Album Reviews

Issue 2023-003

Inner Prospekt — Canvas Three

Inner Prospekt - Canvas Three
Scratches (8:03), The Island Of Despair (11:47), A Wordless Fable (11:20), The Showdown (20:16), Young Me, Old You (11:20), The Lizard Tale (5:24) Bandcamp-only Bonus Track: La Resa Dei Conti (20:21)
Jan Buddenberg

One year after Grey Origin, Alessandro Di Benedetti, the mastermind behind Inner Prospekt, returns with a third instalment in his Canvas series, aptly titled Canvas Three. For regular DPRP visitors, Di Benedetti should no longer be in need of an introduction as his credentials speak for themselves through his prominent contributions to albums made by for instance The Guildmaster and those released over the last few years by The Samurai Of Prog. Those who still require an introduction please read on.

As the composer of personally-favoured songs A Queen's Wish and The Knight And the Ghost, from TSOP's The Lady And The Lion and The Guildmaster's The Knight And The Ghost respectively, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that these wonderful songs were also featured in alternate versions on Inner Prospekt's Canvas Two. With the simultaneously discovered Canvas One pushing the gage of my "prog-o-meter" to a position of joyous satisfaction, it is now the pleasant Canvas Three that spins the needle firmly into levels of comparable gratification.

Like on Canvas Two, Di Benedetti (keyboards, drums, vocals) is accompanied by a small group of participants, which this time includes Carmine Capasso (TSoP, The Trip) and Federico Tetti (Mad Crayon) on guitars and Guildmaster-companion Rafael Pacha on a small arsenal (by his standards) in the form of 12-strings and electric guitars, viola da gamba, piccolo flute, fretless bass and zyther.

Together they deliver over an hour's worth of magically-shaped symphonic prog which will once again delight those in favour of TSOP. Out of the six compositions, five have previously appeared on various of their albums. Six out of seven if you take into account the Bandcamp-only bonus track La Resa Dei Conti, which is the Italian version of The Showdown as featured on The Spaghetti Epic 4.

The album instantly attracts with the excellent Scratches, a song previously appearing on TSoP's Omnibus II as Take Me Down. Expressing a less-dense and more openly structured framework than TSoP's version, this exhibits a distinct feel of Genesis thanks to the song's bridge which is elevated by outstanding guitar work from Capasso that brings Hackett to mind, as well as Di Benedetti's close vocal resemblance to Gabriel. Add to this some lovely Tony Banks-inspired, keyboard-dominated movements, and a graciously-sensitive layer of bass, and the overall yield is a wonderful symphonic exercise that breaths a smooth and enjoyable Seconds Out mindfulness.

All subsequent compositions show a similar openness and lighter approach in structure and arrangements as compared to the various TSoP variants. This gives all of Canvas Three's renditions a different kind of feel, elegance and expressiveness.

In The Island Of Despair, this results in less intensity and drama, also partly due to Di Benedetti's lesser expressive strength in comparison to Bart Schwertmann (Galaxy) whose compelling performance brought character to the version as found on Robinson Crusoe. But by no means does this have any bearing on the overall outcome, for once again the song excels through its beautiful, undulating (synth) melodies, refined classical piano play and fairytale enchantment from flute and touching violin. To top it off, a final touch of Pacha's electrifying guitar-work almost makes you forget Hackett's original contributions.

A Wordless Fable, entitled Searching For The Fear on TSoP's The White Snake, follows and does full justice to its former enchanting glory. Provided with moments of steamy organ and lovely intricate bass melodies, Di Benedetti shows in this richly varied song that he is not only a gifted composer and talented keyboardist, but also an excellent percussionist. I'm almost lost for words to describe the song's beautiful symphonic narrative.

The subsequent The Showdown is the perfect illustration that although the songs are all taken out of context of their original storytelling album, this cohesive compilation of songs on Canvas Three turns out to be just as mesmerising. Less-suspenseful than The Spaghetti Epic 4 version, The Showdown's cheerful melodies as before ignite memories of comical western movies and revisit the many blissful musical realms still mindful to Genesis.

Yet, surprisingly, this version reveals a delightful symphonic touch during the song's intricate fairytale bridge which shies away from Camel influences and brings forth visions of symphonic Grobschnitt from the mid-seventies, which to me attracts like pure magic. Treated with subtle rerecorded and remixed musical changes, the Bandcamp-only version of the song shows closer proximity to TSoP's version courtesy of the Italian-sung lyrics. To this day I can't decide which version I prefer.

One version I do prefer is Di Benedetti's own interpretation of Young Me, Old You from Guildmaster's Liber De Dictis. Initially fragile and breakable with elegant musical simplicity as acoustic guitar and flute allure, it's the elderly voice of Di Benedetti resonating with the warmth of Gabriel and Ian Anderson that makes this opening passage stand out. Closely followed by the soothing jazz-inspired movements which are smoothly taken by the hand and gradually bristle with increased life from stunning intertwining musical maturity and youthful emotional vividness. Touchingly decorated by Pacha's majestic guitar work, this is without doubt a stroke of sublime perfection on the album.

The last song on the album, The Lizard Tale, exhibits a more pop-inspired, up-tempo approach mindful to Genesis, with Di Benedetti's voice shining brightly in the spirit of Chandelier's Martin Eden.

Simply rephrasing an earlier statement, the sole conclusion is that Canvas Three is again a marvellous demonstration of Di Benedetti's exceptional compositional strength. Formulated by adventurous songs that show inventiveness, creative arrangements and masterful executions Canvas Three is therefore a highly recommended effort worth checking out for fans of symphonic/progressive rock. For those admiring the various Samurai Of Prog-projects that Di Benedetti partakes in, I'd go one step further and state this to be an essential purchase. I look forward with high anticipation as to what Di Benedetti's fourth canvas will bring.

Jordsjø — Jord Sessions

Jordsjø - Jord Sessions
Over Vidda (1:48), Abstraksjoner Fra Et Dunkelt Kammer (6:51), Jord I (6:25), I Momos Trädgård( 2:32), La Meg Forsvinne (6:34), Jord II (8:25), Se Valinors Lamper (7:08), Nattfiolen Suite (digital-only bonus track) (13:38)
Martin Burns

The Oslo-based duo who record as Jordsjø, began by releasing cassettes of their music, and it was in this format that they released their well-regarded album Jord. Unhappy with the mix of that cassette, Håkon Oftung (Tusmørke, Black Magic) and drummer Kristian Frøland, have remastered it and released it on CD, digitally and as a 12" heavyweight red vinyl with a gatefold cover. This is limited to 500 copies worldwide and at the time of writing just 19 remain.

The bonus track is the unreleased title track to 2019's album Nattfiolen. This 13-minute track is available with the CD version of Jord and on the Bandcamp release, but not the vinyl version of Jord Sessions. However, it is available as a stand-alone digital track and as a 10" gold vinyl version (a limited edition of 300, with 18 remaining at the time of writing).

The original mix of Jord was reviewed positively by my colleague Owen Davies, and I will be giving this a similarly-positive review. I won't go into the nitty-gritty of it, so please read Owen's review for that.

I will say I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of old school vintage keyboards, guitars and flute, giving a particular Scandinavian folk feel to this symphonic prog. Jordsjø are fellow travellers with the likes of White Willow and Änglagård. In their use of Mellotron they reflect Anekdoten, and in the flute and guitar sections Camel. This remaster of Jord makes each piece gleam, whilst retaining the melancholy of the original. They have added a new organ track on Abstraksjoner… and some bells and percussion on Se Valinors Lamper, otherwise, all tracks remain as the original. Retro-flavoured prog at its finest.

So to the bonus track. The Nattfiolen Suite continues the fine retro-prog of the earlier album and I also find it difficult to believe this is the work of a duo. It feels like a full band. Piano and organ vie with thumping drums that fades into synths and bird song. The Suite moves through various moods and instrumental sections. Up-tempo acoustic guitar and flute are joined by electric guitar and forceful Hammond and Mellotron as the full band-sound takes over. Hammond comes to the fore with the vocals, along with a compact guitar and synth solos. This is great stuff and should tempt fans of the band and newbies to Jordsjø like myself.

Jordsjø Jord Sessions (plus Nattfiolen Suite) has been a great discovery for me and will get played alongside the Scandi bands already mentioned. It is the sound of a band playing music in a style they so obviously love but in their own distinctive way.

Lodestone — Time Flies

Lodestone - Time Flies
Overture (3:20), Link / Theme (4:32), Castle / The Fault (4:21), I Awake (1:48), Crash Landing (1:46), We've Made It (2:40), World Wall One (3:18) Liberation (3:40), The Observer / We Arrive (Pt.1) (4:03), We Arrive (Pt.2) / Space Shanty (6:13), The Second Leaving (2:47)
Martin Burns

I decided to listen to Lodestone's Time Flies before finding out anything about the band or this release. I was pleasantly surprised by its version of prog that relies on a heavy dose of psyche and pop, with a prominent role for the Hammond organ. The album explores a science fiction concept, one that follows astronauts on a voyage to a distant, extra-solar planet. This is similar to the concepts explored by some early Van Der Graaf Generator songs such as Pioneers Over C. I thought that overall this is an interesting retro slice of late 60s psyche-prog.

Then I did some research to discover that this is actually the first CD release of Time Flies. It was originally recorded by Lodestone in 1971, but only released in three European countries at the time. So I felt briefly foolish, there was nothing retro involved here. Lodestone were a German band. Information about them is scarce, with next-to-no internet presence other than that provided by Cherry Red Records who have rescued this album from obscurity.

The music on Time Flies mixes West Coast harmonies with relatively short, melodic, pop-psyche-prog nuggets. The melodies in the main avoid the obvious verse-chorus-verse repeat structures in favour of more flowing ones. Some instrumental passages pre-echo bands like Greenslade (Link / Theme) and Focus (Castle / The Fault). Other tracks point to what Simon Dupree and the Big Sound might have evolved into if they had stuck with the template of Kites rather than going full-prog as Gentle Giant.

There are lovely touches throughout Time Flies. The aforementioned vocal harmonies, the use of strings, harpsichord, trumpet and flute, and nods to The Beatles' psychedelic pop (World Wall One, Liberation).

In 1971, with pop moving away from psyche, and with prog developing at a pace, Lodestone found themselves in limbo, with an album under-promoted by their label Phillips. Heads in-the-know would have been moving towards the likes of Can I suspect.

Lodestone's Time Flies in an interesting release and has been handsomely treated by Cherry Red Records with remastering by band member Gerry Morris, approved by original producer Tony Atkins. With a booklet featuring new liner notes on the making of the album, along with a science fiction short story. Unfortunately it still offers the same terrible cover art.

This particular musical time capsule is deserving of having been unearthed.

Odonata — Gravitational Perturbation

Odonata - Gravitational Perturbation
Oriental Memories (9:37), Son of Iron (7:15), Red (6:22), Metamorphosis is the Path (9:20), A Calm Valley (4:44)
Andy Read

Living in rural France, "traditional" is probably the most polite word to use when describing our local music scene, where accordion music, chansons and cover bands are the norm.

To find something a little more adventurous, a trip into one of the cities that encircle us at a safe distance is required.

An hour north, Poitiers has been the most fruitful with Hacride, Wallack, Klone, and The Necromancers all based in the hilltop university city.

An hour west, and the city of Niort is more interested in finance and insurance; although it does have a half-decent football team. An hour to the south-west and with its annual car rally around the city walls, Angoulême would provide great video footage for a hard rock video. I've yet to discover much of a music scene.

Odonata, promo photo

An hour in the other direction and Limoges has seemed too busy producing 50% of France's porcelain to generate a single band that I have ever heard of ... until now.

For recently, Limoges has been quietly hatching some promising merchants of psyche/stoner/doom. I have enjoyed both Stronger Than Arnold and their Live at Dirty Cave EP and Greyborn whose Leeches EP was released last year.

Which brings us nicely to Odonata; a psychedelic, atmospheric, progressive rock trio, formed in 2020 in Limoges by Fabienne Albiac (guitar and vocals). For this debut album, Fabienne is joined by Steff Tej (guitar and vocals) and Betti Lou Dugnolle (drums and backing vocals).

The band states a vast range of influences including the likes of Can, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Budgie, Iron Butterfly, My Sleeping Karma, Tool, Color Haze, Ufomammut, Yob and Messa. One can certainly see the links, but the way those influences have been blended by this trio, has created music that emphasises a dark, atmospheric psychedelia, where the listener is transported into a thick yet airy heavy-psyche trance.

Four of the five tracks are extended compositions, giving the band time to wrap the listener in their drone-like grooves. That in itself is a pretty expected trope for bands in this genre. Where Odonata stand apart from most others, is in their use of male and female vocals. The male voice mostly takes the lead in a semi-spoken style. The female vocals have a more whispered approach. Often they form a backing harmony/groove but are equally effective when they take the lead. The mix works well.

I'd prefer a little more variety in the dynamic range and texture from the drumming. No bass is credited but there do appear to be some other musical inputs. I enjoy the didgeridoo-like sound on the opening track. Some guitar runs are delightful.

This should appeal to fans of heavy-psyche who enjoy albums where they can just slumber into the trance-like vibe created. I've really enjoyed this album and I await with interest to see what comes out of the Limoges psyche/stoner/doom scene next.

Ticket to the Moon — Elements

Ticket to the Moon - Elements
The Impact (2:39), Elements (6:08), Pulsar B0531+21 (1:19), Ebb & Flow (7:53), St. Elmo's Fire (4:46), Crossing Skies (4:25), Pulsar B2020+2B (1:32), XYZ (4:06), Origins (3:27), Behind the Mist (8:42), Pulsar Punta Salinas Radar (0:50)
Sergey Nikulichev

It's old news now, but music connoisseurs might remember the short-lived bickering between members of Metallica and post-rockers Mogwai back in 2014. I would not like to go into details (DPRP is not a yellow paper after all), but the point is that almost nine years ago these bands really seemed to many people like two poles on the rock globe. What is the reason for mentioning all this here? Because, ironically enough, the Swiss-based project Ticket To The Moon sounds precisely like a cross between Metallica and the post-rock crowd.

Okay, maybe not directly like Mogwai, but comparisons with God Is An Astronaut, Exxasens, and Tides From Nebula are quite appropriate. Heavy post-thrash riffs with an alternative tinge, grounded in a thick cosmic atmosphere and a wall-of-sound grandiosity worked really well for me back in 2012, when I heard the band's debut release Dilemma On Earth (check out Nathan's review). Such a creative mix gave freshness to both of these rather stagnating sub-genres, evolving into something that offered a new quality.

Elements is the third release by this not-too-prolific project, but definitely well worth waiting for. Basically all the “elements” (pun intended) from the previous records are here; spacey samples, thick riffs, ebbs and flows of ambient soundscapes, modern grooves and breakdowns. At times TttM's music gets Gojira- or DTB-heavy, or on the contrary, turns soothing and elegiac.

Elements cannot be praised as an epitome of originality. You have probably heard these techniques elsewhere, and there's nothing pivotal on the album for haters of a modern fat sound. However, here are four reasons why it deserves attention.

Reason Fire: Above all, it is a well-written effort with cool melodies and a tap-your-feet groove.

Reason Earth: It is a concise record, this is very much straight-to-the-point.

Reason Water: Elements is versatile enough, in a sense that none of the effects and techniques are overused. Damn, it even has some decent guitar solos; extremely rare guests in the post-rock field!

Reason Air: Although the album is split into 11 tracks, it is basically a one-piece suite with a strikingly seamless transition between compositions, something that you do not hear very often. This is probably what I liked the best about Elements.

There are no hits and fillers here. The record is best appreciated in its wholeness, but if you really need something to plunge your ears into, try the closing Behind the Mist.

Yurt — V - Upgrade To Obsolete

Yurt - V - Upgrade To Obsolete
Paralyse (12:58), Upgrade To Obsolete (9:13), The Book Of Esophagus (8:29), Breakfast In Aksum (12:07), The Brand Evangelist (4:46), Mukbang (13:53)
Martin Burns

Dublin-based trio Yurt's fifth album, handily entitled V - Upgrade To Obsolete continues their run of uncompromising space-rock-psyche oddball heavy-prog albums. Two of Yurt's previous albums, III – Molluskkepokk and IV – The Obstacle Is Everything received less-than-enthusiastic reviews from my colleagues.

I have the same problems with V - Upgrade To Obsolete as my colleagues did with the earlier releases, but to a slightly lesser extent. The six tracks are a relentless barrage of guitars (Steve Anderson), Lemmy-style bass (Boz Mugabe) and very energetic drumming (Andrew Bushe). The music is alleviated, in parts, by sequenced synths, electronics and other keys (also Boz Mugabe) that give it a classic, early 70s Hawkwind Michael "Dik Mik" Davies, Del Dettmar sound.

The songs have long instrumental passages that sometimes contain decent, if often under-developed, melodies that crash recklessly along, until the shouty, punk-like vocals come in. These pull me out of any mood that has been created. For me, the opener Paralyse, would have benefited by being half-the-length and fully-instrumental.

Yurt add discordant organ and avant keys to the fierce prog-metal riffing and phased guitars of the title track but again this interesting turn is cancelled by the vocals. More discordant keyboards pop up on The Book Of Esophagus, along with Steve Anderson's self-proclaimed sax abuse that honks madly over sequencer runs and meaty guitar soundscapes.

The second half of the album sees a dive in the quality. The short, repeated guitar phrase of Breakfast In Aksum outstays its welcome by at least ten minutes. Its drawn-out ending soon palls. The closing Mukbang almost gets a space-rock groove going but Yurt wilfully sidestep it.

Just as you begin to dislike V - Upgrade To Obsolete, Yurt produce an inventive passage, but on the whole its relentlessness makes for a wearying listen. The monolithic momentum makes you want to ask them to take a breath now and then and let in some air. This is the sound of band that won't compromise to find a larger audience. Approach with caution unless you like music that clatters the ears like repeated blows from a shillelagh.

Album Reviews