Album Reviews

Issue 2016-063: Flute Prog Special, Part 2

Flute Prog Special, Part 2

Fläsket Brinner - Swedish Radio Recordings 1970-1975 [4CD]

Fläsket Brinner - Swedish Radio Recordings 1970-1975
Country of Origin: Sweden
Year of Release: 2003
Time: 49:27, 41:14, 67:46, 36:40 (total 207:43)
Track List:
CD 1: Mäster Beautiful (9:59), Bosses Låt (11:47), Gunnars Dilemma & Tysta Finskan & Virgo2 (15:20), Telegram Från En Bombad By (4:40), Gulan (7:41)
CD 2: Jätten Feeling (7:37), Sluttningar (Lek I Nedförsbacke) (7:13), Batum (4:01), Storstad (5:50), Sonic ReEntry (1:17), Turkish Lullaby (11:59), Tamzara (3:17)
CD 3: Jätten Feeling (6:14), Storstad (4:42), Sonik ReEnry (1:10), Wild Thing (5:18), Samba Martinez (8:52), Ball På Bali & Erik Luras (9:55), Bullen & Erik Luras Igen (14:38), Turkish Lullaby (7:13), Lothlorien & Elidor & Bengans Boogie (5:26), Gånglåten (9:36), Red River Rock (3:32)
CD 4: Aquarius (9:52), Grasse (9:15), Kinaspel (12:14), Barbarella (3:07), La Resa Dei Conti (5:18)
I was always curious why the cover of Fläsket Brinner's debut release had an image of a pig surrounded by fire, and similarly, why their Swedish Radio Recordings box-set contains a comparable image. It was only while doing some research for this review, that I realised that the translation of Fläsket Brinner is, the pork is on fire. No doubt, that is why pigs in various guises adorn the band's album covers.

This four-CD set is a wonderful anthology of the band's Swedish Radio Recordings. Each of the four discs showcases the band live, and illustrates Flasket Brinner's wonderful, collective expertise and highly skilled improvisational talents. Disc 1 of the set features a session produced for the radio show Jazz bl.a. and was recorded on the 26th October, 1970. Disc 2 features the band from October 1971. This recording was created for the same radio show. Disc 3 features the band playing for the radio show Midnight Hour, on December 13th, 1971 and disc 4 features a concert from the 24th September, 1975 for the radio show Tonkraft.

Fläsket Brinner released two albums in 1970 and 1971, and their music is an invigorating mixture of styles. I have always held their particular brand of melodic, largely-instrumental fusion close to my heart. Their approach is sure to satisfy readers who like distorted, fuzzed guitar, organ and energetic interplay between the saxophone and the flute.

Fläsket Brinner's tunes are highly melodic, and traditional Scandinavian folk melodies are often used as a basis for their lengthy improvisations. This gives the band the opportunity to create some outstanding and expressive jam-based psychedelic music. Their music is flavoured with the complexity of progressive rock and seasoned with the essence of folk. Above all else though, it is created with the freedom of spirit and expression, that jazz provides.

Many Swedish bands cite Fläsket Brinner as an influence, including Grovjobb and Anekdoten. The interest for progressive flute lovers is confined to the first and fourth discs. However, the interest for progressive music aficionados is maintained throughout, by the overall excellence of the band's enthusiastic and energetic approach. This continues unabated throughout all four discs. The box-set is a great place to start, if you want to become fully immersed in what this wonderful band can offer.

In the first disc, and in the opening number Master Beautiful, the flute emerges after just one minute. The sound of the silver instrument begins in a hesitant manner; this after all is a live performance. Nevertheless, within a few moments, Sten Bergman is in his stride, delivering some fine, expressive notes. In the second piece, Bosses Lat, the bar is raised. Bergmen steps up a gear, and from then on provides some rousing solos and head-turning flourishes. Whilst perhaps not the most technically gifted of the flautists highlighted in this feature, Bergman's empathy to the music, and his ability to complement the other players, is never less than impressive.

In Bosses Lat, the extravagant playing of Bergman is a real highlight. It playfully stutters and barks with exaggerated aggression, as it duels and competes with Gunner Bergsten's thrusting saxophone. Consequently, the piece is a totally engaging flute-rock extravaganza. The extended jam structure, underpinned by the organ, and overseen by the creative blowing of Bergmen, gives all the players freedom to express themselves. It also features some wildly macho sax parts, which act as a perfect contrast to the heavily soiled and fuzzed guitar work. These ingredients create a whole experience that swings. It is bursting with energy and dripping with quality.

The unrestricted and often exhilarating flute-fest continues in the wonderfully accessible Gunnars Dilemma & Tysta Finskan & V. This piece witnesses the emergence of a silver-tongued behemoth, where once again Bergman excels; firstly, in his highly improvised, folk-inflected solo, and later when accompanying the other band members. The whole band ignites, to create a rhythmic, psychedelic backwash against which the formidable organ pulsates in overdrive. This adds to the band's overall potency. Later, when the pace of the music slackens and an ornate melody takes over, Bergman shows that his instrument's voice can float, kite-like, upon the drifting sound thermals created by the band. All too soon, this melodic approach is jettisoned, and the flute saturates the listener in a furious flurry of twisted, distorted sounds.

Gunnars Dilemma & Tysta Finskan & V is totally absorbing. During its 15 minutes duration, every aspect of it melds beautifully into place. The guitar and organ interplay is stunning. It just adds to the excitement, and to disc 1's overall wow factor.

I just love this box set, especially disc 1. I always have, and I guess I always will. So unleash the pig and forget about the roasted pork. This band is on fire, and the flute work is gloriously molten.
Owen Davies: 8.5 out of 10

Gotic - Escenes

Gotic - Escenes
Country of Origin: Spain
Year of Release: 1978
Time: 36:59
Track List:
Escenes de La Terra en Festa I de La Mar en Calma (4:02), Imprompt I (5:53), Jocs d' Ocells (3:33), La Revolucio (4:08), Danca d'Estiu (3:30), I Tu Que Ho Veies Tot Tan Facil (5:39), Historia d' una Gota d' Aigua (10:14)
Those readers familiar with DPRP reviews of Gentle Knifes (review here), Halo Tora (see review here), Shamblemath (review here) and Endless Season (and review here) albums , will be aware of the predilection of my neighbour, Mr. Addfwyn Cyllell, towards progressive rock.

In response to his insistence that everything in progressive flute music begins and ends with Ian Anderson, I decided to try to gently expand his flute prog horizons. Furtively, over the garden green fence, I handed over my copies of Capitolo 6's Frutti per Kagua, De De Lind's debut album and Fläsket Brinner's first disc of their Swedish Radio Broadcast boxset.

His verdict was, as you might expect, somewhat predictable. The introduction of Italian-sung vocals was a step too far, and he muttered something about how ridiculous it was for me to have lent him something which he could not understand. He then went on a long tirade about "that Swedish band whose unstructured music stretched out way too far and did not have any songs". He was insistent that I should include his favourite bands, The Moody Blues, Genesis and also Jethro Tull in any series of reviews on the use of the flute in progressive rock. He was also convinced that the flautist in each album I had lent him, was merely copying Ian Anderson.

I tried in vain to reason with him, suggesting that he should listen to Roland Kirk, Harold McNair, Bob Downes, or even Jeremy Steig, but his mind was set. In the end, he relented and asked if I could recommend any flute-led prog that included a flautist that did not sound like Anderson. With a smile on my face, I passed him my digital player containing a copy of Gotic's Escenes.

This album has always had great significance. It was the first music I heard after having my hearing restored by an operation to fashion a new ear drum. After despondent months of distorted muffling, I clearly remember the overall effect of Gotic's symphonic masterpiece. Above all, I still recall the vivid images, created by their beautifully-scented music.

Gotic were from the Catalan region of Spain, and to my knowledge Escenes was their only release. It was made available in 1978. It was later re-released on CD, but a physical copy is rarely available, and extremely expensive. I purchased a download copy some years back. It is a gentle, laid back album that is awash with luxuriant keyboards and floating, flute-led melodies.

Within Escenes there are also hints of the symphonic and pastoral elegance that can be found in much of Camel's The Snow Goose. Escenes is instrumental and lushly symphonic in style. Acoustic guitars and distinctive organ work underpins much of the album's more reflective passages. The expressive electric piano playing of Jordi Vilaprinyó is a particular highlight throughout. Flautist Jep Nuix skilfully excels, and has a deftness of approach and a finesse that perfectly fits the style of the music. At times though, I wish that he would abandon his pure tone and introduce a degree of spittle humming aggression into the mix.

There are also some brief, yet tasteful electric guitar parts, which dress proceedings with some contrasting and necessary power. From time to time, folk influences take centre stage, as in the handclaps and dance beats present in the pipe section of La Revolucio. Many parts of the album also display the delicacy of touch, mix of styles, and refinement associated with bands who ply a Canterbury style of music. This is particularly evident in the jaunty, jazz-inflected meanderings of Imprompt.

Overall, Escenes is a wonderfully evocative album. I know from my own experiences, that if you allow its delicate fronds to enter your heart, it has the ability to glide the listener to enchanting places. I am glad to have been regularly carried, on its drifting breeze, to many colourfully alluring and imaginary destinations.

I have to admit, that as I complete this review, I have not seen my digital player, nor Addfwyn, for days. I am left to ponder where the sweet tones of Gotic's Escenes might have transported him.
Owen Davies: 8.5 out of 10

Lisker - Lisker

Lisker - Lisker
Country of Origin: Spain
Year of Release: 1979
Time: 35:08
Track List:
Kalean festa (5:18), Amets jazarriak (6:41), Bakardade tristea (6:38), Garajeko melodia (7:25), Eldarniotik iheska (9:06)
I pondered for a while whether or not to include Lisker's self-titled debut in this series of reviews of albums that feature the flute. They certainly tick all the right boxes, and have just the right tension between the lead flute and guitar to make their music, on the face of it, appealing. The growling-styled sound of lead guitarist Julian Alberdi adorns each track and the flute is enthusiastically played by Jesus Gill. Both these players have a good chemistry, and that is exhibited in Lisker's music. They compliment each other, and the passion of their performance more than makes up for any compositional or stylistic weaknesses.

The album is important in any overview of the role of the flute in prog, as it represents one of the few prog albums to emerge from the Basque region of Spain in the 70s.

I really liked this album when I first purchased it many years ago. Since then, my tastes have changed and I have become somewhat ambivalent to its charms. It is not that it is a bad album, in fact it possesses qualities that many readers may well find appealing. These include lengthy tunes, with accessible melodies. It has not however aged particularly well, and by today's standards is somewhat lacking in sophistication. The relatively poor production values of the recording only serves to emphasise the unrefined nature of the band's overall performance and compositions. Nevertheless, it is an album that is on the whole entertaining, and never less than interesting.

Lisker was released in 1979. The band came from Eibar in the Basque region. After winning a competition in Basauri Rock, they were invited to record an album. Their musical career was cut short by military service. Their one and only album consists of five compositions and lasts a mere 35 minutes.

Two of the pieces, Kalean festa and Bakardade tristea, feature vocals sung in Euskara; but even within these pieces, the music is predominantly instrumental. Lisker's music has some folk influences, most notably in the flute accompaniment to the slower parts of Bakardade tristea. Some of the tracks are also underpinned by an attractive acoustic guitar accompaniment. The acoustic guitar jig in the middle of Eidarniotik iheska briefly hints at some of the band's home region influences. This influence is further emphasised in the lovely acoustic guitar passage which gives the second half, of the album's concluding piece, a warm and authentic Basque feel.

The album as a whole is a rather more rock-centred affair. The fuzzed guitar creates a wall of sound that is contrasted and resolved by the melodic trilling of Gill. These elements forge together, to form a distinct image. The heavy reliance on the use of a distorted guitar effect, means that on occasions, Lisker sounds like a melodic version of Tanger. Overall though, their identifiable sound and approach is probably more steeped in the early 70s and is akin to Triode. The band's spirited playing makes it relatively easy to picture the day that they won at Basauri Rock.

Visualise a youthful, spotlighted guitarist, dripping in head-band-encrusted sweat. He is accompanied by a bustling flautist. The guitarist shakes his head appreciatively, as yet another burst of energetic, flute-filled notes are launched. The atmosphere is pungent and the air is saturated with Lisker's particular brand of flute rock.

The final two tracks are probably the strongest, and their length ensures that the music stretches out. Garajeko melodia offers a number of satisfying changes in tempo and is about as progressive as the band gets. The piece even contains a jazz-influenced section which joyfully swings along, to give an overall illusion of unpredictability. Before long, any notion of unpredictability is dispelled, as this section is toppled. Once again, there is a return to the secure sound of a persistent guitar, accompanied by the cutting edge of Gil's ever-present flute.

Lisker is an album that should appeal to those who enjoy a straightforward approach to prog. It is not too demanding, but yet still has enough subtleties and points of interest to maintain interest.
Owen Davies: 6.5 out of 10

Bandhada - Bandhada

Bandhada - Bandhada
Country of Origin: Chile
Year of Release: 1984
Time: 48:57
Track List:
La Septima Casa (7:00), Amores De Un Noble Caballero (3:14), Expreso A Corea (4:30), Bien, Gracias (6:44), El Vuelo Del Hada (6:33), Rompiendo La Soledad (8:34). Bonus Tracks: Algo Mas Que... (5:37), Toque de Midas (6:45)
If you enjoy the music of Chick Corea's Return to Forever, but wished that they had retained the flute throughout their recorded output, then you may well find much to appreciate in Bandhada's self-titled debut.

The flautist is Juan Carlos Neumann. He is technically highly adept, and his tasteful playing is a major feature throughout. Neumann has a fluid style and a purity of tone that could even be compared to Joe Farrell. On occasions though, I wish that he would abandon this approach and adopt a more edge-of-your-seat flute rock style.

Indeed, by the time of Bandhada's second album, Open Cage was released in 2009, the flute was no longer an integral part of their sound. In its place, Carlos Dominguez played the saxophone and this marked the overall development of a more muscular band sound.

Their debut album was originally released in 1984, and although the band hails from Chile, any listener would probably be inclined to think of them as a jazz rock outfit with Latin leanings, rather than a South American styled band. This aspect of the band's sound and approach is arguably slightly disappointing. Their music would no doubt have been more memorably unique if they had introduced some Chilean folk influences into their arrangements and compositions.

Because of this, some may find that their work compares unfavourably with their fellow countrymen such as Ergo Sum, who were to introduce an occasional ethnic feel into some of their unique brand of powerful, metallic flute-led rock years later. Nevertheless, if you wish to hear quality flute-led jazz rock, impeccably played, then you need look no further than Bandhada. Their album is awash with quality.

The studio portion of Myoldon's 2004 re-issue presents six bright, upbeat tunes. These are carefully composed and superbly performed. The disc also contains two live bonus tracks recorded in 1984. The flute takes centre stage on many occasions, providing flowing solos or tastefully constructed soaring embellishments. Nevertheless, all of the players involved are highly skilled performers.

The keyboard work of Alfonso Feeley is particularly engaging. The similarity of his approach and style to that associated with Chick Corea is never far away, and this influence is easily discernible. Feeley provides flowing electric piano parts that greatly enrich much of the music. His synthesiser solos sway with skill and emotion, to offer a range of sounds to fit the mood and structure of each of the intricately arranged pieces.

In this respect, the construction and near-perfect execution of many of the tunes, have the hallmark changes of tempo and dynamic subtleties associated with RTF. Although it must be said, that in their debut, Bandhada never quite attain the explosive, hard-hitting mixture of rock and jazz that RTF achieved throughout their career. Whilst guitarist Carlos Chung plays in a similar style to Al Di Meola, and provides many comparable Latin flourishes and impressive embellishments, his overall approach does not have the ferocious frenetic fluidity that Di Meola achieved when in full flight.

The most satisfying composition of the album is the band's tribute to Chick Corea Expreso A Corea. The qualities in this piece, make it the stand out track for a variety of reasons. The structure enables all of the players to have an opportunity to express themselves individually and as a team. It is one of the few tracks where the bass plays a prominent part, with Philip Clark able to lay down some superb, full-sounding funky bass parts. This immediately gives the piece a different and arguably more exhilarating dynamic.

It is also the only piece on the album where Neumann briefly uses a throaty, full-bodied rock style. This ensures that for once, the flute part sharply contrasts with the style that is so evident elsewhere. On this occasion, it is able to cut through the band's complex arrangements, with just the right amount of testosterone-filled anger, to briefly grab the full attention of the listener.

Bandhada is an album that I really like. It fully deserves its place amongst the other flute-led albums highlighted in this feature and shows another facet of the use of the flute in progressive music.

It is packed with many appealing qualities and is attractively composed and performed. I just wish that it was a little rawer. A little more edge, would at times add to its charm and make it a near perfect album, and a more exciting experience overall.
Owen Davies: 8 out of 10

Robert Dick - Third Stone from the Sun

Robert Dick - Third Stone from the Sun
Country of Origin: USA
Year of Release: 1993
Time: 44:33
Track List:
Third Stone From The Sun (3:58), Greenhouse (6:51), Pali Gap (5:49), It's Still Like It Wouldn't Be Yesterday (8:38), Tycho (5:28), Purple Haze (5:12), Voodoo Child (6:26)
Robert Dick is a master of his instrument. The renowned flautist has been at the forefront of many innovative flute techniques for many years, and has published numerous books on the subject. He has even been involved at the cutting edge of experimental alterations to the design of the flute. One of Dick's patented inventions was the glissando head joint, which as its name suggests, assists flautists to bend notes just as a whammy bar might do in a guitar. This technique is used in Greenhouse. His playing has won him numerous awards and the enviable nickname of the 'Hendrix of the flute'

This is a compliment that Dick surely treasures, as he has long expressed his admiration for Hendrix's electrifying approach to the guitar and also to Jimi's part in helping to define rock music and to expand the boundaries of popular music.

Dick was able to express his admiration in musical form in 1993, when he released his acclaimed Third Stone from the Sun. In the sleeve notes of this release, Dick explains how he had, as a musician, been 'inspired poked, moved and challenged' by the work of Jimi Hendrix. Third Stone from the Sun features Dick's interpretation of four of Hendrix's tunes. The remaining compositions were penned by Dick, and are all in some way inspired by aspects of Hendrix's spirit, or musical compositions.

The Hendrix numbers are dragged, kicking and screaming, to be transformed into pieces which are not easily recognisable. Nevertheless, they retain the spirit of adventure and willingness to experiment, that characterised much of Hendrix's approach. Dick is joined on the recording by bassist Jerome Harris, drummer Jim Black and the Soldier String Quartet. Two guests are also featured on the album's title track, where Shelley Hirsch provides a disembodied spoken vocal and Marty Ehrlich can be heard on clarinet.

As one might expect, Dick plays a variety of flutes to create a widely colourful palette of sounds. He also uses extensive overdubbing in his multiphonic approach. In the course of the album, Dick uses a multitude of techniques to create flute sounds that are enchanting, but often menacing. These include circular breathing exercises and a variety of vocalisations. Incredibly, there are no electronically altered flute sounds on the recording. Despite this, Dick's outstanding technique and innovative approach manages to produce an array of sounds that are the flute-based equivalent to the electric guitar wizardry of Hendrix. This creates an avant-garde collection of progressive music that straddles an uneasy boundary between free jazz and jazz rock. Whilst Dick's extraordinary performance is rarely accessible, it is always totally absorbing.

Many years ago, I remember being enthralled by Gil Evans 1974 release Gil Evans plays the music of Hendrix, but Dick's cutting-edge take on Hendrix's tunes is on a different level.

My favourite piece, and incidentally the one that is probably the most instantly recognisable, is Pali Gap. I have always found that tune alluring, and Dick manages to maintain much of its charm. The track which follows, It's still like it wouldn't be yesterday, is a mysterious cacophony of overdubbed flute sounds that only the most open-minded might find appealing. Nevertheless, it is a master-class in free experimentation. The piece's novel structure provides a platform for Dick to create an alternate, mysterious soundscape that is mined with huffing and percussive flute techniques.

In the highly percussive Tycho, the Soldier String Quartet emerges from the shadow of Dick's astonishing performance, to take their place in the spotlight. The piece later develops into some sort of dystopian chamber rock extravaganza, where neither melody nor structure appears to be uppermost in Dick's mind or intentions. Somehow though, by the end of its five-plus minutes, the piece seems to miraculously mesh into something resembling cohesion.

The final two tracks spit and hum with spiteful ease, as both Purple Haze and Voodoo Child are mutated and propelled to an alternative and unearthly dimension. This is a dimension where there is no doubt that the flute is the undisputed ruler, of a world inhabited by instruments of all shapes and tones.

Before hearing Dick's work, I would never have imagined such a world; nor would I ever have considered that the flute could have been used in such an unusual and expressive manner. As the old saying goes, hearing is believing!

Not all listeners will enjoy, or appreciate what Robert Dick attempts to achieve in this album, but they are probably going to be intrigued, or even astounded. I know that I was!
Owen Davies: 7.5 out of 10

Ergo Sum - Ergo Sum

Ergo Sum - Ergo Sum
Country of Origin: Chile
Year of Release: 1997
Time: 39:28
Track List:
Punta de Dama (4:44), Ofuscado (4:29), Angel (5:57), Power II (3:03), Black Jack (3:47), Sol Naciente (7:45) Bonus Tracks : Neuevos Tiempos (4:34), Rompecabeza (5:07)
The Christmas morning sun was glinting, star-like through the cracks of the drawn curtain. As promised, there it was! Stocking peeping, gold-wrapped and waiting to be claimed. The unfurling began. Swathes of paper were disrobed, to reveal the orange cover inside the plastic casing. Then it all went wrong!

I had enjoyed Chilian band Ergo Sum's debut so much, that I had requested their follow-up disc Mixolidio as a gift for Christmas in 2008. My two lads duly obliged. I noticed their mistake, as soon as I looked at the detail on the cover, but stoically I said nothing. Smiling, I graciously hugged and thanked them.

I had been given a CD of the French band Ergo Sum's 1971 Mexico release. The French Ergo Sum, not only shared the same name as their South American counterparts, but their album cover was also the same, vivid orange colour, and both albums also shared similar names. All comparisons ended though, when I heard the music.

Ergo Sum's Mexico release was unsurprisingly not the full-bodied flute extravaganza that I was expecting. It was instead, an interesting jazz rock affair with a hint of Zeuhl, topped by a vocalist with an inflamed throat. Thankfully, it did contain a modicum of flute to lessen the pain.

Some years later, I obtained Ergo Sum's Mixolidio. Whilst it is, to my ears, infinitely more satisfying than my unfortunate Christmas gift, it has much less of the primal power and gut-wrenching excitement of the Chilean band's self-titled debut.

Ergo Sum was originally released in 1997 and was reissued with the addition of two bonus tracks by the Brazilian label, Rock Symphony in 2001. I have always regarded it highly, and it is an essential album for any readers who might be interested in the use of the flute in progressive music. The flute is an important element of the band's sound, which incorporates metal, folk and a pinch of jazz into their no-holds-barred approach. It swirls aggressively and often brutally, as it brawls for dominance over the metal-styled, yet imaginative guitar work of Alexandros Tefarikis.

The nearest comparison is probably the Peruvian band Flor De Loto, who also create their own unique brand of intense, ethnically-based, interlocking flute and metal-tinged progressive music.

Guitarist Tefarikis is one of those types of players whose technical ability, tone, and speed of approach can bring tears of joy to the listener's eye. His skill is not however limited to metallic shredding, as he often uses a jazz-based sensitivity in his phrasing, and most particularly in his use of the acoustic guitar. The range of effects employed to embellish his work is impressive, and on more than one occasion he delivers the spine-tingling tone associated with Robert Fripp's Frippertonic style.

Flautist Juan Daniel Rios plays with the elegance of Herbie Mann, the virtuosity of Thys Van Leer, and, as is often required, the ferocity that Jeremy Steig is associated with. This is a band that knows how to tear things up, and the chugging, heavy sound achieved, is sometimes the antithesis of the identifiable Chilean folk roots that often lie at the heart of their melodic music. These often-diverse elements help to make Ergo Sum's music such a stimulating experience.

The bass playing of Sebastian Iglesias is a treat, and he brings an adventurous spirit to the bottom-end of the music. His extensive use of harmonics during the introductory phase of pieces, or in the band's brief, quieter interludes, often provides an extra touch of finesse. Ergo Sum has a unique feel to their sound. This is not only achieved because of the great interplay between the lead guitar and the flute, but is also created by the skilful and impressive use of the marimba. The marimba has an integral role to play in the band's overall tapestry of sounds. Its fluid, richly flowing, curvaceous quality adds an extra, contrasting percussive dimension to the album's extravagant bass passages, and its prominent flute and electric guitar parts.

Ergo Sum's impressive debut is not easily described, or written about. It has to be heard, felt and experienced. I hope that after reading this review, you feel inclined to do so.
Owen Davies: 8 out of 10
Album Reviews