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The Bob Lazar Story - Baritonia
Baritonia (6:26), LOL, Defiantly (3:51), Eastern Rising (0:17), Make It Like It Used To Be (2:19), Top, Top Switcherooney, Elbow (3:33), In The Woods With Tony Iommi (6:26), Relax For A Min, Yeah? (0:56), YNWA, LR (6:41), Blues For Foodstool (1:57), Escape Tits (2:45)
So what does one have to expect from this record? The duo definitely knows how to play their instruments and to write complex, Zappa-esque music. Weird rhythms, ugly passages that follow beautful passages, complex playing, great talent and above all a good sense of humour. Although the musicians are highly skilled, not everything is taken seriously here. And that is probably what makes the album less difficult and more approachable.
That one can enjoy wonderful playing on a track with a title like Escape Tits, is what makes the charm of the band and of the album. Relax For A Min, Yeah? takes exactly one minute and really seems to be there to relax. Another highlight (music and song title-wise) is In The Woods With Tony Iommi. Whatever any Iommi or Black Sabbath-fan may expect, it does not have much to do with the legendary guitarist, except for some passages at the end. Still, the track is highly enjoyable.
All the music is written by Matt Deacon, who also produced and mixed the record. Overall, this is a nice and short instrumental album that shows great skill and will be loved by fans of complex music and structures à la Frank Zappa.
Philipp Röttgers: 8 out of 10
Emmett Elvin - Assault on the Tyranny of Reason
Morning March Of Unreason (0:39), Boiling (3:47). Dysnomia in Full Moon (2:59), Headburster (5:59), Mars Is So Yesterday (5:11), Burma Wednesday (2:13), Democracy They Deserve (3:12), All We Are Is Love (3:12), The Plankton Suite (4:22), Dozy Phantoms (3:34), Curates Egg Nog (3:02), Assault On The Tyranny Of Reason (5:01), Sphere Of The Deceiver (6:46).
It is very keyboard-heavy, but there is a lot going on musically, so it's not just keyboard noodling by any stretch. There are no long songs on offer and much of it is fully instrumental, apart from three tracks where Emmett sings some very strange lyrics that don't appear to make any real sense. There is more than a hint of Steve Reich on display throughout, and a fair amount of guitar from Emmett himself.
The opener, Morning March of Unreason starts with subtle keyboard washes, before the opening acoustic guitar chords of Boiling are introduced, along with guitar fills playing a new melody line before Emmett's vocals come into play. Then at around the two-minute mark there begins a very decent piano break which leads into a more orchestrated segment that builds in intensity and even has some guitar factored in. This is a really good passage of music before we head back to the alternate guitar melody line, which draws this song to its close.
Dysnomia in Full Moon opens with piano again but with saxophone in the background playing a different melody which is joined by a violin, creating a very subtle yet full sound, before once again the piano takes the lead at the two-minute point. What I like about this album is its sheer musicality and its clever use of melody and counterpoints to create a very full, yet spacious, sound which is both memorable and also very clear.
Heartburster features a trumpet and piano combination that sounds really good together. It is almost filmic in its style, especially at 1:45 when the sound becomes more orchestral, with the violin and then drums, before the piece takes a more rhythmic twist with some great guitar inflections added to the mix. Moments like these are why this album is worth persevering with. It opens up these great little segments within each song that build into something rather worthwhile. These songs are little vignettes in their own setting, really quite remarkable.
Mars Is So Yesterday is the second vocal piece, and Emmett's unusual vocal grows on you the more your hear it. This song has an acoustic slide solo in it which is unusual and yet highly fitting to the music. This artist sure has both vision and talent.
The next piece that really caught my attention is The Plankton Suite (where does he great these great titles from?). This is another spacey instrumental piece with a repeating, chiming guitar riff used to good effect, and offset against a synth melody. With a great end section to it, this is another inventive track.
The third vocal piece, Dozy Phantoms, despite not having a clue as to what he is on about, is a memorable enough song and again has some decent musical passages. The oddly-titled Curate's Egg Nog follows and has sounds of vintage prog with whirling Moogs and whimsical sections that evoke memories of early Genesis.
Then its the title track, Assault on the Tyranny of Reason, opening with keyboards (that sound like electric piano), before a drum roll leads in a synthesised riff that propels the song along at a brisk tempo. With more synth flourishes being added, this is quite a dense-sounding piece but still captivating when a de-tuned guitar is played and then ethereal-sounding keyboards are employed. The final track, Sphere of the Deceiver, is a very atonal, discordant piece with the trumpet sounding not unlike some of Miles Davis' atonal era.
So in summary this is not a simple album nor always an easy listen, but within its obtuse nature, there a moments of real beauty waiting to be discovered. Anyone who bypasses this release, will do so to their detriment.
John Wenlock-Smith: 9 out of 10
The Foxholes - Un Mal Menor
Un Mal Menor (4:37), México 307 (5:23), Tu Realidad (4:06), Tiny Speck (3:27), Goldminer Song (6:05), Invader Proxy (3:02), Betrayal (3:41), King Cujo (4:23), Quiet Castles (3:41)
Un Mal Menor (Spanish for The Lesser Evil) is compiled of eight songs (along with the title track, a new original piece) which have appeared on previous releases, albeit presented in freshly recorded new versions. As it's been customary in the latest incarnations of the band, a power trio is the format of choice (here, with Vicenç Molina on drums and Carmelo Gómez on bass duties), this time putting the emphasis on the rocky side of the band and, for the most part, eschewing previous forays into electronic aesthetics.
Now, The Foxholes' main strength, which for some will undoubtedly also be their main flaw, lies in how unclassifiable and genre-defying their music is. The progressive influence is definitely there, whilst new wave-ish and alternative-ish flavours are also present. However it's all integrated in a very subtle and natural way, so the band displays a remarkable versatility without sacrificing personality.
On songs such as the title track and Tu Realidad, Adrian Belew's solo work springs to mind. Darker, more twisted pieces, like the excellent México 307 might make you think of Porcupine Tree or even Joy Division, whereas Invader Proxy and Betrayal are very catchy and energetic songs, both deserving being released as singles. Elsewhere, the brilliant King Cujo manages to balance the hooks and the atmosphere, and the acoustic closer, Quiet Castles, offers us a glimpse of the band's gentler side.
For those curious, this is a good place to start and get an overall idea of The Foxholes' own brand of intelligent, elaborate rock, although for those interested in the band's prog side I'd strongly recommend Escaparatismo Cósmico (2013), maybe their proggiest release to date. You won't be disappointed.
Héctor Gómez: 7 out of 10
Lost World Band - Of Things And Beings
Shapes and Objects: 1. Random Objects in the Sun (3:20), 2. Moving Dots (3:15), 3. Water Circles (4:31), 4. Time Squares (3:10), When the Time is Still (4:18), Death of Mr Winter (1:05), Intertwined (3:30), Of Things and Beings (0:51), Watchbird (6:08), Simple as: One (2:13), Simple as: Two (1:41), Simple as: Three (1:46), The Structure of Madness (4:05), On Thin Ice (3:33), Downpour (3:12)
There are bold, fusion-styled workouts that are reminiscent of the work of The Mahavishnu Orchestra. The album's varied programme also includes off-beat instrumentals full of gripping guitars, complex time signatures and frantic bass lines. As a contrast, the release also contains treacle-tongued tunes that are sure to impress any middle-of-the-road neighbours (are you reading this Addfwyn?)
Short interlude tunes are included at strategic points in the album's running order. These add variety and give the whole experience an unpredictable edge. They are characterised by quirky, effect-laden vocals and sit happily outside any mainstream song structures. These pieces have an idiosyncratic style and also contain just a hint of the eccentricity of Frank Zappa. The Death of Mr Winter and the title track are all highly appealing, and provide the album with an offbeat sense of mystery and intrigue.
Cinematic compositions also have a role to play in the album's full palette of sounds; these display the influence of classical music and exude a grandiose and opulent ambience. To cap it all, the album also includes an inspirational jazz-fingered acoustic guitar piece (the aptly titled Intertwined) that compares to the best work of Steve Elliovson.
The album begins with the excellent Shapes and Objects suite. This piece is divided into four sections. Moving Dots is the second part of the suite and is a delightful composition, featuring flute, acoustic instruments and voice. The impact that this unusual tune makes, and the favourable impression it leaves, is quite considerable. It is a stunning piece and it works particularly well within the overall context of the suite.
The violin of Didorenko takes a central role in the suite and his playing is at times breath-taking. The suite includes some wonderful interplay between guitar, violin and flute, and the various sections incorporate many dynamic changes of tempo and volume, and enable a variety of moods to be conveyed.
Flautist Vassili Soloviev is used relatively sparingly throughout this release, but is utilised to good effect during Shapes and Objects and in the album's Simple as: One, Two, Three trilogy.
During the first part of Shapes and Objects, in the East Asian flavoured Random Objects in the Sun, Soloviev shows his notable array of talents. His classical tones and free-flowing, fluid style gives the music a richly sophisticated air. In the shifting patterns of Water Circles, a more assertive and strident approach is adopted. This perfectly complements the mood of the piece and emphasises the nimble patterns impressively created by Didorenko's sparkling and effervescent violin parts.
The most aggressive flute passages are to be found in the suite's finale, the chunky-riffed Time Square. The breathy, rock style employed, gives the piece a spiteful edge and contrasts magnificently with the recurring and likeable Mahavishnu-like violin motif that has a significant part to play.
Watchbird is another memorable piece and is an excellent example of heavy fusion, which has many facets reminiscent of King Crimson. It is rhythmically complex and the guitar has a hard, raw feel that should appeal to anybody who enjoys complex music mixed with an occasional heavy edge.
The Structure of Madness is also reminiscent of the type of sound that King Crimson is renowned for in their heavier compositions. For those listeners brave enough to be tempted to dance along to the fluctuating tempo and disturbing rhythms, it has the potential for pride to be damaged. It's easy to visualise corpulently-trussed or thinly-formed prog fans, both young and old, smiling triumphantly, angled-arms aloft, with legs splayed, attempting to master the surging complexity of the piece. It is a fully-teethed composition and any interaction with it needs to be handled carefully.
Although the radio friendly appeal of tunes such as When The Time is Still, and the commercially-spun sweet chorus of On Thin Ice may not find many admirers amongst a traditional prog audience, their enchanting instrumental passages challenge any suggestion that the band has abandoned their core audience to adopt an overall commercial sound.
The role that these relatively straightforward tunes play in the running order of the album works particularly well. They offer a lighter touch to the intensely-satisfying instrumental music that abounds, but they also show how relatively predictable and easily accessible song structures can be adapted to include progressive elements.
Of Things and Beings is a very enjoyable album and some of the instrumental parts are simply exhilarating. The range of styles on display ensures that different parts of the album will appeal to listeners with a wide variety of tastes.
Owen Davies: 8 out of 10