2KX - Sussuration
Song for a Name 2KX (0:58), Sussuration (11:41), Lemniscate (13:09), Sussuration (radio edit) (4:20)
Opening with a curious but amusing track Song for a Name, 2KX leads into the first of two epic lengthy tracks which has a very Yes-like sound to it full of harmonies and the unusual addition of cello from regular 2KX cohort Maike Alvarez, which adds an otherworldiness to the whole. This is accompanied by the always nift NS Stick (Chapman stick bass) by Don Schiff and the nimble guitar played by Steve Adams. Along with lots of sound textures and throughout its eleven minutes, a lot is happening. We have passages of quiet alongside more furious parts. What is rather unusual is that it features a lot of ethnic percussion type sounds which certainly makes for a different listen. The first part of the songs is very vocally driven with marvellous clear singing from John Baker and the latter parts heads off in this unusual almost ambient classical prog direction.
Lemniscate follows and again there are lots of ambient natural sounds being employed in the mix here, but when Lisa's majestic keyboards enter the fray we are on more traditional prog territory. The track is entirely instrumental and it will take several listens to grasp what is truly going on here, but stick with it as it really is rather enjoyable and diverse and above all very interesting to hear. This one features more mixed passages with an especially poignant and emotive end section that is very downhomey but somehow is just wonderful to hear. This really is an epic piece and shows the versitality that this band can muster and their wonderful and imaginative manner of crafting a song through its various sections.
This is definately a road less travelled and it is somewhat left of centre but within its complexities is some fine music and some great playing, especially from Don Schiff at times heading out towards fusion too. So if you like the music of Rocket Scientists or the previous 2KX album then this will be right up your alley.
The final track is a radio edit of the ballad (vocal) part of the Sussaration track and also makes for a fine listen as it shows the strength of the song: it works both in its long format and in the radio edit as well.
I have to say i really enjoyed this one a lot as it is different and it isn't afraid to try and go somewhere else in its approach. So how about a whole album of this sort of stuff then, folks? I would definitly be interested in hearing that for sure. This indeed is one to savour time and time again. Recommended.
John Wenlock-Smith: 6 out of 10
Closure - The Memory of a Madman
November 13th 1956 (2:54), D.D.I (4:37), Protected by Trees (5:04), Kraken (4:44), No One Will Forget (8:53), Murmur (4:56), L.I.E.S. (6:09), Dreams (2:33), About your Idea (8:06), Like a Butterfly (1:07), The Memory of a Madman (8:18)
The album is a concept piece centred round the main protagonist Mark Mullighan, a fictional psychiatric patient who has been an inmate at a mental institution, Saint-Cuthberto, for many years. As a concept album it does seem strange to start the whole piece off with two instrumental tracks that, I guess, attempt to set the scene. However, these two songs are very good instrumentals and you would be forgiven thinking that the first track, presumably mister Mullighan's date of birth, is something that didn't quite make it on to Steven Wilson's Hand. Cannot. Erase. album.
The vocals throughout are competent and strongly delivered, especially in No One Will Forget . However, some of the spoken words, as in Kraken, are unfortunately embarrassingly corny to say the least and didn't quite work for me.
The album contains its heavier moments as in the opening guitar riff in L.I.E.S. which soon dissipates into a mellower groove with some fine drumming and bass work to complement the singing. The track About Your Idea has a funky opening bass groove before the heavy guitar riffs enter. This track has many colours and moods and is a fine piece of music writing by the band with solid musicianship throughout.
There are a couple of nice, short ballad type songs: Murmur with its fine acoustic guitar and piano work and Like a Butterfly with a simple but effective acoustic guitar accompaniment.
The best track that defines the sound and creativity of Closure is the title track The Memory of a Madman, that includes some lovely female vocals. It also has some great piano work that is supported by an underlying atmospheric, almost Pink Floyd, texture that soon gives way to a solid guitar solo. One of the highlight tracks on the album.
Not a bad album at all. Closure are kind of a prog cross-over group where they flitter between out-and-out prog and more mainstream ballad shaped songs. I enjoyed listening to this album and although very pleasant, overall it lacked something that gave it that knock-out punch. A very good effort indeed and I rate this a respectable 7 out of 10 on the old DPRP-ometer.
Alan Weston: 7 out of 10
Hidden Lands - Lycksalighetens Ö
Corsican Daydream (12:50), Dakkar (10:39), In the Wind (4:41), Over Again (5:35), Pi (3:14), Hidden Lands (19:10)
During the first couple of spins the music didn't do much to me. It all sounded a bit dull, a bit too mellow, yet quite pleasant. Edling's voice is not very expressive, reminding me of Chris Rainbow on Camel's Stationary Traveller album. Yet that voice suits the pieces well. The vocal melodies are not very intricate or challenging, but they start to grow on you. The same is in fact true for the songs as a whole so it was a mistake to think the album would leave me cold. Suddenly I realised I started to like the melodies, recognising the intricacy of the music as well as its repetitiveness. And then the album came to live.
Most of the instrumental parts on the album, especially in the longer songs, are pulsating and repetitive, with hints of jazzrock (the intro of Corsican daydream) while also some Refugee and Tears for Fears can be heard. The band succeeds well in keeping things attractive in the longer pieces. Corsican daydream has a strong keys theme that continues throughout the song, while in Dakkar the theme manages to bring alive the atmosphere of a quiet night in the Saharan desert. Here the theme is played on the piano over which the keys play a mellow, dreamy melody. After more than 4 minutes the vocals come in after which a slow guitar solo (!) follows, again accompanied by the pulsating piano.
The three shorter tracks are more or less pop-like songs, with the band playing in a higher tempo with driving piano and bass, reminding me of nice 80-ties hits like Nik Kershaw's The riddle or Alphaville's Forever young. So expect to hear clever, catchy melodies, far from being proggy (if even) but sticking to your mind because they're simply melodious.
The last epic track, Hidden lands clocking at more than 19 minutes, has a very promising intro; it's a direct rip-off of Genesis' Silent Sorrow in Empty Boats. The song develops into a totally different direction with a slow tempo, loads of keys and a nice and mellow meandering vocal melody. In spite of its long duration the song doesn't fulfill its promise fully. Actually there is not much happening in the song, it meanders nicely, never gets really exciting, is quite repetitive and therefore a bit dull. On the other hand, such a long piece of music that stays relaxed, fluid and mellow for its almost 20 minutes can at times be very attractive. I may not get back to it too often, the ongoing playing of keys, bass and dreams do appeal.
Lycksalighetens Ö comes in a nice digipack with an antique photo of a nineteenth century Garden-of-Eden-like spot on the cover, complete with worn colours; it will have been some place in Sweden. The rest of the booklet is simple designed but well done.
If you look for something innovative, completely new, strange, or experimental, you'd better skip this one. If you like clever melodies, are not stuck to guitar driven songs and need some relaxation once in a while, then check this one out. It may be the surprise album you were looking for.
Theo Verstrael: 7 out of 10
Nick Karch - Retrieve the Keys
Parallel Path (5:27), Sidewalk Blocks (4:47), Figures (4:31), Approve the Pretender (4:23), Wasted Summer (5:02), Landing Light (4:56), Forest Meadow (5:02), Animation Cel (4:34), Left to Right (5:22), On the Lookout (4:26), Retrieve the Keys (5:10)
There are no tricky time signatures or jazzy interludes here. The songs use familiar pop structures but with prog-informed instrumental colour. The prog elements come over most strongly in the final three songs, making use of trumpet, synth solos, organ, rolling base lines and acoustic textures allied, in some cases, to full-on, ear-worm melodies. There is some nice use of electronic textures, especially in the atmospheric ballad, Forest Meadow.
The prog inventiveness is dialed-down for some of the tracks, where the pop and pop-rock elements come to the fore. So you get the jangly, harmonic guitars of Parallel Path coming over like U2 covering a Rush b-side, or the straight ahead pop-rock of Wasted Summer.
If the invention displayed on the instrumental track On the Lookout, was applied to some of the other songs, it would have pushed this collection of hummable tunes much closer to a 'recommended' rating.
All-in-all this is a solid, if unspectacular, album that needs just a bit more prog spark.
Martin Burns: 6 out of 10
Corky Laing and the Perfect Child - Playing God
God's March (1:26), Luke's Blues (2:20), Terrace Of The Gods (3:57), Perfect Boy (2:34), Tony's Return (0:54), College Girls (2:33), Silent Dream (1:47), My Brother's Gonna Die (1:20), Open Up Your Imagination (2:40), Here Is Our Blood (2:36), Jupiter (3:13), Tim's Requiem (1:30), Not Good Enough (2:56), Father's Lament (4:11), Crying Shame (2:15), Journey (3:49), Sisterhood (1:15), Vital Stream (2:24), Revelations I (0:55), Meltdown (3:45), Revelations II (0:58), Eyes In The Mirror (3:03), Revelations III (0:36), Mr C's Demise (4:26), In This World (4:41)
For this solo album he named the project Corky Laing And The Perfect Child and an even more pretentious album title, Playing God. With a philosophical concept approach, this album becomes a tough nut to crack. The fact that it contains 25 songs does not make it more accessible either.
Playing God is sort of a rock opera, a soundtrack for an imaginary town. The album information states that it offers "seventies style music and contemporary moral problems of gene technology". In the team of musicians, we have two acclaimed philosophers, Prof. Matti Häyry (guitars, guitalele, keyboards and vocals) and Dr. Tuija Takala (guitar and vocals). Each of the vocalists represents a character in the story and Corky Laing is singing for the first time on this album.
For the style of the music and the verdict on the quality, that is another tough nut to crack. The style on this album varies from each of the 25 songs. It changes from country to heavy rock or metal, and from punk to pop and everything in between.
The concept of Playing God_ did not work for me. Just like the music, it is a lot of elements coming at you, and it was not digestible for me. It is hard to give this album a final verdict. It is good music and there is a lot going on, but I doubt I will turn back to this album in the future, as the changes in style are too broad to my taste. With 25 songs, I feel that there is just too much different stuff for one album.
Edwin Roosjen: 6.5 out of 10
Pingvinorkestern - Push
Madam Else's Genuine Flea Circus (3:33), Who Are You? (4:08), As Hard As They Come (5:22), You Got A Light, Mac? (3:19), In Too Deep (6:10), Alfred The Clown And His Highly Trained Poodles (3:45), Mood Swings (5:18), No, But I've Got A Dark Brown Overcoat! (2:08), A Postcard From Copenhagen (3:27), The First Light (5:32), Creepy! (1:44), Me & The Wave (7:18)
In the 21st century, it is Pingvinorkestern who are keeping this distinctive style going, and with their debut album, Push, you can reassuringly find it all here in spades.
As is so often the way, it's the Swedes again who are reinventing the sounds that made prog so unique, giving them a new twist, and amalgamating them with a maturity and ambition that is admirable.
Push is Pingvinorkestern's new take on familiar flavours, a blend of quirky ideas, which takes guts to try and a great deal of skill to make it all work. It's clear from the first listen that the band succeeds in pulling it off.
It's likely that a record which is this clever will go largely unnoticed, so sit up and take note, read on, and then go and find out. This is good!
Opening with an eccentric, bugged-out theme, Madam Else's Genuine Flea Circus is an enjoyable example of how left-field this band can be. It is music that makes you think, and in doing so it conjures up the smells and sounds of an aging fairground that has attractions that are faded and ageing, forgotten in time.
Further into the album we meet the Cossack-inspired sibling to this opener, in the form of Alfred the Clown and His Highly Trained Poodles. A rambunctious curiosity of a track that is highly enjoyable and energetic via the whoops and yells that come from the band.
In amongst these eccentric-titled instrumentals there are a variety of other delights to be had. Who Are You? showcases the exceptional vocal talent of Suz Johansson, whose silky sounding, sixties voice is at times both sultry and dramatic. Hints of Grace Slick can be heard in her commanding delivery on a number of tracks, particularly the minimal In Too Deep.
Adding mystery and a haunting atmosphere that evokes the echoing reverb from Portishead, In Too Deep is perhaps the showstopper on this album which succeeds in raising the album's profile to 'exceptional'. Her soulful and seductive sound on Mood Swings is also something of a delight. Full of passion and fire, it is clear that her presence gives this band an edge that demands greater recognition.
It would be remiss to not mention the many talented musicians that provide us with a polished and highly skillful collection of songs on this release. On A Postcard from Copenhagen, the acoustic duet between guitarists' Micke Wall and Mats Fredriksson is sublimely accompanied by Johansson, with a heart-warming, folky violin that adds an upbeat tranquility to the proceedings. It has you reaching for the repeat button the moment it has finished.
Push is one of those albums with both the ability to hook you in from the first play and enough depth and quality to keep you there time and time again. The world needs this kind of band, to remind us that modern progressive music is not all about guitars and kick-ass riffs. Step into the world of Pingvinorkestern and be captivated by its diversity and skill. You will not be disappointed.
Eric Perry: 9 out of 10
Tiger Moth Tales - Cocoon
Overture (4:32), Spring (0:35), The Isle of Witches (11:04), Summer (0:30), Tigers In The Butter (14:55), The First Lament (7:41), Autumn (0:31), The Merry Vicar (6:41), A Visit to Chigwick (8:50), Winter (0:45), Don't Let Go, Feels Alright (13:32)
Such has been the extraordinary story of Peter Jones' most recent musical adventures. Recording his own music since the late 90s, what makes his achievements all the more remarkable is that Peter lost his sight when he was a baby.
Steve Hackett and indeed, all things Genesis, feature large in Mr Jones' musical box, the name of the project coming from one of Maestro Hackett's early oeuvres.
It's an album which seems to have come very much out of nowhere and then instantly caught everyone's imagination. This is due to the all-pervading air of nostalgia based on the childhood memories of Mr Jones and his own personal take on 70s Genesis, as his music is steeped in the glorious motifs of those halcyon days.
There may be some listeners who might think it veers too closely to the originals and others who might view it as a pastiche. However, what comes over loud and clear is Jones' sincerity and painstaking detail to his music. This makes it a very engrossing and enjoyable experience throughout, from the huge King Crimson and Transatlantic-like overtones of the opening Overture, with everything from drum programming to the kitchen sink thrown in, to the faithfully realised Genesis-like Don't Let Go, Feels Alright with its musical box intro as the closer.
Not only do we get several hues of the prog spectrum, there are also the four seasons and a wonderful trip down Memory Lane to children's television before the advent of Teletubbies and Peppa Pig.
It was a gentler age back then, and even the short breaks depicting Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter offer little soundscapes with, in chronological seasonal order, lambs and bees, seagulls and ice cream vans, a chilly wind and a kettle firing up, then sleigh bells and Silent Night.
In between these snippets is a veritable English garden of prog glories, The Isle of Witches harking back to BBC children's series Jackanory. It's a spoken story about a mythical dust-up between witches and wizards, featuring lots of spooky instrumentation including a saxophone, some Arabic motifs and a huge synth ending.
Tigers in the Butter is a bit of a tour de force: an Indian sitar and tiger roars among the more unusual effects, along with a Hackettesque guitar and vocal harmonies, plus a dash of Mike And The Mechanics.
The First Lament is beautifully structured with soulful recorder and a gorgeous ringing guitar as its unique selling points.
Then we are into Please Don't Touch territory (Hackett's second solo album) as the jaunty The Merry Vicar whimsically tells the tale of the ecclesiastical equivalent to The Laughing Policeman in between some solid guitar riffing and fanciful synths.
However, A Visit to Chigwick and its accompanying video takes us back to our innocence, referencing the lion's share of the characters populating 60s children's TV series favourites, Camberwick Green, Chigley and Trumpton. The sounds of the band, a steam train and windmill can be heard along with some beautiful wistful lyrics which Mr Jones sings with a voice somewhere between Peter Gabriel and John Mitchell.
I was initially sceptical about all the praise which was heaped on this album but the magical world of Tiger Moth Tales is one which draws you in after repeated plays and sends you spinning back into a delightfully quirky and pastoral past.
With its beautiful lily pond themed album artwork and Jones' narrative as to how this album came about, there's every chance that Cocoon will be a recurring item in most people's 2015 Top Ten.
Alison Henderson: 8 out of 10