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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Exovex - Radio Silence

A strong, melodic, and emotional combination makes it touching and an out of this world album that is raw and carries the torch and essence of both Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree. With two years in the making, the story of Radio Silence is set in the future about a man going through a deep dark depression as he is unable to cope with anyone through deterioration and finds himself in isolation. And the music itself, fits well throughout the entire structure.

It’s also based on the life of Bishop Sibond Alleman who in the 14th century lived in recluse at the Le Chateau d’Uriage in France. What Dale Simmons, the mastermind behind Exovex, is that he gave the musicians free rein on what would be perfect on the six compositions he wrote and it is a perfect delivery on what is brought to the table here.

Alongside multi-instrumentalist and lead vocalist Dale Simmons, he brought along drummers Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree, King Crimson), Josh Freese (Nine Inch Nails, A Perfect Circle, Devo) and Kevin Carlock (Steely Dan), Keyboardist Richard Barbieri (Porcupine Tree), and violinist and cellist Nicole Neely. Listening to this album, is almost like a movie inside your head and Simmons’ telling the story in a narrative format.

And the format itself between the combinations of the two, works extremely well. I can hear sounds of the Floyd from Gilmour’s guitar and the homage to Steven Wilson’s lyrics very well. And Simmons himself has done his homework very well on his research about the characterization and dealing with being alone and not finding help whilst being locked in their own paradise.

Not to mention the three centerpieces on the album that makes it listenable and touching. The opening tracks Stolen Wings and Metamorph are beautiful compositions with an emotional vibe. Guitars both electric and acoustic are almost have a psychedelic vibe almost as if it is going through a Leslie speaker. Not to mention the Synths creating the ambient cavernous atmosphere for an introduction.

What Simmons has done is to carry the inspirations inside his head. And the Gilmour-sque solos with a classical push that have a dramatic and powerful surrounding throughout. The emotional Seeker’s Prayer begins with a signal-like beeping intro as if there is hope for any chance of hope and survival. Simmons keeps the rhythm and the essence of the Floyd’s music and stays true to the visionaries for the first 3 minutes and 20 seconds.

And then, the tempo changes into melodic beats and an ascending harder edge followed by a solo in which in a brief second Simmons pays tribute to Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street. It’s a very interesting touch, but it almost works very well to show Dale has done very well. This is my seventh time listening to Exovex’s Radio Silence and I have to say Dale Simmons has come a long way of becoming not just a multi-instrumentalist and a songwriter, but more of a storyteller.

Tragic, poignant, stirring, and compassionate, Radio Silence is the album for Dale Simmons to capture those essence on isolation and being locked away in their Shangri-la with no hope of coming out, and I hope there will be more for Dale to see where the future will be next for him.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Xadu - Random Abstract

This is a perfect combination between intense rhythm sections, free rein ideas, Avant-Rock, and Post-Jazz Rock. All of the ingredients are well needed for band members in which the realms for a duo from drummer Xavi Reija and guitarist Dusan Jevtovic as they create the concept for a terrifying and eruptive force as Xadu on Random Abstract released on the MoonJune Records label this year.

Both Xavi and Dusan worked together along with Bernat Hernandez on Bass on Resolution. And Dusan though worked with drummer Marko Djordjevic on 2013’s Am I Walking Wrong? Each of those albums are brilliant and for them to work on different projects, it is quite amazing for the duo to collaborate with each other again for 2015 that will make it complex, surreal, mind-boggling, insane, unexpected, and off the wall as Xadu.

Random Abstract is one of the albums that would make you take note on what they will take the listener into unbelievable results with hypnotic brainstorming ideas. Experimental, Math and Doom Metal, Noise, Atmospheric, and Avant-Garde momentum of an increasing volume to show how Xavi and Dusan can take it up a level in their instruments. I can hear the sounds of a resemblance between Robert Wyatt, Radiohead, Guapo, Mogwai, Elephant9 with Reine Fiske, and Krokofant rolling up into one giant hot burrito milkshake that gives it a delicious and spicy taste to get you fired up on what you are about to hear.

The rhythm on here are staggering between Xavi’s powder keg drumming and Dusan’s post-rock guitar playing with a harder edge sword to it by giving the heavier sound into a throttling roar as if they are going into different parts on the road. Dusan also creates these mysterious and cavernous ambient noises on his instrument to give it a sinister and ominous tone as if something is lurking behind you and having the haywire chaotic effects, makes it terrifying and jump at you out of nowhere.

Xavi also gives Dusan a helping hand on some of the beats and the tempo on the drums that can go from a mellowing beat into a fierce and extreme measure. With crescendos between the bass drum, snare, tom-toms, and the crashing sound of the cymbals, rides, and hi-hat’s, gives it a tidal wave momentum.

Random Abstract is an exploration for both Xavi Reija and Dusan Jevtovic’s free rein. The two of them collaborate very well when you listen to the album from beginning, middle, and end. Leonardo Pavkovic has done a brilliant job bringing more of what is to come for the MoonJune label. I bet there will be more to come between the two of them and if you love Post-Rock, Jazz-Rock, Experimental Avant-Garde music, then Xadu’s Random Abstract is a recommended exploration worth checking out.  

Friday, May 8, 2015

Ciccada - The Finest of Miracles

Fading Records has all of a sudden become my cup of coffee lately in which it’s a part of the AltrOck family. And one of those cups is a band from Greece that formed ten years ago by flautist and keyboardist Nicolas Nikolopoulos called Ciccada. The music behind the band’s sound is this combination between Classical, Jazz, Medieval Folk, and Progressive Rock as if Gentle Giant and Gryphon had teamed up to do a side project together.

The band released their debut album A Child in the Mirror back in 2010. And five years later, they have a new album in which it’s their follow up entitled, The Finest of Miracles. And while this is my introduction to the band’s music I have to say I’m impressed from what I was hearing of their second album. And having special guest bassist Johan Brand of Anglagard, its almost as if he and along with other guests along with the Suono Brass Quintet, are here to lend a helping hand for the quartet to show they got their backs.

Not to mention the artwork done by drummer Yiannis Iliakis, in which it really has this late ‘60s psychedelic touch resembling the animated classic of Yellow Submarine, fits the vibes and atmosphere of Ciccada’s music. A Night Ride is the opening track that starts it off with an ascending and idealistic adventure that almost reminisces of Arachnoid, Camel, King Crimson and bits of Led Zeppelin’s No Quarter thrown in that makes the track an excellent way to kick into high gear.

With violin solos, heavy and melodic psychedelic guitars, keyboards, and flutes from the Mellotron, it has this dream-like quality that makes you explore into other worlds to see what they do in their time. But everything changes when vocalist Evangelia Kozoni comes in and it’s very beautiful, gentle and smooth on Eternal.

Through different time changes in the Medeival-Prog-Symphonic Folk Rock boundaries, there’s a lushful and unexpected moment throughout the composition to see where Ciccada go into. With string sections and moog and organ solos followed by Johan’s bass in the midsection giving it an increasing tempo for a couple of seconds before going back into the free rein moments of a Zappa meets Gryphon moment that will make you go into overdrive.

Ciccada show their love of Gentle Giant’s music with the harmonizing vocalizations of Minnear and Shulman along with a waltz-like groove on the keyboards and Mouhos’ guitar, followed by the glockenspiel by giving it a jazzy groove for A Death in the Winter. In which was inspired by Mike Harding’s poem on The Green Man. And the poem fits the music very well for its odd time signatures and Evangelia, Nicolas, Yorgos, and Yiannis have done an excellent job on their homework.

Around the Fire starts off with a folk introduction between the recorders and a classical guitar introduction for the first minute before it becomes a sanguine rhythm before heading back into the symphonic medieval resemblance of Red Queen to Gryphon Three-era and Latte E Miele’s Papillon-era before going back into the up-tempo rhythms that you can almost dance to. And not to mention the flutes and Mouhos’ guitar going into jazzy and folk sound in the styles of Jethro Tull that is astonishing and breathtaking on where the band can go into next.

And then it’s back to the thumping percussion, recorder, organ, and trumpet on the brief instrumental of Lemnos (Lover’s Dance). Now we are ready for the five-part of the title track for The Finest of Miracles. I can hear the boundaries of symphonic, folk, and jazz with a strong and melodic touch to it. I can tell that Ciccada have really come full circle with the suite on the first three parts of the suite that are instrumental.

Not to mention the menacing Mellotron brass, guitar, strings, and horn section that strikes a touch of King Crimson on the relaxing turned heavier punch on Birth of the Lights and Wandering while Evangelina comes in with her voice on the last two-closing pieces sung in Greek with As Fall the Leaves and Song for an Island. It took me a while to get into Ciccada’s music and I have to say, this is one of their astonishing albums I have listened to this year.

The Finest of Miracles is for me, a thrill-seeking and wondrous album I’ve listened to the moment I put the CD on from beginning and right into the very end. So if you love Medieval Folk, Symphonic, Classical, and elements between Gryphon, Gentle Giant, Anglagard, and King Crimson, Ciccada’s music will take you into an adventure and explore the wonders and mysteries for The Finest of Miracles.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Karda Estra - Strange Relations

If 2015 is going to be an excellent year in the Progressive Rock scene, then the Rock in Opposition genre is getting there in full speed with the Chamber sounds coming at you like an unexpected handshake with the realms of Karda Estra. I first heard Karda Estra’s music few years ago on Friday Night Progressive and not to mention Prog Rock Deep Cuts with Ian Beabout. And that was where I became hooked into the world of Richard Wileman.

Since forming in 1998, Wileman’s concept for Karda Estra is inspired by the elements of Neo-Classical and Chamber music in a darker moody atmosphere with a gothic background that is a chilling vibe that makes it a terrifying soundtrack for a horror film. Karda Estra has released ten albums and this year is their 11th with the release of Strange Relations released on Kavus Torabi’s label, Believer’s Roast.

It’s a mixture of Jazz, Avant-Rock, Canterbury, and a twist of Psych-Zappa rolled into a gigantic milkshake and those ingredients are mixed in well of those combinations. Featuring drummer of The Muffins Paul Sears and third time appearance of Kavus Torabi himself from Guapo, Knifeworld, and Gong, he (Torabi) is a very busy man when it comes to projects like this, It is a wonderful combination. Not to mention Richard’s wife, Illesha on vocals, Amy Fry on Clarinet and Saxophone, Mike Ostime on Trumpet, and Caron De Burgh on Oboe and Cor Anglis.

With inspirations of the collection from author Philip Jose Farmer, the six-part Strange Relations suite could have been recorded in a dark cavernous place and it fits very well to the ominous, hidden, and sinister yet energetic with a folky fusion electronic Zeuhl touch to it. There are moments in the 6-part epic that almost reminded me of Danny Elfman’s score for a Tim Burton film between both Wileman and Sears followed by Torabi’s clean and layered minor guitar sounds along with Iilesha’s vocalizations that reminded me of The Northettes,

But there is also late ‘60s psych score in there with the xylophones creating the tension with the chaotic crescendos and a Crimson-sque moment thrown in on some unexpected eyebrows lightening up at the exact spot on where Richard takes the pieces into. And a waltz-like crunch and the thumping haywire effects into ascending chaotic rhythms and ending with an anxiety screech of the horn section along with Sears going into the places on his drums and knowing where the finale is reaching the nightmarish tones.

It is a terrifying and hypnotic adventure on the suite and knowing that Wileman isn’t going to give you Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, but to give you a menacing composition that mixes Neo-Classical-Chamber-Jazz Rock, as a frightening voyage into the terror you haven’t seen before. The last two pieces are worth the trip.

On Ylla, in which it was inspired by the late great Ray Bradbury’s short stories from the 1953 sci-fi novel, The Martian Chronicles, Amy’s clarinet and saxophone gives it that doomy and ambient nightmarish world on what the character has to go through with her husband, the dreams of the Earth people, and the price that pays for killing. It’s a tragic and dysfunctional story, but the music captures the essence of Bradbury’s tale that would have made him very proud of it.

The closer, The Wanton Subtlety of Monna Tessa, based on Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron, has a medieval introduction before going into a Zappa meets Mike Oldfield-sque section in a cross between acoustic guitar, bass, laid-back drums, and xylophones along with Illesha’s vocalizations going into a ¾ waltz section and back into the psychedelic spooky with an ascending vibe.

All of a sudden, it becomes a quirky driven harpsichord Elfman-like score that is off the wall before sending off into the end. This is my third time listening to Strange Relations. And while this is an introduction into the music and world of Richard Wileman, this is a band that needs to be on the look out for and I cannot wait to hear more of Karda Estra’s music later on this year to see what minds and brainstorming ideas that Richard has in his head.

So if you love the essence of RIO, Chamber, Zeuhl, Zappa, and Avant-Psych Jazz, then Karda Estra’s Strange Relations is the album worth exploring into the combination of the five. Just be prepared for the unexpected moments that will make your eyes go up at the exact spot!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Fields - Contrasts: Urban Roar to Country Peace

Esoteric Recordings are for me, one of the best labels since discovering the reissues of the first two Rare Bird albums, Supersister, Burnin’ Red Ivanhoe, Julian’s Treatment, Marsupilami, and one of my favorites, Web. One of the bands that I almost thought they released only one album was a group called Fields. Since I championed their sole self-titled debut album back in October of 2010, I thought they could have gone on to be bigger than Yes or ELP.

Well here we are in 2015 and this year, something has crawled through into the other side of the room. It is Fields unreleased second album and follow up to their sole self-titled debut which could have been the next big thing, but then shelved for 41 years because of the changing of the guard in the Music Business and management changes which can be a real hassle. Not to mention, never listening the entire album from start to finish and never considering another follow up. Again, it can be a big gigantic bummer.

They were three quarters done and it’s one of the reasons what the album could have sounded like. And now Fields second album entitled, Contrasts: Urban Roar to Country Peace, is perhaps one of the most touching and powerful hidden treasure gems that Esoteric Recordings have released. From the moment I put the CD on, I knew that something brilliant is about to happen.

Vocalist and Bassist Alan Barry left the band to pursue a solo career because he knew he couldn’t be in a group and preferred to embark to work on his own. And soon, the late Frank Farrell of Supertramp entered the line-up. The band recorded their second album at CBS Studios in London at Theobald Street 43 years ago and it may not be their best album, but it is a treat discovering the hidden treasure of what could have been their follow up. It has touches of Prog, Jazz, and Classical music thanks to Graham Field’s keyboard work. 

On tracks like the Organ improvisation Put Out to Grass, it shows Graham in a symphonic mood as he Frank and Andy help out to set the tempo for an amazing groove and it almost resembles a tribute to both Cressida and The Nice. Opener, Let Her Sleep begins with sirens blaring and bursting into a blaring sound that Graham does followed by McCulloch’s drum work and that little bit of a Bach-sque concerto that Field does is mind-blowing before Frank sings “One more knock/Yes it’s one more shock/Like the great tick-tock/Of a giant clock/If there’s someone there/Let him hear my prayer."

It is such a powerful line and almost a plea for someone to give the person some sleep before the clock goes off with the bells. Then it segues into the ascending wonders of Wedding Bells which gives Andy McCulloch a chance to go into some powerful lines on his drums and not to mention the string section to close it off at the end while the tempo changes into a moment of a Piano ballad as Frank sings his heart out on Someone to Trust in which it’s an homage to John Lennon’s songwriting and with touching beauty with an emotional style on The Old Canal.

But the music changes from Classical and Ballads into a driven Jazz Fusion rhythm as they go into a driven beat on Wonder Why. Frank Farrell’s bass line, Andy’s paced drumming, Graham’s keyboard going into major and minor chord changes and synth solos followed by the vocals singing which almost reminded me of The Northettes, gives it a perfect transcendental experience.

Fields then goes into a joyous and high-spirited wonder with an enthusiastic feel on how Music Was Their Game before closing off with a lukewarm acoustic folk turned into a pastoral adventure on Storm. At times it reminded me of the Trespass-era and bits of Yes thrown in with the climatic thunders between organ, bass, guitar, female vocals, synth and Frank’s voice featuring stop and go time signature as Graham goes into the fanfare rhythm on his Hammond and synth solo as if he’s creating a magical adventure before fading into the sunset.

The three bonus tracks are like more of the hidden pieces that were left inside the treasure. There is the mellowing groove on Set Yourself Free, Graham’s tribute to the Thames on his Rhodes and Church Organ as Frank helps out on the Bass melody with the ambient and symphonic beauty The River, and going into a Blues 12-bar rhythm to close it off for Spring.

The 15-page booklet features liner notes by Sid Smith that includes an interview with Graham Field about the making of the lost second album and features an amazing artwork of a city and one picture of the band featuring Frank Farrell. Esoteric Recordings have done a wonderful job releasing this unseen gem and if you love their sole self-titled debut album, then this is the one worth exploring next to see why they were ahead of their time and brought the essence of Symphonic, Jazz, and Classical Prog like no other.  

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Veratum - Mondi Sospesi

Formed seven years ago in their hometown of Bergamo, Veratum are a quartet and have released a demo, their first album Sentieri Dimenticati released in 2012, and this year with Mondi Sospesi on the Beyond Productions label. This is my first time listening to the band’s music and again I’ll admit this, I’m not a huge Black and Death Metal fan, but Veratum have really brought the elements of Symphonic Black Metal with an orchestral vibe on here.

It starts off with a ominous timpani militant intro in the style of Gustav Holst’s Planets suite and then it becomes a heavy intro between guitar riffs and drums that is in the style of an epic and dramatic score before kicking off into a high maximum level gear with the growling and death vocals. And once the vocals hit, you know that something intense and ferocious is about to happen.

There are eight compositions on Mondi Sospesi and each of the tracks are blistering heavy black metal with a rapid beat between the guitar lines and the drum beats that go almost like a machine gun reigning bullets out of nowhere that sets the tempo to a higher pace. At times there are some clean vocals in there and not to mention a Bass solo thrown in that is unexpected that made my jaw drop to the floor.

The combinations between Symphonic, Black, and Death Metal, are a twisted combination. But all of a sudden, somehow, it works strangely enough to give it that pummeling edge of a sword ready to go into full speed. The solos themselves are at an increasing measure followed by a bit of the spoken dialogue that’s on the album. Not to mention bits of the synths going in an ambient/atmospheric sound.

Mondi Sospesi almost sounds like a score to an action-packed epic horror film that would have given 300 a chance to bow down to a terrifying movie and Veratum themselves would have given it the edge of your seat to moviegoers on being terrified and wowed in excitement for a headbangers galore! Veratum are an amazing band to come out this year to the sounds of Symphonic Black Metal and if you are ready for the soundtrack inside your head, this is the album worth checking out.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Unchaining - lthilien

This is a very interesting combination between the sounds of Ambient/Atmospheric music and Black Metal rolled up into one. From Gorizia, Italy, The Unchaining is one of the one-man band’s that have carried those two genres which is evidential on lthilien. This is their fourth album released this year and it is an epic mythological album with the inspirations of the stories from J.R.R. Tolkien that fits unexpectedly well.

It starts off with a climate dropping of the water dripping element inside the cavernous cave from the keyboards. It has an ominous tone as if someone is lurking behind the shadows waiting for the creature for its surprise attack on its prey as if it was lunchtime for them. Then all of a sudden, it changes into a nightmare that makes it a perfect way to start it all off with a dooming bang.

I just love how the Guitars and Drums go at a different rate because it has a slowed-down rhythm, but the pace the instruments along with the snarling vocals, goes into wonderful and terrifying results. Not to mention the usages of the Church Organ and mourning horn sections that sets the tone for an epic film score at times.

With pummeling beats followed by epic scores done by the keyboard that is the setting for one of the Tolkien’s stories of Mordor as if it was set during before and after the events of the Lord of the Rings trilogy that the master himself, would have appreciated for the battle sequences and confrontations with an action vibe.

This took a lot of listening for me to listen to during the Passover and Easter holiday which was a perfect day to really sink into the music of The Unchaining. And I have to say, I was really impressed of The Unchaining’s music. Surroundings of Atmospheric Black Metal with an Epic score, really gives it the mighty push and pull to see where the direction might go into next for the one-man band. So my recommendation, is turn to this up at a maximum volume. And experience the levels of the stories of Tolkien and the Unchaining’s Ithilien.