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Monday, October 15, 2018

Alec K. Redfearn and The Eyesores - The Opposite

It’s been six years since Alec K. Redfearn and The Eyesores have released a new album after the release of their 2012 release with Sister Death. I was introduced to their music thanks to Prog Rock Deep Cuts with Ian Beabout in 2014 which was after I had graduated from Houston Community College. 

It was back I believe in October of that year when I first heard them on Ian’s show. And I was immediately hooked right from the get go as he played tracks from the album. It felt like something that was straight out of the stories between Richard Corben and Alejandro Jodorowsky from the adult illustrated fantasy magazine, Heavy Metal.

Since their formation 20 years ago in their hometown state of Providence, Rhode Island, Redfearn’s music challenges you by walking inside his own version of the Rubik’s cube that can be quite the task. It is compelling, minimal, avant-rock, gypsy music, folk, psychedelic, post-rock, and some elements of the Krautrock genre rolled into one.

This year, Alec K. Redfearn and The Eyesores has released their new studio album via Cuneiform Records entitled, The Opposite. Recorded and mixed by Seth Manchester at Machines with Magnets in Pawtucket and Mastered by Udi Koomran at The Pergola in Tel Aviv, Israel, The Opposite is inspired by Redfearn’s readings from the esoteric by a periodic theme whether it’s a shadow, or something that balances, haunt, or reflects it proprietor.

Everything from Crowley, Kabbalah, Gnostics, and George Costanza. It’s also named after from the fifth season episode of Seinfeld. Now their eight studio album is a daring yet terrifying and chugging releases that I’ve encountered from start to finish. And it’s a welcoming hand-shaken return from this incredible band that will give you some of the centerpieces and the shivers for The Opposite.

From the moment I listened to their opening track, Soft Motors, it begins with a ringing bell before Alec and McLaren drive into this revving motorcycle into the lost and dangerous night of the Mojave Desert. Kind of a cross between the fuzztone drives and wah-wah pedals to make his accordion going into some uncharted waters with some snarling like essences of early Hawkwind and CAN’s Tago Mago-era, but with a crunch to make it for lift-off between space and the infinite worlds that is ready for the doors to be opened.

Alec lays down some pummeling drives along with Ann Schattle’s horn to go into those darker clanking-clicking sections from the woods on Tramadoliday. It goes towards some stop-and-go moments before this blaring alarm goes off in the middle of nowhere and you can hear the horn, contrabass, and this snarling fuzzy keyboard heading towards some nightmarish yet territorial atmosphere.

The title-track continues more of the pulsive accordion work as Sadlers drives up to the ladder for some distinctive walks of different locations. McLaren sets up more of those effects he does on the drums for a dooming scenario to make sure showing the person’s good or evil side and perhaps bringing out their skeletons in the closet.

With Carnivore and Pteradactyl, you can imagine an Egyptian belly dancer getting into the groove of these two compositions as the heat level increases more and more thanks to the rhythm that Redfearn does to take you through those secret closed doors that is behind the Tarot Cards. Listening to Bat Living in my Room, I can hear some of this cat-and-mouse chase with some frantic nightmares that tackle the subjects between paranoia and hallucinations.

I can imagine this song being used as an alternate score to Robert Clampett’s 1942 animated classic, Falling Hare starring Bugs Bunny. The temperature level goes up and you can imagine Bugs losing his cool by trying to catch the gremlin inside the bomber. The drums, bass, and accordion go into this Twilight Zone-sque yet insane nightmare that might keep you going near the end as Alec creates this tension-like scenario throughout the end as Bugs begins to panic near the end of the short.

I have now listened to The Opposite at least 5 to 10 times. And let me just say that this here is an incredible release from Alec K. Redfearn and The Eyesores. The Opposite has this creative intensity that can make your skin crawl even more. Mysterious, scary, and hypnotic, The Opposite is an album that will make you search for more clues and pieces of the puzzle to find out what will happen next.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Sanguine Hum - Now We Have Power

It’s been two years since I’ve listened to Sanguine Hum’s music. And they’ve never let me down. Since I discovered their sound thanks to Sid Smith’s Podcasts from the Yellow Room, they always would come up with something fantastic from the essence of experimental, progressive and alternative rock sounds in their music. This year, on the Bad Elephant label, they’ve released their new album, Now We Have Power which continues the story of Don from the 2015 album, Now We Have Light.

Now this review is going to be filled with some spoilers. So if you haven’t listened to Don’s story on those two albums, you might want to leave the blog……….now. Okay, now we are back (Anyway to the Bad Elephant label, how’s the weather outside?) So now onto the story. After Don finds this time bubble in his Drastic Attic, he goes backwards nearly 50 years ago as he is seen by 100,000 people as the news helicopters hover over him and he is completely aghast on where he was.

The music tells his story. You can imagine yourself being in Don’s shoes to realize that this isn’t just a dream, but reality coming to life. Sanguine Hum go beyond the levels and take you through the conclusion of his story. And bringing original drummer Paul Mallyon as a special guest to conclude the adventures, makes Don’s story coming full circle. So here we go on the review.

Speak to Us is this crossover between Gentle Giant and Rush’s Permanent Waves-era. Matt Baber himself takes his medieval melodies on his keyboard to follow suit by Wonks and Waissman as they enter this psychedelic corridor before heading back into some odd time changes as Baber takes over the controls to reach the soaring skies with some incredible synths.

Pen! Paper! Pen! Paper! Winks and Baber create the tension as Don himself begins to shout those words for Nurse Millie by giving him both the pen and a piece of tissue to write something. Sanguine show you the opened doors on what is really happening to the characterization of this man’s attempt to take his life by raising the levels up while Flying Bridge is Baber’s ‘80s atmospheric Tangerine Dream-like voyages as Don’s witness by chatting with this strange creature before the noise becomes static near the end.

Wonks narration on the acoustic ballad, Quiet Rejoicing gives now that Don has lost his memory due to amnesia, helps brings some of the puzzle pieces together as the hearts are lifted for a clear awakening. The moment you listen to Speech Day, you begin to realize that Don is about to deliver one of the most awkward speeches that is the mother lode.

Like something straight out of Nicolas Roeg’s 1976 sci-fi classic, The Man Who Fell to Earth, the music begins to rise more and more as he begins to speak. Once he begins his speech, the audience begins to realize that it doesn’t make sense as he’s saying gibberish and the other half want to pummel him one way or another. The tension in Tall Tale is where all hell begins to break loose.

Joff’s guitar sounds like a harder crunch. And he knows that through his instrument that Don himself can’t come back from the mess that he created and now his followers turn his back on him. Now We Have Power is a bittersweet story to Don’s story. One of these days I hope Sanguine Hum turns his story into either as a graphic novel or a 2D animated movie and bring it to life. Worth exploring? Yes.

Tone Masseve - Amp L'etude

Now this took me a little bit of a surprise for me listening to an artist name Tone Masseve. He had been playing guitar since he was six years old. Not only he was listening to the sounds of Classical music, but in the footsteps of guitarists including Joe Satriani, Jeff Beck, Brian May, Robert Fripp, and early Eric Clapton.

The debut album released this year entitled, Amp L’etude took more than 20 years to complete. The collaboration between him and Jethro Tull’s drummer Doane Perry, is a very interesting combination, but when I was listening to the debut, it is not only bringing his music to life, but the vision and ideas that Tone brought to the table.

He tips his hat through the classical interpretations in the inspirations that it took from The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Queen, and Procol Harum to name a few. And it makes it something very special to go with it. Tone recorded his guitar parts that took two years to record. Now unfortunately in 1997, while Amp Letude was still in the works, Tone had pneumonia and passed away on November 27th.

Back in 2016, a group of musicians have come together to complete Tone’s vision for Amp Letude. Not only Doane Perry is involved, but Bassist “Willy” Sam Pell, percussionist Garry Kvistad, a Choir, and El Hectro Plait on Drums that he did on Track 7 (Prelude #4 (To The Grave)). For me listening to Tone’s debut, I could feel his presence throughout the entire album from start to finish.

And the musicians on here are bringing Masseve’s creation to life and releasing it and knowing he would have been very thrilled to know that Amp L’etude has finally been unleashed. And the fires are still burning and it will never ever burn out for Tone Masseve. The Moonlight Sonata (On the Hill of the Skull) you can hear the combination between Beethoven and Satriani, creates a darker beauty as Tone combines his two guitars into one as he plays the sonata and Joe’s virtuostic playing to show his appreciation.

With the styles of Schubert and the Beatles on Maria (She’s So) Ave, it brings together those essences to life as the choir honors the fab four’s legacy and the sounds bringing up to the ascending heavens by showing gratitude and warmth farewells to say goodbye to your loved ones. On Prelude #6 (It Tolls For Thee), there are some aspects between Queen’s second album and a little of Purson’s The Circle and the Blue Door-era on the track called Rocking Horse. It's almost as if the lullaby has become this mournful howling at the moors with no turning back.

The opener, Aire on a G String (A Whiter Shade) are Tone’s tip of the hat to both Bach and Procol Harum. He and Doane’s drums take you outside of the church and into a warm-like resurrection for some new chapters that will await you. Perhaps one of my favorite tracks on Amp L’etude is The Sunken Cathedral (Turns the Tide Gently, Gently Away).

I can imagine both Brian May and the late great Jimi Hendrix are in awe of Tone’s creativity of his playing by opening more of the floodgates as he is now the new captain of the ship to search for more hidden treasures that have been sunken over millions and millions of years ago. And now he’s bringing it to life. There are some incredible moments on here between the bells tolling for the arrival of this Cathedral to see for the first time and being in awe of the legendary castle and the tribal percussion's that make it come up to the surface.

This is now my second time listening to Amp L’etude. I have to say this, I was really impressed of Tone’s brilliance of what he has done to combine classical music and progressive and virtuoso music into one. As I’ve mentioned before earlier, if he were now, I think he would really appreciate and be thrilled to hear his debut album come to life for 2018.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Magma - AKT XVIII – Marquee – Londres 17 mars 1974

This 2-CD set contains of Magma going into overdrive at the Marquee Club in London on March 17, 1974. The band were promoting their third studio release, Mekanik Destrutkiw Kommandoh and were two months to go back into the studio to record their fourth album, Kohntarkosz.

This is a very interesting rare archival recording. It’s not just you can close your eyes and being at the Marquee while watching Magma bringing the styles of Stravinsky, Opera, Jazz, Classical, and Progressive Rock to life with the Kobaian language, but having the power and the glory to witness something special with this that will make your jaws drop from start to finish.

The scream of “HAMATAI!” kicks everything off with the work-in-progress version of Kohntarkosz. The band begins with this intensive crescendo that erupts like a cannon blast for the audience to embark on going into the Egyptian tombs of the god himself, Emehntehtt-Re. You can imagine the crowd is stunned and in awe of hearing the strange language being brought to life for them and knowing this is a concert they will never forget.

Claude Olmos comes center stage as Klaus Blasquiz’s vocals reaches the higher arrangements with his vocals as Claude’s guitar goes into some harder double-edge swords on a bluesy sound and removing those spider-webs inside those darker tombs. Graillier and Bikalo share this alarming yet ominous Rhodes-like tunnel to make you be on the look-out for some of the traps that the gods might have done.

Christian himself follows in hot pursuit to create more danger as he puts you on this tightrope as pounds those drums like Elvin Jones, Buddy Rich, and Billy Cobham combined into one. The last six minutes become even more dooming and intensive as Vander’s screeching vocals make your skin crawl while Claude does this Fripp-like movements for a brief second. But all of a sudden, it becomes a climatic frenzy as they come together to bring the club down to a thunderous cheering and applause.

Sowiloi is a mellowing ballad that has this feeling of Soft Machine’s Slighty All the Time that Magma tip their hats to. It then switches into a sudden change at the last two minutes as they go into a frenzy attack to go full throttle on yo’ ass! Sons et Chorus de batterie (Ptah) which translates to Sounds and Chorus of Drums, this gives Christian Vander a chance to sweat his heart and soul out on those drums.

It is tribal, pounding, swing, and some crazy improvisations that Vander himself brings to the audience. He is the mad scientist on the kit, but also a conductor. The last five minutes and fifty seconds in where he scats and sings in his operatic form, there are moments where he would go into this scale format as the rhythm goes really fast. There is another sequence where when he would hit the snare drum by the time he scats he would sound like a computer going haywire.

And after the explosive 25 minute improvisations, the audience went nuts and applauding for more of them to do another set. Jannick Top’s composition, KMX BXII Opus 7, is one of the rarest live recordings for him and his bass to fit the biggest pieces of the puzzle. Now you can hear some of the bits of the Kohntarkosz suite in there, but when Top plays, the band gives him free-rein. He uses the fuzz-tone sound and go into some heavy jazz-rocking lines that makes it sound like a rapid firing machine gun.

He plays through the spiraling staircases between Pekka Pohjola, Stanley Clarke, Geezer Butler, and Jaco Pastorius. As Jannick raises up the heat from the temperature, it goes up and up. I just wished in that moment that the crowd would have clapped along to the rhythm and tell him to keep going.

Also on here is another work-in-progress composition that was performed at the Marquee was the first movement of Theusz Hamtaahk. There were some parts of what Vander had also written for the trilogy and some aspects for the bizarre 1972 French Film, Tristan et Iseult, and a part of the album, Wurdah Itah. While the first movement wasn’t in its final shape, you could tell that this was where Vander wanted to go with the piece.

While the first movement was performed on a BBC Sessions they did for John Peel, prior to the Marquee. And then later in 1981 for the live album, Retrospektiw (Parts I + II), and recorded 18 years ago at the Trianon theater in Paris in honor of their 30th anniversary for the three movements including their groundbreaking album which would be the third and final movement, Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh.

This is now my tenth time listening Magma’s live performance at the Marquee. And the sound quality is either an A or B quality from the archives, it’s a very interesting release to see what the band or Vander himself will come up with next for the next Archive release in the near future. So repeat after me, “Hortz fur dehn Štëkëhn Wešt/Hortz da felt dos Fünker/Hortz Zëbëhnn dëh Geuštaah/Hortz Wlasïk Kobaïa!”

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Xavi Reija - The Sound of the Earth

It’s been two years since I’ve listened to Xavi Reija’s music. From his 2014 fifth album of Resolution which was my introduction to his work, and his collaboration with Dusan Jevtovic on XaDu’s Random Abstract, Xavi has brought together another release on the MoonJune label this year entitled, The Sound of the Earth. With Dusan on the album, Xavi has brought along Markus Reuter and Tony Levin from Stick Men to lend Xavi a helping hand on his new release.

When I was listening to The Sound of the Earth, Xavi, Tony, Markus, and Dusan aren’t just band members, but more like a family working together and getting stronger and stronger. There are these structures that go beyond the post-rock sound and some of the bluesy sound thanks to Dusan’s guitar that makes it a very interesting combination.

It’s not only that, but Xavi might have told the band members to go beyond several surroundings and take it as far as they can. From the fourth movement of the title-track you can hear some of the similarities between Ash Ra Tempel’s first debut album as Reuter’s touch guitar sets up this vast, spacious ordeal to go beyond those twisted paths before Levin’s upright bass opens up the creaking floorboards that are getting ready to crack at any second.

Tony’s bass, Dusan’s guitar, and Xavi’s pulsive drum patterns on From Darkness, go into a parallel twilight zone universe that is filled with paranoia and hell like you’ve never seen. Reuter follows suit to increase the temperature level up a notch while the second movement makes you want to close your eyes and experience the beautiful landscapes of Bahia in the heart of Brazil. It then transforms into a twisted electronic avant-garde switch as they have these hay-wiring effects that come into place.

Like a beautiful painting done by Jackson Pollock, Serenity’s echoing effects that Dusan and Markus do, are very haunting towards the Norwegian mountains in the dark. It’s this cross between Terje Rypdal’s Odyssey and Frank Zappa’s Watermelon in Easter Hay, it is bluesy, experimental, and the waves come crashing down at the exact moment at the right time.

There is this aggressive side on the piece, Deep Ocean. It’s between the riffing intros that Dusan and Xavi do by making the waves crash down more on the city. It has this Sabbath-sque intro they walk into before Levin and Reuter come in by making the staircases like a rubik’s cube that becomes more challenging. The Sound of the Earth is Xavi Reija’s vision to create a film score.

Listening to this, I had this vision of him using the music for Nicolas Winding Refn’s Valhalla Rising. But it is one of the most daring releases to come out of the MoonJune label this year and Xavi Reija’s challenge is really getting me hooked into more of what he will come up with next.

Not a Good Sign - Icebound

For a band like Not a Good Sign who are still carrying the flames of the Italian Progressive Rock scene, the first two albums are so damn good, I always wanted to hear what they would come up next. And from the release of their new album this year entitled, Icebound, it has this darker and ominous atmosphere. With their third album being self-released, Icebound gives Not a Good Sign to go beyond the temperature that is a freezing snow storm below zero.

And being in the middle of that weather, it is cold, chilly, and uncomfortable temperature. Finding someplace warm, that is a big challenge. From the moment I heard, Uomo Neve, it gives Paolo "Ske" Botta of creating a vision for him to make a score to a video game franchise for the BioShock series. He creates these moody visions from the piano before switching to the keyboards as to show the player of the high-tech cities that were once beautiful, has gone horribly wrong.

Van Der Graaf’s David Jackson makes a guest appearance on the album with Trapped In. He captures the spirit of his sax and flute to a terrifying yet calming composition. With Cassani’s thumping pick-bass before going into the chaotic textures between the Pawn Hearts-era and King Crimson’s Lizard, it transforms into a swirling psych-pop twists featuring some crazy organ work.

You have the moody violins setting up the change of scenery from Eloisa Manera to some Knifeworld-sque sax and heading back down the spiral staircase for some crazy time changes. The search for happiness on Hidden Smile, is not an easy subject. Being in this lonely forgotten area in the middle of the snowstorm, is survival of the fittest.

And throughout the instrumental, Trevisan and Botta send signals between each other to give some of the characterizations for a sign of hope that the clouds would pass through by hopefully seeing a ray of sunshine, but it becomes too late, as it disappears again for some more dangerous weather to come. Botta opens the doors again for the Truth.

He gives the listener to open them up to see through these collateral universes. Calandrielllo’s vocals tugs your heart as if he’s describing the real situations of getting out of the storm while Trevisan makes his instrument to climb up the staircase before the blaring sounds of Botta’s organ erupting and ending with some surreal momentum.

Not a Good Sign’s music for me, is always a challenge. But Icebound has perked my ears up. I’ll admit it this, this might take a few listens, but it shows that while they’ve come a long way, Icebound is not just a grand slam, but a raw and essential snowstorm from start to finish.

Phideaux - Infernal

It’s been seven years since Phideaux Xavier has released a new album since 2011’s Snowtorch. I’ve already have a huge admiration of this band along with Xavier’s work since discovering their music back in the first of the series of Romantic Warriors: A Progressive Music Saga released in 2010 by filmmakers Jose Zegarra Holder and Adele Schmidt.

This year, they’ve released their ninth studio on the Bloodfish label entitled, Infernal. Now for me, I nearly had forgotten about Phideaux’s music, but when I heard he was releasing a new album this year, I knew that the door was always opened to see and hear what he was cooking throughout those years.

This is a conclusion of his trilogy which began with 2006’s The Great Leap and 2007’s Doomsday Afternoon. So when I was listening to Infernal, I can imagine Phideaux is finally relieved completed the three stories and it is him finally reaching the light at the end of the tunnel. Back in 2011 when I compared Snowtorch as an alternate soundtrack to the 1976 cult classic Logan’s Run, I now compare Infernal as a score to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

The artwork done by Phideaux member Molly Rutten, captures the similarities of Alphataurus sole self-titled 1973 debut, Le Orme’s Uomo Di Pezza, and King Crimson’s In the Court of the Crimson King. The subject throughout the entire album tackles the situations of Fear, Terror, and Hope. From the pounding sections between guitar and piano on The Error Lives On, gives us a greeting for more bad news of giving the descriptions for bigger problems and it isn’t looking too good.

The rhythm tips its hat to Jethro Tull’s A Passion Play as Phideaux and Valerie take the listener to task on the danger and asking the questions on if they had given the news to them or not. On Crumble, Valerie Gracious sings this beautiful piece as if her character is getting close to dying in the streets as the war rages on as she gives us the last rite before she closes her eyes and going into the afterlife.

The door opens more to the dystopian atmospheric landscape on the opening track, Cast Out and Cold as the vocals and organ sets up the nightmare. The guitars and vocals come rising up as if opening up more of where we have left off in Huxley’s sci-fi classic. There are some elements between Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain, King Crimson’s first two albums, and Alice Cooper’s Welcome to my Nightmare. And not only that they work well, but it gives you some details that the pieces of the puzzle begin to come as one.

We Only Have Eyes For You runs us through the disaster through the rubble. With the watery effects of the vocal arrangements of “You Better, You Better Run.”, you have these medieval keyboard sections, acoustic and electric guitars racing through the doors to escape the chaos, but big brother himself will always keep an eye on them, no matter what if they don’t want to be controlled or owned by the city that is near the brink of collapse.

Pino Rucher’s spacey structures on Wake the Sleeper becomes a deep, dark, and lonely space as Phideaux’s vocals gives us the situation that there’s no sign of escape. Now I don’t want to go into spoiler detail, but with Tumbleweed, which is sung in the melody of Doomsday Afternoon’s version of Crumble, the puzzle suddenly matches each of the pieces one by one.

The 14-minute composition of From Hydrogen to Love has this militant rhythm in the style of Gustav Holst’s Mars: The Bringer of War, throws in some aspects of The Beatles, Muse, Morgan’s Nova Solis, and Banco’s Darwin-era. It is a roller-coaster ride to some unexpected moments that shows Phideaux has done his homework going from hard, Italian Prog, Baroque Pop, to a teensy-bit of some cookie-monster vocals which I might think it happens near the midsection for a couple of seconds.

But here's my take on Phideaux's new album. This is now my 14th time listening to Infernal. And it’s a welcoming return for Phideaux. This album has grown on me even more. While the trilogy has come full circle, I hope one of these days Phideaux turns the trilogy into either a graphic novel or a video game to bring the images to life. Is it too late to say that Infernal is going to be the album of the year so far? Let’s just wait and see.