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Friday, February 24, 2017

Magma - Kohntarkosz

Magma who have been around for 48 years and despite the line-up changes, they are for me one of the most influential, hypnotic, experimental, and powerful Progressive Rock bands to come out of the 1970s in France. Among supporters including Metallica’s Robert Trujillo, Julian Cope, John Lydon, Jello Biafra, and the late great David Bowie, it was for me, this eruptive blast that blew the doors down with a big bang. With the influences of Opera, Classical Music, Avant-Garde, Experimental, Jazz, and Rock, they can take those genres and give you a jolt like there’s no tomorrow.

Their music is as they’ve mentioned in the Magma Live album “A mirror where every can see a reflection of who he is.” They created their own musical language created by leader and founder, Christian Vander called Kobaia. It’s very much like giving the Klingon’s and the Vulcan’s a big giant middle finger and Magma does it right. That and their fourth studio album which was a follow up to their magnum opus, Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh entitled, Kohntarkosz released in 1974.

This is where it all started in which known as a three-part trilogy of the story that consist K.A. (Kohntarkosz Anteria) and Emehntehtt-Re. This is the second part of the Egyptian pharaoh himself. It starts off with a cannon blast of a crescendo between the keyboards and drum introduction between Vander and the Yamaha organ as if we are about to head down in the deep tunnels and inside the pharaoh’s tomb.

It’s almost as if he’s calling upon the character to see what lies ahead. It is done in 2-parts of the suite and the walking down the corridor’s and the tension set by Vander and the vocals between Klaus Blasquiz and Stella Vander, is amazing and the eerie Crimson-sque section and Jannick Top’s bass tone. And then the shout of “STOHT!” featuring the eerie organ, bass, and Stella’s vocals just sends chills down my spine.

I love how the piano along with the vocals between Stella and Christian follow the melody on the instrument of entering in the tomb before the dooming noise gets quieter before an alarming shriek of the synths that can make you jump in a brief second that we are inside the tomb. Then, the piano and operatic vocals is shivering and jazzy thanks to the homage of Vander’s hero, John Coltrane.

The second part has these heavenly beauty sections as Vander vocals calms and delving into some great drum patterns and Rhodes-like sections. I like how it channels the styles Soft Machine's Mike Ratledge to show a little bit of a tribute to the early sound with the fuzz tone sections in the psychedelic-era in the first four minutes of the piece.

It goes up for a bit as he, Vander, Jannick, and Stella raise the bar and the tempo goes up a notch. The tempo gets to an increasing level for the last five minutes of the second part and then it ends with a dooming militant funeral march and the chanting. I had goosebumps throughout the entire two-part suite and knowing that have done justice. But it’s not over yet.

The haunting and sinister neo-classical composition of Jannick Top’s Ork Alarm. With the ticking clock, Top’s ominous cello sections as Klaus Basquiz gives us to know that the people of the Ork are ready for a war and the people from Zeuhl Wortz are preparing a fight to the death they are waiting for. I can hear the essence between RIO bands including Art Zoyd, Univers Zero, and Present throughout the sections of the composition.

And then Blossom Toes’ Brian Godding comes in with these terrifying sections on his guitar to give the people their weapons and their gear and knowing when it is time to fight and the battle will begin very, very soon. His guitar and Klaus set up these alarming noises as he matches his shouting lines as the temperature goes up to 100 before ending with a chaotic effect and ending abruptly.

The closer, Coltrane Sundia as I’ve mentioned earlier, is Christian’s tribute to the late great master himself. It’s almost as if Vander wrote it as a memorial to his hero and doing in the styles as if he wanted to continue the structures of A Love Supreme as Brian gives an emotional farewell up into the heavens and the piano knowing that to say thank you for giving Christian to follow in Coltrane’s footsteps.

For me, Kohntarkosz is a terrifying, scariest and one of their crowning masters I’ve listened to. This is Magma at their best. And with their documentary announced last year of covering the history of this remarkable band by Laurent Goldstein, it’ll be worth exploring when it comes out. If you want to embark and get ready to delve into the sound of Kobaia, Zeuhl, and Progressive territories, then walk into the dark-like tombs of Kohntarkosz.

Thinking Plague - Hoping Against Hope

Magma’s Christian Vander once said in the 2012 documentary Romantic Warriors II: A Progressive Music Saga About Rock In Opposition, The Music was born in the night. There are many kinds of music in the world, but to discover the inner cosmos.” It help define to show a darker and inner complexity of the genre of what is known as the RIO movement. And one of those bands that have taken me to gigantic lengths thanks to the 2012 documentary, a band from Denver, Colorado named Thinking Plague.

Since their formation in 1982 by Mike Johnson and the legendary Bob Drake, they have released six studio albums and following in the footsteps of Present, Henry Cow, Art Zoyd, Alban Berg, and Italian progressive group, Pierrot Lunaire, they have released their seventh album this year on the Cuneiform label entitled, Hoping Against Hope. It is their follow up to their 2012 album, Decline and Fall. It is for me, one of the most terrifying and scariest albums I’ve ever listened to.

With their new album according to Johnson himself, the band’s music needed a theme that was something hopeful, real, and organic. With the combinations between Neo-Classical Music, Avant-Rock, and of course Rock In Opposition, it is a grim, sinister wonder with a terrifying force that you can imagine of what we are going through the political movement and what is happening right now this year.

The twelve-tone harmonies on the album are stronger than ever. Alongside Mike Johnson, Mark Harris on Reeds, Dave Wiley on Bass, Robin Chestnut on Drums, Bill Pohl on Guitar, and Elaine di Falco on Accordion and Lead Vocals, enter the new year with an eruptive bang by making it set in a fictional dystopian world that it’s living in and there’s no turning back now.

It’s not only a dark album, but it is a critical constructive viewpoint of what is happening in the world that we are facing in. The alarming intro from the accordion and the ominous reeds, piano chords, and dynamic guitars, knows that we are in a ride of something dangerous landing between us on the opener, The Echoes of their Cries. It has some intense riffs between the bass and guitar and Harris’ reeds give the image or the allusions that it is delivering a big wake-up call.

Commuting to Murder deals with the capitalist economics and militarism’s congruities. You have the sounds of the toy piano, hay wiring effects, guitars sending Morse code and Elaine’s vocals gives you the chilling backgrounds. I have to love her essence throughout the midsection, the homage to which I call the Northette’s vocals in the styles of the Canterbury scene for a brief second. But it’s the guitar that comes to essence of Richard Pinhas, Robert Fripp, and Roger Trigaux that just send the arm hairs of mine, going up.

The styles of Present, fills up the whole space with this dooming rhythm that something is crawling underneath your skin. It’s evidential on The Great Leap Backwards. I could tell that Thinking Plague have done their homework very well carrying the RIO movement torch and never letting it burn out. Near the end section of the last 38 seconds of the piece, everything goes chaotic thanks to the drums, guitar, and reed instruments going into a nightmarish tone and ending abruptly.

Mind you, this is not an easy album to listen to from start to finish, but I admire this very much. I have to admit, I’m not a big Thinking Plague fan, but I do respect what is on here. They recently decided to do a crowd-funding campaign for the album on Kickstarter in which they raised $8,634 to work on the album and they succeeded to reach their goal.

I have listened to this four times now and they made me open my eyes even more to discover more of the band’s music and since I’ve mentioned this earlier, I hope they continue to wave the Rock In Opposition flag and never letting it drop. A scary, ominous, yet powerful release this year from the good people from Cuneiform Records.

Edge of Paradise - Alive

Two years ago, I’ve discovered for me one of the most interesting bands to come out of Los Angeles, California. I remember buying one of their albums on The Laser’s Edge website and it was in one of my top albums of 2015. That band is Edge of Paradise. Since their formation six years ago, they have taken the essence of Metal combining with theatrical, symphonic, progressive, and now with an electronic release with their EP entitled, Alive.

Margarita Monet and her bandmates Dave Bates, John Chominsky, and Nick Ericson have taken full control aboard the Millennium Falcon and getting ready for more light-speed’s that will await them. Her soothing vocals still send chills down to the bone and in your spine since I was blown away with their second album Immortal Waltz. Their new EP shows a very diverse sound. And the evidence is quite interesting from what I’ve listened to from beginning to the very end.

With Dust to Dust, they combined the sounds between electronica, symphonic metal, trip-hop, and industrial rock while Shade of Crazy brings thrash riffs, doom, insanity, and a faster ride into insanity, bringing to mind of the Ozzy-era of Black Sabbath and Within Temptation having a nice hot and spicy BBQ sandwich with a huge amount of Tabasco and Wasabi sauce.

Margarita brings her theatrical side on the innocence being lost in your own fantasy on the haunting piano ballad, Mystery. While the lyrics deal with searching for the answers, it is quite understanding that knowing that you can become your own worst enemy and dealing with the facts of life. The opening title-track is in full control. It is an enthralling composition that kicks into high gear by bursting the door down.

Not only that, but it starts things off with a gigantic battering ram ready to hit with an eruptive explosion in full speed by reminiscing Nine Inch Nails' The Downward Spiral-era meeting My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult. Not a bad way to start an EP off as I’ve mentioned with a gigantic battering ram bursting down the floodgates.

Edge of Paradise are now one of my favorite bands to come out of L.A., and I hope they will keep the flames of Metal growing more and more and never, ever letting it burn out.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Microscopic Septet - Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues

It has been a good while and a few years or so since I’ve done a Jazz album review for my blogsite, Music from the Other Side of the Room. My re-introduction to the world of the genre came when I was back in Houston Community College as a musician/student 12 years ago when I moved away from filmmaking into Jazz studies and discovered the true geniuses of Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and John Coltrane. And the rest is history. I still admire real good Jazz. And I'll stand by to that term until the day I die. It wasn’t until after I had graduated I stood upon the music of The Microscopic Septet.

Since their formation 37 years ago they have been one of the most iconoclastic and innovative Jazz groups I’ve listened to. I remember the summer of that year in 2014 and going to Wayside Music and buying one of their albums online which was Manhattan Moonrise. And I was hooked. This was going back into the mid-to-late 1950s of the cats from New York and performing in the style of what it was back during that time period.

They released the first four albums from 1983 to 1988 whilst touring and recording before calling it a day in 1992. It wasn’t until 11 years ago they reformed again when their previous work on a 2-CD volume set entitled, Seven Men in Neckties and Surrealistic Swing which were reissued by Cuneiform Records which included an early recording of alto saxophonist and founder of Tzadik Records, John Zorn. I knew right away I had to jump on the train of the Septet’s music and not to mention they are widely known for their theme song to NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

This year, they have released their new album entitled, Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues. The name is a pun of the Richard Farina 1966 novel as co-leader Philip Johnston and Joel Forrester mentions that it speaks to the essential optimism of the music of the Micros’ sound. The optimism is showing the concepts of blues, joy, rebellion, whole-hearted, and as Philip describes it as boisterous eroticism.

I have to admit with that last quote, they have some good humor in them and I admire that idea. And believe me, putting the sound of the blues underneath the microscope, it is a surreal, mind-blowing, strange, and revolutionary release that I have listened to. And I enjoyed every moment of it.  Few of the centerpieces on here, just made me smile and knowing that they have brought it back to give the genre of Jazz music, a real kick in the gut.

Dark Blue begins with string bassist David Hofstra and Richard Dworkin’s drums followed by Joel’s piano work, slowed down walking rhythm as the horn section comes through. It reminded me of the 1958 jazz standard, Centerpiece. And thanks to the saxophones, they take turns through throughout the bars before call and response section.

Don’t Mind If I Do and Quizzical has the people heading down the dance floor and doing both tap dancing and the jitterbug with both the Monk-sque and 1930s swing vibe while the opener, Cat Toys inspired by the Hammond B-3 driven soul jazz and originally written for a short film about a dwelling space alien looking for a taste for (you guessed it) felines. Johnston brings you toward as a listener to the midnight showings either on a Friday and Saturday night for this strange creature from creature and his bizarre obsession of the cats.

The 14-bar Blues Cubistico sees all four of the sax’s alto, baritone, soprano, and tenor including Dave Sewelson bring the herculean works on his solo through his baritone improvisations. He just brings the house down through that section as the band watch him to see what will happen next. It shows that the Septet are a band of brothers, and they work as a team and just let Dave go and lets him know when they are coming back into the head.

They launched a campaign on Kickstarter last year in which they did on their previous album, Manhattan Moonrise where 91 backers pledged $9,515 for the band to record the follow up and it was a success. For me, I had a real good time listening to The Microscopic Septet’s new album. And I need to continue their journey to see what I was missing from their previous work in the early 1980s and with their Cuneiform releases also.

If you love the styles of the Blues, Jazz, and Swing, I recommend Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues. You will not be disappointed to see and understand real good jazz music like nothing you’ve ever heard. And in the words of the late great Harvey Pekar, “Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Orange Clocks - Tope's Sphere 2

In 1973, Tomska R. Huntley created this concept that was destined for German TV which was Tope’s Sphere. The original idea was to be a groundbreaking animated series with a live soundtrack by UK/German super group, Klementine Uhren. It was supposed to feature Tope, the knitted-monkey protagonist and Chode, his sidekick to go on an outer space adventure with a psychedelic rock score.

It feels very much like when I was a kid waking up to some of my favorite Saturday Morning cartoons back in the old days of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s whether it was the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Sonic the Hedgehog, Spider-Man, X-Men, or Batman: The Animated Series. But back to the story, it seemed like a very interesting concept, but then it didn’t happen.

What happened was both Tomska and the group weren’t too happy with the final mixes and it disappeared promptly. Tomska’s dream was shattered and he was bankrupt. He dumped what was left of Tope’s Sphere and vanished into the Himalayan Mountains. It seemed like it would never see the light of day……until 44 years later, the Bad Elephant Music label decided to bring the concept to life set in an audio-space rock narrative adventure.

Russ Russell enlisted the band called Orange Clocks to re-imagine the soundtrack, parts of the script and what was left of the stage props, video tape, and the abandoned series to a new life for the 21st century while bringing Tomska’s vision back to life. Martin Winsley does an incredible job as the narrator as he resembles the wackiness between Stan “The Man” Lee, Gong’s Daevid Allen, and Peter Jones who did the narration for the BBC TV adaptation and the radio series of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

It is a Space-Rock, Psychedelic swirling adventure of Tope and Chode’s story and close your eyes and imagine as a young man waking up early in the morning as I’ve mentioned for one of your favorite Saturday morning series to record it on your VCR. Ambush is done in the styles of Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come’s Galactic Zoo Dossier-era featuring some screaming effects done in the style of an early Roger Waters Pow R, Toc H.

Fun in the Stars has these space-out riffs, leading freak-out work as Tode is cackling and heading for some excitement with Chode into the solar system while he bravely takes on the challenge to save his friend with a ‘60s psych beatle-sque intro before riding into a powerful roar with the Trouble with Chode. Then, everything becomes a dangerous idea for Tode with the Magical Fields with its Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy Elton John session meets the music of a pre-Dark Side-era of Pink Floyd.

With lead guitars and it swirls into a great climax before Tope is ready for the challenge for the Big Track. I love the swirling space-rock dazzle on here and then its rising climax when he crashes down gets the drums, lead guitar, and vocalizations up for action and knowing he’s on his way to save Chode as Stromp’s Stomp brings to mind the glory days of the ‘70s Glam Rock-era.

I had an amazing blast over and over again listening Tope’s Sphere 2 by Orange Clocks. It brought back memories as a kid listening to those Disney audio adventures of Dick Tracy and The Rocketeer with the 3D Comic Books that go with the story. Bad Elephant Music has never done me wrong when it comes to amazing releases and I hope they will continue to do more this year.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Lethe - The First Corpse on the Moon

It’s been a good while since I’ve done a review on the My Kingdom Music label. So it’s a good idea to see what I’ve been missing. One of them is an avant-duo called, Lethe. They have formed five years ago and they have unleashed their second album, The First Corpse on the Moon. According to Tor-Helge Skei, it is a snapshot in time. It’s this cross between electronic, avant-garde, metal, experimental, and pop featuring six session musicians to be backed up. There isn’t any rules, expectations, or compromises, but here, it is a very interesting album I’ve listened to.

I’ve mentioned the genres in there, but also there’s a touch of a metallic-electronica yet trip-hop adventure that Tor-Helge and Anna Murphy delve into the waters between each other. I have to admit, I’m not crazy about the music, but the duo themselves are intriguing and create the darkness and eerie scenarios they have shown that space has no place to go and nowhere to go home.

Around the five highlights on here, it’s quite obvious that Lethe are taking the listeners beyond the stratosphere of loneliness, insanity, somber, and far-out journeys that you’ve never heard before. Inexorbitant Future starts with these eerie whispers along with ambient sounds, minor piano chords, and Tor’s vocals gives you a chance that his character in the song is scared and knowing that his time has come.

With its trip-hop electronic drum kit sample, Anna comes through the support level to help through Tor’s lyrics. My Doom is where New Wave, Thrash Metal, and Post-Rock are combined into one. With ‘80s keyboards, distorted guitars/heavy riffs, it is a Thrash-Electronic/Goth Rock style that I’ve never expected! It’s almost as if the Crack the Skye-era of Mastodon were cooking BBQ with the Sorcerer-era of Tangerine Dream, Devo, and the early sounds of The Cure.

Teaching Birds How to Fly has this interesting introduction with Morse Code signals from the machine like ARS synths that the bass, guitar, chords, and rapid rhythmic beats with pummeling drums ascends the trip to the trees of hope. The alternative/gothic beauty of Wind To Five feels like an orchestral ride into the night with a trippy midsection groove.

It almost reminded me of the final fourth movement of Fire! Orchestra’s Enter. It is innovative at times combining these ingredients of Metal, Electronic, and Jazz vocalizations by Anna and Tor. And then we go into the closer of Exorcism. We are almost inside of a mental patient’s mind as Anna’s chilling vocals sends a chill down to the spine of goosebumps that is waiting to happen.

There’s some eerie atmospheres on the sax and horn sections as the ending goes through this electronic haywire effect as the piano sets the dooming finale. This is an album that may not be your cup of coffee, but the duo musicians have shown a lot of ideas and lot of conceptual moments of being lost in space and never coming back.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Horisont - About Time

Horisont are one of the most amazing bands I’ve listened to. Since forming 11 years ago in their hometown in Sweden and with four albums in the can, the quintet bring the essence of Hard Rock and Progressive influences right into the bone. When it was announced last year that they were signed to a new label with Century Media Records, I knew right away I couldn’t wait what they would do next since I was blown away by their previous album, Odyssey. This year, they’ve released their fifth album entitled, About Time.

It is a sci-fi adventure into time with Space, Metal, and Prog textures with the ‘70s rocking voyage to hurtle through the outer limits. And while the cover resembles between EC Comics of Weird Fantasy, Weird Science, and Tales from the Crypt along with magazine sci-fi covers from the 1950s, it quite obvious they know their inspirations when it comes to be launched inside the ship and getting ready for take-off.

I’ve always wanted to check out Horisont’s music for a good, good while since they were on Lee Dorrian’s label Rise Above Records during that time frame and I forgotten about them until three years ago I bought Odyssey and then I was completely hooked. About Time can do no wrong in my book and it takes on a whole other level with a brilliant and light-speed alchemy space-metal-prog voyage and it is fucking amazing!

Horisont’s music is never retro, nor nostalgic, they have their own sound and they want to honor and stay true to their roots and they are a band I’ve waited for many years to delve into my entire life. And the six highlights on the album prove that they are waiting for the listener (meaning you) to embark on a travelling journey through time, space, and parallel universes.

Point of Return features powerful riffs, galloping mid-tempo waltzes in the rhythm and not to mention an eruptive sound at times in the introduction and in the song that gives them a brilliant take of Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies-era as it segues into Boston Gold. With its AOR and Prog-Rock vibes, the vocals and sound bring the vibe of the mid-1970s.

Epic roaring guitars and the story featuring the synths going around the piece deals with the story of the enemy coming for your life and trying to survive. On Hungry Love, the vocals bring to mind of a young Rob Halford hitting those high notes as Moogy mid-sections and lead improvisations hurl through the cosmic insanity while Letare which is sung in Swedish, stands on its own.

Electrical which I hope is going to be a live favorite, stands out as one of the highpoints. You have the lyrics set in a cyber-futuristic world as the sound becomes a revving, mid-tempo, and militant driving force followed by some kick-ass drum work. I have to say, they got it down on a piece of paper and know exactly where they will go.

The closing title track, has these bluesy, soothing, and haunting track as we head back into the time machine to be ready to head back home. You have the Bass, Electric Piano, Drums, and major and minor chords it is a space-rock surrounding voyage to set course for home as we hear the radio serial of Escape recorded on October 22, 1950 of their take of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine which starred John Dehner and Lawrence Dobkin. The music near the end syncs well to add the tension in the sequence as the machine is ready to head into 100,000,80 A.D.

I had an amazing blast listening to Horisont’s new album. The new album is an adventure worth checking out and you will not be disappointed. They are bringing real good music back to the core on how it’s supposed to sound and it has my stamp of approval. Prepare for the journey with Horisont’s About Time.