Matthew Anderson - Lunar Tide
A Life Lived Above Ground (4:39), Shoreline Son (2:49), Align (4:45), Consession (2:07), Anchor (3:26), East Moriches (3:22), Lunar Tide (5:31), Are You Lost at Sea (3:59), Coventry (3:50), Our Bones (3:53)
But that would still be compartmentalising these songs. Matthew's exceptional instincts elevate this music to an ethereal status. Only here have I heard labored, gravelly vocals (a la Beck) meshed with the musical quirkiness of Radiohead. The result is an immensely enjoyable package. Throw in a touch of folk melody, and you have a unique recipe for some deceptively thoughtful music.
The first track, A Life Lived Above Ground, had me immediately hooked with harmonies straight out of Yes's nautical charts and an infectious odd time beat.
Shoreline Son and Align's piano has a kind of Billy Joel meets Ben Folds Five feel. It's a perfect rhythm instrument as used here. Align really cranks up the Radiohead vibe.
Anchor brings the musical theme back in a creative way, as it will reappear a couple times throughout the songs and works exceptionally well in unifying everything. East Moriches introduces a synthesizer-laden theme (perhaps depicting an orchestrated fog horn) that also gets echoed later.
Are You Lost at Sea has an excellent string arrangement, wonderfully weird compositional choices, and the thematic odd time beat from the first track repeated here.
Coventry is an upbeat folk song by any measurement, but within the context of the track list it's a well placed change of pace. Our Bones wraps things up with frenetic guitars and a tastefully unexpected use of a bass synthesiser.
Having not been provided with lyrics, it's tough to put all the pieces together that would make the overall concept more obvious (aside from the obvious maritime theme). From what I can gleam, it's being used as a metaphor for perpetual change, vastness, uncertainty, reflection, and fate. It will take many more listens to connect all those dots.
The vocals have a certain sameness to them; a droning sort of melancholy that I could see being unappealing to some listeners, and even I was tiring of them after looping the album earlier today. Putting this gripe aside as personal preference, the vocals on a whole are very well performed and many of the backing vocal parts are exceptional in their supporting role, and add significantly to any given song's mood.
There is some hiss/background noise in the vocal parts, most noticeable during quieter passages. This is a very minor issue but does reveal the recording's low-fi roots. On the other hand, the album has a lot of dynamics which really help support the higher energy passages, despite these not involving a ton of instruments, nor instruments you would expect during those moments. For all that might be wrong, there is some nice instrument and mixing choices that make up for those shortcomings, and maybe next time they'll hit a grand slam with a perfectly executed recording.
I see only a bright future on the horizon.
Kevin Heckeler: 9 out of 10
Blast Unicorn - Van Halo
Van Halo (0:55), Just Chillin' (2:06), Abteil (2:05), Gedankenstrich (0:31), Blast Unicorn: Final Exam (4:02), Waterclimber (0:46), Ghostmodern (2:55), König Kaiser Kingdom Castle (3:01), Music Face (0:40), Ausgeburt of Love (2:19), Nonnenfinsternis (3:26), Hack in the City (0:35), Bobtail Builder (2:56), Überhaupt (1:40), Hitfall (0:47), Schattenspender (2:41), King Crumbles (1:16), Godshaped Ice Cream (2:12)
Blast Unicorn is touch guitarist Alexander Paul Dowerk and electronica wiz Tobias Reber. Together these two Germans attack their instruments and laptops with a feral gusto, creating a post-modern mix of furious beats, angular electronics and punishing squalls and screeches that are as unhinged and irregular as anyone could wish for. This is not the kind of music to put on after a hard day at the coalface. No siree!
When things quieten down, as on Blast Unicorn: Final Exam, it is only briefly and in an unsettling manner, before normal service is resumed, and a-rhythmic pulse beats are seared with incendiary blasts of synths and touch guitar.
Reber and Dowerk also dabble in mathematically precise constructs, but the formula is long and complicated. König Kaiser Kingdom Castle is an example, and the conclusion to the formula probably includes the corollary for good measure. Music Face deconstructs to anti-rhythms made from the buzzing of instrument jacks being partly plugged in, before the following The Ausegebert of Love lurches around, playing the part of the lunatic let loose inside a midi interface, with sundry grunts and possibly words coming from one or both protagonists. These must be the "lyrics" that Reber is credited with contributing, but a "song" this certainly isn't.
One has the impression of a soundtrack to a futuristic computer game shoot 'em up, where the enemy is a psychotic robot octopus in the throes of apoplexy.
This album was released on April 1st and I suspect that possibly the joke is on us. While critics stroke their chins and spout forth intellectual gibberish about "art", using some long and deliberately obscure prose they stole from a Will Self article, my wife, who thankfully can't hear this as I type and listen on the headphones, would no doubt succinctly describe Van Halo as a "bloody racket". She's would not be wrong, either. Even my jury is out on this one.
Roger Trenwith: 5 out of 10
Corral - Revenant
The Transcendence (2:21), Music In My Head (5:06), You Game (4:36), Silly Naive (3:41), Lavender Bed (4:07), Myself (7:01), Through the Touch (7:08), Snowy (5:23), His Eyes (6:35)
Revenant does not break any new ground but shows the benefits of this preparation work with a polished collection of songs. Each offers a great vocal melody, with the instrumentation providing plenty of variety, without being over-complex.
Agnieszka Kot has a very seductive tone to her voice, often reminding me of Kingfisher Sky's Judith Rijnveld. She does sound a little strained when she tries to force the power a little bit more, but she certainly has a bright future ahead. So too has Grzegorz Kot, who delivers a series of effective and not-uninventive solos and riffs.
Fans of bands such as Panic Room, Karnataka, and The Reasoning will know exactly what to expect from Corral, with an extra twist provided by that typically Polish neo-prog sound you get from the likes of Moonspell, Collage, and Believe, and early period Delight.
I prefer the shorter and lighter songs from the first half of the album, with Music In My Head having become a real car stereo favourite. The second half of the disc stretches things out a little more and relies a little too much on routine metal riffing. It's more proggy, but not quite so endearing.
Overall though, this is an easy and very enjoyable debut album.
Andy Read: 7.5 out of 10
Lost World Band - Solar Power
The Voyage (5:58), Metamorphoses (3:41), Solar Power (4:24), Detached (3:41), At the Waterfront (3:09), Facing the Rain (3:56), Run That By Me Again (2:16), Nothing (3:13), Tongues of Flame I (5:28), Tongues of Flame (2:54), Your Name (4:04), Swept Off (4:35), Nothing Reprise (0:42)
For many years, I have appreciated the mostly instrumental music of the gifted duo of Didorenko and Solviev, who have been at the heart of Lost World's music since their debut album Trajectories in 2003. The jousting combination of flute and violin in tracks such as, The Feast from their 2009 Sound Source release, and the title track from their excellent 2006 Awakening of the Elements album have always appealed.
The flute is a secondary instrument in these albums, but provides a richly charming aura that warmly embellishes Didorenko's exquisite bowing. The band's compositions are highly structured, and principally centre around the impressive contribution of Didorenko on violin and guitar, and they incorporate a variety of styles including most notably, KBB and King Crimson.
Didorenko and Solviev have an impressive pedigree, as both are classically trained musicians, having met in music-college. Didorenko has released a number of classical solo albums. This pedigree shows in the challenging quality of the pieces and complex arrangements which make up the instrumental parts of Solar Power. It is a subtly-atmospheric release that twinkles calmly in its numerous reflective moments.
There are also frequent energised instrumental passages within this often sparkling album, which has many diverse attributes. Chamber prog aficionados should find much to enjoy and delight-in throughout this release. Sun warmed, bombastic passages enliven and stimulate the listener in tracks such as Solar Power, At the Waterfront and Swept Off. These powerfully intense moments shine brightly, and are awash with layers of inspirational playing.
The eight instrumental pieces of Solar Power are quite outstanding. Of these, Solar Power is probably the highlight. Within its frantic four-minutes-plus running time there are hints of The Mahavishnu Orchestra, King Crimson and KBB. This amalgam and backdrop of styles creates a piece that is stimulating and engaging. The title track has more than enough variation to satisfy a wide audience of listeners who enjoy intensely complex instrumental music.
The piece which follows Solar Power is entitled Detached and is a much more laid back composition. In Detached and also in Tongues of Flame 1 Didorenko utilises a guitar tone associated with Robert Fripp displayed in tracks such as, King Crimson's Astbury Park and The Nightwatch. In the context of Detached this style fits perfectly. The expressively molten guitar tone creates a dark and eerie soundscape. This makes it possible for the listener to visualise any number of scenarios. In my case, Detached invoked a vision of an imaginary isolated cave, where unspeakably dangerous, solar-powered, fire-spitting creatures dwelt.
I also enjoyed the flute flurries present in the opening parts of Swept Off. It is the only track in the album which fully highlights the flute playing of Soloviev. It is full of rhythmic twists and frenetic bowing. The overall feel and style of the piece reminded me of the band's earlier albums. However, it was not able to displace the spaciously languid and gilded notes of Kaleidoscope from the band's Sound Source album, as my preferred Lost World piece featuring the flute.
Unfortunately, the release is somewhat tarnished by the inclusion of five song-based tunes. Although these individual tunes are pleasant enough, they do not explore any unknown musical territories. Generally they fail to excite and collectively they diminish the radiant power of the album, As such they are disappointing and on the whole forgettable. Despite providing a melodic interlude to contrast with the excellence and intricacy of the instrumental pieces, songs such as Nothing and Your Name sound twee and out of place.
Solar Power is a welcome addition to the discography of the Lost World Band. It is an appealing album that particularly rewards some judicious track-skipping. Much of the instrumental music is truly excellent and will no doubt find many admirers. If you have not yet encountered Lost World's style of violin-led prog, then I urge you to check them out.
Owen Davies: 7 out of 10
MoeTar - Entropy of the Century
Dystopian Fiction (2:01), Entropy of the Century (2:53), Regression to the Mean (3:50), Welcome the Solar Flares (3:04), Friday Night Dreams (4:06), Letting Go of Life (4:47), We Machines (4:36), Benefits (3:21), Raze the Maze (2:38), Confectioner's Curse (3:03), Where the Truth Lies (4:49), The Unknowable (6:26)
Firstly, if you are a big fan of they type of music played by the likes of District 97, i.e. modern progressive music with a degree of pop overtones and an exceptional female singer, then you definitely shouldn't just be reading this review, you should be playing the album for yourself! There is a distinct similarity between the two bands but more than enough to differentiate between the two, with MoeTar probably being a trifle heavier in places and being somewhat more adventurous in their arrangements, the remarkable Where The Truth Lies being the prime example. It is all over the place in terms of strange time signatures, crazy layering and complex sections. If the aforementioned District 97 are willing to present their influences by recording a whole album of King Crimson covers with John Wetton, MoeTar should perhaps reunite Gary Green and Kerry Minnear and cover some of Gentle Giant's more accessible numbers.
There is no denying that Dickason is a superb singer, as smooth as silk in the softer passages but with enough power and delivery to break through when the music gets heavy. And how she manages to sing so many words at the end of opener Dystopian Fiction so perfectly without collapsing with exhaustion is amazing. Although main songwriter Ragab is also credited with some singing, it is hard to identify him against the all encompassing Dickason whose backing vocals arrangements are perfect, in places you would need three or four backing singers to reproduce things perfectly in the live arena.
The band are no slouches either, putting together some prime prog rock such as at the end of Regression to the Mean and at the stunning ending to the album with the closing minutes of The Unknowable. Undoubtedly, much to the chagrin of many prog fans who think that the progessiveness of a song can only be effectively determined by its length, only one of the tracks breaks the five-minute mark. That is where the pop sensibilities of the band come to the fore as each piece is perfectly formed and each contains enough variety and sheer excitement to stay just as long as necessary. Even when the band tones things down, such as on Friday Night Dreams, the perfect melodic opening is combined with a jazzy piano solo and a crisp, biting guitar solo. And this is one song where Ragab's vocals do have an effect, echoing and complementing Dickason's lead with aplomb. The one song that Ragab did not write, Benefits by keyboardist Lebofsky, has less intensity than other songs and is a simplet and more straight forward number, is also a real delight and a breathing space before the note, and lyric, intensity of Raze the Maze.
One could go on, but there really is not a weak track on the album, each song is a delight in its own right with a different slant from both the song before and the song after. When things get really manic on the music front one can't help but think of Cardiacs placed through a smoothing filter.
Great stuff indeed and an album that needs greater recognition (and that includes by us here at DPRP who disgracefully left the album unclaimed for review for far too long, a great injustice and apologies to the band). Check it out, you WILL be impressed.
Mark Hughes: 9 out of 10
Parzivals Eye - Defragments
Reach The Sky (12:13), Liar (4:37), Out On The Street (5:37), Long Distance (4:37), Lift Me Up (3:54), Journeys (4:13), Walls In My Mind (9:37), Two Of Us (3:16), No Belief (5:20), Hiding Out (16:24)
This time Postl returns with guitarist Ian Bairnson from Alan Parsons and Magenta singer Christina Booth as full members and influencers in the consolidation of the musical style of the band. We also have RPWL's Paul Rissettio doing an excellent and clean job on drums.
I particularly think this work from Postl is the result of mixing musical styles beyond progressive rock, as we also have clear influences from other genres such as Brit Pop and Space Rock. The latter is obviously the result of the main musical inspiration from Pink Floyd on RPWL. Alongside this, we have notorious musical influences from Genesis (early and newer), The Beatles and even some melodic passages that remind me of Oasis. This enriches the catchiness and seductive sound of this album, making it interesting and easy to listen to.
Postl also pays tribute to his musical heroes by covering Supertramp´s Two of Us and Long Distance Runaround by Yes, both of these beautifully sung by Booth and rearranged in an elegant and sublime way.
I also much liked songs like Reach the Sky, influenced by RPWL and the pop-influenced Liar and Lift me Up, which adds freshness to the album. The early Genesis arrangements in No Belief and Hiding Out also add a notorious influence from classic progressive rock.
There is no surprise that the main concept of this album continues with the one stated in Fragments, which is also based on the tale of the jester Parzival, who rises from fool to king in the Arthurian myth. That is the reason why this album sounds different from time to time, as one notices that it is sometimes fresh, sometimes hard and sometimes intense. This is explained by Postl himself when he says that: "The eye allows the listener to take a look at my inner Parzival." This album is very emotive and makes the listener want to hear it in its entirety.
Defragments is the result of a more mature musical approach from Postl. It is a more intimate and deeper proposal, but one presented accurately and in a friendly way. The mixing is a little flat and too bright, which weakens the overall recording and makes it less strong. We have a nicely crafted album, but one I think could have been better produced.
Guille Palladino: 8 out of 10
Simeon Soul Charger - A Trick Of Light
The Prince of Wands (A Trick of Light) (6:05), Heavy (3:49), Evening Drag (6:20), How Do You Peel (6:17), Where Do You Hide (3:20), Workers Hymn (4:16), The Illusionist (4:38), Jane (A Bird in Flight) (3:22), I Put A Spell On You (6:30), Floating Castles (6:00)
It is a release that revels in its glittering, hook-laden song-writing. This skilful songcraft is abundantly apparent in the strength of the tunes on offer, and the totally empathetic manner in which the band delivers them. The album's production is lush, and captures the energy, versatility and enthusiasm of the band's collective performance. The player's passion for their craft and the quality of the tunes, more than makes up for any perceived lack of virtuoso musicianship and soloing. It also off-sets any pre-determined genre or performance expectations that listeners may have, when listening to the range of tunes in the album.
Simeon Soul Charger has an immediately-recognisable sound, and their music has the enviable ability to seem familiar. It reassuringly has many of the stereotypical hallmarks associated with quality classic rock. The band's overall warm-rock, shape-hugging sound could well draw comparison with Black Bonzo or possibly Gin Lady in tracks such as Evening Drag. However, stylistic similarities to a number of other varied artists can also be suggested. For example, the beginning of Jane (A Bird in Flight) contains vocal phrasings reminiscent of Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven. The middle-eight section of this tune is directly redolent of Jethro Tull's Too Old Too Rock and Roll.
There are even hints of Genesis in the manic chorus of Workers Hymn. Floating Castles drifts along melodically and mystically, before exploding in an unexpected super-charged Dr Feelgood-like rhythmic chorus. The remainder of the piece twists and turns, and is probably the most interesting and prog-like track in the collection.
In a release that overflows with fine tunes, some are particularly enjoyable. Heavy is a clever example of thoughtful song writing. It is a corpulently-attractive, ear-bending and head-turning highlight of the album. The set of skills and feel for melody needed to write such an accessible and weighty classic rock tune was probably immense. Heavy is a belly-bursting, scale-breaking, fully-formed melodic rock tune. It is embellished by some flowing keyboard work, which gives the whole piece an ambience associated with the music of The Doors. Fans of that band would no doubt have been satisfied if Heavy had been a part of its discography.
It is not difficult to imagine a song-smith course using this piece to exemplify the art of song writing. Its use as a model would certainly show how the skilful combination of verse, chorus and repeated phrasings is able to create the basic methodology for a truly super-sized and memorable classic rock tune.
The album also contains two instrumental pieces: Where Do You Hide and The Illusionist. Both work well in the context of a song-based release. The slow, intense, mournful Black Sabbath guitar sound in Where Do You Hide is effective in creating a foreboding mood, but as an instrumental piece it is too plodding to maintain my enthusiastic interest. Similarly, the repetitive riff of The Illusionist, which reminds me of the instrumental guitar band Plankton was passable, but only served to highlight Simeon Soul Charger's strengths in delivering song-based rock songs.
Overall, Simon Soul Charger's third release should appeal to a variety of listeners. It delivers many entertaining moments within its slick, rock-based tunes. Although A Trick of Light rarely challenges or surprises, it is nevertheless a pleasing and competent release.
I have found it to be a wonderful motor car album. Unlike most of the music I attempt to play, A Trick of Light has not been met with cries of intolerant derision and increasingly desperate and frantic pleas from passengers to throw the disc out of the car window. Instead, there is a grudging acceptance of the tunes, the synchronised mouthing of words, rhythmic head rolling and even a hint of co-ordinated finger tapping. If harmonious musical car journeys are now a thing of the past, and you long for a solution, then you could always check out this enjoyable, but often derivative album. I am glad that I did.
Owen Davies: 6.5 out of 10
Solstice Coil - Commute
New Eyes (5:44), Forget You Ever Saw Us (5:20), Shuffle the Cards (6:58), Her Silent Silhouette (4:20), Anywhere (2:25), The Bargain (8:48), Acid Bath (4:31), Meltdown (5:35), An Oldie (But Your Kids Are Gonna Love It) (2:35), Nowhere (6:30)
The album demonstrates a lot of promise for a still young band. The progressive instincts are here, with The Bargain best demonstrating their chops, as it weaves through nearly nine minutes of moods and styles without ever tiring. However, songs like Her Silent Silhouette come up empty when compared to the remaining tracks, and the instrumental Anywhere is weighed down by an imperfect performance and barely adequate production/engineering.
In prog, if you're not inventive or virtuosic, you're a song writing master (Steven Wilson). Since they haven't earned their song writing masters degree, any instrumental short of being especially clever or virtuosic comes up sounding mediocre. The instrumental, An Oldie, later in the album playfully pays homage to that early 70s classic prog sound, and works much better.
There's plenty of rocking moments and songs. Shuffle the Cards is generally a success, and the opening song, New Eyes, certainly brings a lot of energy, although that momentum never completely carries over to the rest of the songs. Nowhere has an inspired performance on lead guitar, while also meshing classic prog and metal very well.
Conceptually there's mostly themes of dark reflection on the human condition, which seem to be as much part of the progressive canon as odd time signatures. What's here is a mixed bag of the adequate and pedantic. Literal song writing, marked by a general absence of original and clever ideas, leaves an empty place, smack in the middle of the music.
Forget You Ever Saw Us is a one example of the hit and miss nature of their lyrics, where the bridges are forced, and the chorus is the perfect, simple hook. Acid Bath lyrically falls on its face with the chorus "All I'm doing/Is trying to float/In an acid bath," which is a shame, since the verses are some of their better writing, and musically it's a fun representation of that wall-of-sound / shoegaze era rock.
Meltdown is filled with lines of a literal and contrived nature. New Eyes tries really hard to be poetic but with no attention to the effect the word choices will have on delivering the lines. "For every day you die of child birth," epitomises these shortcomings. I can't help but think if they spent more time composing the lyrics they would spend less time and effort trying to figure out how to cram them into the music.
It would have also helped to include a lyrics sheet with the digital download, as it's hard to make out what they're singing some of the time (which is yet another issue if you want people to get meaning from your songs).
The mix is plagued with moments of unevenness. There are times where it supports the music, and others when it detracts. They certainly would have benefited from paid studio time and engineers. The overall production quality is reminiscent of a well-done home recording. As a third release in today's digital age, they should have the engineering/mixing side of the equation mastered by now. That said, what's here is certainly serviceable. You can hear most of the instruments most of the time. It's just the occasional lack of clarity and crowded mixing that gets in the way.
This review probably comes off as negative, and I wish it was less so. There's a lot of interesting moments on this record. It's just hard to look past the faults and inconsistencies to give this any more praise than it deserves. I would certainly recommend giving the album a listen, but I'm already looking ahead to Solstice Coil's next release.
Kevin Heckeler: 7 out of 10
U.N.i. - Dreamland
Dremaland (4:42), Stars to Hold (3:24), The Wind (4:37), Tango Inferior (4:21), Soft Rains (5:40), In Meeting Eyes (4:00), The Charm (4:22), A Ghost and a Dream (4:53), Phantomwise (4:10), Buried Love (4:46)
Dreamland is a collection of songs whose lyrics are adaptations of poems by 19th centrury poets Lewis Carroll, Sara Teasdale and Madison Cawein, with The Charm being an adaptation of William Shakespeare's famous Song of the Witches, from "the play that can't be named". That song in particular lends credence to the line on the website that reads "The participation of this "dead poets society" gives the project a unique flavour in its own right...".
Lehtonen composed all the music, which heightens the sense of drama and mystery of the lyrics by being grandly cinematic. Bold but never brash, one can easily imagine this album as the backing to a lavish stage production, with excessive amounts of dry ice!
Given the thespian nature of the music, which draws on folk, classical, dramatic prog, ballroom music, you name it, singer Petra Lehtonen has drawn inevitable comparisons in other reviews to Kate Bush, but I can't see it myself. She has her own style, that has a touch of Julianne Regan, Claire Grogan, Siouxsie, Bjork, and OK, maybe a soupçon of Ms Bush, but the whole is most certainly her own distinctive style.
In conclusion, Dreamland is an enjoyable 45 minutes, though not necessarily "prog" per sé.
Roger Trenwith: 6 out of 10
White Raven - The First Breath
The First Breath (12:42), Second (2:15), Abandoned Dreams (3:15), Be Different (4:53), Silence (3:32), Few Paths, One Story (6:26), In The Deep Dream (2:35), Eclipse (9:46), Rising Dreams (2:00), The Last Journey (4:49), To The Stars (4:51), Who Are You (2:42), Follow Me (4:16), Last But Not Wasted Breath:The First Breath - Finale (11:26)
Unusually it has two covers that both depict a baby still attached to an umbilical chord that seems to morph into tree roots as it reaches the ground or (second cover) the planet Earth. I mention this as the track listing implies a journey through life ending with the last 11:26 of Last But Not Wasted Breath: The First Breath - Finale, maybe a bit like a film script. If that was the case, then this is its soundtrack.
Opening track clearly has hints of Mike Oldfield's more ambient stuff but with the whole thing imbued with the sort of minimalist writing that Hans Zimmer (the film composer) has done in recent years. Having said that, there's no real orchestra here and some of the "pulse" bass sounds can be achieved on any modern synth by just holding down a key!
But that's probably the problem with ambient music today. In the 1970s it was quite a marvel to hear what (for example) Tangerine Dream had done by multi-tracking monophonic keyboards onto 24 track machines the size of a small hatch-back but now we just know it can almost be achieved on a phone...
Silence starts with piano but then has "copy and paste" written all over it. There is that ubiquitous Native Indian chanting that ends Abandoned Dreams and you know it's a sample of something. There is, however, a fuzzy lead guitar sound every now and then, and a welcome acoustic strum on To the Stars but even they sound a little "downloaded" from somewhere.
The album is saved though by that last track but with a "shall we stay and watch the end credits and actually enjoy the music as well" kind of way.
I guess this album might appeal to the acts I have mentioned plus maybe Jean Michel Jarre, but there is a lack of coherency about it which adds further weight to my soundtrack comparison. It's not rock music by any stretch and at times I was actually willing a hard house beat to kick in, as that would at least define its genre.
Andrew Halley: 6 out of 10