As I carefully study the artwork of Dewa Budjana's 2014 release Surya Namaskar. I wonder whether just like 2015's Hasta Karma, the music will match the expectations that its wonderful cover evokes. The artwork of Surya Namaskar is arguably even more attractive and distinctive than the beautiful lotus image that adorns Hasta Karma. The golden imagery of Surya Namaskar is beautifully evocative. Its rich, sunlit cover suggests that the album will be full of blazing mystique, and will be another altogether illuminating experience.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to and reviewing Hasta Karma and again the music here does not disappoint in any way. From its opening moments, the album shines brightly. It has a musical heart that pulses with glowing warmth and energy.
Overall, Surya Namaskar is a much more energetic and fiery experience. Having read Roger Trenwith's excellent DPRP review of 2013's Joged Kahyangan, it seems that Budjana made a conscious decision to create a more explosive and edgy type of album. On the evidence of Surya Namaskar, Budjana certainly accomplished his goal.
The principal players are Dewa Budjana on guitar, Jimmy Johnson on bass and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums. Johnson, best known for his work with Allan Holdsworth is superb throughout. His rich and beautifully executed fretless bass provides a melodic tone, which underpins everything and acts as a harmonious counterpoint to Budjana's dexterous frills. Johnson's skill and overall empathy for the music helps to greatly enrich the pieces. His adroit style is featured in a number of outstanding solos and significantly added to my overall enjoyment of the compositions.
The rhythm section is impressive. The combined talents of Colaiuta and Johnson are able to propel and energise the music when necessary, but they also have the deft touch and expertise to embellish quieter moments in a highly effective way.
The special guests involved in the album are Gary Husband on keyboards and guitarist Michael Landau. They each feature on one track apiece. Husband provides a flowing synthesiser solo to the opening track. If keyboards had been used more extensively throughout the album, it would arguably have given Budjana the opportunity to add greater variety, or a different dimension to his compositions. In this way, _Hasta Karma_ provided a far richer palette of sounds to appreciate than is apparent on this album, making it a slightly more satisfying experience.
Nevertheless, Surya Namaskar is a highly creditable and enjoyable release in its own right. It is an album that is loaded with twisting bouts of distorted guitar. Satisfyingly, it also contains ample examples of beautifully-spun arpeggio runs and skilfully-constructed legato solos. As the album unfolds, it soon becomes clear that Allan Holdsworth is a major influence on Budjana's fluid and often emotive style.
The musicians recorded the majority of the tracks in one take. The release is loaded with a freshness of approach and has a refreshingly spontaneous appeal. The uninhibited recording process apparently enabled the players to have the freedom to improvise and move beyond what may have been initially rehearsed.
One of Budjana's principal and stated aims is to blend Western music with aspects of Indonesian music. This mix of styles is prevalent in the beating heart of the impressive and often improvised piece entitled Kalinngga. In this piece Budjana's uninhibited approach, his pride in his musical heritage and conviction for his art, is brightly illuminated in nine wonderful, ever-changing and evolving minutes of progressive jazz fusion.
Budjana is a prolific composer and performer. As I conclude this review, he has already recorded material for his next studio album. Given the excellence of his last two albums, Budjana has set a high standard to follow. I am warmly anticipating his new work, which features Jack Dejohnette, Gary Husband, Tony Levin and numerous other special guests. I hope that it combines the fire and energy of Surya Namaskar with the spacious subtlety and consistent quality of composition that was apparent throughout Hasta Karma.
Until the new material is released, I fully recommend that you investigate either of Budjana's most recent albums. If you like progressive jazz fusion, I am sure that you will not be disappointed.
Bliker 4 (14:46), Pentagonal Krisis (15:11), Tragic Hero (13:50), The 20th Century Collaseu (11:40), Lonely Planet (8:20)
My doctor listened impassively; there was a palpable silence in the sterile consulting room as I recounted the tale. The change occurred two weeks ago, a check in the mirror confirmed my fears. Elephant like; flapping and creased, they had grown! The increased girth made hats and caps fit snugly, and head phones hug tightly. With hindsight, the probable cause was obvious.
Moonjune records specialises in releasing instrumental jazz fusion music. Founder Leonardo Pavkovic has arrayed an enviable roster of artists to adorn his label. Many of Moonjune's releases are awash with outstanding virtuoso performances. In recent weeks, I have had the pleasure of reviewing a number of titles from Moonjune artists including, Dewa Budjana, simakDialog and now Ligro. Soon to be followed, by reviews of albums from US bands and fellow Moonjune artists Moraine and Marbin.
These bands are all distinctively different and provide a wide range of musical colours within a similarly shared genre. They do however, have some things in common. Each contain frenzied guitar passages which frequently sing. These are complemented by grizzled bass parts, that consistently pulsate and throb. It is perhaps not surprising, that continued exposure over the last three months to this unrelenting mixture of impassioned instrumental fusion has caused my ear lobes to seemingly expand.
The music of Ligro was probably the main reason why the soft fleshy protrusions grew. Ligro are a passionately powerful instrumental trio who are able to create a tumultuous exhibition of explosive, lightning quick, adrenaline filled fusion. The sound is frenetic and heavy. The band consists of Agam Hamzah on guitar; Gusti Hendy drums and bassist Adi Darmawan They are based in Indonesia. Dictionary 3 is their 3rd album and is their latest release. The album also features Ade Irawan on piano and keyboards on the opening piece Bliker 4
The album contains just five tracks, but each of the tracks is significantly long to enable the music to evolve organically. The resulting music often sounds spontaneous and can initially have the appearance of being disorganised, jam like and unidirectional. This is somewhat misleading, as increased familiarity with the material reveals that there is a great deal of form and structure to be discovered as the pieces develop and expand.
The standout track is Pentagonal Krisis.This contains a successful amalgamation of western and Indonesian styles. It is a piece that is unconventionally different and is often rewardingly unpredictable. In this track, Agam Hamzah excels. He performs with wanton abandon as the piece rockets through the atmosphere towards its imaginative and climatic conclusion.
Hamzah's style provides a raw and expressive edge to much of the music. His playing is proclaimed loudly and frequently. His highly energetic presence engulfs and hungrily consumes any pretext that the music has melodic subtlety. The rhythm section underpins and supports the lead player of the trio with skill and understanding. The full sound of the grinding- pounding bass of Darmawan has muscular definition throughout the album and is particularly evident when the intensity rises.
The trio's compositions appear to have emerged from improvisations. The meandering nature of the lengthy tracks makes Dictionary 3 somewhat inaccessible. The Australian band the Three Wise Monkeys is able to successfully channel a similar raw edged territory in their latest release False Flag. On the whole, that album is largely more rewarding than Dictionary 3 due to its greater sense of melody and expressive, yet much more precisely defined compositions.
Ligro's music is arguably at its most uplifting and enjoyable during the slower more melodic moments that occur sporadically throughout the album. Lonely Planet is a relaxing piece to close the proceedings. Its languid melodic approach stands out in contrast to the guitar pyrotechnics that are a major part of the majority of Dictionary 3.
Despite enjoying Lonely Planet and especially the standout track, I much preferred the more structured and melodic approach to instrumental fusion employed by fellow country man Dewa Budjana in his latest releases to anything contained in Dictionary 3.
Nevertheless, if you enjoy blistering guitar parts wrapped up in an unrelenting fury of fusion, then you may well find much to enjoy in the work of Ligro. If by chance you feel that your ear lobes are too small then you should certainly consider checking them out and playing their music loud and proud. The pulsating rhythm and wailing guitar will no doubt induce fleshy change, but please be careful.
After my tale was told, the doctor uncharacteristically offered a smile. He told me not to worry as the condition could be reversed. He went on to say that the recent plethora of instrumental jazz fusion bands has made this complaint much more common. He opened a filing cabinet and handed me a well - worn package containing as he put it 'a little something to alleviate the condition'. He suggested that in future I should choose an alternative genre to review and heartily talked about the therapeutic effect of the human voice on engorged lobes. He commanded that I should open the bag at home and listen to its contents at least three times a day for the next two weeks.
With some dread, I opened the package; it contained the soundtrack of The Sound of Music. I followed the instructions. Success! The remedy worked, receded ear lobes achieved. Not surprisingly, the cure has also had an unwanted side effect.
If you ever hear anybody involuntarily warbling, My Favourite Things, Do-Re-Mi, Sixteen Going On Seventeen, and Climb Every Mountain, however unlikely it may seem, they could be a fan of Instrumental fusion, just like me!
Disc 1: Time Vehicle (New Track) (9:05), Born in 67 (8:55), Numbers... (Radio Edit ) (7:20), We Try Again (8:55), Road to Infinity (Radio Edit) (10:40), Demon (7:11), Hundreds of Falling Rivers (Radio Edit) (5:35), In the World of Fantasy? (12:30), Circles of Life (7:03)
Disc 2: Woman & Man (Rarity from In Search of the Perfect Melody Session 2014) (7:03), The Prose of Life (Radio Edit) (4:45), Embryo (Radio Edit) (11:57), Light Your Cigar (Radio Edit) (6:09), Back to the Childhood (4:11), Over & Over (5:38), Chaos (Radio Edit) (3:19), Madman (Radio Edit) (6:12), Drunken Angels (6:28), For the Price of Her Sad Days (6:09), White Crow (Radio Edit) (4:42), Ego (10:35)
In the late 90s I came across one of my favourite melodic rock/metal bands. They went by the name of Millenium and featured the amazing vocals of Jorn Lande/Todd Plant and the fierce-some guitar licks of Ralph Santolla. I saw them play two superb gigs at the GODS festival in the UK, and still regularly spin all four of their albums.
Why am I telling you this? Well for those who enjoy melodic rock/metal, then you should check out this video of Angelfire, one of Millenium's stand-out songs, and take it from there.
For those who don't like melodic rock/metal, then take it as a warning of the dangers of bands from different genres, sharing the same name. In addition to the above mentioned Millenium and the Polish neo prog Millenium subject (in a moment) to this review, there are another three heavy metal bands from Carolina, California and Bangalore all called Millenium!
After reading this review, quite a few of you may wonder why you have never heard of this Polish band and, like me, be prompted to search for more information. So take care!
Anyhow, the Millenium subject to this review is a Polish five-piece neo-progressive band formed in 1999. Led by keyboardist Ryszard Kramarski, the band has had a pretty steady line-up, with both singer Łukasz Gall and drummer Tomasz Paśko also seemingly with the band from the start.
It was actually when listening to some samples whilst editing Mark Hughes' recent review of the band's newest studio album, In Search of the Perfect Melody, that my interest was piqued. When I saw that this 'Best of' was available, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to become better acquainted.
And that is exactly what this double album is: an easy opportunity to get to know these classy purveyors accessible Polish neo prog.
Such is the quality on offer that I am amazed that this band hasn't got a bigger profile in prog circles. I had certainly never heard them before and Vocanda from 2001 is the only other Millenium album to have previously been reviewed on DPRP.
Accessibility and great melodies are the key words here. Think of the traditional Polish style of melancholic neo prog perfected by the likes of Collage, Satellite, and Believe and then add the more edgy UK stylings of early Pendragon, Marillion and IQ. An original identity is added by some clear art rock influences, the regular use of saxophones or trumpet or cello, and a whole cast of excellent female backing singers (who often seem more like main singers).
Łukasz Gall has a superb mid-range voice and varied delivery, whilst the guitar work throughout is excellent. The lyrical imagery is also well above average.
This 'Best of' album offers a comprehensive selection from the band's career, with one or two tracks from each of their 11 studio albums. There is also a song called White Crow which was the new song on their 2011 'Best of' selection by the same name. The tracks are a mixture of 'radio edits' and full original versions.
Whilst this package is clearly aimed at new listeners, there are two new songs: The title track is a wonderful example of extended melodic neo prog, whilst Woman and Man is a rarity from the sessions from their last studio album. The songs are not presented chronologically. Rather the track list flows back and forth between albums, and flows very well.
Millenium has had some appalling album covers over their career. Thankfully this is far and away their best yet and comes in a nice gate-fold pack in a numbered limited edition of 500. More detailed liner notes, would have been nice though.
I have really enjoyed discovering a second version of Millenium and there are songs on this set that I will be playing for many years to come when in the mood for some neo prog. For those who enjoy this style, I would suggest that this band is deserving of a much higher profile.
- (7:32), Worms (19:20), The Promises of Night (11:49)
Nucleus Torn is a tough band to categorise. They are eclectic to say the least and their musical output includes touches of folk, jazz, metal, ambient and rock amongst other styles. The band's promotional information states that Street Lights Fail takes "a stand against the intolerable boredom of listening to predictable music". Such a bold assessment demands confirmation, so does the album accomplish this lofty goal?
Well, it certainly isn't predictable. The album is diverse enough that there are such differences between the songs that you would believe that you were listening to different bands. The range displayed is significant and though there is a strong avant element to their music, the band also embraces the power of a strong melody. Led by originator, Fred Schnyder, Nucleus Torn is also well represented by drummer Alain Ackerman and particularly singer, Anna Murphy.
The album opener, which is titled with only a dash mark, almost plays like a new age track. It is driven by atmospherics, semi-spoken-word vocal stylings and an effective piano melody. There is a stark quality to the song, that is haunting and ultimately quite interesting.
This album was my introduction to the band, and nothing about the first song prepared me for the almost 20-minute album centerpiece,Worms. With its crunching opening guitar, I actually had to look to make sure that my player hadn't switched to another album. The diversity of this track is really quite astounding. At one moment, it is a thumping example of avant metal and then suddenly, an old school progressive rock song highlighted by a flute solo. There are also some entertaining jazz fusion moments and Anna Murphy provides her strongest vocal moments on the album here.
Though the band is often referred to as an avant metal band, I found the harder moments on Street Lights Fail to be the least interesting. That said, the various elements displayed on Worms come together well and the song is definitely the highlight of the album. The Promise of Night revisits the moodiness of the first track, while also employing a smoky jazz feel. If there is a weakness, much like the opening track, this song plays a bit like a bookend to the more adventurous, Worms. It nonetheless ends the album in a beautiful and successful manner.
Overall, Street Lights Fail, delivers on the band's promise of delivering something unpredictable. There is an experimental quality contained throughout, that keeps things in a fascinating territory. The results are not completely consistent, as there are moments that drag things down a bit. None of these circumstances are devastating though, and the album is full of smart and effective performances.
If you are looking for a well performed album with plenty of diversity, you would be well served by picking this up. It should also be mentioned that there is a follow-up to this work coming out soon called Neon Light Eternal. Nucleus Torn seems to be band that wants to keep you guessing, so it will be interesting to see what they come up with next.
Beginning (3:58), Oblivion (13:24), The Turning Point (6:55), Elysium (0:51), Land of Hope and Honour (5:14), Not Yet (5:10), Every End is a Beginning (Bau Dir ein Schloss) (6:16), Oblivion Things (reprise) (3:25), Incomprehensible (demo) (17:51)
Project: Patchwork is the brainchild of multi-talented musician Gerd Albers who painstakingly recorded this album over a period of eight years with the assistance of more musicians and singers than you can shake the proverbial stick at. That said, Albers handles a good deal of the guitar, drums and keyboard parts himself, with friend and colleague Peter Koll playing a significant part in putting the album together.
As the name Project Patchwork implies, there's no conceptual narrative to this album. Instead it's a collage of tracks that stylistically covers a good many bases, albeit in a mostly progressive rock vein. Such is the diversity on offer here, I felt it warranted a track by track analysis, something I haven't done in a while.
The appropriately-titled instrumental Beginning is a surprisingly lightweight (but seductive) opener, with piano and strings ebbing and flowing, and all overlaid with a 'late-night' soprano sax sensitively played by Toxic Smile's Marek Arnold.
In four parts spread over 13-plus minutes, the expansive Oblivion is undoubtedly the album's main course. It effortlessly combines electronic effects, mellow blues guitar (in the style of Mark Knopfler), crunching riffs, multi-part male/female vocals (in the style of Ayreon), a strong main theme and a tranquil acoustic interlude. Only the death metal growls seem incongruously out of place.
The Turning Point with its anthemic choral hook, galloping riff and strident guitar / synth interplay confidently straddles mainstream metal and prog metal.
In contrast, the brief but memorable Elysium features a 14-strong choir performing a haunting requiem a cappello style.
Land of Hope and Honour has a folk feel due in part to the timbre of Jessica Schmalle's evocative lead vocal, although the ringing acoustic guitar and flutes also play their part. Add a histrionic David Gilmour-ish guitar coda and the end result could have sat comfortably on a Mostly Autumn album.
Despite a catchy chorus, Not Yet is a bit of a mess. A 70s-style funk guitar riff provides the launching pad for the heavy rock stop-start rhythm, a metal lead vocal and big, AOR-style harmonies (the latter bringing America's Cryptic Vision to mind).
The mostly acoustic Every End is a Beginning is the album's main claim to ballad fame, beautifully sung in German by Magdalena Sojka. The understated guitar break rounds off one of the album's most tastefully (and sparingly) arranged songs.
Reprising the final part of Oblivion, the orchestral Oblivion Things features grand piano and keyboard samples, simulating lush strings, strident brass and pastoral woodwind to convincing effect recalling The Moody Blues' seminal Days Of Future Passed. This would have been a fitting conclusion to the album but there's more to come.
Following some jokey banter between Albers and Koll, the near 18-minute Incomprehensible unfolds in four parts. Although a little disjointed in places, it's a fully-rounded piece that belies its demo tag. Crunching staccato riffs are prominent, but for me the acoustic song around the halfway mark is the highlight with a haunting piano melody and beautiful singing from Hamburg's Melanie Nocon. Almost inevitably, it features an overblown guitar solo to play out.
Given the scope of Tales From A Hidden Dream with no less than 40 musicians and singers (not to mention three producers) contributing, there is no doubt that it compares favourably with the grand concepts of Arjen Lucassen and the ambitious musicals of Clive Nolan. True, it's not the most cohesive of albums and there is nothing startling original in the songs themselves, but nonetheless Gerd Albers' 64-minute homage to progressive rock makes for an enjoyable listening experience.
Beauty Falls (3:51), Story Tellers (5:40), Beauty Sleeps (4:43), A Kids Tale (6:08), The Quest for Beauty (4:28), The Piper (12:52), Beauty Awakes (3:47)
Multi-instrumentalist and singer Pete Jones, a solo artist who records under the band name Tiger Moth Tales, has released a follow-up to his well-received progressive rock debut, Cocoon. The new CD, which Jones wrote, performed, recorded, and produced earlier this year in less than a month is, according to the liner notes, "a celebration of some of the classic children's stories and the[ir] authors." Tales put to music include Sleeping Beauty and The Pied Piper.
It's hard to tell whether this CD is supposed to be a serious progressive release or merely a specialised detour from a progressive path. Due to the children's theme, there's a levity and whimsy to the music and, sometimes, a silliness to the singing (and lyrics). A Kid's Tale is the worst offender. As a result, an unfortunate and recurrent takeaway is the quirkiness on offer.
To be sure, some of the CD displays, albeit too briefly, the Genesis-like qualities for which Jones has recently become known, through his Phil-Collins-like voice, YouTube videos of Genesis covers, and Cocoon. A bright point is that apart from the partial zaniness related to the childhood theme, Jones' voice is marvellous. As for individual tunes, Story Tellers is electronic-pastoral in the best sense and, until near its finish, blissfully devoid of the album's childhood theme. Also strong are A Quest for Beauty and the closer, Beauty Awakens, which are mostly cut from the same cloth as Genesis' A Trick of the Tale.
Any hope that Jones will swiftly move past lighter themes, should be kept in check given that this CD is dubbed "Part One." But Jones' main influences are quite progressive, and so the prog world should still be confident that, sooner or later, he will travel in a more-straightforward direction. The talent is surely there.
Mars Saffron (6:10), Restless Mountain (4:14), The Way to Etretat (7:55), A Conversation We Had (4:50), A Thousand Faces (3:22), Voltaic (8:37), Summer Night's Story (5:40), Koromo's Tale (5:16), Proof Of Light (7:05)
A US-born but UK-based virtuoso jazz guitarist, Mark Wingfield is possessed of astonishing technique. On this, his eighth album he makes a guitar sound which, at a first listen, sounds like a purring synthesiser or some form of treated guitar. However on a closer listen and with reference to the CD sleeve notes, you notice that the sound is made by Wingfield's fingers alone. Employing sustain, vibrato, glissando and string bending he makes his guitar sound like no one else's. He employs technology to sustain and loop chords within the songs, whilst using fingering for the melodic lines. The melodies he produces this way have a quality akin to a singing voice.
Wingfield is ably supported by the moody, melodic upright bass work of Yaron Stavi, and the intuitive, subtle and where-needed powerful drumming of Asaf Sirkis. Proof of Life is a progressive jazz-fusion work of a very melodic bent. One that is not reliant on 100 notes a second show-boating, nor on the funk that I sometimes find irritating on jazz-fusion albums.
The album moves from the punchy to the introspective. We run through prog rock-leaning jazz-fusion numbers, such as on the opener Mars Saffron where Sirkis' crisp, precise and fiercely rocking drumming pushes the music forward, to the warm, harmonically atmospheric interplay between guitar and upright bass on Restless Mountain. A King Crimson-esque live-in-thestudio feel invests the noisy Voltaic. It has a pleasing discordancy as the musicians bounce ideas off each other in rapid succession.
There are a couple of more overtly jazz numbers, using the theme-solo-theme structure, without losing any of the intensity of the progressive fusion pieces. Indeed, the very soulful melody of The Way To Etretat works really well with the traditional structure, as does the nocturnal Summer Night's Story.
Occasionally Wingfield's guitar overwhelms the melodies here, but the mix of forward-looking soulfulness, ECM-like Scandinavian jazz charm and the openness of the superb production, makes this an adventurous album I will return to often.