ISSUE 2015-568

Reviews in this issue:

Junior's Eyes - Battersea Power Station
Junior's Eyes - Battersea Power Station
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 1969
Time: 38:52, 45:44
Links:
Track List:
CD 1: Battersea Power Station: Total War (1:11), Circus Days (3:42), Imagination (6:08), My Ship (2:46), Miss Lizzie (2:53), So Embarassed (3:17), Freak In (1:51), Playtime (3:55), I'm Drowning (1:25), White Light (6:38), By The Tree (5:01)
CD 2: 1967 single by The Tickle: Subway (Smokey Pokey World) (2:40), Good Evening (2:36); 1968 single by Junior's Eyes: Mr. Golden Trumpet Player (2:25), Black Snake (2:39); 1969 singles by Junior's Eyes: Woman Love (2:39), Circus Days (single version) (2:56), Star Child (3:58), Sink Or Swim (3:25); Demos: White Light (5:13), By The Tree (3:51), Imagination (3:46), Playtime (3:57); 1968 BBC session: Hang Loose (3:15), By The Tree (2:17)
The history of Junior's Eyes is rather convoluted but centres around guitarist and composer Mick Wayne whose CV boasts some rather impressive highlights. His first band, The Outsiders saw him playing alongside Jimmy Page, as a session musician he played guitar on the original version of David Bowie's Space Oddity as well as on James Taylor's début album for Apple Records, and as a member of The Bunch Of Fives they contributed to the soundtrack of '60s classic film Blow Up, notably providing the musical accompaniment to the scene were Jeff Beck destroys his guitar. After one single for Parlophone in 1966, the Bunch Of Fives underwent a change of management, started hanging out with key players in the emerging psychedelic scene and changed their name to the more hippyesque The Tickle, releasing a single for Regal Zonophone in 1967 before promptly breaking up.

Junior's Eyes started in early 1968 when Wayne recruited bassist John Lodge (not from the Moody Blues!), drummer Steve Chapman, vocalist Graham Kelly and organist John Redfern who only stayed for a short while but long enough to record a BBC Top Gear session with the group. It was the remaining quartet who recorded the Battersea Power Station album. The first side of the original LP, the first seven tracks, were actually a suite of songs forming a concept based on layers of conscience and consciousness starting with total war and ending with total peace. Rather an ambitious concept to pack into 22 minutes! Musically the piece flows nicely with some fine guitar playing from Wayne and Lodge adding prominent bass, particularly on Imagination. There is quite a psychedelic feel to some of the material, driven by the dominant guitar sound; it certainly would have been interesting to hear what the album would have sounded like if organist Redfern had stayed aboard as the rather lovely My Ship displays with its more acoustic sound and added Mellotron displaying a bit more adventure. So Embarassed also features some organ work, although largely relegated to the background, although the booklet does not credit who actually plays the keyboards. Miss Lizzie is a rather more whimsical number typical of the late sixties and resembling something by The Small Faces all concluding with the brief and aptly named instrumental Freak In.

The four individual tracks on side two show a different side to the band, opening with the four minutes of pure psychedelia that is Playtime. Any fans of the Nuggets compilation with love this song and wonder why it was not included when the expanded box set was released as it is a great song of the period and fits right in with that definitive set. The 86 seconds of -I'm drowning is rather more Hippyish sounding almost like Donovan. White Light is quite a mixture with a more blues based intro and middle section that provides a nice dash of variety, particularly the ending including panning effects and a bit of a guitar freakout that reminds one of The Misunderstood. Finally there is By The Tree, a more laid back number again featuring organ and some more exemplary work from the rhythm section. Probably the best song on the album in terms of arrangement and performance and definitely taking the band in a much more progressive direction.

The additional CD really rounds out the band's story. The 1967 single from
The Tickle is rather fine and, interestingly, also features prominent bass lines courtesy of Richard Dowling, an obvious template that Wayne took onto Junior's Eyes. The three Junior's Eyes singles are well worthy of inclusion as five of the six tracks are not on the album. The pre-album Mr. Golden Trumpet Player is really a stepping stone between the poppy singles of the era and the more serious album material with the b-side, Black Snake being notable for featuring Rick Wakeman on piano, a connection provided by producer Tony Visconti which also resulted in Junior's Eyes backing David Bowie on his début album as well as sundry radio sessions. Woman Love was scheduled for release at the time the album came out but was relegated to the b-side when an edited version of Circus Days was considered to be a better option. Listening to them now one can't help but think they made a mistake, although it is doubtful that Woman Love would have made more impression on the charts! The final single was released after the album and features a different line up with a new and originally additional drummer, John Cambridge who Wayne had played with in with the Hull band Hullablloo, and future Pink Floyd associate Tim Renwick on second guitar flute and recorder. The Star Child c/w Sink or Swim single is not really anything special with the A side harking back to the more esoteric hippy days and shows no real advancement by the band.

The four demo recordings are excellent quality and well worthy of hearing as they detail more embryonic versions of the songs which, although not dramatically differently structurally are a bit lighter and somewhat more open. Keyboards are also rather more prominent so it maybe that these demos were recorded whilst Redfern was still in the group. There is also a different vocalist on
Imagination_, probably Wayne himself, which suggests that recruiting vocalist Kelly was an eminently wise move! As a big fan of BBC sessions it is a treat to hear the two tracks recorded for Auntie Beeb, although it is a shame that the whole session was not included or indeed the session by the final line-up which included two unreleased songs.

The failure of the album and final single and an exhausting length final tour during which they also acted as Bowie's backing band and averaged 1.5 gigs a day exhausted the band, although they did get to share the stage at Hamburg's Star Club with Yes and Earth, before they mutated into Black Sabbath. The band's final contribution to the annals of music was at their final gig at the Marquee in London, where drummer Cunningham introduced Bowie to a friend of his from Hull, Mick Ronson. The rest, as they say, is history.
Conclusion:
Mark Hughes: 6 out of 10

Moraine - Groundswell
Moraine - Groundswell
Country of Origin: USA
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 52:24
Links:
Track List:
Mustardseed (3:11), Skein (3:52), Fountain of Euthanasia (3:25), Gnashville (4:12), In That Distant Place (6:20), Synecdoche (3:52), The Earth Is an Atom (5:12), Waylaid (7:20), Spiritual Gatecrasher (7:18), The Okanogan Lobe (7:41)
I have frequently listened to Moraine's second release entitled Metamorphic Rock. This album captures the bands performance at Nearfest 2010. I have greatly enjoyed their performance over the years. Metamorphic Rock offers an edge of your seat, chest-pumping extravaganza of quality instrumental jazz rock. As an admirer of their style, I gladly accepted the opportunity to review their third album Groundswell that was released in 2014.

Moraine are based in Seattle in the USA. Their music centres upon the guitar flourishes of Denis Rea and the fluid bowing of violinist Alicia DeJoie. The violin is crucial in providing the framework for the band's music to develop. It is used extensively within their compositions and is often the vehicle for carrying the piece to places where improvisation can excitedly and readily occur.

At times DeJoie's melodic and gently soothing approach gave the effect of listening to The Mahavishnu Orchestra at their most contemplative. On other occasions, the abundance of frenetic soloing reminded me of the wonderfully explosive violin work that was so much a part of Japanese band KBB's repertoire.

The last three tracks of the album are outstanding. They are the longest pieces and are by far the most satisfying. Their length enables the compositions to fully evolve and develop. The music in Groundswell is also enriched by the finely tuned muscular power of James DeJoie's baritone sax. The extensive use of this instrument gives the album a unique ambience. It provides a vibrant, rich and unusually powerful sound. In combination with the violin and guitar, it offers the band an extensive and wide dynamic range.

The baritone sax also ensures that when reflective moments occur, they are never predictable. Its primeval sound is emotive and stirring. Frequently, it appears through the attractive mist of the music, like a melodically rich fog horn, breaking the stillness of the predawn light. The sound produced is quite wonderful in every respect!

These dynamic possibilities of the band are fully exploited in the fine production values that are evident in the album. The work of engineer and mixer Steve Fisk creates a brightly satisfying platform on which the music is fully able to display its wide ranging and colourful palette.

Moraine's music is also notably different from other jazz - rock bands because of the frequent inclusion of eastern musical influences, most notably from China. These can be heard in a number of the pieces, but are particular evident in the magnificent closing track Okanogan Lobe. In this composition Western jazz rhythms combine with an East Asian ambience to create a satisfying soundscape. The saxophone parts are particularly intense and uninhibited. These complement the expressive guitar passages which evocatively emerge and fade away during the piece.

Groundswell has an explosive immediacy and often exudes an explicit almost heavy rock like ambience. Although certainly not as cerebral or as subtle as fellow Moonjune artist Dewa Budjanas latest release Hasta Karma, Groundswell is equally if not more gratifying in many other tangible ways. Feet and toes can do nothing less than surrender and move in time to its strident beat.

The album is often uncompromising in its complex intensity. It bewitches unsuspecting listeners with its insistent riffing and alternate violin, sax and guitar parts. This is no-where more evident than in the frenetic interlocking sax and violin solos which permeate the powerful sound of Synecdoche. This track oozes energy from every pore. Listening to it is like undergoing a free introductory session with a personal trainer after months of inactivity. Exhausting but rewarding!

Listeners are later given an opportunity to recover in the slightly more relaxed setting of Spiritual Gatecrasher. This is probably the most satisfying piece on the album. In this track, the baritone sax is replaced by the flute. Once again, it is a piece that is flavoured with some ethnic influences. This creates a seven minute journey that is never predictable, but is often memorable and rewarding. The Middle Eastern flavour reminded of Grovjobb'sSimon Jensen's excellent Baghdad composition from his solo All You Can Eat release.

Overall, I enjoyed Groundswell. It has more than lived up to my expectations and is an album that I will frequently play. If you are attracted by instrumental jazz-rock that is lightly spiced with a taste of the orient, I am sure that Groundswell will not disappoint in any way.
Conclusion:
Owen Davies: 8 out of 10

Duo Review
Nemo - Coma
Nemo - Coma
Country of Origin: France
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 56:08
Links:
Track List:
Le Coma Des Mortels (11:45), Train Fantôme (9:08), Comaïne (6:04), St. Guy (8:25), Tu N'es Pas Seul (7:56), Coma (12:40)
Peter Swanson's Review
Let's start with the good news. Coma is Nemo's ninth studio album and it sounds great. The bad news is that it will probably be their last album for the time being, as the band is taking a break. Whether this means that it's a definitive end or just temporarily, only time will tell. If this album turns out to be their last, they definitely ended in style.

Jean Pierre Louveton (JPL), guitarist and lead vocalist, announced the break at the beginning of this year but immediately made clear that they wouldn't stop before finishing a new album. He has kept his word.

The current line-up of JPL, Guillaume Fontaine (keyboards, backing vocals), Jean Baptiste Itier (drums) with help from Ollivier Long (bass) and Lionel B. Guichard (bass) are responsible for the music on album no. 9.

Just like its predecessor Le Ver Dans Le Fruit (2013) this is steaming prog with metal elements. All tracks are sung in French but the band sound is less raw, more polished. They have removed lots of jazzy elements which I personally don't mind at all.

This new album contains lots of beautiful musical twists and themes, with some excellent guitar work and great drumming. Fontaine conjures up the most beautiful sounds from his keyboards. It shows that they all are great musicians. A band that springs to mind is Rush, and Nemo certainly has the same drive and power.

The opening track is a powerful song with many twists and great work on the keys, guitar and drums. Train Fantôme has some awesome soloing on organ and JPL also shows his skills on guitar. The third track Comaïne is the shortest one and starts in a style that we are more accustomed to from Lazuli, but it develops into a Nemo-song. St. Guy has a mellow start with some jazzy elements. I've never been a great admirer of JPL's vocals but I must admit that they never have sounded better than on this album. The title track is a magnificent closing song and an example of everything that's typical of this band. Lots of musical twists and brilliant soloing.

This is a review of the standard 1 CD edition but it's also available as a 2CD set, containing a Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin cover and three other bonus tracks that together form Dante's Divine Comedy Trilogy.

This is a very good album that makes clear how unfortunate it is that the band wants to stop. Let's hope that it is only hibernation.
André de Boer's Review
This ninth Némo album Coma might be their last. So we should expect them to make the most out of it.

The fact that all but one of the eight Némo albums released since 2002 have been reviewed on DPRP (including five DPRP recommendations) is quite a characterisation of the quality of their work.

The heart of the band is the very talented composer, singer and guitarist Jean Pierre Louveton, together with his good friend and keyboard player Guillaume Fontaine. Jean Baptiste Itier has played the drums on all the albums apart the first one. As with all bands, there have been some changes in the line-up: changes in Némo bass players that is. So for this album we have good old Lionel B. Guichard and Olivier Long on bass.

And what a sound all of these men bring. Guitars are screaming ingeniously, keys are always present in a clever way and all the bass parts are examples of how it should be done. Meanwhile the drums either support or drive the often very complicated compositions in a really miraculous way. Eclectic progressiveness at its very best. This Coma album as a whole is a bit heavier than its predecessors, yet the quieter passages are always inserted to intervene at the right spot and at the right moment.

Yes, I am very positive and here is my take on the six tracks.

The 12-minute opening track, La coma des mortels, sets the tone by starting off with some soft synths, six strokes of gentle cymbals and powerful guitar riffing. We, the listener, are awake and alert, and the mood is set for listening, sat on the edge of a chair, to a more than interesting album. This song tells us mankind is going into a global deep-sleep and the song is actually trying to avoid us doing that by repeatedly waking you up after a moment of 'train fantôme'; soothing rest.

And Train fantôme (ghost train) is the title of the second song which flows seamlessly from the previous track. Human hope is being buried here. The song holds a thrilling series of superb keyboard and guitar solos. This is real 'replay' button stuff.

Now for the third track and its title, Comaïne, says it all; people are only waiting for the night. The song clocks in at six minutes, being the shortest track of the album, and is the most eclectic one with the sound of a flute meandering through the song, fighting some quite heavy guitar riffs. At the same time Jean Baptiste Itier manages to drum all this complexity together brilliantly. Amazing craftsmanship!

I can be very short about the next track called St. Guy. It is one of the most amazing instrumental tracks I have ever heard. 515 seconds of jaw-breaking, eclectic, groovy progressiveness. Maybe the best piece of music Némo has ever recorded, at least after Si Partie 1. This is a true display of their skills.

Tu n'es pas seul starts off quietly, slowly building the song's structure. It is a cautious composition with a strong melody; a warning to the people not to let go. Utterly beautiful.

The album ends with the 13-minute title track. 'My ashes twirl in the wind, the curtain closes'. Harsh words but musically a worthy closer of Némo's existence, should it ever come to that. The song holds all that the band can bring, or any band artist could bring. Music straight from the heart, not avoiding danger or difficulties and brought to us diligently. Their final chord?

There is a second CD to the limited 2CD edition. The second disc is not part of this review but I would like to spend a few words on it. First two songs are covers. Then we have a trilogy called La divine comédie. Three wonderful songs of which the closing instrumental track Sans Voix (without words) competes with St. Guy as being one of the best the band has written.

So have I no negative comments, criticisms or downsides? Musically, no. Not at all. Yet there is another story to this album that needs to be told, and the album's title 'Coma' might even refer to it. The guys said this might be the band's last album, for an extended period at least, as all band members need time to recuperate and spend more time on other important things in their personal lives. So it is not clear if Némo will awaken and resuscitate from stasis again. I for one hope, and expect, they will for the sake of progressive music, and start off a new nine-album series with fresh gusto after they've fully recovered.

Yes, Némo makes the most out of it in this glorious ninth release. It is a fully-fledged closer of the first 15 years of existence. Chapeau!

To the band: Take your time to relax now, but please revive when you are ready for it. To the readers: Take your time to listen to this highly recommended album, for it holds a superb Némo view on the existence of a phenomenon we call progressive rock.
Conclusion:
Peter Swanson: 8.5 out of 10
André de Boer: 9.5 out of 10

R-11 - Waschmaschine
R-11 - Waschmaschine
Country of Origin: Italy
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 40:03
Links:
Track List:
106 (3:00), Waschmaschine (7:04), Le Commissaire (4:56), Fame (6:07), Boaga (5:56), Black Rondò Pt.1 (4:57), Black Rondò Pt.2 (3:14), Zen (2:23), Slow F. (2:26)
I have always had a soft spot for fusion, in particular the heavier Virgil Donati/Derek Sherinian-inspired music. For whatever reason, I find the combination of heaviness, syncopation and dissonance extremely satisfying. I'm constantly having to remind myself that there are many other great bands and artists in the genre, who don't necessarily take the heavier approach. As a result, R-11's Waschmaschine seemed like a good fit.

R-11 is an Italian trio that plays jazz/fusion with some experimental ideas thrown in as well. The first thing that I noticed immediately is that the album has a very stripped-down feel to it. Not only because of the bass, drums and guitar trio format, but also the production itself. It sounds like all of the band members were together in a studio recording at the same time, with minimal overdub and processing. The funny thing is, I guess I have become so used to hearing music that has been endlessly polished, that I found this very refreshing!

The songs, for the most part, have an up-tempo feel to them. In particular the first three: 106, Waschmaschine and Fame. I couldn't help but think of a mix between Weather Report and Dave Brubeck with some more modern sounds as well. A lot of the guitar and bass also use a lot of harmonics. This adds a very dreamy feel to the music, especially in Boaga and Slow F.

There are also a few more rock-oriented tracks, such as Black Rondò Pt.1, Black Rondò Pt.2 and Zen. I especially like Black Rondò Pt.1, which has some of the best melodies on the album.

To be honest, after about a half a dozen plays, I can't yet find a whole lot that I don't like about this album. This is energetic, well played fusion that stays focused and doesn't wander into areas that most people would find unlistenable, unless they were a musician. Recommended!
Conclusion:
Chris Jackson: 8 out of 10

Seven Steps to the Green Door - Fetish
Seven Steps to the Green Door - Fetish
Country of Origin: Germany
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 78:18
Links:
Track List:
Possible Delayed (0:39), PORN! (8:50), Still Searching (9:55), Inferior (7:03), Imprisoned (9:08), Bound in Chains (8:53), Last Lullaby (9:01), Set in Motion (8:39), Ordinary Maniac (16:10)
Fetish is the fourth CD from German band Seven Steps to the Door, a concept album about "the features of the human psyche." The band deservedly prides itself on the fact that its 2006 debut CD, The Puzzle, won first prize in two categories at the German Rock and Pop awards. The band's sound is full, and fully progressive.

Even a cursory listen to Fetish confirms the commonly-made comparisons to Gentle Giant: odd timing is sprinkled throughout, and harmonies play a notable role. But that reference goes only so far, as, clearly, appreciation of Gentle Giant does not necessarily translate into appreciation of Seven Steps to the Green Door. Indeed, though the accoutrements attendant to quality prog rock are here, a lack of hooks and, more importantly, the poppiness and the mildly annoying affect to much of the vocals, considerably drags down the appeal of this album.

Almost every tune is, at best, a mixed bag. Take, for example, the first full-length tune, Porn. There are too many styles at play to appeal to any one listener, and the male vocals are strained and shallow. Set in Motion, too, suffers from overly dramatic vocals that, even worse, sometimes sound off key. Inferior is just that: the artificial tone and techno aspect of the song, particularly the opening part, are a turn-off. For a time, I wondered whether the complexity of the tunes rendered them an acquired taste, but repeated listening did not cause a shift.

A few tunes do stand out positively. Bound in Chains is more sedate and composed than most others, and the relative simplicity works. Ordinary Maniac, also a more traditional prog tune with extended instrumental segments, likewise works well (apart from the aggressive vocals). The keyboards are notably impressive on this tune.

In the end, prog fans will find bits and pieces of enjoyment here. But those parts are too few and far between to make the album, overall, a solid release. This band clearly has much instrumental talent, plus a knack for symphonic prog sounds, and the ability to write and perform complex music. Greater focus on these strengths and the inclusion of fewer diverse elements would have improved this CD.
Conclusion:
Joel Atlas: 5.5 out of 10

simakDialog - Live at Orion
simakDialog - Live at Orion
Country of Origin: Indonesia
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 58:42, 52:41
Links:
Track List:
CD 1: Throwing Words (12:07), Stepping Inn (12:40), For Once And Never (8:36), One Has To Be (13:05), Lain Parantina (12:20)
CD 2: This Spirit (18:01), Kemarau (11:02), Disapih (12:08), 5,6 (11:30)
I have no doubt that the audience at the Orion Studios in Baltimore shuffled excitedly in anticipation as the illuminated players graced the spot-lit stage. The spectators stood, open mouthed and wide eyed, transfixed and beguiled as the performers' talents became apparent. After two hours, the bands' appreciative listeners were satiated, and the players departed. Soon afterwards, the audience also departed; delicately showered and powerfully saturated by a pot pourri of East-meets-West instrumental progressive jazz fusion.

Luckily, the performance was professionally recorded. Those who were fortunate enough to witness the event can now take the opportunity to quiver and murmur with delight over each captured note, and every timeless shard of cutting improvisation, wherever or whenever they wish.

Indonesian band simakDialog have been captivating and enchanting audiences for more than 25 years with its successful recipe. For the band's seventh album, they chose to release thei second live disc, aptly titled Live at Orion. The album was recorded during the band's 2013 tour of the USA and faithfully depicts their ability to create enthralling and sophisticated live music.

Throughout the two discs, the players perform with authority and notable assurance. They display enviable versatility, as the music pauses, ambles and stirs, to create an indelible impression of their collective subtlety and individual virtuosity.

The virtuoso talents of principal composer and Fender Rhodes player Riza Arshad are highlighted throughout the set. His sensitive playing glows warmly and lights up proceedings. The length of many of the compositions enable Arshad to explore many different paths and moods in his largely improvised solos. There are many hints of the influence of Chick Corea in his flowing and rhythmic approach, particularly in the expansive and excellent Lain Parentina.

Although the sparkling talent of Arshad provides the cornerstone of much of simakDialog's music, the stunning guitar work of Tohpati is also a prominent feature. His performance across the two discs is equally impressive. His languid, meditative and spiritual tones often bring to mind some of the emotive work of Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal. When appropriate, as in Stepping Inn, Tohpati unleashes the full power of his instrument, amid a frenzy of distortion and blistering aggression. On the whole though, simakDialog's music does not frequently feature the frenetic, uninhibited guitar-led fusion that was a significant feature of Tohpati's enjoyable Tribal Dance solo release.

The difference between the extended versions of the tunes present on this disc, and the original pieces on albums such as Demi Masa and the excellent The 6th Story is immense. The live performances are much less structured and give an opportunity for the listener to experience something that is organic; pulsating with life and flavoured with an unexpected essence. It is clear that the performing musicians have great empathy with each other. It is also apparent that the band has great confidence in the quality and strength of their compositions. In a live performance setting, the players are able to take the basic components of each composition and surf it on a wave of improvisation.

Live at Orion contains a melange of styles, but the band never strays too far from the influence of their Indonesian roots. Their music is underpinned by a trio of percussionists and the impact of gamelan (Ed: the traditional ensemble music of Java and Bali in Indonesia) upon the music is apparent. At times, this appears somewhat incongruous, especially when the music bubbles and scorches towards conventional jazz-rock territory. This seeming imbalance is arguably what gives this band a unique and appealing identity within the heavily-populated territory of instrumental fusion.

Although simakDialog's release is enjoyable in its own right; overall I preferred the work of Dewa Budjana as an example of Indonesian, East-meets-West fusion.

Whilst I appreciate the skilful performances that are embedded in this album and will be a frequent listener, the lengthy nature of the improvisations did not always effectively translate into a living-room setting. I am sure that I would have been enthralled if I had witnessed such a magnificent set in person, but it was difficult to maintain concentration during the entire duration of this recorded version. Perhaps, the obvious solution is to listen to the album in more manageable portions. Whenever I have attempted to do this, my enjoyment levels have also increased.

The second disc is particularly engaging, as the band turns up the tempo and increases the intensity of its performance. In many respects simakDialog is a fascinating and richly satisfying band. Live at Orion is strongly recommended for any readers who have an interest in instrumental jazz-fusion. I would certainly go out of my way to see the band perform and would definitely wish to investigate their next studio release.
Conclusion:
Owen Davies: 7.5 out of 10

Space Invaders - Invasion on Planet Z
Space Invaders - Invasion on Planet Z
Country of Origin: Germany
Year of Release: 2013
Time: 79:57
Links:
Track List:
Invasion (18:02), Surrender (17:19), Leaving the Ruins [Demolished Sound System] (24:03), Laboratory In Space (20:31)
Invasion on Planet Z is the 2013 release by the psychedelic space rockers known as the Space Invaders. The album contains four live instrumental tracks that nearly stuff the CD to its musical maximum capacity. Their line-up consists of drums, bass, keys and two guitarists. They add even more members on the next album (see my review for Playing the Sonic Noise Opera with Nik Turner).

There was a time where music by bands like the Space Invaders would be required for my evening (and night, and perhaps next morning) festivities. I'm much older now and no longer partake in such things, but that doesn't mean I'm immune to chill-axing to music that wobbles its way towards a discontinuous end. Most prog rock has moments where the music is allowed to rise and fall in such a way that it takes on a life of its own. Interludes become as much part of the song's identity as the main hook. In a familiar way, the songs on Invasion on Planet Z move toward, away, then back again, as a similar moving target. It just takes the Space Invaders 20 minutes to arrive where the bridges in pure prog songs take you in a few minutes.

The structural sameness between tracks is more a product of the evolutionary process that each song must undergo. There's a riff, a groove, some energy, an idea, perhaps some inspiration, followed by reflection and resolution. All (good) improvisational art takes time to become self-aware.

There's no shortage of original-sounding material in their jams. A good example is the first half of Surrender as it meshes King Crimson soundscapes with Rusted Root [or insert random hippie band here] drumming, in such a way you could be certain that this was some sort of secret collaborative by those bands. Yet then the same song finishes as a vigorous and accomplished rock-out, more indicative of classic rock.

The playing on this recording is very much above average. The guitarists have great skill at layering their effects and knowing just how much to spice things up with a flurry of notes, funk it up with some wah, retro things up with some talk box, or drone quietly while letting the rest of the band carry the mood. The bass thunders and drives with intent. The drums are perfectly executed in each crescendo, falling back to a supportive role without ever feeling phoned in. The synthesisers are meshing each movement carefully, often adding glue to what could otherwise become sonic mayhem.

The only critique I would offer is that these songs definitely drag for longer than they probably need to. The final 4-5 minutes of Leaving the Ruins doesn't really seem to arrive anywhere. I'm not saying it's excruciating getting through it, but after a few listens it seems I could just skip to the next track and not miss anything. Laboratory In Space takes a while to get going. Nevertheless the music is very soothing and worthwhile. It's just the nature of this genre I suppose. I'm sure there's some who would say it didn't take long enough to build.

As a performance, as a package, as a set of songs, this is solid work. It's not music-world shattering, it's not going to create a revolution in the music biz, and it's probably not going to turn droves of pop music listeners into jam rock zombies. But taken at its face value this is some very competent art, which embodies the essence of improvisational rock.
Conclusion:
Kevin Heckeler: 8.5 out of 10

Space Invaders and Nik Turner - Playing the Sonic Noise Opera
Space Invaders and Nik Turner - Playing the Sonic Noise Opera
Country of Origin: Germany
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 62:44
Links:
Track List:
Sonic Attack (5:48), Space Invaders (2:49), Spicy Spiders (7:18), Drum'n'Space (7:55), Stardust Part 1 (10:20), Can You? (12:51), Stardust Part 2 (15:38)
Sonic Noise Opera is the 2014 release by the psychedelic space rockers known as the Space Invaders. Their line-up expands from their last recording to include Nik Turner on sax, flute, and some vocals. The previously-established underlying Space Invaders musical principles (live improvised rock) are in full effect on Sonic Noise Opera. The addition of Nik Turner only helps to elevate their music.

The aptly named first track, Sonic Attack, is reminiscent of Frank Zappa's stranger moments (and there were plenty). Its dark humour works well, as the music on Sonic Noise Opera tends to have a tinge of depth and contemplation that was mostly missing on their previous recording. Sonic Attack builds into the ghoulish, quirky and fun Space Invaders.

Once the music kicks in full-force midway through Space Ivaders it's clear that Nik's presence adds some welcome dynamics. The saxophone jumps gracefully and eloquently from the noise. Spicy Spiders then arrives on cue to affirm the delivery of the sonic attack. Drenched in delay, the soaring sax and flute carry this track for nearly seven long minutes. This is followed by a Pink Floyd DSoTM inspired, and perhaps more upbeat Drum 'n' Space. It is wll performed and enjoyable (particularly good driving music).

The final three tracks are a return to the form established on Invasion on Planet Z. Long jams meander through many rise and falls, trading licks and great instincts for how to follow, but not be a slave, to a particular path. As a whole, the playing on this album sounds a notch better than on their Planet Z performance. It would seem in the year between albums, they grew as a band, or were just having a really good night. Regardless of why, I found this album more enjoyable overall, despite there still being moments where jams feel like they go on for longer than maybe they should. If you're looking for some high calibre space rock, with some solid progressive elements, then look no further than this recording.
Conclusion:
Kevin Heckeler: 9 out of 10

Previous Issue Next Issue

Published Sunday 13 September 2015

SEND FEEDBACK



© 1995 - 2017 : Dutch Progressive Rock Page