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Monday, February 8, 2016

La Curva Di Lesmo - La Curva Di Lesmo

La Curva Di Lesmo is a side project by Fabio Zuffanti (Finisterre, Hostsonaten, La Maschera Di Cera) and Stefano Agini (La Coscienza Di Zeno). It is a concept album based around the erotic comic strip series that launched back 51 years ago by the late Guido Crepax on the character Valentina who is based and inspired by the looks of silent film actress Louise Brooks. The music that duo created, is to share the elements of mystery and the darker side of the character.

Released last year on the AMS Record label, the album is an emotional, strong, and fascinating concept that would have made Guido Crepax himself very proud of what Zuffanti and Agini have done. And with help from people such as members from Analogy, Latte e Miele, il Tempio Delle Clessidre, and Saint Just to name a few, it is an album that will be played for years and years to come. When I first heard about it and listened to some samples of the album, I knew this was the album I was looking for and I bought it and I fell in love with it.

The textures of Progressive, Electronic, Avant-Rock, Orchestral, Pop, and Folk, blend in very well together. For example on the 17-minute composition of L’isola Delle Lacrime, is one of the most electro-experimental turned soaring pieces that capture the late ‘70s/early ‘80s that Fabio and Stefano created. An homage to the late great David Bowie’s Low-era, which starts off as a surreal atmospheric introduction between Electronic Drums, Organ and Moog creating a spooky melody that reminded me of Warszawa.

And then Jenny Sorrenti of Saint Just and Max Manfredi of Latte E Miele come into the picture on the vocals, knowing that it’s a special moment before the dooming guitar rhythm and riffs by Laura Marsano, brings the elemental wonder of Tony Iommi. Jenny sings beautifully on her vocals and reaches those notes higher in the different areas of the song that she reminded me of Doris Norton and Annie Haslam combined into one in a surreal interesting way.

The last 7-minutes of the track begins with an operatic rock between Max and Jenny duetting with each other and it just hits you very well for the goosebumps and chills on where they hit the note before the driven forces with the thumping tempos come in. I can hear the Celtic Folk with an electronic vibe thanks to the flute of Edmondo Romano of Eris Pluvia. Unexpected, but at the same time just for me, one word: Wow!

La Posa Dei Morti in which opens the album off, Beatrice Antolini who gives an astonishing performance to start the composition through her beauty and ecstatic vocal arrangements as the warmth and vivid surprising keyboard work between Mellotron, Moog, and Organ, it’s almost like opening the doors to see what will happen next to see what will give us a real special treat. And Beatrice who is a part of the Indie underground scene in Italy, she nails it down to a “T”.

The closing 26-minute five-part suite Ho Rischiato To Di Vivere, begins with ominous organ sounds, militant funeral drum beats, hypnotic keyboards, and mellotron-like vocalizations before Claudio Milano of NichelOdeon comes in with his voice that almost gives it a darker atmosphere. His voice reminded me at times of Alessio Calandriello of La Coscienza Di Zeno and it just took me to a level that I’ve never heard before in my entire life. Then we delve into the essences of the late ‘60s adventure into space between Guitar and Moog that has a psychedelic twist to the piece before a stirring piano piece comes into play.

Through the mysterious orchestral rock vibration thanks to the string arrangements, followed by a hard guitar-lines, keyboards, and vocal-lines through the instrument, makes me almost saying more of the composition. Fabio and Stefano brought a lot of energy and amazement with this side project and the help from the various band members along with Beatrice Antolini, it is a spectacular dark, and mind-boggling album they brought here.

I really enjoyed this album and I hope they do a follow up for the Valentina stories because it’s almost a continuation on what happens next. Even though it ran from 1965 to 1996, it would be neat to see where the character goes into next and the music itself is like the soundtrack, score and movie inside your head. I imagine that the Valentina stories could have been used for the adult illustrated fantasy magazine, Heavy Metal, but off-topic, this is Italian Prog at it’s best!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Yuka & Chronoship - The 3rd Planetary Chronicles

Launched seven years ago from the Land of the Rising Sun, Yuka & Chronoship are a quartet featuring keyboardist and vocalist Yuka Funakoshi who is the driving force behind the band which considers; Shun Taguchi on Bass, Takashi Miyazawa on Guitar, and Ikko Tanaka on Drums and Percussion. The band have released three albums so far from 2011 to 2015 in which their new album released on UK label, Cherry Red Records in the fall of last year entitled, The 3rd Planetary Chronicles.

This was an album that just not only put me on the edge of my seat, but it completely took me by surprise and blew me away from start to finish. Throughout the entire album, it is magical, visionary, and ingenious. Almost like an alternate score for Hayao Miyazaki’s 1984 classic, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Yuka is in the realms of composer Leopold Stokowski when she conducts and arranges the compositions, knowing where the band will go into with harmonizing melodies.

The evidential ambient structure, are shown with the atmospheric and calming piano warmth to On the Radio. It starts off with radio static as Yuka’s piano is heard in the background during the dystopian society that is shows on what the future shows what it was once fine, now it is not. Takashi Miyazawa’s guitar playing, is eye-brow lifts, jaw dropped, and blaring on what he gives to the listener.

It’s shown on pieces like the symphonic adventure of E = C#m. Here, Takahi channels both Steve Howe and Franco Mussida where the two combinations meet and blend between the Yes Fragile-era and Premiata Forneria Marconi’s Photos of Ghosts while channeling the birth of the blue planet with Birth of the Earth (Magma Ocean). He then delves into the styles of David Gilmour with a tribute to the Wright brothers on Wright Flyer 1903.

Here, Shun Taguchi gives some talent of the ascending bass lines he shows to the forefront as Ikko himself, lets his drums go into a relaxing mode before the Moog workout with a Wakeman-sque touch. Yuka is no fluke when it comes to the conducting and orchestral side of the beginnings of planet earth. She goes through various motions whether it’s Progressive Rock, Post-Prog, and Classical boundaries.

Here on Stone Age, you have a pastoral-orchestrated beat with dramatic percussion work, synths between Moog and Flute. It’s a flying rhythm showing the creation of the dawn of man as if James Horner was in awe and imagine working with the group to create ideas for James Cameron’s 2009 sci-fi film, Avatar. The lyrics in the booklet for Age of Steam, is uplifting and spiritual and Yuka sings beautifully through the Acoustic Guitar, Flute touches and Mellotron wonders that makes it staggering and stunning.

The Landmarq influences are in there followed by the Arena Rock late ‘70s reminiscent of Kansas. Finale, Birth of the Earth – Embryonic Planet, begins with a quiet haunting piano introduction before kicking into high gear with a volcanic rhythm section, waltz-bluey part with a progressive punch. The lead and rhythm sections that Takashi gives driving beats with hypnotic results.

I have listened to The 3rd Planetary Chronicles about 10 times now. I was blown away again, and again, and again. Yuka & Chronoship are the real thing when it comes beautiful Progressive Rock sounds and Yuka herself is a master. So if you love the late ‘70s Prog and bands and artists such as Landmarq, Steven Wilson, Yes, Gentle Giant, and Kansas, then delve into the world of Yuka & Chronoship.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Bruce Soord - Bruce Soord

Bruce Soord is one of the driving forces behind The Pineapple Thief that launched back 17 years ago and the group have released ten albums so far. This year, Soord has released his first solo debut album on the Kscope label with help from Darran Charles of Godsticks on Guitar. He recorded the album in his own studio last summer whilst he premiered some of the material he did on the UK tour with Sweet Billy Pilgrim. His sole self-titled debut, shows a softer and dreamland side to Soord.

There are moments that show the essences of Steven Wilson, Radiohead, David Bowie, and early Pink Floyd that really bring the ingredients to different level. It’s more acoustic, layered, catchy, and pop. Both Soord and Charles are amazing musicians and have captivated the beauty and the inner side of the emotional spiritual momentum that is brought on here.

The Odds is a captivated rhythm section. Between the chugging train sounds by the acoustic guitar, catchy drumbeats, and a bluesy-funk guitar lead section. It has almost the ‘80s sound that it feels like it was recorded in 1980. The encouragement between the two of them shows a lot of power and collaborations that will make you dance to. And I really got a kick out of the song not just because it’s exciting, but it’s the wonder, and the power of what will happen next.

Willow Tree has a mid-tempo acoustic guitar rhythm followed by a brass section. There’s a soft and tender warmth vibration on here in which Soord nails it on his vocal arrangements. The closing finale took me by surprise. I could imagine both Bruce and Darran were paying homage to film composer Ennio Morricone for an orchestral vibe in the Italian Spaghetti Western scores with a mariachi end for The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

Opener, Black Smoke is a piano composition that Soord sings well and emotionally, touching. It deals with finding true hope and remembering the loss of innocence while the two-part Field Day brings a moodier and calmer folky-sque Floydian background. It features wailing cry from the electric guitar that Darran does in the style of David Gilmour to pay honor and homage to the legend as the lyrics deals with regret and falling into darkness and never being afraid.

Buried Here is another slowed-down rhythm, but a heavenly and ominous atmosphere. It does remind me of something straight out of Steven Wilson’s earlier days with Porcupine Tree, but adding the spooky keyboard sounds from the organ gives it a frightening and effective. I have so far listened to Bruce Soord’s sole self-titled debut about three times now. Now I have to admit, I’m new to Soord’s music and he brings energy here.

He’s also a very busy man when it comes to mixing. He worked on the 5.1 mix for Opeth’s sixth album, Deliverance reissued last year along with Steven Wilson's mix of Damnation in a 2-CD/2-DVD set, Tesseract’s album Polaris, and collaborated with Katatonia’s Jonas Renkse with 2013’s Wisdom of Crowd project. You never know what to expect from Soord and what he and Steven Wilson in which they are almost for me, the Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson of musicianship. Go ahead and check Soord’s solo album, you’ll get a kick out of it.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Homunculus Res - Come Si Diventa Cio Che Si Era

It’s been three years since we’ve heard some fantastic Canterbury music from the mind of Italian group, Homunculus Res. They came back last year with a follow up to 2013’s debut album, Limiti all’eguaglianza della Parte con il Tutto with a second album called, Come si diventa cio che si era. The AltrOck label have never disappointed me of Italian Prog, and the Rock In Opposition movement and for me Homunculus Res show no sign of stopping here to prove they can take it up a notch in the Canterbury tales with amazing results.

When you mix those three ingredients together, it’s an interesting, dazzling, and out of this world combination that the band themselves bring into more of what’s to come. The lyrics have a whimsical, ironic, and amusing sense of humor and while the concept is based around a city hospital, it’s almost as if what to expect when you enter inside the emergency room to meet insane, weird, and mind-boggling people that makes you wonder that Alice went into the Wonderland and let the music help her be who she is.

The 17-minute centerpiece, Ospedale Civico which features David Newhouse of The Muffins and Wyatt Moss-Wellington on the choir, it is an unexpected mixture between the sounds of a Jazzy-RIO-Canterbury groove. With unexpected time changes that will remind you of Soft Machine’s Third-era, Gilgamesh, Egg, Picchio dal Pozzo, and Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica-era in there with insane synths, guitar melodies between D’Alessandro and the bass he plays on the composition, and the Thelonious Monk-like walking rhythm for the last five minutes with a ‘60s spooky organ, makes it sound like you are in the groove before the last 26 seconds gives it a sun lifting finale.

The swirling outer space adventure of Vescia Piscis sets the lounge groove between the keyboards with a buzzing synth, ascending rhythm, melodic guitar and electric piano, out of the blue drum patterns before going into mid-layered sounds as the mellotron, sax, and synth take into the heavens whilst the crescendo beats, takes the listener into unbelievable results. Ottaedro brings into the elements of a combination between early Caravan and Hatfield and the North as if they were working together for Nine Feet Underground as if Richard Sinclair gives the band instructions on where to go next in the composition at the right moment.

Bossa-nova grooves can be out of the blue. But with Dogface, it works into the humor blender. Here along with Paolo “Ske” Botta on the synths, he adds into the underwater sounds for a brief second and the Symphonic-Brazilian fun side to the core, you could tell that Homunculus Res are having a blast on this piece and almost as if they are dancing into the groove as Botta soars into his magical hands. And never forgetting the homage to Sgt. Pepper-era and Harry Nilsson on the short instrumental, Paum.

This is my fourth time listening to Homunculus Res’ second album. I’m very impressed of what is done here. Not only the inspiration based around the city hospital which I could imagine they admired the sound of Egg’s The Polite Force for inspiration, but they came back for wild imaginative beauty that you might want to reach into more of the Canterbury adventures on what it’s to come.

AltrOck has scored another home run for me. I can’t wait to see what Marcello Marinone has in stores for the label and the Fading Records label for 2016.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Downes Braide Association - Suburban Ghosts

The moment I put on Suburban Ghosts on my platform CD player, I can imagine a trip back in time where music was really, really good. And the collaboration between Chris Braide (This Oceanic Feeling) who wrote lyrics for Beyonce, Pharrell Williams, and Marc Almond to name a few, and with Keyboardist Geoffrey Downes (The Buggles, Asia, and Yes), it’s an excellent collaboration and combination of the two. This is their second album and follow up to 2012’s first collaboration with Pictures of You.

The album deals with isolation, loneliness, and at times depression in a small suburbian landscape and it goes back to both Chris and Geoff’s childhood growing up in the area filled with wastelands, getting out of extreme fear and the irrational places that they need to survive and escape from. They start to try to find a new beginning, a new chapter, and a new adventure with the flashbacks of the ghostly past to finally let them go.

And the album itself, is a wonderful structure of finally letting go of the past and moving into the other world to see what new beginnings and ideas await for the people to escape the danger they are in. With a trip to the essence of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s as if it was recorded in that time period, you can imagine yourself being in your room playing from start to finish and just identifying yourself in the structure and the album will be a soundtrack for your life.

The riveting opener, Machinery of Fate starts with a very fast running rhythm beat that has a haunting/rising beat on the loss of hope by a sound of a Pat Benatar-sque groove that Downes gives shining melodic beats on the keyboards while Number One sounds between a combination of City Boy and Chris De Burgh. It almost as if it could have been used in an episode of Miami Vice with the chase sequence and the song kicks into high gear the moment Don Johnson’s character hits the pedal to catch crooks with his Ferrari Testarossa.

Vanity shows Braide’s vocals into a beaming effect on the imaginable and ripple composition as Downes Piano shows the dystopian nightmare that’s about to begin whilst escaping from the corruption. The catchy synth melodies on Time Goes Fast, has drum rhythms that is thumping and pounding with a chance to reach the stars and I hope one of these days it will become a live favorite if they get a chance to perform the composition to stand on their feet and clap to the sound.

The three-part title track, lifts your spirits high. There’s an interesting twist between Roxy Music’s Avalon-era and Yes’s 90125-era to jump ship as Guitar’s go into ascending beats with keyboard based electro-rock. Alongside both the two bands, there’s also the essence of Franco Battiato’s Patriots thrown into the blender. And Geoff himself, knows exactly where Chris goes into his vocal arrangements to move forward and see where the road will take into next.

It’s my third time listening to Suburban Ghosts. This is the right album at the right time for me in my opinion to delve into more of what I’ve experienced of my listening ears. It’s Synthpop, Electro-Rock, AOR (Album-Orientated Rock), and new wave at its best. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Motus Tenebrae - Deathrising

It’s been a good while since I’ve heard some amazing heavy music from the label My Kingdom Music. This year, they have unleashed something powerful, doomy, and eruptive that is destined to be played at maximum volume. The band is called Motus Tenebrae. They have formed in Italy for about 15 years and with different line-up changed and four albums and one EP in their sleeves, they have released a new album entitled, Deathrising.

Now I’m very new to Motus Tenebrae’s music. And I have to admit, even though I’m not crazy about their sound, they have completely taken me by surprise the moment I’ve listened to their sixth album from start to finish. The band considers: Luis McFadden on Lead Vocas, Andreas Das Cox on Bass, Daniele Ciranna on Guitar, Harvey Cova on Keyboards and Synth, and Andrea Falaschi on Drums.

The band recorded the album in Tuscany during the Autumn and Winter of 2015 as they were rehearsing and arranging the album from start to finish. You could tell they worked really, really hard to make this album eruptive, sinister, and intense as if they were recording a soundtrack set in a dystopian/post-apocalyptic atmosphere that makes it perfect for a darker overtone with mind-blowing results.

And the six highlights on the album, gives it a goosebumping chill at the right moments. There is the Tool influences which is evidential on the two tracks. On Our Weakness, Daniele’s sinister overtones on the Guitar introduction shows on where the lyrics deal about the issue of death and insanity is our weakest point and the reasons we have to go at some point and the misery that we have to pay for.

It has a dooming tempo followed by a crunching rhythm section thanks to the intense drumming that Andrea brings to the table. There’s also elements and reminiscent of Tool’s Undertow-era that gives Schism a follow up sequel while Faded gives Luis McFadden’s voice the essence of Maynard James Keenan and the essence of the Lateralus-era in which the vocals in the midsection gives a creepy vibration.

The title track as I’ve mentioned about the atmosphere, gives it a chilling scenario. Galloping guitar riffs both in the rhythm and lead section followed by Harvey’s keyboards to add the string section with an evocative feel. With an interesting combination between as if Ghost has teamed up with Mastodon to create a chilling vocalization and guitar lead section, it really adds up well.

The Thrash Metal elements come at you with blasting the door down so hardcore, that it brings the power of Electric Wizard at times with Cherish My Pain as the Sabbath-sque roaring intro for the Light Than We Are, ascends into the outer limits without turning back. Andrea’s pummeling yet the galloping drums sound like rapid gun fires coming at you unexpected on your headphones for going into a slowed-down tempo into a moderate tempo on the beats that shows unexpected holy crap momentum.

This is my third time listening to the album and Motus Tenebrae’s music. It’s really building up for me. And one thing I have notice that Deathrising is perhaps a chilling heavy doom/gothic metal that just took me up in my wings that can give you a surprising moment on where they will go to next. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Remembering David Bowie 1947-2016

It was April 29, 2004 at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in Houston, TX. I was only 19 years old and it was my first time seeing the master, the Thin White Duke, David Bowie. He was at the time promoting his 24th studio album, Reality. I remember getting excited for the concert and it was sort of my pre-Graduation present as I was about to leave my Senior year at Westbury High School.

David Bowie for me has been a part of my life since watching him when I was a kid of the 1986 cult classic Labyrinth. I was just blown away of his style, his music, and his sense of humor. Not to mention he pushed the envelope on whoever he portrayed as. Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke, Major Tom, the Goblin King, Thomas Jerome Newton, or Detective Nathan Adler. He always transformed and changed which characterization he would be on stage, screen, and on TV. He as he mentioned to Russell Harty in 1973, he was a collector.

Back to the show. I remember getting the tickets and being in the Pit. That was almost for me a fan’s dream to be in the pit and being in awe of Bowie. But I kept my fanboy’s distance from the back of my head and locked it away. The opening band was the Polyphonic Spree. They were okay and they did a few songs including one of David’s Memory of a Free Festival. They finished the set. I headed back into the merchandise and bought a shirt, a program, and The Man Who Fell to Earth poster.

I headed back into the pit. The lights went down and the first lines by Earl Slick of the riff introduction of Rebel Rebel hit it off with a big bang! He came onto the stage and I was jaw-dropped. He sang the line “You got your mother in a world/she’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl/hey babe, you’re hairs alright/hey babe, let’s go out tonight.” And they were ready for liftoff for a 2-hour performance that the audience and myself, will never, ever forget.

He performed a few songs from Reality and his previous album, Heathen including New Killer Star, The Loneliest Guy, Cactus, Sunday, Heathen (The Rays), and Slip Away in which he did as an encore with the Polyphonic Spree which was a highlight moment. He performed some of the classics including The Man Who Sold the World, Fashion, Ashes to Ashes, I’m Afraid of Americans, All the Young Dudes in which they were waving their arms back and forth and singing along.

For me, the highlight was the duet between him and bassist Gail Ann Dorsey who joined up with David for the Outside tour 21 years ago and thru the Reality tour. They did a duet for Queen’s Under Pressure. It was one of those moments that audiences were completely spellbound and rooting for not just David, but Gail. They nailed it right there. He closed up the show with Suffragette City and Ziggy Stardust. He came on just in before performing the final song to close up the night wearing a cowboy hat to show Texas a huge amount of Love.

He said, “Who knew Ziggy Stardust was a cowboy?” And they got a kick out of it and those notes and the song was a perfect way to close the show off. I was astonished, emotional, and amazed of how Bowie nailed the show in Texas. It is now January 12, 2016. Yesterday, we lost an artist, an icon, a fashion, and a master. His last and final album, Blackstar, which I haven’t bought yet, is a final farewell message to his fans. I have great memories back 12 years ago of seeing Bowie live and I will live those memories until the day I die. And above, is the poster I bought at the concert. He will always be The Man Who Fell to Earth.