Folllow Me on Twitter

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Syndone - Odysseas


Now for me, since last year, I have been getting a huge enjoyment of the Fading Records label in which it is a part of the AltrOck family. From bands like; La Coscienza Di Zeno, Not a Good Sign, and Ske to name a few in which they are bringing the sound of RPI (Rock Progressivo Italiano) for a complete resurrection to show that it has light and power in the flaming torches. And one of the bands that completely blew me away this year this spring, is a group called Syndone.

I first became aware of Syndone last year when I first heard their concept album, La Bella e la Bestia (The Beauty is the Beast) which featured Ray Thomas of the Moody Blues and they had a huge amount of the ‘70s sound of symphonic and jazz rolled up into one and can they take it into different boundaries. That and their new album, Odysseas, is a magical and breathtaking album. Syndone has been around since 1990 with various line-up changes and carrying the Prog sound is tough, but they have pulled through with this one. The line-up considers Nik Comoglio on keyboards, Francesco Pinetti  on vibraphone, and Riccardo Ruggeri on lead vocals.

And special guests John Hackett (Steve’s brother) on Flute and The Avengers/Steven Wilson’s mastermind on the drums, Marco Minnemann. The album begins with Invocazione Alla Musa. It has an alarming keyboard introduction before the catchy and fast vibraphone beats come onto full play along with some working bass lines and not forgetting the Hammond and moog in there while the signatures changes key in the time they hit the right note. Riccardo Ruggeri, has an amazing voice and at times is gentle and soothing. 

And at times, with his voice, you almost couldn’t turn the album off, because it is beautiful and powerful on the way he sings. Classical and Flamenco touches with Il Tempo Che Non Ho and the reprise Vento Avverso ,classical guitar with an Egyptian sound for an intro turned into a transformation with the ominous concerto piano in the style of Procol Harum’s In Held ‘Twas in I on Penelope, sees Syndone going into an emotional background. And it just hits your heart really well and the usage of the strings on the two pieces just captures the story between Odysseus and his faithful wife as he goes on this journey to reach the Ithaca for ten years and the music itself shows how he has to fight to survive and the danger he encounters between Cyclops, the six-headed Scylla, and the whirlpool Charybdis.

Poseidon and Circe, gives Nik Comoglio an excellent exercise and a chance to go free on his keyboards or “Nikeyboards” for short. He is going through the styles of Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, Norman Haines, and Jurgen Fritz. Nik is spellbinding and almost like a conductor as he gives Pinetti the chance on when he comes in at the exact moment in the right measure and at the right note.  And he takes the Hammond organ, Piano for another spell-binding adventure with a fuzztone sound, thanks to the strings and the mellowing touches with a harder edge on Eros & Thanatos while the homage to Kerry Minnear from Gentle Giant comes in handy with Eaeyoepia on the vibraphone that is almost straight out of the Three Friends-era.

But the closer, Daimones, is where everyone is coming together. Features a lot of the symphonic structures and a nice homage to Genesis and ELP, the increasing summit on the lyrics shows that there is a new beginning  by spreading your wings and save you from the abyss as the crescendo from the instruments is a full knockout for the curtain to drop with a lukewarm applause.

I have listened to Odysseas about nine times already and this may well be one of the finest progressive rock albums to come out this year. Syndone have truly embarked on storytelling throughout their music and I can’t wait to hear what they might do next in the future and this is one of the most highly recommended albums to come out for 2014.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

John Bassett - Unearth



John Bassett, the mastermind behind KingBathmat, is going through the first time of a solo album with an Acoustic, Psychedelic, Alternative, and Progressive sound that captures the essence of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s at times. However, it has a touch of inspirations from the realms of Post-Barrett era of Pink Floyd, Steven Wilson, and Radiohead. Unearth is very much like a spiritual journey on finding your inner self.

The issues deal with; contemplation, traumatic childhood, and survival to name a few. From start to finish, the compositions that Bassett wrote here, has a melodramatic background with an atmospheric vibe that is very emotional and Bassett’s music and voice just hits your heart very strong on what he sings about. Opener, Stay Away from the Dark, begins with a reverb-like sound on the piano and the vocals as Bassett strums very relaxing on the acoustic guitar that has a mysterious and ominous sound that is chilling and hypnotic along with the lyrics.

Survival Rate has a moody yet soothing flute-mellotron ballad while the lyrics deal with how to move on and fighting for your life after the loss of your family members by remembering them in your thoughts and prayers and getting the relief by not letting them down. Elsewhere, the song Nothing Sacred with a catchy upbeat tempo on the rhythm guitar, drums, and the Hammond organ stays on top with them while the title track, has a nice homage to Radiohead’s Exit Music (For a Film).

Pantomime has a desert-like landscape on the music with a stirring moog solo with a Spacey sound as the melody shifts into an uplifting instrumental that has a ‘60s touch with an angelic soar on Kylerhea as the next captivating piece on the deals of someone how the small screen can show you that whoever that it can be worshiped, and it will make you their puppet and there is no way out as the beats per measure goes in for 150 on TV is God.

Then, Bassett goes into a Psychedelic-Pop flavor with a swing feel in 4/4 time signature that is almost a Waltz and dancing twist to it that gives John a chance to relax and have the birds chirping the sound of the forest into the woods on Keep Dear. As the last two tracks (Something That’s More Worthwhile, Comedian), sees him go into the style of a mellowing version of Supertramp’s Crime of the Century-era and ending with a heartening curtain call.

It begins with the effects of the school bell going off, dripping water, and birds before a crescendo strumming on the guitar and the background vocalization of him and on the Piano shows the person is a part of the play and trying to make it into the big time to have the audience’s funny bone as the elements as if it was written for either Jethro Tull's A Passion Play or Steven Wilson's The Raven That Refused to Sing comes into mind. With the lyrics that are riveting and gripping, Unearth is Bassett’s crowning achievement and it can open up people’s eyes to understand that there is hope to start a new beginning and a new life.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Xavi Reija - Resolution


It’s hard to get some recognition in the independent/jazz circuit by establishing yourself to make or record music and needing to find out if you have the presence and what you are doing to get the recognition you need to get out there in the music world. And for Catalan drummer Xavi Reija, he shows a lot of that concept in his mind and captures the boundaries from the realms of Prog and Fusion. That and along with his album, Resolution, featuring guitarist Dusan Jevtovic and bassist Bernat Hernandez (both of them from Dusan's international debut album from Moonjune, Am I Walking Wrong?), in which it is his international debut from the Moonjune label, shows he a lot of potential and a lot energetic vibes in his sleeves.

What he does on here is to bring his kit through different connections on various moments and he is almost the mathematician going to interesting time signatures to give both Dusan and Bernat the moment when the numbers hit at the right moment and the right time and at times he the conductor helping them get through to point “A” to point “B”. And of course, not to mention five centerpieces to captivate the trio’s hard work on here.

For example on The Land of the Sirenians, it begins with Dusan doing a beautiful tribute on the rhythm section as a ballad of Billie Holiday’s God Bless the Child for an introduction before going into different ambient bluesy yet jazzy background as if you are walking onto the beach by watching the sun going down and enjoying the evening. Then, there’s the hypnotic haywire funky jazz walking effect on Abyss. Here, Bernat is doing this tense stop-and-go walking bass line and Xavi is almost doing this Bill Bruford meets Billy Cobham style on the drums between the snare and the hi-hat and the tom-toms as well as if he’s going through the movements through the crash and ride symbols to get the tense motions set up.

On John’s Song, it is Bernat’s moment to get the engines revved up as he takes on some heavy fuzz and edgier wah-wah futuristic bass. Before Hernandez is going through the various frets and kicking it into high gear, Dusan is going into this Post-Rock workout exercise with a lot of feedback rhythm and lead sections on his guitar by going into different formats from the major and minor chords/solo format and then the ambient noise comes into effect from a spacey feedback ominous touch and the ship getting ready for take-off and then Hernandez comes into the picture and it’s a psyched out funk like no other!

The opener, Flying to Nowhere, is one of the highlights from the album. It has a swinging 4/4 time signature for the first few minutes that at first begins with Dusan doing his Andy Summers and Robert Fripp homage as the up tempo walking bass line and the driven drum patterns come into place before the heavy fuzztone comes into place and then it’s an alternative jazz rock format but more of an atmospheric vibe as well. You could feel the vibration and fierce sensation that the trio, go inside the heart and soul of the music.

The 10-minute piece, Gravity has some very laid-back grooves. It goes through a drum improvisation and a desert landscape guitar layered sound and then the foot-stomping beats in the different sections between bass, guitar, and drums come in for a quick second and then the tempo goes into some changes from a soft and calming beat as Bernat goes into his lovely Pastorius-sque solo to pay tribute to the master of the fusion sound as Dusan and Xavi gives him another chance to be free before the tempo increases in the finale as it reaches a climatic crescendo and bits of early Pink Floyd from the Ummagumma-era of Gilmour’s sliding sound.

This is perhaps, recommended listening for the sounds of; Experimental, Jazz, and Avant-Garde rock. And they really created something from the trio to show that they can really do and I imagine Xavi gave both Dusan and Bernat, complete freedom on their instruments and improvise with their virtuosity and I’ll tell you, Resolution, is a wonderful, yet out of this world album that Xavi has unleashed from Moonjune Records.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Dewa Budjana - Surya Namaskar


Dewa Budjana shows no sign of stopping and he serves up a lot of power and interest in his music in the realms of Jazz Fusion, World Music, and Progressive Rock by taking those three different types of music and he always has some magic up his sleeves.  There are moments that are sounds of atmospheric/ambient sounds, homages to Allan Holdsworth, Frank Zappa and John McLaughlin, middle-eastern beauty and while the name of the album is a translation to “Sun Salutation” or “A Salute to the Sun” in which it is a yoga exercise that helps the human mind and body to relive the stress. And what Dewa has unleashed this year is a breathtaking and beautiful experience that he has brought to the Moonjune label.

And when you have bassist Jimmy Johnson (Chad Wackerman, Derek Sherinian, Roger Waters, Stan Getz) and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta (Frank Zappa, Joni Mitchell, Megadeth, Herbie Hancock) along with guests musicians; Gary Husband, Michael Landau, Mang Ayi, Kang Pupung, and Kang Iya to lend help and support, you know something special is happening. Opener, Fifty is an ominous introduction featuring Gary’s synths going into the dark and cavernous caves, tight landscapes between Dewa, Jimmy, and Vinnie going into town with the touches of the Mahavishnu Orchestra as Budjana just goes into town creating these hypnotic solo work that is intense and raw while Husband creates these mysterious keyboard workout to get to the other direction.

Duaji & Guruji at first starts off with a McLaughlin-like style introduction for the first three minutes with a symphonic synth motivated beat before Dewa takes over and just goes into town with whirling and elevated sound while Johnson creates these moody bass lines in the style of Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke before heading back into the finale. The laid-back grooves on Capistrano Road, in which it is a tribute to Allan Holdsworth, is a comforting and soothing composition while Kalingga has this South-East Asian beauty introduction between the Tarawangsa (Sundanese violin) and the Kacapi (Sundanese harp) and the vocalization from Ayi in which it has a mourning introduction before the psychedelic sound comes kicking in with a late ‘60s vibe that features the sitar and not to mention soaring altitudes to go into different areas.

The guitar and synthesizer are like different areas from another universe by lending a helping hand on the melodies of Lamboya and the folky touches of the resonant turned comforting yet circling touches for the sunset on Campuhan Hill while the gentle transcendent mind of the title track, has Dewa give guest guitarist Michael Landau a chance to shine on his guitar solo through the minds of Gilmour and Ottmar Liebert.

The closing, Dalem Waturenggong, in which Budjana, Johnson, and Colaiuta finally go into town with this piece. The trio now take turns on each of the solos between guitar and bass as Colaiuta goes through various calming motions throughout his drum kit and Johnson helps creates some wonderful bass work-outs. It is a perfect ending and a wonderful way to close the album out. Dewa has scored again along with Moonjune Records.

The music of Jazz and Progressive Rock has finally combined into one and I can’t wait to see what he will do next. And after listening to Surya Namaskar for the fifth time, I could tell he is absolutely mind-blowing from his virtuosity. So, I highly recommend the mind and adventures of Dewa Budjana’s music and his new album is an improving voyage.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Matt Stevens - Lucid

Matt Stevens is a very busy man. Along with his work with The Fierce and the Dead, his solo work still continues to receive following and his guitar work still continues to keep the spirit of Post-Rock and the sound of Prog shining like a flaming fire. When it was announced during May of 2013 that Matt signed up with Esoteric Antenna, which is home for new bands including; The Reasoning, Lifesigns, Sanguine Hum, Panic Room, and new up-and-coming band/artists this year with Hi Fiction, Nick Magnus, and Sontaag, it was like opening the door and finally reaching that light at the end of the tunnel and Matt himself has finally reached it.

That and his new album, Lucid, which took three years to make as Matt wanted to put his foot into a deeper step from his previous work and go into a dark territory, but at times an uplifting momentum from start to finish, is a hypnotic album that he has unleashed this year. And with help from; Pat Mastelotto of King Crimson, Charlie Cawood of Knifeworld, Emmett Elvin of Chrome Hoof and Guapo, and Lorenzo Feliciati of Naked Truth to name a few, this is almost like coming out of the door that you haven’t opened for a long, long time and getting a chance to get your seat belts ready for an amazing journey that you are about to experience.

Opener, Oxymoron kicks the album off with a heavy post-rock rhythm section as the title seems like a perfect way to fit the atmosphere. It contains Matt’s guitar lines both in the rhythm and lead section as he goes through various sections in the melody both spiritual and ominous at times as the instruments carry on as a team to go into alternative rock styles, but with some haywire and feedback vibes that makes it a perfect way to start the introduction with a bang.

He and Kevin Feazey, who does some of the programming with the electronic instruments, go into a ‘80s sound and dark/cavernous atmosphere through the loops with Flow, makes it feel as if they had done another film score while Unsettled is another disturbing composition that is like a powder keg ready to explode. It features some twisted guitar work, fuzztone bass, and intense drum work that is almost could have been used during the sessions for Radiohead’s OK Computer-era.

The acoustic and the Pipa, in which it is a Chinese musical instrument that is two-thousand years old, makes it a calming yet relaxing moment for Matt and the group to get a chance to calm down for a cooling uptempo beat on The Other Side. Meanwhile, both The Ascent and KEA, are both an homage to an insane and disturbing yet superb tribute to The Mahavishnu Orchestra that at times go through a dystopian surroundings of an electric and gothic-acoustic surroundings of The Inner Mounting Flame and the Dance of the Maya to show Matt’s true love and staying true to the band’s music and his tribute to John McLaughlin.

There is also another homage to Italian Prog-Rock legends Goblin on the eerie yet disturbing beauty on Coulrophobia, which feels almost as if it was used during Suspiria as Matt travels back in time to the late ‘60s with a psychedelic twist with a Nuggets feel (Garage Rock style!) on the title track. Then he goes into the future with the fast-driven tempo on the acoustic guitar both rhythm and lead and the drumming and doing his work and honor in the styles of Jonny Greenwood on the atmospheric, Street and Circus. Then, in comes the 11-minute piece, The Bridge.

It begins with a rumbling introduction that has a King Crimson vibe for the first few minutes, but then it goes into the ambient voyages of the future to have a touch of Mike Oldfield’s classical guitar lines in the midsection to get the quiet and pin-drop vibe in the distant voyages of space. And then, they head back into the ‘70s Prog-Rock vibe with a touch of Red into the mix as the spoken word by Trojan Horse’s Nicholas Wyatt Duke, gives a tiny bit of dialogue as the spacey noise closes the curtain.

The closer, A Boy, is Matt’s lullaby. Just a gentle yet almost classical guitar melody with a beautiful folky and jazz chord progression that he brings to the table to close the album off with a touch of the ‘70s Acid Folk sound. Lucid is a tremendous and fantastic sound of Matt Stevens work that is powerful, touching and even a strong follow up to his previous work. And this is one of the albums that is probably going to be album of the year for 2014.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Jet Black Sea - The Path of Least Existence


Drawing from the sound and the experience of the later Pink Floyd-era of A Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Division Bell along with the sound of Radiohead, Michel Simons and Nine Stone Close’s Adrian Jones created this duo project called Jet Black Sea. The music is very ominous, atmospheric, and new age to capture the essence of the future to take you to a universe that you have never seen before throughout the stars and into the milky-way.  And with the sounds of; Guitar, Electronic Drums, and the Keyboards/Synths, the duo really worked hard to create the beauty and the magic they brought here on the table.

Their debut album, The Path of Least Existence, is a surreal, absorbed and tranquil they have released this year, but it is one of the most staggering debuts I’ve ever listened to.  The album goes through almost like a spiritual journey to find your inner self and finding out who the real person he or she is and what Simons and Jones do is to take the listener out of their comfy chair’s and began an experience to go through the passages of time.

To understand the idea of the context, the music has some post-rock, ambient, experimental and electronic vibes and bits of the Gilmour-sque sounds from Adrian Jones’ guitar work as if Gilmour himself is in awe after he passed the torch to him to carry the sound of the Floyd’s music and making sure they stay true to the music. Jet Black Sea has finally pulled it off and the combination of the four genres, are combined into one.

Tracks like the calming and futuristic bluesy-jazz twist of Outnumbered and the xylophone avant-garde menacing shrieking vibes on Worst Case Scenario, shows that there is some good that being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time and figuring out a way to get out of the sticky situation, can be a difficult situation and deciding what to do next. Elsewhere, the grand piano can give a sorrowful touch along with the string section and the guitar sounding like a siren and crying out in pain throughout the solo surroundings from Northern Exposure, sends chills down to the bone.

Some disturbance can come at you by giving goosebumps on The Law of Diminishing Returns. Adrian goes through the first minute and thirty seconds by making his guitar sound like it was going through the treatments as if it was released from the Arkham Asylum before he and Simons created some terror of what happens inside the mind of someone going into the darker depths of your mind. The Path of Least Existence is a fine debut from Jet Black Sea.

It can be at times disturbing, spiritual, raw, and emotional and from hearing it after four times of listening, I get the feeling that this is a band capturing the depths and bold ideas the duo have in their heads for a brainstorm, it’s something worth exploring into other worlds. So if you are ready to go into the music of Adrian Jones and Michel Simons, get prepared and embark on the sound of Jet Black Sea and into the world of The Path of Least Existence.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Soldier Six - Lost at Timekeeper's Gate


This up-and-coming trio from Belgium has completely taken me by surprise after hearing a couple of their compositions that had my jaw dropped to the floor. The name of the group is called Soldier Six and their debut album, Lost at Timekeeper’s Gate. It has the combinations of Post-Rock, Garage Rock, and Fast-Driven beats that will keep you up on your feet from the moment you plug in and dance to the rhythm of the sound and the vision since they recorded the album during the summer of last year.

The band considers; Vitja Pauwels on Guitar, Synthesizer, and Lead Vocals, Rudy Pelicaen on Bass Guitar, and Tim Welkenhuysen on Drums.  The band has something strange yet mind-blowing in their music as six highlights from the album, will finally get your attention to the band’s music. Opener, Wide-Eyed Kid starts off with a haywire effect from Pauwels synths before they go into this ominous alternative psychedelia vibe. His guitar playing is very intense along with Tim’s drum work as the rhythm section from both of the members is almost electrical and layered on a couple of moments through difficult time changes they would come up for a killer introduction.

Spaghettification (or Gettingsuckedintoablackhole) resembles this interesting combination of the Undertow-era of Tool meets the OK Computer-era of Radiohead. The chugging guitar sound and the spine-chilling surroundings they bring to the table before going into the calming and moody atmosphere as the stop-and-go rhythm as Vitja creates this Jonny Greenwood-sque solo sound to pay tribute along with the rapid beats on Shark Ethic that gives Rudy a chance to shine on his funky bass lines while The Creator has a spacey atmospheric drum work along with Rudy’s bass lines to set the tempo to have the late ‘60s feel.

But, they head back into the difficult time signature train station for another jolting along with the ecstatic touches that is captured on Dead Fish au Mur, from the synth effects that increases the vibes as they play the melody by capturing Vitja’s vocals, to the calming and fierce extreme measures the trio go into town for some stop-and-go moments in the midsection. Then the ‘80s New Wave of the synths comes into the circle as they do some Shoegazing along with the Post-Rock continuation surroundings that is almost in the mind of Mogwai and not to mention the Nintendo 8-bit musical vibes captured on 7 Steps to Ear Damage.

I have listened to Lost at Timekeeper’s Gate about ten times already and Soldier Six have finally came in at the right time at the right place to create some strange, weird, hypnotic, and electronic rock albums they have released this year. And it proves that they have finally done an amazing job to get your seat belt ready for an adventure you will never ever forget.