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Monday, April 20, 2015

Omrade - Edari

Hailing from Sweden, Omrade are a duo that have this interesting of a spacey trip-hop adventure between the Avant-Garde sounds of Ambient, Electronica, Post-Rock, Industrial music in which it has this captivating combination, but with an ominous and haunting atmosphere which is evidential on their debut album, Edari released on the My Kingdom Music label this year.

When I was listening to their debut album, I can hear the sounds of Ulver, Manes, and Gazpacho. And also it reminded me of something that they could have used as if they had done it as a score of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. It was almost as if they music have added the bits and pieces of the puzzle on what is to come on the characters plot twist as if the series had continued on with more of the who, what, when, and why.

It has the sounds of the futuristic atmosphere and also, dystopian at the same time of what the cities have now become a disturbing scenery and Omrade’s music sets it of where the characters go into. There are moments where its powerful, calming, softer, and eruptive at the same time and not to mention the spoken word elements thrown in.

But, there are four highlights on the album that is worth taken note of. On Satellite and Narrow, which features Asphodel on the vocals, begins with a minor-like piano chords followed by which almost features the sounds of Tuvan throat singing as Asphodel comes in with her vocals that just sends shivers down my spine on the double-tracking vocals as the electronic trip-hop industrial metal sounds come in that knocks the door down with a powerful punch, makes it hypnotic.

Meanwhile, Åben Dør is a strange and twisted track that you can imagine being inside of the mental asylum and hearing the sounds of the patients whimpering, screaming, and screeching out in pain. It’s almost as if Omrade were paying tribute by working with The Residents as if they were going into the Trip Hop section.

The opening track Mótsögn starts off with a calming ambient vocalization and ominous introduction. It has calming vocals, blaring trumpet solos and later, a laid-back sax with a jazzy feel, Omrade gives the listener go into the darker side with a moody and an intentional mood to see where they would take the listener into next.

Ottaa Sen in which it closes the album it is perhaps a brilliance of an ascending finale. Synths setting the introduction for a futuristic atmosphere a-la Blade Runner style with a Vangelis touch to it for an introduction. Then it climbs up to the snarling vocals and the electronic Industrial sounds filled with death metal and heading off into the middle-eastern midsection and clean vocals to close the composition to see where the road will go to next.

Edari is not an easy album to listen to from start to finish, but what they duo has done, is they really got something up their sleeves to go into those worlds and they nailed it perfectly to a “T”. It is an interesting combination between Industrial, Avant-Garde, Electronic, and Trip Hop rolled into one and what Omrade have accomplished very well into the sounds of their first album. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Emerson, Lake, and Palmer - Brain Salad Surgery (Super Deluxe Edition)

This 3-CD/2-DVD and Vinyl set is a goldmine for any fan of ELP in this amazing Super Deluxe Edition that is almost a trip down memory lane. And for me, as a geek, I could remember getting some Hanukkah money on the fourth night and buying this album that featured the late great H.R. Giger's artwork and just being blown away in the winter of 1998 before Christmas started and buying this album and being hooked into the world of their music.

At the time, it was a crowning achievement in 1973 when their fourth studio album, Brain Salad Surgery was released. And despite some of the rock critics despising them and the famous joke, “How do you spell pretentious? E-L-P.” There was no stop sign for them and were the people’s band during that time. It was also their last real album before moving into the waters with an orchestra, which I won’t cover on.

On here, there is a large booklet featuring photos of the band and the original tapes also. With liner notes done by Chris Welch which included interviews with the band and Jakko Jakszyk who did the 5.1 mix, its almost like a stepping into a time machine and revisiting the memories of the band that would never back down despite the criticism.

The 5.1 and New Stereo Mixes that Jakko has done on here, is magnificent and I can hear material on the original album that were buried and hidden on here, come to life and in front as if my eyebrows went up and can’t believe what I was hearing. The great thing about the Super Deluxe Edition set is that included are both the original album, alternate versions and b-sides along with the NME Flexidisc experts, and the new stereo mix, shows that they don’t want to rewrite history, but staying true to the original and never letting go of the past.

The opening fanfare of their take of William Blake’s hymn and Hubert Harry’s music of Jerusalem which it was banned by the BBC for being blasphemous, makes it a perfect introduction featuring Keith’s organ and synths, Carl’s militant turn dynamic drum work along with tubular bells followed by Greg’s amazing vocals, sets the tone on what’s to come. You could tell the band can push the envelope on handling one of Blake’s hymns and would have given the master himself a big stamp of approval of their take of his hymn.

Toccata is an eruptive yet blistering adventure on another take of Argentinian composer, Alberto Ginastera’s 1st Piano Concerto in the Fourth movement, is where the band are in ramming speed. Both Keith and Carl are on fire on this using the Moog’s and Electronic drum kit with synthesized effects to use in different bars in the percussion section in where Palmer himself that have a haywire effect that would make listener’s jump on the electronic sounds.

Then the band take a break and go into a soothing and relaxing yet romantic ballad from Greg Lake as his shares his vocal touches on the acoustic wonders with Still You Turn Me On and the wah-wah sounds to give it a psychedelic vibration while they get into the Ragtime movement. The band also has this excellent sense of humor with Benny the Bouncer.

Greg’s cockney accent, Keith’s homage to Scott Joplin, and Carl using the brushing sounds on the drums followed by a bar room brawl with glass breaking and you can imagine the scenery of drag-out knock down fight inside the bar as the band keeps on going. But also, it has a 1920s feel that makes you feel right at home that the band wished they had recorded in that time period and have your feet tapping for more.

Then, we come to the epic of all epics of the 30-minute suite of Karn Evil 9. This is where ELP deliver the real goods to us in their masterpiece of a setting in a parallel dystopian universe where the Machines have taken over the human race and it takes place inside a carnival as we are witnessing a battle between good and evil. And I won’t go into further detail on spoilers, but this is such a brilliant epic to get your seatbelt ready for that almost a movie inside your head on what is happening in the story.

Alongside the 3-CDs, the 2-DVDs and the sixth being the original Vinyl LP, is a treat. The fourth DVD features both the original and 5.1/new stereo mix and the fifth DVD is a documentary along with a gallery which features memorabilia slide show. And the Manticore Special that originally appeared on the Old Grey Whistle Test in which the band was doing a European tour in 1973 at the time they were promoting the album.

Brain Salad Surgery is the album along with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, refusing to die. The stereo remix is spectacular and it deserved to be cleaned up and Jakko has done an amazing accomplishment on what he did. So if you are ready to head back into the Carnival for the show that will never end, this Super Deluxe Edition is a must have and recommended for any Prog and ELP fan to delve into.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Romantic Warriors III: A Progressive Music Saga - Canterbury Tales

In the words of Daevid Allen in wearing a knitted Teapot hat, "What is the legacy of Canterbury Bands to Future Generations? Thinky music in black shiny shoes." Adele Schmidt and Jose Zegarra Holder are for me, almost the Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson of filmmaking. And they have come a long way since with the releases of the first two Romantic Warriors documentary of the Progressive Music saga including one of my favorites covering the Rock in Opposition genre and have made my wish lists bigger every time I watch their documentaries. This year they are covering the Canterbury scene and it is a wonderful take of the genre that has the sounds of Jazz Fusion, Whimsical Lyrics, and odd time changes.

The documentary does a wonderful job on the history on the genre that started back in the 1960s with The Wilde Flowers and listening to rare demos and recordings that they did along with others, would start the scene off with a bang. And then, beginnings of bands including the Soft Machine and Caravan got the ball rolling in the swinging psychedelic-era. This was a challenge for Schmidt and Holder to cover the genre and explore what the scene was like and they have done their homework very well.

There is also interviews including Bill MacCormick (Quiet Sun, Matching Mole), Robert Jan Stips (Supersister), Phil Miller (Delivery, National Health, Hatfield and the North), Brian Hopper, Roy Babbington (Nucleus, Soft Machine), Didier Thibault (MGP), Richard Sinclair (Caravan and Hatfield and the North), Dirk “Mont” Campbell (Egg), Didier Malherbe (Gong), and the late great Daevid Allen in which appears to be his last interview on the documentary. Despite the condition he was in, he still has the great sense of humor and gave it 100% and almost welcoming the audience, by saying “Welcome my friends to planet Gong. My name is the Divided Alien.” “I was an Angel’s Egg which god ate for Breakfarts!”

You could tell Daevid still has the humor in him and it’s a wonderful and emotional tribute to him and knowing the legacy of the Pot Head Pixies will live on in future generations to come. There also experts that talk about the Canterbury scene including Aymeric Leroy (Canterbury Expert), Leonardo Pavkovic (Founder of MoonJune Records), and Bruce Lee Gallanter (Founder of Downtown Music Gallery) who help describe the history about the scene and the history.

There’s also some great bands that were mentioned including alongside Soft Machine, Gong, and Caravan, bands like: Hatfield and the North, Egg, Supersister, Delivery, Quiet Sun, Moving Gelatine Plates, The Muffins, and Gilgamesh to name a few. And they also covered the bands today that are carrying the torch of the Canterbury scene including: Planeta Imaginaro and Forgas Band Pheonomena in which they are part of the Cuneiform label, Syd Arthur, The Wrong Object, Soft Machine Legacy, and photos including Phlox (Estonia), Machine and the Synergetic Nuts (Japan), Fulano (Chile), and Anaid (France).

The new bands are carrying the spirit of Canterbury as if the torch is still lit and keeping the flaming fire burning forever into the near future. And the rare footage is a treat to dive deep in the waters to watch the bands including various line-ups of the Soft Machine from the ‘60s into the mid ‘70s, Caravan, Gong, Moving Gelatine Plates performing at the Le Bourget Pop Music Festival in 1970, and Hatfield performing on a French TV show in 1973 with Robert Wyatt as a guest vocalist that will get your wishlist bigger as the size of Mount Rushmore.

I have watched Romantic Warriors III about eight times now and I have to say that Jose and Adele have done an incredible research and it’s great to see how the bands pushed the boundaries of the Progressive genre. So if you are ready to enjoy and explore the music of the Canterbury sound, buckle your seat belt into the Flying Teapot and fly into the world of the Land of Grey and Pink meeting the Pot Head Pixies and being blown away of the Moon in June along with some National Health, then this is the documentary to explore.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Unreal City - il Paese Del Tramonto

2015 is off to an amazing start. Amazing bands and artists from the realms of Steven Wilson, Beardfish, La Coscienza Di Zeno, Sanguine Hum, and Alco Frisbass to name a few, are the names that have got the wheel on the wagon rolling. Now the wagon is ready for another adventure and this time its Unreal City’s turn to shine.

Since their formation seven years ago in Parma, Unreal City are the real deal in the Italian Progressive Rock sound that are following in the footsteps of the masters and show no sign of stopping after the release of their debut album back in 2013 called, La Crudelta di Aprile. This year, they are back with a follow up to their debut with an album entitled, il Paese Del Tramonto in which it translates to, The Country Sunset.

I’ve always been a huge fan of the Italian Progressive Rock sound from bands like; Le Orme, Banco, PFM, Not a Good Sign, Metamorfosi, and Museo Rosenbach to name a few. When I first heard Unreal City’s music two years ago when I was in College, I was completely on the edge of my seat with my eyebrows widening up being in awe and touched of what they have brought to the table.

The classical sounds, the British and Italian Prog inspirations, and the Symphonic elements throwing in, almost made it sound like they were doing a score for a movie. From beginning to the end, il Paese Del Tramonto is the continuation, but more for a movie as if they had done to set for both of the directors in the realms between Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci while Fabio Frizzi conducts the group and in awe of what they are doing.

Opening, Ouverture: Obscurus fio starts with backward tapes that increases the void followed by a synth to capture it and the piano comes in with a concerto-like introduction followed by a string section. And the drums, Mellotron, and Bass come knocking the door down as the rhythm begins along with a Guitar chord and Moog solo. It has this epic-like introduction and a surreal tone that captures the essence of Pink Floyd, ELP, and Banco Del Mutuo Sorcosso’s Darwin-era.

And then it segues into Oniromanzia (il Paese del Tramonto) in which the choir mellotron plays the same melody followed by drums, church organ and guitar. It has this wonderful reminiscent of Goblin that Unreal City pay tribute to for an introduction with the spooky sounds that Tarasconi does. And the keyboards just go into some improvisations with an amazing Hammond solo and the synths also. I have to admit, Unreal City have shown a lot in their sounds.

The ominous Caligari begins with a sinister and haunting atmospheric introduction. Francesca Zanetta’s guitar sets the tone in a style of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells as Emanuele’s keyboards go into a ghostly vibe and then it has an orchestral ascending roar. It then has a mid-tempo rhythm with a catchy melody with some unexpected twists until the very end Zanetta goes into her guitar structures of Robert Fripp-sque finale as Unreal City pay tribute to the finale of both King Crimson and Murple.

La Meccanica Dell’ombra has this mind-blowing introduction between Emanuele using both keyboards and a theremin that kicks off into high gear. It has this combination between middle-eastern and folk-like melodies thanks to guest violinist Fabio Biale. Followed by the improvisation solo from Zanetta, Tarasconi, and Bedostri laying down on the beats on the drums, it has a softer side and then back into Tarasconi keeping the groove in as he takes his Hammond into the waters to close it off for an amazing solo finale as the music reaches a climbing end.

Il Nome di Lei has this interesting combination between Pulsar, Pink Floyd, and Locanda Delle Fate as Zanetta is in the spirits of David Gilmour with a classical Harpsichord thrown in while their homage to Deep Purple golden-era on Lo Schermo di Pietra (Kenosis) is a blistering yet driven composition. I can hear the hard rock, ballad, and intense changes like a car going at 300 miles per hour that you could imagine Unreal City could have recorded this back in 1973.

Then we come to the 20-minute 4-part suite, Ex Tenebrae Lux, shows Unreal City their masterpiece. Various changes between ambient spacey voyages into Jazz-Funk groove, Vocals, Violin, Organ, Concerto Piano, homage to Gentle Giant, and back into the harmonic/orchestral rock sounds that gives it a warmth closure at the last few minutes.

This is Unreal City's finest hour since their debut and I was blown away from the moment I put it on and knowing they have accomplished well. The Rock Progressivo Italiano scene is getting stronger each time something special and magical has happened, and Unreal City are one of the most finest bands to come out the genre. Highly recommended and worth exploring along with their debut album also.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Schizoid Lloyd - The Last Note in God's Magnum Opus

Wacky, driven, intense, and explosive, it’s the perfect combination of one of the most mind-blowing bands with a combination of Avant-Garde and Progressive Metal rolled into one since forming eight years ago in The Netherlands named Schizoid Lloyd. Their debut album released on the Finnish label Blood Music called, The Last Note in God’s Magnum Opus is a smashing debut they have unleashed.

The band has this combination between Queen, Mr. Bungle, Opeth, and the Diablo Swing Orchestra with the strange time signatures, growling/screaming vocals, operatic, and surreal beauty that gives Schizoid Lloyd full control and free rein on what they bring. Schizoid Lloyd is also a six-piece that considers Remo Kuhlmann on Guitars/Sitar/Vocals, Ruben Kuhlmann on Lead Vocals/Keyboards, Thom Lich on Grunts/ Guitar/Vocals, Boy van Ooijen on Drums, Guus can Oosterum on Bass Guitar/Vocals, and Silas van Bezu on Piano/Keyboards.

The vocals come bursting in on the harmonies and it fits well between the compositions which is shown with the opener, Suicide Penguin in which it has the organ go into a carousel-like sound that gives it that dystopian feel. Followed by operatic vocals that Ruben does in the style of Freddie Mercury and the Zappa-like guitar structures and the force exploding beats coming in like a bulldozer hitting a massive brick wall with a giant force and the unexpected moments are jaw dropping.

There is also Film Noir Hero that begins with a ‘30s Jazz Piano introduction and it has a Kurt Weill-sque introduction in which that has some minor and major chords and then it goes into a Concerto-like dance in a waltz signature followed by harmonizing vocalizations as the mood changes in beautiful soaring finale.

Also on Chicken Wing Swans, there is some crazy swinging funk and jazz metal in a mid-tempo and very much as if they had done a score to an episode of The Ren & Stimpy Show. But they are going into a full throttle mode with blistering riffs, soaring solos mixed into one on Avalanche Riders as everything going into a haywire effect with the electronics, choir, and speed metal going into the mix for the Christmas Devil.

You can really expect the unexpected from Schizoid Lloyd. The supersonic increases of an Amusement Park gone wrong. And between the drums and guitar with a forceful rhythm circus show to get the players all ready on Cave Painter. As I’ve mentioned earlier, they have the Diablo Swing Orchestra vibe thrown in. And the closing track is the acoustic calm after the storm with Prodigal Son.

Nylon Classical Guitar intro and a somber ballad along with a string quartet, I could tell that Schizoid Lloyd pay homage to DSO’s Justice for Saint Mary and Radiohead’s OK Computer-era, that makes it a beautiful closing finale. This is my fourth time listening to The Last Note in God’s Magnum Opus and I have to say I was blown away the moment I put it on and realizing they have something up their sleeves with this. 

An overwhelming and stunning debut for them and I think they could easily knock the Metal festivals out in the park with their music.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Herba D'Hameli - Interiors

Herba D’Hameli is a progressive rock sextet hailing from Barcelona, Spain that has been around since forming in 2001. They have released five albums from 2001 to 2011. Despite various lineup changes the band considers: Carles Pinos on Keyboards, Vocals, Claudio Trullen on Vocals and Acoustic Guitar, Dani Fabre on Bass Guitar and Vocals, Guillem Roma on Drums, Josep Tardio on Flute and Keyboards, and Valenti Pinos on Electric Guitar.

Their new album released this year called, Interiors, is their sixth. And this is an introduction for me of listening to their music and I have to say, I was completely blown away from the moment I’ve put the album and listened to it in its entirety. There are elements of Symphonic, Jazz, Classical, Canterbury, and the Catalan Folk thrown in also.

It has resemblance of Camel, Frank Zappa, Jethro Tull, Peter Gabriel-era of Genesis, and King Crimson. The rhythm section between all of six of them, they both have great interaction and I could tell that have some support in each other as they create some magical wonders in their music. The keyboard and flute section from Josep and Carles are magnificent through their improvisations.

Plus it has that lush and adventurous atmosphere that is in Hameli’s music while the Jazz melodies come into play. The thing I love about on their sixth album is that the sextet have a touch of the genres as I’ve mentioned between both Jazz Fusion and the Canterbury scene and the band have done their homework very well and its an excellent mixture of the two.

But Interiors is not just an amazing album, it is a journey into the other worlds and the music itself carries the vibes into the scenery. Usage of Mellotrons, Synths, Guitars, Vocals, and Drums, going in different parts of the time signatures with stop-and-go moments, it was like an unexpected jaw-dropping moment on the four compositions on what they have accomplished.

And the accomplishments are very well done and well structured. So far, I have enjoyed listening to Herba D’Hameli’s Interiors right from the moment I’ve put it on. This is my third listen of their music and I have to say I’m completely in awe and blown away of the band’s sound and achievement and I knew the moment I put it on, I soon realize I’m going to check out their previous work this year.

So if you are ready to go explore the wonders of Classical, Symphonic, Jazz Fusion and Catalan Folk music set to an epic score for a breathtaking animated film as it was done with real 2D animation, then Herba D’Hameli’s sixth album is the soundtrack inside your head. Worth exploring and worth checking out.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Plateau Sigma - The True Shape of Eskatos

Plateau Sigma have this combination between the elements of Post-Rock & Metal along with the sounds of the ‘80s new wave genre and creating this dark and sinister sound with an ominous touch to it as they describe themselves as the New Wave of Dark Rock. Formed five years ago in their hometown in Ventimiglia, the band released an EP back in 2013 called, White Wings of Nightmares.

Last year, they released their first debut album called, The True Shape of Eskatos. The album deals with the elements of: sex, afterlife, death, and the fears of the unknown and what is about to come. The sound has a mixture of a melodic, heavy, and dooming sound with a feel that would send shivers down the spine that makes it sound like it was recorded in 1981.

The band considers: Manuel Vicari on Guitar & Vocals, Francesco Genduso on Guitar & Vocals, Nino Zuppardo on Drums, and Maurizio Avena on Bass. Their debut album is this touch between the combinations of a dooming, prog, and death metal sound with a sinister touch. And it’s also at times atmospheric and jazzy in some of their compositions including the mixture of clean and snarling vocals with spoken dialogue thrown in.

There is a pulsating beat between the guitars that are at times fast-paced and roaring at the same time when it comes to both the riffs and chords that both Vicari and Genduso touch. At times the guitars go into a spooky clean touch and access the gain for the terror on what we are experiencing. It has a gothic atmosphere at times because of the structures in their instruments that give it a sense of loss and it’s a perfect sounding vibe in the compositions on the darker voyages on three highlights.

For example on the track, Ordinis Supernova Sex Horarum, it begins with the throttling guitar duo between VIcari and Genduso and the rapid drum tempo of a firing gun done by Zuppardo for the first four minutes and then the mood changes. They move into the calmer and volatile rhythm between a female vocalization and saxophone crying out into the end. There’s a touch of Roxy Music’s Avalon-era on the piece at the last three minutes.

The 14-minute Stalingrad is a jaw-dropping composition. I could tell Plateau Sigma paying homage to Anathema as one of the voices is in the realms of Vincent Cavanagh. The voice is spot on perfect and captures the darkness and loneliness while the guitars as if its crying in pain between the lead and rhythm and the slowed-down rhythm helps out before back into the swift death doom metal snarling rhythm. And then, back into the calm-like ambient mourning sound as the guitar solo goes into the night to close it off.

With a guest appearance featuring Efthimis Karadimas from Nightfall on The River 1917, it sees Plateau Sigma going into an area of a darker history filled with intense scenery on what is going on behind the scenes and having Giorgio Conforti on flute and with a jazzy acoustic-like touches and having a soothing piano into the mix. It gives the band a chance to relax and go into a touch of resembling one of Jacula’s composition, Jacula Valzer as Efthimis comes in on the growling vocals and dooming lines and guitars closing in with a haunting end.

Plateau Sigma’s The True Shape of Eskatos is not an easy album to listen to from beginning to end. But this is one of the most powerful, sinister, terrifying and astounding albums I’ve listen to. They really have the guts and power to go into those darker areas with Doom/Death Metal, new wave, and gothic sounds and have a melodic touch to it as well. So be prepare to experience the sounds of Plateau Sigma.