Reviews in this issue:
Bordelophone - Bordelophone
At the onset, I must praise Bordelophone for the glorious racket that they have produced in their debut release. This album has a frenetic edge and an infectious freshness that will keep many listeners enthralled from beginning to end.
Bordelophone will impress listeners who enjoy edgy instrumental tunes flavoured with lavish amounts of unpredictability and filled with accomplished playing.
It cranks through the gears and darts through genre descriptions with ease, but if I had to try to classify the band’s music, at its core, is something that might be described as groove-laden progressive jazz, with lavish amounts of rock and occasional hints of metal added for good measure. Genre descriptions are generally superfluous for music like this, which often crosses styles and defies easy classification, Whatever description might be used. Bordelophone is a wonderfully inventive album that manages to combine a range of influences whilst also displaying much of the freshness and brashness associated with jazz-punk and bands like World Service Project in tunes such as, Bordelophonisation.
The band hail from France and trombone, guitar, bass and drums are used to present their art. They are all skilled players and the undulating tones of the trombone give much of the music a unique identity. Bassist Olivier Michel is also a member of 4db. His melodic low tones are particularly impressive throughout and give much of the music a rich foundation.
There are many standout tracks. The opening piece of the album sets the bar high and that standard is exceeded on a number of occasions Remember is a memorable tune and features some ferocious guitar parts provided by Jonathan Baron._ African Lullaby_ is particularly beautiful and the imagery that it’s entrancing tune is able to create is breath taking.
The album is instrumental with the exception of some wonderful scat vocals, which follow the guitar melody of 445. There are also some unexpected rap style vocals, which occur in the highly inventive and unusual Jambon de Bruxelles. The piece also contains some unusual jangling guitar parts that give it a magnificent 60's psych vibe and it satisfyingly exhibits on more than one occasion a Frank Zappa like charm. An instrumental version of this excellent tune concludes the release.
Bordelophone, will no doubt, not be appealing to all prog fans. However, if energetic and innovative music, which mixes jazz with rock, with numerous other tints, fascinates, I suggest that you check it out.
I feel sure that its unusual palette of sounds and unusual mix of styles will at the very least amaze and who knows you might even find yourself caught by its infectious pull.
This fine album is lots of fun; it is skilful and inventive and never ever panders to musical or genre clichés.
In short, it is just great!
David Cross and Andrew Booker - Ends Meeting
This collaboration between David Cross and Andrew Booker was recorded in 2006 but has not been release until now. David Cross is best known as the violinist of the 1972 - 1974 incarnation of King Crimson. The line up that produced such classics as Larks' Tongues In Aspic and Red. He has also released a number of solo albums and worked on other collaborations.
Andrew Booker is a drummer and vocalist. He has worked with No-Man, Henry Fool, Sanguine Hum and with ex-Yes guitarist Peter Banks (in the improvising band Harmony in Diversity). It was when touring with Harmony in Diversity that he met David Cross who was supporting them with his own band. After the tour finished they got together to make Ends Meeting.
Andrew Booker said he came “prepared with several sounds and tonal themes set up on the electronic drums, hoping to catch a little of the magic I had seen watching him [David Cross] with his band” and this is exactly what you get on Ends Meeting. A suite of innovative instrumentals of music for electric violin, electronica and percussion that ranges more widely than that description might imply.
The album is bookended by Loopscape A and Loopscape B and as their titles imply they have reverb laded percussive synth loops that shelter in the ambient shade before Cross’s electric violin drags the music into the heat and dust of the Saharan sun. North African modal melodic lines become a soundtrack the imaginary movie playing in my head about a caravanserai traversing the windswept, baking dunes.
This is the template for Cross and Booker’s widescreen, evocative music as it evolves across Ends Meeting. On the longer tracks the electronic patterns and percussion loops vary in refined, indirect ways like a light breeze moving sand particles. They control the dynamics superbly on The Shakes Rattled. Cross’s violin swoops, sweeps and slithers across Sleek like a snake hunting prey.
There is a subwoofer-bothering bass synth line on Worship The Gourds and Cross gets a prog-metal guitar sound out of his howling, raging violin. It is an unexpected rock-out moment on Ends Meeting, like stumbling on an oasis in the desert.
The title track is a hypnotic mix of burbling synths, tabla-like percussion and expressionistic violin. In fact, throughout the album Cross’s violin is how I wanted the violin to be used on Tangerine Dream’s recent studio release Quantum Gate, but although great, it never quite got here.
This album begs two questions though. One, why so long between recording and release? And two, when are we going to get a second album?
David Cross and Andrew Booker’s Ends Meeting is an album of innovation with in a restrained but startling pallet of sounds. The differences between the tracks are sometimes elusive, sometimes substantial, but never less than fascinating.
Old Rock City Orchestra - The Magic Park Of Dark Roses
This is the third album from Italian band Old Rock City Orchestra and the second to be reviewed by the DPRP. A quartet when they recorded the last album Back To Earth, they were reduced to a trio in 2015 comprising Cinzia Catalucci (vocals, keyboards), Raffaele Spanetta (guitars, bass, vocals) and Mike Capriolo (drums, percussion, backing vocals).
The accompanying press release states that The Magic Park Of Dark Roses is a “dark-prog concept album” but it doesn't say exactly what that concept is. And although the songs are in English, the abstract lyrics reveal little in the way of a narrative. The song titles however seem to suggest a spiritual, if not physical journey into darkness before returning to the light.
The music is unmistakably late 60s / early 70s proto prog with elements of blues-rock, psychedelic, jazz and classical. It recalls the likes of The Nice, Atomic Rooster, Spencer Davis Group, Uriah Heep and other bands from that era where the Hammond organ played an integral part. You can also throw pioneering Italian bands like Le Orme, Banco and PFM into the mix. To add to the retro feel, like the previous two albums, the modest playing time would fit comfortably on a vinyl record. The production on the other hand is bright and unmistakably modern.
The most significant departure from the bands mentioned above is the female vocals which feature on seven out of the ten songs here. Cinzia’s theatrical soprano is both strident and sensuous and occasionally, as in A Spell Of Heart And Soul Entwined she slips into operatic, symphonic metal mode.
The title song is by far the best. It boasts a glorious organ intro, a fluid guitar melody and a mellow piano interlude at the midway point. The rest have their moments, including The Fall with its synth washes and a moody three note guitar motif that channels both Pink Floyd’s Time and Deep Purple’s Child In Time. The folky Visions benefits from atmospheric string orchestrations whilst the aforementioned A Spell Of Heart And Soul Entwined features full bodied church organ and analogue synth timbres.
For the most part however each song is built around a relentless guitar riff which by the eighth track Thinkin' 'bout Fantasy really begins to grate. The penultimate Soul Blues does at least break the pattern with a swing rhythm more suited to a big jazz band which inexplicably morphs into a bouncing, bass synth rhythm halfway through. The solo bass line during Abraxas is naggingly familiar but I can’t put my finger on it although there’s no mistaking the lively instrumental bridge which harks back to King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man.
The concluding instrumental Golden Dawn begins promisingly with a stately guitar theme and continues with dramatic organ and synth passages. Midway however it succumbs to the now familiar repetitive riffing, capped by an overblown guitar solo of Jimi Hendrix proportions. A pity because the drumming in particular is superb.
There is a good deal to admire about this album, especially for fans of a certain age who like me can recall a time when prog was in its infancy. Certainly Old Rock City Orchestra have captured the sound and spirit of those times to perfection. The obvious downside of this is the songs lack originality which is not helped by those incessant riffs.
Sanguine Hum - Now We Have Power
The follow-up and conclusion to Sanguine Hum's critically acclaimed buttered cat conspiracy concept Now We Have Light was, like this review, somewhat delayed in its delivery. Since the first part of the concept, the Oxford band have released a double album of previously unreleased older material, changed record labels, lost a drummer and seen their keyboard player release a solo album. The concept is an intriguing albeit complex affair although the extensive booklet does provide insights as to the relevance of each song to the overall story.
The album is very much a mature effort with each piece meticulously arranged and performed and, as with most concept albums worth their salt, there are several shorter linking pieces that on their own may seem somewhat perfunctory but are essential to the plot.
I have found it quite a difficult album to get into as it does require concentrated listening, not something that can be idly hummed along to as it plays in the background. This is because, superficially, there is a degree of similarity throughout the album in terms of tempo, vocals and flow. The nuances of the pieces only become evident with greater familiarity and intensive submergence in the album - late night, low lighting, headphones kind of thing.
And therein may lie the problem for commercial success. In combination with Now We Have Light, the whole concept is 2.5 hours long which requires a degree of commitment that I suspect a lot of people, particularly in this age of instant gratification, will not be bothered with. This is a shame as the band are compositionally streets ahead of a lot of musicians of their era, but they may have been a bit too clever and leapt ahead of their audience too quickly.
As with the final two albums by Talk Talk, there is a strong possibility that the true beauty and power of this album will only be fully appreciated with time. So why not get ahead of the curve and make a new year resolution to cut yourself off from all of the many modern day distractions for an hour or so a day and dedicate that time to really immersing yourself into the finer details of some less obvious and immediate albums.
May I be so bold to suggest that Now We Have Power may be a great place to start.
Det Skandaløse Orkester - Tenk om noen ser deg
Det Skandaløse Orkester's latest album follows on in the tradition and style of the bands previous album No har de laget skandale igjen!
The large ensemble of players hail from Bergen in Norway and the group began in 2011. The music is an eclectic mix of styles that has identifiable nods to the influence amongst others of Frank Zappa, psychedelic rock, jazz rock, occasional folk melodies and classical idioms. It never resorts to stilted musical norms and is never clichéd in its approach and delivery, or use of instrumentation. It is progressive in every respect.
The music is often challenging and complex, melody and dissonance compete in a battle for supremacy in many of the tunes. Perplexing avant passages cough and splutter, but are quickly replaced by ear friendly melodies and hummable sections. The result is music that demands the attention of the listener. Over the time, the Orchestra’s art becomes easier to take in, and is implausibly stimulating and enjoyably entertaining.
Whilst the instrumental sections become more accessible once familiarity is established, the same cannot be generally said for the bands vocalisations. They have a significant role in the album and deliver an important lyrical message, but due to being sung in Norwegian (with apparently strange annunciation and eccentric delivery) some of the subtlety, humour and satire of the message are unavoidably lost to non-Norwegian speakers.
However, the digital version of the album gives access to translated lyrics, so it is possible to discern what the tunes are about, even though arguably the power, humour and impact of the words are somewhat lost or diminished in translation.
Nevertheless, overtime I have found myself growing increasingly fond of the album. In the final analysis, what is on offer is unique and in this album and their previous release, Det Skandaløse Orkester, have carved out their own niche in the world of progressive jazz and prog.
There are a number of standout moments. These include the opening piece Skandale Mentale (Overture) _ and the Zappa-influenced _Skandale Phenomenal and _Lokkeman, Lokkeman, kor e du no? _
On occasions, some of the tracks on offer fleetingly stir up a great groove and give an opportunity for some quick-fingered knuckle rattling, but as might be expected from a band plying their own unique style, things never stay locked into one sound or direction for long.
The bands penchant for mixing things up when you least expect it, makes the album a truly unforgettable experience and one that remains in the memory long after the last notes have faded.
Velcrocranes - Afterlife
Over recent years, there has been a slowly growing scene of quality prog emerging out of Russia, and one of these bands is Velcrocranes with their EP Afterlife, featuring two tracks and a total running time of 16 minutes, the album has also been mixed by Bruce Soord of The Pineapple Thief.
The EP is exactly the right length for an EP and both songs showcase a good prog rock sound. From dark passages and atmospheric sections, it has everything you would expect. It has a sound quite similar to the composition of Porcupine Tree, particularly older tracks like Radioactive Toy. The jazzy sound of the drums and almost funky guitar and bass riffs in points really help balance it out compared to the heavier progressive solos and riffing.
The production on the EP is, as to be expected, very crisp. Every bass note, every lead note, every syllable is clear and present. Afterlife shows some very good skills, with a driving bass line and some extremely catchy hooks and the inclusion of the strings all come together to create a wonderful piece of music both dark, atmospheric and light all at the same time.
It is difficult to find fault with this EP. It certainly showcases some very promising talent. I would expect great things from them in future. For fans of Porcupine Tree and The Pineapple Thief and Pink Floyd.