ISSUE 2015-589

Reviews in this issue:

Antimatter - The Judas Table
Antimatter - The Judas Table
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 56:51
Links:
Track List:
Black Eyed Man (6:20), Killer (5:06), Comrades (4:55), Stillborn Empires (7:16), Little Piggy (6:38), Hole (5:01), Can of Worms (5:32), Integrity (6:02), The Judas Table (6:35), Goodbye (2:31)
This is not an album to be shared. It is an album to secret away to a place of quiet solitude for those moments of quiet reflection. To immerse oneself in the music, the art, the thought and the emotion. It is an album to cherish. An album to absorb with an open mind and an open ear. It is an album that will become a close companion. It is not an album to be shared.

Three years after Fear of a Unique Identity, Mick Moss returns with the sixth album from his melancholic dark rock band Antimatter. The troubling album cover is a clear statement of attentive intent. Part self-explanatory, and part open-to-interpretation.

The androgynous twins appear to be in an embrace, possibly kissing. But the straight-jackets which enfold them, places the question of whether it is out of love or a lack of a way out. Their mouths are becoming melded into one, suggesting this has been a long-standing proximity, and that any parting will be painful.

The lyrics across the ten tracks tread a similar tightrope of setting a scenario but allowing the reader/listener to balance their own interpretation upon the words. Moss has been keen to add his own angle, quoted in an interview as saying: "For The Judas Table I gather together the various personalities of the people who's callous and disrespectful, backstabbing actions caused me countless wasted years of depression."

"For years I thought the problem was with me. I was always open and tried my best, but was nevertheless used and betrayed many times. This led me to believe I was worthless and must have deserved it. Now I realise the problem was with the clinically psychologically soulless people who treated me that way due to their nature, not mine."

Elsewhere, Antimatter has been keen to promote this as a lighter, more melancholic collection of music, with Moss having overcome his demons. My eyes and ears reach a slightly differing diagnosis. The Judas Table may hold out the olive branch of personal enlightenment, but the thorn of bitterness and regret is still embedded deep within the band's principal song writer. Realising the true source of the hurt often deepens the pain, for a while at least. This is an album scratched with the thorn of bitterness.

The overall atmosphere is quieter, at times melancholic. But still it is a very dark melancholy that pervades every note. There is little space to breathe here. Which is only problematic if, like me, you wish to describe the song writing and musicianship as 'breathtaking'.

The expansive Stillborn Empires, is just one place where I feel Moss has reached a peak in his song writing journey. It is the whole album in one song; heavy and soft, angry and bitter-sweet, and with an unexpected coda ending, based around the wonderful spoonerism: "It's a business doing pleasure with you." Pure genius.

Moss' singing is amazing. The words, such as:'Daddy didn't want you and Mommy gave you pain', just drip with emotion. His subtle reflection between words, between syllables, should truly captivate and carry a listener through the album, especially on the more acoustic songs (Comrades and Hole). His sad, bluesy guitar solos (Black Eyed Man) and his more metallic guitar talents (Can of Worms) have been under-rated for too long.

Check out also the show-stopping change of intensity and pace from Stillborn Empires and Little Piggy. The strength of this album is almost as much about how the songs are ordered as how they are composed.

Rachel Brewster's violin gives Antimatter's music a very unique touch. Often her touches are small but leave an immense impression. The female vocals of Jenny O'Connor work both as inspired caresses of extra harmony (Black Eyed Man), and in taking the lead role (Hole).

However as with most great albums it is the drumming and bass work that shapes and carries the 10 songs. The technique of Liam Edwards on drums and tabla is the perfect match for the music. He creates a different vibe for every song, but it is his knowing when not to play, when to miss a beat or two, that adds the most.

The production brings Ste Hughes' bass to the fore. Again the playing is not over-elaborate but when to be restrained and when to let loose is perfectly judged throughout. The deep, resonating bass sound which pervades this album is utterly gorgeous.

Some may say that this album does rather repeat the key elements of the Antimatter soundtrack. That it is treading familiar ground. That is true. Yet when the music is of this quality, when an album has so much variety in pace and groove, when the production is so magnificently clear, when the lyrics and playing are done with such attention to detail, when everything is in a class of its own, I couldn't give a damn about originality.

I see this album as a fine-tuning and enhancement of what has gone before, to a level of perfection that I do not think will ever be surpassed in this style of music. With The Judas Table, Antimatter has created Dark Rock Perfection. In that respect, it is an album that must be shared.
Conclusion:
Andy Read: 10 out of 10

William D Drake - Revere Reach
William D Drake - Revere Reach
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 45:29
Links:
Track List:
Distant Buzzing (3:26), In Converse (4:18), Lifeblood (2:58), Be Here Steryear (4:48), A Husk (5:41), The Blind Boy (2:49), Clack Dance (0:44), Heart of Oak (4:37), The Catford Clown (2:49), Liferaft (1:03), Castaway (4:09), Revere Reach (5:50), Orlando (2:17)
William D Drake's latest album has been in constant rotation on my playlist for some weeks and it continues to excite and surprise.

Revere Reach is a highly appealing and original album. Many of the tunes do not easily fit the norms of traditional song writing. However what is on offer is a plethora of whimsical and superbly-crafted songs. The various players' performances on the album are of the highest quality, but it is the quality of the compositions which illuminate the disc's running time.

The album embraces a wide range of styles, and channels a plethora of different influences, both throughout the release and within individual songs. Like a fine wine, Revere Reach is imbued with many different textures and aromas. It offers listeners with a discerning palate, a sweet bouquet and an impressive array of flavours. The potent aural fragrances released in the album's tightly spun tunes, bring to mind diverse artists such as, Genesis, Peter Blegvad, Kate Bush, John Greaves, The Northettes and even shades of Brian Wilson à la Pet Sounds. As a result, the album has a great after-taste and a unique ambience that is difficult to pigeon hole, but above all, is always satisfying and interesting.

The album ticks all of the right boxes both intellectually and emotionally. It is lyrically astute, mixing both whimsy and tragedy in tunes that bristle with fine words and meaningful tales. The lyrics on tunes such as Distant Buzzing, In Converse, Blind Boy and Heart of Oak are provided by a number of different poet's poems. These infuse the songs with stimulating imagery, to create an imaginative visual landscape. This vivid lyrical picture is complemented by the equally stimulating soundscape that is provided by Drake's skillful arrangements and imaginative sense of melody.

Musically the album has great emotive appeal. On the face of it, it is awash with accessible melodies and heartfelt choruses. These elements combine to give the album a superficial accessibility. Delve deeper though, and the album's true complexity reveals itself, as hidden layers become uncloaked, to reveal an album that is rich in unconventional song structures and dexterous instrumental parts.

The strongest, and by far the most enjoyable tracks are contained in the album's middle section, but even the tunes which I have yet to fully warm to, such as the folk-styled vocal inflections contained in the title track, have more than enough variation and quirky interludes to keep things interesting.

Revere Reach is an album that often achieves high standards, but three pieces stand out.

Lifeblood is a personal favourite. It swings along with folky joy and includes a chorus with a vocal delivery that is redolent of early Genesis. The associated and haunting vocal refrain which proclaims 'it's your lifeblood' is reminiscent of Kate Bush. The extensive use of piano accordion in this piece, and at other key points, is particularly effective in setting the atmosphere and traditional hue of the album. I have not enjoyed the use of this instrument on an album as much since Ian Anderson's Secret Language of Birds release.

The influence of baroque pop and Brian Wilson are quite discernible in the gently-soothing harmonies of Be Here Steryear. The clear delivery of the expressive vocal parts reminded me of The Northettes. It is an outstanding composition that eagerly displays its numerous qualities within the confines of its beautifully-crafted tune.

Accompanied by nature, yet set aside in a lofty position of forlorn loneliness and timeless solitude, stands The Husk. This tale is about a scarecrow and is arguably the album's pinnacle. It has just the right mix of ingredients to create a uniquely memorable tune. I found myself drawn to its emotive pull, and totally ensnared by its words. The impact of the melody, coupled with the stunning, sung refrain 'the winds a liar' is just outstanding. The Husk brims with thoughtful lyrics and is colourfully gift wrapped in innovative unpredictability. The discordant piano that embellishes things as the piece gathers momentum, is striking and particularly effective.

Overall, Revere Reach is a thoroughly engaging and satisfying album and should appeal to anybody who enjoys unconventional song structures, imaginative arrangements and thoughtful lyrics. I whole-heartedly recommend it and it is undoubtedly going to feature highly in my top ten releases of the year.
Conclusion:
Owen Davies: 8.5 out of 10

God's Bow - Tranquilizer
God's Bow - Tranquilizer
Country of Origin: Poland
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 53:40
Links:
Track List:
Aladiah (5:21), Curse the Night (5:38), Fueled by Sound (4:52), One Day (6:57), Profounder (5:14), Fallen (4:34), New Kingdom of Illusions (5:58), Tranquilizer (5:02), After All (3:51), Absolutely Anne (6:07)
'Alternative/Darkwave'. That is how the band, or rather the duo of Agnieszka Kornet and Krysztof Pieczarka, have described themselves on their Bandcamp page. They state that their music, melancholic and romantic at the same time, is inspired by acts like Dead Can Dance, Clan of Xymox, Front Line Assembly and Nine Inch Nails. Dark electronic music.

Considering it is just Agnieszka and Krysztof behind God's Bow, they do craft a very coherent sound. This album is already their fourth and,even while being all about electronics, it has a very warm touch to its sound. The album, no matter how dark the subjects and lyrics might be, sounds rather bright.

In the way the album opens with Aladiah, you get drawn towards the Middle East. In the way it is played, it reminds me of that other dark band Therion. However, Therion bow their heads to the gods of metal, something which doesn't happen in the course of this album.

This being my very first encounter with the duo, I must admit I was very pleasantly surprised, as Krysztof readily convinces listeners that there is more to electronic music than you might at first consider. The way he has succeeded in matching each track with just the right atmosphere, the right sounds and always befitting the vocal lines and lyrics, is just outstanding.

There are moments when I find myself being reminded of Depeche Mode. That is not because God's Bow is inclined to go all poppy on this album, no, not at all. It's more in the use of the sounds, sometimes in the vocal lines. Take Curse the Night for example, a song that every now and then resembles a younger Depeche Mode. Indeed, the music is far, far more darker than the ones who once raised Blasphemous Rumours to a standard.

Krysztof has composed tracks that draw and hold your attention as if they might be part of a soundtrack to a movie that would never ever come to a happy end.

But in a sense this record does come to a happy ending. They have made an album that should be of value to those amongst us who love Anathema's more ethereal tracks, especially those with Lee Douglas singing. This is an album that suits those winter days nicely. As the night falls around here and I'm left all alone, I give this an album another spin and drink in the mood. To travel through the darkness and then end up listening to Absolutely Anne is just beautiful. It makes you think what a live band would do with these tracks. Yes, a nice record, this one!
Conclusion:
Marcel Hartenberg: 7.5 out of 10

Helfir - Still Bleeding
Helfir - Still Bleeding
Country of Origin: Italy
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 39:40
Links:
Track List:
Oracle (3:19), My Blood (5:38), In the Circle (4:57), Alone (3:03), Dresses of Pain (6:22), Black Flame (4:08), Portrait of a Son (6:19), Where Are You Now (1:35), Night and Deceit (4:19)
The Facebook page for Luca Mazzotta's current solo project states this is decadent noir metal, which makes it sound a tad like a box of chocolates, but one sold in a threatening metallic box. Tasteful, intelligent indie, bordering on shoe-gaze, might however be a bit more an appropriate description.

At times it's ambient, but then again it's also stylish, dark pop with some deliciously understated guitar solos that sound a bit like Porcupine Tree or The Pineapple Thief in their mellower moments. There's also an eerie resemblance to some of Tony Banks' later keyboard sounds with Genesis on the piece My Blood.

The vocals hide in the mix, reminiscent at times of the massively under-rated Pieter Nooten. In terms of its melancholic yet melodic post-rock feel, Anathema would probably be the best and closest comparison. It's light and dark, gloomy and joyous, yet always enticing and enthralling. It's an album that, if not paid attention to, sounds decent enough. But really listen, and it's a sublime and well-produced mix of modern, gloomy post-rock prog that fans of recent Anathema albums would love. Most specifically, if We're Here Because We're Here, is in your collection, this would sit comfortably alongside it (unless you file your albums alphabetically!).

The keyboards swirl, the guitars flit between delicately-intricate and buzzingly-ferocious, but at all times it is tight and cohesive and top-notch. Alone is beautiful, and in the Anathema vein. It is followed by a pulsating piece that hints at gothic, gloomy ambience before exploding into a chorus and understated guitar solo that Opeth or Katatonia would be proud of. Mazzotta uses his instruments wisely, and with a diversity and maturity that sounds effortless. No two tracks are alike; Sometimes that is a recipe for disaster, but certainly not here.

To put the cherry on top, the last piece, Night and Deceit, sums it all up perfectly with a bit of everything thrown in.

It's a very rewarding album that, in spite of its occasional starkness, is full of melodic and diverse warmth and beauty.
Conclusion:
Jim Cornall: 8 out of 10

Miriodor - Cobra Fakir
Miriodor - Cobra Fakir
Country of Origin: Canada
Year of Release: 2013
Time: 50:02
Links:
Track List:
La Roue (3:43), Cobra Fakir (8:53), RVB7 (3:56), Paris-Roubaix (2:13), Titan (4:17), Un Cas Sibérian (2:28), Speed-dating sur Mars (7:07), Tandem (8:23), Maringouin (3:41), Space Cowboy (3:11), Expérience 7 (2:27)
I was not familiar with the band Miriodor, whose 35-year career had not come on to my radar, until I was sent Cobra Fakir to review. Hailing from Quebec City, Canada, Miriodor have long rubbed shoulders with the Avant garde/RIO fraternity, such as Henry Cow and Art Zoyd. Out of the stable of the respected Cuneiform Records, the accompanying press release to Miriodor's ninth release espouses the quality of this recording in the most glowing of terms. So what's the music like, and does it live up to the hype?

Owing to the company the band has kept, the band's label, and the blurb in the press release, I was bracing myself excitedly for a wild ride of challenging, jarring, difficult, and hopefully brilliant music. The effect wasn't quite that dramatic, but Miriodor has produced an interesting selection of songs on this disc.

I'd describe this as quirky, instrumental progressive rock, rather than the Avant-prog I was expecting. It's frankly just not weird enough to break into the realms of the avant-garde. For the most part, this album is eminently 'listenable'. By and large there are no jarring discords, unexpected bursts of uncontrolled noise and atonal woodwind flurries that the truly outlandish purveyors of Avant-prog seem to specialise in. I'd say Miriodor offers a kind of avant-lite – plenty of quirkiness, without ever becoming difficult.

Rather than just downright weird, the music on Cobra Fakir is almost always tonal and melodic. The music often has a cartoonish feel to it, hinting at a playful and humourous side to the band. This is stated from-the-off in opening track La Roue. The music, although instrumental, is song-based, and develops through well thought-out structures, and leaves no room for soloing. The music is good, easy to listen to and wouldn't be out of place on an episode of Ren and Stimpy. The songs cover a great deal of ground, getting a great deal of information in, without feeling forced or contrived.

The bass (played by Bernard Falaise, who also plays guitars and several auxiliary instruments) and drum parts (Rémi Leclerc) remain fairly simple, and whilst played competently, don't offer any moments where they stand out. That leaves Pascal Goblensky' keyboard work and Bernard's guitar to provide the interest. Much of the work is keyboard dominated, with the keys carrying most of the melodies. Goblensky covers the gambit from pianos and accordions, through to heavy organs and proggy synths.

Much of Falaise's guitar work is either acoustic or undistorted electric guitar, which is the perfect vehicle for his playful, cartoon-like guitar melodies. Occasionally this is contrasted by some relatively heavy guitar chord work. The musicianship is clearly in the song-writing here, which certainly demands that each member knows his stuff in order to play the extremely layered, ever-changing structures.

As the album progresses, things take on a more Avant direction from tracks five to seven. Paris-Roubaix has what sounds like backwards/sampled drums, probably courtesy of Leclerc's turntable. Laid over this, is some odd, Middle-eastern influenced organ playing, with some discordant stabs thrown in – avant-garde, have we arrived? The next track Titan is once again dominated by dark and heavy organs. There's a great section in the middle where a percussion backdrop is overlaid by some organ melodies in seemingly free time, before giving way to torturous chords and accents that we happily endure until some kind of structure emerges once again.

Speed Dating Sur Mars is one of the stand-out tracks, meandering its way through a series of musical rapids, fast, skitty organ pieces, ominous brooding sections, and obligatory spacey noise-scapes, before finally settling into some first-class cartoon funk in 7/4!

Only towards the end of the album do we start to hear influences of Zappa's Mothers of Invention coming to the fore. Tandem, being the second longest track is a veritable journey, whilst Mangouin is Miridor's answer to Toads of the Short Forest. The album winds down with the binary code, turntable strangeness of Space Cowboy, which cleverly morphs itself into a song, after very unsure beginnings.

The album closes with Experience 7, a genuine cold, harsh avant-garde soundscape, the disturbance only interrupted by jarring stabs of sampled brass. This ending track is a departure from the rest of the album, seeming slightly out of place, but it's an intriguing and satisfying end to things.

As with all good music, this album needs a lot of listening to fully appreciate, and I like it more with each listen. However I can't shake of a slight feeling that it's a little bit twee at times. I can't comment on how it compares to Miriodor's other works, but if you were planning on checking this band out, I'd say this album is accessible to all prog fans. If you want to just dip your toe into the world of Avant-prog, this would be a good place to start.
Conclusion:
Matt George: 8 out of 10

Omrade - Edari
Omrade - Edari
Country of Origin: France
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 45:31
Links:
Track List:
Motsogn (5:10), Mann Forelder (5:20), Luxurious Agony (5:25), Satellite and Narrow (6:08), Aben Dor (5:26), Friendly Herpes 5:21, Skam Parfyme (6:31), Ottaa Sen (6:10)
A clue to this French band's output is gained from reading their major influences of Manes and Ulver, and indeed these are two bands to whom this ambient, post-rock, avant-garde album can be compared, albeit loosely.

Edari certainly should not be background music. Put it on and do something else, and it has slipped by unnoticed. However, pay it attention, and the many nuances and intricacies shine through the varied tracks. If anything, it's disconcertingly diverse, making it compelling yet confusingly inconsistent. That's not a knock on its quality, merely that this album is so hard to pigeonhole that it's not particularly cohesive.

One minute you're enduring a growling vocal, the next it's dark, trance-like, pulsating pop with female vocals in an Afro-Celt Sound System vein. Then it's like Front 242. There are many genres floating about in here. There's trip-hop, trance, electronic, world, ambient, post-rock, post-metal, and dare one say it, a little bit of modern prog. There's even a hint of Tears For Fears (in their The Hurting era) on Mann Forelder that straddles gloomy pop and electronic post-rock.

On the other hand, anyone thinking that Steven Wilson's music is at times eerie, needs to hear Aben Dor, with its decidedly creepy ambience. When the piece takes off, the disturbing unease however continues. It's compellingly odd. Friendly Herpes, a paradox if ever there was one, continues in a bit of a dark thriller/horror soundtrack genre. When the beat kicks in, it has an occasional feel of some of the more atmospheric and brooding tracks by such 4AD label artists as early Clan of Xymox.

The stand-out track is the album's brooding closer, Ottaa Sen, which bubbles, explodes, burns and pounds, with a bit of ambience crammed in to make for a mesmerising mix.

Overall, it's a bit frustrating. There are many interesting and enthralling things happening, and some individual pieces work wonderfully. However, it doesn't seem to flow particularly well, given there's so much going on and there are so many differences between tracks in terms of style. Having said that, it's definitely both listenable and impressive, and there's always a riff, sound, or bit of weirdness going on in the background to grab the attention.
Conclusion:
Jim Cornall: 7 out of 10

Present - Triskaïdékaphobie
Present - Triskaïdékaphobie
Country of Origin: Belgium
Year of Release: 2014/1980
Time: 59:14
Links:
Track List:
Promenade Au Fond D'Un Canal (19:21), Quatre-Vingt Douze (15:39), Repulsion (03:39); bonus tracks (recorded live in Brussels, 1981): Dense (10:01), Vous Le Saurez En Temps Voulu (10:34)
In 1979, one year after the foundation of the influential Rock in Opposition movement, Belgian guitarist Roger Trigaux left Univers Zero (one of the movement's five original bands) with the intent of branching out and pursuing a more electric, rock-based direction. Teaming up with pianist Alan Rochette, as well as two of his UZ bandmates - drummer Daniel Denis and bassist Christian Genet - he founded Present. The new band's debut album, titled Triskaïdékaphobie (Fear of the Number Thirteen), was released towards the end of the following year.

Taking Univers Zero's austerely-gloomy atmospheres a step further, Present's very name is a by-word for dark-hued, gothic music among aficionados of the Avant-Prog school of thought. However, they also boast a distinctly rock attitude, giving Trigaux's guitar a starring role, rather than going for the more acoustic, chamber-like approach favoured by UZ in their early days. The intensely powerful, dramatic outcome mingles an almost academic sophistication with rock's visceral impact - a bit like King Crimson did in the 70s, especially on albums such as Lizard or Starless and Bible Black.

In fact, although prog fans often rhapsodise about the genre's ground-breaking blending of rock and classical music, they almost invariably refer to those artists inspired by the Romantic era. The "Belgian school" (admittedly an acquired taste for many) tends to be neglected, in spite of offering possibly the most interesting results with its combination of rock and 20th-century classical music.

With apologies for my use of a rather clichéd expression, Triskaïdékaphobie is not for the faint of heart - starting with its slightly disturbing cover artwork. Present's fame as purveyors of "scary" music (making them an almost obligatory choice for any self-respecting prog Halloween playlist) is immediately confirmed by an opening track by the ominous title of Promenade au fond d'un Canal (A Walk at the Bottom of a Canal). It is a veritable behemoth of a composition that sets the tone for the whole album. The interplay between the four band members is deployed with clockwork precision, unfolding in a riot of somber, electric-veined chamber rock. The guitar's in-your-face attitude makes the difference, weaving sinister atmospheres, often contrasted with ostinato keyboards.

Only a few minutes shorter, Quatre-Vingt Douze (Ninety-Two) flares up and subsides, bolstered by Denis' ominously tolling gong, then culminates in an exhilarating choral coda. The creepy, aptly-titled Repulsion closes the original album, again using the gong to great effect, its menacing surge, and slow, gradual fadeout reminiscent of a horror movie soundtrack.

Besides its original three tracks, Cuneiform Records' 2014 remaster of this seminal album includes two tracks written by Trigaux and Denis for Univers Zero, Dense (from 1981's Ceux du Dehors) and Vous Le Saurez En Temps Voulu (from 1978's Heresie), performed by Present in Brussels one year after the release of Triskaïdékaphobie. Both songs are rendered with fiery intensity and a healthy dose of electricity (cue Trigaux's jaw-dropping solo in the middle of the former). This is somewhat in contrast with Univers Zero's more restrained approach. All in all, these songs are excellent additions to one of the defining albums of the RIO/Avant sub-genre, showcasing the sheer power of a band that, over 30 years (and many line-up changes) later, is still a force to be reckoned with.
Conclusion:
Raffaella Berry: 9.5 out of 10

Present - Le Poison Qui Rend Fou
Present - Le Poison Qui Rend Fou
Country of Origin: Belgium
Year of Release: 2014/1985
Time: 39:24, 79:19
Links:
Track List:
CD 1: Le Poison Qui Rend Fou, Part 1 (15:23), Ersatz (5:09), Le Poison Qui Rend Fou (9:41), Samana (9:14).
CD 2 (recorded live in Livry-Gargan, France, 23 January 1982): Quatre-Vingt Douze (17:31), Ersatz (09:15), Le Poison Qui Rend Fou, Part 1 (19:04), Chaos Hermetique (12:27), Promenade Au Fond D'un Canal (21:34)
Five years after Triskaïdékaphobie, Present came back with Le Poison Qui Rend Fou (The Poison That Drives You Insane), an album that saw them explore new musical territory. While they kept the four-piece configuration of their debut, the addition of classically- and jazz-trained bassist Ferdinand Philippot to replace Christian Genet made good use of the new member's background in introducing jazzy elements to their heady chamber rock sound. Though recorded at the beginning of 1983, the album was released two years later because of a host of production-related issues, when Present had already disbanded.

While Present will never win any prizes for light-hearted music, the album's sinister title and über-Gothic cover are somewhat deceptive, as its inspiration lies in one of the stories in the iconic Belgian cartoon series Les Aventures de Tin-Tin, titled Les Cigares du Pharaon. Present's interpretation of this classic, exotic adventure story is imbued with their own unique brand of keenly-edged darkness - though not as noticeable as in their magnificently gloomy debut. On the other hand, Le Poison Qui Rend Fou is in some ways less melodic and more pronouncedly electric.

Trigaux's wailing guitar right at the opening of the title-track (later complemented by the eccentric soprano vocals of Alain Rochette's wife, Marie-Anne Polaris, deconstructing a well-known children's song), sounds like a statement of intent. The track builds up relentlessly like Stravinsky on steroids, then quiets down before regaining momentum towards the end. The second half starts out with a wacky, circus-like tune, before turning intense and doomy, with the piano and guitar fiercely engaging in the creation of a tightly woven dramatic tapestry.

Rochette is given free reign on the album, his often wild piano forays bolstered by Denis' astoundingly creative percussion engine. His own personal contribution to the album, the closing track Samana, points to possible future developments in Present's music (had this line-up stayed together), with its alluringly-jazzy, almost carefree attitude that may bring to mind the more experimental instances of the Canterbury sound (such as National Health or Gilgamesh). Conversely, Ersatz (which separates the two halves of the title-track) feels almost improvisational, its choppy pace punctuated by Denis' snappy drum rolls and quaintly trilling castanets.

In this 2014 remastered and expanded edition, the album's original four tracks are augmented by another album's worth of live tracks (amounting to nearly 80 minutes) recorded near Paris in 1982, as well as three video clips taken from a cassette of the same concert (one of the band's last shows with the original line-up). The poor quality of the images is offset by the raw, mesmerising energy of the music and uncanny precision displayed by the band on stage. Their rendition of the towering Promenade Au Fond D'un Canal is alone worth the price of admission.

As observed in my review of their previous album, for all its visceral feel, Present's music clearly shows its classical matrix. Each of the tracks, from the longest to the shortest, is rigorously structured, countering the common misconception of RIO/Avant Prog as a welter of random, discordant sounds. While dissonance is definitely part and parcel of Present's aesthetics (and more prominently on display here than on Triskaidekaphobie), the effortless transition between apparently unrelated sections, holds the listener spellbound, and creates a sense of dramatic tension that shares very little with "traditional" prog's often overblown attempts at classical/rock fusion.

Even though many prog fans may often be daunted by anything bearing a RIO/Avant tag, anyone with an interest in 20th-century classical and chamber music should give both these seminal albums a listen (possibly more than one!). Needless to say, both albums are a must for any self-respecting devotee of progressive rock's more challenging manifestations. With Udi Koomran's painstaking remastering work that brings out all of the music's imperious, powerful splendour, vintage black-and-white photos, extensive liner notes by two of the leading experts on the RIO/Avant scene, Aymeric Leroy and Renato de Moraes - and, of course, the wealth of musical extras - both these packages are worth every penny.
Conclusion:
Raffaella Berry: 9.5 out of 10

Sonar - Static Motion
Sonar - Static Motion
Country of Origin: Switzerland
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 70:12
Links:
Track List:
Statuc Motion (8:03), Twofold Covering (7:51), Landslide (5:00), Shadow Play (8:08), Triptych (9:38), Continuum (8:39), Tranceportation (5:54), Zero Tolerance (4:38), Vertical Time (12:10)
Rarely does a band come along that is doing something genuinely unique; that defies easy comparison. Cue Sonar, with their second studio album Static Motion. This quartet from Switzerland consists of guitarists Stephen Thelen and Bernhard Wagner, Christian Kuntner on bass, and Manuel Pasquinelli on drums. Their music draws influence from among others King Crimson and Steve Reich, but sounds like neither. Combining the ethos of minimalism in a rock band setting, and utilising a unique system of tuning the guitar in tritones, the result is surprising. Your first listen will leave you puzzled as nothing seems to be happening here. The songs go on for ages, and all sound the same, at least that's what I first thought. How wrong I was.

The paradox of this highly minimalist music is its unbelievable complexity. The band also cite using mathematical formulae and number patterns to inform their music. But Math Rock this is not. This band is not trying to play a million notes and fit a hundred different riffs into one song. Your listening patience will be rewarded as the music begins to reveal itself to you. Each song is a slow-burner, a large-scale idea developed slowly over the course of the track. At the face of it, it may barely change at all. Using the same timbres by the instruments throughout the album, also contributes to its minimalist leanings. The two guitarists often seem to be merely noodling, mostly gleaning patterns from their guitar using only the natural harmonics that their unusual tuning system offers.

Each song typically starts with a simple rhythmical idea. This is gradually picked up, and slowly developed by the band, or may turn out to be a rhythmical illusion or polyrhythm. This music demands your attention, draws you in, challenges you to decipher what is going on.

Twofold Covering for example, revolves around an 11/8 bass riff, which is then played simultaneously in double time by the guitars an octave higher. Simple, but effective. Once you're hooked, you simply enjoy the ride as the piece builds in intensity. Done with natural dynamics alone, the band never needs to turn on their distortion pedals to ramp things up, but still the piece is definitely rocking hard as it gathers momentum.

Landslide's cunning owes itself to a 15-beat bass riff, pulsing every third note, but overlaid by a deceptive 4/4 groove that renders the whole thing simultaneously backwards, inside-out and upside down, until it resolves and begins again. Special mention must be made to drummer Pasquinelli's performance on Triptych, where the piece requires him to play in 11/8 and 14/8 simultaneously. This for me is the standout track, as the polyrhythm is utterly compelling and you simply don't want it to end.

I really can't think of any bands to compare this band to. As rare as it is I DO think this band are on to something unique. It certainly won't be for everyone, and I really didn't think I was going to like it after the first few listens. I normally like a bit more fireworks in my music, but through the clever use of minimalist techniques, this band has definitely shown that less is more. Whatever you normally listen to, I highly recommend giving this album the attention is deserves.
Conclusion:
Matt George: 9 out of 10

Tiresia Raptus - Diaspora
Tiresia Raptus - Diaspora
Country of Origin: Italy
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 59:12
Links:
Track List:
Do You Know Who You Are? (12:59), Vattienti (7:01), Angel (2:06), Scheletro (8:50), Emotions in Black (10:50), Tutto Dorme (3:32), Fragili Ossa (8:16), Diaspora (7:16)
Bringing the days of old together within the modern age. This is what Tiresia Raptus brings to life on their Diaspora album. They mix dark and doomy sounds with a nice portion of metal, whilst bringing on their inner Pink Floyd for good measure. The opening track does embark on some trip towards space, or so it seems, but it does set the controls for the rest of the album by combining ambient, metallic, doomy and electronic elements: together they make-up what Tiresia Raptus is about.

Tiresia Raptus is not as much a band as an institution that over time can - and will - change its members. Bassist Carlo Gagliardi seems to be the only member that belongs to the core. Nicola "Cynar" Rossi takes care of the vocals, synths and parts of the keyboards. Nico Irace plays both synths and organ, whereas Fransesco Campus plays the guitar and Giancarlo Lustri is the drummer. Their music sometimes has predominantly ambient parts, then again, other parts are more (dark) wavy. Other parts add metal, others bring on a progressive feel, like Pink Floyd would have done. It all makes for an intriguing blend of music and it is not hard to figure why the band might every now and then shake-up their line-up; just add the musicians to the sound you want to create.

After having watched Goblin play Suspiria live, this album harkens back to that sound too. Albeit that this is far more metal than Goblin ever could have been. Both can play rather eerie music.

This is an album that can grow on you and that does demand some time from the listener. You cannot just listen to two tracks and then think you have the album figured out. The album ebbs and flows and attention is drawn to the details that are carefully built into the diverse tracks. If Goblin way back when had your attention, then I suggest you carefully check this one out.
Conclusion:
Marcel Hartenberg: 7.5 out of 10

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Published Thursday 10 December 2015

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