Reviews in this issue:
- Enchant - Live At Last (Duo Review)
- Nice Beaver - Oregon
- The Super Groovy Band - Joyride!
- Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic - 2001 Live Birds
- Chain - Chain.exe
- Jean-Pascal Boffo - Infini
- Resindust - Resindust
Enchant - Live At Last
Disc 1 Mae Dae (3:25), At Death’s Door (7:14), Sinking Sand (7:46), Under Fire (6:11), Broken Wave (5:46), Blindsided (6:45), Acquaintance (7:04), Monday (7:58), Progtology (6:54), The Thirst (6:39), Paint The Picture (6:50)
Disc 2 Under The Sun (7:40), What To Say (4:57), My Enemy (6:51), Follow The Sun (6:05), Break (4:48), Seeds Of Hate (6:21), Comatose (8:58), Black Eyes And Broken Glass [Acoustic] (4:44), Colours Fade [Acoustic] (5:12), Pure (7:33), Below Zero (6:32), Oasis (9:13)
Enchant should need no introduction to the discerning Neoprog/ Prog Metal/ Melodic Hard Rock fan, having steadily honed their craft over the course of seven albums. From the Marillion/Rush stylings of A Blueprint Of The World (which failed to make much of an impression on me - but which is popular with long term fans) they have grown in stature with each successive album. I picked up on their career again with Break and I’ve counted myself as a fan ever since.
Whilst their influences are often readily apparent, Enchant have managed to establish their own signature sound, chiefly made up of Ted Leonard’s powerful, melodic vocals and Doug Ott’s confident and incisive guitar playing, ably backed by the solid rhythm section (now consisting of Ed Platt on bass and Sean Flanagan on drums), The whole thing is given much atmosphere and power by the liberal use of symphonic keyboards, now provided by new boy Bill Jenkins. The song writing has matured considerably over the years and it is surprising that the band do not attract as much attention as some of the heavyweights in the world of prog.
So, what you should know about this double live CD is that it is an excellent example of the form. The sound is exceptional throughout and the audience sound like they are having a great time (as well they should), but they do not intrude on the proceedings too much. The performances are uniformly superb, with Ted Leonard being in terrific voice. The mix is warm and revealing, conveying much of the atmosphere of the gig directly into your room.
All stages of Enchants recording career are covered here, with all their best tunes getting a look in. Alongside a wide selection of favourites (some of mine including Blindsided, My Enemy and Break) you also get a couple of instrumentals (Mae Dae and Progtology – with the later proving that Enchant can tackle the more complex prog material as well as the song based stuff they do so well) and the now obligatory acoustic interlude – with fine versions of Black Eyes And Broken Glass and Colors Fade.
Over the course of two and a half hours, and without ever losing momentum or failing to entertain, the group regale us with a third of their recorded output. Thus this disc serves as a timely reminder of just how much good stuff they have produced over the years. That neither the band nor the audience shows any signs of flagging by the end of the show, with Oasis being a storming closer, as tightly performed as the opening number, is testimony to the strength of the group’s material and the power of their performance.
As with all the great live albums, this disc makes a great introduction to the band and is a sumptuous feast for existing fans. It easily found a place in my top ten cd’s of the year, which is quite an achievement, as there have been, in my opinion, plenty of great cd’s released in 2004, and Enchant operate in a style of music that is not usually my favourite - I like a wide range of progressive styles including ProgMetal, Jazz Fusion, Rio, Zehul, Folk, Symphonic, Electronic, and also Neo prog, but I lean towards the more complex stuff and the 70’s styled retro feel in general. For song based stuff to make a strong impression on me, it has too have that little something extra, the magic touch, if you like (Collage and Everon are two examples of the kind of bands that do it for me), and Enchant prove here that they are more that capable of consistently delivering the goods.
Whilst not a particularly original title for a live album, Live At Last is however pretty apt in Enchant’s case – although the band toured quite extensively in their early years, by the late 90’s this had pretty much ceased. Thankfully 2003 saw them return to the touring circuit as support on Spock’s Beard’s European tour, and 2004 saw a one-off gig in their home-town of Oakland, California, the result being this live album (an accompanying DVD was also produced, although production has been beset by problems).
The format of Live At Last is highly reminiscent of label-mates Threshold’s recent Critical Energy set – a specially commissioned show, a longer than usual set (this one running in at a hefty two and a half hours or so) covering the band’s entire back catalogue; there are even the seemingly obligatory acoustic numbers late on in the second set.
Despite these similarities, however, I feel that Enchant’s album has the edge over Threshold’s in a number of respects. Firstly is the song selection. Whilst the Threshold album gave a fair representation of the band’s work, there were one or two surprising exclusions. I don’t believe any fan could say that about Live At Last however; if asked to make a list of all the songs I would want and expect to be on a ‘best of’ live collection, I’d struggle to come up with much of a different selection than that presented here. Established fan favourites such as The Thirst, Oasis, Below Zero and What To Say are all present and correct, as are slightly more obscure but equally worthy tracks such as Broken Wave, Pure and Blindsided. All seven of the bands studio albums (including the partly-retrospective Timelost) are represented by at least two tracks, and there’s a good balance of heavier material and more considered, atmospheric fare. Therefore, as a comprehensive overview of the band’s output to date, the album can’t really be faulted.
In addition, the performance comes across as much more enthusiastic and energetic than the one Threshold recorded on Critical Energy. Partly this is undoubtedly due to the band; Ted Leonard, Doug Ott and co seem genuinely enthused to be playing this live concert, and this comes across both in the performance of the songs and in the interaction with the crowd. Whilst Leonard and Ott won’t win any prizes for original stage banter, they do come across as easy going guys who manage from the outset to establish a good rapport with the audience. The crowd noise suggests that the audience size may have been relatively modest, but what it lacks in size make up for in noise and energy. Band and audience certainly feed off each other here.
Sound-wise, this is pretty good. Ted Leonard is in powerful voice; although his Steve Walsh-esque tones are always going to be an acquired taste (straying too far towards AOR for some people’s liking) I think his vocals suit the music well. Ed Platt’s bass sounds noticeably more pumped up than on the studio recordings, and Doug Ott’s lead guitar work is exemplary. My one major quibble is that when Ott is playing lead there are often occasions when the heavier tracks lose something of their power, due to the absence of a second guitarist. I know that Leonard plays rhythm guitar on occasions (at least he did when I saw the band live, and there are certainly a few occasions on the disc (the instrumental Progtology for instance) where I can only imagine that he is here. However I think the addition of a dedicated second guitarist for live shows may be something the band might want to consider for the future.
Perhaps it’s partly for this reason that it’s often on the slower, more contemplative and balladic material that the band really shines here – the likes of Follow The Sun, Comatose and What to Say are all highlights of the set. As previously mentioned, there is also an acoustic segment. The two tracks chosen for this treatment – Black Eyes & Broken Glass and Colors Fade, both from 2000’s Juggling 9 or Dropping 10 album – aren’t the most obvious choices, but work well in this format, with the band clearly enjoying doing the songs in this medium. They also herald in the final three tracks of the set, which possibly makes up the strongest segment of the album – the reflective Pure and powerful, up-tempo Below Zero set the stage for a finale featuring what is perhaps one of the band’s strongest and most-loved tracks, not to mention it’s most ‘progressive’ (as fans of the genre would define the term), Oasis, which ends the album on a real high.
Overall then, this is certainly one of the better live albums I’ve heard by a progressive rock band in the last few years. If you’re a long-term fan, you’ll certainly want this, and for those who’ve already dipped their toe in the band’s catalogue and liked what they’ve heard, it’s an ideal opportunity to investigate more of the band’s work without shelling out for all the albums. For someone new to the band however I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Live At Last – at this length, it is a long haul for the uninitiated; in addition, even as a big fan of the band, I couldn’t honestly say that they’ve really changed their Rush-meets-Kansas trademark sound and style that much over the years, and if coming to the band for the first time I can quite see how the album could come across as rather ‘samey’. Better to buy one of the band’s studio albums first – one of the more recent ones, such as Blink Of An Eye or Tug Of War, would probably make the best starting point – and, if you like that, then this album would be a logical next step. All in all, this stands as a good live document of the band’s output to date.
Nice Beaver - Oregon
Tracklist: Nights In Armour (12:12), Morphine (5:31), Any Other Day (5:52), Oregon (9:34), The Beaver State (6:41), Two Brides For Two Brothers (10:38), Love On Arrival (5:48), Lawn Mower's Day Off (10:14)
Dutch band Nice Beaver follow up their 2001 debut On Dry Land with Oregon (the beaver state of the US!). Admirers of the debut album will not be disappointed by this sophomore release which clearly shows how the group has developed over the intervening three years. With a willingness to explore extended compositions (half the songs are around the 10 minute mark), the group have allowed themselves the space to develop the interplay between the instrumentation. Considering the group is a four-piece (Hans Gerritse on guitars and lead vocals, Ferry Zonneveld on drums and vocals, Erik Groeneweg on lead vocals and keyboards, Peter Strel on bass and vocals), they manage to achieve a rich and full sound which is replete with interesting moments and changes in time signatures.
A military snare permeates opening track Night In Armour which, when joined by the bass, sounds like a hybrid of Ravel's Bolero and Holst's Mars (from the Planet Suite). Of epic scope there are hints of Andy Latimer in Gerritse's guitar solos while Groeneweg introduces a more jazz flavour to the mixture with his electric piano contributions. It is over seven minutes before the vocals (sung by Gerritse) are introduced accompanied wind instruments and violin that have a distinct eastern feel. The piece works well with contrasting sections and some free-flowing guitar solos. Positioning the 'epic' at the beginning of the album doesn't always work but in this case it draws the listener into the album.
Two shorter tracks follow, the lyrically ambiguous Morphine (is it a song extolling class A narcotics or equating the love for a woman to a beautiful addiction?) and the delightfully melodic Any Other Day. Of the two, the latter song is the most memorable on first listenings of the album due to its infectious chorus and concise guitar solo. Vocals on both tracks are handled by Groeneweg whose deeper voice has a warmth to it that I find makes a pleasant change from many groups whose vocalists are concentrated throughout the higher registers. Oregon is a tale of a young rock band (named, obviously enough, 'Oregon') starting out in the business and the collection of shady characters they encounter on the way. With some good (but sadly all too true) lyrics (a favourite is "I can get cheap merchandise if you change your name to Wham!") and clever arrangements (using the two main vocalists to represent the voice of the band [Gerritse] and the music business characters [Groeneweg] works well), the piece shows how much the band have advanced since their debut. My only criticism of the piece is that the ending is a bit weak, one gets the feeling that, despite pushing the 10 minute barrier, it was unconcluded and needed a more definite ending.
Instrumental The Beaver State picks up the Camel mantle again with some good all round playing although I feel that there are too many changes in tempo in the piece, the sometimes grandiose and grandiose themes are not left to settle down and it would have been interesting to hear if the band could maintain interest throughout using a more even tempo. Two Brides For Two Brothers incongruously starts with the quintet of notes from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind but then turns into a slow burner. A quite erudite and poignant comment on the September 11th atrocity in New York City ("Two brides for two brothers, Tuesday morning dream, One after the other, Tuesday mourning dream") the piece has an air of understandable sadness and hope forlorn. Considering the subject matter, this is a very mature piece of writing that avoids the inevitable pitfalls that many bands would easily fall into.
Continuing the theme of 'controversial' subjects, Love On Arrival tackles predatory men, rapists and killers. One of the weaker tracks on the album (in my opinion) it consisted of some rather ordinary and unconvincing heavy rock passages and didn't hang together that well. In complete contrast, album closer Lawn Mower's Day Off features some nice interplay between acoustic and electric instruments and a great melody throughout the vocal section in the first half of the song that sets up the themes for the instrumental closing section nicely.
All in all, a fine album that displays a progression from their first album. Cyclops are continuing their reputation of making fine progressive rock music from around the world available to a wider audience and with releases displaying this kind of quality may they long continue to do so.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
The Super Groovy Band - Joyride!
Tracklist: I Like Your Hair (3:39), Fresh Apples (3:45), Coffee with God (3:11), Spin (3:34), It’s a Beautiful Day (3:19), Don’t Freak Out About the Future (3:40), Stay Happy All Day (3:10), Turn on the Television (3:54), Groovy Man’s Lament (2:54), Elevator Ride to the Sky (3:25), Joyride! Finale (3:37)
Well, it’s mostly groovy, it’s super in places, and it’s certainly a joyride with special emphasis on the “joy”!
I’m referring to Joyride!, the debut release by The Super Groovy Band. The group, a quartet, hails from British Columbia, Canada. Gogo is the principle songwriter and also sings and plays all manner of keyboard instruments; Pierre adds his considerable improv skills on sax and flute and chips in a vocal or two; Lance Chalmers mans the drum kit; and Moon rounds out the quartet, singing and playing the bass guitar. Apparently, all members of The Super Groovy Band are experienced, well-rehearsed musicians, and that’s sufficiently evident throughout the eleven tracks on Joyride! The music might not be your cup of tea - it’s definitely hippy-trippy and it wasn’t always mine - but there are more than a few good sips here.
In fact, there are moments of pure brilliance on the disk. I’d say that The Super Groovy Band reminds me of Magical Mystery Tour-style pop blended with select elements of early T (as in Tyrannosaurus) Rex, Zappa at his most innocuously whimsical, Captain Beefheart (think Ella Guru but tempered), and XTC (maybe as The Dukes of Stratosphear). The sound is generally balanced and clear and even when there’s an abundance of instrumentation (and there is!), the songs are never cluttered. Pierre is the true star of the show on Joyride! as I can’t imagine these songs having the same formidable punch without his just-right contributions, whether it’s the off-the-cuff segue or a melodic counterpoint to the main vocal line. The use of the flute (e.g., on Spin) was a wise decision, often giving the songs a sweet little anchor for the listener’s attention. Gogo also shines in his employment of a wide assortment of keyboard textures, his very keen compositional and arranging skills, and his often hilarious (if often opaque) lyrics.
Joyride! begins with Fresh Apples and it’s pure ‘60s-influenced pop psychedelica: peculiar but also very accessible. The flute riff is a kicker; it absolutely refuses to be ignored. This is simply solid tripster songcraft. Here, and elsewhere on the album, the lyrics seem to question our common perception and our sense of reality, which is fine, since often our perception of reality is faulty or skewed and a reminder never hurts and keeps us humble. Sometimes (as with Fresh Apples) the words are too vague, even too precious, and you can’t really extract a hard-and-fast meaning, but they’re often astute and suggestive and they did make me laugh: bonus points! You can’t offend me with a bopping, bounding bass-line like this song contains. Really, it’s simultaneously quite complex and pleasurable. I LOVE the ending verse: “Ah, do you want one for the teacher? / One for the bar-b-que? / Will you bake another apple pie? / What are we gonna do with all these apples?” It’s perfect and perfectly intoned. And it’s a cool song.
Coffee with God is equally impressive and it points out the major lyrical tendency of this band. Rather than record something like XTC’s Dear God which is cynical, hopeless, and sad (albeit powerful as hell and insightful), Coffee with God, through an idiosyncratic and capable use of language and bounce, comments on the sheer silliness of God, the world, existence, etc. while never sacrificing joie de vivre. Again, another great closing line: “So don’t you say you’re far too busy to have coffee with God”. Fresh Apples and Coffee with God show Gogo to be an adroit songwriter.
I Like Your Hair is a funky dose of satire: I enjoy Gogo’s mild ribbing and social commentary in all of these songs. This tune suffers from triteness but Pierre saves the effort with his confident embellishment; without him this song annoys, I’d wager. The keyboard work is excellent and multifaceted.
Overall, on these three songs at least, the music is well constructed and ingenious. Pierre and Gogo really hit the mark often. The multiple voices are a plus, even if none of the voices are stellar. The album is a tad amateurish, admittedly, but it’s far more charming for it. I’ve had my fill of expertly polished music: Joyride! has plenty of life in it, indiscretions be damned! Nonetheless, there are a few places for improvement.
I found the hippy ethos as manifested in the lyrics to be a touch overwrought and boorish. I mean, I like peace, I’m a fan of hedonism, and we should all be as happy as we can be, but I felt that songs like It’s a Beautiful Day and Don’t Freak Out About the Future were trying too hard to ignore the darker elements of human existence. Let’s face it: Auschwitz and obliterating tsunamis are part of our world, too, and it’s just as fitting to be sometimes sad as it is to be happy. Granted, Gogo is shooting for something a little more hopeful and encouraging than typical, contemporary radio swill, with its excessive self-consciousness and its angst, but still, I was more won over by songs like Fresh Apples and Coffee with God than the CD’s more blatant “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” enthusiasm. I want joy and an occasional joyride, even, but not if I have to wear blinders and deny the abyss. There is no yang without yin.
And, there is perhaps too much fluff on the album, e.g., Stay Happy All Day, Turn on the Television (which reminds me slightly of The Talking Heads or Adrian Belew), and Groovy Man’s Lament. These songs recall Paul McCartney’s solo output: nothing terrible (and some winning moments, to be sure) but nothing deeply satisfying either. (It’s like getting a bag of M&Ms when you’re hungry for a big, hearty meal.) I often felt that Gogo had a great chorus on his hands but from that chorus he created an under-developed song needing better verses or elaboration.
The CD continues with Elevator Ride to the Sky (Is it a celebration of the beautiful functionality of the average elevator? Or is it an omniscient condemnation of our rigid fixation upon categorical correctness [up and down fits the norm, left and right are transgressions]? I’m not sure.) Again, a poppy, quaint ear-candy ditty, nothing too monumental, but the ending instrumental jam is decent: Pierre has some good improv chops and you get to hear a true rhythm section for half a minute or so. (Let’s have the rhythm section slightly more prominent in the mix next time, shall we? I heard everything well enough but an extra drop of “BOOM” every now and then would’ve been appreciated.)
Joyride! Finale is the final track of Joyride! It’s a reprise (in Band on the Run fashion) of the major melody lines in each song on the album. It’s cute but I could live without it.
Ultimately, this is fun music and a good change of pace from the more heavy-handed progressive music I tend to review. There were portions of this debut that I adored and I wanted (and do want) to hear much more in that style. Everything else was still fair but sometimes seemed rushed or under-nurtured. I don’t want The Super Groovy Band to abandon the hippy ethos entirely, because that’s what gives the music its glorious swing and light-hearted spring. I don’t need the group to develop a Nietzschean existentialism in its lyrics, but I would like to hear better song development, extended verses, and maybe even some slightly tightened structures. But mostly, I just would like to hear more from this Canadian band, and I’d hate for it to lose its charm, so maybe The Super Groovy Band is best as is, continuously creative in the moment, riding along blissfully, a true Zen event.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic - 2001 Live Birds
Tracklist: Ptoccata (4:03), Dancing On AA (4:59), Themes From Rocky & Bulwinkle / The Simpsons (3:08), Lost In The B Zone (4:48), The Insidious Revenge Of Ultima Thule (7:23), One Hundred Cycles (6:10), A Band Of Deborahs [Not Debbies] (4:32), Ptinct (4:19), Faultline (4:52), Birdgam (4:23), Beat Of The Mesozoic Part 1 (7:16)
Last year Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic made my top 10 list with The Iridium Controversy and this year they’ve done it again with 2001 Live Birds. This is yet another splendid live recording from the annual prog utopia that is NEARfest (following on from excellent offerings featuring Nathan Mahl, Steve Hackett, Thinking Plague and Glass Hammer), allowing those of us stranded on the wrong side of the Atlantic to belatedly share in the fun. As usual, the quality of the recording is excellent, capturing the essence of the performance and conveying the atmosphere of the gig.
This CD documents Birdsongs set from 2001 when they opened the festival, and it’s a barnstorming tour de force, with every number screaming “Follow That” to the unfortunate groups who had to do just that. Whilst they specialise in complex compositions that merge minimalism, contemporary chamber music, jazz, avant-garde and world fusion elements, this is a high energy set which crackles with barely contained power. Continually threatening to dissolve into chaos (but never doing so), these fabulous, intricately composed pieces keep the audience on the edge of their seats almost throughout. Some brief respite comes with the closing section of The Insidious Revenge Of Ultima Thule when the insistent rhythms drop away for a reflective, minimal duet for piano and synth.
With all four members handling percussion, there are some furious grooves here (the rip-roaring A Band Of Deborahs [not Debbies] being a prime example). Rich Scott contributes wild and wonderful synth work, creating all manner of atmospheres to enrich the compositions. Eric Lindgren is the principal composer and his highly rhythmic piano drives many of these tunes with dramatic intensity. Ken Field is an outstanding saxophonist/flautist and he is on top form throughout this concert (contributing much of the Jazz feel to the tunes), as is Michael Bierylo, whose guitar piles on the tension in carefully measured doses. His slide work on Ptinct is stunning, riding across a rising melody which creates an almost unbearable sense of anticipation, like watching an incredibly beautiful dawn on a spring day full of promise and mystery.
Far from being dry and over solemn, there is plenty of room for humorous touches amongst the intellectual structures of the Birdsongs sound, and if proof were needed, we are treated to a medley of TV cartoon themes as a jokey interlude. My six year old particularly likes the version of the Simpsons theme, and often bounces round the room in delight while it’s playing. He sticks around to listen to the rest of the CD too, which is a good sign for the future.
Without a duff track to be heard, and featuring only two tracks from the last CD (including the stomping Beat of the Mesozoic), this disc gives a good cross-section of the Birdsongs catalogue, but as it (understandably for a live performance) concentrates on the more dynamic and rhythmic compositions, its all quite intense and therefore lacks a little of the light and shade and contrasts of the material to be found on the studio offerings, making it ever so slightly less appealing to my ears than The Iridium Controversy.
With a really classy cover (by Edward Gordon) to round off the package, this is truly a superior slice of Progressive music which might not be to everyone’s tastes, but which surely deserves to be heard by a large audience.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Chain - Chain.exe
Tracklist: Cities 1 (7:10), Cities 2 (4:46), Cities 3 (4:41), Cities 4 (6:06), Cities 5 (1:06), Cities 6 (4:54), Cities 7 (9:25), She Looks Like You (4:50), Eama Hut (9:51), Never Leave The Past Behind (10:18), Hot To Cold (6:32), Last Chance To See (10:11)
At the time Reconstruct, the previous album from Chain, was released Henning Pauly was a relatively unknown name, but that changed because of his work with James LaBrie on the Frameshift project, Unweaving the Rainbow. The same can also be said of Matt Cash who also cooperated on the Frameshift album. Now Henning Pauly is in the spotlight and he is becoming very productive. He is currently working on the next Frameshift album along with a rock opera which again will feature a number of well known names (Michael Sadler, James Labrie, Alan Morse ...).
This album also has a number of invited guests icluding Mike Keneally (guitars for, amongst others,: Frank Zappa, Dweezil Zappa, Steve Vai) and Michael Sadler (Saga) being the most mentionable.
Unlike their first offering this album does not catch on after the first spin, it is complex and has a large number of tempo, melody and instrument changes that take several runs through. After the first few spins one might come to he conclusion that the music is too complex or too diverse, but it is worthwhile to give it those extra couple of spins - because once you 'understand' the songs this is an excellent album.
On the cover Cities 1-7are described as one song, but especially these tracks appear to be a potpourri of different styles, pieces and loops. The first notes of the album show that Chain has entered a new heavier prog metal style, but as it is supposed to be with progressive metal: heavy is not all that there is to it. Especially the keyboards give the songs a more complex jazzy structure. The guitars then take it to the metal side again. Some of it reminds me of Andromeda. Chain also has the complex and speedy loops but is less metal. There are some very catchy tunes spread around these tracks that can haunt you for days.
After the constant flow of ideas, loops and tempo changes you get a little respite, because She Looks Like You is a very good ballad, but in the Chain vain, so still a little complex. Then Eama Hut picks up the pace again , in fact it even takes it to a higher gear. This song however is a bit more coherent than the Cities. Never Leave The Past Behind is a bit simple compared to the other tracks and Matt Cash's vocals are yelled in stead of sung at some parts - one of the lesser songs.
Michael Sadler is also featured on some of the Cities but Hot To Cold is a funny thing: it is Chain playing a Saga cover (of Images At Twilight) and the vocals are by: Michael Sadler.
Last Change To See is dedicated to Douglas Adams (author of e.g. Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy), the band used a number quotes of his work on their previous album. The note of Henning Pauly in the booklet says: "He wrote about his last chance to see animals close to extinction.. I read it many times but I only understood after I missed my last change to see...him". Great tribute to one of the best comic authors ever. Victoria Trevithick has an excellent voice and the solo in the middle is really good, a very nice closer for the album.
Summing up all of the above leaves little room for any other conclusion: Chain has delivered a very good second album, not as accessible as their first album but richer and more ambitious. Being ambitious is only a good thing if you can pull it off - Chain have certainly achieved this. Very worthwhile for people who lean more towards complex progressive metal, but might also still be interesting if you like progressive rock.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Jean-Pascal Boffo - Infini
Tracklist: Toon Town (4:18), Sommambule (3:50), Carnavalse (4:12), Fée D'Hiver (4:16), L'Astre Ay Gnôme (3:43), Electroll (4:30), Goodbye Cocoon (4:33), Noon On The Moon (3:59), Ciel-Ether (4:22), Etoile Des Manèges (3:13), Passages À Nouveau (5:07), Infinitude (9:44)
Jean-Pascal Boffo was the very first signing to the French Musea label when it was founded in 1985. In that time he has released seven albums under his own name, with the latest release, Infini, being record number 8. In that time Boffo has explored many different styles and genres, from his early more acoustic albums bearing some resemblance to Anthony Phillips, to late 1980s classically inspired pieces moving towards more ethnic and jazz-tinged releases in the 1990s. His last album, Parfum D'Étoiles, released in 2000, was a departure in that it featured vocals but Infini resumes the totally instrumental format of his other releases.
With Boffo providing all the instrumentation, as well as producing, mixing and mastering the album, it truly is a solo piece of work. Boffo's familiarity with the studio environment comes across in the skilful way that 'proper' instruments are blended with sequencers, loops and drum machines. The results are far from what would usually come to mind when one thinks of music containing such electronica as the different instruments are infused with sympathy that enables repetitive rhythms to permeate throughout the pieces without being intrusive or monotonous. It is all about atmospherics; the mood is relatively sedate and the layers are many - a soundtrack to a dream perhaps? The album is certainly not 'immediate'; it takes quite a few listens to identify with the rhythms and to find a way into the unique groove (as it were).
It is hard to draw comparisons, one could hint at similarities with the soundscapes of Robert Fripp or even some of the work of David Sylvian (particularly when he collaborates with other like-minded musicians) but in the end Boffo has on Infini produced one of those rarest qualities, a sound of his own. Attempting to define each track would be a fruitless task, but there are tracks that stand out. Noon On The Moon flows very serenely, Carnavalse hikes up the suspense quotient and Infinitude combines the backwards guitar loops and electric piano and guitar with strangely hypnotic effect.
This won't be an album for everyone and is not an album what one can imagine being picked out and played in social situations. However, for those with an ear for something a bit different there is a lot of reward and pleasure to be gained from Infini.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Resindust - Resindust
Tracklist: Windscream (10:38), Wireweave (3:15), Artism (4:39), Vorpmix (11:10), Suzanna (3:16), Resindust (4:58), Cotlife (4:08), Critical (8:50)
Resindust is the debut release from guitarist / keyboardist Tony Harn and keyboardist / guitarist Lewis Gill and although this CD was recorded during 2002, it has only recently landed on the DPRP review table. This would also appear to be the only collaboration of these two musicians, although both Harn and Gill have featured in our reviews section individually. Back in 2001 we favourably covered Tony Harn's Moving Moons release and later on in 2004 we looked at Vivahead, one of Lewis Gill's album projects entitled Cosmic Dunce. In our separate reviews, both Bart and myself made note of the scant information available on "The Net" for these two musicians - this fact still remains unaltered.
Unfortunately I've not heard Moving Moons, however many of Bart's comments and references did seem to apply to this joint work. In fact taking on board those comments and remembering the music of Cosmic Dunce, it is fairly safe to see where this amalgamation has come from. Neither the CD cover nor the accompanying literature make it entirely clear who is responsible for what in the guitar / keyboard stakes, I do have it on good authority that these duties are fairly evenly distrubuted throughout Resindust. So to the opening piece Windscream which could well have been taken form the Vivahead album - a fairly lengthy, freeform, ambient wash that drifts tirelessly across the headphones and to which Tony Harn adds numerous fretless bass passages and guitar effects. Pleasant and calming as it is, I did feel it would have been more effective as a background to a visual image.
For an album that might well fall into the ambient category, I did find that Harn and Gill had not necessarily just let the tracks drift aimlessly into each other. Wireweave (covered later) is an effective multi-layered guitar piece, whereas Artism employs a similar idea, this time using vocals - not quite as effective. This is followed by the lengthy and in the main uninspired Vorpmix - surprisingly I was reminded of some of Ennio Morricone's background film music, along with bits from Floyd's earlier and less coherent avant-garde sections. At over eleven minutes long the dissonant texture of the piece and its aimless meandering just became irritating.
Not the same can be said of the following three tracks, the delightful Suzanna, the title tune Resindust and the delicate almost nursery rhyme nuances of Cotlife. Here Gill and Harn have come up with three tracks that combine textural weaving guitar with the clever usage of keyboard sounds. This made the mid to end section of album extremely strong, with only Critical, a moody offering which like the opening track would work better with a visual accompaniment, just allowing the album peter out rather than finishing on a high note.
The outstanding track for me was Wireweave- from it's simple beginning of gentle picked guitar, a multitude of equally simple but effective guitar lines are added, including distorted melodies along with more ambient backing. The end result is excellent, not only as a piece of music, but it sounds great in the headphones. Certainly a track for fans of Mike Oldfield.
This was a mixed bag for me, but on the whole there was more to enjoy in the music of Resindust than there was to dislike. Certainly Wireweave, Suzanna and Resindust are tracks that I will listen to in the future.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10