The Cellar and Point - Ambit
0852 (4:51), Arc (6:05), Tabletop (a) (4:26), Tabletop (b) (2:45), Ruminant (5:43), Purple Octagon (6:47), Fünf Canons i, op. 16 (4:15), Étude XV (3:23), White Cylinder (a) (4:11), White Cylinder (b) (5:26), Ambit (4:44)
Ambit is an album that you don't reach for when you want to ease back and enjoy some fine vintage Seventies progrock in the veins of Yes, Genesis or any other band firmly rooted in way back when. The almost trippy opening that mingles with vibrafone and then moves into jazzy territory along with banjo and violin, had me thinking that I embarked on a listening session to just a plain all jazz album and, in the words of German happy metal band Helloween, I thought "I Want Out". Yet, that is not the way the chores get done. So, it was back to the matter and album at hand and experience what was the point of being in this musical cellar... Or so it seemed at first.
It indeed did take me more than a listen and then some, to find out what is the kick in Ambit and to appreciate the compositions and the musicians at play. Joseph Branciforte and Christopher Botta had been friends for very long and wanted to combine their forces on music that had a very broad range of influences without ever being forced to be limited in what they wanted to put forward musically. What they sought after was music that was to be played live and not only brought to life in a studio environment.
That meant they had to compose songs that fitted their dream and to find players who, for that matter, could bring their music to life in a live environment. The band members who together with Christopher and Joseph make up The Cellar and Point are Joe Bergen on vibrafone, Christopher Otto on violin, Kevin McFarland on cello, Terrence McManus on electric guitar, Rufus Philpot on electric bass. Christopher Botta himself plays acoustic guitar and banjo. Joseph plays the drums.
Truly listening and opening up to the album brought me to a place where chamber music flows along with just as many folk influences as jazz as rock or funk even sometimes for that matter. On further listening I came to realize there was much bigger picture to what I first thought to be an all out jazz album. Though there are plenty of heavier parts included in the music, the album has a very cinematic feel to it which almost has you believing you are in Rivendell. There are moments that are very ambient, other parts are jazzy and rocky at the same time and still, the album ebbs and flows.
It has a very natural feel and yes, it does have a lot of vibrafone to it. It took me some time to listen beyond what seemed to be the dominance of that instrument. It seems strange that now it feels like it is just there to add to the experience instead of being the dominant force to be reckoned with. The band members have found a way to bring to life a richness in instruments in music that is all the more fitting. Parts reflecting of Jerry Goodman's work, then again more in the vein of an instrumental part by Kansas, then making you think of post-rock bands, this is their playing ground.
An eclectic instrumental album that took quite enough time in the making and, even though that might add to the idea of music being constructed rather than played with emotion in all its guises, it is just that playing full of emotion the band have managed to do. Whether that'd be in the guitar parts, the drum rhythms or the subtly added cello or violin, the album has a very natural feel to it. I needed some persuasion to get to the finer side of this album, but it does open up beautifully. Here once more it goes to show: let the music do the talking.
Happy Family - Minimal Gods
Slide (05:01), No Talent, No Smell (05:46), Rodrigo (05:15), Portal Site For Sightseeing (05:22), Doggy-Human Contest (07:15), Animal Spirit (05:30), Cat Riding on Roomba (03:41), Celestial Illegal Construction (05:18), Tibidabo (04:53), Feu de Joie (06:51)
I was not previously familiar with Happy Family before I acquired this album. The band consist of Kenichi Morimoto – keyboards, Takahiro Izutani – guitar, Keiichi Nagasse – drums and new bassist Hidemi Ichikawa. It's hardly surprising after so long a break that one member missed the memo to turn up for the recording of the new album. Although described as one of Japan's foremost RIO bands, and citing Magma and King Crimson as key influences, as well as minimalist compositional techniques, none of that is particularly evident to me on this recording.
Slide kicks the album off, laying out the battle plan for what lies ahead. A frenetic, odd-time rhythm blurted out by Nagasse's drums is propped up by Ichikawa's aggressive bass. Heavy guitar adds texture as does heavy Hammond organ. Regarding the reference to minimalism, it's there as in small, compact rhythmical ideas that are repeated and developed. The rhythmic cell that starts the song, remains throughout, but the result is fair from repetitive, as the band builds and develops their ideas relentlessly, producing fast-paced, action-packed music. The opener is one of the harder-edged tracks on the album.
Things continue with the contrapuntal funk of No Talent, No Smell. The music remains raw, and is played with great spirit and passion. What's clear on this album is whether the music is dark, or happy, it is always played with great joy and happiness. This is clearly four guys having immense fun playing music together. The drums are heavy, the bass is punchy. Izutani's guitar work typically employs a heavy, distorted guitar sound, whether he's riffing with the rhythm section, or indulging in a short solo. Morimoto covers well the usual suspect keyboard arsenal from electric pianos and organs through spacey Moogs and synthesizers. The keyboard work in particular has a very retro 70s sound to it.
The pace doesn't let up throughout the next few tracks, from the spectacularly heavy and jaggedly rhythmical Rodrigo, to the triumphant Portal Site for Sightseeing, and then on to the bizarrely named Doggy-Human Contest, which has an incredible intro riff, some Spastic Ink-esque rhythmical stabbings in the middle, which give way to a terrifying death-organ solo! There's barely time to draw breath before the aggressive 7/8 attack of Animal Spirit goes straight for the jugular. After a fierce rhythmical workout in the intro, the piece actually relaxes into a groovy, spacerock-like piece. The guitar riff that comes in at 1:29 is particularly satisfying. More chaos ensues before subsiding even further to give a beautiful passage which develops into a guitar solo in a kind of Mahavishnu Orchestra meets Santana meets Ozric Tentacles mash-up.
Most bands would feel obliged to put in a slow, more tranquil number in at some point in the album, but Happy Family clearly don't feel the need. The closest they get is Celestial Illegal Construction. This song begins with a disjointed electric piano motif that builds into an almost break-beat like form, reminiscent of Nerve. A guitar solo leads in to what almost sounds like Daft Punk, courtesy of some weird vocal-like synth sound. The keyboard work is consistently interesting, and the choice of sounds really enhances the music, and tips its hat to retro prog with due respect. The production of the album has a slightly rough feeling to it, which perfectly fits the raw, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants attitude purveyed by the band. The musicianship is great, with each player steeping up to the plate, adding flourishes where necessary, without hogging the limelight. If I had to niggle, I'd say that in some of the unison rhythmical parts, the playing is maybe not 100% tight, but it's pretty close.
The first time I listened to this album was actually on a plane journey back to the UK. The final track, Jeu de Voie arrived just as the plane descended through the clouds. The tracks slow pace, with brooding organs and electric pianos, which finally lead to an uplifting Theremin-like melody was, I must say, the most fitting piece I could have imagined to accompany a descent through the clouds. The tempo and aggression of the whole album before it are replaced by a calm, spacey relaxing piece. As if not able to help themselves though, the band suddenly takes us on a crazy Zappa-like detour, with a long unison lines, complete with marimba. A fierce guitar solo follows, before we go, via Zappa, back to the spacey journey through the clouds. And suddenly you've landed, gently, wondering if it was all a dream...
This is a fantastic album, and it's impossible not to feel the bands passion and sheer joy in playing this music. It's not the most technical or best-produced instrumental shred-fest you'll ever hear, but it is simply fantastic music. I urge you to check it out. I'm certainly keen to explore the band's back catalogue after hearing this album.
Matt George: 8 out of 10
KES - Kamlama
Hak (5:36), Kasik (5:23), 31 (4:47), Dört (5:36), Dilenci (4:34), Kamlama (4:30), Oda (2:15), Nevroz (4:26), V (4:55)
Kes definitely know what they're doing and take us on a journey through different atmospheres and it's varied enough so that a few listens won't feel repetitive.It's an album that is progressive and melodic enough for proggers but also will appeal to rockers and metalheads.
On the second track Kasik I think the technical aspect dominates to much and the song doesn't have such a nice flow but in my opinion all the other tracks have the right amount of musicality and don't sound too technical which could make you feel nervous.
My favourite track is Dört where all the musical talents of these guys are gathered with impressive drumming, great riffs and soloing on guitar and the bass humming throughout the whole track.
Nice to know that good music like this is made in Turkey and certainly worth checking out if you're a fan of above mentioned bands.
Peter Swanson: 8 out of 10
Moonwagon - The Rule of Three
The Infinite Pattern (7:27), Forgotten By Time (6:47), Fresh Avocados (2:21), Run to the Sun (3:43), Skylines at Night (7:58), The Journey Back Home (16:58)
The album's title may refer to this release being the Finnish band's third full length CD, or it may well reference the departure of keyboardist Ami Hassinen, whose duties are now taken over by guitarist Joni Tiala and bassist Janne Ylikorpi. These two remain more than ably supported by drummer Jani Korpi.
The album opens with a voice intoning "The end is just the beginning", then kicking in with a mash up of heavy prog, space rock and driving classic rock. The Infinite Pattern leads the album off in fine style. Its melody switching across the instrumentation used, sometimes guitar-led, then bass-led and keyboards-led but not in an obvious programmatic way. Then just when you think they are getting into a groove Moonwagon cleverly (proggily!) go off in directions you didn't quite expect but without disrupting the melodic flow.
This approach continues on the rest of this fine album, leading the listener down a fun filled rabbit hole. Be it in the woozy, walking bass melody and psychedelic soloing on Forgotten By Time or on the switch to mandolin and tabla on the acoustic Fresh Avocados.
Moonwagon then throw in a surprise in the shape of their first proper song with vocals in Run to the Sun. Sung by drummer Jani, it is a catchy pop-psyche acoustic ditty that sounds like a modern take on Love jamming with Jefferson Airplane. After this interlude it is back to the space rock with a greater emphasis on keyboards and groove on Skylines at Night.
They finish with the epic The Journey Back Home which grows and changes in harmonically engaging ways as it follows its own musical logic. The musicians here stretch and explore their instrumental territory to great effect, surprisingly ending in a Return to Forever style electric piano, jazz mode. This track is a triumph.
Moonwagon, with The Rule of Three, have released a well-produced, terrific sounding CD of driving, improvisational space rock that does not descend in any way into lazy jamming. Well worth investigating.
Martin Burns: 8.5 out of 10
La Nuova Creazione - Harleking Re dei Colori
Giostra dei Colori (3:06), Prologo in MIb (3:30), La Cena (2:21), Il Faccendiere (4:33), Le Figlie di Harleking (3:56), Da Bambina (4:41), Perché ridete? (3:06), Scaramouche (5:16), Il Convincimento (3:24), Tutto va bene (4:56), La Burla (4:20), Barbarà (3:58), De Nina (bonus) (4:41), Todo està bien (bonus) (4:56)
What we have here, brings together Italian pop music, jazz inclined sounds that head in Paolo Conte direction and sometimes parts that more or less have 'progressive' written all over them. We have Moongarden's David Cremoni, really shining on guitar throughout the album, who was also responsible for parts of the writing of the tracks. Albeit the album is not out and out progressive rock, it may be because of the variation on the whole of the album that makes the album appealing in every sense. If you are open to more than prog by numbers and if you wish to discover a concept album in the beautiful Italian language, then this might be just for you.
David Cremoni adds great and tasteful guitar parts to the album and the diversity between the voices makes the album even more fascinating. The band features 9 musicians and several singers and other guests. All in all I found it very refreshing that compositions that go back quite some time remain as vital as when they were written. Well, at least, I take it that the songs date from way back, yet they sound so fresh and crisp that they might as well have been written only recently. Anyway, one to go back to on a regular basis.
Parvaaz - Baran
Beparwah (5:43), Ab Ki Ye Subah (7:26), Gul Gulshan (7:05), Roz Roz (4:10), Baran (13:27), Ghaib (3:54), Fitnah (6:34), Ziyankar (8:40)
It does strike me though that there is still so much to be said about the particular atmosphere of the album and it's Khalid Ahamed's voice that carries a lot of the emotion in the album. His voice is clear, strong, sometimes a wee bit hoarse, or so it seems, yet because of the way effects on the voice are used, or rather, because how the vocal parts are produced, the voice plays a significant part in the overall sound. The band play music that is undoubtedly as influenced by the musical heritage of India as that it is by progressive and other rock varieties and blues as well. The band feature the aforementioned Khalid Ahamed, who sings and plays guitar together with Kashif Iqbal, then there is Fidel D'Souza on bass, and Sachin Bananduron on drums and percussion.
Baran, the title of the album, means "rain" and relates to the fact that rain is a source of life and also washes away anything not wanted. In eight songs we get a fusion of more classically oriented songs, like Fitnah shows. But in the greater part of the songs you can hear that the band is aware of modern day bands like Anathema and Porcupine Tree. The songs that band have written are never as heavy as both Anathema and Porcupine Tree, it is more the flow of several of the songs that is in the vein of those bands.
All in all, this is more than a nice introduction to Parvaaz, but to Indian prog rock as well. Khalid Ahamed has a very distinct voice and Kashif Iqbal puts more than just the right guitar accents to the music to refreshen the whole. The closing song of the album has him giving his all, maybe just as rain would do. Perhaps that is all what Baran is about. I for one have thoroughly enjoyed the album.
Richard Pinhas - Chronolyse [LP]
Sur Le Theme de Bene Gesserit I (2:23), Sur Le Theme de Bene Gesserit II (2:16), Sur Le Theme de Bene Gesserit III (1:38), Sur Le Theme de Bene Gesserit IV (1:45), Sur Le Theme de Bene Gesserit V (1:37), Sur Le Theme de Bene Gesserit VI (2:06), Sur Le Theme de Bene Gesserit VII (4:34), Duncan Idaho (6:13), Paul Atreides (30:23)
The first seven tracks are typical of the 1970s electronic genre, however, leaning much more towards the work of German pioneers Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze than Pinhas' popular and melody-driven compatriot Jean Michel Jarre. While the first 'suite' of music certainly fits into that Berlin school sound, it's the 30-minute epic, Paul Atriedes, that steals the show. Pinhas was as well known for his work with his band Heldon as much as he was as a solo artist, and his compatriots from the band join him on this lengthy piece that sounds more like experimental mid-1970s King Crimson or Fripp/Eno than it does the electronic school. It's partly because of the guitar work, but it's also more edgily experimental.
The first tracks, while interesting, are nothing spectacular within the genre. There are hints of Kraftwerk, although it's more repetitive and less commercial. And while Paul Atreides does have hints of other artists, and it's certainly not pioneering, it is a marvellously listenable and interesting piece of music that pushes Pinhas out of electronic music and into the prog realm, effortlessly straddling both genres.
As this originally came out on vinyl, and was subsequently re-released on CD, this is a 'full circle' production as it is on vinyl. There are no bonus tracks, so it's probably more aimed at collectors. It would, however, be a good addition to any fan of 1970s electronic music and prog (provided they have a turntable), and for those new to Pinhas' discography, it's as good a place to start as any.
Jim Cornall: 7 out of 10
RPWL - plays Pink Floyd
Arnold Layne (5:14), The Embryo (17:18), Green Is The Colour (3:24), Atom Heart Mother (11:33), Fat Old Sun (19:25), The Narrow Way Part 3 incl. Behold The Temple Of Light (8:40), Let There Be More Light (6:27)
This is not as I expected a collection of studio recordings but a compilation of live material recorded at various concerts between 2010 and 2015. The songs themselves date back to the late sixties/early seventies and unsurprisingly given RPWL's knowledge of all things Floyd there are some pretty obscure songs along with more familiar titles. Interestingly, RPWL take their inspiration not from the studio versions but Floyd's now legendary live performances circa 1967 to 1972 where the songs took on a whole different dimension outside the confines of the studio.
Arnold Layne remains mostly faithful to Floyd's 1967 debut single although Markus Jehle's superb organ solo gives Syd Barrett's psychedelic-pop classic (with guitar riffs borrowed from Pete Townsend) an added edge.
The Embryo never appeared on a Floyd studio album (perhaps because the structure and descending guitar riff is very similar to Interstellar Overdrive) although it has surfaced on the occasional compilation. A setlist staple between 1970 and 1971, this arrangement follows Floyd's familiar pattern of introductory main theme, a trippy semi-improvised mid-section before a brief but triumphant reprise of the main theme. A stunning ensemble performance makes it worth the price of this CD alone.
In contrast, the engaging Green Is The Colour is Waters' writing at its most sublime (effortlessly recreated here) and was originally included on Floyd's soundtrack for the 1969 film More.
This truncated interpretation of Atom Heart Mother is based on an early 1970 pre-recorded version minus the orchestra, choir and sound effects and shorn of these excesses proves to be (in the hands of RPWL at least) a majestic and supremely performed mini epic. In an album chock full of highlights and not one bad track, the guitar soloing here is perhaps for me the highlight.
For the uninitiated, Fat Old Sun appeared on Atom Heart Mother and is one of those mellow, spaced-out songs that Gilmour (convincingly evoked by vocalist Yogi Lang) indulged in every now and then. This marathon version alternates tasteful organ and a guitar exchanges with dramatic peaks taking its cue from Floyd's live version circa 1970.
The Narrow Way Part 3 is lifted from the 1969 album Ummagumma although the inclusion of an extended Behold The Temple Of Light expands on Gilmour's tranquil musings with a scorching guitar coda courtesy of Kalle Wallner.
The "bonus" track Let There Be More Light has already appeared on RPWL's 2007 limited edition CD 9 but will be more familiar as the opening track on Floyd's second album A Saucerful of Secrets (1968). Driven by Werner Taus' thumping bass line and Marc Turiaux's busy drumming this is a suitably powerful slice of psychedelic rock to close the album.
It's to their credit that RPWL have avoided obvious crowd pleasers like Shine On You Crazy Diamond and Comfortably Numb which I'm sure they could recreate with consummate ease. Instead they capture the sound and spirit of Floyd in their psychedelic, proto-prog prime with a meticulous attention to detail. The fact that they sound so impressively tight throughout whilst maintaining a feeling of spontaneity is a testimony to their skills. Add to that the excellent sound quality of the live recordings and you have a release unreservedly recommended to fans of vintage Floyd and classic space rock.
Geoff Feakes: 8.5 out of 10
Schnellertollermeier - X
X (20:24), Backyard Lipstick (2:03), Riot (3:26), Sing for Me (3:31), Massacre Du Printemps (8:32), ///\\\/// (5:28)
What they have managed to create is a musical universe that is only limited to whatever they allow themselves to be limited by. This three-piece band don't make use of any keyboards and keep to the original setting of a power trio. You get bass, drums and guitar. The realm they take you to may not be as inviting as Rivendell to the Fellowship might have appeared, yet the reward is in the discovery of music you probably have never heard before in your life. Even though their music takes from influences as diverse as industrial, math metal, (free) jazz, ambient music, psychedelica, the most of what you can make of it, is that they have managed to sound every bit as coherent as possible.
It is their music that sets them apart. No matter how diverse the influences maybe, you don't find yourself thinking for any minute long that you just heard something similar to Pink Floyd, King Crimson, De Staat, Nine Inch Nails or whatsoever. Their music is all about movement, spreading energy and challenging those who join them on their journey and listen. I must admit that my first few spins of this album stopped me in my tracks and had me stop the cd player. How was I ever going to listen to the album as a whole as the opening title track already had me getting pretty nervous in just a couple of seconds? Hold your horses, I said to myself, just get down to the sound and try and absorb what you hear. Listen without prejudice.
Although that still proved to be quite the challenge, these three young Swiss musicians have made an album that is as fine as any Swiss clockwork. Perhaps it is the perfect definition of what this music may hold: it all fits together like a machine, never mind the details at work, just experience the music as a whole. There are moments in X that the drone takes over, but if you wait and listen, you will find that drum and bass lead the band into another direction. What was quite the magic experience, was that it just as easily had me reliving experiences of listening to very young Pink Floyd and early Deep Purple in live settings. Particularly Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord could push the longer Deep Purple tracks in different directions, varying from night to night. That is what seemingly happens in the opening track as well. The interplay between David Meier, Andi Schnellmann and Manuel Troller is just great in this track. The way this song develops and takes you on a journey, certainly does give the album very much a live feel.
There is much more than the opening track on this album, yet it is the opening track that says a lot about what these fine young men are capable of. The video link takes you to a live performance of just that track. Will you dare and take the journey? Let yourself be amazed just by how this trio plays this track. Very, very skilfull!
You get five more tracks on this album. They are not as long as the opening track and, although they are still all experimental, don't meander as much as X does. Utterly compelling, this album proved to be. It certainly goes to show that you shouldn't judge an album solely on a first impression. If you do like to be challenged in a musical way and if your musical compass takes you about everywhere, then give these guys a listen. Schnellertollermeier's third album might just be right for you.
Marcel Hartenberg: 9 out of 10
Spiral - Joy's Egg
Joy's Egg, Pt. 1 (12:38), D M T Romance (3:16), Fly (6:27), Rumspringa (9:40), Bonedance (13:39), Melody Squared, Pt. 1 (15:56)
There are some good moments here, but they are just that. To quote a famous Pink Floyd song, there are "fleeting glimpses" of excellence, but that said, they are all a bit too infrequent, and they mostly relate to some of the instrumental passages that do evoke Pink Floyd at times.
But it's the odd vocals that seem to jar the most. At times they are passable, at others, such as on D M T Romance, the shouting and screaming are close to cringingly unlistenable.
Fly, which follows, is decent enough, and again has a bit of a Floyd influence, although the vocals certainly drive it in a different direction. And, rather than flying, it's a bit pedestrian, in spite of the fact that the chorus is a bit uplifting and anthemic. The latter section of the piece definitely redeems it, with some fine guitar work and a better tempo with plenty of invention in the playing. Until Rumspringa. Again, the vocals ruin the song, as it plods aimlessly along in spite of a decent enough guitar solo in the middle.
Bonedance starts promisingly, and has a nice, heavy middle section with a great yet strange riff, but half way through, the momentum is lost and doesn't recover, in spite of a decent ending. The closer, Melody Squared, Pt. 1, also suffers vocally.
Much of the cover artwork includes art revolving around eggs, both modern and classical. There's also a line on the back saying "All Songs Written", which is either meant to be amusing, or they forgot that the rest of the sentence would be concealed by the barcode.
There's obviously a great deal of care gone into this album, and it's admirable that, rather than go for music that is more acceptable in the US southwest, they've chosen prog. It's just that, unfortunately, it's all a bit bland, and the truly good moments are overshadowed by the vocals that you fear lurk around every corner. Unfortunately, they tend to. However, it's not all doom and gloom, there's occasional potential, especially in some of the longer instrumental passages when Spiral dare to be adventurous, different, and up the pace a little. The only caution for any potential future progress would be just how prolific the band is, and how much change and growth there is left.
Jim Cornall: 4 out of 10