Issue 2019-095: Prog Bites

Here at DPRP towers, we frequently receive some interesting albums that whilst not strictly "prog", would be of interest to many of our readers. We sometimes receive albums that have been released in previous years. Also, with so many albums submitted, it is not always possible to find a writer with the time to give every release our usual in-depth review.

So how best can we still bring you news of such releases?

This is an edition of Prog Bites. Each still has all the usual album information and links to samples and videos (where available), but the reviews are much shorter, and we do not award any score.

We hope you will find some great music that you think deserves further investigation.

Alarmist — Sequesterer

Alarmist - Sequesterer
Country of Origin
Ireland
Year of Release
2019
Time
40:11
Samples
District Of Baddies (7:44), Boyfriend In The Sky (3:17), Lactic Tang (5:09), Life In Half Time (4:30), Helical (1:24), Expert Hygiene (4:24), Kalite Quest (3:55), Bronntanasaurus (6:44), Nvymr (3:04)

Sequesterer is the second release from Dublin-based Alarmist and is a satisfying and adventurous instrumental album that has many impressive features. The album draws upon a variety of genres and influences. These include post rock, electronic music and jazz.

Sequesterer is both intricate and cacophonous; similarly, it is by turns, exuberant and reflective.

The band is a trio, and consists of Neil Crowley, Elis Czerniak, and Barry O'Halpin. The compositions are imaginative, and despite their complexity and outstanding technical prowess, they are for the most part pleasingly melodic.

There are many delightful moments in this album featuring frenzied percussive rhythms and a large helping of plopping, pulsating synths. Consequently, the unusual mix of influences ensures that the album frequently has a unique ambience and captivating sound.

One of the most distinctive tracks is Life in Half Time. Somehow, its slow, off-key nature and unique combination of discordant electro sounds suggests that the disparate sum of its parts should not gel. However, it works surprisingly well. Overall, it is a beautiful sparse track, which offers an enticing web of ever-changing sounds.

However, the highlights of the album are undoubtedly Expert Hygiene, which has a memorable motif, and Bronntanasaurus. The longer running time of Bronntanasaurus, gives the band an opportunity to fully explore and develop a number of intriguing, muscular and delicately-spun themes.

Sequesterer is an album that is well worth checking out. It will be particularly satisfying for anybody who has an interest in math rock that draws upon a wide range of influences. It is an impressive release in every way.

Flaw and Order — Evaporated People

Flaw and Order - Evaporated People
Country of Origin
India
Year of Release
2019
Time
39:03
Samples
E Minor Inconvenience (2:15), A Distinct Height Disadvantage (8:40), Odd Counting Disaster (4:33), You Only Lobotomize Once (6:30), Bipolar Bear (7:24), Coulrophobia (3:44), Pretty Tight Snare Drum (5:42)

Evaporated People chugs and fizzes along at a fine rate. It offers an oddly satisfying mix of poly-rhythms with rock-like embellishments. These elements are presented in tunes that display an intriguing variety of time signatures.

The overall reflective and cerebral mood of the album is altered by bouts of metal, chugging fretwork, which will no doubt leave aging, bearded rockers open-mouthed and gurning, as they whisker-stroke and relive memories of the past.

The brash, rock-filled interludes, evident in tunes like You Only Lobotomize Once, work surprisingly well, but on the whole the rock posturing that is let loose, sits somewhat uneasily, when judged against and alongside the complexity and overall sophistication of much of the album.

In this respect, the concluding piece Pretty Tight Snare Drum, sees the band abandon any hint of subtlety, in favour of an ear-throbbing bombastic blast, designed to test the design limitations of tympanic membranes the world over.

The album arguably succeeds best when it sticks to an identifiable math rock formula. Many of the intertwining rhythms are often simply delightful. Evaporated People also features some enchanting piano intervals. These act as a perfect foil to the album's preferred use of a wash of polyrhythmic guitar sounds. The beautiful piano parts also offer an ear-friendly embrace, which helps to counterbalance the strident screech and swirl of cliché rock-ready guitars that regularly frequent the release.

However, there is much to admire about the way in which the band presents an amalgam of styles. Overall, Evaporated People is a very satisfying album. The release has some simply stunning guitar melodies. The manner in which the band is able to layer a canvas of interlocking sounds, to create an trance-like, atmospheric array of ever changing aural delights, is often irresistible.

Grande Fox — Space Nest

Grande Fox - Space Nest
Country of Origin
Greece
Year of Release
2016
Time
55:55
Samples
Strange Situation (6:17), Route 66 (4:35), Burned Beard (7:47), Psychotropic (9:09), Mind Disorder (3:05), Oriental War (7:29), Apopsychosis (8:36), New Beginning (8:44)

I remember hearing Rage Against The Machine for the first time and was amazed at how angry their singer sometimes sounds. Try and imagine this happening for the whole album.

Well, not the whole album as especially the longer songs here have intros of soundscapes and long samples. Some sections are sung in a more regular voice. But the anger is overwhelming. This has an effect on the sincerity of the vocal performance, as it's starting to feel like a gimmick. And there are a lot of the vocals; there are not a lot of instrumental sections.

A stoner foundation with Hawkwind riffing, nu-prog blasts and changes; and a lot of growling and screaming. I like the underlying music, the heavy psychedelic riffing, and speed changes. But my taste prefers more melody.

Beautiful cover! But promotion is not their strong suit. First of all this is an old release: late 2016. We received this without and extra info and worst of all this came in MP3 files that were not numbered and inconsistently named and tagged.

Great Pacific Orchestra — Fragile Things

Great Pacific Orchestra - Fragile Things
Country of Origin
Finland
Year of Release
2019
Time
46:25
Info
Way Back Home (5:15), Jezebel (4:55), Solitude (6:11), Sever The Ties (7:12), …And She Said (6:27), Time Is A Window (6:06), Still Awake (3:42), Fragile Things (7:04)

GPO is a collaboration between six musicians from Finland. As far as I can make out this is a new band and a debut album. An collection of eight genre-hopping (progressive) rock tunes, I have re-entitled it The Good, The Mundane and The Ugly.

The Good: Opener Way Back Home is my favourite for its darkish blend of Anathema and Green Carnation. Solitude is a nice slice of 80s pop prog in the vein of Downes Braide or Mr Mister. There is a lovely switch at the halfway point into a Von Hertzen Brothers rocker. ...And She Said is another bouncy piece of art-rock, before again turning the mirror towards the VH Bros.

The Mundane: Jezebel steps into the realm of dark funk rock, but is spoilt by some out of place shouty vocals. Sever The Ties momentarily mirrors U2 (listen to that guitar after two minutes) amidst some rather ordinary ploddy-rock (think Ra!). Time is a Window does that U2 thing with the guitars, amidst more uneventful pop prog; again the distorted guitar solo and buzzing bass that appears towards the end is out of place. Vocalist Janne Siekkinen has a listenable pop-soft tone to his voice, as shown on the title track, which struggles to shake its pop/rock, verse/chorus formula.

The Ugly is Still Awake. The band ups the pace here, but in the style of a long-forgotten pub band. The scrawly vocals again don't fit.

This album strives to become more than a decent collection of pop-rock tunes by defining "progressive" and "epic" as adding in some unconventional twists and turns. The problem is that the majority of these twists and turns simply do not fit the main song and thus undermine what is otherwise a decent collection of pop rock songs.

Hybridism — Hybridism

Hybridism - Hybridism
Country of Origin
Belgium
Year of Release
2019
Time
31:12
Samples
Nova (4:15), Animal Has Led Us (3:17), Resilience (6:40), Glitch (4:28), Anomalies (5:45), Delirium (6:35)

With their skilfully executed blend of progressive metal, jazz, rock and djent, Hybridism couldn't have picked a better name for themselves. Founded by Jeffrey Ricaille (guitars), this Belgium foursome (completed by Alexis Kaupp (guitars), Marc Muller (bass) and Lucas Billon on drums), offer a dynamic and groovy fusion-ride through atmospheric soundscapes, with many melodic and technical highlights. Instrumental ones at that, for although they have tried several vocalists, they have decided to remain a fully instrumental band.

Right from the off in Nova these guys take control, with heavy, energetic riffs, pounding bass and virtuous drums, while the many rhythmic changes are layered with engaging guitar solos, sparking an instant Semantic Saturation feel. Animal Has Led Us keeps the sensational rocking vibe going, with technical Dream Theater complexities, while djent slowly introduces itself through both guitarists.

This djent exquisiteness follows suite in the laid back Resilience, incorporating some elegant ambient passages, while the powerful Glitch fuses images of Rush and a less industrial Kong. A minor deviation from their so-far heavy groovy approach is Anomalies, focusing towards dreamy hypnotics with exemplary bass work, solid riffs and beautiful, fluxing melodies created by both guitarists. With Delirium, featuring Tomas Raclavsky of Modern Day Babylon on guitars, all ingredients are served up one final time, resulting in a frenzied hotpot of musicality, making you push the repeat button shortly after.

With a divine mix and superb, clean and crisp sound this playful EP leaves a strong and solid impression, making me look forward to their next instrumental steps. Indeed there is need for vocals in this exciting musical divergence.

Intoxicate — Cross Contamination

Intoxicate - Cross Contamination
Country of Origin
Sweden
Year of Release
2019
Time
45:53
Samples
Caravan Of Hate (6:57), Cross Contamination (5:33), Inertia (5:24), Crawling Forward (5:00), Doors And Corners (3:39), Eyes Unwilling (6:14), Posthumous Posthuman (9:28), Retention Rumba (3:38)

Intoxicate hail from Sweden, a country known for its vast repertoire of metal bands, so the guys have a high bar to reach. After forming in 1988 and then going on hiatus in 1991, they reformed in 2014 and brought out an EP, before now arriving with their debut album, Cross Contamination with a view to bringing their style of prog-infused thrash metal to the masses.

The album kicks off with Caravan of Hate, a near seven-minute long “thrashterpiece”. It is fast, heavy and melodic. It kind of sounds like old school Megadeth, but with hints of that Scandinavian influence sprinkled on it.

The album continues on with this pace, being an unrelenting slab of hard-hitting metal. Filled to the brim with riffs, guttural vocals and machine gun bass drumming, it is a textbook example of good quality thrash metal.

Posthumous Posthuman is a nine-and-a-half-minute epic that brings a dark and foreboding tone to the album. Slow paced, full of a feeling of impending destruction, and accompanied by many top-notch melodic riffs. It is probably the standout track for me.

An abundance of technical guitar and drum work mixes with lyrical themes of science, technology and nuclear devastation. It is an ideal soundtrack to a heavy metal post-apocalyptic world.

There isn't a huge amount more to say in all honesty. The album is just simply eight tracks of good quality and well written thrash metal. If you are a fan of pre-2000s Megadeth or bands like Vektor then you should check these guys out.

OT&DO — At The Place

OT&DO - At The Place
Country of Origin
Russia
Year of Release
2019
Time
31:41
Info
Samples
Sonata (5:17), Countdown (5:47), May I (3:39), Night with You (3:24), Circus Burnt (3:04), Yalta (4:47), To Yrania (3:54), Road to Caribs (2:49)

Hailing from St. Petersburg, OT&DO are a keyboard-led, jazz-fusion band. At The Place was recorded live in January 2017 and was only released in 2019. It is a shame they have waited so long, as this is a collection of loose-limbed jazz-fusion tunes that, at half-an-hour, never outstay their welcome. They leave at least one listener wishing it was a bit longer.

The sound is built around the electric piano and piano of leader and composer Sergey Gorchaninov. For the first five tracks OT&DO operate as a trio, with Stanislaw Rybinski on bass and Nikita Petrov on drums. Then they are joined by Pavel Voronkov's saxophone and Ruslan Sobinin's guitar. Their combined talents make for a lithe mix of Stanley Clarke's and Weather Report's fusion. In the tracks that bookend At The Place, the keyboard quotes from Weather Report's track Black Market.

There are the occasional mishaps as this is a raw live recording, but it only adds to the well-captured ambience. There are progressive touches to May I and I would have liked to have heard OT&DO explore more in that direction. The addition of sax and guitar give extra colour to the final three tracks. I wish they had given themselves time to be more expansive with their improvisations, as they seem a bit constrained by the short running times of the tracks.

The band have lovely touches throughout the short, but enjoyable running time. OT&DO's At The Place showcases a band on the cusp of potentially doing something intriguing in the jazz-fusion arena. This album is available as a free download at Bandcamp.

Matti Saarinen — Grímsey

Matti Saarinen - Grímsey
Country of Origin
Finland
Year of Release
2019
Time
37:57
Samples
Etude (4:17), Easy M (4:01), 2/3 (5:54), Sál (3:37), Unknown (4:08), Backpackers(3:31), Western Sky (5:27), Tortoise’s Wife (3:21), Grímsey (3:55)

There have been many occasions in recent weeks when I have reached for Grímsey. Its superb production qualities and beautiful, laid back melodies makes it an excellent album for reflections upon life.

This all-instrumental album released on the Finnish Eclipse label features the talents of Matti Saarinen (guitar), Joonas Leppänen (drums) and Eero Tikkanen (bass). The release has a similar feel and spacious ambience to some of the classic jazz guitar albums that came out of the ECM stable in the 80s. In this respect, artists as diverse as John Abercrombie and Pat Metheny are on occasions brought to mind.

The tunes are highly melodic. They are not over complicated. The album consistently succeeds; even when the easy-eared nature of the compositions do not always demand a listener's absolute attention. The quality of the playing and the serene, reflective nature of the pieces, makes the whole experience very satisfying.

Some of the tunes, such as 2/3, step confidently outside an accessible jazz-based style, to draw upon a range of interesting influences. The bass solo is particularly evocative and has an earthy appeal. Overall, it's a great piece, full of qualities and influences which defy categorisation. Other tracks such as Sal include beautifully crafted guitar solos, coloured with a delicate hint of the blues.

The album works best when the tempo slows and the players subtly create interlocking thermals of slowly-evolving musical patterns, as in Western Sky and the superb title track. The dreamy, weightless atmosphere created, ensures that the listener can float, hover and stay for a while.

Much of the album has a timeless quality, and its ability to create and establish a calm space to enter and enjoy is impressive in every respect. This makes Grímsey a near perfect companion for those open fire, candlelit, sleeping bag moments of life.

Jere Haakana Varjosto — Jere Haakana Varjosto

Jere Haakana Varjosto - Jere Haakana Varjosto
Country of Origin
Finland
Year of Release
2019
Time
46:18
Samples
DC (5:38), Manwell's Search (8:40), Dash (5:28), Sermon (3:39), Ritual (7:26), Stadion Indie (8:39), I'll Walk You Home (6:56)

Jere Haakana Varjosto's self-named album is a powerful statement of how jazz, that proudly incorporates rock influences, is able to create occasional bouts of uncontrolled limb shaking and short-lived episodes of knuckle rattling. The album contains a persuasive mix of styles where cinematic landscapes, rock-styled pinnacles, and imaginative improvisation all have an important role to play.

The album is an enjoyable showcase for Varjosto's richly toned guitar and considerable fretted talents. Whilst the album will be filed under 'jazz', its easy-on-the-ear range of influences makes it an enjoyable and accessible album.

Varjosto's playing is controlled and melodic. His thoughtful and frequently delightful tuneful embellishments are often the antithesis to quick-fingered shredding for its own sake.

Manwell's Search is one of the most satisfying compositions of the release. In this piece, subtle changes of pace and a chunky rhythm, embellished by piano, are driven to interesting places by a series of bright toned guitar passages. This combination creates a wonderful ambience that is easy to become immersed in. The beautifully crafted, soaring guitar solo in the second half of the tune is particularly impressive.

There were times during the introduction and conclusion of Manwell's Search, when I felt I might have been listening to an out-take from Al Di-Meolas Casino album. On other occasions, such as in the interesting offbeat section of Dash, the flowing piano runs were reminiscent of Chick Corea.

Nevertheless, in tunes such as Sermon, a hint of a blues-based influence peeps through, to give the music a different, more aggressive, purple hue. Some aspects of the excellent ritual were redolent of something that Dusan Jevtovic might have composed and performed. However, in this case Varjosto plays cleanly, without Jevtovic's trademark thick tone and wicked distortion.

The album closes in a tasteful manner with the delicately played and phrased I'll Walk You Home. It's a lovely piece that is a great showcase for Varjosto's tasteful and highly evocative guitar runs.

Overall, Varjosto's début album is an enjoyable experience and would be a welcome addition to the collection of any readers who enjoy melodic electric guitar albums with occasional fiery passages to keep the pot boiling and the whole experience interesting.

Mark Wingfield & Gary Husband — Tor And Vale

Mark Wingfield & Gary Husband - Tor And Vale
Country of Origin
UK
Year of Release
2019
Time
76:03
Samples
Kittiwake (7:24), The Golden Thread (8:18), Night Song (5:48), Tor & Vale (16:27), Shape Of Light (10:41), Tryfan (9:36), Silver Sky (11:59), Vaquita (5:48)

With a running time at well over 70 minutes, Tor & Vale offers listeners a magnificent audio journey through a variety of beautifully coloured, reflective soundscapes that languidly reveal themselves as they evolve, float, flutter and dip and dive.

The quality and excellence of the playing is a consistent standout feature of the release. In this respect, the fluent piano work of Gary Husband offers a rich backdrop for Wingfield's superb choice of varied guitar tones.

The music is for the most-part serene and laid back. Its carefully crafted textures, offer the listener the real possibility of experiencing a range of images forged by the music and inventively created by the mind. Consequently, the wonderful musical patterns and inspiring soundscapes are able to travel freely and easily through the many colourful, crested landscapes of the imagination.

The album is enchanting in every respect. It has an ability to coil itself warmly; so much so, that everyday thoughts can evaporate. Time easily suspends and treads water in the company of its gentle, relaxing embrace.

Wingfield is a very expressive player and he is able to make his guitar communicate in ways other guitarists can only imagine. There are times when it growls with pent-up emotion, there are times when it trills with ecstasy and there are times when it howls with an outpouring of emotion. Above all, the varied tones and vibrant embers displayed, are never less than captivating.

The tracks on offer are both composed and improvised. However, it is hard to ascertain which ones were composed beforehand and which are improvised. This is no doubt a consequence of the involvement of two outstanding musicians, who prefer not to stick within rigid tramlines, even if the piece's direction is predetermined.

Consequently, much of the music on offer presents a sense of freedom of expression, where experimentation, innovation, invention and improvisation are the key components in making the album such a moving and enjoyable experience.

Please note that most of Mark Wingfield's albums are available as HD (24 bits 96 KHz from his Bandcamp site!