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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Rube Goldberg Machine - Fragile Times

Since my appreciation of the Bad Elephant Music label goes back in 2015 when I bought Trojan Horse’s World Turned Upside Down on Wayside Music, I’ve always wanted to discover what the label has sparkled more of the music in my eardrums. And the sparkle has come to light with an amazing up-and-coming band from England called The Rube Goldberg Machine. This is the band’s debut on the label this year entitled, Fragile Times. This is perhaps for me, another mind-blowing futuristic debut I’ve discovered. And with lyrical boundaries showing the essence of the darker subjects with taking from the involvement of Daniel Bowels, here they prove that it’s more than just Prog.

I remember hearing their music on one of my favorite podcasts I would listen to that I’ve mentioned called, Sid Smith’s Podcasts from the Yellow Room. Sid would always make my ears enjoy the music he would play on the episodes he would pick. Whether it’s the sounds of Canterbury, Jazz Rock, Avant-Garde, and Progressive Music. But from the moment I’ve heard The Rube Goldberg Machine on his podcast and he even wrote the liner notes for this album, I knew I had to buy this album. So I went ahead and bought the album on the Kinesis website along with Maglev’s Overwrite the Sin.

And from the moment I put on the Rube Goldberg Machine’s debut album on my portable CD player, I could feel that the trio are following in the footsteps of Steven Wilson and knowing that they are going to do just fine. There aren’t any auto-tuning, no pro-tools, and no digital enhancements, this is band playing real and sounding fresh right from the get-go and showing how real good music is supposed to sound. And it sounds perfect from start to finish. And with five enduring centerpieces, you might want to take notes on.

Opener, Background Noise deals with how the deals of fame from the digital ages from sites like a YouTube sensation, can come with a heavy price and knowing that you’re 15-minutes of fame with the obsession of the computer screen, social media, and texting is like being the butt of jokes. The lyrics themselves are spot on as the music carries an orchestral and ominous overtone thanks to the Alex Lifeson-sque guitars bringing forth the dark lullabies and the essence of Tool comes to mind.

The waltzy 3/4 time signature of Little Funerals has a clapping yet catchy acoustic alternative folk-rock flavor while the title track deals with the dystopian fear of a division with a political weapon and rising tides of a distant race and not letting the front line draw thin. Times Square starts off with a touch between the styles of Slash from the Appetite for Destruction-era and Rush’s Moving Pictures-era.

The guitars are going into the areas between lead and riff eruptions before the drums and bass in the midsection go into a Geddy Lee and Neil Peart approach with the different time changes coming at you in a quick second with the Swing-Jazz Metal touch with an unexpected twist. There’s more of the alternative rock sound of a journey that’s about to begin with a climbing melody.

According to the song behind The Captain’s Blackjack, the tradition of NASA before sending a ship up to outer space, the Captain plays this game with the tech crew until he or she loses a hand, then the mission can begin. It’s a great catchy song that we are inside the Captain’s mind of he will win the game of cards before heading towards his ship.

The closing track, Afraid of my own Shadow sees the band head towards a reminiscent of Agitation Free’s Haunted Island from the band’s 2nd album, and Ash Ra Tempel. It has a heavier and melodic side as the lyrics deal of being your own worst enemy and depression with a suicidal approach of the shadow taunting your every move. Spacey guitars from the reminiscent of Manuel Gottsching and Fripp-sque lines come into place, they bring in the switch of no sign of peace.

Fragile Times is a promising debut and it can take a few listens to sink into. Here, The Rube Goldberg Machine proves that they delivered the heavier themes, and it’s a well job done of an accomplishment and for the label, Bad Elephant Music.

Darryl Way - Myths, Legends, and Tales

Darryl Way, the co-founder of Curved Air and Wolf, is for me, one of the most dazzling and blazing important figures of Progressive Rock. As a composer and violinist, his new album entitled, Myths, Legends, and Tales released on the Right Honourable Records label which is a part of the Cherry Red family, sees Way travelling at the speed of light and taking inspirations of the Greek mythologies in both of the ancient and the present day with a symphonic approach.

I’ve always admired Darryl Way’s work with both Curved Air and Wolf when I was in Junior College and their music hasn’t left my headphones. Now for me, I really wanted to check his time as a solo artist. And now in 2016, I’m getting new to his solo work and let me say, it’s very, very good. More than just his time with those two bands, Darry Way takes the Classical and Progressive styles into a scale of beauty.

With his new album, he’s bringing the listener along to an adventure of Ancient Times and History that will make you know that he hasn’t forgotten the chops of the Progressive genre. From the galloping and pastoral running opener of Apollo (Racing Against the Sun), it feels like a new day has arrived as electronic drums, keyboard guitars, and violin work sets the tempo for the story to begin.

Way’s vocals are not bad at all. Even though he may not be the best singer, but he can hit those notes for the race to start and end. He resembles at times of John Wetton (Mogul Thrash, King Crimson, and Asia) through his arrangement. Orpheus and the Underworld takes you deep, deep into the darker hidden territories of hell. It’s dramatic and shows an emotional beauty as Darryl takes the listener into those heavier places in which it reminiscent of il Tempo Della Gioia-era of Rock Progressivo Italiano group, Quella Vecchia Locanda.

Then, he does something very interesting. You can hear the inspirations on the three tracks on here. Way moves into almost a style between Classical and the Bossa-Nova groove featuring classical guitars with a watery effect from the keyboards on Aphrodite while The Ice Man brings forth a delivery of soaring melodies that nods towards between King Crimson’s Starless and Landmarq’s Entertaining Angels-era as the shuffling blues-jazz melodies with a swinging twist of heavy rock on Dove of Piece brings forth the early sounds of Uriah Heep.

Darryl Way emerges a powerful force of playing the violin and the electronic instruments and almost imaging as if he is making the listener imaging and closing their eyes by picturing a movie inside their heads and Darryl himself composing the short stories about the Greek tales of Ancient times. Myths, Legends, and Tales whether you love it or loathe it, it’s Darryl that shines on the rest of the album that knows that he still has the energy on his violin.

Lucifer's Friend - Live @ Sweden Rock 2015

Last year, this blogger just received a mind-blowing eruptive wake-up call by delving into the sounds of a overlooked band who have been around in the ‘70s called Lucifer’s Friend. Now, I’m very new to the band’s music. And when I heard their 2-CD set of Awakening that I received in the mail by Glass Onyon, I was completely jaw-dropped to the floor. It was heavier, proggier, and eruptive. I can hear the sounds of Uriah Heep, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest followed by both the AOR (Album-Orientated Rock) and the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) combined into a full circle. And I was hooked right from the very beginning.

Since their reformation back in 2015, I’ve always wanted to discover what they will think of next. This live "official bootleg" was recorded at the Sweden Rock Festival on June 5th, 2015 and their first performance in over 28 years at the 4Sound Stage. Listening to this live album, you can close your eyes and just being in awe, fighting back tears, and head-banging to the sounds of pure heavy metal at its best that shows Lucifer’s Friend are bringing in the big guns for an eruptive performance that needs to be played at maximum volume.

Peter Hasslein carries the heavy riffs and lead work on his guitar that just will have your eardrums pumping until the early sighting of dawn and John Lawton himself, while at the age of 69, he can still belt out those vocals. I can imagine a young Rob Halford listening to Lucifer’s Friend and Lawton’s time with Uriah Heep, just being in awe and wanting to capture the styles of his arrangements.

This whole set includes at the time they are promoting the 2-CD set of Awakening. And it’s a real adventure to enjoy the set by knowing they are back and there is not a single stop sign for Lucifer’s Friend. The quintet deliver a massive roar for audiences to enjoy the music. Jogi Wichmann still carries the flaming torch when it comes to the keyboard and in the styles of both the late great Jon Lord and Keith Emerson. He can go heavier and classical and knowing that they have got their backs when they need him.

The booklet contains photographs from the show including meet and greets with the fans. My second and third time listening into their live performance at Sweden, shows that the energy and power is still there and it will keep the flames burning until the end of time. So I highly recommend both the 2-CD set of Awakening and this live recording at Sweden Rock 2015 so that you can head-bang forever and ever to enjoy the sound and eruptive energy of Lucifer's Friend.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Syndone - Eros & Thanatos

Syndone’s music have grown on me. Since being blown away of their previous album which was based on both Beauty and the Beast and Homer’s Odyssey with their fifth release back in 2014 entitled, Odysseas, I’ve always wait to see what the band will come up with next. This year, they’ve released their sixth album on the Fading/AltrOck label entitled, Eros & Thanatos. Taken from the fifth book of the old testament of King Solomon, Syndone always bring interesting ideas for another concept album.

From Beauty and the Beast, The Odyssey, and now the Song of Songs, The six-piece bring back more of the adventures to give the listener more adventures that is waiting for them. And with help from two guest artists, Guitarist Steve Hackett (Genesis) and Flautist Ray Thomas (The Moody Blues), Syndone keeps the flaming torch burning for more of the forefront of Symphonic Rock and the Rock Progressivo Italiano scene that will make you close your imagine it’s 1974 all over again.

Opener, Frammento, you can hear the robotic vocalizations that vocalist Riccardo Ruggeri meld in the vocoder sound of an experimental approach. He melds in well and at times there are essence of Freddie Mercury in his sound before kicking into gear with Area 51 where keyboardist Nik Comoglio, drummer Martino Malacrida and bassist Maurino Delacqua create various and insane time signature level that goes into different locations that suddenly brings to mind Rush, Banco Del Mutuo Sorccorso, and Gentle Giant.

Track by track as the album grows bit by bit, you can see how much they have come and bring the string sections they will make you go through the depths and immersive boundaries they can both the sounds of Classical Music and Progressive Rock. From the homage to George Gershwin piano concerto and dramatic violin sections  from the Puntorec String Orchestra on Gli Spiriti Dei Campi to the Brazilian bossa-nova intense rocking boundaries of Qinah, they have done their homework very well.

Then, they move toward the music of Greece that’s reminiscent of Aphrodite’s Child and Le Orme on the catchy acoustic synth groove, Fahra while Ray Thomas lends a helping hand on the Flute on the moody and evocative composition, L’urlo Nelle Ossa. Ray himself shows that he still has the magic and soul in which he brought from his time with The Moody Blues and here with his appearance on a Syndone album, it’s almost a return to show that he still has the driving energetic force.

But with a little help alongside Ray, Steve Hackett brings the Genesis touch into the variations on the closing track, Sotto Un Cielo Di Fuoco. Syndone and Hackett themselves bring the energy and ascending climbing melodies as Steve just gives me chills every time his guitar goes through various emotions that is virtuoso and orchestral that will make you close your eyes and imagine the sounds of New Trolls Concerto Grosso Per I.

More of the ideas that would come into Nik’s head is where he wants Syndone to go into next and where he wants the band to move in various areas. And here, it’s an excellent return and follow-up of another chapter of the band development. This isn’t just about Nik, he’s also a helper and a collaborator by helping out the members on the compositions that are on the album itself.

All in all, Syndone’s Eros & Thanatos, is one of those albums that I will keep on playing forever and ever until the end of time and it almost sounds like to me that they could use this as a live performance done in the style of the 1974-75 tour of Genesis The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by using a slide show and telling the story of Solomon. Let’s cross our fingers and see where they might go with this.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Bob Downes Open Music - Electric City

Originally released in 1970 on the swirling Vertigo Records label, Bob Downes Electric City is like a blaring red flaming fire that just won’t burn out as it keeps the burning energy growing until the end of time. Bob Downes is one of the most often overlooked figures in the history of Jazz Rock. He plays Alto and Tenor Sax, Flute, and Woodwind instruments followed by an eruptive Brass-Rock section including people from Herbie Flowers, Ian Carr, Chris Spedding, and Dave Brooks to name a few.

It’s the who’s who on the album that you might want to take notice. Bob is a poet, free jazz musician, powerful, poet, and mind-blowing vocalist. He takes his instruments wherever he goes and by the time you put on Electric City which Esoteric Recordings reissued back in 2010, you are on a journey that is out of this world and almost feeling the earthquake happening when you turn this up to maximum volume. At times, there are moments that represent bands like; Blood, Sweat, and Tears, Chicago, Mogul Thrash, and Manfred Mann’s Chapter Three.

Now I remember hearing some of Bob Downes’ music on both the 3-CD compilation released 11 years ago entitled Time Machine: A Vertigo Retrospective and Andy Votel’s sample tribute to the swirling label when I was in Houston Community College back in 2008 when I was studying on my degree in Jazz Studies and hearing the sample with Vertigo Mixed. At that time, I almost forgot about him. But cut to this year, I’ve finally picked it up. And the album is worth checking out.

Not just Jazz and Brass-Rock, but World Music, Samba, Funk, and Blues Rock that comes into the fold. West II will make you close your eyes and imagine yourself dancing to the sounds of Bossa-Nova and Brazilian Jazz as Bob Downes leads down into the path with the palm trees following his lead. The 12-bar Blues-Soul R&B shuffling groove thanks to the bass melodies following Downes vocals for a heavy rockin’ sound as we Don’t Let Tomorrow Get You Down.  

Go Find Time sees Bob Downes heading into a film score for one of the Blaxploitation films of the golden-era of the 1970s. The brass section followed by shuffling guitars and bass create a mysterious film-noir roar in the styles between Henry Mancini and Quincy Jones while the catchy melodies erupt with an explosion to driven proportions with his sax flying with insane improvisations by Walking On.

The motorcycling free-jazz improvisation driven punch thanks to the funky ‘60s heavy guitar licks with the brasses and shrieking saxes go into overdrive that will have momentum jaw-dropping to go through the Crush Hour before mellowing down with the flute of who we are as strangers and consciousness to a new horizon with In Your Eyes as the essence of the homage of the late great Terry Kath comes to mind brings the tour de force with a sonic ascending touch.

Then in the end we head towards the light for an amazing party into the sunset. Both Piccadilly Circles and Gonna Take a Journey, sees Bob and the team head into a mind-boggling and eruptive yet explosive finale. The 8-page booklet contains liner notes by both Sid Smith and Bob Downes himself as they talk about the making of the album and Bob describing how long it took time to make and record the album.

This is one of the most heart-stopping albums I’ve encountered from beginning to end. I nearly dropped to the floor from the moment I put the CD on and embark on Bob Downes’ journey right to the very end. Esoteric knows their Jazz Rock when it comes to this. I will delve into more of Downes’ music. 

Schooltree - Rise

Now for me, I have a soft spot of Female Progressive Rock Bands and Artists. From the realms of Renaissance, Bent Knee, Julian’s Treatment, Earth and Fire, Blood Ceremony, Purson, Curved Air, Kate Bush, Ancient Bards, and Within Temptation to name a few. It isn’t just a boy’s club, but to give honors due, it’s time to give the women a huge amount of credit they deserve in the family trees of Progressive Rock. And one of the artist that has taken me to another level, is Lainey Schooltree.

Lainey Schooltree is a very busy woman when it comes to her work with The Steamy Bohemians, Jerkus Circus, and Bent Wit Cabaret. I first became aware of Lainey’s music when I’ve heard some of the samples of her 2013 debut album, Rise on her bandcamp website. I was completely blown away by the way she sings and the way she writes and produce. She carries the torch of Kate Bush and knowing that she has amount of shoes to fill in.

I went ahead and bought the album straight away. And from start to finish, I was jaw-dropped right from the moment I put the CD on. There are influences from Queen, early Genesis, Supertramp, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, MoeTar, Randy Newman, and Rush combined into a complete full circle. Alongside Lainey herself who plays piano and sings, she brought help including Jordan Ross on Drums, Brendan Burns on Guitar, and Derek Van Wormer on Electric/Upright Bass.

Heavenside starts off with a gloomy haunting guitar improvisation that Brendan gives into a mourning situation as if he is channeling David Gilmour before Ross’ militant drum funeral march. Here, Lainey channels the essence of Peter Hammill and Moorea Dickason (MoeTar) in her vocals as if she is giving a haunting tale with a soaring twist as the rhythm heads into the heavenly-sky before Brendan’s melody channels her vocalization and erupts into a gigantic roar on his improvisation.

Opener, Six Feet Up is a blaring and melodic waltz done in the time signature of 3/4 which pulls the psych and heavy wah-wah guitars, concerto piano of a Broadway melody, and channeling Kate Bush’s The Kick Inside-era while Today channels the late 1890s and 1910s with piano and banjo in the styles of Scott Joplin and Newman’s writing arrangements as if Lainey herself shows a bit of humor in her melody in a Ragtime rhythm with an homage to Soft Machine’s Slightly All the Time at the very end thanks to Lainey’s vocalizations.

But it’s Lainey’s usage of the vocal harmonizer as she brings the experimental and futuristic arrangements with different tracking of where her vocals go into those areas that are soothing and uplifting to stand up on the title-track. But on Everyman, it transform into a Blues Rock shuffle from Piano and Guitar that suggests of Pink Floyd’s obscure composition, Biding My Time as Brendan himself exercises the resonance of his guitar work.

Brendan channels Brian May’s work as he sends it to the early Queen albums from Queen II and A Night at the Opera which is evidential on the closing track, Reprise. Vocal harmonies and heavier/symphonic structured with a higher ranger, they close it off with a haunting feedback before fading off.

Lainey delivers a promising debut. And this year she is working on a follow-up in which it’s a rock-opera entitled Hererotopia which she helped crowd-fund on Kickstarter and with achieve support from people like; Amanda Palmer, Barry Crimmins, Aimee Mann, and Margaret Cho, I can’t wait to hear she is going to do with this and where she is going to take to follow in the footsteps of the Progressive Rock genre. But all in all, with Rise, it feels like a breath of fresh air.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Panzerpappa - Pestrottedans

Since 2012 of my re-introduction of the Rock In Opposition movement thanks to the Romantic Warriors series from the realms of Jose Zegarra Holder and Adele Schmidt, I have a very strange admiration of a group from Norway called Panzerpappa. Now, I first heard their music on Sid Smith’s Podcasts from the Yellow Room when he played one of their tracks from their fifth album, Astromalist released on the Rune Grammofon label. They have formed back in 1998 and have released five albums since then.

And then I remember buying the fifth album on Wayside Music and I played the whole thing through and love it. Then, I almost forgot about them. It wasn’t until I think it was Prog Rock Deep Cuts with Ian Beabout that made me fell in love with Panzerpappa again. This year, they’ve released their sixth album entitled Pestrottedans in which I went ahead and bought from The Laser's Edge website. And it’s their label debut with AltrOck Records. The name of the album translates to, “Dance of the Plague Rat.”

The name of it came through when drummer Trond Gjellum wrote this as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to his wife, Tone. After her trip to Morocca, she realized that she didn’t feel well. So Trond went on Google and concluded that she had the plague and that she could be his plague rat. So, in order to make her feel better, he insisted to have a dance with her to an early draft that Trond was working on. And soon, the name of the album was born.

You could tell that Panzerpappa had a real sense of humor when it comes to music. Following in the footsteps of the RIO bands including Decibel, Henry Cow, Present, and the late great Grand Wazoo himself, Frank Zappa, this is a real knock-out adventure to sink your teeth into. Here the quintet bring a wacky and powerful ride to get you off the couch and enjoy of what is about to come.

Now mind you, earlier in another review, I’ve mentioned I have a love of the Norway Prog scene, and now adding Panzerpappa to the list, let’s just say, it’s about to get bigger every time something special that awaits for me. Recorded at Avant Audio between from June to November of 2014 and mixed and mastered by the great Udi Koomran at Ginger’s Studio in Tel Aviv from April to October of last year, Panzerpappa pull together as a team.

Barkus I Vinterland brings a catchy avant-garde bossa-nova rhythm thanks to Hans-Petter Alfredsen’s homage to the late great Graham Bond as he takes his Organ into that mellowing groove that resembles the Love Is The Law-era followed by Steinar Borve’s chilling saxophone walk on the streets in a dusty hot evening starry knight. Between the opener, Spadom and the seguing title track, it has this quality of different styles and mid-fast tempos for an insane dance.

The woodwinds and guitar between Jarle Storlokken and Borve along with bassist Anders K. Krabberod and the insane percussion work of Trond who brings the styles of Bill Bruford that comes to mind and Christian Vander of Magma. There’s also a fantasy side on the title track of the last 2-minutes of the composition as it heads into a dreamy landscape thanks to Alfredsen’s atmospheric beauty and jazzier chills of Borve’s sax before kicking into overdrive as Jarle channels Frank Zappa and Roger Trigaux (Univers Zero/Present).

Landsbysladder 3 deals with the discussion on the pros and cons of small-town gossip. Jarle shines like a magician as he is very much like a painter. He improvises through various melodies on the frets in different time signatures through the different formats of melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic improvisations. But in the midsection, there’s a Canterbury vibe I could feel in the style of Egg and early Soft Machine into the mix with a Crimson-sque twist.

Goda’ Gomorrah channels the haunting ominous post-apocalyptic nightmare of hell. The ‘80s score resembling between Goblin, Dario Argento, distorted guitars, and synths. Close your eyes and imagine Claudio Simonetti could have used this during the score for Argento’s Tenebrae. It is a chilling finale to close the album and paying homage to the Italian Prog masters, is a beautiful, frightening, and menacing tribute.

This is my third time listening to Pestrottedans. And now after listening to those three moments of their music, I adore Panzerpappa. AltrOck have never disappointed me when it comes to Rock In Opposition and the Rock Progressivo Italiano bands. If you love Frank Zappa, the Canterbury scene, King Crimson, Univers Zero, Present, Decibel, and Goblin, then delve into the mysteries and wonders of Panzerpappa.