Album Reviews

Issue 2022-053

Alex Anthony Faide — Particles Of The Infinite

Alex Anthony Faide - Particles Of The Infinite
Particles Of The Infinite Pt 1 (4:06), Particles Of The Infinite Pt 2 (4:30), Particles Of The Infinite Pt 3 (5:50), Particles Of The Infinite Pt 4 (4:37), Particles Of The Infinite Pt 5 (11:04), Particles Of The Infinite Pt 6 (3:18), Particles Of The Infinite Pt 7 (3:37), Particles Of The Infinite Pt 8 (6:27), Particles Of The Infinite Pt 9 (6:10)
Greg Cummins

Having abandoned King Crimson after I tried many times to acquaint myself with their Thrak album, it was with some hesitation that I put my hand up to review an album by a guitarist hailed as playing Robert Fripp better than the maestro himself. Alex Anthony Faide is the man in question and hails from Argentina, although he now resides in Seattle, USA.

From the outset, it becomes very obvious that Alex was paying attention while becoming familiar with the inner workings of Robert Fripp's Guitar Craft sessions, as he comfortably emulates those tell-tale sounds found on albums such as Red, Discipline and Thrak. From the scant information I have at my disposal, I see that Alex is accompanied by acclaimed King Crimson drummer Pat Mastelotto, Matt Chamberlain and Alessandro Inolti who all provide a lot of brutal stick work that is necessary to provide the backbone to these self-penned tracks.

Obviously, as a fully instrumental album, there is no respite from the chaotic squeals and wailings from Alex's guitar, but make no mistake, he is a master craftsman of incredible skill. It reeks of frenetic, chaotic and outright bedazzling songs that make you question how it is all done.

The question one must ask, however, is, do I see sufficient variety in the songwriting department to make this album really stand out. In many ways it does, especially on the softer, more ethereal sections where one might even be reminded of some interplanetary sojourn you might find on a Constance Demby album, only to be thrown back to earth to be pummelled into submission with even more chaos and menacing sounds. This is what gives the album the balance it needs, otherwise it could simply become one earache after another. The subtle nature of these changes from the more chaotic sections, to those more serene ones, is incredibly well done and allows you to acknowledge the skills and abilities on display.

This is an album that will definitely take some time to absorb, and for those with a penchant for more angular and chaotic guitar, this will fit the bill nicely. From my own ears and perspective, the softer sections I found more appealing, but that should not hinder or discourage a potential listener from giving this album a try.

It certainly has some compelling guitar work to explore with your ears and if you have enjoyed any of Robert Fripp's more adventurous music, whether as a solo musician or with his King Crimson offerings, there is plenty of sustenance to be discovered. There are no songs on this album that sound like those on the first 2 albums from King Crimson but if you like some of their middle-period output, then this album could surprise.

Alexandre Maraslis — Maraslis

Alexandre Maraslis - Maraslis
Vedas (20:55), Constelacoes (4:20), Vidas Que Vao (Parte 1) (1:20), The Krebs Cycle (15:19), Vidas Que Vao (Parte 2) (0:47), Everywhere (8:31), Vidas Que Vao (Parte 3) (3:17)
Sergey Nikulichev

Behold! Waves of keyboards! Tsunamis of keyboards! Surges and billows! Storm front in the sky ahead! Don't even expect to reach this Brazilian project without crossing oceans of sounds from Hammond organs, synths, Moogs and much more. It is a warning well-illustrated by the album's cover art.

If any introduction is needed, I would start with the fact that in the late 90s there was a collective called Chronos Mundi. It released one LP on the threshold of the 21st century and disappeared in the rich Brazilian soil afterwards. Alexandre Maraslis was behind the keyboard rack there, and on this solo record he continues developing the ideas from his past project.

The music would probably neither surprise nor disappoint fans of lush and flamboyant Latin prog. Maraslis nearly seamlessly flows from fusion harmonies, to almost Vangelis-like, dreamy structures, to the aggressive roar of the electric organ. I am saying “nearly”, because there are several abrupt changes in that do not really sound natural (or, maybe, it's just me).

Balancing the keys “bonanza” are the guitars of Artur Cirio and Marcos de Pinho, both acoustic and electric. The drum stool is occupied by Braulio Drummond, doing a very sophisticated job, more so surprising for a drummer originating from extreme metal scene.

The fusion part of the story would not be as charming as it is, without the vocal talents of Beth Dau doing an extremely fine job in the vein of Flora Purim. A reviewer's unavoidable task is to pinpoint the music, and I happily announce that Maraslis is 100% genuine Latin prog, with less of an accent on classic / sympho, and a harder stress on fusion structures.

Structure-wise, the record is dominated by the two mammoths, Vedas and The Krebs Cycle , enmeshed with Vidas Que Vao interludes and two shorter tracks. I would say that Vedas is the milestone here, not only because it is the most vast composition, but also because it gives you the major idea about the mastermind's musical concepts. If you like it, you'll enjoy the rest, and if your subtle boat does not survive the journey through these waters, well ... shift to lesser, aquatic basins!

Mysteries Of The Revolution — Longing For The Dawn

Mysteries Of The Revolution - Longing For The Dawn
You Turn Me On (8:42), One Whisper (6:07), Heavy On Karma (6:21), Longing For The Dawn (5:18), Babylon Everything (4:47), Joe (7:22), Starbird Chasing The Infinite (5:15), The Distance Between Us (6:20), Pharoah's Scribbled Phantasms (11:17)
Greg Cummins

One of the obvious benefits of reviewing music is the ability to discover something refreshingly new and different to what you might otherwise enjoy. Then again, you can just as easily be stuck with a real turkey, and yet are obliged to write some glowing comments about the music. Such was the case when I elected to review an album that had sat unwanted for some time before being sent the CD for my thoughts. Being a stickler for quality, I was hoping that this album would not be another one that would let you down with insipid songwriting or uninspiring ideas. Man, was I glad I decided to take a punt on this disc. Let me tell you a little about its charm.

Being an all-instrumental affair and with the promotional material espousing all sorts of likenesses and influences, I immediately recognised the signature sound of a vast array of 70s bands and artists that had obviously left their mark on the assembled musicians who are responsible for this minor gem.

Daniel Biro, who, despite his brilliance as a keyboardist, programmer and songwriter, has sadly not set the world alight nor has his partner in crime, BB Davis, (drums, percussion, flute, beatbox, voice). I find this a travesty of justice in a quirky kind of way, as the music speaks so well for itself after only a few listens. The songs are fresh, direct, instantly likeable and sufficiently varied to keep your interest up high.

The promotional material suggests influences such as Chick Corea, Santana, Return To Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Soft Machine, Weather Report, Herbie Hancock and Joe Jawinul, among others. Well, I can definitely see that obvious connection to the stalwarts from the past, but I would also add a few others of my own. I see and hear a proximity to the wonderful sounds that Jean Luc Ponty made on his earlier albums, but if you replaced his electric violin for some more modern keyboards, you'd think he was also in the studio. Another slight reference I detect is with David Sancious whose Transformation album evokes some similarities here and there, especially on the epic, 18-minute song of the same name.

Helping out on bass is Andy Alexander. Don Stuart provides some tasty flute on track 5, while the guitar is played to perfection by Vincenzo Lamagne from Italy along with Russ Parker (track 5). Being all-instrumental, the songwriting needs to be above reproach and in this regard, I can find no fault with any of the songs.

The band have retained that delightful melodicism that our French friend was able to produce on demand, so kudos to Daniel and Co for maintaining such a high level of professionalism with their music. It really ticks a lot more boxes for me if an album is melodically driven, with the odd excursion into more frenetic or angular directions.

Songs such as One Whisper and Joe come alive with the sounds of the Rhodes electric piano / organ and give the music that comfortable and agreeable vibe that played such a crucial part in making jazz fusion so popular in the 70s. The band openly confesses to trying to make an album that acknowledges the significance and grandeur of the 70s pioneers, and to that end they have done that admirably.

This really took me by surprise to such an extent that I obtained their self-titled debut from 2007 and found it is just as good as their latest offering. Anyone even remotely into jazz-fusion will find a lot to like here and should find as much enjoyment out of this band's brilliant music as I did. Well done again guys.

Solaris — Marsbeli Kronikak III / Martian Chronicles III [EP]

Solaris - Marsbeli Kronikak III / Martian Chronicles III
Mi vagy MI? (Am I or A.I.?) (3:28), Zoo (Zoo) (3:50), Duo 2 (EP bonus) (5:02), Marsbeli Kronikak III. 3. tetel (Martian Chronicles III. 3.) (11:45)
Owen Davies

Window frames bedecked in celebratory bunting stand to attention. The swarming crowd wield red, white and blue flags. These wobble like wind-swept petals in the Jubilee breeze. The knot of bodies sways, proud-chested, brimming with patriotic gusto. Heads bob from side to side, hoping to capture a hazy, matchstick glimpse. The rhythmic throng sing songs of 'old' on 'The Mall'. Enthusiastic hands point expectantly towards the distant balcony.

Such obvious outpourings and expressions of delight, moved me to ponder why anniversaries have such an endearing appeal for some people. Whether you love them, or hate these types of events, it's certainly hard to ignore them?

Needless to say, it's not just the loyal devotees of the UK royal family that appreciate anniversaries, and also the special events and the commemorative items that often accompany them.

Many bands certainly appear to enjoy remembering, or celebrating events from the past. They most definitely appreciate the commercial and artistic opportunities that they present. To pluck just a few worthy examples from an ever-expanding list: S. Wilson's excellent Jethro Tull remixes have frequently been released to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the original. As another illustration and indication of the general appeal of this type of release, Focus for example, released an enjoyable anthology in 2020 to celebrate their 50 years as a band.

In this respect, I guess that the Hungarian band Solaris are no different.

As I write this piece, Solaris are remembering the release of their Martian Chronicles release some 38 years ago. In April, they had a sold-out concert to commemorate their 42 years of existence as a band.

The April gig planned to premier the live performance and release of Solaris' recently recorded Martian Chronicles III. Unfortunately, the album's sound engineer Tomi Erdész contracted Covid in the final stages, and was not well enough to fully complete the mixing process.

Rather than cancel the concert and the promised release of a new album, the band decided to release a 24-minute taster disc.

The completed Martian Chronicles III recordings, which feature over an hour of material with some newly written additions, is now planned to be released on October 31st, 2022. On the basis of this hors d'oeuvre, I cannot wait to sample the band's main course.

This appetiser contains three pieces that will almost certainly feature on the forthcoming release in some form, plus Duo 2, a bonus track recorded especially for the EP. The final track of the entre offers a preview and a glimpse of the Martian Chronicles III Suite. Whilst it stands alone in its own right and is a very enjoyable piece, it is probably fair to say that its overall impact is slightly lessened by its dissection from its intended body of work.

Nevertheless, it displays many of the features that ensure that the music of Solaris is distinctive. In common with the band's most recent release Nostradamus 2.0 - Returnity (Unborn Visions), good use is made of whispered vocals, choral interludes and shifts in volume and tempo. It is, by turns, melodic and wistful, heavy and menacing.

As might be expected, there are some delightful flute and recorder passages, and some equally satisfying guitar bursts. The synthesizer flurries of Robert Erdész however provide the piece with a range of other worldly colours and effects. His textured washes and droning tones, evoke an alternative landscape of dusty plains and swirling azure skies illuminated by the blood-red moons of Phobos and Deimos.

In this respect Erdész's skilful use of the vocoder has a pivotal role in sustaining this off-world atmosphere. After I read that a vocoder was used, I was concerned that it might involve something akin to the hackneyed robotic phrasings that have been used by some bands in the past. On the contrary, its use in Martian Chronicles III adds to the composition's overall menace. Occasionally, the vocoder even sounds like a highly animated, twisted fairground impresario. The shifts and turns of the cascading synths add to this disturbing effect and create the impression of a bucking carousel ride, or perhaps, an errant spaceship trying to escape a planet's clasping grip.

Yet, I would imagine that when the vocoder is heard within the context of Solaris forthcoming full Martian Chronicles III album in October, its role and significance will make even greater sense.

There are many highlights in the title track. These include vocal sections which have an ambience, reminiscent of Robert Erdész's satisfying Meeting Point album. The main motif of the composition is accessible and very melodic. Therefore, almost every aspect of the piece lodges itself in the memory with ease.

Whilst I was not totally convinced by some of the chugging, marching-type rhythms that decorate the tune, there is no denying that its tightly-knit structure, breathy silver tube bursts, call-and-response guitar and keyboard salvos, and insistent beats, enables it to build into an impressive crescendo where choral voices make a resounding and colourful impact.

The other tracks are equally enjoyable. Duo is simply entrancing. It is a reworking of a piece which originally appeared on side 2 of the bands 1990 album. This version features a collaboration between Attila Kollár and cellist Andras Sturcz. It is enchanting from start to finish. Whilst the original Duo was excellent, this version offers a different set of colours and adds a number of satisfying detours that are superbly explored.

The collaboration came about as a result of Solaris' work with the Sturcz Quartet for the band's anniversary Dimensions concert in 2021. The concert featured Solaris and three other ensembles (the Péter Sárik trio, Edina Szirtes's Squirrel Orchestra and the Sturcz Quartet) who were given an opportunity to freely interpret Solaris compositions in their own way.

The results are absolutely fascinating; You can enjoy them on three clips: A kigyo szive, M'Ars Poetica, and Apokalipszis.

It was interesting that Solaris appear to have channelled a much more retro-prog sound into their A I For A.I.? composition. The band's smouldering interplay is reminiscent of something Deep Purple could have created in the early 70s.

Although bookended by a gently classic Solaris-type acoustic intro and outro featuring wistful flute, the piece is a showcase for a white-knuckled extravaganza in which guitar and organ exchange glances, scowls and riffs with fiery intent. Needless to say, its burning guitar energy and pumping-organ intensity is utterly compelling and also great fun!

Zoo is equally satisfying. Its intoxicating mixture of synth, flute and guitar could not be mistaken for any other band. However, amidst its recognisable traits of tasty riffs and hard-blown fluted excitement, there are plenty of other influences at work, including a slight flavour or essence of classical music structures and a hint of the melodious style of Camel.

If this beautifully crafted entrée is an indication of what is in store for prog-rock aficionados in October, then the main course is going to be an absolute feast.

I hope that for many anniversaries to come, Solaris will continue to present an excuse for me to hoist the bunting, in recognition and celebration of their particular brand of flute prog-rock. It is rumoured that their anniversary 2022 gig was recorded and filmed, and who knows what other delightful courses and festivities might lie ahead? An extension/evolution of their LA 2026 suite would be quite wonderful!

In the meantime, I will place the celebratory bunting in an expectant box and satiate my appetite by playing The Martian Chronicles 111 again, again and again.

Soledad — XIII

Soledad - XIII
Hanging Over Me (3:02), Hex (ft. Suzie Lou) (4:17), Migraine (ft. Hassan Hajdi) (4:04), Fading Sight (4:03), Shelter I (ft. Jeremy Bares) (4:58), Shelter II (4:59), XIII (6:40), The Spell (3:57), Remedy (3:27), Remembrance (8:55), Amnesia (7:03)
Chris Rafferty

Reviewing for DPRP has broadened my interest in European bands. Having recently reviewed the Danish/Swedish band Vola, I am now turning to a young French band called Soledad. Apart from becoming more cosmopolitan, these bands are introducing me to a continental treasure trove!

Soledad are a four-piece based in the historical Lorraine region of north-east France. The band owes its conception and development to the composer, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist Lola Damblant-Soler, who is originally from Metz. In 2019, she recorded Catharsis as a solo project. Following this, Damblant-Soler met other like-minded musicians in music school in Nantes. This was the catalyst that initiated the evolution, from solo project to 4-piece band, to the release of XIII. Contrasting Catharsis and XIII, there is considerably more variety on XIII, that traverses the darkness of Hex, the melody of The Spell, to the romantic interlude within Remembrance.

The members of the band are the aforementioned Lola Damblant-Soler, Matthieu Colas (guitar), Theo Pinte (guitar), and Julien Giet (drums). Guest musicians include Jeremy Bares, Hassan Hajdi (Ange) Suzie Lou (Archetype, Natural Disorder) and Lucas de la Rosa (Archetype). Lucas also produces.

Demonstrating strength, initiative and independence, Damblant-Soler successfully financed the album through crowdfunding, which resulted in this self-produced independent release. They describe their music a progressive metal. Not doubting that XIII contains progressive metal, I would be of the view that Soledad covers a broad prog spectrum.

In the progressive rock world their influences are Haken, Leprous, Neil Morse and Muse. Classically, the use of strings permeates the album. Damblant-Soler's influences include Brahms' and Verdi's requiems. Other influences emanate from the romantic and baroque era. The French connection of Debussy and Chopin are among her favourite composers. Furthering the classical connection, producer Lucas de la Rosa plays keyboards on Remembrance, and he cites Rachmaninov, and Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue as influences.

The story includes forests, witches and spells. But don't panic, I am not about to bring you for a spin on the Hogwarts Express! Lola Damblant-Soler explains that this is a concept album, and the story emerged based on a freak experience of short-term blindness. This led to the concept for XIII where the main character loses her sight. The main character is the witch, who is Suzie, who is introduced on the second track Hex. The story continues where both lose their sight and they set about trying to find the remedy.

Briefly, I will take you through XIII. Opening with the excellent Handing Over Me, this has a beautiful melody, starting softly with piano and vocals, before building towards a dramatic end.

Hex features Suzie Lou. It ups the ante in terms of energy which is dominated by djent. There is a lot going on in this track. Migraine introduces Hassan Hajdi. On one hand this track conveys an ugliness and on the other Damblant-Soler's soft, upbeat melody nicely counterbalances.

The track Fading Sight explains where we are in the story. Backed by plucked strings, it gets heavier towards the end while maintaining the initial melody.

Shelter 1 and Shelter 2 continue the story of finding a remedy. Shelter 1 features Jeremy Bares performing a blistering solo on slide guitar. The Muse influence can be found on Shelter 2. The title track XIII includes a classical interlude.

The Spell is possibly my best track with an excellent melody. Remedy is the discovery to ease the pain. Lucas plays keys on Remembrance introducing a romantic interlude. The concluding track Amnesia, revisits the melodies of the previous 10 tracks, with a guitar solo finalé that brings the album to a close.

It is difficult to confine Soledad to a particular genre as they cover such a wide spectrum. One thing is for sure; this is an excellent album encompassing so much variety. The songs are well-crafted with great production. This is a young band with enormous potential.

Tears For Fears — The Tipping Point

Tears For Fears - The Tipping Point
No Small Thing (4:42), The Tipping Point (4:11), Long, Long, Long Time (4:30), Break The Man (3:56), My Demons (3:08), Rivers Of Mercy (6:02), Please Be Happy (3:04), Master Plan (4:37), End Of Night (3:24), Stay (4:35)
Patrick McAfee

Tears For Fears may not be a prog band in the traditional sense, but their diverse discography and complex style certainly warrants inclusion in the genre. The Tipping Point, their seventh studio album and first in 18 years, stands as a testament to their musical integrity.

In 2013, Roland Orzabel and Curt Smith were asked by their then-manager to record an album collaborating with popular modern pop-rock songwriters/musicians. Whereas previous hits happened for the band more by chance than intent, this experiment left them both dispirited and close to ending their musical union. Feeling that the recordings represented a forced attempt to fit into the current music mainstream, they decided to scrap the album.

Instead, as they had done early in their careers, Orzabel and Smith got together in a room and began writing music from the ground up. Album opener, No Small Thing, is the superb first result of these songwriting sessions. Initially sounding like an old school country song, it transcends into a stunning and ultimately chaotic art-rocker. That unexpected turn is exactly the type of musical daring that makes Tears For Fears so compelling. The song also sets the tone for an album, that at times is lyrically stark. Several tracks touch on the troubles of the world that we live in, while others reflect on the passing of Orzabel's wife a few years back. Ultimately though, the sheer musical exuberance of the album keeps it from sinking into melancholia.

The excellent title track and the emotional, Please Be Happy present a level of gravitas not previously seen from the band. Similarly, the stunning Rivers of Mercy, is not only a highlight of the album, is it one the band's best compositions ever. Long, Long, Long Time, Break the Man, My Demons and End of Night showcase their ability to create songs that are musically accessible, yet still artfully intricate. The Beatlesque, Master Plan is a direct response to the ex-manager who had pushed the hit-making idea, whilst the memorable album closer, Stay, recounts the near breakup of the band.

Thankfully that didn't occur, because The Tipping Point is one of the best albums released in the last 20 years. Regrettably, many of the notable bands of the 70s/80s have resigned themselves to only touring or releasing mediocre new material. Conversely, this vital album can stand proudly next to anything that Tears For Fears has previously released.

It proves beyond a doubt that there was never a need for them to partner with modern hit-makers to be relevant. Instead, they created from the heart, and the result is an essential classic. For those interested, Steven Wilson mixed the album to 5.1 surround and Dolby Atmos. The Atmos version was released on ITunes and other streaming services, but the 5.1 was only made available on a limited run SDE Blu-ray disc. They both sound amazing though and are well worth checking out. There are also a couple of editions of the album that feature bonus tracks.

Album Reviews