ISSUE 2015-552

Reviews in this issue:

Chance:Risiko - Sleep Talking
Chance:Risiko - Sleep Talking
Country of Origin: Italy
Year of Release: 2009
Time: 40:14
Links:
Track List:
Sleep Talking (3:12), Beating A Dead Horse (4:05), Monday Morning Motivation (3:07), Dead End (3:57), Oompa Loompa (5:17), What's Wrong with Salamanders? (5:28), 30/03/07 (1:55), Active Life (3:22), My Plastic Jaw (2:51), Radiations (3:09), Aus Tokio (3:53)
An album from the year 2009 that hasn't been reviewed yet by DPRP. Judging by the year of release, you could think that this album isn't very good otherwise it would not have slipped under our prog radar. Well I imagine it somehow skipped our attention and was found in a hidden drawer as the album is good enough to deserve some lines on DPRP's review pages. Maybe not everyone's cup of tea as these guys from Bologna, Italy, play music that can be described as avant-garde pop or experimental rock.

Slight comparisons can be made with fellow-Italians Nosound (but less proggy!) and Radiohead. The influence of the latter band is noticeable, particularly in the use of electronics and in the lead vocals of Paolo D'Alonzo. It all sounds a bit tame, and don't expect any real splurges on guitar or keyboard. I guess the guys possess a weird sense of humour too, looking at the titles from their track list. The songs are all quite short. Only in the middle of the album do we find two songs, Oompa Loompa and What's Wrong With Salamanders, which have a playing time over five minutes.

Oompa Loompa is an instrumental track, and I guess it has something to do with the characters from Roald Dahl's book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This however isn't mentioned in the credits. A serene melody begins What's Wrong with Salamanders before the atmosphere builds up, and bursts of trumpet interrupt jarring guitar chords. In My Plastic Jaw the ambient keyboard sounds are quite nice and it's the only song without guitar.

If you like your music full of dreaminess, with the odd bit of disharmony, you will surely enjoy listening to Sleep Talking . If not, check out the other reviews on DPRP!
Conclusion:
Peter Swanson: 6 out of 10

Circuline - Return
Circuline - Return
Country of Origin: USA
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 40:11
Links:
Track List:
Return (5:05), Nebulae (3:17), Stereotype (5:05), Soleil Noir (2:51), One Wish (7:26), Imperfect (3:22), Fallout Shelter (5:42), Silence Revealed (7:27)
Circuline is a new band from the USA who describe themselves as 'modern progressive rock'. The lead vocals are shared between a male and a female, as well as some guest musicians, according to the press sheet. The band members used to play in all kinds of other (cover) bands, and they decided that it was time to create their own material.

I don't quite get the 'modern' tag, because it all screams 80s and early 90s prog rock to me. The chorused guitars and the bright, tacky keyboards evoke a sense of nostalgia, reminding me of the music that was made around that time.

Lead single One Wish largely succeeds in that department. Starting off with serene passages and delicate harmony vocals, it ends up with some semi-heavy riffing in the outro. In all areas, especially when it comes to song writing, it's the most professional-sounding track of the album.

As far as instrumental chops go, the musicians are pretty skilled, with some nice guitar and keyboard solos throughout. I do miss some finesse. The timing isn't entirely solid now and then, but it's decent enough. The vocals also have a few timing problems, aside from pitch issues, of which there is an example as soon as the vocals enter on the album opener Return. In the production they've attempted to fix a few of these pitch problems, using the auto-tune plugin. I have nothing against that tool when it's tastefully done, but the female vocals on One Wish and Silence Revealed sound too processed to retain the natural nuances of a human vocal performance. I will not go as far as to say the vocalists aren't any good, as there's proof here and there that they can definitely sing. Maybe the band should've been more critical about some of the vocal takes?

Even though the band offer progressive rock of some merit on this album, it has unfortunately left this reviewer cold. I can see through the non-consistent production values, but the songs themselves ultimately lack originality. Also, no less than half of the album consists of instrumental tracks, seemingly without any meaningful connection to the remaining four tracks that do have vocals. This is typical for the entire album: it's a bit all-over-the-place.

If the band manages to bring more focus in the compositions, and keep being critical of themselves, I'm sure their next album will be a step above this. Bands can always grow. Circuline must already have learnt a lot from creating this album.

Check out the video for One Wish to see if you might like this album more than I do.
Conclusion:
Karel Witte: 4 out of 10

Corvus Stone - II
Corvus Stone - II
Country of Origin: Various
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 79:06
Links:
Track List:
The Simple Life (1:59), Early Morning Call (3:51), Boots for Hire (8:58), Sneaky Entrance in to Lisa (0:30), Purple Stone (3:21), A Stoned Crow Meets the Rusty Wolff Rat (7:37), Lisa Has a Cigar (0:46), Mr Cha Cha (4:49), Dark Tower (1:48), Scandinavians in Mexico (5:06), Mystery Man (6:37), Camelus Bactrianus (8:42), Uncle Schunkle (4:37), Eternal Universe (3:52), Moaning Lisa (14:07), Campfire (2:17)
Corvus Stone is a true transatlantic band consisting of core members, Colin Tench (guitars), Petri Lemmy Lindstrom (bass), Pasi Koivu (keyboards) and Robert Wolff (drums). They connected via social media and released their debut album in 2012. The album received many positive reviews and paved the way to this, their second album, simply titled, II.

The most noticeable difference here is the inclusion of guest vocalists. Their debut was mostly instrumental, and though the album had an almost demo-like quality, the lack of production values was aided by the musical performances and the wide range of styles attempted. Their sophomore release bears some resemblance to their first, but misses the mark in a few areas. The most noticeable issue is with the vocals, which is a surprise because the band has acquired the services of many fine singers. The vocalists assembled are Sean Filkins, Blake Carpenter, Phil Naro, German Vergara and Andres Guazzelli. All are talented, but the band just seems to be better suited to writing and performing instrumentals. There is something off about the vocal tracks included on the album. It could be partly a production value or a songwriting issue, but the vocals just don't enhance the band's style effectively. I should emphasise that it is not the performances of the singers that is the problem. Many of the vocal-led tracks just don't click.

There are still things to enjoy about II. Tench displays a Mike Oldfield-like style to his playing that is very entertaining. The previously mentioned range of musical territories covered is commendable and often makes it difficult to provide comparisons to other artists. Suffice to say that there are some standard progressive rock elements to be found here, but there are also nods to Deep Purple style rock, 60s harmonies, folk, blues, country and jazz amongst others. They are a kind of musical stew of ideas and any fan of prog has to admire their drive to keep things interesting in that way.

They are no doubt ambitious, and this quote from their website kind of says it all: "We don't try to sound like anyone. We don't try to NOT sound like anyone. We don't try to be different. We don't try to fit any mould and we will never do what reviewers suggest we do. We enjoy and put a lot of thought into every second of everything we do."

Overall though, the attempt to move towards more structured, vocal compositions has not improved the band. Some of the fun of their debut is lost and replaced by a number of tracks that just don't work particularly well. Corvus Stone takes pride in not repeating themselves, so it should be fun to hear what the band comes up with next. Whatever it is, more focus on their strengths would be a positive. That said, and per the quote above, they are not listening to mine or any other critic's suggestions anyway!

II has its moments and it is admirable that the band wants to remain unpredictable. Though I would say that the changes aren't 100% successful this time around, I will always take what they do over status quo.
Conclusion:
Patrick McAfee: 5.5 out of 10

Deckchair Poets - Searchin' for a Lemon Squeezer
Deckchair Poets - Searchin' for a Lemon Squeezer
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 47:00
Links:
Track List:
Deckchair Poem (1:36), Jennifer Brown (0:24), Bad is Bad (3:14), My Heartbreaker (3:42), We're All Chasing Peter Pan (3:01), God Loves an Idiot (3:57), People (0:29), Educating Rita (3:39), Everybody Wants to Live in America (4:40), Marmite (0:16), Quick Joey Small (2:49), The Bus Goes On (1:37, Jerk (4:34), We Like Tarts (3:01), I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down (3:56), Silicon Boobs (1:21), Just Life (5:13)
Seachin' for a Lemon Squeezer is the second album from Deckchair Poets. In some ways, it could be argued that this is their fourth album, as essentially the same group of musicians also records under the moniker of Jerusalem. The main difference being that one band is used for fun, sometimes silly songs, while the other is used for more serious compositions. You can probably guess from the title of this album, which description the Deckchair Poets falls under. Their first album, Who Needs Pajamas was released in 2013. I found it to be a fun, somewhat befuddling rock album that included performances by prog luminaries Geoff Downes and Nick D'Virgilio. It was entertaining, but it didn't resonate with me in a significant way. This new album is better, and although it is different in style to their debut, there are many similarities. Suffice to say, regardless of some of the personnel involved, this is not a progressive rock album. Produced and engineered by Rob Aubrey, Seachin for a Lemon Squeezer is a pop/rock album and a pretty decent one at that.

Led by Lynden Williams (lead vocals) and Ollie Hannifan (guitars), the band also consists of the previously mentioned Downes (keyboards) and D'Virgilio on drums, as well as Ashley Culler (bass guitar), Rachel Hawnt (vocals), Ray Drury (keyboards) and Will Wilde on harp. Think 10CC and you will get a fairly good idea of what to expect from this album. There are a number of outright silly tracks with titles like Marmite , We Like Tarts and Silicon Boobs mixed in with some impressive pop rock numbers. The nonsensical songs occasionally give this the feel of a parody album. That is somewhat unfortunate because when the band plays things a bit more serious, the results are often strong. My Heartbreaker, God Loves an Idiot, Educating Rita, Quick Joey Small and particularly the album closer, Just Life are all legitimately good songs. The positive news is that the blatantly comedic tracks are often short and are generally used as fillers between the longer, more straightforward songs. These short ditties are sometimes amusing, but they don't hold up as well to repeated listens.

The liner notes from Lynden Williams state that this album is 'riddled with seaside rock' and that is a very good description. This is without a doubt, a fun summer album full of enjoyable melodies and optimistic and humorous lyrics. There is really nothing prog about Searching for a Lemon Squeezer. That said, if you are looking for entertaining pop music that includes performances by prominent prog musicians, then this is definitely the album for you.
Conclusion:
Patrick McAfee: 6 out of 10

Drifting Sun - Trip the Life Fantastic
Drifting Sun - Trip the Life Fantastic
Country of Origin: Various
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 53:03
Links:
Track List:
Trip the Life Fantastic (6:22), Peach Blossoms (2:00), The Wizard (6:34), Sunsets (2:42), Lady Night (7:53), Ode to Nevermind (2:15), Five Ever (8:33), XXX Forever (2:32), Tormented (4:37), Last Supper (9:35)
Drifting Sun is a band that started in the early nineties and then took a break from the late nineties up until 2015. Pat Sanders (keyboard) and Manu Sibona (bass) started Drifting Sun. The rest of the membership is currently changing, and after the break, only Pat Sanders is left from the original band. Trip the Life Fantastic is their third album after their debut album Drifting Sun from 1996 and 1998's On the Rebound.

When reading the title of the second album, On The Rebound, I immediately heard Fish's voice on the song Cinderella Search, old-stuff Marillion. The order of the songs, short pieces (some instrumental) between the longer songs, reminds me of the Arena album Pride, and with comparisons to those two influential bands, you can classify the style of Drifting Sun very well. I could also feel a resemblance with Dutch band For Absent Friends.

The opener Trip the Life Fantastic starts with nice piano. Instead of dazzling synths, Drifting Sun chooses more of the clear piano sound, very much present in the small intermezzo songs. During the intermezzos the guitar is also more of a classical guitar instead of electric heavy stuff. This is the main difference between the above mentioned influential bands and Drifting Sun.

On The Wizard, Last Supper, and (especially) Five Ever the reference to the old neo prog becomes more clear, with more electric keyboard stuff and some more heavy guitar. On Trip the Life Fantastic the heavy and mellow music is nicely balanced.

Drifting Sun has made a nice comeback album here. The break was very long and as only one member remains, after such a long time this album can almost be called a debut for a new Drifting Sun. This is appealing music with a good production that will sit very fine in a neo-prog collection.
Conclusion:
Edwin Roosjen: 7 out of 10

Mike Florio - Reconcile
Mike Florio - Reconcile
Country of Origin: USA
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 49:59
Links:
Track List:
Seeds of the Earth (6:49), Reconcile (7:41), Letter from Babylon (4:40), The Wise Man (4:49), I Promise (5:34), Only One Way (5:23), How Will You Know? (7:39), Seeds of the Earth II (6:21)
Mike Florio is a New York based musician, singer and songwriter, and Reconcile is his second proper progressive rock album. He also released an album of demos and experimental tracks two years ago. Hearing an album like this, instantly makes me wonder how much of a dent a musician like Florio would have made in the late 70s and 80s rock music scene. The music on this CD is securely fashioned after the progressive rock of those eras. Think Kansas during those years and you will get a pretty good idea of what to expect from this album. That isn't a criticism, as there is something wonderfully nostalgic about Reconcile. It is definitely progressive, but there is also an AOR edge to pretty much every track. I have a bit of a soft spot for this kind of prog, but it has to be done well, to not inspire a pretty quick pass from me. Not the case here. This is a well produced album full of excellent musicianship and strong melodies.

All the way down to Mike's vocals, the Kansas influence is inescapable. So much so, that it takes away from any real points that could be given for originality. There is also a touch of 80s era Genesis and YES thrown in for good measure. All of this might provide reason to be suspect about the finished product, if the songwriting wasn't as strong as it is. There is a definite quality to the compositions on Reconcile that moves it substantially ahead of many similar retro-sounding albums. In fact, there are several songs to be found here that could have easily found a home on the commercial rock radio of the 80s. The melodies have substance, and the choruses are often quite memorable. Florio's vocals have a Steve Walsh feel to them, and though he might not be technically as strong as Walsh, his voice fits this style of music perfectly.

Also of note are the musical performances. Florio is an excellent keyboardist and his choice of sounds here is very entertaining. This album is a keyboard-lovers delight and his work throughout is impressive. The band he has assembled is also talented, but Mike is definitely in the spotlight here. There is no better example of this than the instrumental final cut on the album, Seeds of the Earth II. This excellent track is a break from the substantial Kansas influence and is more like a great Genesis instrumental from the 80s. This is a fantastic Tony Banks moment without Tony. None of these comparisons are meant to slight Mike, because pulling off a track that Tony himself would be proud of is no small feat. They say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery and this track is about as complimentary as things get. The song also probably best represents how I feel about the album overall.

In theory, I shouldn't rave too strongly about this album because in truth, there is nothing here that can't be heavily compared to music that has been heard before, and that was most popular several decades ago. Then again, wouldn't it be a bit hypocritical for a fan of progressive rock to judge too harshly from that perspective? I could definitely criticise the album for all of these things, but to be honest, it is so entertaining, that I can only give it a solid recommendation. If the comments above didn't sway you from giving this album a listen, then chances are that you will also find many things to like about Reconcile.
Conclusion:
Patrick McAfee: 7.5 out of 10

Godsticks - Emergence
Godsticks - Emergence
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 50:26
Links:
Track List:
Below the Belt (6:21), Ruin (3:59), Much Sinister (4:30), Exit Stage Right (5:42), All That Remains (4:37), Hopeless Situation (4:30), One Percent (6:29), Emergence (6:11), Leave or Be Left (1:07), Lack of Scrutiny (7:00)
Godsticks have certainly changed things up on their new album. It's not really an evolution, more a revolution.

The band's third release is a move in a decidedly heavier direction compared to their sophomore effort, The Envisage Conundrum. Nothing wrong with that, but this heavier, grungier outlook makes many of these songs sound quite similar. Whilst there are plenty of bands this sound could be compared to, Mastodon, Fates Warning, Devin Townsend Project or perhaps the heavier Kings X would be the closest.

Sure, it's extremely well played, the vocals fit perfectly with the heavier sound, and there's even a bit of invention thrown in here and there. And while they can be compared to some of the bands above in terms of genre, it's definitely a unique sound, which differs from all of them. But the variety that was on their previous releases is, on this outing, no more.

There is a slower song, All That Remains, to break things up a bit, and it even reminds me, vocally at least, of Chris Rea. But this aside, the entire album is simply heavy rock/heavy prog, and while it treads new ground for Godsticks, it doesn't tread new ground in the genre. One Percent is a standout track, and the phrenetic, yet controlled, stellar guitar work on the piece that follows, the title track Emergence, shows that Godsticks are certainly doing what they want to do, and they're doing it very well. The intro to Lack of Scrutiny, for example, is heavy, fast and technically superb.

Anyone who loved the heavier Godsticks pieces on their previous album, or loves heavy prog bordering on prog metal will lap this up. It's undoubtedly great quality playing and the sound quality is excellent. It takes commitment to move in a somewhat different direction, and Godsticks are to be commended for putting out a release that takes them into new territory. It will surely earn them new fans, once heavy prog and prog metal fans discover this.
Conclusion:
Jim Cornall: 6 out of 10

Hildegard - Hildegard
Hildegard - Hildegard
Country of Origin: USA
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 46:04
Links:
Track List:
A - Z (4:03), Sally Brown (3:59), Siren Song (5:13), Karma (4:16), Cabin 72 (6:20), Austria (3:36), Isolation (4:58), The Witness (4:12), Quetzal (3:40), Vanishing Hue (5:43)
The recently formed Hildegard is a self-styled art rock ensemble from New Orleans, and this is their self-titled debut release. Vocalist Sasha Masakowski and guitarist Cliff Hines are the nucleus, supported by a variety of instrumentation including acoustic guitar, piano, keys, strings and horns. Sasha comes from a jazz background whilst Cliff's origins are more experimental, and he himself claims that their music "explores the full spectrum of light and dark" and "juxtaposes serene beauty and sonic intensity".

Clearly, Cliff is making a distinction between Sasha's cool articulation (reminiscent of Suzanne Vega) and his own occasionally-distorted guitar histrionics. This combination works for the most part, although during songs like the opening and lively A – Z and the otherwise engaging The Witness I found the improvised shredding an unwelcome distraction. Songs like Austria and the aforementioned The Witness also feature some rather dated voice effects which again I could have happily lived without.

Elsewhere however the sound produced has a very classy feel thanks to the thoughtful arrangements and the sharp musicianship from all concerned. Whilst Hildegard could never be accused of being out-and-out prog, songs like the deceptively titled Karma with its edgy guitar riff, XTC-style time signature and apocalyptic finale have the right ingredients to keep aficionados interested.

It's Sasha's attractive voice however that holds the attention, particularly during her own compositions like the catchy Sally Brown with its multiple harmonies, and the more laid back Cabin 72 where her smooth delivery brings 80s cool jazz queen Sade to mind. The former also benefits from subtle string samples whilst the latter features a tasteful, jazzy piano solo to play out.

The CD comes housed in a slim digipak case much favoured by artists these days, although the artwork which juxtaposes an ice cool visage on one side with a burning image on the other (representing respectively the "Serene beauty and sonic intensity" of the music) dates back to Vangelis' Heaven and Hell album cover of 1975.
Conclusion:
Geoff Feakes: 7 out of 10

Lanzetti & Roversi - Quasi English
Lanzetti & Roversi - Quasi English
Country of Origin: Italy
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 44:05
Links:
Track List:
Quasi English (6:46), Worn To a Shine (4:49), Heartsick Clever (2:48), Latitude Abound (6:23), Convenience (4:36), Scorre L'Acqua (5:09), Bel Canto (5:37), Have No Standing (7:57)
This collaboration sees Moongarden's Cristiano Roversi (keyboards and bass) team up with former PFM guitarist and vocalist Bernardo Lanzetti. They are joined by a whole host of guests, including much of Moongarden, American drummer Jonathan Mover (whose musical CV reads like a rock and roll Who's Who), and members of Catafalchi Del Cyber and Rosenkreuz.

The pair have worked together before, but this is their first album as a duo. In 2011, they made an album with Gigi Cavalli-Cocchi, entitled, imaginatively, Cavalli-Cocchi Lanzetti Roversi, or the much more easily remembered CCLR.

Lanzetti's acoustic and electric guitar work on this album is top notch. Roversi is also in good form, with some tasty Mellotron and keyboard passages that don't venture into the overplaying territory. What might be a surprise is that, given the number of Moongarden personnel on show here, the album is miles away from the neo-prog Moongarden releases.

However, it's Lanzetti's voice that is likely to be somewhat divisive. There are plenty of vocalists out there, even in the pro realm, that some love, some loathe. Peter Hammill, Rush, early Opeth, and others sometimes fall foul of the people who simply can't get past the voice. Let's just say Lanzetti's phrasing is 'different'. But, anyone familiar with his work will understand, and, after a few listens, while there may still be some moments of discomfort or surprise, it's the music that grabs the attention.

Get past the vocals, and there's plenty to enjoy. There's some tasty Italian prog, nice ballads, lots of good electric guitar, plenty of great organ and synth sounds, and short solos to show off the virtuosity. The closing song, Have No Standing is a case in point. It starts off with those challenging vocals, ballad style, before exploding into some blistering guitar as the album fades. Having said that, ballads aren't the strong point of the duo, Scorre L'Acqua and the (un)easy listening Bel Canto being points in case, given the vocals. A song like Heartsick Clever however, would make a beautiful cover version for someone.

There's some off-the-wall stuff, like Latitude Aloud, with its funky, jazzy introduction, and there are some nice melodies and memorable riffs among the varied tracks.

It definitely has a 70s heavy rock feel to it, occasionally in the PFM vein, the heavier pieces veering more towards Uriah Heep, Deep Purple or Eloy, around the era of Floating. It's good Italian rock, with some decent songs, crossing over into prog. Some good moments, some great ones, and a worthwhile outing, slower songs aside.
Conclusion:
Jim Cornall: 6 out of 10

The Winter Tree - Twilight of the Magicians
The Winter Tree - Twilight of the Magicians
Country of Origin: USA
Year of Release: 2013
Time: 42:06
Links:
Track List:
The Lemurians (2:32), Dolphin (3:14), Twilight of the Musicians (6:05), Angels and Demons (5:04), Cosmic Sea (7:34), The Last Morning (2:38), Sinking Island! (6:00), A New Atlantis (3:25), Lightworker (5:34)
I once read an article from a musician who said: "Music is emotion and an album is the result of translating my feelings to music". I do understand that musicians feel that way, but I don't think their personal feelings will always appeal to everyone. In my opinion that's the case with this release.

The Winter Tree is the project of composer/multi-instrumentalist Andrew Laitres (a.k.a. Andrew Robinson). The album Twilight of the Magicians features mostly instrumental tracks performed by Andrew and a few guests. Many of the songs were inspired by Rudolf Steiner's writings on the lost continent of Atlantis. It's a subject that has been an inspiration to many other prog artists during the years, but it's the music that matters more to me.

In the past, The Winter Tree has released two albums Guardians (2012) and The Winter Tree (2011). On both of those albums Laitres was accompanied by band mates Deb and Mark Bond. But on this new album, they opted to not participate. Deb Bond (formerly Deb Moore) is a former member of Magus, the band that Laitres started before The Winter Tree.

So, what about the music on this album? As mentioned, it's almost all instrumental tracks with the exception of track no. 8 entitled A New Atlantis in which we are treated to three minutes of vocals. Personally I think Laitres should have released this album 35-40 years ago when synth music was really in fashion with artists like Vangelis and Jean-Michel Jarre. It all sounds a bit plain to me and not very adventurous. The first two tracks are nice background music at a massage parlor and only the vocal track and the tracks where a drum beat is added are more lively. Why he didn't replace the missing band mates is a mystery to me. A decent drummer and guitarist, with more vocal tracks would have uplifted this album to a higher level and probably been more interesting to listen to. Once was enough for me but feel free to judge for yourself, and even I must admit that the YouTube video is worth watching with some beautiful images.
Conclusion:
Peter Swanson: 4 out of 10

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Published Sunday 19 July 2015

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