Album Reviews

Issue 2023-002

Duo Review

Cøllapse — ἈNÁΓKH

Cøllapse - ἈNÁΓKH
Spiral Down (6:54), Anima Anceps (6:18), Yōkai (5:21), 2 = 8 (1:56), Belle De Nuit (6:04), Ljómi (7:36), Lotus (2:22), Ἀνάγκη (6:38), Mỹ Hoa (9:56)
Martin Burns

Grenoble-based instrumental quartet Cøllapse have released their new album ἈNÁΓKH. This sees them continuing to move from their post-rock origins further into the progressive sphere. Over the course of nine tracks, they pursue a widescreen, cinematic vision that sees an equal balance between Vincent Coutellier's keyboards and Sebastien Pierron's guitars. They are supported by the rhythm section of Anthony Barruel's drums and Erwan Massit's bass, both of whom instinctively know when to push forward and when to hold back in these melodic instrumental pieces.

This is Cøllapse's third album to be positively reviewed on following on from 2014's The Fall and 2017's The Sleep In Me. ἈNÁΓKH continues the growth in progressive goodness. Each track has its own identity, but they still fit together and work as a whole album. This is helped by a crystal-clear mix.

The opener Spiral Down starts in a post-rock mode, growing by layers and intensity before it burst into flamboyant prog-rock sound that is all keyboards and heavy riffs. Its superb arrangement makes its seven minutes fly by.

There is an immediate change of tack with the slower, minor-key, bluesy Anima Anceps. It develops a sense of mystery in its middle section that I don't think I have heard before.

The falling piano motif and guitar chords of Yōkai signal another aspect to the kaleidoscopic sound-world of Cøllapse. The slow-paced Ljómi has delicate chimes of Fender Rhodes to start, but ends with a surprisingly heavy coda. There is more mystery generated on the disappointingly short Lotus.

Another change comes along with the picked acoustic guitar, Rhodes and handclaps that open ἈNÁΓKH. It develops through contrasting gentle and heavy passages, while never abandoning the detailing that makes Cøllapse's music so interesting.

They close the album with their most post-rock track, Mỹ Hoa, that goes through the build and release trope to great effect.

As with my colleagues in their previous reviews I think that Cøllapse's ἈNÁΓKH is a great discovery. If, like me, you enjoy the instrumental output of Porcupine Tree, then this will be an album to check out. ἈNÁΓKH is a thoroughly enjoyable, constantly engaging listen. It would be a shame to miss out on this release.

Mark Hughes

It has been five years since the last release, The Sleep In Me by French post-rock group Cøllapse. In that time the band have acquired a new bassist, Erwan Massit, who accompanies original members Sébastien Pierron (guitars) and Anthony Barruel (drums) alongside keyboardist Vincent Coutellier, who made his debut with the band on the aforementioned album.

In their 11-year career they have clocked up three previous albums and a download-only EP of B-sides (despite seemingly never having released any singles). Fourth album, the frankly unpronounceable ἈNÁΓKH (it will be very hard to index and find, too!), continues their foray into instrumental, cinematic music. We open with the glorious Spiral Down that packs in a multitude of rhythms, hook lines and musical delights without resorting to any bombast or overloaded guitars. The strength of the track is based on its relative simplicity and the arrangement of the instruments within the mix.

The album continues to delight, with Anima Anceps and the wonderful sound of the Rhodes electric piano woven in-between the guitar, and the more off-beat Yōkai with Barruel establishing poly-rhythms all over the place. Midway through, a more obtuse slice of musical endeavour shakes things up and adds interest to proceedings. The band also profess to be influenced by the graphic film universe and this is apparent from the brief 2 = 8. Here human voices form the bulk of the track, with a single keyboard line backing. Very effective, evocative and rather haunting.

It is a shame that the band have just stuck to the basic guitar/bass/drums/keyboards approach on this release as they could enhance their musical pallet greatly by incorporating more unconventional instruments as they did with the use of xylophone on their previous album. However, I suppose it does mean the material is easier to replicate live as a quartet. Not that in real terms there is anything to complain about in what the band does create with the instruments they do utilise, generating a diverse and wide-screen panoply of sounds and textures. Ljómi is a personal highlight and once again shows that less, really can be more.

There is not a sub-par track on the album with each of the compositions having their own character and strengths which makes the album an exceptionally satisfying listen throughout. The only thing I would really change about the release is switching the order of the last two tracks, as I think the title track provides a better and more incisive conclusion to the album than the lengthy Mỹ Hoa.

If you like instrumental prog / post-rock music and are not familiar with Cøllapse then they are definitely worth investigating. Visit their website for some very reasonably priced CD bundles. Your ears will thank you!

Duo Review

Saro Cosentino — The Road To Now

Czech Republic
Saro Cosentino - The Road To Now
You Are The Story (4:44), The Joke (5:05), Pray (3:40), November (4:38), Us (Scars On Skin) (4:23), Time To Go (3:49), Howl (6:48), When My Parents Danced (2:10)
Mark Hughes

It may have taken 25 years, but The Road To Now is the follow-up to 1997's Ones And Zeros. The new album features many of the main contributors to the 1997 release with Peter Hammill, Tim Bowness and Karen Eden providing vocals (and in Mr. Hammill's case some additional guitar). John Giblin and Gavin Harrison form a solid rhythm section and Trey Gunn contributes Warr guitar to The Howl, the album's instrumental piece. David Rhodes, a new contributor, plays guitar. Cosentino himself contributes guitars, keyboards, bass and piano as and when appropriate. Three other musicians have bit parts: Dorota Barova (cello and vocals), Nicola Alesini (sax) and Radim Knapp (trumpet).

Hammill is the most prominently-featured of the guest vocalists singing four of the seven songs. The Joke is similar to Hammill's more recent solo output, with the emphasis being on the voice. November harks back to earlier days in Hammill's career, quite reminiscent of material on Over. Simple, effective and with added trumpet. Hammill's backing vocals sound like he has been taking a leaf from the Tim Bowness book of singing! Time To Go features a degree of multi-layered vocals and is quite orchestral in nature. It seems to be aiming for the big and epic but falls a bit short and is rather languid. Finally, we have When Your Parents Danced, a rather sad song, wondering about one's parent's relationship when they first met and had to face the pressures of work, family and life in general. Nice sentiments but a bit of a low on which to end the album.

Karen Eden, the original lead singer of the Home And Away theme song, features on two songs as lead vocalist. Pray is quite minimally arranged with lovely contributions by the trumpet and saxophone. The vocals are very restrained; the chorus is questioning and emphatic. In contrast, Us (Scars On Skin) is practically a pop song! Beautifully sung and one of the most upbeat numbers on the album.

One could fail to recognise Tim Bowness, and his spoken/sung style is wonderfully effective on the opening number You Are The Story. This is another strong song with haunting keyboards and a trumpet providing the backing.

Howl, the longest track on the album, doesn't really live up to the name, although that is not to say it should be dismissed entirely. There seems to be a degree of improvisation within the piece, or at least something more cinemascopic. There are some nice elements, but I think slightly more force and angst would have been of benefit.

I was a fan on the Ones And Zeros album and still play it with a degree of regularity. The Road To Now is an accomplished follow-up and sits nicely alongside the former album as an interesting comparison/juxtaposition of how things have changed, or otherwise, over a quarter of a century.

Martin Burns

Saro Cosentino is an Italian multi-instrumentalist and composer based in Prague who has some high-profile prog contacts he has used on his new album The Road To Now. He is a name new to me but his 2014 reworking of an earlier album Ones And Zeroes Revisited was reviewed on this site.

This new release continues in the same vein with many of the guests returning. The songs on The Road To Now are similarly paced, in the slow to mid-paced range of meditative, almost at times ambient, progressive rock. So it can seem on a first listen somewhat samey. However, repeated listens reveal detailed arrangements that have smart interplay between Cosentino's guitars, keyboards, bass, strings and piano. Add into this mix the ten guest musicians and things are more interesting than they first appear.

Tim Bowness opens the album with his trademark breathy vocals on You Are The Story. Gentle piano, bass and strings form a lovely melody that is fleshed out with Nicola Alesini's saxophone and the Talk Talk muted trumpet of Radim Knapp. Quiet but engaging.

Next up is the first of four songs sung by Peter Hammill. Hammill brings along his nothing-less-than-potent lyric-writing talent. (Has he ever written one that is a frippery?) The Joke has an environmental concern with a political edge. It starts with backing of keyboard soundscapes before moving into a long coda of tribal drumming and world music straight from the Peter Gabriel playbook, and delicious multitracked vocals from Hammill.

The other three tracks featuring Hammill are spread though the album. November, with Bowness on backing vocals, is a slow-tempo song-of-loss that has an affecting use of the trumpet and sax. Approaching mortality is the theme of Time To Go. It has the lovely colour of Dorota Barova's cello along with more sax work. Hammill closes the album on the nostalgic but not cosy look at the memory of how one's parents share something that you are excluded from on. When Your Parents Danced is simply-but-effectively backed by piano and strings. All of these are great songs made by Hammill's intense lyrics and Cosentino's sympatico music.

The discovery, for me, on The Road To Now is of Australian singer Karen Eden. She has a magnificent tone to her voice, a rich and sonorous alto, but she unfortunately only appears on two songs. The cello-drive and hummable world music vibe of Pray and the up-tempo pop-prog of Us (Scars On Skin). The latter though has a much darker lyrical theme to it than its music would suggest, as it deals with the aftermath of a mental health crisis. More great songs.

The album's longest track is the only instrumental. It mixes a neo-prog sound with a massive dose of characterful art-rock. Faster and with subtle percussion and Trey Gunn's Waar guitar, Mellotron and more muted trumpet, it shows Cosentino's soundtrack composing background as well as his prog leanings.

Overall your reaction to Saro Cosentino's The Road To Now will be tempered by whether you buy into the album's measured, contemplative but supremely detailed music. I found it was worth the effort to get to know.

Duo Review

Riverside — ID.Entity

Riverside - ID.Entity
Friend Or Foe? (7:28), Landmine Blast (4:50), Big Tech Brother (7:24), Post-Truth (5:24), The Place Where I Belong (13:16), I'm Done With You (5:52), Self-Aware (8:43)
Héctor Gómez

There's no denying that Riverside had to make Wasteland in order to survive. Certainly the emotion of yearning and loss that that release managed to convey, crystallised in some brilliant music. But I also believe that that very rawness of feeling made it uneven and rough in places. So how does ID.Entity fare alongside it?

Instinct and personality, roles and perceptions, individuality and society. All these, and more, are what the latest Riverside album is about. But ID.Entity also deals with the band's legacy and its many faces/identities over the last two decades.

In this regard, this album works remarkably well as a compendium of what the band represents, both stylistically and thematically, as it strikes a sweet balance between the intensity of ADHD (2009), the proggyness of S.O.N.G.S. (2013) and the refined song-craft of Love, Fear and the Time Machine (2015).

In any case, one of ID.Entity's main strengths is how catchy and memorable all the songs are. Take the first track Friend or Foe. What a great opener it is, with its perfect blend of classic Riverside light and shade with 80s synth textures. Bands such as A-HA are being referenced in reviews and press releases, and certainly there's an elegant pop sensibility to the song. Likewise, the last track Self-Aware harks back to Rush circa Grace Under Pressure (1984), with its reggae overtones and "new guy" Maciej Meller channelling his inner Alex Lifeson, but again with the band's personality firmly imprinted on it.

Other highlights include Big Tech Brother, which you could call a nearly perfect Riverside composition, as it showcases what makes this band the modern classics they are. If it's only "nearly" perfect that's because the robotic spoken word preamble doesn't quite work, and because the last two minutes are so thrilling that they could, and should, have gone on for at least twice that. Oh well.

The epic The Place Where I Belong is also brilliant from a musical standpoint, and its 13 minutes just fly by, but the lyrics could have benefited from a couple or so rewrites, as they come across as somewhat heavy-handed, particularly on the groovy middle section. I understand Mariusz Duda wanted to get his message (with which I wholeheartedly agree) across in a blunt, explicit manner, but surely there were more "poetic" ways to translate his ideas into words.

Quibbles aside, the album production sounds fantastic and performance-wise everyone is in top form, with Duda's vocals and bass playing as expressive as they've ever been (check Landmine Blast or Post-Truth to see what I mean). However, I feel it is Michal Lapaj who steals the show this time, showing great taste with his choice of sounds and textures, not to mention some hot Hammond runs.

It might not be the band's all-round best piece, but it certainly is a very good place to start if you're not familiar with their output, and as such it makes for a great "gateway" album.

Edwin Roosjen

I have been following Riverside since their ground-breaking debut Out Of Myself in 2004. Since then these Polish progressive rockers have released a lot of high quality albums and are not afraid to try something new.

They could have stayed with the combination of heavy and clean vocals for a very long time but since the 2013 album Shrine Of New Generation Slaves, the dark screams are gone. With Love, Fear And The Time Machine Riverside continued to an even more mellow path. After the passing of guitar player Piotr Grudziński, Riverside had to reinvent themselves a bit with Wasteland. A much more complex album with a small nod back to the heavier sound.

And now the new album is called ID.Entity. Who is everyone in these strange times and what is the identity of the band Riverside? A good question.

ID.Entity is the first album with guitar player Maciej Meller mentioned as an official member of Riverside.

The first track Friend Or Foe is something I completely did not expect. Ever since the Netflix series Stranger Things a lot of bands have been trying to revive the 80s and this opening track also has those symptoms. I even dare to say that the opening of the song could be the title theme for Stranger Things. After some heavy rock guitar chords, it becomes really 80s poppy keyboard music. Although as the song progresses, the rock band Riverside comes to the surface.

Friend Or Foe never really becomes a heavy rocker and during the whole song the 80s vibe is present. At first, I was really shocked; this is not a style of music that I was hoping for on the new Riverside album. After a few spins I got into it a bit more. It was probably the first scare that troubled me most. So a small warning to not judge this album on the first song.

The second number, Landmine Blast, has none of those 80s influences that dominated the first song. It is a lot more towards the familiar Riverside sound, with a lot more complexity. Certainly not your standard rock song, it strangely pounds along and at the end the melodies are stretched to a more soundscape-like sound.

Big Tech Brother starts with a spoken warning and then probably a keyboard generated brass section. By now my confusion reaches the same level as with Friend Or Foe. Just like the opener, it needs getting used to. At first spin I was surprised, but after a few spins I was humming along with those melodies. So again the warning to not judge on a first impression. After the opening it is alternating heavy stuff with ambient parts.

Post Truth is a pounding rocker that again takes me back to the earlier work of Riverside. Again a very alternating song with a lot of progressive-metal influences. Some might even hear some Dream Theater in this song.

The album's long song is The Place Where I Belong. This one has all the elements Riverside is well known for. Lengthy melodic solos, blues rock jamming parts and mellow ambient parts. I especially appreciate the bluesy keyboard parts; that thick, layered sound is just awesome. The lyrics in the second part are really grabbing and glue themselves in your mind.

I'm Done With You reminds me a lot of the older work by Riverside. A great song with some fierce parts in it. The grunting might be a thing of the past but the passionate, heavier vocals sure feel good.

The closing song on some Riverside albums can be epic-sounding pieces and with a title like Self Aware I was expecting a bombastic piece with philosophical lyrics. Surprisingly this song sounds very uplifting with some "oohoohoo" chanting. Strangely the end of the song is very dark and ambient. During the last couple of minutes this album slowly comes to an end.

At first spin I was a bit underwhelmed and confused about some parts. But after a few spins ID.Entity started to sink in and even the confusing parts I gradually started to appreciate. And the album is still sinking in, so I will probably spend a lot more time listening to it.

The opener on this album is largely to blame because it starts in a style that I was not hoping Riverside would turn towards. Maybe it was my personal expectations that got in the way and needed some adjustment. After a few spins more and more wonderful things come to the surface, ID.Entity is for sure an album I can sink my teeth into for a long time, and it becomes better and better with each spin.

Sometimes I still long for the older, heavier Riverside with the heavy vocals but if the choice is between releasing the same kind of music over and over, then I prefer a band that is reinventing itself. Riverside for sure has succeeded in that in a fantastic way. Could this already be the album of the year so soon in January?

Riverside On

Album Reviews