Reviews in this issue:
Corciolli - Ilusia
Corciolli composes music I have little knowledge of. Meditation or new age inspired ambient soundscapes, his main musical direction, can be counted on one hand in my CD-collection. I have to think hard and loud, quite the opposite to this type of music I suddenly realise, whether I regularly play one of those at all. And to be honest not much comes to mind; a state of mind I apparently have occasionally according to my wife. Maybe it will come back to me with Corciolli's 32nd album Ilusia.
Composer, keyboardist and producer Corciolli is a well know name in Brazil with a career spanning 25 years. Participation in soundtracks and compilations with the likes of Vangelis, Enigma, The Alan Parsons Project en Luciano Pavarotti has resulted in him selling 2 million albums, a staggering amount. As a perfectionist he crafts his solo work with elements of classical music, folk, native cultures and jazz. And of interest here with rock, for he has for instance collaborated with Andre Matos of Angra and Tony Levin on Lightwalk in 2009.
With The Man Who Disappeared In The Painting it doesn’t just dawn on me what’s hidden somewhere in my collection. It instantly pops up: On The Future Of Aviation, Ariel and some more delightful deliveries by Jerry Goodman of Dixie Dregs and Mahavishnu Orchestra fame, issued many years ago by the now illustrious label Private Music. Setting myself in the upright position, careful examination and intrigue started massaging its way into my system. No violins like Goodman this time, but guitars, or better nuanced: electric and acoustic guitar samples.
Together with Mauricio Oliveira (supplying bass on tracks 1, 3, and 4) and drummer Ramon Montagner, Corciolli has composed eight different, thematic, precisely executed works of art. Harbouring many progressive influences with lots of refined sounds, ample of keyboards, finely trimmed drums and gorgeous guitar sounds. Needless to say it sounds fresh, vibrant, clean and is immaculately produced and although you know it’s simulated guitars through the use of keyboards, this doesn’t affect me one minute.
On the contrary, the rockier songs Ghosts Of The Perpetual Mansion and The Imaginary Principle have just the right amount of drive this way with spacious symphonic orchestration, violins and acoustic alterations adding natural flow. The addition of percussion and eastern Japanese-like sounds in Light Spheres In A Stephen King Mist in combination with haunting sounds furthermore builds the scenery accordingly.
The spaciously weaves of ambient progressive rock in contrast with the deeply layered atmospheric Pink Floyd sounds in The Misery Of Fear And The Battle Against The Immortal Dream are delightful and add cohesiveness with the fascinating spacious walls of synthesizer and rhythmic scenic symphonic space feel of Secrets Of The Invisible and Distant Living Memories. Lastly it’s Midnight Of The World At The End Of Time revisiting all aspects where violins and huge symphonic orchestral movements build tension and ultimately diminish into a lovely symphonic coda.
Corciolli has succeeded at writing delicate symphonic rock anthems, becalming and relaxing on the one hand, but with attention to detail and virtuousity on the other. If instrumental playful new age prog is your kind of music and you like acts like Tomita, Didier Maroauni (Space) and Jean Michel Jarre with touches of Yes and traces of Genesis then check it out. Now If he continuous in this fashion I need another hand to count, for I did enjoy it’s melancholic atmosphere, sparkling refreshing sounds and meditative addictiveness.
HOIA - Scavanger
Prateek Rajagopal is a guitarist/multi-instrumentalist based in Mumbai. He’s known for being one of the youngest (in his early 20s) yet most versatile songwriters amongst various sub-genres in heavy metal in India. Better known as the guitar player of death/grind act Gutslit, and for the death metal band Reptilian Death. Though neither of those styles appear on this release.
Under the HOIA banner Prateek Rajagopal has released his solo debut album Scavenger. He says the album deals with human-sentimentality; with concepts like nostalgia, demise, anxiety and the need to 'scavenge' to survive, explored through a loose concept album. HOIA have also released two other EPs that explore progressive rock (Design EP) and an EP of industrial rock (ICONOCLAST).
On Scavenger, Prateek also debuts as a vocalist as well as producing and mixing and playing everything except for bass, played by Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree, Twinscapes etc) and the drums, played by Wojtek Deregowski (Rosalie). Scavenger experiments with electronics and digital manipulations within an eclectic set of songs that use heavy prog, prog-rock and avant-prog to make a heady brew.
Across five tracks there is a adventurous edge that makes the music consistently interesting. HOIA could be producing soundtracks for films yet to be made. Especially so on the instrumental track Part II with its layered keys and deep synth pulses and on the instrumental sections of songs, like the shimmering guitar passages of Escape Orb.
He knows how to make a proper racket too but not in the way you would expect. On the title track he builds an unsettling atmosphere and where you think a metal guitar break is coming at you but, instead, there is glitching electronics and a loud electrical humming like a faulty power plant. Avant-prog sidesteps like this take these tracks out of the ordinary. Not that this album is heavily avant, rather it picks its moments and is used subtly.
There are references to Porcupine Tree and Riverside here and there in some of the arrangements. On Electric Wizard, my favourite track on Scavenger, mixes fusion in its opening section and again later when there’s a cracking synth solo mixed with snaking guitar lines. It goes bit mad at one point too, but in a good way.
If you have adventurous frame of mind, then I think HOIA’s short and punchy album Scavenger is well worth exploring.
Jadis - Medium Rare 2
When their debut was released in 1994 (More Than Meets The Eye), Jadis was a welcome surprise to this prog fan. The first half of the 90s was a fairly sparse time for progressive rock and the band burst on to the scene with a fresh and unique sound. In my opinion, that album remains the pinnacle of their discography, but they have continued to release quality material since. However, the time between new Jadis albums is pretty significant, so this second collection of unreleased, altered and live tracks is a pleasant stopgap for fans.
I can't imagine that Medium Rare 2 will attract many new enthusiasts, but the already aquainted should find it to be nonetheless entertaining. The main calling card of a release of this type is new songs and the two included (Truth From The Lies and Animated) don't disappoint. Both also display a progginess that was missing from the more straightforward rock of some recent Jadis material. Animated is one of two instrumentals included. The reworked Photoplay being the other, is quite possibly the highlight of the album. It is also the most interesting of the remixed/reworked tracks from previous releases.
The live songs confirm Jadis's strength in a concert setting and are certainly enjoyable. I will admit however that I find unreleased and altered tracks to be much more compelling. The inclusion of two cover versions is a definite plus and their exceptional take on the Genesis classic, Your Own Special Way really brings out the beauty in the song. Overall, Medium Rare 2 is a fine release. There is enough of substance to be of interest to fans and it offers more variety than the standard Jadis album. I wouldn't categorise this release as essential, but it is certainly an appealing listen.
Rhys Marsh - October After All
Bonus download tracks: The Light Of The First Day (4:25), A Whispered Word (4:03), The Cold Sky (4:43), On This Side (5:18), Seven Reasons Why (4:42), I Am One (4:31), If I Ever (5:47), Always On The Run (4:31), Stand (On Your Own Two Feet) (4:10), Open Both Eyes (7:10), Set Alight (3:53), Travel Your Own Path (3:20)
Seventh album by the London artist with the Welsh name now living in Norway and the third released without the Autumn Ghost. Marsh handles most of the instrumental duties with the exception of trumpet (Arve Henriksen) and saxophone (Kåre Kolve) with occasional contributions of Roar Øien (pedal steel guitar). Marsh also sings all lead vocals with backing vocal support by a 'choir' featuring Silje Leirvik, Anders Bjermeland, Rohey Taalah, Ole Kristian Malmedal, Vilde Aakre Lie, Tale Vang Ellefsen, Arve Henriksen, and Tim Bowness.
Marsh has stated that he was "very inspired by music from the mid to late seventies, especially songs that had string synthesisers in place of Mellotrons. And of course, the drum sounds from that era, which I absolutely love". A somewhat different approach to songwriting was taken from previous albums as this was the first album to be written after his marriage and the birth of his son and are "reflections of specific events". In a very generous gesture in this modern era, Marsh, who always intended the complete album to contain 22 songs, has made the additional 12 songs not on the official release available as a free download.
To put it simply, October After All is a superlative demonstration of great songwriting. Every song contains glorious melodies, delightful harmonies and, despite the positive personal life changes, are imbued with an inherent melancholy. The choir is used to great effect and the close recording of the vocalists gives an intimate feel that seems to award the listener with an intimate presence. Marsh has a lush baritone that channels Scott Walker at his finest.
The music is keyboard heavy and one can clearly hear the different vintage synth sounds used throughout such as mini Moog, Rhodes electric piano, Logan string synth, Yamaha CS-10 and, yes, even Mellotrons. From the acoustic, reflective The Butterflies all the way to the soaring River, each song is a sheer delight. The simplistic beauty of One Hundred Memories, 22 and (It Will Be) October After All are exceptional in their restrained moody evocation with the delightfully choir-sung choruses on the latter two songs being rather exquisite. Henriksen and Kolve are to be praised for their contributions, which are subtle yet enticing, accenting the songs to perfection.
Amazingly, the high quality is maintained throughout the bonus material and it is surprising that more of these songs did not make it on to the album, or that the complete set of songs was not split over two CDs, both of which would be considered to be excellent on their own merits. The instrumental The Light Of The First Day for instance, would have made an outstanding opening to the album, the initial faster tempo of A Whispered Word adds a different dimension with The Cold Sky, On This Side and Open Both Eyes offering some great synth sounds. It would be fair to say that, on the whole, the download tracks offer a different side of the recording project than the album songs, having a less melancholic flavour; the jaunty, toe-tapping Set Alight being a prime example.
The only gripe I have about the album is the drum machine sounds. Although Marsh may be a fan of the sounds they are rather basic and not really to my liking. Fortunately, they don't really interfere too much in the songs except for on the download tracks I Am One and Always On The Run where they are perhaps rather too prominent and annoying.
From my point of view, with October After All, Marsh has delivered the first essential album of 2019, a triumph.
The Mute Gods - Atheists And Believers
Session bass player extraordinaire Nick Beggs started The Mute Gods project in 2015 largely as a means to showcase his songwriting skills. Working with bandmates keyboardist Roger King and drummer Marco Minnemann, their first two albums presented an exceptional blend of prog, heavy rock and pop. This third release is cut from the same musical cloth, but is decidedly more potent lyrically. Beggs offers a view of life and the current state of the world that is blunt but devoid of heavyhandedness.
The Mute Gods stand out because they create accessible music that is also elaborate and substantial. Compositionally, this album is reflective of Beggs diverse career in music. Each song displays a unique musical identity from pop infused (Atheists And Believers,), anthemic (One Day), introspective (Old Man), art-rock (The House Where Love Once Lived, Knucklehed), to adventurous hard rock (Iridium Heart, Twisted World Godless Universe). This variety as well as the quality of the songwriting help to make Atheists And Believers a consistently entertaining album.
Also of note are the two excellent instrumental tracks. The guitar driven Sonic Boom, features fine drum work from Nick's partner in Steven Wilson's band, Craig Blundell. His appearance feels appropriate as the song is certainly influenced by Wilson's metal sound. In stark contrast, the sparse piano tones of I Think Of You feel almost out of place upon first listen. Ultimately though, this beautiful piece wraps up the urgent theme of the album in a somber and memorable way. The performances are excellent throughout, including Rush's Alex Lifeson who lends his distinctive guitar talents to the song, One Day.
In recent interviews, Beggs has mentioned the possibility of this being the last Mute Gods recording. That would be a shame, but if so, the "project" ends on a high note. Ultimately though, the band's moniker has become rightfully distinguished, so it would be fitting if these talented musicians continued to create music together. It is no small task to create an album that implores a listener to think while simultaneously entertaining the hell out of them. Atheists And Believers accomplishes that feat in grand fashion.