ISSUE 2016-021

Reviews in this issue:

Tomas Bodin - She Belongs To Another Tree
Tomas Bodin - She Belongs To Another Tree
Country of Origin: Sweden
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 64:29
Links:
Track List:
Dried Leaves from the Sky (14:47), When a Ballerina Fish made Her Gum Crawl (5:20), Damn, I was Stung by a Zap Goblin (5:36), She belongs to another Tree (11:52), A Drama Queen in a Sky Bar (3:05), The Sloths are Never Climbing Inwards (7:26), Dancing a Tree in a Paranormal Café (8:19), Night Forest (8:04)
Well first of all apologies to Tomas Bodin for the tardiness in reviewing your solo album She Belongs to Another Tree as it's been a whole year since this one was ripe for picking from our plentiful orchard of prog fruit and nuts.

However, here it is and time is of no barrier to this album as it's crammed to the fridge drawer with timeless lovely synth noises that sound both futuristic and nostalgic, with Tangerine Dream throwbacks that, for me, are the backbone of most of my favourite keyboard player's unchaperoned recordings.

We enter the arboretum with nearly fifteen minutes of Dried Leaves from the Sky which has a great array of 80's sounding patches, organ, bass pulses, replete with a foot tapping drum machine backbeat that gives hints of Terry Riley's A Rainbow in Curved Air albeit dragged smiling into the late 2000's.

The titles are funny and do reflect on the music being heard: When a Ballerina Fish made her Gum Crawl and The Sloths are never Climbing Inwards contains notes that really do Crawl and are Sloth like, enjoyable listening none the less.

Damn I was stung buy a Zap Goblin reminded me of The Waiting Room from Genesis' Lamb album - designed to be a little frightening...

Title track She belongs to another Tree is another example of the entire range of sounds that modern computers and modules can provide. An un-earthly voice, then explosive smashes nearly blow up the speakers. Very Moody and not to be heard with the lights off!

A Drama Queen in a Sky Bar is the voice of an android singer down on her luck whilst Dancing a Tree in a Paranormal Cafe again perfectly fits the music - it's a film noir full of murderous characters and hopelessness but (believe it or not as it's bite is worse than it's “bark”), it's great fun and certainly showed my hifi who the boss is.

It seems like all the bad stuff happens during the day here as Night Forest is full of calm and sereneness where conventional piano and vibes provide cover for a synth trombone that also seems to be anthropomorphized.

This album is a journey with optimism at the start and finish but with a day of darkness in-between. The whole record reminded me of the oddest tracks on Stevie Wonders The Secret Life of Plants especially the track Earth's Creation. I know this is a bizarre comparison, but have a listen!! Meanwhile, this has, therefore, been a very prog experience and due to the textual content of some the instrumentation, I haven't missed the vocals at all.

A Creative and perfect example of sonic topiary, each track has been whittled down to provide eight modern carvings that should be in the cabinet of anyone who enjoys branching out into instrumental albums.
Conclusion:
Andrew Halley: 8.5 out of 10

Frost* - Falling Satellites
Frost* - Falling Satellites
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2016
Time: 54:27
Links:
Track List:
First Day (1:37), Numbers (4:22), Towerblock (6:13), Signs (6:36), Lights Out (3:52), Sunlight: a. Heartstrings (6:20), b. Closer To The Sun (7:20), c. The Raging Against The Dying Of The Light Blues (7:49), d. Nice Day For It (6:37) e. Hypoventilate (2:00), f. Last Day (3:01)
This was supposed to be part of a Duo Review, but due to a planning error the reviews are now published in two different issues.
Click here to see Raimond Fischbach's review of this album.
Falling Satellites is the first Frost* studio album since 2008 and since that time, the band has gone through some significant changes. The current line-up has been in place since 2010, but they haven't recorded an album together until now. The band consists of founder/keyboardist Jem Godfrey, original member and guitarist John Mitchell, alongside newcomers to the Frost studio output, drummer Craig Blundell and bassist, Nathan King. Somewhat surprisingly, this project also represents the first time that Jem and John have written together in Frost*. The years of this group playing together certainly appear to have paid off, as the musicianship throughout is truly impressive. There is also a guest appearance from Joe Satriani that only adds to the high level of skill on display.

The last Frost
studio release, Experiments in Mass Appeal, though still good, definitely reduced all the prog elements that were showcased on their debut, Milliontown. There is no doubt however that Falling Satellites is a prog album. The musical twists and turns throughout are quite spectacular. The traditional Frost* sound is still there, but there is a freshness that keeps this release from feeling redundant. Frost has the ability to reflect the prog styles from the past, while still sounding very modern.

When releasing your first album in eight years, it seems logical to attempt to put your best musical foot forward. Well, suffice to say, mission accomplished. Occasionally, I will discover an album that strongly reinforces why I love music and particularly progressive rock. Falling Satellites falls securely into that category.

To say that this album is consistently entertaining is a true understatement. I am challenged to call-out a middling or sub-par moment. In fact, there isn't one. In the tradition of albums that scream to be listened to from beginning to end, Falling Satellites demands your attention. The last six tracks form a 32-minute long suite called, Sunlight, but the album as a whole really flows together perfectly. Beginning with the track, Day One and ending with Last Day, the overall lyrical theme is around the chance circumstance of life and taking the opportunity to enjoy it. This concept is presented in an intriguing fashion and the sheer musical variety to be found from track to track, is striking.

There are moments contained within that run the gamut from hard rock (Signs and The Raging Against the Dying of the Light Blues), to pop (Lights Out), dub-step (Towerblock) and prog (pretty much every song on the album). In many cases, the varying musical styles occur within the same song. There are also some extended instrumental passages that are splendid. As an example, Nice Day for It impresses in the same way as some of the great Genesis instrumentals of the past.

I hesitate to call out highlight tracks, because as previously mentioned, this is an album that is best listened to in full. As I contemplate on the songs while writing this review, it is sincerely difficult to choose one track over another. Yes, the album is that consistently good. There isn't a false note or daft moment to be found.

At this point, I have written quite a few reviews for DPRP, and some of the albums have been very entertaining. That said, I personally avoid giving 10 out 10 ratings, because I feel that such a score should be reserved for true classics. In any form of entertainment, it doesn't get better than 10 out of 10. So it is a rating that I take very seriously.

Back in the 70s, the major record labels would sign bands and give them three studio albums to hopefully create their first complete masterpiece. A blending of the new and what came before, resulting in a work where everything just fell perfectly into place. Well, holding to that standard, Frost* has done just that with this, their third studio album. Feast your ears upon Falling Satellites folks. Simply put, it is a classic.
Conclusion:
Patrick McAfee: 10 out of 10

Jump - Over the Top
Jump - Over the Top
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2016
Time: 54:26
Links:
Track List:
Sir Thomas and The Passer-By (4:10), Saint Marie (3:50), End of Days (5:02), Old Gods (6:02), Behind the Lines (3:58), The Vagrants' Song (4:34), This Beach (7:16), Johnny V (5:46), 50 (6:38), Staring at the Rain 2015 (6:57).
I like Jump. Any band that celebrates its 25th anniversary by choosing to embellish its 13th studio album with an image of such youthful exuberance and daring, has my respect.

In a similar way to the music created over the years by this amazingly-consistent UK sextet, there is always more depth to the Jump creations, than maybe appears on a first encounter.

The starkly-honest personal and communal narratives that are a constant thread through the Jump back catalogue, offer a fascinating and engaging vantage point; one that enriches the band's music and widens a listener's world world.

The cover of Over The Top is a self-portrait by a 15-year-old boy seeking to push to new boundaries in a village playground. Apparently around the corner from that swing, is a memorial to boys not much older who, a century before, had faced new adventures of a very different kind. (The phrase "Over The Top" can cleverly be applied to both contexts!)

The loss of young lives in war, is one of many personal stories told through the ten songs offered here. Sir Thomas and the Passer-by kicks off the show with a tale from medieval times of a person who claimed a hanged man spoke to him, and ended up being dangled from the very same tree. Johnny V pays homage to a sadly-departed, heavy metal-obsessed friend from the Welsh valleys.

While the subject matter changes dramatically, thanks to the lyrical skills of singer John Dexter Jones, the way of storytelling forms a cohesive whole.

Similarly, the musical dynamics shift some distance between (and within) most songs. In previous reviews of Jump albums, the word "eclectic" is often unwound from the Thesaurus. However again here, a thousand gigs and counting, ensures this is no mish-mash of random influences. Few bands are able to combine so many disparate ingredients into an hour of music, and make it sound so simple and direct.

There has always been a softish sheen to the folky edge of the Jump blend of classic, folk and progressive rock. The twin electric guitar is missing on as many songs as it is present. The solos are varied and perfectly judged. Mo's keys and accordion add warmth and texture, more than solos. The bass and drums keep every thing crisp, amid a varied patter of grooves. The vocals of JDJ are as bright and eager as they were when he was a school choirboy in Bangor, Wales. He has retained the theatrical and political bite that made Fish such a captivating frontman in his heyday.

A blend of Uriah Heep, Jethro Tull, and the Canterbury scene, wrapped up in a singer songwriter storytelling charm. That is as close a comparison as I can give for the Jump sound. Those seeking more sonic diversity and complexity in their music would have to make do with the more adventurous closing pair of Johnny V and Fifty.

Thus, I do not think I am being over the top in saying that this is an album of wonderfully crafted songs, in a womb of fantastic storytelling. I like Jump.
Conclusion:
Andy Read: 8 out of 10

Landskap - II
Landskap - II
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 36:36
Links:
Track List:
Leave It All Behind (10:53), South Of No North (6:09), Through The Ash (6:48), Landskap Theme (3:01), Tomorrow's Ghost (9:45)
If you like some rock in your prog, then Landskap will not disappoint. Snugly wrapped in cliché after cliché, their music assaults the senses with the subtlety of a black leather-clad fist; a well-worn, wrinkled, black leather-clad fist!

What immediately springs to mind during Landskap's sophomore album, is that it is a curious, but ultimately unsatisfying mix of styles, which bridges a divide between Black Sabbath and The Doors.

Having recently attended the HRH 4 prog event, and having been subjected to a raft of ageing rock stars with inflamed, weather-worn larynxs and a plethora of progressive rock bands where the emphasis is on the rock, excuse me if I am a little critical of this ever-popular, but (to my mind) bloated sub-genre of prog.

What is on offer, will not startle nor surprise, but is sure to delight the primeval rocker that lurks beneath. There is something quaintly appealing about this band's raw, throw-back style. Landskap pull no punches in their attempt to recreate a classic, retro-fuzzed guitar sound, accompanied by some keen organ licks. These components act as buoyancy aid to a series of leaden compositions that are also weighed down by trite lyrics.

To reflect the predictable and well-travelled path that this album treads, I have decided to review it in a similarly obvious way by creating a brief track by track commentary.

The contribution of vocalist Jake Harding is probably the most compelling aspect of this release. His voice, although not particularly pleasant or tuneful, has a measure of the power and intonation associated with Jim Morrison. The first track on the album, Leave It All Behind, even includes a spoken-sung passage similar to some of Morrison's trademark work. This comparison is reinforced by the spirited organ frills that provide a light sparkle to the band's overall slate-grey sound. Leave It All Behind also features a crunchy guitar that is occasionally set with a tonal quality that could be easily associated with Robby Krieger.

In its concluding section, South of No North contains some neat organ and percussion parts reminiscent of Riders On The Storm. Any comparison to The Doors is largely superfluous however, as a slithering procession of slow-burned Sabbath riffs fall and rise to dominate and shape the track's meandering, bleak soundscape.

Through The Ash is an up-tempo piece that is moulded and ultimately drowned by a hazy fog of drab, ashen-grey riffs. If you like hard classic rock, then there is no doubt that the stylistic certainties of Through The Ash might appeal. I found it so brazenly predictable that I could have confidently have left the room and returned some five minutes later, safe in the knowledge that I would hear the same repeated patterns.

Landskap Theme sees the band earnestly stretch out in instrumental mode. It is a jaunty tune, that gives the impression that it may be a staple of the band's live set. Pungently scented, it is loosely dressed in an ill-fitting kaftan of drum fills and repetitive riffs. It has the sweat-flecked, retro feel of a hastily-formed instrumental jam from a 70s gig; it is easy to imagine it being eagerly created to give the vocalist an opportunity to go for a pee break.

The best vocal performance of the album is reserved for Tomorrow's Ghost. It's a slowly-paced, tonsil-shifting extravaganza which burns with increasing intensity as the piece strides forward in a determined fashion, towards its inevitable, climatic conclusion.

As a straight-forward, no-frills hard rock prog album, Landskap II has its merits and it is available as a name-your-price download on Bandcamp. What have you got to lose?
Conclusion:
Owen Davies: 5 out of 10

Monomyth - Exo
Monomyth - Exo
Country of Origin: Netherlands
Year of Release: 2016
Time: 43:41
Links:
Track List:
Uncharted (14:34), Surface Crawler (6:18), ET Oasis (7:09), LHC (9:46), Moebius Trip (5:54)
Monomyth is a psychedelic space rock band, playing instrumental, spacey, psychedelic progressive rock music. This album, EXO, is an instrumental album, consisting of five tracks. According to their Facebook page: "The band leans heavily on a solid foundation of drums and bass guitar, while adding guitar, keyboards and textures, layer upon layer." So with that in mind, I dived head-first into this, their third album.

As expected, it starts with what can only be described as spacey sound effects, mixed in with chilled-out drums and guitars. An initial reaction is that it is very similar to Voyage 34 by Porcupine Tree. In terms of musical progression, it must be said that this track (Uncharted), doesn't particularly go anywhere different, other than being a relatively relaxed and chilled one, until about 10 minutes where some rock-orientated sounds kick in. But it sadly sounds a bit out of time in places.

Surface Crawler is a rockier number, with a nice foot-tapping pace to it, complete with relatively interesting riffs and a fairly driving groove. However I feel again that it is let down by some of the additions, with the sound effects sounding almost to happy and out of place, compared to the overall tone of the guitars, bass and drums. It occasionally sounds like it is slowing down for a tempo change, but never quite slows enough, which is a shame, as otherwise this may have been a pretty decent track.

The third song, ET Oasis, does not quite stand up to the cliché of third time lucky. Utilising the same kind of pattern that nearly worked with the previous track, but not doing it as well, this track faded into the background pretty quickly, to become background noise.

The second-to-last track, LHC, manages to meld all the good points together to create a track that keeps your head bobbing. The sound effects and keys fit just right, the guitars are rocky, the drums keep the beat flowing. All-in-all it is a pretty decent track; easily the best on the album. The main disagreement being that it could have been cut by about three or four minutes as it does begin to drag a bit.

The album closer, Moebius Trip, again follows the same pattern as most of the others, but just with different sound effects, and sadly this also fades fairly quickly into the background.

The album could potentially work better if it had been put together as one track with some variation in the rhythm section injected into it. The talent of the musicians is of a good standard, it has a good beat, good tempo and flow. Sadly the sound effects feel a bit out of place at times, but they are not the most prominent feature of the album, so it doesn't have a massive impact.

While the album may not be one to write home about, it is equally not one to completely disregard. It blends into the background well, and while this may sound like a bad point, it really is not. If you need "background noise" for any activities, such as reading or painting or gaming, it is an album to choose.

I would recommend it if you enjoyed the likes of Voyage 34 or Metanoia by Porcupine Tree or some of Pink Floyd albums such as Meddle.
Conclusion:
Calum Gibson: 6 out of 10

Profuna Ocean - In Vacuum
Profuna Ocean - In Vacuum
Country of Origin: Netherlands
Year of Release: 2016
Time: 62:26
Links:
Track List:
Thousand Yard Stare (7:20), Awakening (4:54), Hanging In The Balance (13:30), Losing Ground (8:01), Ghost (5:10), Beautiful Sunrise (10:37), In Vacuum (1:11), Clean Slate (11:43)
FREIA Music is an independent music label specialising in progressive rock and metal. Established in 1984, the label released and distributed progressive rock music from all over Europe. After a merger, the label FREIA disappeared in 1990, only to return in 2012, since when it has released over 25 albums. Among them are some of the best current best Dutch and Belgian prog bands such as Sylvium, Silhouette and Neo Prophet. Buying one of the albums released on FREIA also means you support a charity. The label donates 25% of the earnings to the Children With A Challenge (CWAC) Foundation. Of course, that alone is not a reason to buy specific music, but if you do, it might just give you even more satisfaction!

Profuna Ocean could be one of the new stars in Dutch prog heaven. They are a contemporary progressive rock band, founded in 2008 and who a year later self-released their first album Watching The Closing Sky. After that release, which received international attention with some airplay on the radio show of Rick Wakeman (Yes), they played a number of gigs in the Netherlands, sharing the stage with Focus and Knight Area.

In 2013 the band won the award for "Best progressive rock band of the Netherlands" (Dutch Exposure) with their song Waiting For The Fall. Now the band has released their second album In Vacuum. The Swedish producer, mixer and recording engineer Jens Bogren, known for working with artists such as Opeth and Haken, was involved in the mastering of this album that has progressive influences from Porcupine Tree and Airbag. The music is powerful, intense but still very melodic. Don't expect too many brilliant solos because the strength of this band lies in the strong compositions and nice arrangements. Raoul Potters is by no means a bad guitarist, on the contrary his guitar playing is very tasteful. He has a sound that is slightly prog metal-orientated. He's also in charge of the vocal department and he has a pleasant voice that reminds me of Steven Wilson at times. The other members of the band are: Fred den Hartog (drums), Arjan Visser (bass) and René Visser (keyboards) and all proove throughout the album that they are skilled musicians.

The progressive influences of the mentioned bands are obvious from track number one, Thousand Yard Stare, to the closing track Clean Slate. They are among the best tracks of the album, along with the longest track, Hanging In The Balance, and my personal favourite, Beautiful Sunrise. Personally I think this album hasn't any bad tracks just good and even better ones!

It is a bit weird that the title track is an instrumental that lasts only one minute, but this is an album that deserves international attention. I think anyone who now mourns the fact that PT is not releasing a new album, should be happy with this album and give it a try.
Conclusion:
Peter Swanson: 8.5 out of 10

Reptiel - Hobbitozz .​.​. A Land That Never Was
Reptiel - Hobbitozz .​.​. A Land That Never Was
Country of Origin: USA
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 51:54
Links:
Track List:
Intro (2:16), Hobbitozz .​.​. The Land That Never Was (3:19), Forest Boy (2:23), Near and Far (4:12), Leaves Are Falling (2:38), These Woods Are Haunted (4:51), (Beware) The Woodland Witch (3:39), JackOh the Green (4:49), Forest Boy Forages for Food (1:13), Ecstasy in Shadow Green (3:49), Song of the Druid (1:37), The Elven Souls of the Forest Knolls (5:38), Tree Of Life (4:50), The Druid of the Wood (5:23), Outro (2:15)
San Francisco-based band Reptiel, has set its latest album, Hobbitozz... A Land That Never Was, in a fictional world. The concept, which the band calls a 'prog rock fairy tale', relates to the story of a Forest Boy who travels through the landscape of Hobbitozz to find his destiny. The band, in its release notes, states that this album is the first in a multi-part series of albums to take place in a fictional universe.

The artwork and packaging filled me with optimism, being richly regaled with images of verdant forests, crossed with mystery and charm. The song titles promised a woody treat, with such evocative titles such as, Leaves Are Falling, JackOh the Green and Tree of Life. After reading the band's blurb further, I was anticipating something pastoral, laced with folky mystique, and coloured with lashings of West coast eccentricity, with perhaps a bit of the brilliance and artistic guile of artists such as Frank Zappa thrown in for good measure.

Maybe my expectations were too high? At the very least, I was hoping for something with well-constructed tunes. Was it too much to ask?

I engaged my player. The stage was set for a journey amongst the emerald rivers and sapphire-coloured skies and so I sat eagerly awaiting a voyage into an exciting unchartered world. The disc begun to spin, cinematic synthesiser tones gently lapped and splashed. I found myself pondering whether this album was going to be a technicolour experience full of unexpected surprises and brightly lit peaks, or whether it was going to be a drab, monochrome affair.

After ten minutes, it became apparent that I would struggle to find much to enjoy. I was even more certain by the end of the album. I have since listened to this album on numerous occasions, and each time has sadly been less satisfying than the last.

Hobbitozz ... has some moments of eccentricity, but any enjoyment created by these creative winks, is marred by the dearth of sparkling moments within the band's low-lit compositions. There are times where the band reaches towards Frank Zappa, as in Leaves are Falling and Tree of Life, but the music has neither the artistic flair and originality nor the instrumental brilliance to successfully pull this off.

Hobbitozz ... is weighed down by the promise of an unworldly soundscape, and ultimately it fails in almost every respect to deliver and fulfil its lofty goal. I listened in hope, waiting to be convinced, forlornly aware that I still remained firmly grounded amongst the concrete by-ways and grey-skied leaves of urban Manchester.

Thankfully, some compositions manage to furtively emerge, peeping coyly through the overall gloom created by the dirge-like structure of tracks such as Forest Boy, Leaves Are Falling, Beware the Woodland Witch, Song of the Druid and The Druid of the Wood.

The instrumental interludes which proudly come to the fore in the concluding sections of These Woods Are Haunted and on JackOh the Green show that the band is able to stretch out and create a groove when the mood takes them. These are the probably the best and most rewarding passages of the album.

The most satisfying moments are held together by the enjoyable keyboard work of Alec Way. Despite containing largely uninspiring compositions, Hobbitozz ... features some evocative synthesiser embellishments and appealing vintage tones. In the best-constructed song of the album, Ecstasy in Shadow Green, Way's swirling sci-fi effects perfectly complement the delightful vocal harmonies.

It will be interesting to see how the band develops the world of Hobbitozz in their forthcoming releases.

This album is available to hear and try-before-you-buy via Bandcamp. I recommend that you check it out and attempt a trip into the world of Hobbitozz and beyond. I just hope that your journey is more fruitful than mine.
Conclusion:
Owen Davies: 4 out of 10

The Resonance Association - Return From Dreaming
The Resonance Association - Return From Dreaming
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 53:43
Links:
Track List:
Signal Lost (4:41), Silver Falls (5:38), New Theories In Astronomy (5:23), Recursor (7:24), Space Race (6:49), An Exit To Stars [We Are] (17:12), Return From Dreaming (6:36)
Lessons on the piano are something I can recall. Almost, anyway.

My clearest memory of those eighty-eight black and white pieces of ivory, has me travelling back in time to around 1978 in quiet, rural Lebanon, Connecticut. The piano lessons took place up the road from my house. I found it always easier from the standpoint of physics or conditioning to tickle the ivories, as opposed to the more touch-sensitive keys of the Fender Rhodes.

Anyhow, a long time has passed since then and a coming of age of sorts has recently taken place as well for The Resonance Association, who have entered their tenth year of making music. From download-only releases, to physical CDs, the devious duo of Daniel Vincent and Dominic Hemy have come at the post-rock scene from many different directions, drawing upon elements of drone, electronica and ambient while consistently creating an ongoing, evolving Frankenstein musical monster.

The previous and somewhat marginal Heliopause album, followed by a subsequent period of inactivity, now sees that things for the Resonance Association have come full circle, with Return From Dreaming, which has arrived as a download-only release. Over the course of 54 minutes, the album's seven sprawling tracks make for a nice tall glass of ambient water, with thirst-quenching sonics splashing a-plenty.

So I shall touch upon these lucky seven songs. Recursor, earlier recorded as a single, has settled into a nice comfortable space on the new album. A chilling Mellotron feel fades-in with some cryptic programming from Dan. The melancholy macabre of his piano, along with some bass guitar elements becomes anchored to his drumming. The darkness of this piece finds a sense of centricity, as it becomes intense and measured. The bass guitar sonics stride along the catwalk of display, and things get ignited with a fine guitar solo, evoking perhaps the duo's previous album Heliopause. The Mellotron elements come into play again with more nice guitar solo sojourns; bluesy to the point where they tend to have some comparison to the guitar style of David Gilmour.

On New Theories in Astronomy, oddly-positioned snippets of background conversation bring in brilliant sparkles of synth that are cushioned and buoyed-along by some bass stylings. Dominic's Theremin arrives into the audio panorama as if it were ascending a spiral staircase of bended pitch, twirling in from another nebulae. Dan's drumming here draws a little bit upon Maureen Tucker. The Mellotron touches glide along at this point, like curtains mysteriously moving by themselves. Some more luminous synth gets charged with an extra dose of guitar and a brief xylophone jingle.

Silver Falls showcases a thick, unmoving ribbon of lighter, string elements via synth, plus more piano and an industrial sense of pacing. It takes us back to the duo's debut full-length album, Failure Of The Grand Design. The rhythm activity here rises higher via a brief abondonment of the melancholy, with a bass guitar style element anchoring things into place. A Mellotron vibe somehow manages to sidle up to the scene, as if the instrument crashed someone's post-rock party, whilst ominous synth textures flow smoothly, until Dan's piano steps in and sweeps it all away.

An Exit To Stars (We Are) fades in with a stillness that is shaky to the point of audible silence. The calm is sharp; yet it is smooth. Two drones of sustain appear as a man's mirrored beard, sensing the buzz of his electric razor. So what was once hirsute, is now a cherub. The groove element arrives and proceeds to relax, allowing a plaintive Theremin to take the piece of music forward. Dan's piano shows up in the form of chords, along with a brief spoken-word sample. Synths get in on the scene now, their quirkiness drawing upon an early Brian Eno influence. The synths are then joined by some eerie whistling accents, that linger somewhere beyond the mix; as if that host at the post-rock party that got crashed earlier, wants us now to leave for an overdue cosmos rendez-vous. A fog of ambience delightfully floods things at this point. And a tidal recede of ebb-and-flow filters, evoking some of the sheen found in the embryonic discography of American ambient sculptor Steve Roach. A bass synth element undulates up and down in the mix for a bit, and then picks up in frequency like a cosmic boxer coming at us with upper left hooks of decoy. The rhythm section arrives and keeps the show going, with the rest of the mix riding a-top, as if the music were a magic carpet. Things then proceed to temporary oblivion, from a slow fade.

The title piece starts with a darkening drone presence. The eerie ingredients here tend to give any junk food sugar-rush a run for its money. We taxi briefly to some Floydian lands, with unassuming grooves and melodic guitar solos. Some rhythm guitar dutifully nudges the sonics forward, and then the guitar returns to its territory, but with the melody breathing blisters of fire. The music furthers, then, to another slow fade.

Consciousness. A stretch. And some morning coffee.

There's a continuum up there looking at our world.

Given the correct scope of probability, that continual anomaly staring down at us will indicate if this new awakening will go the distance.
Conclusion:
Jim Corcoran: 8.5 out of 10

Solarhall - Lokus
Solarhall - Lokus
Country of Origin: Finland
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 50:13
Links:
Track List:
Fenix (6:51), Broken Man (5:14), Great Deceiver (3:55), The Wolf and the City (3:29), Shelter (6:22), Sewer Man (11:31), Engulfed in Green (6:52), All Gods Live in Dark Houses (5:59)
Solarhall is a new four-piece band from Hämeenlinna in southern Finland (incidentally trivia fans, the birthplace of the composer Jean Sibelius). The quartet is led by songwriter Otto Juutilainen, but frustratingly they only list the players and not their instruments on their information pages. So between Otto Juutilainen, Joonas Suomalainen, Teemu Vilmunen, Teemu Elo, we have guitars, bass, drums, keyboards of various kinds and some very good vocals.

There is a great deal of invention evident on Lokus and the band describe themselves as playing "progressive alternative-rock". Lokus starts with a heartbeat pulse of bass, that is soon joined by piano, before the full band sound kicks in. Fenix is a cracking opener that is both progressive and alternative. The two tracks that follow, owe more to the blues-informed classic and hard rock bands of the 1970s, ones who have proggy tendencies like Uriah Heep and Deep Purple (minus Jon Lord's keyboards). These are the two most straight-ahead songs on the album, even allowing for Broken Man's jazzy guitar and walking bass coda.

Solarhall then start to push at their own envelope with the Rhys Marsh Mandala-like The Wolf and the City, which displays the singer's vocal range by adding a delicious, darker tone. Then we really get into the meat of the Lokus with Shelter. It mixes acoustic playing with heavy electric riffs and is full of dynamism. Here a death metal growl makes an appearance on single words from the song's chorus. This sparing use, works in a very effective way, given that I am not a fan of that kind of singing. The epic Sewer Man seamlessly moves from acoustic passages to magnificently-chunky electric guitar chords and back again. This is wonderfully powerful, as well as perfectly formed and controlled.

There is an earie pastoral respite from the heaviness, with Engulfed in Green, which, I am presuming, is inspired by the unsettling cover image provided by the songwriter's brother Olli Juutilainen. This sets the listener up for the mad experimentation of All Gods Live in Dark Houses. This starts in a jazzy frame but evolves quickly into a monster of staccato metal, where the growled vocal is subsumed into the instrumental dynamics. This feels like mid-period Opeth covering Red-era King Crimson.

All in all, Lokus is a very interesting debut from Solarhall. Not all the songs here are equally as strong, but they are, generally, brimming over with mature invention. There are so many ideas here that a second album could shoot off in any number of directions. This is a debut that delivers in its variety and versatility, whilst promising much more in the future. Solarhall is a band to watch.
Conclusion:
Martin Burns: 8 out of 10

Tusmørke - Ført Bak Lyset
Tusmørke - Ført Bak Lyset
Country of Origin: Norway
Year of Release: 2016
Time: 44:13
Links:
Track List:
Ekebergkongen (5:45), Et Djevelsk Mareritt (5:58), De Reiser Fra Oss (7:06), Ført Bak Lyset (4:35), Spurvehauken (4:58), Nordmarka (7:31), Vinterblot (8:20)
Tusmørke, with their third CD, continue their explorations of Nordic prog-folk with a heavy twist of psychedelia. Led by twin bothers Benediktator (bass and vocals) and Krizla (flute and vocals), along with Marxo Solinas (organ), HlewagastiR (drums) and DreymimaðR (guitars), Tusmørke have produced a dark and quirky album that creeps craftily into one's psyche.

The obvious reference here (and I'm not one to shy away from the obvious), because of the prominence of the flute in Tusmørke's sound, is Jethro Tull. However, this is Jethro Tull jamming with Anglagard and Procul Harum in a woodland glade full of magic mushrooms. In the process, they produce a strange psychedelic pop-prog; songs with proper choruses and very hummable melodies. Though sung, I presume, in their native Norwegian it does not, for this English-only speaker, detract from the music. Rather it adds a further level of strangeness and charm. Both vocalists have pleasingly bark-rough baritones, that compliment the woodland vibe and textures throughout the album.

A flute rendition of Edvard Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King main melody is incorporated into the whirling prog-pop song that begins Ført Bak Lyset, a strong opener to a strong album.

There are stand-out moments through out this album. There is the remarkable pyschedelic wig-out coda to Et Djevelsk Mareritt, built on strummed bass chords, organ and pin sharp percussion. Tusmørke add burbling synth and female backing vocals to the choral wonders of De Reiser Fra Oss, and the title track has great interplay between the rich organ sound and the breathy flute, whilst mixing tempos and dynamics delightfully. There is a reminder of Anekdoten with Spurvehauken's Mellotron, whilst Tusmørke save the best melody for Nordmarka.

The only let down for me is the arrangement of the closing song. Its use of funky wah-wah guitar and reliance on a disco hi-hat are not to my taste at all. I wish they had used a different approach to what is still a good song.

With Ført Bak Lyset Tusmørke have produced a smart, trippy album that would easily fill one side of a C90 cassette, and so leaves you wanting more. I have become rather taken with Tusmørke's eccentric take on pyschedelic electric prog-folk.
Conclusion:
Martin Burns: 8 out of 10

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Published Sunday 22 May 2016

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