards take prominence, it is guitars to the fore all the way. A more muted version of the main riff put played on keyboards continues in The Sun Also Rises which provides a cleaner solo guitar sound and a greater contribution by Cummins while Myers keeps perfect time making good use of his hi hat and even Pagliari has space to add an interesting bass solo. Tom Bombadil may have been chosen as a title as a wry nod to prog clichés given that it is the name of a character from Lord of the Rings who was unfortunately excised from the epic film trilogy. He was infamous for his humming (hence his name for any etymologists out there), although the OHMphrey track takes a somewhat louder approach than a hum applying a fine rhythmic melody that repeats throughout the piece. A more sedate The River Runs takes things down a level with nice use of piano underpinning the guitars, one of which is delivered with a very gritty and earthy sound. Cummins is allowed free reign on an assortment of keyboard sounds which adds to the variety in the music, something which could also said of the guitars.
The Shoemaker's Back is another of the mellower tracks, at least initially before both guitarists get into their grove. The soloing throughout the entire album is really quite exquisite showing off just how well Poland and Cinninger have mastered their instruments. Both players contribute some lightning fast breaks every now and again but there is no hint of flash arrogance; none of the 'Hey look what I can do' that can dominant some bands. This is exemplified in Ramona's Car Wash were everything comes together nicely and the entire band get to display their musical credentials. As might be expected Reggaelic has a reggae beat but delivered in a rather subtle way. There is an airiness and openness to the piece which would make it a strange and poor choice for a closing album track if it was not for the two numbers that follow. So what does a band that create their music from jamming in the studio do when on stage? The obvious answer is that they take jamming to the extreme! The two live numbers were recorded in May 2009, around the time of release of the debut album and are completely improvised throughout. Even if one is not a great jam or instrumental music fan, there is no denying that the band are tight and do show great understanding of each other particularly as they don't have a history of years of performing together. Firestarter is sublime throughout, the live arena giving just that little bit more emotion and intensity than the studio material. 20/20 takes a while to find its feet with a degree of noodling and exploration as the band test out various musical avenues but once it gets going it is relentless to the end of the nearly 20-minute playing time.
Obviously OHMphrey will not be to everyone's cup of tea but to those who believe that Umphrey's play it a bit safe on their studio albums and would prefer a bit more adventure and experimentation, or those who enjoy exciting and carefree instrumental playing, should find plenty within these 76 minutes to latch on to. Posthaste is the sound of an accomplished group of musicians enjoying themselves and being kind enough to share that enjoyment with the rest of us that want to join the ride.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Canada – ReCycled [EP]
|Country of Origin:||Italy|
|Year of Release:||2012|
Tracklist: Eyes On You (4:14), Don’t Throw Your Heart (4:57), Angel Of The City (3:28), Never Surrender (3:03) Bonus Track: Tom Sawyer (5:21)
Canada are a AOR/Prog Rock fusion that hail from Rimini in Italy and are the brainchild of Massimo Cillo. They describe their music as a mixture of Rush and AOR acts like Asia, Boston and Journey.
When I initially looked at the tracks on this EP I incorrectly thought that it was a collection of covers of famous Canadian bands, Never Surrender (Triumph) and Tom Sawyer (Rush) however whilst that might be an attractive proposition that is certainly not the case here even though the bonus track is actually a cover of Rush’s Tom Sawyer from the Moving Pictures album.
Instead Canada are fusing Rush style instrumentation with an AOR vocal and melody style to create something that is well, a little different and does on certain of these songs seem to work rather well indeed.
These songs are all re-recordings of earlier (older) material that Canada have released on various tapes and vinyl during their 15 year or so existence (they are all found on the afterimage album)
So what do they sound like?
The lead off song (Eyes On You) is certainly a strong opener with a gentle plucked intro leading into a lifting guitar before the introduction of a crunchy guitar riff and then Massimo’s soaring voice joins the fray. The song continues with a strong keyboard melody recurrent throughout and a strong chorus line, there is a lot going on in here with piano embellishments and Hammond organ subtly supporting – the guitar break when it comes is initially atonal before settling into a more traditional burst albeit short. Overall it is a good opener and a strong statement of intent.
Second track Don’t Throw Your Heart is the longest of their own songs on display here and opens with keyboards again before a rapid riff enters and the vocals come in sounding rather like a John Payne era Asia track in its short and punchy attack, the song has a very simple yet very catchy chorus that will remain in your head.
The third track is Angel Of The City is the shortest on display here and opens with a further swirl of keyboards and guitar and sounds reminiscent of another Canadian band - Santers. This is a short concise song with a good mix of sounds a short guitar solo leading to a brief keyboard solo before heading back into the chorus again
It has to be said the musicianship on display is really very good and repeated listening do reveal the multi layered approach that Canada have taken. Canada are very keen on getting to the chorus section of the song fairly quickly though.
The fourth track Never Surrender is an instrumental that offers each member of a band a showcase to display their versatility and prowess yet never descends into the look at me culture rather the track builds upon itself moving through some very Rush like phases with some great atmospherics in the background and a good interplay between the guitar, bass and keyboards
The bonus track – Tom Sawyer will be known by most I’m sure as it a cover of the Rush classic from Moving Pictures. To be honest this is possibly the weakest track on display in that it does nothing new with the song rather it is a straight reproduction of what we already know - and Massimo’s voice is not Geddy Lee and it is sung in a slightly higher register and for me at least it doesn’t really work that well. However it is a fine version but in my opinion a bit redundant and a wasted opportunity to either display another of their own pieces or to re-invent the song for themselves.
In conclusion I would suggest that Canada have great potential for the future. They certainly have the musical chops to deliver some interesting music and I look forward to hearing their next project which is a concept album due to be released during 2012 and called Of Once And Future Kings. On the basis of the material on this EP that should certainly prove to be an enticing prospect.
A good taster for what is to come overall I would give it...
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Instant Drone Factory – Ho Avuto Paura Del Mare
|Country of Origin:||International|
|Record Label:||Living Tunes|
|Year of Release:||2012|
Tracklist: Ain’t Nobody (8:57), Put Down The Guns (8:04), Out Of The Chaos (7:51), Ghost Rider (7:25), Ho Avuto Paura Del Mare – Do You Love What You See? (15:05)
Well, we all know about retro-prog don’t we? Some bands take inspiration from ancient sounds, producing something not necessarily envelope pushing, but pretty damn good anyway - think Storm Corrosion for example. On the other hand some bands, particularly those who take early 70s Yes as a template, seem content to make albums that could easily be titled “Fragile At The Edge”, a pointless exercise if you ask me, and those bands will remain un-named but hopefully obvious. Apparently there’s even a band doing the same with Rush music now, the mind boggles!
You may well ask “what has that to do with the price of fish?” Well, this little oddity is retro-Krautrock, taking Can as, well, not so much a starting point as the whole shebang, kitchen sink’n’all. And the odd thing is I quite like it, despite the band’s reverence for the vintage and frankly unsurpassable Krautrockers.
The album title translates from Italian as “I was afraid of the sea”, and there is fear a-plenty to be had in these grooves, I can tell you. Started as a project sometime around 2005 after a meeting with Faust’s Jean Hervé Péron at that year’s Schiphorst Avantgarde Festival by German guitarist Frank Gingeleit, later to be joined by Italian guitarist and singer Andrea Tabacco, IDF have released two albums prior to this strange beast. The multi-national line up is completed by two Japanese players, Rie Miyazaki on bass and Morihide Sawada on drums, the presumably German Thomas Hinkel and Norbert Schwefel on keyboards and flute, and occasional grand piano respectively. Finally the voice of Verona Davis is to be heard on some tracks, a million miles away from her stint with the Stereo MCs on Connected that’s for sure.
The drums clatter along cymbal happy but still laying down a steamrolling beat under the impressionistic piano on opening track Ain’t Nobody where the vocals are few and far between and the singer (it is difficult to tell who is singing what here, but this one could be Verona – apologies if it isn’t!) seems to be definitely channelling Damo Suzuki in a big way. On Put Down The Guns the singer asks “Are you afraid? Are you frightened? Well you better be” while pre-Jurassic guitar scratches and jangles away over a driving bass and kick drum led pulse beat. These songs all came about using Suzuki’s (in)famous Instant Composing method, aka improvisation. As such they are surprisingly tight and all last between seven and eight minutes with the exception of the last and title track at double the length.
Out Of The Chaos is slower paced and more spacious and spacey, and whereas the previous two songs had a certain likeness to Can this is more in the sonic territory of an industrial-punky Amon Düül II.
If Keith from The Prodigy had been into Krautrock he would have made a song like Ghost Rider where everyone is trying to play faster and more furiously than everyone else. The partly shouted vocals sound so much like the wild-eyed Brit madman it’s untrue. The bass guitar is keeping to a melody while the drummer gives it all he’s worth and the guitar playing sounds like someone who has never picked up the instrument before, being told to play whatever he liked as fast as he could. Senses suitably shredded the track fades quickly and in the blink of an eye we off into the fifteen minutes of the title track, which thankfully starts form a much more musical and calmer point, Andrea’s Italian singing giving it a worldly air completely apart and different from the Teutonic soundkrieg of what has gone before. Andrea’s voice is always on the edge of cracking, adding a layer of tension to the piece, particularly when he is joined by Verona whose earthy tones make for a nice contrast. The music is all dreamy reverb and echo and suitably aquatic.
Were it not for the over-noisy Ghost Rider this would be a really good album, but as it is I will be hitting the “skip” button when that one comes along. All of these songs can be heard on Soundcloud (see Samples link above) and if you are not a devoted Krautrock devotee it might be best to start that way.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Children Of Nova – Impossible Landscape
Tracklist: Erratic (3:45), Kaleido (4:17), Impossible Landscape (3:32), Moments Of Clarity (4:28), Feel Alive (4:07), First Signs (3:49), What Do You See? (3:04), The Troubled Soul (2:26), This Graceful Tragedy (3:33), Silhouette (3:39), It's Just A Ride (6:26)
In their own words ‘an experimental rock band from California’, Children Of Nova have been together for five years this summer. A six-track EP was released in early 2008. After being nominated for two San Diego Music Awards, this is the result of their first full-length visit to the studio.
Children Of Nova (lets can them CoN - but without any play on abbreviations!) are not prog in the traditional sense of the word but will be of interest to those who’ve followed my ravings over the past three years about such young crossover bands as Rishloo, Fen, Cog, Sadhana, Fair To Midland, Three and Karnivool. In other words; that part of the musical landscape where modern alt rock meets modern progressive rock.
Impossible Landscape follows in a very similar pattern to the above bands with songs full of energy, some arty guitar details (as on the title track), clean vocals and a serious attempt to inject some emotion. The songs are pretty direct with only the final track stretching beyond four minutes. There are few of the extended passages that make the music of Karnivool such an adventure and none of the left-field delvings that make Fair To Midland such fun.
The guys can clearly play and sound like a tight-knit unit that would excel in the live setting. The first half of the album is much better than the second. Opener Erratic has a great groove and riff. It was the song I’d heard that made me want to check CoN out. Nothing else here quite hits me in the same way.
By the time I get to the second half, the song writing and playing is becoming a little too one-dimensional for my taste. The singer fits the music well and has a falsetto similar to the vocalist for any of the above bands. However his tone, range and melodic selection needs more variety. The vocals also hog the spotlight way too much. Step away and let the band have a bit of space to develop the song.
I have the same problem with the songwriting in that it becomes a little derivative of itself after five songs. Listen to the variety in dynamics across last year’s Fair To Midland album to see where the bar has been set for this style of music.
A decent first effort but I think there are many other bands doing this sort of thing much better. CoN needs a big jump to the next stepping stone if they’re not to be washed away by the tide of their rivals.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10