The Abelians - The Abelians [EP]
Hidden Rainbows (5:02), Evil Talk (6:12), Two Shadows (7:23)
Hidden Rainbows has a wonderful organ sound that duels against dark guitar chords with a hypnotic punchiness. What really raises this, though, is the soprano voice of Rita Atamira. Full of colour and strength but perfectly in control. On Evil Talk she goes into operatic mode but it fits so well with the song that it does not overpower it.
Opening with harpsichord to the fore, Evil Talk is sounding like the theme to a lost 60s TV spy show. It changes half way through with fantastic organ and bass interplay; introducing classical melodies into the instrumental section, in a way reminiscent of Gentle Giant.
Two Shadows opens like a light opera take on an obscure folk song, before a languid guitar introduces blues-jazz tones. It is brooding but not sombre, with a touch of Radiohead in the melody.
So a terrific EP of psych-prog. One that I will be returning to regularly. I hope The Abelians have a full length release in the works.
Martin Burns: 9 out of 10
Crowned in Earth - Metempsychosis
Morning Light (7:28), But An Echo (4:09), Summers Pride (5:36), Symmetry Of Night (7:23), Separate Ways (5:37), Travelling Road (16:27)
According to the band's promotional material, the newest CD, Metempsychosis, which sees the addition of bassist Pug Kirby, is music "without borders." This is mostly true. Although the music here is, broadly speaking, progressive, a better description would be "experimental." Indeed, a fair musical reference would be the music of Frank Zappa (particularly to Sleep Dirt and Hot Rocks), as a measure of zaniness prevails with the band stretching out within the realms of rock and avant-garde jazz.
The six tunes all provide something worthwhile. The best of the bunch is Morning Light. It is varied but not scattered, spacey but not wandering. A jazz influence is quite evident here.
Less experimental is But an Echo, the highlight of which is a melodious and memorable guitar lead. Summers Pride is nicely composed, with its bookends being smooth and mellifluous, whilst the mildly raucous filling balances the piece.
Symmetry of Night mostly drags, and the keyboard fills are scratchy, but the tune is salvaged by a snappy and satisfying guitar solo. The heavy, very busy Separate Ways features cacophonous sax and, unfortunately, bland singing, that's a bit out of tune. The most traditional rock song here may be the 16-minute Travelling Road It's a pleasant journey with some nice twists and diversions (the soft flute and mellow bass deserve careful attention), but in the end it doesn't demand a repeat trip.
Metempsychosis_ suffers from some notable downsides. First, the sound quality is muddy. This creates a vintage-era sound, but the trade-off is just not worth it. The singing, moreover, falls within a narrow range and is fairly pedestrian.
Open-minded listeners appreciative of free-form, mixed-genre progressive music may take well to this CD. The playing is strong, and the musicians' confidence stands out. Even so, a bit more compositional structure and higher production quality would have gone a long way to enhance the overall experience.
Joel Atlas: 6 out of 10
Gaillion - Admit One
Prologue - Age Of Ignorance (7:17), Victory Parade (6:50), Impact Eighty (5:33), The Grand Facade (6:13), In Spectral Eye (6:17), Stellar Dreams (6:07), Red Sun Sets (8:52)
The band, Don Gunn (drums, percussion), Todd Howard (vocals, bass, keyboards) and James Vasquenza Jr. (guitars, backing vocals), were not long out of high-school when they self-produced and recorded this album. Being young men they wore their influence proudly on their sleeves, and aiming high, that influence is the mighty Rush.
The songs here are in that Rush prog-rock mould, heavy on the interplay between strident bass and a mix of heavy guitar chords and delicate picking, held together by the drumming. Adding keyboards in washes, and the odd solo, gives extra colour and texture. There are a few clumsy transitions here and there, undoubtedly due to ambition pushing young abilities to the maximum.
The Grand Façade has a pleasing Rush-meets-jangly-indie-rock vibe. There is depth to the lyrics in the tribute to a dead friend and a heartfelt guitar solo on Impact Eighty. The two best songs bookend the album. The heavy melodic opener, Prologue - Age Of Ignorance, is winningly bass-led, whilst the closer, Red Sun Sets is percussive-driven with spacey synth passages and a real sense of mystery. They both point to where this youthful trio may have gone if their recording career had continued.
In conclusion, this is not an entirely consistent collection of songs but they show a lot of promise, even though the band had yet to absorb their influences fully. One feels that the next release would have seen them find a sound of their own.
Martin Burns: 6.5 out of 10
Lesoir - Luctor Et Emergo
Battle (5:51), Going Home (4:39), (A Lady Named) Bright (4:30), Hold On To Fascination (3:58), Single-eyed (4:52), Press Play From Start (7:08), In Reverse (4:09), My Perfect Self (4:04), Luctor Et Emergo (3:36), Deliberate (4:27), Flawless Chemistry (4:36), Room For One More (2:20)
The music of Lesoir can be described as heavy with lots of dynamics and atmosphere but always sounding melodic. Sometimes the vocals by Meessen can be quite powerful and agressive but she can also sing in a more delicate manner. She sounds very convincing as a vocalist in both styles. The album lyrically deals with some complexities of life, and musically influences vary from Tool to Mostly Autumn. I could also add Skunk Anansie, Delain and The Gathering to the bands from which you can find some influences on the album. With such big names this can't be a bad album and I can assure you; it's a killer!
The opener Battle is a dark, heavy track, whereas the first single Going Home starts lightly before powerful guitars and drumming transform it to a very catchy song. One recurring theme is that a lot of the songs begin with a lighter shade and then progress to become much heavier. The album is a constant change of heavier and more delicate sounds and will attract lots of new fans and keep current enthusiasts happy.
The band will have toured the UK in May and will be performing at the Loreley, St. Goarshausen (Germany) in July. Most remarkable however is that they also will be playing in China where they have built up quite a following. So check out their music on the internet or buy a ticket and fly to China! Don't worry they still have some gigs in Holland as well.
Did you guess already that this band is worth listening to? Great stuff from another female-fronted Dutch band.
Peter Swanson: 8.5 out of 10
Margaritas Ante Porcos - Gluposti
The Sirens of Titan (5:44), Don't Even Try, My Dear! (5:24), A Fly (8:17), Wheel of Time (9:47), Schizo (6:13), Fiddlesticks (9:45)
Real flavoring comes from the vocals, which are high-pitched, often dreamy, and sometimes frenzied, and are present on most tunes. Like the singing of Geddy Lee, of Rush, the vocals here add a surprising, welcome levity to the power playing. The lyrics, or at least the available translation of them, are obtuse. ("I would like to know who I am, but it seems that simply so: the interaction of the fields and billions of atoms mess.")
Most of tunes move steadily along at a quick pace. The exception is Wheel of Time, which spends a few minutes building to an explosive moment that finds the trio working overtime. The compositions are fine, although hooks are few. The best of the batch is the upbeat Don't Even Try, My Dear!, on which the guitar blazes. The weak link among the tunes is the aptly named Schizo. With its thumps, oddball singing, and overall unpredictability, it's the sonic equivalent of a wild, sugar-inspired child jumping up and down on a bed.
Although straight-forward progressive rock aficionados may be disappointed here, fans of rugged yet quirky rock, and to a lesser extent, fans of jazz fusion, will likely appreciate much of this CD. Surely the band shows solid musicianship and considerable energy. Let us hope that the band does not wait another 24 years to release another CD.
Joel Atlas: 6.5 out of 10
Moorder - Moorder II
Jesus zombies crew (3:28), Flat kick (2:13), Disco in ferro (4:05), Pipum (2:44), Moztri (3:53), Afro Bones (2:47), Fiscia (2:58), Omocodia on square (2:04), Firecrap (2:55), Abcd (2:22), Mini Spiders (3:17), Beef ice (3:51)
"0mpah, ompah, Dada". Chocolate-smeared, stubby fingers tap rhythmically out of time. Impulsively, my food-stained child-like mouth shapes and responds. It creates an imagined accompaniment of an orchestral symphony of sounds.
So began my fascination with the tuba some 50 years ago. Danny Kaye's Tubby the Tuba was a firm favourite. I don't really know why; maybe it was the sound of the tuba's deeply flatulent notes that appealed, or perhaps the idea contained within the tale that it is always possible to achieve a personal goal. Tubby rivaled my trusty Teddy for the fickle attention of my young heart, but that was a long time ago.
The years have consigned Tubby to a faded recollection, and until I heard Moorder II, I had scarcely given Tubby a recent second thought. Moorder is an Italian instrumental band that creates unconventional music that is steeped in both jazz and rock. Listening to their second album and latest release has been a thoroughly worthwhile experience.
The deft tuba parts contained in Moorder II have focused and reawakened hazed regrets and reflections of childhood. The quintet utilises to great effect the usual rhythm section of bass and drums, but the addition of the tuba gives the low end of the band an unusual range and innovative sound. Interestingly though, just as Tubby did all those years ago, Moorder's tuba also manages to break free from its rhythmic duties to deliver a melody or two.
In tracks such as, Pipum, Moztri and Mini Spiders, the tuba is the initial foundation on which the expansive guitar parts, or the combination of guitar and trombone is built. On these occasions, and indeed throughout the album, the subtle blend and frequent, fiery jousting of the two main lead instruments is often exhilarating. The fluid, sweet sound of composer and band leader Alessandro Lamborghini's Gibson SG is highly fulfilling and rewarding. His intense fretted flurries offer a perfect foil to the frequent glissandos of the abundantly-talented trombonist Simone Pederzolis.
The flair of these two players is totally apparent in the 12 magnificent instrumentals on offer. Although the pieces in Moorder II are separate compositions, each one appears to perfectly fit the general mood of the album. The tracks cover a range of styles including jazz rock, jazz funk, rock and prog, but all are marvelous examples of composition and ensemble playing. The sound produced is appealingly fresh and original. The players are adept performers and proficient chauffeurs. As such, they are consistently able to take the listener on a satisfying and unpredictable journey across a varied soundscape. Along the way there are considerable shifts of tempo and many different musical avenues are explored.
The ever-changing nature of the journey is soon apparent during the opening piece that is intriguingly titled Jesus Zombie Crew. This track begins with free jazz wailings, which are interspersed with a mournful trombone melody and frantic drumming. It then settles into something resembling a groove, and becomes awash with a vibrant funky ambience. The whole piece is underpinned by some heavenly tuba noodling.
Flat kick firmly gives the listener the impression that Lamborghini is an extremely talented virtuoso guitarist. The mouth-watering quality of the solo which emerges at just past the minute mark is full of raw feeling. His overall style and approach to playing highlighted in this solo and throughout the album appears to be heavily influenced by Frank Zappa.
Like Zappa, Lamborghini uses a rock-based sound in his playing. However, his compositions within Moorder II, utilise the freedom of expression and skills of improvisation that jazz can readily provide. The improvised guitar parts during the excellent Afro Bones were particularly impressive. In this track many diverse influences can be heard, including references to the marching bands of New Orleans. The combination of tuba and trombone creates an earthy, marching band feel on many occasions throughout the release and adds to its overall charm.
The album demands the full attention of the listener. It has an appealing habit of revealing numerous hidden nuances over time. Although the compositions contain immediately accessible features, many of the tracks have an attractive unpredictability. For example, despite frequent listens I continually fail to anticipate a change in direction contained in Mini Spiders. The opening motif is insistently strident, memorable and repetitive. So much so, that I usually find myself involuntarily humming along. To the amusement of my friends and family I consistently get it wrong and continue to hum along to a part that no longer occurs.
The CD is gloriously packaged. The accompanying booklet contains a series of images drawn by comic book artist Simone Cortesi. Moorder II was recorded live in the studio. It sounds wonderful. The dynamic range of each instrument is precisely highlighted by the excellent production values.
As I listened to this progressive, creative and fascinating release, a rueful smile emerged. I was totally enthralled by the exhilarating combination of lead guitar and trombone prevalent throughout much of the album. It was also a smile that was solidly frozen in place by warm reminiscences of Tubby's tale and the endless possibilities of tuba prog rock. Instinctively my older heart was once again seduced by the low end drawl of the tuba.
Moorder II has gone some way to satisfy my fascination with the tuba. I really like this release and have come to appreciate its subtleties and overall majesty. Each track has something positive to offer and is difficult to identify a standout track, although Beef ice with its superb trombone solo and urban guitar riff ranks highly.
And finally, after almost daily exposure to Mini Spiders, you may be pleased to know that I am now able to hum along smugly. I
Alas, the experience of Moorder II has reawakened a long-forgotten regret. I wish my father had not disposed of that yellow vinyl that was resplendently housed in a picture sleeve depicting a rather portly tuba.
Tubby old friend; just for old times' sake, I wish I could spin you one more time.
Owen Davies: 9 out of 10
The Oneira - Hyperconscious
Overture (0:35), Closer (4:36), Puzzle (6:17), Summer Light (4:52), Esoteriko (3:31), Forget Me (6:03), Face the Darkness (4:54), Mater (5:38), In My Mind (5:39), Ocean of Rebirth (5:40)
Filippos and keyboard player Gianpaolo Begnoni form the bedrock of the project, and together wrote the first The Oneira album Natural Prestige a few years ago. Italian drummer Danilo Saccotelli has now been added to the official line-up, with vocals split between three guest singers.
As with the debut, Hyperconscious has been recorded in the Space Lab studios, the German base of well-known prog musician/producer Oliver Philipps (Everon and many more). As well as knob-twiddling, Philipps contributes vocals and some guitar.
As its membership evolves, I get the impression that that is still a band trying to find its own style and sound. It's an odd mixture of tracks. Four are instrumentals, whilst the others feature different textures depending on the singer. I have struggled to really get into a groove with the ever-changing soundscapes.
If I were to suggest in which direction The Oneira's sound should travel, it is based on the fact that I find the songs featuring Philipps' vocals far and away the best. As on the opening single, Closer, this part of the album is very much in the Everon mould, helped by Philipp's distinctive voice, clear melodies and a vocal style which seems to fit the style of the instrumentation.
The other guest lead singer Manuel Ruscigno, doesn't work for me here at all. His accented voice verges on the weak, not helped by being rather indistinctive in the mix and with a melodic sense that doesn't remain in my brain. The fact that his vocals are credited as being recorded elsewhere, adds evidence to the case for a lack of coherence. Charlotte Wessels (Delain) merely adds "vocals melody" on the instrumental track In My Mind.
That's not to say that there are not many impressive moments on this album. The drumming is crisp and there are some particularly impressive guitar bursts. Fans of Everon and Enchant and other such bands, which tread that line between art rock and neo-prog may warm to this more. It is a very solid album, but as a whole it lacks enough killer moments to leave me with a lasting impression.
Andy Read: 7.5 out of 10
Ozric Tentacles - Technicians of the Sacred
CD 1: The High Pass (8:23), Butterfly Garden (5:04), Far Memory (7:10), Changa Masala (6:04), Zingbong (8:26), Switchback (10:11)
CD 2: Epiphlioy (11:49), The Unusual Village (6:20), Smiling Potion (7:12), Rubbing Shoulders with the Absolute (8:36), Zenlike Creature (9:54)
CD 2: Epiphlioy (11:49), The Unusual Village (6:20), Smiling Potion (7:12), Rubbing Shoulders with the Absolute (8:36), Zenlike Creature (9:54)
I received a single promo disc missing two tracks (a weird decision from the label) but fortunately I managed to get hold of those two tracks with some help from my colleagues. Can I name some bands more psychedelic than the Ozrics? Hardly. Listening to their music or witnessing them live is like a spiritual experience, an escape to a distant world where just about anything can happen. Is it dance music for proggers and hippies? Is it psychedelic guitar rock for ravers?
The band have created their own genre from the start (though heavily inspired by Gong and Steve Hillage), and are still going strong after so many years and countless line-up changes. It's a remarkable accomplishment. The Ozrics don't seem to get tired of touring and making albums, and there doesn't seem to be a reason to quit doing so.
While the band have released some stellar albums that were heavy on organic progressive rock, that ranged from ethereal to explosive (Erpland, Jurassic Shift and Arborescence for instance), the balance has gradually shifted towards a more electronic sequencer-driven sound, with live drums becoming more rare with each subsequent album.
Some fans weren't too pleased with that, but this time there are more live drums, which I personally applaud the band for. Unfortunately, the drum recording itself sounds rather dull and it sits too low in the mix. That is a real shame, for two reasons. The first is that this music relies heavily on groove, and the second is that new recruit Balazs Szende is an excellent drummer who deserves to be heard. There is some tasty cymbal work on this album, but it's all buried underneath the swirl of synthesised sounds that the band produces. The older albums had more of a rock band energy. This album most definitely doesn't have that, apart from a track like Epiphlioy, which is one of the more identifiable 'old school' Ozric tracks, and the definite highlight of the album. Spiced with middle-eastern acoustic guitars (reminiscent of fan-favourite Saucers), over a demanding 7/4 groove, before a signature 4/4 Arabic-flavoured hard rock riff takes over, it is one of the strongest tracks they've put out in years.
The album opener The High Pass perfectly sets the stage for this album, with its calculated mix of programmed electronics, a killer drum and bass groove, and a few truly awe-inspiring guitar solos. Changa Masala is another nice track, highlighted by some exquisite, exotic, rapid-fire acoustic guitar solos. These tracks reveal the never-ending exploration of the band, even though the end result, all too often sounds like something we've heard before from the Ozrics. This is actually quite understandable after a career of 30 years.
On this album the band continues very much in the trance-y direction, but the rhythmic design, the bass lines and guitar playing are top notch. It can be an overwhelming listen, and can at first seem aimless, but after a couple of listens, those seemingly unimportant melodic figures become hooks, and before you know it you're entranced by the spiritual powers the Ozrics possess. It's a lot of material, but with this kind of music, more may actually be more. I could sure do without some tracks (Butterfly Garden is a perfect example of how anonymous and messy the band can sound), but this highly danceable album should leave a smile upon many faces.
Even though the songs are more mantra-like than ever (the band is perfectly happy doing endless modal jams), the melodic ideas are constantly of a high quality. After so many years, Ed Wynne is still on top of his game, showcasing a wide variety of guitar techniques and world music-influenced rhythms and melodies.
With Technicians of the Sacred, Ozric Tentacles have release their strongest set of tunes since quite a while, and it's a pleasant reminder that they are still alive. Extremely psychedelic, well-executed and suited for either deep examination or pleasant background music, this is another good release from the band.
Fans will highly enjoy this. Those new to the Ozrics would do better to check out some of their 90s material, as those albums have a clearer musical direction and a tighter, more organic sound.
(Footnote: Ex-DPRP member Ed Sander did a truly excellent special on the Ozrics back in '99. It is a great read and is still available on this website. You can find it here: www.dprp.net/reviews/ozric.html)
Karel Witte: 8 out of 10
Posto Blocco 19 - Motivi di sempre
A un passo dal cielo (suite 1)(4:07), E la musica va (5:13), All'alba del giorno dopo (6:48), Scandendo il tempo (7:02), A un passo dal cielo (suite 2) (4:49), bonus track L'ultima acqua (7:21)
The opener, A un passo dal cielo (suite 1), is simply perfect. It's a feisty, instrumental, led by bold electronic keyboards (with a nod to Rick Wakeman) and power drumming. As an opener should, the tune stands on its own but also creates excitement for what is to come.
Equally sprightly, except for the mellow introduction, is E la musica va. The song offers wry-toned vocals, myriad time shifts, and again, forceful keyboards. All'alba del giorno dopo bursts out of the gate but quickly mellows, featuring female vocals and center-stage guitar. Also of a slower tempo is Scandendo il tempo. This tune, which includes lofty and intermittent female vocals, builds steadily until, after a dark-toned segment, the interaction between keyboard and guitar hits a high.
A driving, catchy beat and a punchy bass stand out in the latter part of the heady, wholly instrumental A un passo dal cielo (Suite 2). The bonus track, L'ultima acqua, is a real gem. Showcased in the song are evocative vocals, replete with marvelous Italian tongue rolls. The guitar and keyboards again sync' particularly well, and the cutting guitar solo that carries the piece to its conclusion is rousing.
The production quality fits the musical style. Although the vintage sound is on the dull side, it's not muddy, and each instrument can be heard clearly. The vocals come through with relative crispness.
In short, this is an outstanding CD in all regards. The writing and playing are stellar, and there's a real attention to detail throughout. Indeed, each successive spin has quickly cried out for another. Fans of vintage Italian prog, or any symphonic prog, really should take notice of this highly satisfying piece of art. Time for another listen.
Joel Atlas: 9 out of 10
Proteo - Republikflucht! ...Facing East
Echoes Mankind (Pt.2) (9:22), Berlin (12:55), Eastern Fields (11:52), Funny Girls Playing Double Dutch (3:04), Four-Leaf Clover (10:37), Republikflucht (10:54)
Formed by Marco Paulica (guitars, vocals, keyboards, and programming) the band have remained in a stable line up since their first album Under a Red Polar Light with excellent lead guitarist Matteo Copetti, bassist Alessandro Surian, and drummer / percussionist Alessandro Surian.
"In spite of everything, flowers break the ice" is a line from opening track Echoes Mankind (Pt. 2) and sums up mankind's determination under extreme situations, which is one of many well-written lines of lyric that permeate this album. Not for first time I'm knocked out how well Europeans cannot only speak English but can write in such a poetic manner. Anyway, musically this band are basically a guitar band but subtle keys and programming add colour to this pop/prog and at times funky band.
Said opening track (after some sub-woofer punishment from some "noise" thing!) tells the listener the type of music this band play with the interplay of rhythm guitar and a lead that often dips into what would have been a solo keyboard with the arpeggio style approach.
My ears prick up on next track Berlin where the drumming, and its great ride cymbal motif, drive this light pop rock track along. Again, the lead guitar is terrific, together with the 80's Rush inspired chording from the second six string. Bassist Alessandro Surian show his chops here too.
Eastern Fields introduces a background organ sound to the layers, with the band sounding very tight. Copetti's guitar now has a jazzy timbre evoking shades of Steely Dan and new British band Tin Spirits (who also have a two guitar line up), it's just a pity that the vocal is a little low in the mix - the singing is fine and could be louder. I also have to re-mention the drumming and percussion, which really lift this track and the album as a whole .
After shortest and ukulele led Funny Girls Playing Double Dutch, Four Leaf Clover is a great ten minutes of almost Camel like playing (replete with a couple of actual keyboard solos), and a lovely major key outro on the Andy Latimer inspired guitar. It is truly uplifting despite it's subject matter re-telling the story of young construction worker (Peter Fechter) who lost his life attempting escape.
Republikflucht (the track) finishes the album and concludes a well produced and enjoyable piece of music. The rhythm guitar has undertones of Andy Summers during his Police period and song wise it speaks of the ultimate freedom that the fall of the Berlin Wall represented. There's a classic prog ending with a great solo which pays homage to "Auferstanden aus Ruinen" (the national anthem of the German Democratic Republic) with a hint of choir in the mix that all adds to the impact.
This band should be listened to and deserve a much wider audience. I note that this CD came out in 2013 so might have slipped through the net for most music lovers, well I'm pleased that its been re-caught and I conclude that this wonderful album should be purchased as an essential addition to your collection.
Andrew Halley: 8.5 out of 10