Issue 2015-029

Frontregen - Coming Home

Frontregen - Coming Home
Country of Origin: Austria
Format: EP
Record Label: independent
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 26:26
Info: Frontregen
Samples: Frontregen on Bandcamp
Track List:
Sun In Spain (5:33), Endorphine (3:52), Dead Corner (4:02), In My Shoes (5:51), Arms (3:02), Two Steps (4:06)
Sometimes their are artists that can't really be categorised. This band from Vienna can be counted among those artists. The music on their EP Coming Home released in the autumn of 2014, contains elements of Indie-rock, Progressive rock and Avantgarde. The current line-up consists of musicians without a surname or I was unable to find it on Facebook! Their names are: Katrin (vocals, keys), Benjamin (guitar, vocals), Moritz (guitar), Johanna (bass), and Siegi (drums).

The vocals by Katrin have a slight resemblance to Iceland's Björk but to my knowledge there has never been a review written of any album by this Icelandic artist on DPRP, so that wouldn't really be a recommendation to throw everything aside and have a listen to this Austrian band.

In the music you might find some parts that could remind you of Radiohead, like the tracks Arms, Dead Corner and Two Steps, but I've got serious doubts if this is really music that will appeal to most readers of DPRP. But I'm just a reviewer (and also not a big fan of Björk), so I would suggest to listen to this EP on Bandcamp or check out the clip on YouTube, because I might be wrong. It is certainly something different!
Conclusion:
Peter Swanson: 4 out of 10

Fusion Orchestra 2 - Casting Shadows

Fusion Orchestra 2 - Casting Shadows
Country of Origin: UK
Format: CD
Record Label: independant
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2013
Time: 40:36
Info: Fusion Orchestra 2
Samples: Fusion Orchestra 2 website
Track List:
Don't Forget Your Key (0:49), Leaving It All Behind (14:15), Troubled Dreams and Fairy Queens (0:54), Cider Sue (10:55), See What We Left Behind (1:57), Secret Shadow (12:16), Unseen Unheard (0:50)
Make no bones, this is a fine collection of the lighter-side of rock-prog. There's nothing metal about it, but it harks back to the halcyon days of Babe Ruth or Vinegar Joe, that is to say rock acts fronted by powerful female singers, and Elsie Lovelock has the right to sit at the same table. There's also a hint of early Uriah Heep with the organ and 70s guitar sound.

However, and this is not a criticism, I think the album could be even greater with absolutely all the playing and singing totally left in place. I feel that if this album was "mastered" or just put through a modern compression unit, and maybe the "left and rightness" of the keyboard and guitar sorted, then I can see this CD sitting alongside all the eminent acts that have obviously inspired this recording. It has an unfinished or raw quality about it that can work with some simple blues music, but not here.

This process was mandatory once because everything was released on vinyl. Famous Beatle's producer George Martin, was once asked what compression was for, to which he replied that it helped the music stick to the record! I won't cast any more shadows, because this album called Casting Shadows doesn't deserve it.

Gosh I feel a bit bad now but that's it done. No more negatives.

Fusion Orchestra 2 is the band which was formed (without the "2") in 1969 and had an album released in 1973 called Skeleton in Armour (digitally re-released in 2009 by EMI). So as this new album was made in 2013, it's been 40 years in the making! There are four 'interlude' miniatures, See what we've left behind is a delightful piano piece,as there were on the first album so a pattern doth emerge.

Founding member Colin "Col" Dawson has resurrected a band that has a lot of heritage, as they were a very hard gigging outfit with the rauchy Jill Saward on vocals. I don't know what that first album is like, but by all accounts it was quite jazz rocky. It is interesting therefore, to note that Jill now sings for jazz funsters Shakatak (sorry, but I love a bit of trivia).

After an intro, the new album kicks off with Leaving It All Behind, with a pulsating bass guitar (which morphs into and continues throughout the CD with a very jazz feel), terrific drumming, and some Deep Purple-ish guitar and Hammond organ scrambling for real estate.

Cider Sue is a real showcase for the new singer, with some well-timed skat in there. Again the guitar and Ben Bell's organ interplay gives the track a lovely, nostalgic vibe. Nowadays I guess the yard-stick for a girl at the helm of a rock band is District 97, and I suspect they think so too.

Secret Shadow is the highlight, and at 12:16 in length it's packed to the rafters with good stuff, with the bass from Shemeck Fracek and tubsman Seex Dyer really jazzing out. Analogue synth sounds now battle with that bluesy six-string, and to help you down from the ceiling, there's a closing 50 seconds of vocal harmony called Unseen, Unheard, Unfinished. Well I'd like to see them. I've enjoyed hearing them. So let's hope they are definitely unfinished.
Conclusion:
Andrew Halley: 8.5 out of 10

Garden Music Project - Inspired by Syd Barret's Artwork

Garden Music Project - Inspired by Syd Barret's Artwork
Country of Origin: Argentina
Format: cd
Record Label: Cherry Red Records
Catalogue #: ARG01
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 48:26
Info: Garden Music Project
Track List:
Garden (2:46), Squares, Lines & Polygons (3:00), Isolation (3:40), Transformation (5:47), Bullying (3:23), My Ladies (3:41), Leaving Home (3:28), Crime Scene (3:36), Coliseum (6:14), Tour Bus (4:25), Bridge (3:38), Self Portrait (4:48)
The young Syd Barrett could never be thought of not being an integral part of the young Pink Floyd. He was the lead vocalist, main songwriter and, as history wants it, he may very well have been the one to come up with the name of the band. After leaving the band, Barrett further explored painting and gardening.

Adriana Rubio is a writer and journalist who experiences synesthesia. That is a neurological phenomenon in which one sensory or cognitive stimulation automatically evokes associations that are not that common. For example, on hearing a number one might think of a colour or a colour might evoke a whole lot of associations in a person that might not be all too direct. Associations that just happen.

Whether or not you consider this to be either a positive feature or not, Adriana has this condition. Upon watching Syd's paintings, she was turned to writing songs. She did so together with Alexander Ditzend (guitars, lead vocals), Stefan Ditzend (bass, saxophone), Nicolás Saganías (drums, percussion) and Fabrizio Gamba (keyboards, synthesizers). What they have created is an album full of music that fully is inspired not only by the paintings, you can hear the influence of Syd's musical legacy as well.

Even though the band have succeeded in bringing an authentic late 60's feel to the now, there is nothing remotely oldfashioned sounding about the album. Yes, it does contain psychedelic music, yes, it sounds authentic, still, techniques used are modern and you can hear that the band can truly play. In Alexander they have a very competent singer who brings the music to life the way it should be. The songs on the album concentrate on shorter tracks, yet their subjects and musical turns are as eccentric as you may expect them to be. In that way they do surpass Jacco Gardner's debut album that was all about psychedelic music as well, but a little less eccentric than this one is.

If you wish to seek out psychedelic music that can be heard live nowadays, given an original form and performed just fine, then the Garden Music Project could be it. A fine album.
Conclusion:
Marcel Hartenberg: 7.5 out of 10

Kestrel - Kestrel

Kestrel - Kestrel
Country of Origin:
Format: CD
Record Label: Esoteric Antenna
Catalogue #: ECLEC2481
Year of Release: 1975/2015
Time: CD 1: 43:58
CD 2: 29:50
Info: Kestrel
Samples: Click here
Track List:
CD 1: The Acrobat (6:42), Wind Cloud (4:37), I believe in you (4:07), Last Request (4:47), In the War (7:31), Take it Away (4:08), End of the affair (4:47), August Carol (7:19)
CD 2: August Carol (single Version)(3:43), Wind Cloud (single Version) (3:41), The Searcher (4:16), Part of the Machine (4:16), The Acrobat (alternative version) (6:28), August Carol (alternative version (7:01)
Once again Esoteric has reached back into the many vaults searching for "hidden gems and rough diamonds" to both polish and bring back to the public eyes. Even by its own high standards, this is certainly a rare find.

I'm sure I saw this album on vinyl way back, and discounted it for whatever reason. One simply can't hear everything, and so inevitably great music will fall through the gaps at times. Such is the case with this reissue of the sole album by Kestrel from 1975, which is now widely regarded as a classic of its genre.

Being frank, this band would probably never have truly set the world on fire, and would probably have struggled to reach the major league of prog bands in the 70s. But as a snapshot of a moment in time, and what could have been, this is a pretty good document.

This was a strong debut, although due to a lack of breaks it never received the exposure needed to break into the big leagues. Yet the opening (The Acrobat) and closing tracks (August Carol) and track five (In the War), all hold the listener's interest, as they offer a glimpse of something special. The Acrobat has a great chorus-line that will stay in your mind long after it finishes, and all the songs feature great, slightly mad keyboards from John Cook, and some fine yet understated guitar work from Dave Black.

The music itself bears resemblance to the likes of Camel and Gentle Giant, but is not as melodic as the former, nor as complex as the latter. It does sound very much of its era, very much keyboard-based, although there is enough guitar to stop it being too safe.

I have to say that Tom Knowles' vocals take a little getting used to, but once you do, it all starts to come together well. It is an album you need to hear several times to begin to grasp what it is all about.

Esoteric has done a great job on the sound and also the care and attention to detail is up to their usual, impeccable standard, with well-researched sleeve notes and of course a whole disc (27 minutes) of unreleased tracks and alternate versions, which adds to the overall effect. This is an interesting curio. To these ears not essential, but certainly at the right price, it has charms and much to recommend it

I for one am certainly glad to have heard this interesting album. The longer tracks work better, as there is more room to develop the themes contained within. Perhaps if Kestrel had made a really epic-length track, things may have been different for them but I guess that is open to debate.
Conclusion:
John Wenlock-Smith: 6 out of 10

Now and Then - A Retrospective

Now and Then - A Retrospective
Country of Origin: The Netherlands
Format: CD
Record Label: independent
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2013
Time: 54:25
Info: Now and Then
Samples: Now and Then on Bandcamp
Track List:
Grand Opening (6:24), Room at the Top (4:04), The Awakening (7:04), A Bitter Brew of Tears (3:52), Be Home Soon (3:39), The Best Years of My Life (5:27), Runaway (5:16), Better Days (4:39), Somewhere in the Summer (5:26), The Night of December 8th (8:29)
Originally released in 2013, I'm not too sure why this album took as long as it did to reach the DPRP but I'm glad it eventually did. And despite the misleading title, it's not a compilation.

Now and Then were founded in 2005 by guitarist, drummer, vocalist Brady van de Ruit, bassist Jan van de Ruit and guitarist, vocalist Richard Kerhoff. Lead guitarist Jeffrey van Wijk soon joined and in 2008 keyboardist, lead singer Leo Elkhuizen followed. Kerhoff left halfway through the recording and since then drummer Jordy Donker has come on board.

This is their first full-length album of original songs which they began writing and recording in 2010. Until now they've specialised in performing other artists' songs (Pink Floyd and The Moody Blues amongst others). This has clearly provided the band with a solid grounding because strong musicianship, an ear for a good melody and a big, bold sound gives this album an expected but welcome gloss.

It's a concept album although the brief synopsis in the sleeve notes is a tad ambiguous (something about a man who after being confronted with John Lennon's murder has a car accident which leaves him in a coma). I could be wrong but I think the album should have been titled 'In Perspective'. No matter, the songs stand up exceptionally well in their own right and are suitably distinctive and tuneful to hold the listeners attention from start to finish.

The band's sound is strident, guitar driven rock for the most part with a pop sensibility and elements of epic prog. The latter is most obvious in the two tracks that bookend the album, the appropratley titled instrumental Grand Opening with its bombastic, keyboard fanfare and the similarly majestic finale The Night of December 8th.

In between, Room at the Top manages to combine the drama of Dream Theater with the melancholia of Pink Floyd (along with some stunning bass work) in contrast with the mellowA Bitter Brew of Tears (reminsecent of 80's era The Moody Blues) and the heavy blues of Runaway. The uncompromising Better Days on the otherhand nods its head firmly in the diection of Porcupine Tree.

The obligatory ballads come in the shape of the bittersweet The Best Years of My Life which reminded me of Barclay James Harvest and the acoustic Somewhere in the Summer which has a lyrical charm that's hard not to like.

Now and Then do not appear to have a website to speak of (although you can find them on Facebook) and the CD artwork and booklet is minimalist, but don't let that put you off. This is an excellent debut, brimming with confidence, strong production, mature arrangements, good tunes and standout musicianship. And really, what more could you ask for?
Conclusion:
Geoff Feakes: 8 out of 10

Riders of the Universe - Amen Road

Riders of the Universe - Amen Road
Country of Origin: Netherlands
Format: CD
Record Label: independent
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 49:28
Info: Riders of the Universe
Samples: Riders of the Universe on Soundcloud
Track List:
We are Riders part I & II (7:30), This is Time (3:02), Consolation (5:26), Summarized (2:14), Lost Los Angeles (5:17), In the Rain (2:18), Old Song (2:27), Scattered Grounds (4:09), Amen Road (3:17), Wondering Man (2:49), All that is (8:09), Bovenkerk (2:50)
So you want to be in a rock 'n roll band? There are quite a lot of people who set out under that banner, start jamming, and eventually record an album. The seven Dutchmen who got together to form Riders of the Universe bring quite some experience to the table. Their roots are well established in classical, brass band, church, blues, and if you haven't figured it out, rock music. They have three great common denominators: enthusiasm, spontaneity and an unstoppable urge to play and rock out.

There will be no fetching of comfy chairs while the Riders are around, for they will get you grooving, no matter how hard you try to sit down. No Spanish inquisition will inhibit the Riders to rock. Their universe might just be the one we are living in, but never be surprised if you find them behind mountains of Marshall stacks, or standing on a lonely plain drilling a herd of cows with just a guitar. Or even a flugelhorn for that matter, as the Riders are quite different in some of the instruments they use. You don't always find euphoniums, bouzoukis or flugelhorns used in rock. A lot happens under the prog banner, we know that, yet this is not your average prog rock band. Yes, they sometimes use chord and time changes, they write intriguing music and they have solos like David Gilmour might play. Most of all, they rock.

A Dutch treat this most certainly is. The closest reference that comes up is the NWOBHM band Demon. That is because Demon also have a thing for rocking out and sometimes gladly do only that, yet they seem to be comfortable in being awarded the 'prog' tag every now and then. It's just that The Riders (as I fondly now seem to call them) have ROCK written all over their music, and every now and then you might be inclined to think that some of their songs have a wee progressive element too. Just a little bit, that is.

A lot of the songs on Amen Road seem to be rooted firmly in 70s rock, without ever particularly demanding comparison to a specific 70s band. It just has that feel. What is more, the band fire on all engines and do so rather relentlessly. It does make you long for one of their live shows, for they certainly make you jump for joy. This is one album to enjoy. Keys and guitars both get their fair shares in several of the songs, but most of the songs are mostly full of guitar and that happens to be the greater part of the album.

Then, dear readers, this album most certainly should earn an 8. It is lively, very well played, the band chooses their own way in making an album, adds keys and exotic instruments and has a great ear for tunes that rock you to the top. There is no wandering-off in Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant or King Crimson territory, but this album does have its Pink Floyd references. If you are more inclined to the rock side of prog rock, then I would gladly recommend it. You may of course beg to differ. I go riding with the Riders once more. Darn, there's that Gilmour-like guitar again.
Conclusion:
Marcel Hartenberg: 8 out of 10

Steam Theory - Asunder

Steam Theory - Asunder
Country of Origin: USA
Format: 2cd
Record Label: independent
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 85:12
Info: Steam Theory
Track List:
CD 1: Asunder (9:46), Adrift (5:30), Stentorian (11:05), No Such Thing (3:42), Toys (7:51), Fireflies (3:24)
CD 2: Augments (6:47), Intar (6:37), Shyft (3:06), Spectres (5:45), Escape Velocity (6:44), Saga (11:29), Rejoinder (3:20)
Jason Denkevitz is the composer, mastermind and player of all the instruments on this release. That is quite something when you regard this as over 85 minutes of technically impressive prog and fusion divided over two discs. What screams from the website is "Brand new orchestral progressive fusion double album" and mind you, this can be read either as a way to stimulate people into buying the beautifully designed album, or, it might just as well scare you away, wishing you had steam power to distance yourself the furthest in the smallest period of time imaginable from the music made by Steam Theory or rather, Jason Denkevitz.

I wondered what would happen if Jason were to discover another dimension instead of orchestral, for if there's just one thing can be said about the album: it fully and truly is orchestral. I think it is best left to the taste of every reader to decide for themselves whether or not that is a good thing. I will describe how it made me listen to the album.

To me, the orchestration (also composed and played by Jason, by the way) has some very well-written and fine parts. Parts that I reckon could very well stand on their own without interjecting these with guitar or keyboard parts alike.

On the other hand, some guitar or keyboard parts that work very well in their song settings, could also easily have a lease of life of their own, without the addition of orchestral sounds. It's like it two types of music are mixed, quite on purpose, without spending too much attention as to the overall sound.

I am not saying that applies to the whole album. There are tracks that work just fine, like Toys or Saga, but there are also tracks that seem to overblown, too much of everything. In a sense, this could very well have done with a less-is-more approach. On the other hand, bearing the 'orchestral' tag in mind, this was never meant to sound minimal in any way, of course.

As for the musical ideas within the two albums and the compository qualities Jason has, there is no doubt here is a man at work who knows more than just his chops. World music, jazz fusion, more straight out prog, metal injections here and there. Jason does a fine job at composing. For that, the album could very well receive a rate along the lines of an 8. But since I do also take into account the repeated listen sessions, I have to deduct a point or 2. It may very well be that the rather cinematographic approach can get and hold your attention on repeated listening, but I am afraid that will not be the case for everyone.

It does remain an impressive feat. But although combining orchestral sounds and song designs might be nice as a theory, I long for the steam to let loose and tear the two ideas asunder. Jason is playing this music with a full band and has the music arranged to actually be played live. I think that might be a whole different experience.
Conclusion:
Marcel Hartenberg: 6 out of 10