Reviews in this issue:
- Pendragon – Out Of Order Comes Chaos [DVD]
- Alan Reed - First In A Field Of One
- Rhys Marsh And The Autumn Ghost – The Blue Hour
- Trout Qt – Trout To Lunch
- American Hollow – Screaming Into The Void [EP]
- Sanguine Hum – Live In America
- In The Silence – A Fair Dream Gone Mad
- The Bob Lazar Story – Space Roots
- Brain Connect – This Shit’s Got To Go! [Single]
- CMU - Open Spaces
Pendragon – Out Of Order Comes Chaos [DVD]
Tracklist: Passion, Back In The Spotlight, Ghosts, Not Of This World, Comatose, If I Were The Wind, Freakshow, Empathy, This Green And Pleasant Land, Shane, Feeding Frenzy, Nostradamus, Last Man On Earth, Indigo, Prayer, Paintbox (157:43) Bonus Video: Interview with Nick Barrett (15:59), "...Some Of The Order" (10:59), "...Some Of The Chaos” (46:17) Also includes: Biography, Discography, Photo Gallery, Desktop Images
In the roundtable review of the previous Pendragon DVD Concerto Maximo I reflected on how 2008 had been a particularly significant year for the band. Fast forward to 2011, a year that arguably proved to be of equal significance for Nick Barrett and co. Spring saw the release of the critically acclaimed Passion album (the band’s 9th to date) swiftly followed on 20th April with a return to the Teatr Slaski in Katowice, Poland for a triumphant showcase gig. To round off the year the band swept the board in the Classic Rock Society’s poll for 2011 and likewise had a strong showing in our own DPRPoll.
Like its predecessor (and a host of other prog DVD’s from the past 5 years or so), Out Of Order Comes Chaos documents the band’s appearance on the now familiar Teatr Slaski stage. Remarkably, despite the lengthy set and the relatively short 2½ years that separates the two shows; only two songs (Nostradamus and Freakshow) are duplicated from the previous DVD. Clearly a measure of the respect that Pendragon hold for their fans, not to mention the wealth of material they have at their disposal. Line-up wise there are no changes with Nick Barrett (guitars, vocals), Peter Gee (guitar, bass, bass pedals, keyboards, backing vocals), Clive Nolan (keyboards, backing vocals) and the now fully integrated Scott Higham (drums, backing vocals).
The title song from Passion opens the set as it did the studio album and is the first of four songs to feature from the then new release. It’s not really my cup of Pendragon it has to be said, being just a tad too raw for my tastes, but it certainly makes for a gutsy, attention grabbing opener. With its compelling riff Back In The Spotlight is more like it even though it sounds a tad too close to the song Christmas from The Who’s Tommy for comfort. The first of three songs in the set from 1991’s The World album. Following Barrett’s attempts at a few words in Polish is the very wonderful Ghosts with a moving acoustic guitar and piano intro courtesy of Gee and Nolan. The dramatic instrumental bridge echoes Genesis’ Los Endos complemented by the Hackettesque ringing guitar hook that’s classic Pendragon receiving a deservedly ecstatic response from the receptive audience. The 3-part Not Of This World is next up in all its 17 minutes of heavenly prog glory, a definite bonus for this reviewer being perhaps my favourite Pendragon song and judging by his introduction one of Barrett’s as well. "Ridi Pagliaccio" indeed!
Presentation wise the most significant difference between this show and Concerto Maximo is the use of back projected split screens although these are probably more striking from the audience’s point of view than they are the cameras. As always the lighting from the Teatr Slaski stage is particularly effective with the emphasis here on deep blues and greens. The camerawork is suitably varied utilising static frames and pans although a bands eye shot of the audience from behind Higham is perhaps a tad overused. There also seems to be a shortage of the impressive aerial zooms with the camera seemingly flying over the audience evident on previous Katowice DVD’s.
The 3-part Comatose from the Pure album follows and by this point in the set the band are sounding noticeably tighter. That’s just as well because it’s a monumental exercise in light and shade featuring a bone crunching guitar riff and bizarre string samples before concluding with some very moody bass work from Mr Gee. The beautiful If I Were The Wind with lovely piano from Nolan is very welcome, contrasting nicely with the catchy and decidedly mainstream rockiness of Freakshow. Back to the latest album for the compelling Empathy with excellent soloing from Mr Barrett and the ivories flowing classically from Mr Nolan in a solo that brings the song to a rhapsodic close. Even better is the centrepiece of Passion, This Green And Pleasant Land with its story telling prose bringing early Genesis and Fish to mind. A magical guitar solo, infectious Oasisish choral hook “Take only what you need” and a meteoric finale make this perhaps the set highlight for me.
A brief return to older times for the grandeur of the very Pink Floydish Shane before the appropriately titled Feeding Frenzy takes no prisoners with its frantic energy and deliberately ragged guitar tone. The mood continues for a fast and raucous version of Nostradamus clocking in at a little over three minutes. Barrett’s voice is beginning to show signs of strain at this point but to be fair he has been going full tilt for nearly two hours. Wisely things mellow for Last Man On Earth from 1993’s The Window Of Life which Barrett dedicates to Metal Mind’s founder Tomasz Dziubiński. With its deliciously melodic Hackett style guitar lines and the poignant “I'm never gonna lose your precious heart” line lifted in part from The Moody Blues’ New Horizons, it’s certainly a fitting tribute. Some stunning drum volleys from Higham brings the main set to a climatic close.
After the usual cries for more (in Polish of course), the band return to the stage for the first encore, the relentless, steam rolling and recent epic Indigo. Nolan is in head banging form and there’s pure venom in Barrett’s voice as he spits out the words offset by a surprisingly mellow but excellent guitar solo around the halfway mark. After much bowing and hand slapping with the audience, the band exit stage right before soon returning for a very moving Prayer with Barrett ringing every ounce of emotion from his guitar. The audience are all on their feet by this point restricting the camera view from stage front but no matter because next up is the magical Paintbox from 1996’s The Masquerade Overture. A surprising closer perhaps but very welcome nonetheless with the familiar weeping guitar and majestic celestial organ sound of old bringing the show to a majestic conclusion. Barrett even celebrates with a lap of honour around the stage.
The bonus material contains the obligatory interview (with Nick Barrett) and extensive backstage/sound-check footage from the 2011 European tour partly shot by Nick himself. The interview in particular makes for interesting viewing revealing Barrett to be a very open and honest man, describing the ethos and inspiration behind Pendragon’s music where unsurprisingly the words “passion” and “melody” crop up quite a lot. Most revealing is how they nearly cocked-up the performance of The King Of The Castle on the last DVD and a certain song from the band’s distance past that Nolan doesn’t want to play live. For the tech-heads the backstage camera takes the viewer into the mobile unit used for recording the DVD and Barrett himself takes us on a trip around the bands tour bus.
There aren’t many bands of the calibre of Pendragon that can provide such an array of diverse and excellent music, deftly balancing older and newer material from a recording career spanning 30 years to fill a 2½ hour performance. And whilst I wouldn’t always advocate DVD’s in preference to CD’s, if Pendragon are conspicuously absent from your music collection then this would be a perfect place to start. They skilfully combine sheer power with musicality revealing themselves to be one the best live bands around at present and can even be excused for the occasional use of pre-recorded tapes in some of the newer numbers. And if you like your high-def images in addition to 5.1 Surround sound it’s also worth noting that this is the first Pendragon DVD to be simultaneously released on Blue-ray.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Alan Reed - First In A Field Of One
Tracklist: Begin Again (6.27), Kingdom Of The Blind (5:12), Never Too Late (5:32), The Bottom Of The Bottle (3:23), Darkness Has Spoken (7:05), The Real Me (5:53), Teardrops In The Rain (3:03), The Usual Suspects (5:03)
After his acrimonious departure from Pallas in January 2010 after being the band’s front-man for 26 years, it was interesting to see what the future would hold musically for Alan Reed. His distinct vocals were a key component in the band’s overall hard-rocking sound but life does have a nasty habit of moving goalposts sometimes.
With the help of some trusted friends, Reed first released an EP Dancing With Ghosts last year featuring five songs, three reworked old favourites - and two new ones, Teardrops In The Rain and Begin Again, both of which are on First In A Field Of One. The EP was definite signal that far from being down and out, Reed was back in business and raring to go again.
First In A Field Of One further stylishly reinforces that sign, showing Reed on top form creatively, musically and vocally. Do not expect anything hard and heavy though. This album is a very different proposition altogether and a personal one, you feel, with Alan paying homage to his native Scotland through the broad Celtic vibe running through it among its many distinct elements.
Above all, it fuses Reed’s prodigious song writing talents with thoughtful, carefully constructed instrumentation and of course, that wonderful tone of voice like no other in prog.
Begin Again gets the album off to a cracking start through a galloping acoustic guitar-led melody studded with Celtic overtones, the lyrics reflecting thoughts on his country of birth. It simply bursts forth with life and energy through a combination of synths, choppy keyboards and a huge percussive beat from Pendragon’s Scott Higham. A change in tempo heralds in some gorgeous keyboards from fellow ex-Pallas member, Mike Stobbie, with Alan’s voice beautifully pitched over the top.
Kingdom Of The Blind is one of the great prog songs of 2012 –official. Jangling acoustic guitar, subtle beat and Jeff Green’s resonant guitar all play along as the song unwinds, Reed’s voice restrained throughout as the electric and acoustic guitars tell the musical story in the mix. Building steadily, synths are added and then Green’s guitar takes off, swooping and looping over the melody. Then it slows righ down and there alongside Reed is the very familiar voice of Christina Booth of Magenta. Their voices blend beautifully for the brief time they unite. The official video for this song is also a delight, all shot in a typically English churchyard with Celtic cross headstones.
Never Too Late has Reed starting the song at his most tender over a tempered acoustic guitar. The melody does remind you momentarily of Morris Albert’s Feelings and there is a fabulous piano running alongside it. Again, the drama of his song unfolds through dreamy synths which cushion the delicate melody as Reed’s voice gathers momentum. Then Kalle Wallner comes in with the most deliciously emotive guitar solo that lifts the song to an entirely different level of aural delight. Then Reed cranks up his vocals again for a huge finish.
The Bottom Of The Bottle continues the acoustic folkie vibe with only a subtle organ playing under Reed’s plaintive voice before strings suddenly appear. However, Darkness Has Spoken is his song about his feelings about the parting from Pallas. It has an almost delicate vibe to start with before Green’s guitar heralds a change of mood to a much darker place before it reverts back a piano and acoustic guitar.
There is almost a palpable sense of pain reading between the lines of this song as it twists and turns through anger, frustration and an underlying synth which does have a resonance from the past. But it is a song of redemption and the end reaches a much more positive conclusion: “The Darkness has gone.” What a way to banish the ghosts.
Acoustic guitar and piano underscored by Higham’s percussion open The Real Me, again with an understated synth and Reed asserting himself vocally in dramatic fashion before searing guitar solo and song then takes a new rhythm with synths and guitars in the forefront. Higham’s high up in the mix for Teardrops In The Rain, another flowing river of a song with gentle guitar, synth, piano and Reed totally in control vocally.
And finally, Reed completely wrong foots you with the final track The Usual Suspects, which is a little swing number complete with finger clicks, jazzy piano and a huge confident swagger about it. Christina Booth provides the scat singing backing line before it takes off into a huge swirl of synthy organ and huge beat. The song is about being faced with your demons, a recurring theme throughout the album. Those finger clicks and piano return before Reed ends literally on a high note.
Produced by Reed and Stobbie with the much in demand Karl Groom in charge of the drum recording and final mix, plus gorgeous illustrations on the cover by Graeme Bell, this album possesses charm, integrity and polish. Above all, it has a self-belief which puts Reed right up there as one of the most charismatic and accomplished prog performers around.
The only gripe is the length of the album, coming in at just over 40 minutes, which really leaves you wanting so much more time-wise. Encore, Alan! And make it soon.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Rhys Marsh And The Autumn Ghost – The Blue Hour
Tracklist: And I Wait (6:59), Read The Cards (3:45), The Movements Of Our Last Farewell (2:24), Broken Light (7:20), Wooden Heart (3:30), Further From The Truth (4:30), The Place Where You Lay (5:26), One More Moment (9:40)
“Make it easy on yourself”; that’s what Scott Walker of the Walker Brothers sang. Scott Walker has been a big influence on Rhys Marsh of Rhys Marsh And The Autumn Ghost, but perhaps he hasn’t listened well enough though, because if there is one thing that Marsh does not do musically is make it easy on himself. After the release of his debut album The Fragile State Of Inbetween he set himself the target of releasing his second album within a year. And so, after eleven months, Dulcima was released in 2009. But that wasn’t enough because for his third album Marsh sets himself some strict rules about the use of instruments. He was of the opinion that after two albums where everything was allowed, the third one needed a different approach. Well, at least for this one he took his time.
On his third album Rhys Marsh works with an all Norwegian band of musicians, most of whom play a woodwind instrument. So the album is dominated by the sound woodwind and also brass. Oboe, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombone and tuba are used in painting the colours of this album. And that all was part of the restrictions set by Marsh. It gives the album a quite unique, very warm, atmosphere. That was not a total surprise as the single he released in 2011, Turning Time (a title that seems very fitting now), already was a good example of what was to come.
The musicians contributing on The Blue Hour are (ex) members from bands like Jagga Jazzist (Martin Horntveth on drums); White Willow (Trude Eidtang on vocals and Lars Fredrik Froislie, who is of course also from Wobbler, on chamberlin); Hayden Powell Band (Hayden Powell on trumpet and Jo Fougner Skansaar on bass) and Magnet (Ivor Sandoy on drums) - with Rhys Marsh contributing guitar, mellotron, Hammond, zither, vibraphone and above all his extraordinary voice.
Despite the heavy use of brass his voice really takes centre stage. Sometimes on his own, sometimes together with Trude Eidtang as can be found on beautiful album opener And I Wait. Their voices blend together very well and which can also be heard on one of my personal favourites, the lengthy Broken Light. A very stately song which also shows the arrangement skills of Marsh. A track where the brass really shines whilst the high and somewhat jazzy guitar lines reminded me of Robert Fripp. What a beautiful track.
Another highlight is album closer One More Moment as it contains the same strengths as Broken Light. You might expect that the album would have a dark and gloomy atmosphere, because of all the woodwinds, but that’s certainly not the case. Read The Cards and Wooden Heart are both quite up-tempo, even catchy, tracks. It all results in a very strong collection of songs, with not a weak track in sight. The album sounds warm, organic, live and varied despite the restrictions set.
I must say that I am very impressed with this album. The quality of the songs, the delicate arrangements, the great but restrained musicianship and Rhys Marsh beautiful voice - all contribute to this. Something I touched on with Rhys in my recent interview with him. I am sure that this album will appeal to a lot of people also outside the prog community. Those who like Scott Walker, David Sylvian, Peter Gabriel and Talk Talk. However, readers who listen to bands like Nosound, No Man, and Big Big Train, (especially the brass arrangements on their last two albums), will certainly find that Rhys Marsh And The Autumn Ghost's album, The Blue Hour, will be a more than worthy addition to their collection.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Trout Qt – Trout To Lunch
Tracklist: Seiz (6:04), Moonracer (4:37), Galas (6:49), Swamp Thing (4:07), Cool Cats (9:57), FFunk (4:27), Trout To Lunch (4:24), Kitty Litter (3:43), RumRum (5:24), Päästäsi Sään Saan (7:04), Emale (6:17)
As Finland together with neighbouring Scandinavia has a music scene with almost as many varieties of music as it has population it comes as no surprise that the country has a long jazz tradition and in the latter third of 20th century developed its own take on jazz-fusion, springing from the more well-known prog-inclined likes of Wigwam and Tasavallan Presidentti. The lineage continues right up to date with the band featured here, Trout Qt, formerly Trio Trout.
The two main men in this band are Fredrik Söderholm (saxes, occasional keyboards and harmonica) and Jukka Packalen (guitars). Jukka is yet another musician schooled at the Berklee School Of Music, an institution that is cropping up in the histories of many of the musicians involved in the releases I have reviewed for this site. The pair first collaborated some 35 years ago while still in high school. The line up is completed by Matti Kanerva (drums) and Jari Kokkonen (bass) who both have a long history in the music scene of their homeland.
The band’s bold mission statement on their Facebook page is “to proudly explore and represent fusion of all styles and cook it together into something distinct, and yet eclectic”, so let’s see what comes out of the oven for us on this, their first album. The title gives a nod to Eric Dolphy’s 1964 benchmark LP Out To Lunch so they are giving themselves something to live up to.
The songwriting is spread through all the band’s members and opening track Seiz, written by Jukka is a languid introduction with some nice arpeggios on the guitar and some fluid sax work from Fredrik. An easy introduction that showcases players with the chops, but not to the extent that the cool walking shuffle beat is ever drowned in techno-flash, something that they keep well under control throughout the album. Moonracer lets Jari off the leash as he turns in a succinct bass solo. Again, the solo does not subsume the song, a deeply funky strut in a quite odd time signature.
There are surprises on this album too, not least Swamp Thing which stands out from the jazz-fusion based direction of the rest of the album by being a straight blues tune you could imagine being belted out in a bar somewhere, raspy harmonica blowing leading the way. The five-part song Cool Cats is the focal point of the album and swings from a free-jazz scale scampering by the bass over which the sax blows a merry to tune, to deep funk grooves, a recurrent theme on the album, to a space exploration that emphasises the importance of sometimes playing less than you need to, to a face-off between the drums and the guitar that ends in an honourable score draw. All in all, a nice little workout! Another surprise is Kitty Litter which has a section in what sounds like an Indian scale. All of this fits the overall picture of a band who want to stretch the jazz-fusion envelope a bit, not too much, just a bit.
Ffunk does what it says on the tin, and with the addition of electric piano has a distinct pre-commercial Herbie Hancock thing going down. The title track features some of that Frippian “guitar as deranged piano” sound, and is a nice piece of almost avant strangeness, brought nearly back to Earth by the treated sax solo. Päästäsi Sään Saan apart from being a bugger to type, Alt key codes to the fore, translates in Google as “I get the weather of your head” and is, one guesses, simply a play on Finnish words! Musically complex too, a bit of Zappaesque playfulness makes itself apparent; including a good guitar solo Uncle Frank could have played. Emale (not just Finnish plays on words then, eh lads?) ends the album with the kind of sparse groove that Miles Davis used to great effect on his mid-eighties albums, the trumpet role being taken initially by cool and very slightly reverbed guitars runs, and latterly by a nice babbling-brook guitar effect.
My one slight criticism of the album is that some of the songs may be slightly too long, Cool Cats excepted, making the album not as instant as it could have been. This however is not a major flaw, and lovers of 70s fusion with an occasionally quirky and modern twist should dig this particular fish.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
American Hollow – Screaming Into The Void [EP]
Tracklist: Resurrect Dead On Planet Jupiter (1:46), Last Dream Before Dawn (5:02), Say, Is It Really True? (7:37), Mandragora Mechanism (1:32), Bonfire Of Myth: a) Prophecy (6:11), b) Tableau (11:41), c) The Sum Total Of Creation (1:44)
American Hollow formed in Salt Lake City in 2008 and released their debut album, Whisper Campaign, in 2010 mixing progressive elements with metal and classic American rock to try and forge a style of their own. Their latest release, Screaming Into The Void, is an EP in name only as at over 35 minutes there is plenty of music to get your teeth into whilst it benefits from not outstaying its welcome. The band comprises Kyle Mullikins (guitar), Jameson (vocals), Chronos (drums) and Nathan Alan Gilbert (bass/keys) and they bring the wide-open spaces and sun-baked deserts of the Utah featured in the cover art to mind in their music while continuing to expand their palette and develop their brand of hard-edged, thought provoking prog.
The songs are well written and produced and the band strive to bring more to the table than simply songs, stretching the material out where they can making for an enjoyable listening experience even though there are still a few rough edges to smooth off.
American Hollow aren’t afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves and the material is steeped in emotion and they are certainly heading towards a territory all their own. I personally like the spacious sections more than the metal but there is good variety in the material.
The brief scene setting Resurrect Dead On Planet Jupiter is all about wide-open spaces where the sky goes on forever. The guitar and piano are very atmospheric and it works well as an opener before the mellow, chiming guitar and low-key vocal of Last Dream Before Dawn. Melody emerges as the track builds with harmony vocals from Naarah Black who adds another texture and puts in a great performance later in the track. The sparse mid-section builds to an excellent crescendo before fading incongruously into a news report describing looting during the London riots of 2011. If ever an album called for an American slant to the textural commentaries it is this one so it was a little odd to hear a British television crew. No matter, I know where they were going with this and it’s a good idea.
The next track is surprising. There aren’t many recent bands that would take on an Eloy cover and more power to American Hollow for trying it. Say, Is It Really True from 1982’s Time To Turn album is a brave choice but the band make a good show of it with acoustic guitar and plaintive vocal making for a Pink Floyd feel with sirens in the distance for good measure. They rock things up with screaming vocals and a metallic feel and this track is a good change of pace, the band certainly pulling off a variety of styles with ease.
Another short atmospheric piece featuring a radio broadcast of rabid pro-U.S. zealots leads into the main feature in the shape of the almost 20 minute 3-part epic, Bonfire Of Myth. The wind-swept desert feel returns in the first part with a lengthy, anti-war spoken passage by Gerald Long that reminds somewhat of The Doors. This section does go on a little too long before the second part comes in with searing sun-bleached guitar from Mullikins, Jameson singing with a strange diction that works quite well. There is an echoey feel and metallic tone but this is prog with a metal edge, not prog metal per se. The pace slows again with some nice bass and the track continues with Tool and Soundgarden influences. A bright acoustic section leads into the short third part comprising harmonics, a bit of wobbly whistling and more spoken word philosophising.
American Hollow have certainly gone for the epic on this release and although they don’t succeed 100% they have something worth pursuing and overall the material is good and the playing strong. They seem to have it in them to produce something really special so the next album should be interesting.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Sanguine Hum – Live In America
Tracklist: The Trial (5:29), Cat Factory (3:36), The Ladder (3:40), Before We Bow Down (4:27), Earth Song With One Sugar (6:32), Son Of Cheese (5:17), Nothing Between Us (5:51), Derision (6:12); Double Egg (4:13), Son Of Bassoon (2:59), Diving Bell (5:20), Coast Of Nebraska (6:34)
I like Sanguine Hum. I don’t really know why, as their music isn’t my usual thing. But their combination of subtle melodies and intricate instrumentation, with Joff Winks’ likeable voice and all laid across a gentle, ambient, laid-back vibe, just hits a chord with me.
Previously known as Antique Seeking Nuns (ASN) and the Joff Winks Band (JWB), I much prefer their new moniker. They played a great opening set at the Winters End Festival a couple of years back and I proffered an enthusiast collection of wordage in reviewing their debut album The Diving Bell last year. It still gets regular plays, usually late at night.
Released as a download-only album, this hour long, 12-track set captures the band opening up proceedings on the final day of this year’s ROSfest at the Majestic Theatre in Gettysburg.
Live In America offers a unique glimpse of the band’s history with the audience being treated to a selection of music from ASN’s EPs Double Egg With Chips And Beans And A Tea and Mild Profundities and JWB’s album Songs For Days. The instrumentals Cat Factory and Earthsong With One Sugar show off the band’s fusion credentials with nods to Zappa and the Canterbury scene.
Other highlights of the show include a one off solo Rhodes piano piece entitled Son Of Bassoon, played as a completely unplanned “encore” when a guitar had to be restrung. Live in America also features previously unreleased material in the shape of the atmospheric Derision, which is to be recorded as part of a future studio album. The rest of the album sees the band focus on the wonderful Diving Bell, with six tunes featured here.
This concert also features new drummer Andrew Booker (No Man) only his second gig with the band he brings a slightly different feel to several of the songs played live.
As with Diving Bell, the appeal for me is the sheer breadth of musical stylings the band is able to deliver. Apparently they were originally more focussed on Canterbury styled songs, but even the older tracks here have a more modern, more rocking and more adventurous musical horizon. It can be quite commercial in places but Sanguine Hum can most definitely be filed under 'progressive rock'.
I’d a have liked a little more interaction with the crowd and maybe a few more departures from the recorded format to capture more of a ‘live gig’ feel. However for new-comers this offers a superb introduction to the band(s) and for existing fans it is a perfect accompaniment to their recorded output.
If you need any more incentive, then Sanguine Hum will be using all funds raised from this release to help complete their next studio album, The Weight Of The World which is due for release in early 2013. Downloads can be purchased from the Troopers from Sound page above and also Sanguine Hum’s Bandcamp page.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
In The Silence – A Fair Dream Gone Mad
Tracklist: Ever Closer (6:01), 17 Shades (6:06), Serenity (6:12), Beneath These Falling Leaves (7:20), Close To Me (3:27), Endless Sea (4:55), All The Pieces (5:34), Your Reward (7:31)
I’m very glad to have stumbled upon this fantastic new Sacramento (USA) based progressive metal band, In The Silence. By chance and only just a while ago. The album was released digitally on June 4th, this year. When I first heard Ever Closer, the opening track of their album A Fair Dream Gone Mad, I went berserk instantly. What a profound and crushing song this is. And the rest of the album? I'm not going to drag you through the album track by track, just because there's no need to. It’s simply all about experiencing the album as a whole. All together this is such an amazing and coherent disc that it makes you stay put, enjoy and smile all the way. Guaranteed.
The name In The Silence itself implies something spiritual, sitting alone in silence, listening to the inner voice, searching for truth and perception beyond the limited realities promulgated by 2... At least that’s how they put it themselves. And I agree on the feeling it describes.
Since they have been busy working on this album for over three years, they do know what they are talking about. Hence I also tend to copy the description of the music they give themselves: Beautiful melodies, dark haunting atmospheres, poetic lyrics, and heavy guitars. Which is true, but there is more. I like to add its freshness and the art of mixing in styles and riffs in such a way that it all fits together seamlessly, without annoying excesses. Herein I see more than one similarity, like in the band name, with another great little American band called Silent Lapse.
So, no jaw dropping time signatures here. Instead you find guitar driven melodic greatness. The isolated riffs are not that much renewing, neither there is abundant innovative heavy guitar work. What they do is just excellent and more importantly at the right place and the right time all the way. Beneath The Falling Leaves is one of the most atmospheric songs of this genre I’ve ever heard. You just keep on being fascinated and wanting to listen to this. You could say that the album misses the impact of a keyboard; the band initially had a keyboardist, who was not replaced however when she left. I cannot imagine how this would have influenced the outcome for the better though. Additions are present with Jarek Tatarek on guitar viol (a custom made bowed guitar) on the already mentioned track, Beneath These Falling Leaves. At the end of this song is a nice guitar solo that actually are multiple solos and where Nate Higgins and Josh Burke trade off. This is another fine example of what I meant with coherence too. Niko Panagopoulos on drums and Dennis Davis on bass are the other band members on duty.
Two songs interlude as premium ballads, perfectly balanced. The first one, 17 Shades, being firm and even a bit aggressive. The other one Beneath These Falling Leaves, soft, more melodic and melancholic. Both carefully composed, manufactured, manicured, played and sung. I would like to emphasize the vocal quality of founder, guitar player and singer Josh Burke. His attractive clear voice provides another tremendous boost to the spirit of the album. Another fine track that needs to be mentioned here is Endless Sea. Discreet yet so present. Best track is Serenity.
I knew right away that I had hit an interesting band full of potential. This is a real fantastic debut album that I urge everyone to listen to. For a debut album this certainly is DPRP recommended material. I'm already curious about the next one they seem to be working on. Please don’t let us wait for three long years…
UPDATE: It has been confirmed just now that In the Silence will be opening ProgPower USA 2013. So I am definitely not the only one being enthusiastic about these guys…
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
The Bob Lazar Story – Space Roots
Tracklist: It's Thirteen (3:08), Synthyer (0:08), Two Vowels Contemplate The End Of The World (5:26), Fuhdstewl (0:24), Instant Jedi (2:27), Rawk (0:16), Mr Weiner Pants (2:55), Techno Bert Vs The Klezzies (0:42), Alive In The Mullet Zone (3:01), Deadbiking Trilogy: a) Son Of Foodstool, b) Targutions, c) Outroboros (4:50), Late Night Guitar (0:43), Henry Kissinger Must Diet (2:37), Lou Reed's Haemorrhoids (0:10), Rawk II (3:22), Death To The Meat Whores (0:12), I Haven't Touched Your Dog, Mate (3:54), Widdly-Diddly (0:26), Glass Eyed II (3:05), Siren (1:16)
"39 minutes of tritonal wankery with no unicorns or wizards whatsoever"
Quite a claim, I'm sure you'll agree, but so says guitarist Matt Deacon of his new Space Roots release as The Bob Lazar Story. Furthermore, the blurb does not lie as the CD runs for EXACTLY 39 minutes. Now for me any album with tracks named Lou Reed’s Haemorrhoids and I Haven’t Touched Your Dog, Mate is off to a winner from the start and with a number of tracks giving the brevity of early Napalm Death a run for its money there is no time for messing about.
New Zealand may not be widely known for its contribution to prog but it certainly has a solid history of quirky – step forward Split Enz – and what we have here is just that with names such as Dixie Dregs, Frank Zappa and Mike Keneally being bandied about to describe it. I would not dispute these as influences and would add small slivers of Cardiacs and Gentle Giant too but this doesn’t give the game away or tell the whole story either. Luckily for the reviewer scratching his head to try and find the right words to describe an album such as this my CD came with a helpful description of each track and I feel it only right to include some of these here:-
- It’s Thirteen – “Clunky, quirky and heavy. Like your mother.”
- Instant Jedi – “Would you suck Yoda’s c*ck to become an Instant Jedi?”
- Rawk – “Drums by Chris Jago, who once played in goal against Robbie Fowler.”
- Mr. Weiner Pants – “My old Headmaster used to wear his trousers very high.”
- Techno Bert vs The Klezzies – “Eastern Europe meets game show meets Knight Rider on steroids.”
- Lou Reed’s Haemorrhoids – “Lou Reed’s Haemorrhoids have more talent than Lou Reed.”
- Death To The Meat Whores – “Short but Swede.”
- Siren – “Thereminty.”
So there you have it then. You now know what to expect from Space Roots and I’ve still got time to get down to the pub for last orders.
What’s that? You want more? Phew, O.K. then...
Bob Lazar himself is not in the band that bears his name and he’s probably quite gutted about that. DPRP has reviewed the two previous TBLS releases in a generally positive manner, particularly 2008’s The Silence Of Perez De Cuella EP, and as I can’t be bothered to Google it I’ll take Gerald Wandio’s word for it that Mr. Lazar (OK, I did look him up!) is an American scientist (possibly) who claims knowledge of US efforts to duplicate alien technology in a top-secret facility near Area 51.
Centred on a guitar/bass/drums trio there are also keys and theremin here and there for your enhanced listening pleasure. 9 of the 19 tracks on offer are merely short – sometimes to the point of miniscule – linking tracks but many have their own particular charm, for example the late night jazz guitar of, er, Late Night Guitar and Cardiacs influenced Rawk.
There are plenty of grooves and quirky oddness that doesn’t hang around long enough to get tedious, the pieces refusing to get bogged down by quickly moving on to the next idea like, if you will, a sort of musical attention span deficit. The keys sound very cheap and basically programmed and although the whole is recorded well enough this is not going to be the one for cutting edge purists or audiophiles and won’t win any prizes for surround sound audio sculpting but hey, it’s all about the music isn’t it?
Of the “major” tracks we get, believe it or not, the slightest vision of Mahavishnu Orchestra on tracks like Mr. Wiener Pants and I Haven’t Touched Your Dog, Mate which is quite a mournful piece, the central character clearly regretting an opportunity missed to fondle the canine in question. Possibly in a very unwholesome way as the track continues in a quite unsettling manner.
Alive In The Mullet Zone provides a tribute to Rush’s YYZ during the last four notes while the final section of Deadbiking Trilogy is actually bloody marvellous. Rawk II is also very good owing another large debt to Cardiacs and Matt’s Zappa side comes through on It’s Thirteen And Two Vowels... which also hints at Gentle Giant. A bit. There’s some rocky stuff, metal and prog that swoops in and out almost in a blur but it’s all fun.
Please don’t go thinking that this is just a throwaway disc of weird nonsense. It is in a way but a great deal of craft has gone into it and Space Roots is accessible while still bearing repeated spins which is, after all, a good thing if you have shelled out hard earned cash for it. I’d much rather have a crazy bit of fun that I like playing often than the deepest most serious thing in the world that I play once and then file away forever – we all have these but Matt Deacon has come up with something I probably won’t get bored of any time soon so credit to him for that.
Matt, bassist Mike Fudakowski and the various drummers involved, although very proficient, do not overplay their hand or go for the flash element and this works in their favour giving the disc a human and accessible quality. It may be wacky but more importantly it is funky, groovy and fun, cheeky with a knowing way about it, clever yet straightforward. And more importantly than that it’s, I can barely say it, ENTERTAINING!
An unusual guitar based instrumental album in that it doesn’t feel the need to beat us over the head with tritonal wankery, unicorns or wizards, ‘Nuf said.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Brain Connect – This Shit’s Got To Go! [Single]
Tracklist: Eridanus (7:56), Prognose (5:32)
A CD single release is not something that gets reviewed a lot, but still I thought this release by Polish instrumental Rock ensemble Brain Connect was well worth a review. Nowadays a lot of music out of Eastern Europe is storming the world, not only the world of pop music, but progressive rock also has its fair share. Poland seems to be one of the frontrunners in the genre.
The compositions of the band are well thought out, melodic, well structured and the use of different instrumentation, amongst which we hear a sax playing bits and pieces, in the first track called Eridanus. Eridanusis a word that has many meanings, as in a constellation of words or windows of the universe. Brain Connect lay down a soundscape, reigning from the mystical, through the theatrical and into modern-day instrumental rock. There are many angles, twists and turns in rhythm but the still the sound and melody line prevails throughout the entire song. Eridanus shows skill and joy within Brain Connect.
In the second track called Prognose the band continue their strive towards a magical moment, as unpredictable as Eridanus, Prognose lets us enjoy Brain Connect from a far more consistent rocking angle. Where Eridanus was atmospherically all over the place, that is not the case in Prognose. Many of the solo guitarists could have done this track. The track is full of great keyboards and soloing of guitar, together or separately playing. A high energetic track.
Brain Connect are: Jan Mitoraj – guitar, Marcin Szlachta - bass guitar, Przemysław Całus – drums, Krzysztof Walczyk – keyboards.
I believe we will be hearing a lot more from this band in the upcoming future.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
CMU - Open Spaces
Tracklist: Henry (4:45), Voodoo Man (4:39), Slow & Lonesome Blues (5:09), Chanticleer (6:13), Japan (2:47), Clown (2:37), Mystical Sounds (3:14), Open Spaces (11:34)
Esoteric released CMU's debut album Open Spaces, along with its successor Space Cabaret, way back in 2008, but it somehow managed to slip through the DPRP net. After receiving this album, the completist in me decided it was time to set the record straight.
CMU, short for Contemporary Music Unit, were a short-lived progressive band, blending rock, jazz and folk in a gentle, yet satisfying way. One of the few progressive bands to feature a female singer, their line-up consisted of James Gordon (vocals, guitar), Ian Hamlett (guitar), Larraine Odell (vocals), Terry Mortimer (guitar, organ, piano), Roger Odell (drums), Ed Lee (bass).
Interestingly enough, the band originated in the UK, although the band themselves sound incredibly American, in both accent and style. In particular, the band bear an uncanny musical resemblance to the American psychedelic group It's A Beautiful Day.
Four average length tracks make up Side One. The album kicks off with the groovy track Henry, which perfectly showcases Larraine's velvety smooth voice. The riffs used in the verses are just odd enough to keep prog fans interested, but the laid-back atmosphere is very comforting. The lyrics speak of a troubled artist who eventually commits suicide. Larraine's deadpan vocals accompanied by the jazzy soundtrack somehow make the tale even more chilling.
Voodoo Man is an even more laid-back bluesy track featuring Larraine on vocals during the verses, and James during the chorus. James also holds a maracas for the majority of the song, and tends to shake in a rather laissez-faire fashion. The lyrics tell a rather uninteresting story about, you guessed it, a voodoo man. When the single chorus is reached, the music suddenly gets louder and rockier, and James pulls off a convincing Jim Morrison impression.
Slow And Lonesome Blues does pretty much what it says on the tin. A five minute instrumental, I find that I lose interest rather quickly, although the track makes for good background music. Next up is Chanticleer, a track that was omitted from the previous CD edition of this album; Esoteric are very keen to point this fact out to potential buyers. The track starts with a haunting, plodding tune with James and Larraine singing in tandem. However, midway through, the band stop plodding altogether and break into an upbeat rock song, James once more imitating Jim Morrison. I can't quite work out what the lyrics mean: at some point James babbles about Wittgenstein, but the repeated phrase 'That little white cock, that chanticleer' has me chortling. Altogether a decent tune.
Side Two, consists of three shorter tracks followed by the eleven minute title track. Japan starts the proceedings with a theme that seems too stereotypically East Asian to be taken seriously. However things are exacerbated by Larraine's wordless noises and her team of backing vocalists, and the whole thing turns into a cringeworthy mess.
Oddly enough, the best track on the album is the shortest. Clown clocks in at two minutes and 37 seconds, but is surely the best thought out track on the album. With jocose lyrics based on a circus farce, the track is awash with leitmotifs and clever verses sung by different members of the band. The chorus, mixing soft notes with staccato, is also quite infectious. It may be just a novelty song, but it is very clever in its delivery.
Mystical Sounds has an almost Indian lilt to it, and is relaxing in nature. However, I don't find it to have that much substance, and is rather forgettable.
The title track Open Spaces closes the record. At eleven minutes, this expansive instrumental track is surprisingly mundane. The first three minutes leaves us listening to Terry on the viola over a slow bass theme. We then hit an unwelcome experimental free time section, with directionless noodling before the band finally hit a decent riff at the fifth minute. This riff carries us most of the way to the end, but sadly the band run out of energy, resulting in more pointless noodling. Not a great climax guys!
Released in 2008, this reissue is pretty basic in nature. For example, there are no liner notes, but instead newspaper clippings that tell the story of CMU. The front cover artwork is marred by a small black square explaining that this is the first official full release of this album in the UK, although this is only true if you don't include the original LP. While I'd usually get frustrated at this unnecessary vandalism of the artwork, it's clear that the square isn't covering anything important. Furthermore the inner gatefold is beautifully restored, with negligible horizontal cropping of the band photo.
In many ways, Open Spaces is an album of its time, but tracks like Henry and Clown endure to this day. Unfortunately, the album also comes with its share of blunders, like the embarrassing Japan and the unimpressive title track. While she may not have the vocal dexterity of Annie Haslam, Larraine Odell's silky smooth voice has its own unique charm, and I urge you to try the sample above to see what I mean. This isn't a perfect album, but surrounded by the some of the over-excited prog of the era, it's a welcome alternative.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10