Reviews in this issue:
- Resistor - Live At ROSfest
- Anima Mundi - The Lamplighter
- Rhys Marsh and the Autumn Ghost - Trio
- Psychic For Radio - Standing Wave (Duo review)
- Maze Of Time - Masquerade Show
- Klaus Schulze - Shadowlands
- The Green Violinist - More Thrill & Never Ending Blessings
- Flying Circus - Ones and Zeros [EP] (Duo review)
- DBA - Pictures of You
Resistor - Live At ROSfest
Live At ROSfest successfully chronicles the largest gig that America's Resistor has performed to date and, from the response of the audience, it should not be the last time the quartet are sought out to enhance a festival bill. The band is fronted by multi-instrumentalist Steve Unruh and guitarist Fran Turner and although the two guitarists steal the limelight the band couldn't manage without the strength of the rhythm section, namely drummer Barry Farrands and bassist Rob Winslow.
As with the studio albums, the output of each guitarist is split across the stereo spectrum with Turner on the left and Unruh on the right, a lovely way of checking out exactly what each musician is playing and how well they complement each other. With a running time of 80 minutes and just five tracks on offer, there are obviously some epics in the offering, a deliberate prog-friendly set list according to Mr. Unruh! The group get off to a great start with Reincarnation, which is also the opening number from the eponymous debut album; some heavy riffing and glorious melodies all set to grab the attention. A couple of tracks from 2010's Rise are featured next. The excellent galloping instrumental Spaceghetti in which Unruh displays his violin talents has always been a jolly ditty, however the live presentation seems to bring out the fun naturally inherent in the music. This piece also exemplifies how good a mix has been achieved (by Unruh in his self-built home studio; sickening how one man can be so good at so many things!), for example the mid-section where Turner is soloing and Unruh is playing the violin pizzicato is perfectly balanced. The group then absolutely nail one of my favourite Resistor tracks, Mimosa. With its gentle introduction featuring flute (no prizes for guessing who that is performed by!) and some perfectly intertwined twin guitars the piece gradually unwinds over the seventeen-minute running time. The switch from the strident guitars to the violin, Turner's delicately plucked six string and the dreamy vocals prior to a reprise of the opening section is quite sublime and, again, the clarity of the production allows clear differentiation between the two guitars on the subsequent instrumental passage. The transition between Unruh's more experimental guitar lines to Turner's more blues-based solo is wonderfully fluent and a highlight of the set for me.
Not wanting to make things easy on themselves the band even decided to debut a new song, the title track from the forthcoming album, To The Stars. The skill of the quartet is such that they make this compositionally complex number sound like it is simplicity itself. Resistor are clearly developing their own sound, the combination of violin and guitar, although not unique, is blended in a rather original manner. The aforementioned importance of the rhythm section is shown in this piece with Farrands holding down a strict tempo and making his presence known without being overtly flash or distracting and Winslow achieving some lovely sounds from his bass. Hearing this song certainly whets the appetite for the new album.
It is somewhat ironic that the acronym of the final track is 'LONG', taking up half of the band's set Land Of No Groove took up the whole of the second CD of Rise. There is not a lot more than can be said about this song in addition to what I wrote in my original review of that album. Needless to say the band perform it excellently and even manage to include an unscheduled jam in the midst of proceedings when Winslow accidentally knocked the head of his bass causing it to go disastrously out of tune - the fact that the improvised section is not immediately apparent shows that the hours the band spent perfecting their jamming skills, as documented on The Secret Island Band Jams CD, were not wasted. The whole piece subtly removes the pomposity of a lot of excessive prog songs without making any musical sacrifices, and each listen reveals more than heard on the last playing. It would be pointless to single out any individual for praise as it is the ensemble performance that makes this such an enjoyable listening experience. Although having said that, I still cheer for Barry at the end of Sea Monster Battle!
So all-in-all a great live CD from a band that have so far lived up to their promise and deserve to be heard by many more people. My only slight niggle is that the track selection doesn't really display the full scope of the band's oeuvre. But that is a very minor point as I honestly wouldn't exclude any of the songs on this album. Unlike some live albums, there is a definite quality of the music on the CD being actually what was played on the night with the added bonus that these live versions maintain many different qualities from their studio counterparts. Hopefully this release will open a few more doors for the band and raise anticipations for the new album.
Conclusion: 9.5 out of 10
Anima Mundi - The Lamplighter
Due to the sheer beauty of the album and the passion of this Cuban band, Anima Mundi's previous DPRP recommended album, The Way, brought light into neo prog for me as I had kind of discarded this part of the progressive genre before in favour of other areas. Their new album, The Lamplighter, takes an unmistakable turn in style towards the symphonic progressive spectrum. Again, this is an area that I have barely focussed on in the past five years and Anima Mundi plays the same trick with me; the album opens up the eyes and ears again towards symphonic progressiveness. Why? Because of the beauty of the album and the touching emotions that the band radiate.
Changing a band member, especially a singer, can be devastating to a band. Anima Mundi had to endure this at a bad moment when, as the recording of this new album was almost finished, their beloved singer Carlos Sosa announced that he had decided to leave. He was replaced by Emmanuel Pirko Farrath and recordings had to be redone. Emmanuel's voice is a bit different but blends perfectly with the music, thus avoiding any consequences of this severe change while listening. An amazing job, really.
September 2012 in Helmond and Anima Mundi had the guts to play two songs - still in an unfinished state - from this new album live; The Return and Endless Star. We got a marvellous preview and I noted: "Fantastic songs, this is going to be a great album for sure". And, speaking to Roberto Díaz that night, he told me that "the new album will probably be more mystic, with lots of vocals and strange landscapes in it". And that is true, the album depicts the rather spiritual concept of 'the Lamplighter' who influences the universe and all of our hearts with his light. Knowing that, turning towards a more symphonic approach makes sense. Or the other way around, the link is a logical one. The emulating of dozens of instruments electronically brings the overwhelming feeling of a complete symphonic orchestra to our ears throughout the whole album. Not overdone or bombastic for a split second but majestic for sure and mysterious from time to time.
The album consists of two suites divided into separate songs plus an epilogue, the impressive suite tracks all flowing into each other. Lantern of your Heart starts with the beautiful flute of Anaisy Gómez - she was present on stage last year as well - when a rather modest melody starts and is taken over by Emmanuel's vocals and Virginia's organs, both building the tension. If I had to pick favourites, it would probably be The Return Part I and The Return Part II,, being discrete, you may even call them simple, orchestral compositions that use vocals as true instruments. Absolutely stunning. The Call and Farewell Song serves everyone who likes the combination of keys and guitar taking the lead. While The Dreamchild Behind The Mask brings you Roberto's fantastic soloing. This way every song distinguishes slightly from each other without obstructing the main musical storyline. You can listen to The Human House as a perfect example yourself here:-
The instrumental Endless Star is the right candidate to exploit vigorously live on stage with extended soloing and enhancements. I hope this will happen! The epilogue song, His Majesty Love, has a different approach which is okay to end the album by startling us a little. A prequel to the style of the next album?
The Lamplighter is an album that again shows Anima Mundi offering impressive and excellent compositions, brought to us with untainted passion. Lovely. Amazing. Enchanting. DPRP recommended without any doubt.
Come, see, hear and experience Anima Mundi at de Boerderij in Zoetermeer on 15th June where the official presentation of the new album will take place. Details of the other venues on their European tour can be found Here.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Rhys Marsh and the Autumn Ghost - Trio
CD 1 - Wooden Heart (7:46), I Watched, As You Disappeared (6:03), All Light Fades (5:31), And I Wait (13:35)
CD 2 - Watch The Sky Fall (10:22), The Place Where You Lay (5:29), Divide In Silence (4:51), The Movements Of Our Last Farewell (11:40)
Everyone that has read the interview we published with Rhys Marsh last October might remember him saying "It's all music, all the time". And that is the truth because after releasing his third solo album, The Blue Hour, last October he also found time to work with Silje Leirvik and Trude Eidtang (When Mary) on their debut albums. Soon his record label Autumn Songs will release of the debut album from a doom prog band from Norway called Mater Thallium and if that wasn't enough he has also released his own, fourth, album called Trio.
This double album is more or less a live in the studio recording and it aims to capture the spirit of the live performances of Rhys and his band. After the release of his third solo album, Marsh wanted to perform the songs from his first three albums live. But of course, in good Marsh fashion, he didn't want to reproduce the albums on stage so for the live shows the band only compromised Marsh with Anders Bjermeland on drums and vocals and Ole Kristian Malmedal on electric piano and vocals. Both are members of psychedelic band Flashback Caruso. The songs were reinterpreted with more room to expand and improvise, the three musicians enjoying these live performances so much that they decided to release these new versions so after just two days in the studio these new versions of Rhys Marsh's songs can be enjoyed by everyone.
Now you might know that Trio was a track on King Crimson's brilliant Red album. That track showed what a beautiful noise you can create with only three musicians. And that is exactly what these musicians do on this album. Trio consists of seven tracks which are taken from previous releases plus one new instrumental called Watch the Sky Fall.
Right from the start it becomes apparent that this is going to be a thrilling ride as Wooden Heart gets an extended treatment with its jazzy ending that slowly builds to a crescendo where Marsh's guitar sounds raw and the vocal really has to stretch to the limit. In the second track, I Watched as You Disappeared, another thing becomes apparent. Bjermeland and Malmedal are not only great musicians but they also provide some beautiful harmony vocals. Listen for example to the start of All Lights Fade which is just electric piano and the three members singing. There is a also a beautiful piano solo to be heard. It's a mesmerising version of a track that was already very beautiful on Marsh's debut album. Three of the tracks here are over the 10 minute mark, And I wait being the longest at 13 minutes and almost twice as long as the version on The Blue Hour. Ketil Vestrum Einarsen (Jaga Jazzist) plays a beautiful flute solo here and despite the fact that the music never gets very loud the album still manages to sound very powerful. The 10 minute Watch the Sky Fall is a krautrock inspired improv piece, again featuring Einarsen on flute.
On Marsh's last album brass instruments took centre stage but they are not missed at all on Trio as this version of The Place where You Lay proves. It stays reasonably close to the original but instead of the brass the three part vocal harmonies shine and this version is again proof of Marsh's great songwriting skills.
They finish the album with a epic performance of The Movement of Our Last Farewell which on The Blue Hour ran for just 2.24 minutes but here it is expanded to more than 11 minutes! In this version Marsh plays a long guitar solo followed by Malmedal on electric piano and Bjermeland holding it all together with his jazzy drumming. There really is some good synergy to be heard here.
Now I must say that I was very much surprised by this release. On Trio these guys sound very powerful despite the limited use of instruments and the songs all get a total make-over which makes it sound like you are listening to a entirely new album. The three part harmony vocals are especially impressive and I would really like to hear this band on an album with new Marsh songs. Maybe just for me they could re-introduce the Mellotron into the sound palette again but with Rhys Marsh you never know what will be next.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Tracklist:On My Own (8:04), Euthymal (3:54), Shed my Skin (8:17), She Knows (6:46), Blood (7:05), Pushing the One (5:13), Once Begun (3:47), Blacken What Is Grey (4:40), School's Out (4:12), Get Me Out of Here (3:25), How To Go On (8:48)
André de Boer's Review
Psychic For Radio is the brainchild of Shawn Gordon, founder of ProgRock Records. The band's first album Standing Wave was released at the end of 2012 and, according to the band, took many years to create and includes some big contributing names like Mark Zonder, Randy George, Martin Orford and others.
Opening track On My Own has a huge Spock's Beard influence, almost like a copy, with some Neal Morse-ian keyboard interludes at some points of the track. The second song, Euthymal, is a good and interesting prog metal track that reaches my musical heart though I have my reservations on the rhythm used. Track three is nice and well performed. The rest is a mixture of various styles from every corner of the musical spectrum, even from outside the progressive zone and including an Alice Cooper cover in between. Huh? Nice for a solitary play for some of us perhaps. The craftsmanship is good; the compositions are disappointing.
If this album is meant to be a coherent set of songs to introduce a new band then it is a failure. However, if this debut is meant to sort out what style suits the band best than that's okay. Choose the Euthymal approach because I think that is what Psychic For Radio does best. So I don't want to spend too many words on this album. All the guests that lend their hand don't help to make this release into an interesting debut. Because of Gordon's background and that of all the well known names I must conclude that this is an unbalanced and confusing debut album that presents only one or two fairly good tracks really.
John O'Boyle's Review
I am in a bit of a dilemma. My dilemma is thus - how to start the review for Shawn Gordon's Psychic For Radio album Standing Wave? This is an album that Shawn spent five years putting together. Just look at the contributing musicians: Henning Pauly, Miles Gordon, Martin Orford (ex-IQ), Mark Zonder (Fates Warning), Mike Alvarez, Pater Matuchniak (Evolve IV, Gekko Projekt), Carl Westholm (Carptree, Jupiter Society), Randy George (Ajalon, Neal Morse band), Sean Entriken (Prymary), Bill Berends (Mastermind), Marek Arnold (Seven Steps to the Green Door). On top of that Shawn has incorporated four rather fine vocalists in Rick Livingstone, Adrian O’Shaughnessy, Todd Plant and Maya haddi Zebley. All are at the top of their game, their power and prowess helping to deliver these songs with adept precision. Each brings something to the show, contributing to the diversity of the music, adding an extra layer of depth to the proceedings.
When I pressed play I certainly didn't expect to hear what I did and I certainly didn't expect the results to be so immediate either. Here we are presented with eleven songs of varying styles, an approach that keeps everything fresh. Ten of the songs are originals with a reworking of Alice Cooper's Schools Out added for no more reason than the fact that they could. In all honesty as a massive Cooper fan, Schools Out in its original form was perfect; Psychic For Radio's hard, heavy, almost industrial vision of this anthemic song is fun but brings nothing to the table and will have you skipping it and this is the only negative thing I can say about the album due to the simple fact that the album is, in all honesty, full of far superior presentations for you to wrap your ears around.
Lyrics can be a fickle beast, having many interpretations, meaning different things to different people. There is no mistaking here though what has been written, the topics aren't happy go lucky by any stretch of the imagination and are a powerful collective that have been aligned in the compositional framework with stunning results. Shawn hasn't been shy or afraid to broach subjects that are close to his heart. The words will absorb you, move you, make you think, covering such topics as loneliness (On My Own), euthanasia (Blacken What Is Grey), death and loss (How to Go On).
No matter how many times I play this album, the two tracks that I am pulled back to the most are Blacken What Is Grey and How To Go On, the latter being one of the most powerful and emotional songs I have ever heard and a song that moves me every time I hear it. If this song was an album it would get 11 out of 10, such is the perfection and power. The song is a tribute to the brother of Shawn's wife who was knocked down and killed five years ago by a hit-and-run driver who was never caught. It is based on a final letter to him from Shawn's wife, they were very close their entire lives, written after his death, the letter found by Shawn and turned into the lyric. Maya haddi Zebley (God, who is this lady?) absolutely nails the emotion as do the contributing musicians creating a sound that will bring a tear to your eyes.
Whether the band are playing convoluted passages on the likes of On My Own, the hard and heavy Euthymal or Blood Into Wine, the stark She Knows, the jazz inflected Pushing The One or Get Me Out Of Here or the piano led Once Begun you can be safe in the knowledge that Shawn and Co. are providing entertainment of the highest order. I could spend quite some time discussing how good this album is, but I get the feeling, with you having read this far, that you know what I think.
The production work on this album is fantastic, second to none to be perfectly frank; it does not over exaggerate or unduly complicate the music; it creates a clear, intelligible and lucid soundstage that compliments the whole proceedings.
Standing Wave may have taken five years, but let me tell you this; they were five years that were not wasted. Shawn has been through some sad, dark and difficult times, which have been reflected in this album. He has taken influence from the likes of OSI, Genesis, Howard Jones, Marillion, Spyro Gyro and Alan Parsons Project that can be heard throughout to create an album that could grace anyone's collection. Albums like this are rare and are a pleasure to come across. Had Standing Wave been released in 2013 it would definitely be in my top 5 album list without doubt. Is this a one off project? I, for one, hope not.
ANDRÉ DE BOER : 5 out of 10
JOHN O'BOYLE : 9.5 out of 10
Maze Of Time - Masquerade Show
Maze Of Time consists of Robert I. Edman (guitars & vocals), Jester Landen (lead vocals), Jan Persson (bass), Alex Johnson (keyboards) and Thomas Mordh (drums) with Bjorn Ohman taking on backing vocal duties.
From Sweden, they began their evolution in October 2001 when Robert tired of being hired to play guitar on other peoples various musical projects, at one point nearly heading to the U.S. west coast with a couple of other musicians. He decided to stay and with friends Jan and Thomas formed a trio to play and record a selection of composed material. The line-up expanded with the subsequent addition of Alex and Christer Lindstroem who joined for the first five years on guitars and vocals. Christer was replaced by Jester who is now lead vocalist.
Masquerade Show is the band's third album and was released in December 2012, four years after their last album, Lullaby For Heroes. The main theme is about revealing what is hidden, but some things are still left hidden for a good reason.
Let's have a run through the tracks on the album.
3-Angle: a short intro with sound effects of water, thunder and birds set against what sounds like a clock movement and a sitar with a spoken part, leading into...
Masquerade Show: the longest and the best track on the album showing clear influences of Fish era Marillion, Arena, IQ and Genesis with good use of acoustic guitars and old style keyboards mixed with prog metal guitar. Shades of Dream Theater can be heard entwined with neo prog, the track has atmosphere sounding dark in parts and uplifting in others making a very interesting and enjoyable track.
Pandora's Box: Jester's vocals really shine on this melodic rock song with a catchy guitar riff in parts sounding like Marillion's Hooks In You. The song made me want to sing along and I can see this being popular at gigs.
Dark Matter: an instrumental number with very Deep Purple sounding keyboards with guitars being a mixture of Dream Theater and Pink Floyd. A different yet enjoyable experience.
Mile By Mile: another song that showcases Jester's vocals, a pop prog number with another chorus you will want to sing along to. With anthem sounding guitars and keyboard, this would make a good single if they wanted to release one.
Mountains Of Madness: a track that really rocks.
Next Morning: a short number at just under two minutes, a refreshing and touching keyboard solo from Alex perfect for any morning.
Mean Messiah Man Machine: featuring some engrossing guitars and bass with Keyboards and nice vocals reminding me of a rocky Yes number.
Predator: another highlight on the album, a really good prog number even sounding jazzy in parts with top notch playing and another catchy chorus. Influences of early IQ can be heard.
Humanoid: melodic prog rock with sounds of IQ, Marillion and early Genesis, nice keyboards and guitars with another catchy chorus and good backing vocals.
So, an enjoyable album containing some highlights, though lacking in a more original sound, which is a slight downfall making the album one that didn't hold my interest enough. This is not to say that it is a bad album as parts are in fact very good. Having not heard their previous albums I cannot comment on whether they have moved forward or not but I found the musicianship and vocals of a good standard. The booklet has all the lyrics and is nicely set out with a picture of the band in the middle.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Klaus Schulze - Shadowlands
CD 1 - Shadowlights (41:18), In Between (17:07), Licht Und Schatten (17:26)
CD 2 - The Rhodes Violin (55:28), Tibetan Loops (17:50)
Is it not a tad strange that a man who has operated at the forefront of audio technology for over 40 years should have a website that looks like it has not been given a facelift since the '90s? Anyway, according to his website, this is Klaus Schulze's 45th solo album, and that does not include almost as many albums again as part of a group (Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel, Cosmic Jokers) or other collaborations, or under the name Wahnfried, or as Dark Side Of The Moog, or...the list goes on and on. Let's just say that Herr Schulze makes Bill Nelson look positively lazy.
Schulze is one those artists who has ploughed his own furrow for so long it is difficult to know what to say about his work. You either get it, or you don't. Luckily for me I fell into the former camp, but lost interest in the '80s as it seems there is/was only so much one could do with a synthesiser and a sequencer. Checking his discography on the website, this is actually only his third proper solo album in eight years, and his first since 2007's Kontinuum, as other albums in that time have been collaborations with vocalist Lisa Gerrard or live albums, so Shadowlands appears to have been an opportunity for Klaus to show us where his personal muse is at this moment in time.
Still, two and a half hours or so being gently buffeted around by Klaus's meandering synth melodies suits me just fine, although I have to be in a particular mood for it. Added to that, this is the first new Schulze album I've listened to in over thirty years, so I was not entirely sure what to expect. Unsurprisingly, not much has changed, really, and initial impressions seem to tell me that his muse is exactly where I would have imagined it to be. The technology is doubtless far superior to that used on groundbreaking works such as Irrlicht and Cyborg but the concept is largely the same. Then again, if I'm being honest with myself I don't suppose I really expected radical departures.
Shadowlights gently starts proceedings, slow sequencer pulses behind strung out two or three chord keyboard progressions, overlaid with Thomas Kagermann's flutes and the otherworldly voice of long-time collaborator Lisa Gerrard along with those of Chrysta Bell and Julia Messenger; the listener glides through its forty-plus minutes. After a while it just melts away to the periphery of one's consciousness, which may well have been the intention, given the title and themes running through the album.
Following this we have In Between, which at a mere 17 minutes is the shortest piece on the album. The track continues with the dreamy pace, and if anything has less form than its predecessor. More ethereal voices leave us marooned somewhere deep within the id, and the third and final track has played through with little noticeable change. If I may alliterate, this is marvellously meditative music, if nothing else.
I confess that I would rarely sit down to listen to a track that is almost an hour long, knowing full well that it is unlikely to go anywhere unexpected, and The Rhodes Violin from the bonus CD, available with the first run of the album, cannot really fulfil any role other than background for reading, meditation, massage, or whatever tickles your fancy. I don't mean to belittle Klaus's music, but even the most dedicated fan would be hard pushed to sit down for that length of time with a piece of music that has relatively little going on to keep the listener's attention. However, having said that, if you listen to this on a decent set of headphones, the subtle intricacies contained therein will fully reveal themselves, and make you realise that there is actually much more to this than can be gleaned by listening to it purely as sonic wallpaper.
It takes a particular and rare discipline in these rushed and hectic days to sit still for that long in order to listen to one piece of music, but, in the interests of this review that's exactly what I did, and I am glad I did, too. The piece oh so slowly unfolds as synth-as-electric-piano picks out apparently random note sequences while eerily treated plucked string effects quietly dance in the background. Being so long, the track justifiably takes its time to build on this soporific but spooky introduction. Around twelve minutes in some disembodied voices from Thomas, and later one or more of the women, enter the soundscape, the seemingly formless "electric piano" notes of before now having taken on a life of their own.
Twenty minutes in and a beat finally arrives, courtesy of the inevitable sequencers, and off we go on one of Klaus's familiar trips. The piano notes have gone, but the voices remain. Eight or so minutes later sees the first, albeit fleeting, appearance of Thomas's violin. It takes another eight minutes before we are treated to some extended bow-work, more to the front of the mix, but remaining restrained throughout.
Concluding the album is Tibetan Loops and I'm intrigued enough by the title to expect something at least a little different to what has gone before, and it certainly feels more organic than the rest, with Thomas's voice to the fore. Ultimately though, it is more of the same. See the YouTube clip for more.
Of the two long pieces on this album, The Rhodes Violin is by far the most interesting, and yes, you can actually sit down and listen to it, unlike Shadowlights which meanders along to no great effect, as does the rest of the first CD. As that CD is the "official" album, if you are going to buy Shadowlands I'd advise you to get it as soon as possible, as the second "bonus" CD is the best by some distance.
Emerging from the musical isolation tank that is Shadowlands I confess to feeling more at peace with the world, and although this is not an album I will be returning to with any great frequency, I can well imagine it being a good companion after a stressful day at one's personal coalface, particularly the second CD.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
The Green Violinist - More Thrill & Never Ending Blessings
A DPRP colleague, before they became a convert to the cause, used to describe Steven Wilson as "spending too much time staring at his shoes". So much so it seems, that he discarded them some time ago. Anyway, if SW is a shoegazer, then Vincent Defresne stares right through his footwear and down, down into the bowels of the Earth and on downwards into the deepest trenches of the human condition. Boy, this is one sad album!
The press release optimistically describes this album as being "dreamy, playfully enchanting", but a better clue as to what we might expect is contained in the phrase "Back in 2003 Vincent Defresne, after weeks of despair and personal depression, finds himself at a dead end". Blimey! Talk about bearing your soul to the world. Vincent goes on to claim that his album is speaking for the emotionally disenfranchised, the fragile souls of the world. Be warned, if you are one of those folk, this record is as likely to make you cry as it is to lighten your mood.
Right from the beginning you know that you're not going to be skipping the fandango with a carefree heart to this record. If the title The Great Scapegoat Seeking does not fill you with foreboding, the opening bars, backed by muffled screams and the opening line "At least six million Jewish reasons forsaken deep in the great beneath" certainly will. This is a serious record, make no mistake. The tune itself is a fairly straightforward affair, embellished with about the right amount of drama for the subject matter. "The great scapegoat seeker is an eternal quest for worldfuckers", and Vincent means every word.
After a start like that things can only get less gloomy, surely? And yes, they do, but only in the sense that the bleak subject matter becomes internalised, and minor key guitar ballad Velvet Road takes on the existential angst that pervades the rest of the album.
Not particularly progressive, whatever your definition of that contentious word happens to be, no, this is more a collection of epic minor key ballads. In complete contrast, and somewhat oddly, you can imagine R.E.M. behind the mic on Shy People, which is almost incongruously upbeat in comparison to the rest of the album.
After a nice low-key guitar and vocal beginning, the first chorus and subsequent verse of Do Worry, Be Sad (see what he did there?) continues to display an almost enforced bonhomie despite the heavily introverted lyrics: "This world is made for winners, and we're not that kind, you and me". The song then changes tack completely and becomes an electronic symphony of black intent, providing the best musical moment of the album. The atmosphere conveyed in this section sounds like something from a modern Leonard Cohen album, and there is no higher compliment where musical introspection is concerned. See the Ed Unitsky YouTube video for more enlightenment:-
Vincent claims Nick Drake as an influence and that can be heard in the song Human Connection, which taken in isolation is a great, if inevitably sad song that builds into a dramatic Brel-like conclusion.
The soul-searching tunes are provided by a band that includes two electric guitars, bass, drums, percussion and programming, and uncredited keyboards. The name Green Violinist is inspired by Chagall's painting, and it would seem, on the evidence so far, a large helping of tortured Gallic self-analysis.
Only a person of French lineage could get away with the doomed romanticism on display by the bucketload here, and only then if he sang these introspective tracts in his own language, but as they are written and sung in English, there comes a point where you feel like telling Vincent to snap out of it and get out and enjoy some fresh air.
Vincent says this album is a "Call for 'More Thrill' in our lives, to transform thoughts into actions...and to turn every second into a never ending blessing", but it comes over more as an exorcism of demons to this listener, and is hard work in places, although there are plenty of examples of good songwriting on offer.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Tracklist: Hero in Disguise (7:27), Follow the Empress (5:19), The Red Door (0:57), Paint it Black (4:26), Fire (I Wanna Go) (5:21), Back to the City (4:49)
Basil Francis' Review
When a German prog band, formed while the Berlin Wall was still standing, don't appear on ProgArchives - admittedly one of the most complete prog websites out there - you're bound to scratch your head and ask what are they doing wrong. This band are celebrating a quarter of a century and have scarcely made an impression on the prog community. Reputation ain't everything of course, and indeed, their last effort received a glowing review on our site. Still, you have to wonder what is holding this group back.
My initial thoughts were 'Oh, a female singer, that's cool!', but was astonished to find the vocalist is in fact a certain Michael Dorp, who has a very, ahem, unique voice. In fact, his singing will often imitate both sexes in one song. The music itself is undoubtedly neo-prog with a faint hint of metal, but sadly not the type you'd shout about. Hindered by uninteresting song structures, this EP never really gets off the ground. It's fun, but forgettable.
John O'Boyle's Review
Back in 2010 I reviewed Flying Circus' Forth and Back album which I rated highly. Since that release there has been some changes in personnel; the band are now a five piece, Michael Dorp (lead and backing vocals), Michael Rick (electric and acoustic guitar, backing vocals), Roger Weitz (bass, mandolin, backing and additional vocals) remain within the band, the additional new boys being Ande Roderigo (drums and percussions) and Rudiger Blomer (keyboards, distorted violin, psaltery and devil’s mill sequencer).
For me Ones and Zeros is a perfect opportunity for Flying Circus to fine tune their new line up, not that the band need much fine tuning in all honesty. In fact, what I would say is that as a band they have got it spot on. All the songs here have a slight story; they have all been specially written for this release with the exception of the Rolling Stones cover Paint it Black, originally recorded in 1966 for their fourth album Aftermath; a song the band have used to bond, which is preceded by a short, moody and atmospheric instrumental, The Red Door, a title lifted from the opening lyrics of the aforementioned song. The song may be all about being heartbroken and hurt, an acclamation, a loud eager expression of why others should not have colour in their lives; Michael Dorp and co have caught that emotion and sentiment perfectly as they put their own interpretation on the song making it still sound fresh forty seven years later. The Red Door is also the first piece this line-up recorded. Just to add note, Follow the Empress is a reworking of a song from their 1997 debut album, Seasons, that again is full of emotive passion that punctuates the acoustic presentations that really shine throughout the piece.
The opening and infectious Hero in Disguise sets the underlying theme of real vs fake, tangible vs virtual and analogue vs digital and also supplies us with the title of the EP. There is the inclusion of some fantastic acoustic work and very nice sounding organ tones that will send a shiver down your spine.
Fire (I Wanna Go) has a bluesy and sharper sound as it swings between electric and acoustic that, to some degree, sits slightly out of kilter with the rest of the tracks here; it is a very good representation of the bands work though, displaying that they aren't afraid to challenge the listener and by no means is it a weak track.
The star of the show though is the oriental inflected Back to the City. This is a taster track that is going to be on their next album, which will be conceptual, the story line following the biography of a fictitious band in the late '60s and the tragic story of the lead singer. Interestingly the song will be re-recorded for the album, so this is a special version for this release? It is here though, for me, that the word play and musical interaction have the greatest impact. I am not too sure how much more you could change this song to make it better in all honesty; as a song it is layered, having depth and character; it is moody, atmospheric and dark, but most of all it is very entertaining.
From what I heard throughout this EP Flying Circus are very cohesive, the '70s rock element is predominant throughout, with overtones of Rush, Led Zeppelin and to some degree Blue Öyster Cult, which is not a bad thing. I am certainly expecting great things from this band on their next release based on what I have heard here; I get a feeling that it might just be something a little bit special.
BASIL FRANCIS : 3.5 out of 10
JOHN O'BOYLE : 7 out of 10
DBA - Pictures of You
NOTE: This album has been reviewed from MP3 (320kbps) files only because no CD has been provided. Whilst that resolution is relatively high, I have no way of knowing whether what I am about to say with respect to the music has been affected by the reviewing medium. No promotional information has been supplied.
There is no doubting the pedigree of the two musicians that go to make up this DBA project: Geoff Downes and Chris Braide are both very successful artists in their own right. Downes, of course, will be well known amongst the "progressive" community due to his keyboards and songwriting membership with both Yes and Asia but it is surely more relevant in this particular instance that he a stalwart of the British start-of-the-'80s synth-pop band The Buggles. Braide is a British-born, Ivor Novelo winning singer, songwriter and producer who is based in Los Angeles. What the pair have produced in Pictures of You is an album of retro '80s pop that does not even fit the "art-rock" criterion that many of you feel makes for a dubious claim to the progressive community.
"Hold On!", I hear you shout! "Isn't the first composition, Sunday News, over thirteen minutes long and split into three sections? Surely that makes it 'prog'?". Well, you'd have a good argument there. It certainly won't get played on daytime commercial radio! A good comparison for the song would be We Can Fly From Here, which Downes was partly responsible - alongside his bandmate in The Buggles, Trevor Horn - for bringing into Yes. To these ears, in this downloaded format, Sunday News lacks the organic feel of its cousin-song.
So, is this one "prog" composition worthy of downloading? Take a listen and judge for yourselves, because I have a serious problem with this album's soundscape and mix. The predominant sounds are the vocals (very good, as you'd expect given the pedigree of the artists) and synthesized drums/percussion. This latter aspect I admit to have found deeply irritating through the album. Downes' keyboards, '80s in feel themselves, are dominated by the drums/percussion but nevertheless manage to be heard. However, you really do have to concentrate to hear the odd snippet of uninspiring acoustic guitar. And that is it for the soundscape. Prog? No thanks. Can the music be redeemed by a sublime melody or by some catchy riffs? No.
What we are left with, then, is an average album of '80s synth-pop with strong vocals. Sunday News is pleasant enough to listen to if you block out the drums and Ride the Waves benefits from fewer drums/percussion. The "pick of the bunch" - as is often the case with pop albums - is the title track. Sporting a cleaner soundscape and the prettiest melody, this is a very good pop song.
Conclusion - one for lovers of '80s music!
Conclusion: 4 out of 10