Reviews in this issue:
- Höstsonaten – Summereve
- Paatos - Breathing (Duo Review)
- Pär Lindh Project – Time Mirror
- Mats/Morgan Band - The Music Or The Money?
- Tohpati Ethnomission – Save The Planet
- Prophecy – Illusion Of Time
- Ether’s Edge – Return To Type
- Étron Fou Leloublan - À Prague
Höstsonaten – Summereve
Tracklist: Season’s Overture: (i) Rite Of Summer (ii) In The Rising Sun (iii) The Last Shades Of Winter (iv) A Church Beyond The Lake (v) La Route Pour Finistére (vi) Springtheme (10:51), Glares Of Light,(7:24), Evening Dance (4:12), On The Sea (4:20), Under Stars (3:17), Blackmountains (4:07), Prelude Of An Elegy (4:07), Edge Of Summer (5:39)
My first review for DPRP was Höstsonaten’s previous album Autumnsymphony and, being as inexperienced as I then was, I anxiously vacillated about whether or not to give it a DPRP recommendation. I opted not to, afraid that it wasn’t ‘proggy’ enough. This was a mistake. I’ve subsequently gone on to play it often and it’s an excellent album in every regard, entirely worthy of a recommendation. That’s not the only one I got wrong. I also failed to recommend Motorpsycho’s Heavy Metal Fruit. It too was one of my most played albums last year and remains so. Again, I questioned its ‘Prog’ credentials. I’ve now come to a much broader understanding of what I consider ‘progressive’ music to be. I like all forms of progressive music – not just Progressive Rock, per se – and if it’s excellent, it’s excellent regardless of genre tags. If I think people should definitely dip into their wallets and support the artist with a purchase, then I’ll now say so and give the album a recommendation on the proviso that I consider the album to be progressive in the broadest sense.
With that preamble out of the way, let me immediately recommend Summereve to you. Fabio Zuffanti is the mastermind and chief composer behind the project and he has seriously upped the ante with this, the final release in a quadrology of albums called The Seasoncycle Suite that deal with the seasons as their musical inspiration. I’ve gone on to buy the two that I’ve not yet mentioned – Winterthrough and Springsong – and each of these releases has a powerfully evocative, magical quality. Utilising a range of acoustic instruments alongside electric ones in his arrangements, there’s a delightful pastoral feel to the music combined with a classic, Italian-prog aesthetic and just a hint of both jazz and ethnic/world music that conjures a global relevance to the sound. Summereve is no different in these regards.
Fabio is a prolific artist and you may well have encountered him in any of his other guises whilst playing for La Maschera Di Cera, Finisterre, Rohmer, Aries and more. Höstsonaten has allowed Fabio to surround himself with a loose collective of players that meet the needs of each recording, but only Matteo Nahum remains from Autumnsymphony to handle guitars. The rest are a diverse and extremely talented bunch who furnish his compositions with a mouth-watering range of instrumentation that includes, a string quartet, oboe, played by Luca Tarantino who gets a wonderful featuring role on this album, which is great for an instrument that doesn’t feature very often anywhere, even in the classical repertoire. There is also a prominent role for percussion (Zills, Darbouka, Dumdum, Kajon, didjeridoo and Djembe) all played brilliantly by Fausto Sidri who has also contributed to other Zuffanti projects: Merlin – The Rock Opera and Finisterre. Then there is a host of keyboards (Mellotron, Hammond and Church Organ, Minimoog, Grand Piano, Fender Rhodes, Clavinet, Roland & Yamaha Synthesizers, RMI Keyboard, Farfisa, Strings Ensemble, Sequencers and Yamaha CP80 Piano), played elegantly, and richly by Luca Scherani – much kudos to him.
What they have accomplished here is nothing short of dazzling. Here we have a group of musicians elevating modern progressive music to the status of contemporary classical composition in the tradition of late romantic Italian composers like Puccini and Verdi (without the operatic element). I don’t want this review to turn into a treatise, but this is serious music of the highest pedigree and yet it is accessible, touching, poignant, enervating, involving, engaging, breathtaking and evocative.
The album opens with an 11-minute heatwave in Season’s Overture, a piece divided into six short movements. Depending on where you are in the world, our mental associations of Summer are going to vary, but Fabio’s musical imagination allows us to bridge those geographical divides. The potent use of overlapping, tumbling percussion in this overture suggests red earth, and the baking heat of North Africa and the Middle-East; an oscillating digeridoo suggests the high-frequency abrasion of Dragonfly wings; synths flood the soundstage with a huge, horizon-filling sunrise before the main theme kicks in, and it is awesome. Literally. It makes me think of the scale of nuclear fission at the heart of our sun; of giant solar flares and arcs leaping into the cosmos, big enough for the Earth to spin through. It’s an exciting, muscular, kinetic start. This is pursed by a beautiful, lilting, waving, swaying motif in 3-time before gently settling into a warm, acoustic garden of sound where a trilling organ and softly buzzing synth combine in bloom. Sweet draughts of flute evolve into mellotron choirs on a bed of rising sonic air. And then, beautiful melodies abound in successive solos on flute and guitar in 7-time before the majestic closing theme brings an emotional rubato to the finale. Simply amazing.
This segues immediately into Glares Of Light where a gentle piano motif carries the theme in a new direction, and this is a particular convention of the album. The way in which musical ideas are carried seamlessly forward is endlessly imaginative and clever. The music travels on a wave and I am transported with it. I cease to consider ‘tracks’ – they are almost indiscernible – instead I have to follow the current of the sound and let it work its magic without my usual desire to have my intellect intervene to divide and classify. This is wonderful, if not slightly perplexing when it comes to describing it on the page to someone who hasn’t heard it. Glares Of Light is achingly beautiful and melancholy with one of the most affective, meticulous string arrangements it’s been my pleasure to hear. The recording has astonishing fidelity where bow scrapes are as present and necessary to the sound as the notes themselves. When this piece swells at its centre through Matteo’s guitar melody, my heart involuntarily, reflexively squeezed tears through my core and I’m not a man to wet his cheeks easily. (That’s a lie! You cry at triumphant athletes, the theatre, babies, Weddings and I’ve even known you cry at television adverts! – Ed.) Joanne Roan’s flute playing is as emotional and wrenching as blowing down a metal pipe can possibly be! Every breath she commits to her instrument is weighted with the delicacy, precision and import of the Ceremony of The Heart (look it up).
Evening Dance and On The Sea are filled with rich, sparkling chords punctuated by Maurizio Di Tollo’s perfectly measured drumming and the aforementioned Luca Tarantino gets his chance to shine as the players spiral off in multiple directions behind his silvery, flowing solo spots. Again, the fidelity is remarkable, you can even hear a little bit of spittle bubbling in the reed at one point. This is echoed to some extent in Under Stars where his opening duet with Joanne’s flute is a gorgeous example of how classical acoustics can marry beautifully with contemporary melodic idioms. Blackmountains offers a change of pace and mood, chiefly in the gypsy-folk of Matteo’s wonderfully bold classical guitar playing, bringing a Flamenco feel to proceedings in a musical courtship dance with Sylvia Trabucco’s skittish, nervy, flirting, teasing fiddle-playing. The rhythm is in an infectious 7-beat metre (Pedants Corner: unlike Flamenco’s traditional 12-beat format – Ed.) and Fausto makes bone-rattling an art-form as all kinds of small shakers, jangles and hand drums supplement the heady ritual being played out. It really makes me want to dance. Naked. Around a fire.
Prelude Of An Elegy presents us with a muscular 4/4 beat to propel a dreamy clutch of synths and organs that twitter and swirl in a scirocco breeze which heralds in a storm on another of Matteo’s gorgeous swelling guitar solos. I suppose the elegy it speaks of is the closing track – The Edge Of Summer. This is another yearningly beautiful (how many times have I used that word?) piece that mourns the going of the Sun and sends rivers of shivers through my skin. Gloriously anthemic and symphonic, this is the only reference I’m going to make to another band and this track does for me what The Enid do: fill my heart and nourish my spirit with the power of music (You often cry at The Enid’s work too – Ed.) The album ends on a clever little note as a hi-hat rhythm quickly appears and is gone. This is the same hi-hat figure that opens Autumsymphony, Part II of The Seasoncycle Suite, and it’s only now that I realise that all of the albums do this – ie end with the beginning of the next.
Fabio’s four part work is a towering, ambitious achievement that has been almost 10 years in the making. It’s a fanciful, ornate and diverse opus. Summereve is both a remarkable conclusion and an astonishing beginning. It is as elaborate as it is compelling with micro-dynamics eddying and rippling through the soundstage at every moment. Every touch of every string and every key is perfectly measured and scrupulously recorded but unerring in its drive to elicit an emotional and imaginative connection with the whole. It points us towards something greater than ourselves. It opens our ears, our hearts and our minds. I cannot ask for anything more.
Conclusion: 10 out of 10
Paatos - Breathing
Tracklist: Gone (5:52), Fading Out (3:36), Shells (5:58), In That Room (4:56), Andrum (1:25), No More Rollercoaster (4:15), Breathing (5:56), Smärtan (4:30), Surrounded (4:48), Ploing, My Friend (0:56), Precious (4:25), Over And Out (3:31)
Andy Read's Review
My first encounter with this Swedish band came when I stumbled across their third release, Kallocain. I say ‘stumbled across’, as this quartet lies somewhat outside of my usual field of musical exploration. However there was something about their post-rock-meets-art-rock take on the progressive genre combined with the vulnerable vocals of Petronella Nettermalm and some vintage keyboards that instantly appealed.
Both Kallocain and its predecessor Timeloss have their inconsistencies but they are set among many impressive musical passages. I found 2006’s Silence Of Another Kind a bit of a disappointment, lacking the edge and drive of its predecessors. A little too tame for my liking. A live album then preceded a four year gap as the quartet worked on new material for album number five. As described by the band, Breathing sees Paatos “reborn and matured”.
The album contains 12 tracks that are more direct, more accessible and that possess a more consistent groove than those before. Yet this Stockholm-based outfit still concentrates on the emotion, rather than musical technicalities.
Alongside Petronella, Paatos is Peter Nylander, Ulf Rockis Ivarsson and Ricard Huxflux Nettermalm. Everyone in the band is both composer and lyricist, contributing to the entire musical process and bringing their own influences to the studio. Little surprise therefore that Breathing again shows influences from a wide variety of styles and genres.
Opening track and opening single Gone is the most immediately accessible. Driven by a heavy bass line, it mixes crossover prog with mainstream rock to great effect. A video for the track can be viewed here.
Fading Out takes a more ethereal vibe, whilst Shells highlights Petronella’s vulnerability reminding me of Happiness from Kallocain. There is a good use of a cello which adds depth to In That Room. A country and western style guitar adds a slice of art rock whilst a weighty bass and a sparse musical landscape brings to mind early-period Green Carnation.
The bass again controls the mood on No More Rollercaster which is both heavier and more progressive, as is the title track which follows. A current favourite is Smärtan where a return to ethereal mood brings to mind Sigur Ros. Petronella exposes a French Chanteuse to her repertoire alongside violins, mandolin and I think a trombone. The album closes with an updated version of Kallocain’s opening track Gasoline in the shape of the more up-tempo Over And Out.
If you haven’t heard of Paatos before and if a more progressive Portishead or a less progressive White Willow ignites your interest, then Breathing is well worth investigating. Fans of Bjork, The Gathering and Sigur Ros will also find much to enjoy. For existing fans this could well be a contender for your favourite album of 2011.
Breathing is an album of real depth and variety that rewards repeat listens as the details gradually unveil themselves. Breathing is not an album for those who like to pigeon-hole their music.
Leo Koperdraat's Review
The story of Paatos starts in 1999 when former Landberk members Stefan Dimle (bass and Reine Fiske (guitars) team up with keyboard player Johan Wallén and drummer Richard “Huxflux” Nettermalm (of Agg) to play with Swedish folk/rock singer Turid Lundquist. The cooperation works very well and the guys start to write music together. Nettermalm asks his partner Petronella to sing and Paatos is born. In 2002 the band release their excellent debut album Timeloss. The album is a perfect mix between the “traditional”, slightly Crimsonesque Swedish progrock of bands like Landberk, Anekdoten and Anglagard (the long and manic Quits springs to mind) and a more modern song based sound. Then Reine Fiske leaves the band (and later joins Dungen) and is replaced by Peter Nylander. This version of Paatos releases two more albums; Kallocain from 2004 and Silence Of Another Kind from 2006. On these albums the modern song based sound dominates and although both albums were good they did not make the same impression on me as their debut album. A live record, Sensor, was released in 2007 but after that things went a bit quiet. It now becomes apparent that the band was going through some rough times. Their relationship with the InsideOut label ended and Stefan Dimle and Johan Wallén decided to leave the band. It’s no surprise that the remaining members needed some time to re-think and re-group. They decided to go on. They brought in a new bass player, Ulf Rockis Ivarsson, while the keyboard duties were handled by Nylander and Richard Nettermalm. They started writing again, signed a new deal with Dutch record label Glassville records and have now released their fourth studio album Breathing.
So with all these changes over all these years... what’s the album like? I hear you ask. Well, it’s brilliant actually. I think that Breathing is a natural progression from SOAK but with stronger tunes. The modern sound has stayed (Cinematic rock they like to call it themselves) but this time there is not a bad track on the album. I’m especially impressed by the progress that Nylander has made on this album. There is some outstanding guitar playing to be heard. But not only his guitar playing impresses as he also contributes Bansari flute, trombone and some excellent backing vocals next to his shared keyboard playing. The new band member does not waste any time to make an impression on his new audience as he is the first one to be heard on the new album with his driving and upfront bass line in Gone. He provides more than just a solid backbone to the songs with his very melodic style of playing. Richard Nettermalm drumming is as versatile as ever. With frantic upfront patterns on No More Rollercoaster and Over And Out. But also more “simple” drumming on tracks like the gorgeous In Your Room (also with beautiful percussion), Precious and the title track. And then Petronella Nettermalm... she’s always sung beautifully on the previous albums but somehow she manages to add more power and depth to her voice on this album.
As I said before there is not a bad track on the album. There are a couple of outstanding tracks though; the powerful opener Gone immediately grabs you by the throat and draws you into the album only to let you go again after the equally powerful Over And Out (both songs have some great bass playing). The title track is a beautiful song. Smärtan is an atmospheric track with a lot of tension (the track reminded me a bit of 80s band Belcanto from Norway). No More Rollercoaster is exactly what it says it’s not. Nylander adds another great solo to the track. Surrounded has an excellent chorus, a great drive, strong bass playing by Ivarsson and beautiful backing vocals. My least favourite track on the album is Precious which sails a bit too close to MOR in my opinion, although Paatos is doing – “a Gentle Giant”- on this track by adding cello and violin themselves.
We had to wait almost five years on this new studio album but it has been well worth the wait as Breathing is a very strong album. Maybe a pop/rock album but with more than enough progressive elements to keep us proggers satisfied. Let’s just hope that the titles Gone, Fading Out and Over And Out do not prove to be predictive as we are far too glad their back!
Pär Lindh Project – Time Mirror
Tracklist: Time Mirror (17:09), Waltz Street (4:50), With Death Unreconciled (10:05), Sky Door (9:44)
If you remain unimpressed by the sound of Emerson, Lake & Palmer then you may wish to skip this review and scroll on to the next. If however you’re a fan and long for the days when they were making music like Tarkus and Brain Salad Surgery then I strongly recommend you read on. The Pär Lindh Project are (unsurprisingly) a trio and have been building a good deal of support since their re-launch in 2007 showcasing the virtuoso keyboards of Pär Lindh and the equally excellent playing of bassist William Kopecy and drummer Svetlan Råket. The superb 2008 DVD In Concert ~ Live In Poland is a testimony to their flair and technically flawless musicianship.
When I heard the heraldic fanfare that opens Time Mirror for the first time I was instantly reminded of announcement that preceded ELP shows “Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends…Ladies and Gentleman, Emerson, Lake & Palmer”. Appearing on the aforementioned Live In Poland DVD under the title Suite In Progress, here the 17 minute piece has been worked into as stunning tribute to everything that I loved about ELP (and many so called music critics seemed to despise). Ironically the falsetto delivery of vocalist (and current drummer) Al Lewis is far closer to Jon Anderson than Greg Lake whilst the swirling keys effects that underpin the opening fanfare are straight out of Yes’ Endless Dream. Otherwise it’s Emerson and company all the way with bombastic keyboard led arrangements that draw heavily upon Pictures At An Exhibition, Fanfare For The Common Man and a good deal in between.
Throughout Time Mirror and the tracks that follow, Lindh’s command across the keyboard spectrum includes three Hammond organs, grand piano, harpsichord, synths, Mellotron, Celesta, clavinet plus the always impressive sound of the church organ recorded in no less than three separate locations.
From the moment that Lindh counts the band in with a (totally unnecessary) “one, two, three, four” you just know that Waltz Street is going to be a tongue in cheek affair. With its satirical observations on the state of the global economy and honky-tonk piano this is PLP’s answer to the light-relief songs (The Sheriff, Benny The Bouncer etc.) that was a staple of most every ELP album. This is balanced with a commanding organ solo in memorable Tarkus fashion.
A barrage of tympani, violin (from guest Anders Lagerqvist), rhapsodic piano and church organ are just a few of the elements that lend an air of pomp and dignity to the majestic With Death Unreconciled. Lewis takes care of drum duties on this occasion supported by a typically upfront and tasteful bass performance from the ever excellent Kopecy.
The instrumental Sky Door is a surprise with a retro sound this time drawing from the 1980s and the electro-synth of Jean Michel Jarre and Kraftwerk. Following an extended bass solo at the midway point, Lindh, Kopecy and drummer Stefan Bergman bring the track and the album home with a rhythmic coda underscoring a flurry of synth notes that cascade in all directions.
With so many would be ELP imitators out there you may well ask, what is it that makes PLP so special? For one thing their musicianship is second to none, playing with a verve and skill that many prog acts would envy. Secondly the arrangements are meticulously but tunefully structured, keeping the listener hooked from start to finish. Add to that a dazzling array of musically twists and turns, rhythm and tempo changes and there is enough her to keep even the most nit-picking prog sceptic in raptures.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Mats/Morgan Band - The Music Or The Money?
CD 1: You Have To Wait In The Rain (1:19), If I Only Had A Clavinet (4:57), Fortsätt Mats! (1:49), Sylox (4:44), Asaw X (2:32), Watch Me Pleasure (3:56), Spinning Around (4:14), Jeriko (8:05), Coco (3:05), Inget Har Hänt (4:03), Tyrschon (2:42), Nordic Ice (2:01), Third Movement Farmor Märta (2:54), I Wanna (4:48), Let's Stay Positive (1:28), Harmonium 4 (3:01), The Difference Between Powerful And Loud (3:43), Baader Puff (9:32)
CD 2: Dr. Thor (7:13), Advokaten And The Jazz (6:53), Daisy (5:33), Banned Again (5:06), Griefen (4:16), Secret Room Out-takes (2:46), Resp Rush (0:30), Hjortron Från Mars (7:02), If I Only Had A Pianet (0:43), Q (2:58), I Know Where I Have It (4:25), Zepp (2:20), Bass (2:26), Advokaten Le Messiaen (3:13), Paltsug (2:13), Slut-text (7:32)
The Music Or The Money? by Mats/Morgan Band is a great way to step into the convoluted, crazy, hilarious, intriguing and technical world of Morgan Ågren (drummer) and Mats Öberg (keyboards), that will entice you back again and again as it does becomes a journey of discovery
Here’s the Mats/Morgan discography something that you may find useful as a reference to seek out more albums by the band after hearing this, their second album. Trends And Other Diseases (1996), Radio Da Da (1998), The Teenage Tapes (1998), Live (2001), On Air with Guests (2002), Thanks For Flying With Us (2005) and Heat Beats Live + Tour Book 1991-2007 (2008), Cuneiform scoring a very respectable 8.5 out of 10.
The musical interaction was created by Morgan Ågren (drums, programming, keyboards and voices), Mats Öberg (synths, piano, mellotron, harmonica, accordion and vocals), Jimmy Ågren (guitars, mandolin and triangle), Tommy Torosson (bass and melodic), Patrik Ögren (cello and bass) and Eric Karlsson.
This is a band that presents music that contains elements of avant-garde/free jazz, progressive and modern classical music, jazz, dance, techno, electronic music, cleverly constructed, technically excellent and very interesting to listen to.
There is no doubt that these guys have been heavily influenced by Frank Zappa and the histrionics of some of the members confirms that, both Mats and Morgan have played with the man himself in Stockholm and were involved in the Zappa’s Universe show, where they displayed their virtuosity, something that had caught Zappa’s eye previously. God only knows what creative perspectives would have been achieved had this collaboration been pursued?
We are talking the quirkier moments of We Are Only In It For The Money and Uncle Meat era Zappa. There are also elements of Steve Vai placed throughout too; we are talking the Flex-able era, where he also dallied with some experimental soundstages. Some of the interactions also call to mind the stunning uniqueness of The Residents, which can be definitely heard on tracks like If I Only Had A Clavinet and Coco.
The double CD is full of syncopated rhythms that at times deviates from the regular notation, placing stress and accent on the rhythmic notation where you wouldn’t expect it, which is an integral part of what has been created here. It maybe an album that is built on strange rapid drum and piano patterns, an experimentation of timbre and meter, it maybe an unconventional approach, but the end result speaks for itself. Diversity is the order of the day and diversity is what the band delivers to the listener across these thirty four tracks.
There are some mesmerizing guitar interactions too; Inget Har Hänt and Slut-text are prime examples of this. Dr Thor for me is a stand out piece, (which is not an easy thing to do with an album full of interesting work), featuring a beautiful virtuosity of Öberg, an interaction which confirms that there is more to the bigger picture, which is punctuated by Ågren intelligent percussions.
It is an album that does showcase the abilities of Mats and Morgan, both their ability to compose and play. It displays their talents, their ability to challenge and more importantly to intrigue.
This is a definite must for lovers of Zappa, The Residents, Steve Vai and anyone who likes intricate quirky music. The re-issue of this their second album may add forty five minutes to the original release, (thank you Cuneiform), which has been re-sequenced, but no matter, that hasn’t affected the quality of the album one jot, just enhanced it further. It may drop into the realms of the avant-garde from time to time, but that is a small price to pay as it makes what is here even more interesting.
This is an album that certainly floats my boat. An album that I think will float the boat of a few others too.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Tohpati Ethnomission – Save The Planet
Tracklist: Selamatkan Bumi [Save The Planet] (9:07), Bedhaya Ketawang [Sacred Dance] (8:31), Drama (1:47), Ethno Funk (8:38), Gegunungan [Gateway Of Life] (2:56), Hutan Hujan [Rain Forest] (8:42), Biarkan Burung Bernyanyi [Let The Birds Sing] (7:27), Inspirasi Baru [New Inspiration] (4:13), Perang Tanding [Battle Between Good & Evil] (8:16), Pesta Rakyat [Festive People] (5:10), Amarah [Anger] (2:34)
Every now and then DPRP will receive a CD for review, and it will spend many lonely months in our writers’ pipeline with no writer choosing to review it. We refer to CDs such as these as “orphans”. Save The Planet by fusioneers Tohpati Ethnomission is such a CD. I had it on my long list of possible CDs to pick for review, but always ended up choosing something else when it came time to order a new batch of CDs from the pipeline.
Then, cookie tracker technology caused me, unbeknownst to myself, to “friend” on Facebook the band’s label, Moonjune Records. Moonjune shared a Youtube clip of the band and after one viewing, I was hooked. Tohpati Ethnomission, you are an orphan no more.
The band is made up of the simply named Tohpati (of the noted Indonesian fusion act simakDIALOG) on electric guitar and synth guitar, Indro Hardjodikoro on bass guitar, Demas Narawangsa (only 16 years old at the time of the CD’s recording) on drums and the Indonesian percussion instruments of rebana and kempluk, Endang Ramdan (also of simakDIALOG) on the Indonesian percussion of kendang, gong and kenang; Diki Suwarjiki on the suling, a type of Sundanese flute; and a guest simply known as Lestari contributing vocals to one track.
Indonesia’s “scene” is positioned musically not too far from that of Canterbury, with a jazz-rock vibrancy that sees the capable Tohpati spinning off from simakDIALOG on his own, the dutiful Ethnomission cohorts in tow.
Lestari’s soprano style vocals colour the air of Bedhaya Ketawang, which showcases meditative guitar from Tohpati giving the tune an early Marillion flair. Suwarjiki’s suling croons plaintively.
On Pesta Rakyat, suling and guitar take the lead together like on many portions of the CD, on a tune featuring a bouncy almost industrial tone.
The dance groove gets in on the fun again on Perang Tanding, with wild soloing from Tohpati and relentless bass guitar from Hardjodikoro sprouting from some darkness evoking Van Der Graaf Generator.
The appropriately titled Ethno Funk sees all the musicians firing in full funky fifth gear, alliteration notwithstanding. Jazzy soloing from Tohpati points to Adrian Belew as a commonality, with Hardjodikoro’s bass guitar brooding throughout and Narawangsa’s drumming elevating towards the end.
Amarah is two and a half minutes of rock style guitar from Tohpati that I did not feel was necessary on the CD.
The CD came packaged in the customary Moonjune glossy gatefold digipack style, with an abstract design on the cover and credits and the track listing on the back.
Save The Planet will most likely appeal to fans of the jazz-rock fusion genre, with purveyors of more mainstream fare advised to steer clear.
As a criticism, the CD does have some recycled moments. So for future releases it would be advisable for the band to take their time and nurture their recorded work carefully, tossing the recycled bits they come up with into the “unreleased” demo hopper.
So all in all an acceptable offering from Tohpati Ethnomission. Due to those slightly repetitive sections on the CD, I am rating this one half a point under recommended.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Prophecy – Illusion Of Time
Tracklist: Lost In Time (1:47), On The Edge (8:37), Flashback (2:39), Apocalypse (6:00), Just To Be (4:19), The Will Of Fight (7:56), Keys Of Destiny (5:49), Ultimate Shock (3:40), Leave Me Be (4:38), Believe Me (5:43), End Of A Dream (1:05), Illusion Of Time (14:31), Prophecy (11:24), Remember Tomorrow (1:43)
Illusion Of Time is the debut album by French progressive metalheads Prophecy, who hail from the Dijon region, which is on the French side of the Alps. Before we proceed to the music let me introduce the band to you. We have Frederic Baird (vocals), Vincent Valenti (guitar), Romuald Dero (bass), David Frega (drums) and last but not least Cedric Poyer (keyboards).
Now creating a debut album is difficult enough but to make one based on a concept is even more daring, however these French youngsters have dared to do so. The progressive metal of Prophecy is of a high melodic structure with lots of virtuoso guitar soloing and keyboard sections, with long and for the most part, strong melody lines throughout the entire album. Throughout Illusion Of Time the tracks are interlinked, with no breaks or pauses between the songs. On the downside this makes it very hard to distinguish one song from another, however on the up side it tells more about the concept of the album. The songs also run smoothly together without even the slightest notion to the listener thus giving a consistency throughout. Does it work? Personally I am not sure and I cannot say I am overwhelmed by the almost endless musical virtuosity of the band - the music is just far too "thirteen to the dozen" type progressive rock. Too complicated for its own good...
The artwork presented with the CD is excellent, an hourglass on the cover symbolizing the Illusion Of Time, makes sense. A booklet with lyrics is also never a bad thing to have, especially when you have a none English band, as usually the accents of the vocalists are of a nature that certain words are not pronounced properly enough to really hear what the songs are about. With Frederic, however, I this is not an issue and it wasn’t hard to hear what he was singing - his accent was there but not disturbingly so. His band mate Vincent plays the guitar as a knowledgeable shredder does, at high speed with memorable riffs. Romuald and David supply a solid backbone to the group playing very consistently, even after breaks and passages with different tempos, they return to what was there before - good musicianship. Last but not least is Cedric on the keyboards, who does what is needed in symphonic progressive rock laying down his layers of keys, melody lines and of course the odd solo.
The boys certainly know how to play the heavy, symphonic prog metal, no doubt, but still I found it all a little too predictable which is such a shame. On the production side I found the complete album much too compressed - this probably wasn’t the idea, but the huge sound I was expecting it to have simply was not there. I am not technical but all the sounds were too compact, no echoing or distinguishable reverberation. It just lacked that arena/concert hall sound which sadly lets the album down. All said though Illusion Of Time is a promising debut record.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Ether’s Edge – Return To Type
Tracklist: Here I Am (8:47), The Routine (4:13), Whitewashed Everything (6:10), Facing Reality (6:38), Return To Type (9:06), Writer’s Void (5:44), Open Wide (8:34), Dreamtime Calling (1:53), Don’t Follow (7:24), Life’s Light (3:57)
Ether’s Edge are the latest in an increasing number of one-man projects that seem to be flooding in to the prog scene; in this case, the songwriter and principle musician is one Bazza Preece. Rather than go for the ‘easy option’ of a neo-prog album, Preece describes his music as ‘post-progressive’, offering the likes of Porcupine Tree, Opeth and Tool as key influences. Whilst there are certainly nods to all three bands on Return To Type, the music actually covers a much broader range than this, which turns out to be both a strength and weakness.
Return To Type is a concept album, telling the story of (and I quote from the promo)...
‘someone struggling with their demons. After a drunken encounter they become besotted by a new flame, but their shadowy former life returns and consumes them once more – only this time there was no-one to save them from themselves’.
Rather gloomy stuff, then. Straight away I should say that this album scores highly in terms of artwork – the front cover, painted by Lawrence Coulson, is particularly striking and evocative. But what of the music?
Opening track Here I Am begins promisingly, with some eerie atmospheric synths, portentous organ and intricate guitar work. Unfortunately, the fuzzed up industrial guitar riffs that then enter the fray sound poorly produced and really don’t fit with what has gone before. This is a pity, as the more folky elements of the song are well worked and fine within themselves, and way the song eventually builds to a powerful ending is impressive. Vocally, Preece alternates between a rather flat, semi-spoken delivery and a fragile singing voice in the higher register, which does seem to waiver out of tune on occasions.
Next song The Routine is built around a repetitive cod-funk bass line and features an appropriately mechanistic vocal, considering the subject matter. The chorus is quite effective but again the interjection of heavy riffs doesn’t work. The more melancholic Whitewashed Everything blends loping bass, melancholic piano and some gentle acoustic guitar in a combination that seems to aim for the sound Opeth got on their Damnation album. Vocally, Preece is no Akerfeldt, however, and the song lacks much emotional resonance and rather drags towards the end.
Facing Reality is a slow building piece with some impressively intricate guitar work. The dark feel is reminiscent a little of late 70’s Pink Floyd. The anaemic industrial riffing is again a bit of an irritant, however. The lengthy title track is one of the strongest pieces here, carefully building momentum and showcasing Preece’s guitar work. The use of layered vocals on this song is impressive, perhaps an avenue to explore further in later ventures?
Writer’s Void is an instrumental track with a nicely ominous feel, although again the heavier and lighter sections don’t seem as well integrated as they could be. Open Wide again showcases an Opeth influence; in this case, the song reminds me quite strongly of Windowpane, with some warm organ work providing good backing to the guitar work out front. This time the heavier guitars, when they come in, are kept well down in the mix and are more effective because of it.
Following the short acoustic-based instrumental Dreamtime Calling, Don’t Follow is the last lengthy song. Whilst the quality is uneven, the way it opens out later on, even incorporating some Gregorian monk-like chanting, is quite effective. Final track Life’s Light is a relatively straightforward affair, a rather morose pop song that has a strong chorus.
Overall, the creation of this album has clearly been a labour of love for Bazza Preece, and looking back over the review it does look like I’ve been fairly critical. Ultimately, there’s definitely some good work here, but equally there are sections which don’t work that well, and songs that go on longer than they should. I know it’s difficult given the tight budgets prog musicians have these days, but I think the way forward would be for Preece to recruit some more musicians, so that he can concentrate on song-writing and his fine guitar playing. As it stands, this is a flawed but interesting debut and one that will hopefully lead to better things in the future.
Conclusion: 5.5 out of 10
Étron Fou Leloublan - À Prague
Tracklist: Phare Plafond (5:49), Paris 65 (4:49), Gifle Hubert (6:40), Lavé A La Machine (8:38) Dernier Solo Avant L'Autoroute (3:27), Blanc (6:24), Hors De Son Monde (4:55), Tous Le Poussent (8:59), Plus Rien Ne Nous Retient Dans Ce Pays (5:38), Araignée Du Matin (6:03), La Musique (4:06), Comment Choisir Son Infirmière (3:59), La Java Des Bombes Atomiques (4:14)
À Prague is the tenth volume of the Zut – O – Pistes collection, each release containing a booklet that gives information about the band etc. À Prague is Étron Fou Leloublan’s seventh release, (five studio and two live album, this being their second live affair, having its first outing). 82’s Les Poumons Gonfles, 84’s Les Sillons De La Terre and 85’s Face Aux Elements Deschaines having already reviewed by the DPRP team in the past.
The trio on this live recording, a recording from the Face Aux Elements Deschaines tour, (eight of the songs presented here are from that album), comprised of Guigou Chenevier (drums, percussions, sax and vocals), Ferdinand Richard (bass and vocals) and Jo Thirion (organ, ensoniq mirage and vocals).
There is no doubt that as a band whose existence of thirteen years produced some very interesting music that sat firmly in the R.I.O avant-garde genre, were highly creative and influential. There wasn’t many western bands playing behind the Iron curtain in those days, Étron Fou Leloublan were fortunate to have played there several times, and on the 13th November 1984 this show was recorded. They also managed to tour the USA three times, which was a first for a band of this ilk.
From the opener Phare Plafond the monotone lyrics don’t really placate the intensity of the music, something that Étron were masters of, the inclusion of lyrics or vocals for that matter for me, were incidental, only offering a form of punctuation. I am still of the opinion that with Paris 65, they should have stuck more with concentrating on the musical structures, but putting that to one side there is more to this band.
When the band get it right, it negates the let downs, Gifle Hubert is a prime example of this, with its experimental jazz style drumming, which couldn’t have been easy to play. Hors De Son Monde is another fine example of how well this band could compose with its Zappa staccato approach. Plus Rien Ne Nous Retient Dans Ce Pays which translates to "nothing holds us in this country", features some stunning funky bass patterns which makes up for any short falls. Araignée Du Matin offers a soiree of really interesting toned keyboard work from Thirion that is escorted by the dexterity of Chenevier and Richard, being much appreciated by the audience as is La Musique, where the band seems to have found their stride. Comment Choisir Son Infirmière is where the band really shines, Chenevier sax’s tones just work so perfectly with Richard’s bass whilst Thirion’s keyboard work just nonchalantly walks along side the whole structure giving it real character. It’s at moments like this that the R.I.O efforts can be really applauded and appreciated. It is at moments like this that you understand how cohesive this band really were, something that wasn’t always appreciated.
The production quality may not sound the best compared to today’s processes, but bearing in mind the circumstances, just to hear this music live is a rare treat indeed. As ever the album is full of strange progressions, with their madcap and humorous tones. Vocally they weren’t the best, but musically they are tight, this is where they really score the points.
It is a complex and strong musical foundation that this music is built on; its inflections aren’t always easy on the ear, tonally sounding somewhat sharp, which makes it an album that would appeal to the more adventurous out there. We are again talking of the usual suspects, fans of Henry Cow, Univers Zero, Stormy Six, Samla Mammas Manna and Soft Machine. Tread with care though?
Conclusion: 6 out of 10