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Friday, August 28, 2015

Anekdoten - Until All The Ghosts Are Gone


It’s been eight years since Anekdoten released any new music or a new album. Nicklas Barker is a very busy man when it comes to projects alongside Anekdoten including My Brother the Wind and as a composer for a horror film to follow in the footsteps of Fabio Frizzi, Agitation Free, and Goblin entitled, El Ultimo Fin De Semana

Not to mention the soundtrack group, Morte Macbre. This year, the group are back with a new album since 2007’s A Time of Day. Until All The Ghosts Are Gone is a welcoming return to the band’s music and let me just say that I’ve embark on something special yet hypnotic to the cosmic outer limits that have taken me to a whole new level.

Mind you, I’m new to Anekdoten’s music since hearing their 2-CD compilation back in 2009 of Chapters which covered their history of their first five album and unreleased material. This year, I’m getting back on the wagon of their music and listening about three times of their new album, I was very impressed of how they bring the Progressive Rock genre to a gigantic crunch and making sure the flames of King Crimson doesn’t burn out and making it go for years and years to come.

Opening 10-minute track, Shooting Star begins with an ambient/atmospheric introduction between the keyboards done by Anna Sofi Dahlberg before setting to hurtle through the milky-way cosmos. The band are going into a heavier territory filled with psych-hard rock guitars, mellotron’s galore, and very much like a space rock adventure before settling into the Steven Wilson Insurgentes-era that would have made the master proud.

Get Out Alive goes into a heavier rock approach in the styles of Pink Floyd’s pre-Dark Side-era and a bit of Astra flown in to capture the calmer sounds thanks Nicklas’ guitar adding a heavenly-like approach as bassist Jan Erik Liljestrom takes on the vocals. I love that midsection that Barker and Jan followed by drummer Peter Nordins and Anna’s keyboards head back into the outer limits for an ascending voyage as Barker’s guitar both lead and rhythm, breathes into a higher yet climbing melody.

Theo Travis (Soft Machine Legacy, Steven Wilson, and The Tangent) appears as a guest on Flute on two of the tracks on the album. On If It All Comes Down to You, it has a jazzier approach as Theo goes into the sounds of Ray Thomas and Peter Gabriel in a waltz tempo as Anekdoten give Theo a chance to shine while the late ‘60s/early ‘70s essence comes in full circle on the closing track, Our Days are Numbered.

This composition is I think, at their best. It’s immense, stirring, and propelling instrumental piece. It also let’s Anekdoten do some mind-boggling improvisations between each other on their instruments followed by Gustav Nygren’s blasting saxophone work that is an homage to Dick Parry (Pink Floyd), John Coltrane, and Bernie Living (Manfred Mann Chapter Three).

Gustav makes you feel that you are walking alone in a darker alleyway and imagine if someone is following you. The music in the midsection captures the tension and follows Gustav to see where he would blast at the right moment and bring it to a standstill with an alarming and blaring moment.

It is a proud return for Anekdoten to release some mind-blowing music that will make you probably want to take note. It’s a band that may or may not be for the faint of the heart. After listening around the fifth time now, Until All The Ghosts Are Gone is the band unleashing not just a masterpiece, but a journey that will take you unbelievable worlds that you haven’t seen before from beginning to end.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Gilad Atzmon and the Orient House Ensemble - The Whistle Blower


Since their formation fifteen years ago, The Orient House Ensemble released their eighth album this year entitled, The Whistle Blower. Saxophonist, Accordionist, Guitarist, and controversial figure, Gilad Atzmon (Ian Dury & the Blockheads, Robert Wyatt, Sinead O’Connor, and Paul McCartney. He also performed on Pink Floyd’s farewell album last year entitled, The Endless River) brings Jazz to a whole new level of bringing the essence of John Coltrane into his music that gives it power and sound.

And with this album, in which its released on Atzmon’s label, Fanfare Jazz, and distributed in the states by MoonJune Records, it gives it a Bebop sound that resembles that could have been recorded in 1965. He brought along musicians including Frank Harrison on Keyboards, Piano, and Vocals; Chris Higginbottom on Drums and Vocals; and Yaron Stavi (Mark Wingfield, David Gilmour) on Double Bass, Electric Bass, and Vocals. And guests vocalists Tali Atzmon and Antonio Feola.

In the liner notes, Gilad tells the listener that the compositions are four things, “Love, Nostalgia, Devotion, and Simplicity.” Not to mention the six centerpieces on the album that will make you want to take note on. The opening track Gaza Mon Amour, is an awakening track. It has a middle-eastern sound that at first starts off with a powerful vibration that will make get into the groove for an intense dance, and then the melody smoothly changes into Atzmon’s homage to the late, great John Coltrane. Gilad also shows a mellower side and almost as if he’s giving Kenny G a message on how a real ballad is supposed to sound like to a “T”.

The Romantic Church give Frank Harrison a chance to show a lot of beauty, passion, and tender concepts he would bring to the sound for a slowed-down beat. Frank carries some of the touches of Vince Guaraldi and McCoy Tyner. It’s almost as if he is following in the steps of Vince’s music and taking it into those areas while the 11-minute spiritual composition of Let Us Pray is a wonderful essence and tribute to John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme-era.

It’s almost as if Gilad wrote it as a continuation of the classic album and seeing where he wants the members to go into for amazing improvisations between Yaron, Chris, and Gilad himself. He moves into his soprano sax for a calmer side on Forever, but then, he goes into his accordion into the main stage for The Song. You can imagine yourself in 1950s Paris in a Black & White film done by Francois Truffaut, walking around the Seine around Midnight and being moved into the movie inside your head.

Elsewhere, they go into a humoristic touch of the lounge-era as Gilad’s wife Tali, and Antoine Feola doing the vocals on the closing title track. Begins with a spoken French introduction as Tali doing soothing vocalizations in the style of Combustible Edison’s Miss Lily Banquette. It feels like it could have been used in Terry Gilliam’s 1985 Sci-Fi classic, Brazil. But you could tell they are having a blast and not to mention the unexpected moments with wolf whistles, and organ-sound to create the poking fun of easy listening music of the ‘50s and early '60s.

The Whistle Blower is a wonderful and spectacular Jazz album I’ve listened to from start to finish. Since re-discovering Jazz when I was in College studying on my degree in Jazz Studies and falling in love with the music of John Coltrane ten years ago, this is an amazing album that would have the master proud. I have to listened to this about three times now and it is a real return to what Jazz music is all about.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Receiver - All Burn


Formed ten years ago in their hometown in Ohio, The Receiver are a duo of the Cooper brothers considering Casey on Keyboards, Bass, and Vocals. Along with Jesse on Drums and Vocals. They have released so far two albums (Decades & Length of Arms). And this year, they have released their new album entitled All Burn which is released on the Kscope label. When I first heard this, I knew something special and moving had come across my ears the moment I put on their third album from start to finish.

It’s a flavor between the sounds of Indie and Dream Pop followed by the Progressive sounds that blends in very well between the three genres. Both Jesse and Casey have done a spectacular job on here as they are following in the footsteps from the sounds of: Pink Floyd, Dungen, Sigur Ros, and Radiohead with an electronic vibration that will make you amazed and in awe on what you will expect from the moment you put on All Burn.

Songs like the mellow and poignant April Blades and the opening track Drift, sees The Receiver going into a mourning/cavernous sounds that shows them going into the wonders of This Mortal Coil. But it has a Beatle-sque arrangement in the styles of the Abbey Road sessions as if they had recorded it in the early ‘80s with an ascending groove. To Battle an Island starts off at first an homage to the sounds of the Video Game music you would hear as a kid back in the old Nintendo-era to have a futuristic beginning before it relaxes and then into high gear with a compelling beat that makes it not just an unexpected moment, but the way the brothers do it right in a Floyd-like melody.

Since I’ve mentioned about the Floyd, the influence is still there. And The Receiver brings it to a sweet and emotional dreamy-pop combination as if both the Floyd and the OK Computer-era of Radiohead had worked together to create a spellbinding yet elegant composition for Dark Matter while the title track brings a futuristic taste as the brothers go into a pleasant drive into the sunset for a sonic texture journey.

I have listened to All Burn about eight times now. And The Receiver have brought a lot of hope and ideas into their music and seeing where they will go into next. While this is an introduction for me of discovering their music this year, I hope to look into their previous catalog. Kscope have brought something special, hypnotic, electronic, and symphonic pop that will capture the Indie, Dream, and Progressive-Pop to a different level. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Kinetic Element - Travelog


This amazing band from Richmond, Virginia in which they formed back in 2006 by performing music for keyboardist Mike Visaggio’s solo album, Starship Universe, has finally brought a lot of joy in my ears and whilst this is my first time listening to their music, Kinetic Element brings potential and beauty in their sound. With the elements of Symphonic Progressive Rock in the footsteps between Genesis, Yes, and ELP, their new album Travelog released this year on the Melodic Revolution Records label and follow up to their 2009 debut, Powered by Light, it’s storytelling at its finest as if it’s set during the medieval and renaissance-era.

Alongside Mike Visaggio as a keyboardist, the band also considers Tod Russell on Guitar and Triangle, Michael Murray on Drums, Whistling, and Percussion and Mark Tupko who replaces Len Dupika on Bass. There are three guest vocalists on the album that include Dimetrius LaFavors of Odin’s Court, Michelle Schrotz of Brave, and Mike Florio of the Mass Dream Project.

The tracks are clocked in between 10, 17 and 20-minutes long that make it as I’ve mentioned earlier in the introduction, very much a story-telling adventure on the compositions written by Mike Visaggio and Tod Russell. The 20-minute opener, War Song starts off with an Organ and Bass improvisation melody followed by the drums coming in with the ambient/atmospheric introduction throwing into the blender that resembles the essence between Triumvirat meets Styx’s The Grand Illusion-era before Dimetrius LaFavours comes in on the vocals.

I’ll admit, his voice is not bad. And even though I’m not crazy about it, he can hit those notes very well and nails the song perfectly and his voice resembles at times an earlier version of Tommy Shaw as if it was a continuation of Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man). Kinetic Element show a softer side into their touches of classical yet elegant beauty from the nylon strings into the cooling breeze for a relaxation of the title track. Tod carries the essence between Mason Williams, John Williams, and Steve Howe on this track.

He shows a lot of his inspirations for the elements between the compositions and shows it very well before he moves into the acoustic guitar styles of Anthony Phillips and Steve Hackett. But then the group head back into the orchestral rock voyages with Into the Lair. It starts off with heavy rhythm guitar, mellotron, vocalizations, and lively drums that starts in the styles of the score to the 1999 film, The Virgin Suicides before it moves in a bright-like essence with Organs, Guitar, Synths, and Drums filling in the void as Michelle takes on the vocals as she shines through on the piece that reminiscences between French duo Air, Yes, and Kayak.

Mike Florio of the Mass Dream Project comes into the picture with the breathtaking essence with Her. It begins with Visaggio’s Piano concerto in the styles of Tony Banks before it heads into the dreamy landscapes that keeps it flowing into Rock Progressivo Italiano sound from Locanda Delle Fate and the energy of Van Der Graaf Generator, but with the lyrical surroundings from Peter Hammill’s roots. 

The album closes with Vision of a New Dawn. This shows Kinetic Element at their best. Going from a different melodic time signature between Guitar and Bass before the solos increase to the level from Todd Russell as he extends his virtuosity before LaFavors vocals bring a chance to see a new day and a new beginning to see where the road will go next for a sun rising momentum. 

And then the last 7-minutes is Mike going into a brilliant concerto on his keyboards to pay tribute to Rick Wakeman as if he was writing a sequel to the King Arthur story that makes it powerful, epic, and raw. I really had a blast listening to Travelog. And this is my eighth time listening to their second album. I have to admit I’m not crazy about Kinetic Element, but they really have brought a lot of potential for me on my introduction of their music with their second album. 

The Progressive Rock genre is still growing strong and its flame will never go out. This here, is Kinetic Element’s finest hour. So if you love Kayak, Styx, Yes, ELP, Genesis, and Triumvirat, then check out Travelog.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Edge of Paradise - Immortal Waltz


For me, I have a soft spot of the Female-fronted Metal bands in the Progressive and Symphonic sounds. Whether it’s Edenbridge, Ancient Bards, Amberian Dawn, Arven, Within Temptation, and Delain to name a few, they are my cup of coffee to show where they can take it up a notch. When I first heard Edge of Paradise, I was jaw-dropped to the floor.

This is their second album released this year on the Pure Rock Records label in which it’s their follow-up to their debut, Mask along with their debut EP, A Perfect Shade of Black. They have been around since their formation back in 2011 and have toured in the West Coast states three years ago and I hope their new album Immortal Waltz will finally get the band a lot of hope tour a lot not just in the West Coast, but everywhere to spread the word-of-mouth and recognition they deserve.

The band considers; Margarita Monet on Lead Vocals and Keyboards, David Bates on Guitars, John Chominsky on Drums, and Nick Ericson on Bass Guitar. It’s My Show is a real killer as you can imagine yourself inside the dystopian circus as Margarita being the master of ceremonies in the styles of a pleasant nightmarish experience in her vocals as if she is almost following into the footsteps of Alice Cooper.

But the title track, it is in the styles of Bigelf meets Haken in a Doom-Melodic-Symphonic Metal twist. David Bates nails it through the rhythm on his guitar and Monet herself goes into the insanity of her voice as if she is giving the listener to let her go inside the insane asylum of where the nightmare still continues. It has a Tim Burton feel of a score of the waltz section that the madness is about to begin for the demons to be burned to a crisp.

Rise for the Fallen is an increasing yet exhilarating composition. And you can find their first music video which it’s up on YouTube, is a driven turned classical momentum from the rhythm section thanks to David’s intense riffs, John’s mid-tempo drumming and Margarita going nailing it each moment from the band to see where the members are going in which direction her vocals take into.

The four tracks, (Perfect Shade of Black, Ghost, In a Dream, & Break Away) were originally on the debut EP. And there’s a bonus track in which they cover the Dio-era of Black Sabbath (Children of the Sea) is a wonderful tribute to the legend and knowing the torch of Ronnie James Dio is still influential and inspiring a lot of up-and-coming hard rock and heavy metal musicians to let him know that the spirit is flowing and ascending the legacy.

And Edge of Paradise did a spectacular take in almost a sing-along fanfare touch of the piece. But they nailed it in an orchestral way thanks to the keyboards in the string section format of an epic proportion in the right way. I have to say this, I’m very impressed of what 
I’ve heard from start to finish. Edge of Paradise have got something in their music. 

And whether you love it or hate it, they are soon going to be one of my favorite bands in the Metal community to show that the genre is still trucking and revving the symphonic engines! And in the words of Marvel’s Thor, “And though lightning be fire, yet it must answer thunder’s call.”

Gentle Knife - Gentle Knife


This was a big unexpected surprise for me when I first heard the music of a 10-piece group. Yes, I said 10-piece line-up of a group from Norway called, Gentle Knife. And this year, they have released their sole self-titled debut concept album and it’s a real outstanding winner. There are two singers both male and female and eight musicians to go along with it.

It’s really an ambitious and challenge to have a decet line-up here, but from the moment I listen to their debut, I knew I saw hope for them and it is perhaps a wonderful combination. The story of the album is about an adventurer going into the forests without any chance of coming back and the eight compositions tell the story of what happened to the character and how the adventurer went into a demise by going in without no turning back.

The music itself is a darker cavernous place filled with Prog and Jazz into a gigantic blender. I can hear the essence of King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Van Der Graaf Generator, and White Willow thrown into the mix. And Gentle Knife have done their jobs right to carry the three bands and letting them know that they have their backs and carrying the flaming torch to see where the roads will go into.

Our Quiet Footsteps has that Crimson vibe and the haunting sax rhythm in the styles of David Jackson followed by a crunching guitar solo, militant snare drum and moog finale while the haunting ballad of Beneath the Waning Moon, captures a mystical atmosphere between the Mellotron, lukewarm flute solo, jazzier tone, and Floyd-sque guitar improvisations that makes the track influential.

Melina Oz’s voice resembles the sounds of Allison Williams (Mellow Candle), Annie Haslam, Sylvia Erichsen (White Willow), and Kate Bush. I just love how Melina voice carries on like a shining diamond and the male counterparts from the group help her out and decide to see where she wants to take them into next. Epilogue: Locus Amoenus, has a spooky ambient introduction through the keyboards in the styles between the Wish You Were Here-era of Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream, and Goblin. It gives it a chilling yet haunting call of no return.

I just love what they had done on this track. It is almost as if they had done this back in 1980 and recorded this for either between a John Carpenter or Dario Argento movie and the music sets the tone to see where the characters go into and Gentle Knife nail it at the exact moment. And the track, Coda: Impetus reminded me of the Permanent Waves-era from Rush with the complex changes between keyboards, bass, drums, and guitars to give it an alarming siren that you would never expect whilst ending in a Jazz finale.

Perhaps one of my favorite track is the 10-minute opener Eventide. I love the fanfare introduction done in the style of Premiata Forneria Marconi’s Storia Di Un Minuto-era before going into a mid-tempo piano concerto and calming folk-like surroundings that gives it the ominous feel of being alone but finding hope to survive. With a horn section and virtuoso guitar and calming rhythms, they know what they are doing.

This is my third time listening to Gentle Knife’s music and the 10-piece have accomplished a brilliance and different passages in the compositions that are quite unexpected. So if you love White Willow, Rush, Pink Floyd, Van Der Graaf Generator, and King Crimson and if they want to share with you a hot and spicy burrito, then sink into the rivers of the sounds of Gentle Knife.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Procol Harum - A Salty Dog (Deluxe and Expanded Edition)


Upon the seventh seasick day/we made out port of call/A sand so white, and sea so blue/no mortal place at all.” The lyrics from their third album have always send chills down by spine whenever I would put it on from start to finish. The song about death and sacrificing their lives on the line as their Captain of the ship has lost it. And knowing there is no turning back. That and the release of the 2-CD set of the reissue of Procol Harum’s A Salty Dog has proved to be another crowning achievement from Esoteric Recordings.

Originally released in 1969 on the Regal Zonophone label, Procol Harum were finally having the ball rolling after the release of their first two albums (their sole self-titled debut and Shine on Brightly) and knowing the word-of-mouth and international acclaim thanks to A Whiter Shade of Pale, it was going to be another powerful adventure that would lie just around the corner.

And with Ken Scott as an engineer and assistant on most of the tracks who would later work with David Bowie, Supertramp, and Lou Reed to name a few and Matthew Fisher on the production realm, it was a perfect combination. Not to mention the cover re-design of the cigarette of the Player’s Navy Cut logo, it is one of another crowning achievements in the history of their career.

Songs like the downtown 12-bar blues shuffle in the styles of Cream’s Fresh Cream-era of Muddy Waters’ groove from Robin Trower’s harder edges from Clapton and harmonica blaring through Gary Brooker’s vocals in which it was recorded at the Rolling Stones old rehearsal rooms in Bermondsey Street. I could tell that they are having a grand time of Trower’s composition and almost as if the Blues is in his blood to take it home for Juicy John Pink.

The song also was engineered by Rolling Stones late pianist, Ian Stuart. The homage to the writings of Randy Newman is evidential from Keith Reid’s writing as he takes it up a notch with the blaring yet eruptive roar of The Devil Came from Kansas. And for Robin, I have to admit, he is nailing it through the rhythm and lead section on his Guitar just to give it that powerful crunch between B.J. Wilson thumping drum sounds and Brooker’s piano/vocals to nail it bit by bit.

Matthew Fisher comes into the picture to bring his vocals for a bit of Folk. With Boredom, which would later be covered by Tea and Symphony, is a mid-tempo Folk Rock almost sing-along song that resembles the essence of Strawbs’ Part of the Union while the troubled seas set to a symphonic arrangement in the styles of Tchaikovsky in a mourning lyrical beauty for the Wreck of the Hesperus.

And with the hymn-like lyrics that I always imagine the group recording this beautiful composition in a Church with Pilgrims Progress featuring the organ setting the haunting tone throughout the piece, it will make you get the Kleenex box for it. The Milk of Human Kindness is such a wonderful track with a music hall rhythm thanks to the piano introduction that is very much like if Scott Joplin had wrote it for them and see what they can do with it.

The dramatic All This and More, is a spectacular yet ascending composition. Brooker and Trower are brilliant together with awe-inspiring magnitudes by following a trombone section in the finale section as Brooker shines through his vocals. Robin Trower comes in with his vocals. Now I’ll admit, he’s not the best singer in the world, but the song Crucifiction Lane is in the styles of the Stones, Aretha Franklin, and Otis Redding with a gospel flavor of the lyrics of the seaside.

The bonus tracks on the second disc, features BBC Sessions they did for David Symonds on Sunday, John Peel’s Top Gear, live performance in the States on April of 1969, the heavy nugget of Procol Harum going into a Proto-Hard Rock eruptive keg of Long Gone Geek, a Mono single version of the title track (A Salty Dog), and a backing track.

The live performances is not in the best condition it is, but you can imagine yourself being in front of the stage being in awe of Procol Harum at their best and not to mention the dazzling take of Skip Softly (My Moonbeams) and having the theme to 2001: A Space Odyssey (Also Sprach Zarathustra) as a climatic finale before breaking into the Sabre dance, makes it a wowing performance. It would also be Bassist David Knights last album as he would be a manager for Mickey Jupp’s Legend.

The 19-page booklet which features liner notes by Henry Scott-Irvine, who knows his stuff as I’ve mentioned before, the Sherlock Holmes of Procol Harum, does an amazing job on the notes and interview with the band and features memorabilia and pictures of the group. Mark and Vicky Powell again, have done well for the Esoteric reissue of Procol Harum’s classic and I hope they do more in the years to come.

And if you want proof, just ask either Martin Scorsese or Sylvester Stallone.