Reviews in this issue:
- The Psychedelic Ensemble - The Tale of the Golden King
- The John Irvine Band - Next Stop
- Osada Vida - Particles
- Anta - Centurionaut
- Dusan Jevtovic - Am I Walking Wrong?
- Alessandro Bertoni - Keystone
- Circle of Illusion - Jeremias: Foreshadow of Forgotten Realms
- Yeti Rain - Stars Fall Darkly
- Reptiel - Violent Sagas of the Ancient
- Dewa Budjana - Joged Kahyangan
The Psychedelic Ensemble - The Tale of the Golden King
Some four years ago now I did my first review of a Psychedelic Ensemble album, at that time his debut album. If you do not know The Psychedelic Ensemble yet, TPE is a one man band - a musician extraordinaire. Four years ago I started my review with: "If you are looking for a band or music that is in a league of its own, go out and find yourself the music of The Psychedelic Ensemble. This band, or better still one man show, really rocks the house”.
Since then there have been two further albums and now a third, TPE's fourth all together. Once again a concept work of high level and superior class, I know some of you will now put aside the review because of all the bombastic words that I have started with. Your choice all together as long as you do try and give TPE's Golden King a spin to at least confirm to yourself you do not like it.
I do like the album - you probably noticed that from my words already. Again I can say that TPE surprised me with this album, so much so that I dare to state that he has really outdone himself and compiled, composed, produced and arranged an even better work than its predecessors. Some of the arrangements have a familiarity to them, stating the original sound that TPE has created with his music.
Multi-instrumentalists, or musicians of creative mind producing music all by themselves are a strange breed I guess, not allowing anyone to interfere with their works, at least not within the arrangements and production. At times they seek help from others to create just that piece of music that they hear in their mind. For the Golden King, TPE has made use of a real orchestra, albeit a chamber orchestra, but nevertheless an orchestra of real instruments and not one conjured from his synthesizers.
Also a female voice is used for the vocal parts of the Queen in The Queen of Sorrow. The voice and timbre of this vocalist has a resemblance to Annie Haslam of Renaissance fame. Introducing the chamber orchestra and female vocal adds a new dimension to the music on this album.
Words fail to describe the intensity and beauty of this musical extravaganza. You could call the concept a 'rock opera' but in my eyes this does little justice to what this musical experience really is. At times rocking, then going into the smoother works of neo progressive, a little psychedelia here and there, but to my eyes most of the time an eclectic work of art made by a creative mind extraordinaire.
Yes I know I use a lot of Superlatives in this review once again but I cannot help feeling that way. Each track is literally full of creativity with lots of different instruments used, too many to mention in a review. Once again I am overwhelmed by the creativity, but most of all by the sheer unlimited musical talents, of TPE.
The album comes nicely packaged with a short introductory tale on the inside of the booklet along with all the lyrics so you can read along with the songs as they progress.
To conclude, I can only state to all of you once again, try this album - you will not be disappointed. But one remark also needs to be made; take your time, you will need it. Listen but listen closely, not once but...you'll be as overwhelmed as I am.
Conclusion: 10 out of 10
|From the DPRP Archives...
Previous The Psychedelic Ensemble Album Reviews:-
|The Art of Madness|
|"Really outstanding, but there are always ways to do better so my concluding rating therefore will not be 10 out of 10, but just under. I cannot wait to listen to the follow up."|
(Gert Hulshof, 9.5/10)
|The Myth of Dying|
|"I will point out however that The Psychedelic Ensemble produce music for the mind and body. A relaxing music, but not everyone will like it in that way. It really needs getting used to and needs to find the way to your soul."|
(Gert Hulshof, 10/10)
The John Irvine Band - Next Stop
Back in 2011 I had the pleasure of reviewing Wait & See, the debut release from progressive, power fusion trio, The John Irvine Band. As Wait & See still regularly gets a spin, I was delighted to receive this new album and a chance to listen to some new material.
Next Stop is written and composed by John Irvine (guitar & keyboards) and features the same line-up from their Wait & See release, namely Doug Kemp on bass and Alan Emslie of drums & percussion. As with their previous offering, Next Stop is a classy, well written instrumental album featuring great ensemble pieces, firmly steeped in the progressive jazz/rock genre. Listenable is the key word here and although I have a great affection for instrumental music, it can often become too self-absorbed for its own good. Not so on Next Stop where the primary thrust is the interaction between the three players. No better displayed than in the title track which combines John Irvine's versatile guitar work and keyboard ornamentations, all neatly driven and punctuated by Alan Emslie and Doug Kemp's tasteful, often understated bass, holding it all together. Awesome track...
Next Stop also demonstrates nice touches with atmospheric pieces such as the opening track, Home and the moving A Straight Line. We've also got the delightful and at times, foot-tapping groover, that is Pyramid Power, along with up-tempo, keyboard driven Slipstream. And of course the thoughtful epic A Means To An End...
These three guys are at the top of their game here on Next Stop and have once again have produced a fine album of listenable and finely executed pieces. I've refrained from making any comparisons throughout this review, but here I'd like to say that if you enjoy well written instrumental music and if guys like Allan Holdsworth, Pat Metheny, John McLaughlin, Eric Johnson, Jeff Beck, but also including Alex Lifeson and Andy Summers, feature in your current collection then you really should check this album out. I doubt you will be disappointed, but should you doubt my word, then I urge you to check out the Next Stop album through JIB's Bandcamp page.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
|From the DPRP Archives...
Previous The John Irvine Band CD Reviews:-
|Wait & See|
|"...there is some serious playing to be heard, the music never gets bogged down or too weighty for its own good.
(Bob Mulvey, 7.5/10)
Osada Vida - Particles
Polish band Osada Vida return with their fourth album and first to feature new vocalist Marek Majewski. This is significant as DPRP's reviews of the previous albums, Three Seats Behind A Triangle, The Body Parts Party and Uninvited Dreams, have all commented that the major weakness in the band was in their vocal delivery. The new album sees the band developing a new approach to their writing with a more melodious and rhythmic emphasis. Whilst this is undoubtedly true, the Metal Mind press release reference points of Yes, Porcupine Tree and Pain of Salvation should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Although I have not heard any of the previous releases, the description of the band as belonging to the progressive metal genre no doubt having put me off, I was somewhat trepidatious about taking this review on. However the promise of a lighter direction and some encouraging preview comments forced my hand and I'm happy to say that the album was a very pleasant surprise. Majewski has an excellent voice and sings with no trace of an accent, something that always impresses me in non-native English speaking groups. The 'classic' instrumental line-up of guitar (Bartek Bereska), bass (Lukasz Lisiak), keyboards (Rafal Paluszek) and drums (Adam Podzimski) creates a solid backdrop to the smooth vocals, nicely merging more powerful sections with plenty of melody providing a balanced landscape of light and shade. In many cases I am reminded of the new crop of rock and metal bands that appeared in the early 1980s, albeit with the rock music from a decade earlier having a greater influence. This is not to imply that the band are in any way derivative or copying what has gone before, but more that the band have combined these various elements to come up with their own slant on modern rock music.
As hinted at above, I don't have much time for progressive metal bands and although Bereska, who impresses throughout with his range and versatility, does throw out some pretty intensive riffing from time to time (check out the intro to Mighty World, these are nicely tempered by some subtle keyboard lines and the fine vocals. Stand out track is These Days, one of the slower numbers on the album, but perfectly paced, very melodic with a lovely chorus and fine playing throughout and a particularly fine guitar solo from Bereska. Unfortunately, this song is followed by the frankly awful Shut which is so out of place with the rest of the album it doesn't deserve to be considered alongside the other numbers. The problem is with guest vocalist, term used very loosely, Sivy who grunts his way through the number with typically awful death metal type nonsense. Not even a decent chorus can save the song which really spoils the album for me and is an immediate cue to hit the skip button - at least it is the shortest track on the album! Order is restored with the excellent instrumental David's Wasp with an introduction that reminds me of classic UFO and some great interplay between the guitar and keyboards. The remaining songs don't disappoint either with a healthy variety of styles and tempos all delivered with passion and aplomb, and in Until You're Gone they even manage to pull off a number that edges close to the 'Power Ballad' category! The ability of the band is confirmed with their loose, somewhat jazzy version of Master Of Puppets by Metallica (routinely referred to as 'Metallicrap' in this household) which is a very fresh approach that actually makes the song listenable!
This album continues to grow on me with every listen and I consider it to be a fine album in the tradition of the classic rock acts. Majewski is a gifted singer and his addition to the ranks have lifted the band to create an excellent album that, with one notable exception, is well worth of your attention.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
|From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Osada Vida Album Reviews:-
|Three Seats Behind A Triangle|
|"My mark below is weighted by my personal dislike for the singer. If you can ignore the voice more easily than I, then you may want to add a couple more points."|
(Andy Read, 5/10)
|The Body Parts Party|
|"...chock full of fine melodies and some exemplary solo work. As I indicated earlier, I think the weak vocals probably mean it falls just shy of being universally recommended..."|
(Tom De Val, 7.5/10)
|"...this is one hell of an album. In particular, I feel Bartek Bereska's guitar solos... and Rafal "R6" Paluszek's great, dynamic keyboards...are the soul of this band."|
(Hector Gomez, 8/10)
|Previous Osada Vida Interviews:-|
|Interview with Osada Vida's Lukasz Lisiak by Menno von Brucken Fock (2010)|
Anta - Centurionaut
Anta was formed in 2010 and are based in the Bristol area of the U.K.. Their debut album The Tree That Bears The Equine Fruit received some good reviews, one of which being from DPRP. Since the release of their debut, the guitarist has changed and the band now features Stephen Kerrison (guitars), Alex Bertram-Powell (organ & synthesizer), Joe Garcia (bass) and James King (drums).
Anta's new album, Centurionaut, has taken a year to put together. Recorded at Geoff Barrow's State Of Art Studios in Bristol and released on the bands own Thrones & Dominions label, the album is available on heavyweight 180g vinyl, as well as download.
From the moment the album starts you know you are in for a heavy progressive rock album, starting with Clock Turret Khan which hits you full on with heavy guitar riffs from the word go, drums pulling you in all sorts of directions plus heavy keys instantly putting me in mind of a modern sounding King Crimson.
Next we have the longest track on the album, Helepolis features really heavy pulsating rhythms in some parts while others are very spacey. Imagine a heavy Hawkwind and you are halfway there, the music really does twist and turn your mind inside out leaving you not knowing when you are going to land and whether it is safe to take your space helmet off.
Next is Dolmen, the shortest track, with its Deep Purple meets Black Sabbath guitar riffs, heavy sounding keys and powerful bass, all propelled along with hard hitting drums.
The album finishes with the two-part Cenotaphium which clocks in at just under 19 minutes in total. For me this is the real highlight of the album with not a second wasted and featuring some very high calibre guitar playing - actually it's high calibre playing from all the musicians. The two tracks have it all, imagine putting ELP, King Crimson, Rush and Pink Floyd in a mixer, add a little Sci-Fi and you will be somewhere near what we have got. Mind-blowing quality music that will have you running for the fire escape, only to find it's locked and you have to just stay and enjoy, which you will after repeated listens.
I have gone through the tracks individually but really they flow into each other combing to make one very good album. If you like heavy instrumental progressive music and like to be musically challenged then this is for you. If you like heavy King Crimson it's also for you, but like most good albums you have to be prepared to give it time as after several plays it will start to make sense. It really is a grower so turn the lights out, put the volume up and be prepared to be blasted.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
|From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Anta CD Reviews:-
|The Tree That Bears the Equine Fruit|
|"All in all this is a very rewarding album, which is in my view, well worth spending some time with...It's not immediate by any stretch of the imagination, but once the light turns on, you, as a listener are sonically rewarded "|
(John O'Boyle, 7/10)
Dusan Jevtovic - Am I Walking Wrong?
This gutsy record opens with the grungy You Can't Sing, You Can't Dance, a dance tune for those of us with two left feet, and it sounds like Felix Pappalardi has joined Phil Manzanera's 801. Blues riffs are not something you hear very often in a progressive context these days, but boy it got me rocking! I like the way it fell apart at the end, too. The title track is a guitar master's display of distorted harmonics, underpinned by a walking 7/4 beat from the drums and bass, dissonance and shards of sounds washing over the listener in waves of controlled fury. Nice!
In much the same way that Tony McPhee came up with a new take on a tired old formula, in his case the blues, with Groundhog's pinnacle release, the simultaneously frightening and marvellous Split, Serbian Dusan Jevtovic is reshaping that trusty old staple into something new and exciting once more, with a similar hold on the visceral elements that serve to kick rock'n'roll up the butt now and again. In fact One On One seems to be channelling the grizzled old Groundhog to a tee (ouch!). Add in ambient dissonance and jazz fusion, a touch of old school power trio playing, and you have here one fine old racket to jump about to.
The liner notes by my friend Dan Burke make much of Embracing Simplicity, and indeed it is a good one, building tension with a simple strummed intro over which one note picking slowly climbs the scales, descending and starting again. You can feel something in the air, it's a palpable tension. On the third start the bass and drums join in louder...and it stops...and starts again. The guitar slowly unravels with a sinewy flurry of notes, before changing tack and issuing forth a really unusual solo that relies on odd harmonic scales and fuzzed-out sleaze. Never simply "flash", the original theme returns again before fading out. At six minutes long it leaves me wanting more. I'd like to see them play this live for 20 minutes!
Mention must be made of the others in this trio. Fellow Serb, drummer Marko Djordjevic, has credits on over 40 albums and is highly thought of by his fellow sticksmen, and he knows a thing or two about leaving space at the right time. Like Dusan, here is a man who is skilled enough to know that less is indeed more in many circumstances. The band is completed by Spanish bassman Bernat Hernandez, whose playing compliments the more upfront nature of the other two perfectly, rumbling around the beat and providing the solid base for Dusan's innovative sonic explorations.
A cheeky barroom blues band song ending is appended to Bluesracho and almost as if suddenly realising the cliché they have just played, the band drag it back through the door and playfully tickle it under the chin until it collapses. Made me smile, that did!
A right little belter of a record, and really good fun too. I do not know whether or not Dusan Jevtovic is still walking wrong, but if it results in a damn fine noise like this, then long may he continue to trip over his own feet. Play it loud!
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Alessandro Bertoni - Keystone
Classically-trained Italian keyboardist Alessandro Bertoni was a member of instrumental progressive metal band Aphelion, whose only full-length album, Franticode (2008) was produced by none other than keyboardist Derek Sherinian - one of the icons of modern prog-fusion. In 2009 Bertoni moved to Los Angeles like so many talented musicians before him, to further his musical education at the prestigious Musicians Institute and work as a teacher and session player. He also started working on his first solo album, resuming his collaboration with Sherinian, who gave him access to the arsenal of keyboards at his Beachwood Manor Studios.
Keystone comes with some impressive credentials: not just Sherinian's production, but also the participation of three first-rate musicians associated with modern jazz-rock - Planet X drummer Virgil Donati, bassist Ric Fierabracci (who has played with Chick Corea and Billy Cobham, among many others) and Australian-born guitarist Brett Garsed (a long-time collaborator of Sherinian's, as well as a member of Uncle Moe's Space Ranch). The album was released in September 2013 on the German-based label Generation Prog Records, whose founder, bassist Michael Schetter, is a member of Relocator, another excellent outfit in a similar vein whose 2009 self-titled debut was received very positively.
As devotees of the sub-genre know quite well, prog-fusion can be rather self-indulgent - especially when such collective talent is involved - and subtlety is not always the name of the game. However, Keystone, though not perfect, is a surprisingly tight effort, and one that emphasizes ensemble playing rather than acting as a mere showcase for individual skill. With a running time wisely kept at around 41 minutes, and each track no longer than 5 minutes, the listener is able to concentrate on each composition without their attention span wandering; furthermore, solo spots are handled so as to be part of the overall texture rather than elbowing their way to the front of the stage.
Those jazz-rock fans who object to the presence of harder-edged elements might be put off by Keystone as they would be by the music of the likes of Planet X, Liquid Tension Experiment or Sherinian's own solo output. On the other hand, the "metal" element, so dreaded by some prog fans, is not at all overdone, and Bertoni's compositional approach comes across as reasonably varied, keeping melodic development in mind as much as driving energy and aggression. The intensely cinematic feel of some passages is skilfully offset by others where the music takes on a subdued, almost meditative tone, and Bertoni's array of keyboards is employed to create a wide range of moods. The rhythm "dream team" of Ric Fierabracci and Virgil Donati bolsters Bertoni and Garsed's exertions, and on numerous occasions both bass and drums emerge in a starring role.
Not surprisingly for such an ambitious project, the album opens with Megas Alexandros, a three-part suite dedicated to Alexander the Great, structured like a classical suite in three movements: the first, The Great Portrait, driven by dynamic riffing and sweeping synth and guitar; the second, City of Gordium, muted and atmospheric, with Fierabracci's bass very much in evidence; the third, To the Ends of the Earth, reprising the fast-paced, energetic mood of the first part, with assertive drumming supporting the organ-guitar interplay. In Pacifica Rampage, melody and aggression successfully coexist, Bertoni's jaunty electric piano leading at the beginning, then Garsed's guitar delivering melodic and fiery solos on a backdrop of spacey synth; while the exhilarating Tertium Non Datur (the longest track on the album) again spotlights Donati's amazing drumming skills, with the other instruments striving to keep up the intensity. As the title suggests, Galactic Halo has a strong spacey feel, though in a rather cold, tech-heavy fashion, and made me think of the soundtrack to some sci-fi blockbuster movie, though Fierabracci's bass solo is definitely worthy of attention. The almost-title-track The Keystone Age is a hard-driving ride showcasing Garsed's more "shreddy" side, though tempered by some melodic, piano-led passages. However, Bertoni saves the best for last with Magnolia Sunrise, in my view the most interesting and original composition on the album - a slice of atmospheric, at times Gothic, multi-layered keyboard heaven, with beautiful piano and a stunning turn by Fierabracci, ending with ominous tolling bells and other sound effects in truly cinematic fashion.
As previously pointed out, Keystone is flawlessly written and performed, though it stands a bit too much in the shadow of seminal outfits such as Planet X or Liquid Tension Experiment. On the other hand, this is quite normal for a debut album, as every artist - even the most accomplished ones - needs to explore and pay their dues to the trailblazers before developing their own individual personality. Needless to say, the album is a must for fans of the above-mentioned bands, and is recommended to those who prize a high quotient of technical proficiency coupled with great ensemble playing - but it will also provide a rewarding listening experience to most lovers of instrumental prog.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Circle of Illusion - Jeremias: Foreshadow of Forgotten Realms
Tracklist: Overture (3:55), The Beginning (7:05), The Run (9:46), The Memory Returns (6:05), The Party (2:16), Closing Doors (6:06), New Age (8:08), Continuum (9:51), Sarah's Dream (3:58), 13th Floor (6:25), Nightmare (16:18)
Around 2005, Austrian multi-instrumentalist Gerald Peter started writing music for a rock opera that would combine his main musical influences - progressive rock and film soundtracks. After releasing a demo, Closing Doors in 2006, three years later he teamed up with guitarist Rupert Träxler and started recording the guitar tracks for his opus. However, it was his encounter with vocalist/lyricist Taris Brown in 2010 that allowed him to bring the story to life. Circle of Illusion, also comprising vocalists Cara Cole and Elga Shafran, violinist Ulrike Müllner, bassist Stephan Först and drummer Aaron Thier, was born the following year; the very first performance of Jeremias: Foreshadow of Forgotten Realms took place in Vienna in June 2012. After years of writing and recording, the album was finally released in September 2013 on German-based label Generation Prog which was founded in 2011 by Relocator bassist Michael Schetter. Its release was celebrated by a concert at Szene Wien, a venue in the Austrian capital.
As suggested by its high-sounding title, Jeremias: Foreshadow of Forgotten Realms is an old-fashioned rock opera that many will not fail to compare to Ayreon's The Human Equation in terms of scope, structure and musical approach. It also reminded me of another project, unfortunately not as well-known: AIRS: A Rock Opera by German guitarist Steve Brockmann and U.S. writer George Andrade (featuring, among others, Sun Caged vocalist Paul Adrian Villarreal, and Spock's Beard's Alan Morse and Dave Meros), especially on account of the presence of elements coming from musical genres not generally associated with prog. Like both those albums, Jeremias... deals with a man's troubled life, though with stronger fantasy elements and a storyline that is not always easy to follow. Like The Human Equation's main character, Jeremy (interpreted by Taris Brown) ends up in a coma and the album focuses on his experiences during that time, revolving around two women, his wife Sarah (Elga Shafran) and the mysterious Jelena (Cara Cole).
While Austria, unlike its neighbours Germany or Italy, may not be celebrated for its prog bands, the importance of its musical tradition is beyond question; therefore, it should not come as a surprise that the members of Circle of Illusion are all very accomplished musicians, every bit as talented as the all-star cast in Ayreon's highly-touted opus. In fact, in a rock opera such as Jeremias... ensemble playing is as essential as individual spots in the limelight, and all of the eight band members - including the three vocalists - know how to put his or her own contribution at the service of the bigger picture. Peter's grandiose arrangements, making effective use of modern technology, flesh out the already lush instrumentation, enhancing the cinematic sweep of the compositions.
Introduced by elaborate cover artwork that hints at some well-known, fantasy-based musicals, Jeremias... opens in style with an Overture that is a true statement of intent - unashamedly theatrical, bombastic yet surprisingly listenable. Wielding an arsenal of keyboards and MIDI-controlled effects, Peter creates a grandiose soundscape that blends the pure energy of guitar riffs and thunderous drums and the majestic scope of orchestral film scores, with more than a reference to classical music (especially composers of the Romantic era). Like the eponymous piece on Shadow Circus' On a Dark and Stormy Night, the track introduces some of the themes that will crop up throughout the album. Then things suddenly undergo an unexpected shift, and The Beginning turns into a vintage disco-funk workout, introducing a note of light-hearted fun that provides a welcome contrast with the atmospheric and dramatic elements of the rest of the track. While The Run reprises the theatrical mood of the opener, though with a pinch of jazz-funk spice thrown into the prog-metal apparatus of dense riffing and whistling synth, and smooth, catchy vocal interplay tempering the Gothic feel of some of the instrumental passages, The Memory Returns juxtaposes sudden forays into disco and symphonic grandeur, with some very intricate vocal arrangements. Almost out of the Chic songbook with its jaunty, upbeat bass and guitar line, the short The Party acts as a hinge between the two halves of the album; while in the following Closing Doors (the original core of the story) the central duet between Jelena and Sarah is operatic and a bit too overwrought for my tastes, though relieved by some more disco overtones.
The mood of the album turns decidedly more serious, even sombre - reflecting the development of the story - in the remaining songs, with the standard, riff-driven prog-metal of New Age and Continuum, interspersed with more low-key pauses and lots of quasi-operatic singing. In this context, the Burt Bacharach-influenced pop/power ballad of Sarah's Dream comes as unexpectedly as the disco touches of the first half of the album, enhanced by an expressive guitar solo and showcasing Elga Shafran's lovely voice. The rather offbeat 13th Floor - whose broodingly Gothic, effects-laden feel made me think of Goblin's cult horror-movie soundtracks, though merged with classical-tinged orchestral arrangements and singing in the grand tradition of Broadway musicals - points to intriguing new developments for the band's sound, and introduces the album's pièce de resistance in fittingly spooky fashion. The 16-minute, three-part epic-within-the-epic Nightmare sums up the album in a grandiosely cinematic feast that includes wistful, subdued passages, ominous spoken vocals, dramatic vocal interplay, majestic keyboard runs and guitar solos, and even some atmospheric moments with spacey/industrial sound effects.
Though an album such as Jeremias... would not normally be my listening material of choice, I have to give credit to Gerald Peter and his Circle of Illusion bandmates for having produced a record that, at least in part, breaks with the conventions of the concept album, introducing elements of music rarely associated with prog. The album's packaging and artwork are also first-rate, though the small print in the 38-page booklet makes it hard for eyes to interpret the story and the lyrics (which use an interesting colour-coded system for the various roles involved). Another element worthy of note is that - unlike Ayreon and other similar projects - this is not a studio-only affair, but an album conceived as a real band effort, and also meant to be brought to the stage. On the other hand, at just one second short of 80 minutes, Jeremias... is undeniably overlong, and some parts of it (mainly in the second half) could have done with some streamlining. Highly recommended to fans of symphonic progressive rock/metal, especially those who like music with a strong fantasy element, Jeremias... is unlikely to find much favour with lovers of more left-field sub-genres, but can be an enjoyable experience for open-minded listeners.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Yeti Rain - Stars Fall Darkly
American trio Yeti Rain present to us their fourth album and their third as a trio. The debut Discarnate proved a hard one to get to grips with for our reviewer, who was perhaps more of a traditionalist where prog is concerned. We did not review the second album, the scarily titled Nest Of Storms, which gets my attention purely because it was issued on a label by the name of "Crimsonic". I'll have to hunt that down! However, the more prosaically named III did get a DPRP seal of approval.
Opening with two minutes of eerie dark ambience, Cradled is led by Roger Ebner's Bedouin flute, the album setting off on a journey that will see it winding its way through the back alleys of an imagined Middle Eastern city, alleys where disturbing and beautiful things lurk. William Kopecky's sinuous fretless bass takes centre stage on the title track, a snake under hypnotic musical charms. Just when you think the scene is set, Imperial Radio Infection presents a nightmare of dissonant honking from Ebner's sax, casting writhing black shadows over the tribal jazz drumming of Craig Walkner.
These three introductory tracks sum up the twists and turns that Yeti Rain go through on this strange but entertaining album that often strays beyond categorisation, forging its own wilful path. The sounds made by the minimalist instrumentation, consisting of saxophones, wind synthesiser, Bedouin flute (Ebner), fretted and fretless basses (Kopecky), and acoustic and electronic percussion (Walkner) are always interesting and often add up to more than the sum of parts. Some tracks have voices contributed by Ebner and Kopecky, and guest Yvonne Fadnes (on Cradled), but these are all semi-buried in the mix, and don't expect any singing!
As is the way these days, all three band members play in other groups, and a name you may recognise is the Par Lindh Project, to whom Kopecky contributes. It is also interesting to note that all three band members play in a band called Snarling Adjective Convention, which sounds like a talking shop of disgruntled DPRP reviewers to me!
The centrepiece of this album is the 12 minute I Shall Never Speak of Her Again, which begins by reprising the Middle Eastern feel of earlier, this time on saxophone, backed by long bass notes and quiet drums, reaching a plateau of expectation where one imagines something terrible lying in wait round the next corner, something that never quite arrives. The tension this piece generates as it creeps up a low incline of intensity reflects an innate understanding of dynamics, something that any improvising musician needs in order to maintain interest.
The drums are now louder, laying a simple beat over which the sax blasts away just the right side of dissonance, while in the corner the bass is throwing out flurries of notes in a controlled fury of rumbling sound. The beast eventually crawls away to a corner and dies.
The fretless bass in all its glory creates a soundscape that could be Pink Floyd's evil mutant cousin on Present; you half expect a soaring bottleneck guitar figure to come to the rescue at any point, but of course, it doesn't. Things continue is this vein; the split between dark and swirling ambience alternates with terror-glimpses into the sleepless night of a dark soul. This is ambient music, but you couldn't meditate to it.
Thundershark In a Dry Asylum (track title of the week, there!) is not going to be a sweetly melodic neo-prog number is it? And it ain't; although surprisingly it is far from the snarling monster you might expect, and spaciously ambient. No, that label is pinned on to the final track Marseille Car Chase, which is all charging rhythms, meaty sax and growling bass, combining to chase that car over the harbour wall and into a watery grave. Nice'n'nasty.
Stars Fall Darkly is definitely for those of us with more adventurous taste.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
|From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Yeti Rain Album Reviews:-
|"...a little less than an hour of, essentially, synthesized spooky wind sounds."|
(Gerald Wandio, 5/10)
|"One area of improvement I see for the next Yeti Rain release is to take the music in more of a "played" and less improvised direction with more beats and grooves."|
(Jim Corcoran, 7/10)
Reptiel - Violent Sagas of the Ancient
Reptiel are a band unknown to a wider audience; high time we make some changes to that, especially for the people among us who are more into alternative progressive rock music.
I feel a new genre coming on, Reptiel make some kind of gothic, nordic folk, psychedelic krautrock with elements of the alternative. What a mouthful this was! In the accompanying text it was described as Psych prog, but as I just said it is more than that.
Now what makes me state the aforementioned? When you first put on a Reptiel song you are almost instantly drawn towards their krautrock influences, but then when listened to more closely an in-depth feeling grows towards Nordic folk. I am using this term because I feel that Pagan rock doesn't cover what it actually is.
Violent Sagas... is a concept. It's actually one long song of almost 30 minutes duration divided into nine parts, with a prelude, fanfare and postlude. To make it easier for the listener these three tracks start divide and end the album with absolutely the same theme being present. In between the other six tracks complete the album or EP.
For lovers of Psych Krautrock Goth/Nordic this is fantastic listening material.
The band consists of Alec Way, Brian Weaver, Jason Gonzales and Jason Yakich, it's not the first recording from this California based outfit. Under the Reptiel banner it's their second album, but between them lots more recordings exist.
Violent Sagas of the Ancient is food for those among us that are into psychedelic rock, Stoner and Kraut rock , although I doubt we will ever agree what Reptiel's music actually is.
I have had a lot fun reviewing this album and have and will listen to it more often when I am in the right mood.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Dewa Budjana - Joged Kahyangan
Less than a year on from Dawai In Paradise, Joged Kahyangan is Indonesian guitarist Dewa Budjana's second album on MoonJune, and unlike the predecessor which served as an introduction to the man's long career, containing a fair few older tunes, this new record is a far more cohesive and satisfying work, as it was recorded in a single day.
My review of the earlier album tells the story of this artist, extremely popular in his homeland, and gradually becoming more known to our Western ears, thanks to these two releases. The story is expanded upon in the tastefully designed fold out digipak holding this album.
Using a backing band of well-known American jazz players, these being Larry Goldings (acoustic piano and Hammond organ), Bob Mintzer (soprano & tenor saxophone, bass clarinet), Jimmy Johnson (bass guitar), Peter Erskine (drums), and on As You Leave My Nest the lovely vocals of Manhattan Transfer's Janis Siegel, all of them lending the album a distinctive American jazz sound, the influence of Budjana's ethnic origins being slight, on everything but the album title and a few of the track titles.
My problem with the earlier album was its tendency to be a little too smooth, and while there remains a polished sheen to this album, the more complete feel of the recording renders it far more satisfying. It is quite astonishing that this highly crafted album was recorded so quickly with never more than three takes per song required, the band using the first take essentially as a rehearsal. This shows the sheer professionalism of the musicians involved, and you could pick out any one track as a shining example, but I'd plump for album closer Borra's Ballad, a bluesy swoon of a tune that sounds utterly effortless in its beauty, making it hard to believe it was committed to "tape" in such a fashion.
The lyrical nature of Budjana's guitar playing is to the fore on opener Foggy Cloud, and is indebted to Pat Metheny whose influence ripples through the album. Some fine interplay between Dewa's acoustic guitar and the piano in particular illuminate the title track, which translates as "Dancing Heaven", a suitably fitting title.
The only time the pleasant atmosphere is disturbed by a slight hint of darkness comes halfway into Majik Blue, a paen to Dewa's guitar, where the main man trades riffs and solos with all the other band members, apart from Erskine, who keeps things firmly on track. The drummer gets his own song with Erskoman, written specifically for him as a thank you for being pivotal in helping to assemble the stellar players Dewa appears with here. A fine piece of extemporisation by the band, and there's no drum solo by the way!
I must say that I enjoyed this album far more than Dewai In Paradise, and although it is still lacks the edge that my tastes prefer, I would definitely recommend it if you are into the smoother end of jazz fusion. Apparently there's an album coming out next month from Dewa's power trio, and that does indeed sound promising, as I'd like to hear how he rocks out.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10