Issue 2020-042

JPL — Sapiens - Chapitre 1/3: Exordium

JPL - Sapiens - Chapitre 1/3: Exordium
Country of Origin
France
Year of Release
2020
Time
46:27
Samples
Mastodontes (5:46), Homo Sapiens (6:09), Ecce Homo (5:01), A Condition (6:14), Le Chaud Et Le Froid (9:41), Planète A (5:39), Alpha Centauri (7:57)

This is a voyage through time, space and extraordinary music.

For fifteen years, Jean Pierre Louveton was main composer, guitarist, and singer of the well-known French progressive rock band Némo. Since the band was put to sleep in 2015 (after the album Coma), Jean Pierre Louveton continued the adventure under the abbreviation of his own name, the band JPL. Nine albums to this day in time. We've got Bienvenue Sur La Terre from 2002, followed by Noir et Blanc, Cannibales, the Retrospections tryptich volumes 1, 2, and 3, the glorious MMXIV album, the renewing Le Livre Blanc and Sapiens Part 1 that we are reviewing here. The Sapiens albums will become a triptych; dedicated to the history of man.

Musicians on this album are Jean Pierre Louveton on guitar, bass and vocals, and my favourite drummer Jean Baptiste Itier (of Némo). Guest musicians are the excellent Guillaume Fontaine (of Némo) on keys and Florent Ville on drums for certain songs. Plus Stéphanie Vouillot on piano and backing vocals, and Marguerite Miallier on the always special hurdy-gurdy.

So, let's talk part 1, Exordium, of the Sapiens tryptich, built by the one and only Jean Pierre Louveton. Exordium meaning preface. A wondrous and depressive story, mankind destroys nature, but accompanied with an insanely brilliant soundtrack, brought to you in three sections, Erectus, Exitium and Exodus.

Erectus

The first section of this album Sapiens, Chapter 1/3: Exordium. Prehistoric. The opening track Mastodontes starts as a beautiful classical concert, like nature in early sunrise, in a subtle way broken by a (mastodon) bass and more. Horns and violins try to fight back but they are being directed by the mastodon bass, the boss of this forceful and living instrumental album-intro on earth. The huge dinosaur and mammoth walk on and seems to be the strongest force in the end. Our predecessors appear on Earth. This section's next track, called Homo Sapiens, is about... us.

Primates are born, standing upright, makes fire and thinks. Mankind evolved and started using tools and weapons. This is the fragment in time it started to go wrong quick. From sharing the world with many thousands of other species to domination. Next to extermination of many species mankind starts ruining the world in only a hundred years out of millions years. Jean Pierre Louveton's voice sounds disillusioned and frustrated, the music reflects the same. Paradise is over. This song, released as a video to promote the album, shows the real musician Jean Pierre Louveton, you can feel his writing, his signature in the way guitar is played and his signature in lyrics and vocals. At two thirds of the way through the heavy song is interrupted by real violins. Whatever the situation, mankind knows how to create and play these wonderful compositions and arrangements like this one. A musically very very impressive track. Mankind sucks but luckily we have art. And these composition are true art.

The quieter guitar driven instrumental track Ecco Homo, or Behold The Man. Words spoken by Pontius Pilate but now addressed to mankind. So we might be crucified as a species... You can hear and imagine the soldiers marching. Mankind has started killing each other because of power and/or religion. The rapidly increasing terrifying pace expresses fear, death and destruction. Destruction of nature, people, our earth.

Exitium

The second, two-song section is called Exitium, meaning doom or destruction. First one is the ultra wonderful, amazing, shining and heavenly A Condition. Tres tres beau, monsieur Louveton! Merci. Destruction is what mankind is doing right now. The earth is not inhabited by man and all other living creatures, mankind acts like it's their property and doesn't care at all... A superb and interesting song on all views. The clock is ticking. We have to change, and soon! A piano pushes the song around, drums and lyrics follow the piano and keys fly underneath. Suddenly lead guitar does what it's made for; taking the lead. The guitar solo has a very convincing message: If we want to live on, we have to change. With our hearts. Questions asked in a musical way. This song might be the best of all the great songs on this album. Maybe even JPL's best written song ever. From his heart!

The ice age ended by force of nature. The song Le Chaud Et Le Froid says that we, mankind, getting a very sensitive balance of climate into change, ruin the world. We did not manage to change our way of living. Stupid. The piano opens, the daily news on the background. This is a long song, the temperature is rising, storms, wars, money, egoism, bushfires, droughts, decay. A sincere piano makes a final attempt to do it all over again. A lovely choir cries. Sadly without result. To me some parts of this song feels like human panic and confusion. Will there be an horizon of hope some day? This track ends the second album section; so we jump on to the third section.

Exodus

Exodus, we ruined everything!! We have to leave Earth. Is there another suitable planet to go to? The jazzy feeling of the song Planète A depicts our search for a habitable planet to move to. The last resort. Hope rises... The final track Alpha Centauri is about the way out for mankind, leaving a mess behind as always. For JPL this is a JPL song avant la lettre!! Mixed in with some Mastodon bass and some slight jazz and other influences, including a church organ.

This absolutely is an intelligent album. Musically brilliant, all kinds of styles are mixed in. Thank you Jean Pierre, merci, you are a musical wizard. He has created yet another highlight in the long history of JPL. I guess this album will get high up in my official top 10 of 2020.

Two more albums of this set will come to enlighten us later, as this album is chapter one of a triptych. I wonder if it's possible these can get any better than this one.

Kayak — Live 2019

Kayak - Live 2019
Country of Origin
Netherlands
Year of Release
2020
Samples
Love Of A Victim (3:10), Rhea (5:16), Ballad For A Lost Friend (3:54), A Million Years (4:44), Somebody (2:58), La Peregrina (11:51), Falling (3:10), Mammoth (2:51), Daphne (5:46), Still My Heart Cries For You (5:11), Merlin (7:59), Seagull (4:12), Alibi (3:46), Said No Word (5:45), Cracks (8:40), Feathers And Tar (3:34), Irene (3:15), Walk Through Fire (9:56), Ruthless Queen (5:04), Chance For A Lifetime (4:23), Starlight Dancer (5:33), To An End (4:06)

Surprisingly this is Kayak's first live release since the 2008 Anniversary Concert. Comparing the two, there is a lot of difference in the band, but that is one thing Kayak have always been able to cope with over their near fifty years of existence. With the current line up of the band, they have now their heaviest and edgiest sound, which keeps the band relevant, and still pulls the crowds.

This release was originally intended to be sold at the bands late 2019 tour, but events prevented this from happening. Ton Scherpenzeel was taken ill, and the tour had to be cancelled. The decision was made that rather than shelve this live release, the band would make it available as a limited release via their Bandcamp page. For any fan of Kayak, this is a very welcome decision, as the album contains a stunning representation of the current line up in a live setting.

The band line up has no weak points. The rhythm section of Kristoffer Gildenlow on bass and drummer Hans Eijkenaar drive the band along like a metronome. This enables current guitarist Marcel Singor to display why his name is becoming heard quite regularly as a talent to be aware of. This recognition, from his display on this album, is certainly justified. Ton's talents speak for themselves, his seat in progressive rock history is already in place. Last, but certainly not least, is new singer Bart Schwertmann, a new name for many, but what a find. His voice is magical at times, and could possibly become the definitive voice of Kayak.

The album comprises of a good mixture of classic and new songs. The latest studio album, Seventeen, is well represented with seven of its tracks feature here, including the two epics, La Peregrina and Walk Through Fire, the latter of which is one of the albums stand out songs.

The production is not over polished, which gives the sound a proper live feel. This helps with the sound giving it that harder edge. One of the things you do get to experience are the lush harmonies the band are able to produce, and they do not appear to be backing tracks like many bands now use in a live environment.

If you are a Kayak fan, its worth tracking down this album as an excellent momento of a band who, after nearly half a century can still feel relevant and modern. Here's hoping that Ton Scherpenzeel has a speedy recovery and we all get to experience Kayak once again on stage.

Magenta & Friends — Acapela 2016 & 2017

Magenta & Friends - Acapela 2016 & 2017
Country of Origin
UK
Year of Release
2020
Time
CD 1: 78:05, DVD 1: 109:38, CD 2: 74:12, DVD 2: 94:58
Samples
Acapela 2016 CD/DVD: Chris Fry: Secret Garden (4:25), Estrellita* (4:00), Diablo 21 (3:04); Christina Booth: The Light (5:15), Disappeared (4:16), Legend In The Making (5:31); Robert Reed: Sanctuary Jig (1:48), Sanctuary II Ending (2:54); Kompendium: Mercy Of The Sea (5:29), One Last Step (3:42), Beneath The Waves (5:55); Magenta: Gluttony* (12:20), R.A.W.* (5:25), Pearl (8:35), Devil At The Crossroads (5:09), Red (8:34), The Lizard King* (4:20), Children Of The Sun (7:47), King Of The Skies (5:33)
Acapela 2017 CD/DVD: Christina Booth: The Way Back To My Heart (5:09), The Same Old Road (3:21), Deep Oceans (5:37); Robert Reed: Rio Grande (4:32), Albertross (3:58), Willow's Song (6:08); Magenta: Gluttony* (11:40), Speechless (4:51), Envy (9:50), Colours (10:51), Call Me (5:37), Greed (3:04), Prekestolen (4:59), The Lizard King (6:09)
* = DVD Only

Magenta are not shy about releasing live albums or, come to that, live DVDs so what does this double CD/double DVD, recorded at Cardiff's Acapela Studios in 2016 and 2017, have to offer above all others? Well for a start it is a much more laid back and intimate affair. Secondly the performances are stripped backed to an almost acoustic setting. And thirdly it features songs from the various solo projects of the band members.

This is an absolute boon for any fan of Chris Fry's 2012 solo album Composed as the 2016 concert features two (CD) or three (DVD) songs from that album. Secret Garden and Estrellita feature a very happy and smiling Fry on acoustic guitar accompanied by cellist Claudine Cassidy on a couple of wonderfully played acoustic numbers that are simply delightful. Diablo 21 sees the addition of Peter Jones on additional guitar. The track on its own is worth the price of admission as Fry displays what a fine and inventive guitarist he is, although Cassidy is no slouch on her parts either. Unfortunately, despite his big intro from Fry, is not really that prominent in the mix, although his additions are more obvious on the DVD when the visual aspect helps one differentiate his contributions with greater clarity.

Christina Booth contributes three tracks from her second solo album The Light. On The Light and Legend In The Making she is accompanied by the rest of Magenta (who at the time were Rob Reed, Chris Fry, Dan Nelson and Steve Roberts) while Disappeared is stripped back to piano with accompaniment from cello and oboe, played by Karla Powell. Christine's sister Fran Murphy provides backing vocals as she does on the album. All three songs are well suited to the minimal backing letting Christina's voice shine through. Pick of the crop though is the more up-tempo Legend In The Making with Fry's wonderful electric guitar tone and the stronger vocal back from Murphy.

Robert Reed's first solo contribution, again featuring the rest of Magenta with the addition of Peter Jones on recorder, is two relatively short snippets from his ongoing Sanctuary releases. Although very well played by the band they are, to my mind, just pastiches of Mike Oldfield albums, using identical structures and similar themes which I suppose is quite clever but doesn't really sit right with me. Next up there are the first live performances of three songs from Kompendium featuring the vocal talents of Steff Rhys Williams who obviously hadn't learnt the words to the songs but faultlessly manages to read them off a cleverly positioned iPad. I didn't find the album all that appealing and the tracks still don't grab me that much but the piano and vocal rendition of One Last Step is excellent and the cello and oboe on Mercy Of The Sea is a winning combination. Peter Jones displays his multi-instrumentalist capabilities by playing sax on Beneath The Waves, the least enjoyable of the three songs mainly because of the female backing vocals section, although Fry does his best to resurrect things by contributing a fine electric guitar solo.

The 2016 Magenta performance is more widely featured on the DVD than the CD containing as it does three extra songs. The Magenta back catalogue transfers remarkably well to a more acoustic setting with Reed's piano flourishes on the DVD with only Gluttony seeming to surprise, and delight, both Fry and Booth. But it is Fry's acoustic guitar work on this track that gain the plaudits, unlike the spoken section, by Fran Murphy, which just makes me cringe. R.A.W. has a wonderful arrangement with oboe and cello having prominent melodic roles leaving the acoustic guitar and piano as almost supporting instruments. This leaves Booth's voice to take command as it does throughout the whole of the DVD, although it does expose some of the weaker lyrics.

Pearl is simply to die for with some nice slide guitar work from Fry but Evil At The Crossroads seems to come at the wrong place in the set and seems a bit flat and too bare. Red is another highlight and Reed switching to second acoustic guitar on The Lizard King adds a degree of variation and totally transforms the song giving it a greater degree of urgency; Fry and Murphy also make a compelling duo of backing vocalists. Sunshine Saviour features an outstanding duet with Steff Rhys Williams' voice blending wonderfully with Booths providing a masterful end to the main set with all the instrumentalists contributing to the lovely arrangement. I have to say this song is the best I have ever heard Magenta sound, although King Of The Sky would come close if it were not for the ruinous "Oh yeah, I am, That's right, Yeah' sections that are just horrendous and completely ruin the song.

The 2017 show follows the same format as the 2016 performance with Karla Powell and Claudine Cassidy reprising their roles on oboe and cello, respectively but this time there is no backing vocalist and the drum stool is occupied by Jiffy Griffiths. There are only two solo spots this time round starting with Christina Booth. The Way Back To My Heart from her first solo album Broken Lines & Bleeding Hearts, and The Same Old Road from the second solo album. Being acoustic, the latter song is delightfully arranged for piano and cello and Deep Oceans being electric with some nice playing from Chris Fry and Dan Nelson, and Rob Reed adding a bit of jazzy piano to proceedings, although it is probably the weaker of the three songs.

Robert Reed's section features Nigel Hopkins on piano, Reed on electric guitar and vocals from Angharad Brinn. Rio Grande from the Variations On Themes By David Bedford album is beautifully sung but is rather an insignificant song. Albertross, an excerpt of the second part of Sanctuary I is instrumental, although Brinn does provide some vocalisation, and works well independent of the album mainly because it looses all Oldfield similarities. However, best of the bunch is the marvellous Willow's Song from The Wicker Man. It comes close to equalling the original version with Brinn's vocals perfectly suited to the song and Reed shows off his electric guitar chops.

Only the first and last song on the DVD of Magenta's 2017 performance are repeats from the previous year, in fact they are the only two repeated songs across the two shows making this release tremendous value for money. It is hard to fault any of the performances (and even though the spoken bits on Gluttony are not as prominent on the 2017 version as they are spoken by Fry underneath Booth singing the lines they are still a bit annoying!) and if anything I would say the 2017 performance just has the edge over the 2016 one, it just seems more together with a greater degree of confidence, as evidenced by the humorous asides, particularly before the extract from Greed which one would hardly recognise.

Nelson and Griffiths are a great rhythm section, and the cello and oboe combination are just perfect on Envy which is simply a phenomenal version of the song. Even when things get heavier, as on Colours the mix is perfect with every instrument clearly differentiated. If, as Christina intimates on the DVD, Call Me had not been rehearsed then the performance is exceptional and they must have had the arrangement laid out in advance.

Fry again steals the show with his electric guitar playing. Prekestolen and Speechless are two other songs that work in an acoustic format with the oboe part of Speechless being a lovely addition. The Lizard King differs from the previous year in that Reed remains at the piano and Booth amusingly coaches the audience in the correct way their participation in the song by adding hand claps. A fun way to round off the show.

This is by far the best Magenta live recording I possess. The full blown electric performances can sometimes get a bit monotonous and over the top for me but the stripped back format lets the individual band members shine, and highlights just how good a pianist Reed is, how brilliant a guitarist Fry is and how wonderful a vocalist Booth is. The only question is why it has taken almost three years and a crowd funding campaign to see these recordings released. I for one wouldn't object to the band expanding their acoustic forays into studio recordings. If you think you know Magenta and don't need another collection of live material, think again.

Rick Miller — Belief In The Machine

Rick Miller - Belief In The Machine
Country of Origin
Canada
Year of Release
2020
Time
50:56
Samples
Correct To The Core (11:35), That Inward Eye Part 1 (2:22), Belief In The Machine (2:02), The Land And The Sea (2:11), The Need To Believe (5:39), Prelude To The Trial (4:32), Binary Breakdown (3:28), That Inward Eye Part 2 (3:28), Media Gods (Including The Awakening) (4:22), The Trial (9:55), Bonus Track (1:32)

Sometimes my system needs a well deserved break from listening to the likes of prog-metal or melodic rock. However much I like complicated riffs, breaks, technical wizardry and enforced concentration trying to follow the energetic complexity found in this type of music, there will occasionally be a moment to wind down for something completely opposite yet equally replenishing. New encounters filled with sensitive melancholy, ambient, emotive passages and touching melodies, meanwhile oozing a familiar feel of comfort. Something most definitely provided by the fully engaging Belief In The Machine by Rick Miller, a Canadian composer and multi-instrumentalist.

Next to Rick Miller, playing almost every single instrument, the album features the talents of Barry Haggarty on Stratocaster, Mateusz Swoboda (cello), Sarah Young (flute), and Will on drums/percussion. By his own definition Miller tends to glide through many seventies inspired progressive rock in vein of Pink Floyd, Genesis and The Moody Blues, although personally I don't connect to the latter, so frankly can't comment on that. The first one though is most certainly true, as the overall atmosphere is reminiscent to Pink Floyd and multiple delicious guitar parts resemble David Gilmour by an inch.

A first encounter in the car gave lovely insights to the music, but this type of music needs to be heard in the seclusion of a late night session, with headphones for maximum effect. Under those circumstances this conceptual album reveals blissful refined structures, multi-layered textures and a large array of meticulous details, otherwise unnoticeable on the road. The surrounding combination of natural shimmering darkness, warm embracing production and dark atmospheric character of the music intensifies this experience even further.

In light of this the contributions of cello are especially noteworthy, elevating the music through its daunting mysterious atmosphere, like for instance in Binary Breakdown. In the majestic opening track Correct To The Core it perfectly sets the brooding nature of the music, something experienced in Media Gods (Including The Awakening) as well, this time highlighted by uplifting flute passages and delicate folk influences. Equally elegant are the beautiful sounds of impending cello and alluring flute in That Inward Eye Part 2 breathing a warm Camel atmosphere around an early unexpected tale of Alan Parson's Project.

The music streams fluently in a seamless continuous flow with many detailed instrumentation, and added sound effects successfully create what in fact feels like one lively composition. The worldly vibe created through xylophone in The Land And The Sea and tribal percussion in Media Gods (Including The Awakening) is inspired, while the vocal guidance in That Inward Eye Part 1, gliding softly in between wind chimes and seductive Genesis flutes, is equally rewarding. The graciously intertwining thematic returning melodies in The Need To Believe is exemplary, highlighted by delicate symphonic accents and a captivating emotive guitar solo.

Regularly I was reminded of Glorious Wolf (Zodiac) via the delightful captured Pink Floyd sound. Miller and Haggarty share another lovely similarity, which is their exquisite and impressive execution on guitars. Here the experimental soundscape Prelude To The Trial and Bonus Track (what's in a name?) are fine examples, while the melancholic movements in Correct To The Core and The Trial, harvesting a playful smooth Barclay James Harvest feel, are unrivalled.

Further fresh accents on keys and playful bass-lines in Correct To The Core give way to a generous Eloy feel, where a slight increase in pace also brings sparse images of Dire Straits to mind, simultaneously evoked by the mellow vocals by Miller. It is, however, the stand out track The Trial that finishes the album in great unique style. Provided with careful refined arrangements and minimalism alternating with light bombast it twinkles with uplifting Harry Potter fairy-tale enchantments. Indulgently flowing with delicate machined clockwork resemblances it closes on the aforementioned soothing emotive guitar finish, which is smoothly reprised in the Bonus Track.

There's one exceptional element not yet mentioned which heightens my personal appreciation to the album. Graciously and thankfully this ingredient is sprinkled throughout, making it a wondrous melancholic journey at each encounter. For when Miller wades through an electronic soundscape or movement, the atmospheric depth and soothing imagery created in these parts beats a heart warming spacious Black Noise (FM) feel which is simply divine. The multiple exciting moments created this way sees me return to the album over-frequently.

This album is definitely worth a listen as it's a very accomplished effort, especially for those embracing melancholic unstrained seventies progressive rock. It grows on you with each turn, and fans of David Gilmour, Pink Floyd or Camel can likely add points to my grade. A reassuring album, which I will return to from time to time.

Pattern-Seeking Animals — Prehensile Tales

Pattern-Seeking Animals - Prehensile Tales
Country of Origin
USA
Year of Release
2020
Time
55:27
Samples
Raining Hard In Heaven (8:31), Here In My Autumn (7:57), Elegant Vampires (4:30), Why Don't We Run (5:09), Lifeboat (17:20), Soon But Not Today (12:03)

Just one year after releasing their 2019 debut, Pattern-Seeking Animals is back with their second album, Prehensile Tales. For artists not named Steven Wilson or Prince, that's very fast, but this album does not in any way sound rushed.

For anyone who missed their first album, Pattern-Seeking Animals is a "spin-off" from prog giants Spock's Beard. PSA (for short) features current Spock's members Ted Leonard (also the singer for Enchant) on lead vocals and guitar, Dave Meros on bass, and former Spock's member Jimmy Keegan on drums and vocals. Longtime Spock's songwriter John Boegehold rounds out the group on keyboards, and is also a songwriter as well as the producer. PSA's well-received eponymous debut sounded, not surprisingly, much like recent Spock's Beard albums, though with less prominent keyboard solos and guitar.

Prehensile Tales is a huge step forward for the band, with PSA creating a sound that is distinctly their own: confident, high-energy, and oozing with funky grooves, great playing, and first-class songwriting. This fresh sound is immediately evident on the first track, Raining Hard In Heaven, which begins with thumping drums against funky bass, soon joined by keyboard pads against prominent guitar chords. Leonard's vocals lay just behind the beat, and the song has a restrained Quincy Jones feel. Elegant Vampires, the obvious single from the album at under five minutes in length, has a similar funky groove, though darker. The macabre mood is further enhanced by a solo violin playing an exotic sounding natural minor melody in the intro and breaks.

There are only six tracks on Prehensile Tales, with the longest clocking in at over 17 minutes. I never got the feeling on this album that songs were being stretched to meet prog expectations, and there aren't any long "overture"-type intros. In fact, I think there are easily enough musical ideas on this album to fill two albums. While Prehensile Tales has a lot of variety of sections and instruments, the album feels cohesive due to most sections being mid-tempo, in a minor key, and with strong grooves driven by the Keegan/Meros rhythm section. Lyrically, the songs are connected by themes of disappointment, failures of relationships, and poor life choices, though lightened with humorous twists like: "Living in the past where the rent was cheap, my goals were shallow but my gene pool deep". Feature instruments appear frequently, including violin, trumpet, flute, cello, and sax.

As good as the playing and singing is on this album, the songwriting is stunning. The melodies take advantage of Leonard's vocal range, alternating between stepwise motion and dramatic leaps. Some songs use (whether deliberately or instinctively, I don't know) a compositional technique called a "sequence." When using this technique, a melodic shape is repeated, but the starting note shifts higher in the chord each time, thus increasing energy and building drama, while drawing the ear along via the repetition of the shape.

One example of great song development is Here In My Autumn, a regretful tale of a failed relationship told using the tried and true metaphor of the change of seasons. When it feels like the song might be concluding, it instead launches into a ripping solo by Leonard. Next, the vocal melody of the verse is reprised poignantly on pedal steel guitar, and then again by voice over double-time drums. Finally, the melody is inverted in shape from upward jumps to descending leaps, before concluding lyrically "I stand alone to face the seasons." The energy that is built through these last sections makes the track an 8-minute tour-de-force in clever songwriting technique.

There isn't a disappointing song on the album, and each (other than the bite-sized "Elegant Vampires"), is overflowing with great ideas. If I had to pick a slight weak spot, it would be the 17-minute Lifeboat, which realistically portrays the desperation of a shipwrecked man reflecting on his life and uncertain fate. The helplessness of the man, and the feeling of a slowly swaying boat, in the context of the rest of the album, feels like a loss of momentum. But that's just a matter of personal taste, and I feel similarly about Marillion's Ocean Cloud, while many of their fans consider it to be one of their best songs. I do enjoy Lifeboat very much if I listen to it on its own, it's really just a matter of how it fits within the rest of the album.

PSA shows a bit of tongue-in-cheek musical humor in Why Don't We Run, which starts off like an Ennio Morricone soundtrack for a Clint Eastwood western, with vocals over a melodramatic nylon-stringed acoustic guitar and hand percussion. The melodic sequence compositional technique is again used in the melody for the lines: "this night the western winds blow/each heart an open window/life's broken pieces rearranged." The chorus has a repeated harmonized vocal response of "Why don't we run" that is slightly reminiscent of Spock's Beard's Something Very Strange. The track segues into a mariachi trumpet solo, and then a searing guitar solo. I think everything but the kitchen sink went into the five minutes of this track, and it's delightful.

The magnum opus of the album, though, is the final track, Soon But Not Today. Hard-rocking sections are interspersed within a framework of a gentle piano ballad, and as with some of the earlier songs, some surprises are in store. Several minutes in, the song takes a sudden sharp turn onto Abbey Road when it drops down to just Leonard singing over a piano with a descending bass line: "Once upon a time we had something, but something changed." Meros' sound switches from his normal twangy tone to a round-toned, McCartney-ish bass. George Harrison-sounding harmonized guitars, an "I Am The Walrus" vocal chant, and a solo trumpet or cornet all leave no doubt that the Beatles were on their minds for this section. The musical themes intertwined throughout the song eventually resolve, bringing the album to a very satisfying conclusion.

A vocal line toward the end of the album says: "If these four walls could speak/the tales of us they'd tell". These four musicians do speak and tell us sad but beautiful Prehensile Tales through great performances and exemplary songwriting. And who knew Ted Leonard is such a good guitarist?

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this album is hearing these familiar musicians find a sound that is uniquely Pattern-Seeking Animals. This album is, of course, recommended for fans of Spock's Beard and Enchant, and of melodic prog rock in general, but also for those who enjoy groovy, hook-laden songs by Jellyfish. I would also encourage anyone who found the debut a little too familiar to give this album a try. It far exceeded my expectations, and will no doubt be one of my favorites for the year.

Sunset Mission — Journey To Lunar Castellum

Sunset Mission - Journey To Lunar Castellum
Country of Origin
USA
Year of Release
2019
Time
43:35
Samples
Center Stream (2:09), Writer´s Block (4:19), Kaleidoscopic Key (3:21), Sunset Crater (2:08), Redemption Drive (3:48), Ceilica (3:52), All This Time We Wait (5:04), Time Station (2:32), Winter Sun (3:59), Forest Slope (3:08), Lunar Castellum (9:09)

Brilliant. This is the most suitable word to describe Sunset Mission´s debut album. And I really mean it in every way. And such a shame I discovered them early this year instead of 2019 otherwise it would have been on my best of the year list for sure. Anyway now it's also a great time for this review because Journey To Lunar Castellum reminds me of summer somehow, as my colleague Andy stated on SFTW and leaves the listener with good vibes very much needed these crazy days.

Sunset Mission is an independent band from Boston offering dreamy funk-infused progressive music as they describe their music on their Bandcamp site. The band has several members playing different instruments and vocals across the album and some collaborators. Dana Goodwin and Jan Schwartz composed the songs and seems to be the main characters among all these young musicians. And I'm afraid this is all the info that I can give because it's not easy to find more related data about this new band. One thing is for sure, they deserve much more attention after this impressive debut, and I'm here to help with that because I really like this album.

Journey To Lunar Castellum is a different prog rock album and this is good news; perfectly linked short songs ranging from brief interludes to cinematic hits towards the longest opus at the end. The album starts with Center Stream and its super nice sounds introduces you to the album. Some echoes of Pure Reason Revolution here thanks to the vocals, but don't expect more influences of that band because immediately Writer's Block gives you some funky and good summer vibes. Love the nice vocals and the guitar sound here, and in the rest of the album.

Without stopping you find Kaleidoscopic Key and its cinematic piano and bass combo until the guitar appears. Great one before Sunset Crater appears as the perfect interlude before Redemption Drive, another funky tone that slows down in the middle of the song to give way to Ceilica. This one is the first instrumental song of the album with majestic guitar playing and it's the opening for the second part of this journey to Lunar Castellum.

In All This Time We Wait we have those beautiful harmonies that run through the whole album making it a one big composition at the end. Time Station goes next and it's the second instrumental song but we have more rock this time. Winter Sun combines great piano with great guitar solo and Forest Slope appears to be the proggier here and includes a surprising heavy ending. I wasn't expecting this but I love it. The last song is called Lunar Castellum and it's the end of the journey indeed. It has all the elements described before mixed to conform a beautiful ending to this album.

Not much more to be said here because this is the kind of album that needs to be listened in full to be able to realise how good it is. You can listen to one song in particular and you will enjoy it but try to get the time to listen to the whole piece and you will enjoy the experience; the main songs, the interludes perfectly placed, the instrumentation, the captivating vocals, etc. This is the kind of new progressive music that can attract more attention to the genre, having funk, math, pop vocals... I hope they can keep making music because it'd be really interesting what this young band can offer in the future. By the way, the album is on Bandcamp as "name your price". Just saying...