Fleesh — Eclipsed
Fleesh has utilized an interesting model to get their name and music out to the masses. Best known for their cover versions of songs by various prog and rock acts, singer Gabby Vessoni and multi-instrumentalist, Celo Oliveira are brilliant at interpreting the work of others. Their video performances on YouTube have garnered a lot of views from music fans and even praise from some of the artists they have covered. However, the band also releases their own material. Eclipsed, their fourth original recording, proves that they can be as relevant as the classic bands that they admire.
There is an old school, prog/rock feel to much of the album, with many of the songs resonating in a way not previously heard by the band. The material is accessible, yet also compositionally deep. Though there are no epic length pieces, the band fits a lot of musical range into the average four to six minute song. With its infectious keyboard melody and sweeping musical scope, Stuck is a notable opening track. In large part, it sets the entertaining tone for what's to come. Other highlights include the driving rock of the title track, the Pink Floyd influenced, Pile Of Bones and the melodic prog of One By One, No Rewind, Down Below & Let It Burn. Ultimately, this is a fantastic album, pretty much from start to finish.
The musical performances are outstanding and includes some of the most effective guitar work that I've heard on any release this year. Plus, as much as Gabby Vessoni brings magic to many of the band's cover versions, her ethereal vocals take these songs to the next level. She and the album as a whole, sound inspired. Though I hope that Fleesh continues to add to their wonderful 'Versions' and cover album series, Eclipsed is absolutely worthy of its own recognition. Perhaps the day has come for others to start recording cover versions of their material.
The Prodigal Sounds — Circles Vol 3: Annulus
Based in Novato, California The Prodigal Sounds is the name by which multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter Colin Nicholls records. His previous releases have been well received by my colleague Theo Verstrael. His reviews can be found at the following links. For 2020's The Inevitable Obscenity Of Autonomous Weaponry and for 2013's Fruit Of The Steel Tree 2.0.
The Prodigal Sounds' new release is a 16-minute suite inspired by 'A trip we took to Oregon to view the Great American Eclipse of 2017'. It is presented as a continuous, seamless suite, and as five separate movements with the same music, making it easy to listen to individual sections. There is a seven-minute bonus track of the opening movement, with different instrumentation in an instrumental or karaoke mix.
The Prodigal Sounds' (ahem) sound is one that is on the soft, melodic progressive rock side of the 1970s. The music put me in mind of the likes of Barclay James Harvest, Camel and Pink Floyd at their least misanthropic. Colin Nichols is a talented musician and arranger, and there is plenty going on musically, albeit quietly. He leans towards the keyboards, especially piano, as the focus of the melodies but also has Hackett-style acoustic guitars throughout. His voice is good and reminds me of Al Stewart and that fits in well with the 70s vibe.
The movements of the full Annulus suite work together very well but for me it is the lyrical content of the songs that bump me out of the relaxed mood of the music. Every song is full to the brim with narrative story-telling about how he travelled to, and captured an image of, the eclipse. Having experienced a total eclipse in Devon, UK in 1999 (if you are interested), I wanted to know how it made him feel. If you are going to shoe-horn this many words into relatively short song sections, then I want them to be about a bit more than the 'how' of getting to the eclipse.
To be fair though, another inspiration from a blog post provides Totality (10:16 am) with a more imaginative lyric, as Colin Nicholls puts himself in the place of a young boy experiencing the fear felt in witnessing, for the first time, the darkening skies and cold that proceeds a totality.
So, for me, The Prodigal Sounds' Circles Vol 3: Annulus fails to engage on most emotional levels and I find it has diminishing rewards on repeat plays. Although I do like the instrumental version of Departure rather a lot, the rest is disappointing.
Tangle Edge — Cispirius
I am a passionate fan of Norwegian music. So much so, I often wonder whether I was kidnapped from Bergen as a child and whisked across the North Sea. Bel Canto for me were the epitome of chamber-pop, Major Parkinson of “literary music”, and the new album by Meer is currently my go-to for sonic loveliness. There's something about the frosty geography, high taxes, and exceptional public services perhaps.
And so I was more than keen to review this offering from a band I had never heard of – Tangled Edge. Turns out they've been around for over 40 years, spewing out a bit of mostly improvised psychedelia all that time, though nowhere near as prolific (or as good as) the marvellous Motorpsycho (also Norwegian). The band currently comprises the trio of Hasse Horrigmoe (bass, mini-moog), Ronald Nygård (guitars, mini-moog) and Kjell Oluf Johansen on drums and percussion. It's very much “acid rock” with an ethnic edge that is more in keeping with Amon Duul II. So if that floats your boat, go for it you'll love it.
Cispirius is a double-album mainly taken from sessions in the late 1990s, some never released, some remixed. It consists of five tracks, all but one of them being of prog-cliché-epic-length. There is a little bit of variety if you stick it out, but for the most part the trio seem to stick to a formula of non-directional noodling. Don't expect the stratospheric space-rock solos of Ozric Tentacles, or bass-thumping of Hawkwind. This is more of a stare-at-the-bong scenario.
In my old university days I would revel in this sort of stuff – lengthy, sprawling, meandering jams with a dark and grimy edge. It's definitely one for a low-lit chill-out room down some alleyway in Kathmandu. There is some tonal nodding to Carlos Santana, but I'm sure he never quite smoked enough herbs to make the noises heard here. Don't think I'll be rushing back to this anytime in the foreseeable though.
Tillison Reingold Tiranti — Allium: Una Storia
Ah, Italian Prog. What's not to love? While it may not be on a par with British Prog in terms of "universal appeal" (is there such a thing in Prog?) it most definitely is in the same league when it comes to sheer memorable music. Needless to say, for those who might find the "language barrier" a hindrance I suggest getting rid of any prejudice and listen with open minds & ears; you're in for a treat!
Isn't it lovely when a "radio edit" is over 8 minutes long? Tillison Reingold Tiranti (TRT) are that kind of band. Allium: Una Storia is a sort of tribute to the golden era of RPI (Rock Progressivo Italiano) made under an intriguing premise: what kind album would 70's band Allium have released were they still active? Besides the solid reputations of both Andy Tillison and Jonas Reingold as prog stalwarts, vocalist Roberto Tiranti's excellent performance -and the fact he was once involved in New Trolls- gives this release extra legitimacy.
Now the question is, does it succeed in its purpose? For the most part I'd say it does, as it occasionally manages to match the excitement and lyricism so distinctive of the bands and sounds it looks up to without being overtly reverential. The vintage keyboards are there, the wordy Italian lyrics are there, the occasional eccentricity is there... In this regard, Ordine Nuovo might be my favorite track on the whole album, as it fuses jazzy overtones and Mediterranean breeziness to pleasant effect, although probably the most dynamic piece of the set is Nel Nome di Dio, a pretty accomplished ode to days gone by which sits comfortably among the likes of PFM, Banco and other more "obscure" propositions like Il Rovescio Della Medaglia (recommended!) or Il Giro Strano (recommended!)
Elsewhere, Mai Tornare is a good epic which never outstays its welcome -something many recent The Tangent epics cannot claim, I'm afraid- but at the same time it struggles to find its own identity; indeed, its first few beats are more Tangent than TRT and it takes a good 6-7 minutes to get where I guess the band want(ed) it to be but once it finds its feet it makes for a pretty entertaining 17 minutes.
If anything, and this was an issue I also had with the Slow Rust... album, Andy Tillison's drums are... well, serviceable. They do serve their purpose rather efficiently, but they're nothing to write home about and just as they did on that 2017 release they sound -at least to my ears- fake. Why not use a real drummer? Steve Rogers? Franz DiCioccio? In any case I ignore whether the reasons for this choice are artistic or rather logistic, but it certainly clashes with the vintage/organic sensibilities of this release -for those who prefer a modern edge there's also a Reingold-curated "2021 contemporary mix"-.
A brisk 40 minutes, a curio if you will, and hopefully the start of someting beautiful. Now TRT need to find their true identity.