Reviews in this issue:
Karnataka - Strange Behaviour
CD1 : Intro - Karnataka (excerpt) (0:53), Time Stands Still (5:53), After The Rain (7:22), Crazy (6:01), I Should Have Known (3:13), Dreamer (4:54), Heaven Can Wait (7:56), The Right Time (6:21), Delicate Flame Of Desire (7:28), These Dreams Are Over (5:18), The Storm (6:58)
CD2 : Must Be The Devil (4:48), Strange Behaviour (5:42), Everything Must Change (5:03), Talk To Me (8:54), The Journey (8:01), Tell Me Why (4:53), Heart Of Stone (10:23), Out Of Reach (12:16)
Bonus [Unmarked Tracks]: Run To You (5:45), Shine (5:00)
There used to be a time when live material was the preserve of the occasional single b-side and the career defining double live set. These days, the advances in recording techniques means that the expensive hiring of a mobile studio to capture the live experience is a thing of the past and good quality recordings can be made relatively inexpensively. Some groups exploit this fact and flood the market with live recordings to combat the inevitable bootlegs that start circulating once a band achieves a degree of popularity. Combined with the increasingly frequent release of live DVDs the currency of the official live album has been somewhat devalued. I've always considered live albums, along with b-sides (or bonus single tracks as we should call them these days), as excellent opportunities for groups to present another facet of their character, something a bit different from the studio albums. Unfortunately many groups are content to simply reproduce the material from their albums in almost perfect renditions on stage so one may as well just listen to the album. Fortunately Karnataka don't fall into this category.
Recorded in November of last year, Strange Behaviour provides a near perfect synopsis of Karnataka's career to date. The double CD features 22 tracks, seven each from Delicate Flames Of Desire and The Storm, four from the eponymous debut and two brand new pieces. This makes the CD the most comprehensive live document of the band, easily outstripping the content of the two DVDs the band has released to date. Anyone who has heard the three studio albums will be aware of how the band have developed over the years, resulting in the DPRP recommended 2003 album Delicate Flames Of Desire. That album was the first to feature backing vocalist and flautist Anne-Marie Helder whose addition has also made the live shows such an enticing spectacle. It is Anne-Marie's presence that also make this live album stand out, both in her singing and her flute playing which is all over the album.
Bringing a freshness to the older material, Helder's counterpointed harmony vocals brings the material alive, in many cases it is akin to having two lead vocalists. In many ways it is a shame that, the admitedly excellent, Rachel Jones seems to get all the plaudits as Helder possesses every bit as strong and clear a voice as the lead vocalist often providing trills and thrills that can make the hairs on the back of the neck stand up. The two singers combine together beautifully but I would love to hear Helder given a lead vocal on some new material. The recording of the instruments is first class; the flute and percussion instruments have amazing clarity and the other instruments are clearly differentiated. The band performances are also top flight; there seems to be a lot more space within the songs which allows the individual instrumentalists room to shine. In many ways, it is like hearing these songs for the first time all over again.
Speaking of first times, a word or two about the new tracks. These Dreams Are Over is a delicate track with a rousing chorus that is sure to become a firm favourite amongst the fans. Talk To Me, the first song credited to all six members of the band, has, initially, more of an ethnic feel to it, provided by the inclusion of a shawm (a double reeded instrument supposedly developed in Bagdad during the middle ages) played by, who else, Anne-Marie Helder. Over the nine minutes of the song there are some excellent musical passages and I can't wait to hear how the band will develop and record this piece in the studio as it will hopefully be a highlight of the next album.
If you are already a fan of Karnataka then you will be delighted by Strange Behaviour. It is everything a live album should be and more. If you are not yet a fan of the band then Strange Behaviour is an excellent place to start, even if you are usually not a great fan of live recordings. It is worthy of inclusion amongst some of the classic live albums of the past 30 years and if it hadn't been for the annoying and totally unnecessary inclusion of two bonus tracks tagged onto the end of Out Of Reach (they should have been individually sequenced and part of the live album proper, the silence before these tracks start ruins the flow) it would have been near perfect.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Dreadnaught - Musica en Flagrante
Tracklist: R. Daniel Olivaw (3:07), One Trick Pony (1:52), Kazak, The Hound Of Space (2:15), Tiny Machines (4:24), Northern Pike (6:37), Gulf Of Tonkin (1:06), Are Your Pants Down? [Pants Down] (1:15), Pull Your Pants Down [Pants Down] (2:23), Big Cats (3:43), Threnody For The Victims Of Brother Theodore (4:03), Fanfare For A Losing Team (2:20), The Boston Crab (2:22), Winston Niles Rumfoord (1:14), Elba Never Come Back, I Want You Gone (4:39), The Sirens Of Titan (7:17), Royal Jelly (5:27)
Dreadnaught are one of those bands who give reviewers a real headache. Not because they create an ear-assaulting racket, you understand, but because they produce music which is very hard to describe. The promo material doesn’t necessarily help matters in describing the band as ‘progbilly’. This conjures up unpleasant mental images of a bunch of red-necks doing countrified versions of Yes songs, and is some way of the mark. A more useful description is given elsewhere in the promotional literature, where the bands musical styles are accurately described as follows: ‘classical, rock, jazz, country, blues, avant-garde, noise, minimalism, maximilism, you name it, it’s in their somewhere’. This is ‘fusion’ in a very real sense!
This is the Dreadnaught’s fourth album, and is an all-instrumental affair. The band’s current line-up is made up of Bob Lord (bass, keyboards, programming), Justin Walton (guitars, keys, Rhodes, saxophone) and drummer Tim Haney, with guest musicians supplying harmonica and violin. Unlike many bands we review on DPRP, Dreadnaught have played a plethora of live shows all over their native US, and this has obviously honed their playing and writing skills, judging by the totally assured performances all three musicians give over the course of what is, as I’ve already indicated, an album which includes a wide range of musical styles.
To give a detailed track by track analysis would be somewhat futile (and exhausting!), but a brief description of some of the tracks may help readers to understand where this band is coming from. Opener R. Daneel Olivaw (the odd title is actually the name of a fictional robot created by Isaac Asimov) has a nice laidback, almost ambient groove and some Wurlitzer like organ, and is a good introduction to the band’s sound. Kazak, The Hound Of Space is a more spacey, rather avant-garde track that seems semi-improvised and goes for mood over melody. Both Gulf Of Tonkin and The Boston Crab sees the band going for a more rocky approach, with some nice bluesy guitar licks from Justin Walton, whilst Big Cats and Threnody For The Victims Of Brother Theodore have something of a ‘film score’ feel, being decidedly cinematic and orchestral in their approach – parts of the latter reminded me of Bernard Herrmann’s main theme on Taxi Driver. The playful Tiny Machines, meanwhile, is one of several tracks that evoke the spirit of Frank Zappa.
The main jazz influence is to be found on Northern Pike, a warm, late-night evoking piece which, with its judicious use of harmonica, reminded me of the Jaco Pastorius track 3 Views Of A Secret. The seven-plus minute The Sirens Of Titan, meanwhile (probably counting as an epic by the band’s standards, given that many tracks last between one and three minutes!) is a nicely constructed, atmospheric piece with some fine sax playing and a violin-led section which recalls Eastern European folk music.
This is just an illustration of the wide range of styles to be found on Musica En Flagrante. Its one of those albums that never bores, and despite the shifts in style, tempo and mood it somehow manages to feel like a cohesive work, with the band managing to establish their own musical identity. Progressive rock fans who like their music safe and predictable probably won’t take to this, but if you like adventurous, lively and excellently played instrumental music, then Dreadnaught are a band well worth investigating.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
After Crying - Show
Tracklist: NWC - New World Coming (4:29), Invisible Legion (9:37), Face To Face (The Legion) (2:35), Welcome On Board (3:50), Paradise Lost (2:55), Remote Control (9:07), Technopolis (7:50), Globevillage At Night (1:32), Bone Squad (2:55), Wanna Be A Member? (4:31), Secret Service (15:24), Farewell (2:48), Life Must Go On (4:29)
If you take a look at the cover of this album, you will see letters, all in different styles. But yet the general feeling is one of unity, mainly because of the restrictive choice of colours (yellow, orange and blue). This is very representative of this ultra-baroque yet very coherent CD by hungarians After Crying, a band considered by many as producing the best of modern day progressive rock (in the world). Show is their eighth studio album, delivered almost six years after Almost Pure Instrumental (a compilation with four new recordings), their last studio release. The wait was worth it!
After Crying released their first album in 1990 and have since imposed themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the progressive rock world. Formed as a trio way back in 1986 by Vedres Csaba (piano, keyboards, vocals) with Egervári Gábor (flute, lyrics, narration, concepts) and Pejtsik Péter (cello, bass, back-vocals), they were joined over the years by many musicians including actual members Görgényi Tamás (conception, lyrics & programming), Torma Ferenc (guitars) and Winkler Balázs (trumpet, piano & synthesizer). Vedres Csaba quit in 1994 but the band manage to survive this great lost. The actual formation is completed by Lengyel Zoltán (piano, synthesizer), Madai Zsolt (drums, percussion, and vibraphone) and, the last on board, Bátky "BZ" Zoltán (ex-Stonehenge, vocals). They are extremely talented instrumentalists, all sharing a classical formation. Basically Pejtsik, Torma and Winkler compose the music, Egervári and Görgényi write the lyrics.
Show is a concept album revolving around post 9/11 American politics and its negative repercussion on our world. Although the lyrics are metaphorical, the message gets through efficiently. For more on After Crying's point of view on the war against terrorism, check their official site.
Musically, the main colour is "symphonic", mostly acoustic with a dark feel (think of the intro for Down The Dolce Vita from the first Peter Gabriel album). The first track, NWC, starts with chanting and a strong African rhythm, indeed reminescent of Gabriel. A high pitched ethereal woman's voice, eerie piano, distorted guitar, some bits from Dvorak's Symphony no.9 (The New World) and even a little rap should leave us with a strange feeling, but everything fits perfectly.
The first instrumental of the album, Invisible Legion, starts as a haunting synthesizer melody accompanied by pizzicato violin then turns into something heavier à la King Crimson (one of the two main influences cited by After Crying). Halfway through the piece, the mood changes to something even more dramatic before returning to a gentler, yet disturbing passage with violin and plaintif female vocals. This track proves, for one, that these guys know how to integrate rock and classical music (way better than ELP, their other main influence). Face To Face is pure contemporary music with great piano and drumming, a very powerful brass section and some nice sustained guitar.
When Welcome On Board starts, for a second you think your are listening to Anglagard. By the time you realise your mistake, you are in the middle of a Portishead song that quickly turns more aggressive when Bátky Zoltán jumps in. It is impressive how the music follows the feelings depicted in the lyrics : those of a businessman travelling in one of the plane hijacked on 9/11. Paradise Lost, another instrumental with references to Dvorak's Symphony no.9 is a great showcase for Péter's cello.
Remote Control is another good example of well crafted integration : here classical instrument and electronic treatment (in the fashion of Trevor Horn circa Yes' 90125). The track includes yet some more references to Dvorak's Symphony no.9, a rapped commercial and a spoken newsbreak leading into a furious break featuring piano, shiny brass and a wha-wha solo. The climatic ending, with its very low frequence blasts will leave your speakers panting before resuming on a softer mode with electric piano and mellow tenor saxophone.
Technopolis informs you that your computer (you) is (are) being reconfigured without your consent. This track starts on the ambient side, with rhythms made of heavily processed sounds. It then dives into a very dramatic part featuring excellent piano and orchestral emphasing on a frenetic pacing. Here again electronic sounds are omni-present. A little electric guitar interlude and a bad radio reception intrusion lead into a reprise of the "dramatic part". Globevillage At Night, in memoriam of Bartok Bela, is a small instrumental with piano à la Satie accompanied by new-age keyboard pads.
Bone Squad features more pompous orchestral arrangements and some death metal voicing, well... easier on the throat than the usual thing. It is followed by Wanna Be A Member?, a song including "bible rap". Then comes the highlight of the album, the majestuous Secret Service, a four part fifteen minutes plus opus that starts with a waltz supporting Bátky Zoltán delivering a melody that could make Neal Morse jealous. The song shifts in 4/4 for the refrain then gets back in 3/4 for the chorus. This part ends on a repetition of the refrain with the theme from Easy Money (King Crimson on Lark's Tongue In Aspic) juxtaposed to it! The second part has a medieval inspired intro giving way to an interesting variation on Maurice Ravel's Bolero, followed by a nice pianistic interlude. There is so many things happening here that it is hard to keep track! The third part is a short sung section giving the listener a breather before the apocalyptic reprise of Ravel's Bolero.
Farewell is a short song mixing Steve Wilson's sensibility with ambient and hip-hop, ending on a lively gig on synthesizer. The album concludes with Life Must Go On, a fast jazzy piece staring synthesizer soloing and a huge wink at 21st Century Schizoid Man, strangely the only borrowing not credited on the album. It all ends in a fracas of industrial sounds.
You must be aware that this review only scratches the surface of what this album is about. If you want to know what a talented band, strongly rooted in its time, can come up with, Show is for you. Highly recommended.
Conclusion: 9.5 out of 10
OVNI - Humans But Not Terrestrials
Tracklist: The Visitors (18:16), Un Trato (4:40), It Is Just Me (12:26), Cuando Esta Cerca (4:58), Remembering (4:04), Hybridizacion (3:52), El Meastro (4:15), Lo Agridulce De Los Terrestres (22:54), The Time When We Were Free (4:04)
There is a first for everthing and this seems to be the first progrock album from El Salvador on DPRP. Of course there are other South American bands but I had never heard anything from El Salvador. Ovni could well have been on the DPRP pages earlier, as this is their fifth album. Rafael Alfaro, Javier Gómez, Jorge Lara, Octavio Salmán are the members of OVNI (Objeto Volante No Identificado), which is Spanish for UFO. Knowing this makes the subject choice of this album more understandable. I don't think this name is a pun to the band UFO, I find no reason for that in the music. This music is a mix of older progressive rock in between Genesis and Marillion, with other references being ELP, Frank Zappa and even some IQ (although that might also be a coincedence). There is also a component of Neo-prog, some of the tracks can be compared to e.g. The Flower Kings. Because OVNI also adds a touch of latin-american guitars and rhythm their music does not sound 'copied'.
The story portrayed in this album is a very original one: extraterestrials have reached earth: they appear to be human, not originating from earth (extra-terrestrials indeed). They select one visitor, who then comes to experience earthling emotions. It's a pity I am unable to understand exactly what is going on within the storyline, because much of the vocals are sung in Spanish. Although some lyrics on the album are a mixture of English and Spanish, both language are not used in the same track, they are cleanly seperated.
The first influence, Frank Zappa, on this album is very clear: the first minute of this album is good illustration to that: a voice that I find hard to take seriously announces the receiving of a message from outer space. The music that follows after that, appears to be well dosed electronic keyboards with some drums and guitars. This 18 minutes 16 seconds track is a real treat. Soft, flowing composition that has enough interesting sections to hold your attention.
There are a number of long tracks on this album, all divided in smaller sub parts. Two of these longer tracks I really like (The Visitors and It Is Just Me) and are the gems of this album, not because of the fact that they are long but because there's a lot happening in those longer tracks. Of the shorter tracks I especially like Un Trator which has a strange break that needs some getting used to, but it links a Latin sound into this song. The remaining tracks on this album are nice but not as sparkling as the aforementioned ones. No extra highlights are to be found on this album, the remaining tracks are all OK but don't stand out as the others.
All in all the final conclusion is a positive one. While I did not get the warm, cheerful feeling of a new discovery there is enough in this album to make it above average. Nice story, nice artwork, the music is enjoyable but not more than that. That's nothing to be ashamed of, in fact that's something to be proud of. Ovni from El Salvador, you might like it, I did.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Mangrove - Touch Wood
Tracklist: Fatal Sign (9.54), Vicious Circle (5.29), Cold World (6.36), Penelope (7.08), I Close The Book (5.51), Help Me (5.29), Wizard of Tunes (8.52), Back Again (5.39), City Of Darkness (8.43)
Three years ago I reviewed the debut EP of Mangrove, "Massive Hollowness". An album which you could call 'border prog' as half the songs were actually closer to funk than conventional prog. However, with the addition of keyboardist Chris Jonker the band have clearly shifted towards old-school prog, as Jonker has taken more than a page out of Tony Banks' Schoolbook of Genosian Solos™.
Since the departure of their lead-singer in 2001 guitarist Roland van der Horst has taken over the vocal duties. His voice can best described as something between a hoarse David Gilmour and John Wetton. At times his voice is quite pleasant and suites the music, though when some of the passages require more intensity or power, the limitations of his vocal range become painstakingly clear. Fortunately Van der Horst seems aware enough of this fact, as most of the time he confines himself to subdued singing and long instrumental passages.
The music on the album definitely makes up for the lack of a good vocalist. Naturally the music is dominated by a very strong Genesis influence (circa Selling England By The Pound): Lush mellotron arrangements, moog solos aplenty, multiple acoustic guitars accompanying flute solos and some very Hacketty guitarsolos. Chris Jonker's influence on the music makes that each and every song breaths a very strong seventies atmosphere, though without sounding like a copycat.
Opener Fatal Sign sets the tone immediately. It combines the best of Genesis with some of the 'neo-prog' influences of, say, Pallas or eighties' Marillion. The longest track on the album, it is also probably the best. With a long, slow build-up and a terrific up-tempo mid section with mellotrons, organ, mini moog and high pitched guitarsolos.
The album continues in similar vein: lots of Genesis influence, but also a very distinct eighties' Marillion feel in both guitar and synth arrangement. The rocky, up-tempo bits are only few, most notably the second half of Cold World, or the excellent Wizard of Tunes, while most of the album has a more laid-back and dreamy atmosphere. Sometimes a bit too dreamy, like the sweet, but sleep-inducing I Close The Book, which sounds -you guessed it- like an early-seventies Genesis ballad with acoustic guitar and flute.
Despite the Genesis influence being all too obvious throughout the album, Mangrove is definitely not just a mere Genesis rip-off. The only time when they literally copy something of their big influence is during the Watcher Of The Skies bit at the end of Wizard of Tunes (the songtitle already gives it away, now doesn't it?). For the rest 'influence' really means influence for this band (something all too rare in prog rock).
Fatal Sign, Vicious Circle and Wizard of Tunes are definitely among the best neo-progressive songs I've heard in a long while. The final track City Of Darkness deserves special mention here for Van der Horst's excellent guitarwork, which echoes the atmosphere of Marillion's Chelsea Monday
Overall the album is pretty good, though without any real notable highlights, yet at the same time, there aren't any notable lows either. The only song I personally cannot get into is Penelope, mainly because of the lyrics. The name 'Penelope' just has a terrible rhyme to it, and the lyrics do stress the limitations of Van der Horst's song writing capabilities more than necessary.
Then a final note on their artwork. Just like their previous release Touch Wood is recorded and released completely independently and once again the band must be commented on their excellent artwork. A great feat for an independent band, and another prove it is possible to deliver quality without the backing of a record label.
If you are a fan of the Tony Banks of the Seventies, or the Mark Kelly from the eighties, then you should definitely check this album out. A good ode to Seventies' prog, without being a copycat.
Be sure to check the samples in the 'music section' on their website.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Wappa Gappa - Gappa
Tracklist: Souk (8:38), Kirmes (7:44), Ranja (8:43), The Golden Apples Of The Sun (10:51), To Soldiers (8:31), Exquisite Blue (6:50), Escher (7:28), Etranger (9:39)
Gappa is the third album from Mongolian five-piece Wappa Gappa. As there has been a six-year gap between albums (A Myth was released in 1998), we can assume that these musicians are not afraid to allow time for their ideas to develop, and this is reflected in the eight mature and fully formed compositions that comprise Gappa. The same is true of each track; with nothing lasting for much less than seven minutes, there is plenty of time for lengthy instrumental sections within each piece to allow the skilful musicians to reveal their individual and collective prowess.
Each of the members is adept at their chosen instrument; Keyboardist Hideaki Nagaike provides sumptuous symphonic backgrounds as well as flowing, fusion-styled, fluid synth solos: Yasuhiro Tachibana plays electric guitar in a variety of entertaining styles, from a slick Holdsworth-ian fusion, to smooth Satriani licks; Keizo Endo is a fantastic bass player, often intricate, always melodic and a joy to hear; Hiroshi Mineo is unstoppable on the drums, he’s all over the kit, with surprising fills popped in at every opportunity; Riding high above this melodic but complex and elaborately arranged musical melange is the spectacular soprano vocals of Tamami Yamamoto. Like a Japanese hybrid of Annie Haslam and Kate Bush, she grabs your attention from the first few bars and never lets up until the disc stops spinning in your player. As she sings in Japanese, this might be a barrier to some people, as it does sound unusual to Western ears, but once acclimatized you should find plenty of enjoyment in her fine performance.
The music is a fairly rare, but perfectly judged marriage of Grand Symphonic Rock and more intricate, Canturbury leaning Fusion. Both vocally and musically, Renaissance can be discerned as an influence, but not showing so much of their classically inspired compositional style. I also caught glimpses of Yes, Genesis and Focus on the symphonic side, and Bruford, UK and Thieves Kitchen on the Fusion side of things. I offer all these comparisons merely as pointers, as Wappa Gappa has it’s own sound and style, with only brief flashes (a guitar riff here, a Hammond there) to remind of their influences.
If I have to pick out highlights, I’d go for the devilishly twisting opening to Escher, The ten - plus minutes of The Golden Apples Of The Sun which bristle with invention, dynamic riffing and terrific soloing, and the ultra smooth symphonics of Ranja, with an exquisite vocal from Tamami, and a superb noodling keyboard solo, but really there are very few low points on this CD, and given the necessary exposure, it could prove to be a winner with a large section of the Prog audience. I think fans of Symphonic Prog, Jazz Fusion and also Neo-Prog fans could well like much of this CD.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Scott Jacks - You Know Me By Now
It is customary within the DPRP review to offer some insight into the background of the artist/band, prior to discussing their music. However this task has been made somewhat simpler for me as Scott Jacks was the subject of one of Nigel Camilleri's excellent Forgotten Sons articles - therefore no further words are necessary from me on this subject. You Know Me By Know takes up the musical story from where Nigel's FS article finished off.
Reading through the FS article and the history of Mr Jack's and of the music of First Aid, I had perhaps different expectations of this album. However You Know Me By Now is a gentle and textured album from the very outset, starting with the splendid instrumental Providence. Jack's atmospheric "swelling" guitar chords accompanied by some airey flute work from Holly Burke. This is followed up by the longest track from the album and although still retaining a soothing nature, this piece serves as the most progressive offering from the album. Opening with gentle picked acoustic guitar, the piano motif introduces an increasingly more complex backdrop of layered instruments, climaxing in a brief, but highly effective Keith Emerson like piano instumental section. This is again followed by some hazy, lazy flute from Holly Burke, before a repetitive "bell like" piano motif leads us to our first introduction to the Scott Jacks vocals, which then run to the end of the track.
The album features a fair number of well contructed songs, the first being Where Do You Think You're Headed Billy?. The piano, electric sitar sound and Jack's double tracked vocals giving sixties feel to the music. Following this up is Wintertime Blues which reminded me of a Steely Dan type ballad. By this point I had come to the conclusion that one of the album's grey area's was Scott Jack's vocals. Like many good, even great song writers, Scott has the ability to write a strong melody with well turned lyric, however I didn't feel his vocals did them great justice. A prime example would be the most commercial song from the album, Innocent Love, which you feel could well have been written by Sting. This is not say that Scott Jack's vocals are particularly poor, they just lacked the strong character that would have lifted the songs to a different level. Notable exceptions to this would be the title track, where Scott's delicate tone blends superbly with the guitar and flute and The China Dream - which reminded of a gentle Camel track.
This might be a timely point for us to move to another customary feature and to select those tracks that stood out from the album. This is a tad difficult as the diversity of the material from the album makes you want to catagorise and then make the selections. OK we'll do it that way then. There are two beautiful acoustic guitar instrumentals To Michael Hedges and Neilishon 4, which I have never tired of listening to. As mentioned earlier the opening two tracks are splendid. Lastly would be the slickly played, jazzy, keyboard dominated 9 In Essence.
You Know Me By Know was an album that grew with each listening and although nothing jumped out from the material demanding my attention, I have to say that it invariably it held it. Although the acoustic guitar and piano are the principal instruments used, Scott Jack's command of a range of instruments, coupled with the varied styles of music employed, gives the CD a strong character. Soothing but without ever being bland. In terms of pointers towards Scott Jack's music, I think we must look to those singer/song writers who take the time not only to write a catchy song but still allow some time to progress their musical ideas. The most obvious to me would be Al Stewart circa Year of the Cat and perhaps a little dash of Alan Parsons.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Kalo – Spiral Dream
Tracklist: Dharani (4:01), A Voice In Blue (5:56), Forest Fairies (4:48), Sunset(3:41), Eternity (3:29), Land Of Spirits (5:58), Rerakamuy (5:15), Into Existence (3:39), To The Memory Of A Person (4:15), Sensitive Air (4:23), Gleam (6:22), Spiral Dream (6:02)
Kalo are a new Japanese outfit, and are best described as players of atmospheric, symphonic prog. In a number of ways they remind me of fellow countrymen Mizukagami whose debut album impressed me when it appeared last year. Like that band, there is a pronounced Camel influence to Kalo’s music; the strong opening track, Dharani, reminded me of Andy Latimer and co in their more dramatic moments, with band leader Masahiro Uemura putting in a fiery lead guitar performance which recalls Latimer at his most powerful.
Second track A Voice In Blue showcases another side of the band; Uemura forgoes the soaring solos (at least until the outro) for a shimmering sea of synths, providing a suitably atmospheric backdrop for the fine (female) vocals of Miori Naritomi.
These two tracks pretty much set the atmosphere for the album as a whole; a mix of the aforementioned dramatic style featuring soaring guitar and excellent, driving bass-lines from bassist Yan (Sunset, Gleam), and more ambient, atmospheric fare where the emphasis is more on mood than power (Forest Fairies, Eternity). On the latter type of song, I could detect influences from the likes of Vangelis and Mike Oldfield (in particular, the keys on Land Of Spirits evoke the familiar main refrain from Tubular Bells).
The material presented here is generally strong throughout, although personally I think the band’s two major strengths (Uemura’s guitar playing and Miori Naritomi’s vocals) are rather underutilised – particularly the latter, as vocals only appear on three tracks. This is a pity, as not only does Naritomi possess a great voice, but its use on some of the more sedate material (such as To The Memory Of A Person) would enhance the enjoyment factor, and stop the attention from wavering.
However, these are things that can be easily improved (just providing more of a good thing, really!) and as it stands, this is an enjoyable, well played and written album which should certainly be of interest to symphonic prog fans.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10