Album Reviews

Issue 2020-001

Atlantaeum Flood — One Day

Atlantaeum Flood - One Day
Before Sunrise (4:42), After Sunrise (4:48), Before Noon (4:54), After Noon (4:05), Before Sunset (3:14), After Sunset (3:51), Before Midnight (4:52), After Midnight (5:06)
Stefan Hennig

Atlantaeum Flood (styled as Atlantæum Flood) is the brainchild of Steve Knott, a multi-instrumentalist who has been around in various guises since the late 70s. Steve is responsible for all the compositions on One Day, but pulls in some highly accomplished friends to help him bring his vision to light.

First to help Steve is wife Lynne Knott, who adds some wonderful cello through out the album. Next to add their immense talents is another husband and wife team of Marty and Olivia Willson-Piper. Olivia adds violin to the album, but anyone who has attended The Night Of The Prog Festival at Loreley in recent years will have seen Olivia there, as she has acted as festival compère since 2015. Marty Willson-Piper is probably the best known musician within the Atlantaeum Flood collective, having been a founding member of The Church, before joining All About Eve. He has released many solo albums, as well as being a current member of Anekdoten.

The impressive resume of musicians is added to with the presence of producer Dare Mason, whose list of who he has worked with over the years reads like a who's who of music royalty. Dare adds musical accompaniment to the album, as well as bringing his production expertise to the table.

Last, but not least, Nick Mcleod enriches the album with his percussion skills.

The album itself takes the listener on a musical journey through eight phases of a day, beginning with Before Sunrise, then through Noon, Sunset and finally Midnight. For me, none of the eight pieces on offer provide any real noticeable connection with the time of day that each passage represents. Thankfully this does not detract in any way from the class product on offer.

The album is entirely instrumental and could be pigeonholed into that of New Age, but for me, due to the tracks never becoming self indulgent or trance-like, then I consider One Day to be an example of sophisticated and mature music, more akin to that of Mike Oldfield. Every track has its own distinct identity, and due to their economic length, keeps the listener engaged for the duration of the album. When you have traversed the day's cycle, there is plenty on offer for repeat listening, and it will take many listens to fully absorb what Atlantaeum Flood have expertly crafted.

The listener is welcomed to Before Sunrise with birdsong, gentle guitar and the cello, before vocalisations, of an almost American Indian chant, join the gradual increase of the passage's drama, ending with a very emotive guitar solo from Marty Willson-Piper. As we approach Noon, drums add rhythms which Peter Gabriel adopted so well into his compositions post-Genesis. Before Sunset is an up-tempo foot tapper, that comes as a surprise with an occasional middle eastern feel. You will have this reverberating in you head for days. The album closer, After Midnight, is a wonderfully reflective track which brings the album to a close. But then, press play to enjoy the day all over again.

The production of the album by Dare Mason is exquisite, doing justice to the collective musicianship on display. The package is completed with beautiful photography contained within the booklet and the disc packaging. All this combines to deliver a classy product which will hopefully help to draw in any potential listeners and make them take a punt and listen to some stunning music. This album is an ideal accompaniment to welcome in the hopes of a new year, or when you want to spend some introspective time, alone with your thoughts.

Bill Bruford’s Earthworks — Heavenly Bodies: The Expanded Collection

69:08, 60:20
Bill Bruford’s Earthworks - Heavenly Bodies: The Expanded Collection
Disc One: Stromboli Kicks (5:39), Making A Song And Dance (5:56), Up North (5:25), Candles Still Flicker In Romania’s Dark (4:41), Pigalle (7:22), My Heart Declares A Holiday (4:43), Temple Of The Winds (5:05), Nerve (5:52), Gentle Persuasion (4:28), It Needn’t End In Tears (5:10), Libreville (6:16), Dancing On Frith Street (4:27), Bridge Of Inhibition (4:14)
Disc Two: No Truce With The Furies (5:02), Dewey-Eyed, Then Dancing (5:45), A Part, And Yet Apart (5:41), Revel Without A Pause (7:44), The Sound Of Surprise (3:39), White Knuckle Wedding (7:35), Youth (7:13), Rosa Ballerina (5:04), Thud (5:29), Blues For Little Joe (7:08)
Martin Burns

After working with Yes, King Crimson, Genesis and U.K., Bill Bruford wanted to exercise his jazz muscles and so formed Bill Bruford's Earthworks; collaborating with such noted jazz players as Iain Ballamy (saxes), Django Bates (keyboardist, horn and trumpet) and acoustic bass player Mick Hutton. A later edition of the band featured Tim Garland (sax, flute and bass clarinet), Steve Hamilton (piano) and Mark Hodgson (bass).

This is a re-release of a 'best of' from 1997, with 10 additional tracks culled from the 'Earthworks Complete' Deluxe box set (a 2019 box set with 15 titles on 20 CDs and 4 DVDs). Heavenly Bodies – The Expanded Collection is a guide to the 20-year history of the band, and on it you can hear the move Earthworks make from progressive jazz, into a formidable jazz ensemble.

The first disc on Heavenly Bodies – The Expanded Collection takes its tracks from 1987's Earthworks, up to 1991's All Heaven Broke Loose. It mixes Weather Report-like grooves, world music elements and a move towards time-honoured jazz structures. Flowing sax and trumpet lines entwine on the quite lovely tracks Candles Still Flicker In Romania's Dark and It Needn't End In Tears. The middle-eastern tinged Bridge Of Inhibition has a great tenor horn solo on it. However not all of it works for me. The honking improvisation of the live Nerve doesn't engage me, and there is the occasional slip towards lounge jazz blandness.

I find that the second disc works better, as the post-bop, hard-bop jazz grooves take over, and the nods to progressive rock evaporate. Here Bruford's love for jazz becomes obvious, and any pretence to prog-rock is ditched. And to be honest there is not a duff track on the second disc. It has the stronger melodies and arrangements. Highlights include the ballad Dewey-Eyed, Then Dancing's sax and piano interplay. White Knuckle Wedding has lovely atmospheric flute and piano. And on the live Youth, you have a small ensemble stretching themselves so much, that they begin to sound like a big-band.

If you are more of a jazz-head than a prog-rock one, then this album, especially disc 2 can be recommended as an introduction to Bruford's Earthworks as a full-on jazz ensemble. If you are in anyway allergic to jazz, I would take the anti-histamines and step away from the Earthworks.

Heavenly Bodies – The Expanded Collection is for those who like a little prog with their jazz, and don't mind the prog element disappearing as the release goes on. I would give a score of 6 for the first disc and 7.5 for the second; rounded up to 7 overall.

Jalayan — Sonic Drive

Jalayan - Sonic Drive
Ishtar Gate (5:38), Descent Of Annunaki (5:48), The Tree Of Life (6:20), Vimanas (6:08), Sacred Mountains (6:58), Dub Nam (5:38), Nephilim Steps (6:02), The Library Of Ninive (8:58)
Craig Goldsmith

“Jalayan is a musical project inspired by ancient people's mythology. The musical proposal can be described as a mix of progressive rock, psychedelic, ethnical and electronic music." So sayeth their Facebook bio, and we can forgive the misplaced apostrophe.

Now, there seems to have been a resurgence in the space-rock force of late. This must be my fourth DPRP review in the genre in as many months. That's a good thing; if this type of music tickles you. It goes without saying that this offering attempts to make itself the love-child of Ozric Tentacles and Nodens Ictus, without shame. This is a bit like putting on some new, shiny running shoes and expecting to be Usain Bolt. Jalayan have made a decent fist of it though, and the four-piece from Milan should be rightly proud. Apparently they are all professional musicians and this shows in many areas of this album, which aims to document some of the highlights of the Mesopotamian world.

Ishtar Gate kicks off with a relatively banal riff, and despite some synth twirls, it does little to spark the interest. A modest start, but thankfully the situation improves from here. Descent of Annunaki builds nicely into a reverb-heavy guitar solo which ticks all the right space-rock boxes, before meeting a rather abrupt end.

The Tree of Life is my highlight. I really do struggle to extract this particular earworm. It is organic, evocative and uplifting, with a twisty baseline and some lovely rhythm work. Viamanas is the most keyboard-heavy track but doesn't really hit any spots. Sacred Mountains in contrast glides along with a lovely phased guitar, blossoming into some laid-back soloing. The up-tempo Dub Nam has another abrupt ending, leading into Nephilim Steps, where clear instrument separation becomes apparent and is very nicely executed before (you guessed it) another very sudden stoppage. Finally, The Library of Ninive invokes the most eastern-oriented sounds on the album and is also the most ambitious, in terms of time-signature proggyness.

There is more dedication in the programming, layering of atmosphere and general spirals than the efforts of many of their peers, such as Quantum Fantay or Hidria Spacefolk, and as such raises the Ozric-score into the upper quartile. You may also hear a greater elemental peppering of jazz motifs, betraying their professionally trained routes. What is lacking are the face-melting, brain-exploding elements that characterise Ed Wynne's output (eg Vibuthi, Disdots and The Space Between Your Ears).

Overall this is a pleasing addition to the genre, and given it is a first-time effort, the signs are good that they can build on it and develop the sound further, much in the vein of the impressive trio Spiralmaze, perhaps adding more wow-moments. I'm already looking forward to the next one.

Penna — SoulMagnet

Penna - SoulMagnet
Enough (5:09), Faith (5:57), Mask (4:45), I.D. (7:02), H2SO4 (5:02), Eclipse (6:39), 333 (5:15), Coda (5:05)
Alan Weston

Penna is a 'hard rock solo project' by New York musician David Penna who has had involvement with outfits such as Kronin, Spastic Ink and Ad Astra. He also lays claim to have worked with Ronnie Spector.

SoulMagnet is his third release, "encompassing the influences and experiences of his lifetime as a composer and musician". Penna states that "the music winds through shades of prog, alternative and metal, with lyrical themes touching on death, addiction and spirituality". His personal influences range from The Beatles, King's X, Rush, and Stevie Wonder.

A drummer in the main, he is also guitarist, keyboardist, vocalist, writer and producer of this album; and therein lies the problem. His drumming is fine and excels on many tracks but sadly his vocals lack dynamics, conviction and hovering about a monotonic drone. He's not a singer. That's not to say there are no melodies here, but another singer would have taken these songs up quite a few notches. The album is devoid of any discernible solos and strewn with metal rifts that often sound trite. There are better guitarists out there that could have added a bigger "wow" factor.

When it works, it works well. For instance the introduction of keys and acoustic guitar to the opening track Enough occurs at the right time, preventing the potential monotony of a metal rift dominating the song.

The introduction of a The Police (or even David Gilmour) style of guitar picking is welcome in the second track Faith. The changes in this song add much-needed contrasts at the right points. The song has potential to be an outstanding track, if were not for the vocals.

And so it continues, each track introducing the next metal rift or gated arpeggio, with variations in song textures, occasional vocal processing effects to add more interest and the often underused keyboard accompaniment (more of this would have helped these songs).

The last song has an interesting, 44-second quirky intro that you don't expect. I hear Steely Dan or The Crusaders with a jazzy keyboard intro, that is so out of place that it does make you sit up and listen. The song then descends into a boring instrumental guitar workout that isn't very inspiring.

Most songs, if not all, suffer by having no ending; they meander on with slow fade outs. Nothing wrong in that, but sometimes killer endings can have that much needed impact or statement that shows the songwriter's craft. For example, I.D. has a monotonous one-and-half-minute play-out that needs serious pruning.

At best, Penna is a poor man's pastiche of acts like Porcupine Tree or Rush. David Penna needs to think about bringing others into the party and shift these songs up a number of gears. A much better singer would have added so much to the potential of these songs. When a musician is involved in every aspect of the making of the music, they sometimes can't see the song from the music.

Trita — Tunguskan

Trita - Tunguskan
The Isolationist (6:50), Tunguskan (3:15), The Last Floating Stage (6:07), Color of Hope (7:00), Tin Ear (4:42)
Calum Gibson

Trita are a three-piece who have emerged out of Minneapolis to bring their own style of “post-rock/ post-metal/ post-hardcore/ pre-death” to the masses. Releasing the EP Tunguskan, the band have emerged kicking and screaming into the world of prog metal.

The EP kicks off with some melancholy vibes, reminiscent of the likes of The Ocean Collective. It is a slow but atmospheric number, before the title track kicks in with some heavy, proggy riffing mixed with gruff and angry vocals. Keeping that same “post-metal” sound, they have also thrown in a decidedly heavy edge, which almost sounds like Kontinuum and Sepultura have joined forces in some points; if you can imagine such a sound.

Elements of a post-hardcore sound run through the EP as well, for example Color of Hope reminds me a bit of what Funeral For A Friend used to sound like, albeit it a bit heavier and with a touch of prog thrown in. The final track, Tin Ear, keeps up the high-octane pace with a blend of styles and brings the EP to a fairly decent and heavy close.

All in all, if I had to sum this EP up, it would probably be: "A good effort by a new band busy blending a mix of styles." In a nutshell, it is post-hardcore that is finding its feet in the big world of post-genres and taking the first steps into something great.

Album Reviews