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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Dwiki Dharmawan - Rumah Batu

After the release of Pasar Klewer which was considered on my top 35 albums of 2016 at number 7 here on my blog site, Music from the Other Side of the Room, Dwiki Dharmawan is back at it again with another follow-up from the MoonJune label entitled Rumah Batu (which translates in Indonesian Basha language, The Stone House). Dwiki has come a long way. And throughout his music, he would always come up with the next idea through some brainstorming moments.

In a 2010 interview that drummer Asaf Sirkis did with Anil Prasad for Innerviews: Music Without Borders, at the time he was promoting The Monk, and appearing on Dwiki’s new release this year, he said that “The essence of music is magic and magic does not tell a story, it is timeless.” And that is what Rumah Batu is, a story. A story into these unknown worlds of both spirituality and guidance. Not only that, but some of the most amazing players that are on here.

Alongside Dwiki and Asaf, includes upright bassist Yaron Stavi, electric bassist Carles Benavent, and soundscapist/guitarist Nguyen Le. The opening track Rintak Rebana, starts off with Dwiki creating a Coltrane-sque introduction as the sounds of Sa’at Syah’s flute sets up this morning sunrise for a new day in the capital of Jakarta. It creates this crescendo-like intro between Dwiki, Carles bass improve, Asaf’s drums, and Sa’at’s flute for the first two minutes.

It changes into the swinging section for a time to dance as the percussion instruments gets the parade to start things off with a bang. Carles and Yaron follow suit for a swing bass and upright bass line down the sidewalk. It’s almost like a duel between both bassists and they work well together.

Dwiki goes through the piano as a concert near the last few minutes of the composition. Like a cross between George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Dave Brubeck, Dharmawan almost wrote this composition by reminiscing of Gershwin’s masterpiece and dedicating it to the city and his hometown of Indonesia.

With Impenan, you can open the curtains to see the sunset with this atmospheric background of the percussions and suling flute giving you the expertise before Dewi Gita’s vocalizations having this spiritual/meditation guide that is both chilling and breathtaking. The band members go through some of the scenery as if they were film composers of giving the audience of the landscape along with Gita’s vocals as if she’s giving them directions to see where she would take them.

Now we have come to the two-part suite of the title-track which on the MoonJune Bandcamp website is in 2-parts, (but on CD, which is track 5, it clocks in at 26-minutes and 25 seconds) is where everything comes together. The first part is Kaili. It begins with this swift sunrise of more of the meditation that is beyond the atmospheric touch before walking towards a creepy entrance thanks to Dwiki strumming the piano strings and opening the doors to this new world.

But then it suddenly changes as Smit’s arrangements on his vocals followed by the drums and Yaron’s upright bass as he bows through the sound while Asaf and Carles get the engines rolling for a trippy scenario. I can hear some similarities on the first section of Traffic’s The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys with a fusion-funk twist. Dwiki then comes back to the piano for another walk towards the spiral staircase for a long rest after touring of the big cities.

On the second part of the suite which is Perjalanan. Carles, Asaf, Dwiki, and Nguyen take turns while Le goes through the soundscapes by going through some of the weird vibes and it gives him a chance to shine through some of the wildly introverting styles on his guitar. He takes his instrument by going through some of the reverb and delay effects through the passages of space and time.

And then Carles takes the bass and does these aspects between Stanley Clarke and Jaco Pastorius-sque improve before delving into the tug of King Crimson’s third and final section of The Devil’s Triangle with more crescendo’s and haywiring insanity as Dwiki channels Keith Tippett’s piano exercise. Rumah Batu is a very interesting release that Dharmawan has released this year. I’ll admit, it didn’t grab me as much, but it’s not to say it’s a bad album, but a very good release that he’s done.

I hope he'll continue to do more in the years and years to come to understand and finding out what will Dwiki Dharmawan think of next. But Rumah Batu is so far, as I’ve mentioned, an interesting release. And I hope that he explores more adventures and the journey that awaits him.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Crayola Lectern - Happy Endings

Launched in late 2000, Chris Anderson is the brainchild behind Crayola Lectern. What he wanted to was create this extension of his personality instead of artistic compositions. It involved the procurement of a piano. He released his debut album in 2013 on the Bleeding Hearts Recordings label entitled, The Fall and Rise of… with critical acclaim. Among the supporters that included Robert Wyatt and Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle, The music itself had this new sound that is rich and wonder.

The first album dealt with the subject issue on the loss of a loved one, but the subject is filled with humor, irreverence, or a paradox. This year, he released a follow up, this time on a new label with Onomatopoeia Records entitled, Happy Endings. The textures on the new release, details an optimistic look on the issue of death. While we feel that it is approaching, it takes on a whole new role on our lives and what will happen to us when we go into the afterlife.

When I was listening to Happy Endings, I wasn’t thinking of the terms Alternative and Psychedelic Rock, I was thinking to myself “Where is this coming from? This is something special that Anderson himself has brought to the table.” For me, it felt the same way when I was introduced into the world of William D. Drake’s The Rising of the Lights back seven years ago.

Happy Endings is filled with joy, sadness, strong structures, and saying goodbye to the people that you knew and cared about. Opener, Rescue Mission begins with a pounding piano and horn section that opens the door with a swirling farfisa organ that is climbing through the melodic horns to follow suit. The lyrics deal about a superhero who felt that while he’s given up everything, he has one last chance to go out in a blaze of glory.

I can imagine Chris wrote this song for Michael Keaton’s character for the 2014 Black Comedy-Drama classic, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). It’s a great way to start the album off as Anderson takes you through the mind of the hero’s struggle to not let go of everything he’s done to make the city safe. While there’s not going to be another mission for him, the people in the city only care about themselves.

Linger On is this cross between The Beatles White Album and Brian Wilson’s lyrical arrangements. It has these catchy dreamy lullaby lyrics with some eerie chipmunk-sque vocal arrangements followed by not just a joyful rhythm section, but some surreal compositions. Barbara’s Persecution Complex has a vaudeville/ragtime intro as the coin goes into the nickelodeon.

It is a surreal madness on the keyboards of being inside the mental institution with some rising chords, fuzz-tone guitars and horn sections. I can see William D. Drake conducting one of Chris’ pieces and giving the band members some ideas on where he wants them to go into. (Don’t) Let Go is a cross between the haunting/mournful piano chords resembling Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Robert Wyatt’s Rock Bottom-era.

The loss of Victoria shows how much that either she was struggling through her mental state/depression as she was dying on the inside or it was all just a dream. On Secrets Lectern’s vocals and the usages of the horn and church organ delve into a melodic fanfare arrangement as it sets sail to unknown worlds. There’s a bit of Gruff Rhys in Chris’ vocals and a tipping of the hat towards Super Furry Animals’ Rings Around the World-era.

As I’ve mentioned earlier in my review, Happy Endings is an emotional yet staggering release. Now, this is my 11th time listening to Crayola Lectern’s new album. And while I’m new to his music, there’s going to be some major competition on who is going to be 2018’s album of the year so far. If you love the essence between early Pink Floyd, Super Furry Animals, and Robert Wyatt with a twist of Sunshine/Baroque Pop, Happy Endings is the album you need to check out.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Mark Wingfield - Tales from the Dreaming City

Two years ago, I discovered one of most innovative guitarists thanks to the MoonJune label. His name is Mark Wingfield. After being on his incredible journey with Proof of Light, The Stone House, and Lighthouse, his collaborations with Markus Reuter, Asaf Sirkis, and Yaron Stavi, Wingfield himself has returned again this year with the release of his new album, Tales from the Dreaming City.

Recorded two years ago at La Casa Murade in Banyeres del Penedes, Spain in February, gives Wingfield more creative freedom and essential textures by providing more ideas to the table. He’s more than just a guitar player, but one of those artists to take a leap forward beyond the progressive and jazz genre.

With bassist Yaron Stavi, drummer Asaf Sirkis, and guest keyboardist Dominique Vantomme, Mark is like a painter and gives the listener these background images on what he’s painted through the ten tracks on his new album. It’s like these stories from various timeframes and the music itself is atmospheric, mysterious, and melodic. What Mark Wingfield has done is to bring these ideas to let the flowers grow brighter and brighter.

Listening to Tales from the Dreaming City is like opening a book set through these structures by telling a story and understanding the characteristics and locational background through each of their lives. And Wingfield sets it beautifully by creating this alternate film score. I can hear the inspirations between Allan Holdsworth’s SynthAxe and Terje Rypdal through Mark’s arrangements.

It’s not Mark playing like them, but tipping his hat off to the two masters and carrying their Olympic torches and seeing what will happen next. I can imagine Wingfield took inspirations of the authors between Ernest Hemingway, Kurt Vonnegut Jr, Mark Twain, Phillip K. Dick, and Jack Kerouac.

I loved how he goes into some of the aspects of the ambient and the Canterbury influences from The Way to Hemingford Grey before driving into the dark tunnels to the smooth warm cup of coffee by starting the morning off at the Sunlight CafĂ©. Sirkis goes into some drum exercises on the track before they head inside the mind of Dwayne Hoover’s mental breakdown from the 1973 book, Breakfast of Champions.

The spiraling late ‘60s  melodic structures between Wingfield and Stavi going up the spiral staircase up to the views of Heaven’s skyscraper as it reminisces of Seventh Wave’s Star Palace of the Sombre Warrior on the Ten Mile Bank. When I listened to The Green-Faced Timekeepers which features Sirkis’ scatting at the end of the composition, it brought back a memory for me as a kid hearing the Dungeon Theme from the Nintendo classic, The Legend of Zelda.

I can imagine one of these days Mark Wingfield would do a score for a video game and it did reminded me of that. And part of me was thinking to myself listening to the final track, “Is Mark scoring for a game? Because if he is, it would be something.” Now for me, Tales from the Dreaming City as I’ve mentioned earlier, is an opened book. And it’s discovering what Wingfield himself to bring these conceptual textures to the coffee table. It’s quite an interesting experience and I hope he will do more to see what will come up with next.

Phoebe Legere - Heart of Love

In an interview with Julia Mesi on Videowave back in May of 1985, Julia asks Phoebe Legere on how the performance of concept art holds together various talents. Phoebe responds; “When I’m a performance artist, I’m operating in a new genre which I call ‘Total Arts Synthesis.’ Which ignores the demarcations between the individual arts and explores the universal arts spirit which flows through all of them.”

Now Phoebe Legere is a name you probably may or may not recognize. I remember when I was a little kid going with my Dad to Blockbuster Video and renting The Toxic Avenger Part II. Phoebe portrayed as Toxie's blind girlfriend, Claire. Now mind you, I didn’t know who she was and I knew a little bit of Troma films back in the day after Toxic Crusaders was on 20 Vision KTXH Houston. This was in the early ‘90s.

As I grew older, I completely forgot about it and moved on. Cut to last year when I first heard Phoebe’s music. Now I was taken aback at first. It’s this mixture between Cajun music, Americana, country, cabaret, rockabilly, alternative and vaudeville. Her new album released last year, Heart of Love shows that Phoebe is more than just an actress. But she’s also a painter, poet, filmmaker, and a musician.

She also opened for the late great David Bowie 28 years ago for his Sound + Vision tour. Heart of Love is an album of giving Phoebe a drive down the desert highway to show how long the journey she’s been from day one. The guitars set up the delay/reverb introduction on Hello Friday as the rhythm acoustic guitar sets up the car to of revving to get away from the glimmering lights of Las Vegas and see where the highway will take us to.

By punching the clock and ready to walk, Phoebe delivers the scenery as you can imagine the dance floor enjoying the music as it has this Imelda May-sque style of rockabilly rhythm. The cover of Hank Williams’ Jambaylaya, Phoebe and the band takes you down the Louisiana Rivers for a down home/country-cajun adventure as her accordion helps out of giving Legere a chance to have a grand old to both dance and sing.

You can imagine being on the riverboat and smelling the delicious spicy Cajun food with some foot-stomping rhythm, and being in the hottest part of the afternoon to enjoy the culture, food, and the music. Phoebe takes us deeper into this psychedelic futuristic experimental country voyage into the Blue Canoe. Thanks to the electronic drum-loop, Hendrix-sque guitar lines, and wah-wah effect, Legere goes beyond the Cajun structures and delving deeper into the unknown.

Wrong Honky Tonk, you can close your eyes and imagine being in the O.K. Corrall in the early 1870s and being in the old west of Tombstone, Arizona. With its saloon piano, soothing vocals, country, and accordions, it’s a toast to the drunks and you can tell that the enjoyment is in Phoebe’s vocals and having a huge amounts of fun. You can imagine her performing at the bar and stealing the show and giving the cowboys a standing ovation.

Now I will have to admit, while I’m not a big fan of the music, I have to give Phoebe Legere props of what she’s brought to the table. Now does she have the greatest singing voice? No, but Heart of Love is an interesting release. And you might want to be prepare to drive and not just to enjoy the ride, but embark with Phoebe’s stories, fun, and the folky atmosphere.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Molesome - Dial

Mattias Olsson has been a very busy, busy man when it comes to both bands and projects. Whether it’s his work between White Willow, Anglagard, Pixie Ninja, il Tempio Delle Clessidre, Vly, and Necromonkey, Mattias has been around from day one. Now Molesome is another of Mattias’ projects. And it is this journey that would take beyond this deep, dark, eerie, musique-concrete, avant-electronic jazz cavernous sound he brought to the second album, Dial.

What Olsson wanted to do on the follow up to their 2015 release with Songs for Vowels and Mammals, was to create this piece that would emulate the sound of listening to a radio and going through different channels and listening to the static noises with tiny bits of music coming through. Clocking in at 32 minutes and 44 seconds, Molesome’s second album which is recorded at Roth-Handle Studios in Sweden, the music brings at times both of the composers from Philip Glass and Steve Reich, the Jazz sounds in an echoing reverb effect.

The effect has this sound as if it is calling for a fanfare in the cave as Olsson challenges the listener to follow suit and seeing where the danger is heading whether it is clockwork or as a Rubik’s cube. Mattias is like a puzzle master by giving the listener a giant step to see where and how those locations can be both tricky and surreal. Not only that, but Dial is going through inside of the mansion of a Rubik’s cube and walking through these spiral staircases and the traps that are set, they are both tricky and very dangerous.

Molesome’s music is giving Mattias doing an alternate score for David Lynch’s Twin Peaks franchise. You can hear the Trumpets, post-rock guitar loops, King Crimson’s THRAK-era of the Mellotron setting up this ‘50s dystopian future, the echoing effects of Miles Davis’ A Tribute to Jack Johnson, dialogue going back and forth, it is all there. After my listening of Dial around five, seven times, Dial is a very interesting release this year.

It made me try to understand what Olsson is doing by taking me to these parallel doors that go beyond The Twilight Zone. I will admit, this is not an easy album to listen to from start to finish. It is a challenging release and while I’m not crazy about it, Mattias is always moving forwards to see where the next door will take him to. And it shows that he has more tricks underneath his sleeve to see where the next card will take him to.

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Fierce and the Dead - The Euphoric

The Fierce and the Dead have released their third studio album released on the Bad Elephant label this year. The quartet have shown no sign of stopping. It’s almost like a Rubik’s cube to see what mysterious passageways and parallel universes the band would discover to open these doors to see what lies ahead in these infinite worlds and decided where they would go to next. 

And The Euphoric is like that. They’ve created this alternate score with some of the post-punk, ‘80s new-wave sound that has made me come back for more on their adventures since listening to their first instrumental track released eight years ago simply titled as Part 1.

Matt, Kev, Stuart, and Steve have shown that they are new captains of the millennium falcon and being a part of their ride as they make the jump to light-speed into the cosmos. Not to mention the incredible album cover done by comic book artist whose best known for his work with Bill Willingham’s Fables, Mark Buckingham.

The opener, Truck  gives Matt Stevens and Steve Cleaton a chance for their guitars to rev up to get the car ready for the sun to rise. It has these Russian Circles-style of the quartet into the desert highway at dawn. Alongside Steve and Matt doing the driving, they do this midsection that is a stop-and-go sequence before going back into the Falcon for another adventure.

With 1999, Feazey’s synths and bass creates this score as if he was doing the music for John Hughes’ 1985 classic, The Breakfast Club. It has these textures between NEU!, Ultravox, and XTC combined into one for the Fierce and the Dead to carry their torches for them and making sure their legacy will keep going for many generations to come.

Kev pays nod to both Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europe Express and Vangelis’ score to the 1982 cult classic, Blade Runner with Dug Town. It then changes near the end for the rhythm and lead section to create this intensity as Stuart follows suit on the drums on knowing once they leave the city, they can start a new beginning.

Verbose is Gothic and Post-Punk to create this level for some of these ominous surroundings thanks to Feazey’s dooming bass work. It creates this ride that is more and more increased the get the energy levels up. The Fierce and the Dead have always been one of my favorite bands. And it is always wonderful to hear what the quartet will think of next.
I always wonder what Matt Stevens himself will think of next since I was blown away from his solo debut release of the Echo album released back in February of 2010 which I reviewed here on my blog site. He’s come a long way. And for him to be not just part of the label with Bad Elephant Music, but The Fierce and The Dead are in my opinion are a family that works together. And The Euphoric is the growing spark.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Terry Draper - Remarkable Women

Terry Draper is best known for his work with the most brilliant band called, Klaatu. They have released five studio albums from 1976 to 1981 and best known for their song Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft which the Carpenters covered in their 1977 album, Passage. And not to mention one of my favorite albums that I discovered while I was in Houston Community College eight years ago, Hope.

When Klaatu folded in 1981 after the release of the fifth and final studio album, Magentalane, Terry returned home to his recording studio as a solo artists at Oak Ridges, Ontario. He has released ten studio albums as a solo artist that one of them included some of the members of Klaatu that appeared on his debut album in 1997 entitled, Light Years Later.

Last year, he released his new album entitled, Remarkable Women which is a follow-up to his 2016 album, Searching. The theme of his new album covers the subject of the Women that were remarkable and ahead of their time. The album is released in a guitar-shaped USB format. The themes of Terry’s new album is very interesting and very good.

You have this psychedelic baroque pop flavor of Younger Girl in which Draper brings the late ‘60s to life and paying a nod to The Cowsills’ The Rain, The Park, & Other Things in the lyric to pay respect to the group while he delves into an automatic Arena Rock approach in the style of AOR (Album-Orientated Rock) on Shy Girl. It has this late ‘70s/early ‘80s style with some Hendrix-sque guitars and Foreigner’s first two albums into the mix and followed by some ascending midsection approaches.

Terry also has a bit of humor in his music. When you listen to Annabella, he’s going into his Jimmy Buffett and Calypso surroundings as you dance to the groove to watch the sunrise go down as She’s All Mine is dedicated to his wife. It has the Klaatu atmosphere with some guitar work, organ, and stomping drums.

With some Beatle-sque arrangements on his vocals, the lyrics and the story based on the love of his life, shows that the two of them have been there from day one and they will be together with each other, forever and ever. Dragon Lady is a haunting and stirring composition that is almost set in the Land of the Rising Sun.

It has the subject issue of the dangers of the characterizations of this creature that lives underground and what she can do to lure their prey featuring some Mellotron-sque moments, snarling guitar work as if Terry is letting the beast come out and ready to attack the city with her powers. The keyboard program on Maria, sounds like Ottmar Libert’s extraordinary guitar playing. Is it Flamenco-Pop? If it is, it’s very interesting for Terry to delve into.

Draper’s singing for the two characterizations doing this Tango-sque dance between each other as he does this little tug in the midsection to Graham Bond’s Love is the Law before the fanfare finale from the keyboards sounding almost like the horns to do one last hurrah. Abigail is a nod to the Music Hall and Salad Days essence of Vaudeville as Draper is singing through this megaphone-sque sound on his vocals before the Mellotron sets up the scenario of the golden years and a nod to Stackridge’s Dancing on Air.

Terry Draper’s new album, I will have to admit, after listening to it about six or nine times of Remarkable Women, it didn’t grab me, but it shows that Terry himself shows that he’s come a long way from both with Klaatu and as a solo artist. I’m not saying it’s a bad album, but it is a very interesting release and it’s a not-so-bad album, but pretty good, but it’s what Terry does and he shows he is more than just a member of Klaatu and doing what he wants to do.

Laura Meade - Remedium

IZZ’s Laura Meade has released her solo debut album this year entitled. Remedium. There is some sorts of Art-Pop, Progressive, and Electronic atmospheres on her solo release. But there’s a theatrical background that Laura has brought to her music. It’s sort of similar to what Schooltree had done on their 2013 debut, Rise. Laura has shown that she’s just a member of IZZ, but beyond the band and taking her music on a journey she takes the listener into.

Now I will have to admit, the only IZZ album I reviewed was in March of last year on my blog site of Ampersand, Volume 2 on Music from the Other Side of the Room, and while I’m not a gigantic IZZ fan, I do respect the accomplishments they’ve achieved. Remedium shows Laura spreading her own wings to fly and see what is out there beyond the far horizons.

The opening track, Sunflowers at Chernobyl, begins with this synthesized electronic loop done by John Galgano and showing that while there might be a sign of hope, the radiation shows that there’s no chance of returning home. It then changes into a prog-pop moment for Laura Meade as she channels Klaatu’s Hope-era as Galgano’s bass and drums sets up the countdown reminiscing of The Loneliest of Creatures and Prelude.

There’s this trip-hop section that makes it futuristic of what will happen in the near future of the 22nd century of Pripyat. The nod to the Canadian Progressive Rock band of Klaatu shows Laura tipping her hat to them and knowing it’s time to give the group the recognition they finally deserve. There’s this cross between Country-Folk and Jazz combined into one on Conquer the World.

Galgano’s guitar sounds at times like a mandolin before doing a Thelonious Monk section in which he also tips his hat to the master as he does this walking jazz section before going back into the country yet folky approach again. The Old Chapel at Dark gives Galgano channeling Gyorgi Ligeti’s Musica Ricercata on the 2-minute instrumental with an eerie piano before seguing to the acoustic guitar with the 11-minute epic, Dragons.

Laura sings this beautiful lullaby in a surreal Ligeti twist. Laura is warm, gentle, and relaxing in her vocal arrangement as if the calm after the storm is finally over but then the nightmare is revealed with an experimental twist from these hay-wiring effects as an homage for a couple of seconds to Web’s Concerto for Bedsprings on their third studio album in 1970, I Spider.

You have this trippy effect and the dystopian scenario that is coming at a larger approach with a new-wave pummel as Laura’s vocals becomes a little operatic and her characterizations on here is that she becomes the new ruler of this wasteland and she rules with an iron fist. The music becomes a surreal fantasy between Radiohead’s Kid A and Bjork’s Homogenic combined into one.

Near the last couple of minutes of the epic, it switches back into a mournful piano section a-la Schooltree in the style of Heterotopia as if Lainey and Laura had worked together by collaboration and bringing this theatrical conceptual storyline to life as if the flower itself has grown brighter and brighter.

Every Step is Laura’s nod to both Jane Siberry and Tori Amos. She goes through these haunting passageways as the drums, piano, and bass go inside this deep cavernous location and it is setting up this ominous presence that is every walk that you take through these haunted corridors.

Remedium grabbed me through and through and bit by bit. Laura shows her amazing chops between the art, pop, and theatricality she brings to her solo release this year. And I hope that she continues to do more as both as a solo artist and her work with IZZ for many years to come.

Gazpacho - Soyuz

It’s been three years since Gazpacho released any new material since their 2015 album, Molok. Since my introduction to their music came back four years ago when I was entering my final semester in Houston Community College after hearing Demon, Gazpacho are still the band to bring the stories to life. And they tell it through the ambient, experimental, atmospheric, art, and experimental vibrations from start to finish.

Soyuz is their tenth studio album released on the Kscope label. The themes behind their new album is about how the moments that we had, we’re beautiful, will soon be gone. The people are stuck in this time frame that describe the situation that there’s no chance of going forwards and being stuck in both the past and the present. The name comes from the tragic tale of the Soviet Space Program that launched into Orbit on April 23, 1967 carrying Colonel Vladimir Komarov who was the first crewed flight on the space craft.

Gazpacho’s new album grew on me more and more for the stories they would bring to the kitchen table and Soyuz is another return for another adventure with the band. Hypomania begins with this Morse Code guitar introduction and it goes into this post-rock version of The Smashing Pumpkins Melon Collie & The Infinite Sadness-era as Kristian Torp’s bass delves deep into a rhythm followed by the alarming guitar riffs and heading into the nod of Billy Corgan’s rhythm on Zero as it hits perfectly like a ship that is exploring infinite universes.

Exit Suite starts off with this mournful Monk-sque chant introduction before the piano and strings set up the moment for the credits to roll and showing there’s a sign of hope while Emperor Bespoke which is based on Danish author Hans Christian Andersen has this banjo-sque folk-like tale featuring a brief ‘80s synth for a brief-second on the introduction before Thomas Andersen takes the piano and delves into Hans’ stories.

I felt that Gazpacho were doing this score to the non-disney version of The Little Mermaid as Jan Henrik Ohme’s vocals sends shivers down my spine whenever he sings. And he does it perfectly. But the 13-minute composition of Soyuz Out is where the ingredients come out to make the perfect slice of cake. It has these mysterious and trippy atmospheres that Gazpacho do on the track.

It’s psychedelic, heavy, and electronic. And it’s almost as if the band are putting the puzzle pieces back together in one place. The band are like detectives searching for more clues to see where the evidence is leading in this setting of the futuristic dystopian wasteland. The clues get even bigger and bigger thanks to the rhythm section as Robert Risberget Johansen who makes his return to the band on the new album doing these militant drumming as Jon-Arne Vilbo’s guitar and Kristian’s Bass bring the twist to life.

Soyuz is not an easy album from start to finish, but for me it’s another adventure for Gazpacho to bring this new release to life. It took me about six or seven spins to enjoy this from start to finish. Gazpacho never disappointed me with their new album this year. And I hope they’ll do a score for either for a movie or a video game in the near future. Let’s see what they’ll cook up with next.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Joshua Trinidad - In November

Joshua Trinidad is from Denver, Colorado who has performed with bands and artists such as The Mars Volta, Cake, OK Go, George Clinton of Parliament Funkadelic, and The Colorado Wind Ensemble. He took the Trumpet when he was seven years old and studied from the masters including Hugh Ragin, Walter Barr, Al Hood, and Ron Miles. Not only that he worked with them, but it helped him on where he is right now.

This is seventh release and his making his debut with the RareNoise label with In November. It was a dream that he brought to life. The collaboration between him along with ECM artists that included guitarist Jacob Young and drummer Stale Liavik Solberg, it is in my opinion, a perfect match, perfect team, and a perfect combination to bring the ingredients to the kitchen table.

Recorded in four days in November of 2015 at Ocean Sound Recording Studios in Ginske, Norway, the album nearly sent chills down my spine. And it shows the trio almost as if they recorded the album inside a cottage in the middle of Oslo as temperatures dropping down to minus 22 degrees in the coldest yet iciest weather that makes it the perfect atmosphere throughout the entire album.

Josh’s trumpet takes you those areas as if he along with Jacob and Stale are following with you by going to those locations that are at times stirring, warm, and shivering throughout the 11 compositions that are on the album. I like how Jacob’s guitar goes from electric to acoustic. Not only that he’s brilliant, but on the electric parts he uses his wah-wah pedals to create these isolated scenarios as Trinidad’s trumpet follows pursuit in these echoing yet haunting cavernous effect.

I can hear bits of Terje Rypdal, Robert Fripp, and Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood in Young’s playing and I can feel my arm-hairs going up a bit when plays his improvisations and the chords that he would do along with some bits of flamenco touches on his acoustic guitar. Solberg’s drumming would set up almost like a crime scene that just happened.

He would take his kit through a crescendo fill, but turning it into some calmer effects by using his brushes to get a chance to relax from the intensive snowy vibes. There was also at one point where he would use his brush to make it sound like fire crackling from the wood to bring some of the heat that is needed inside the cottage to take a break from the cold.

In November is an interesting release from Joshua Trinidad. RareNoiseRecords have never disappointed me with some of the releases this year. It took me a few listens to appreciate Trinidad’s work, and while I’m not crazy about it, Joshua has come a long way. If you admire the electric fusion-era of Miles Davis from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s and Terje Rypdal, this is a powerful and haunting release that you might want to sink your teeth into.

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Aaron Clift Experiment - If All Goes Wrong

It’s been three years since the Aaron Clift Experiment have released a new album since the release of their second album, Outer Light, Inner Darkness. And for me, it’s also been a good while since I’ve listened to some of the most amazing bands and artists from the progressive rock genre to come out of Austin alongside Thirteen of Everything, Crocodile, Proud Peasant, and Opposite Day to name a few.

Last year, the Aaron Clift Experiment performed at RoSFest (Rite of Spring Festival) along with Anglagard, Unified Past, The Neal Morse Band, and for the first time performing in the states at the festival was The Fierce and the Dead. During that same year, it was announced they working on a follow-up to their second album entitled, If All Goes Wrong.

They recorded the album at Antimatter Studios in Austin, Texas with Randy Miller in the production helm (Burt Bacharach, Christopher Cross, Michael McDonald of the Doobie Brothers) and crowdfunded the album with IndieGoGo. The goal was raised by 132 backers. Their main target was $10,000. But it reached to $9,467. I knew that while that they almost reached their goal, they knew they would create something special with their third album.

Now listening to If All Goes Wrong, it’s a return to the sounds of not just the prog-rock genre, but a mixture of both hard rock and pop rolled into the mix. And the six highlights on here, just shows how much they’ve really took me on a different level. With Savage in a Fancy Suit, it is a nod to the late great Jon Lord of Deep Purple. Aaron honors the master and bringing not only, the Purple sound, but the forces of Uriah Heep’s Ken Hensley.

You can hear some of the aspect from the Demons & Wizards-era and it shows how much appreciation Clift and his band members bring the two combinations into a giant circle. Better off Before is their nod to Psychedelic-Baroque pop essences of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper-era meeting early Queen whilst Jeff Lynne conducting and arranging the composition bringing the two together.

It’s almost like a mini-opera of the composition as if they wrote it for an animated series and doing it the right way. Inspired by the 1986 classic by Hayao Miyazaki, Castle in the Sky gives the band a chance to create this alternate score by giving them a chance to nod their heads to Miyazaki’s career for all the accomplishments he’s achieved.

There are some stop-and-go moments, Moving Pictures-era, ascending rhythms, and flying towards the sun moments that just gives them a chance of a lifetime to spread their wings and head towards the light. The only small criticism I have is the opening track, Faith.

Now it is a terrific introduction that gives the engine all revved up and the drums rumbling, and some thundering guitars also done by guest musicians Dave North and Van Wilks, but I could tell that Aaron was struggling to hit that high note in the bridge of the midsection of the song, but it’s almost as if he nearly strained his vocals with it. I wish that he could lowered it down a little bit and give his voice a chance to relax. But it is a killer introduction to start the album off.

Absent Lovers which was inspired by Homer’s The Odyssey, is a moody composition. Filled with a classical guitar and haprischord introduction filled with a string section and the mellotron (in which at times I would say Mellotron’s galore!). The song has this structure of getting away from the madness of what has happened behind closed doors and being free from the scenery and avoiding the scenario before bursting the door down in the midsection.

Wild Hunters has this mid-‘80s New Wave sound. Like a cross between the combination of both Peter Gabriel and Danny Elfman doing a collaboration during the sessions of So and So-Lo, the bass riffs done by Devin North along with Kevin Chin and Dave North doing some incredible guitar work through space and time. It has this score of a sequence straight from the Library sequence where Emilio Estevez’s character does this incredible dance sequence before closing the door whilst screaming to break the glass in John Hughes’ 1985 classic, The Breakfast Club.

Aaron Clift has shown no sign of stopping. He and his band members have brought a light of hope at the end of the tunnel with the new album, If All Goes Wrong. The Experiment have almost finally reached Emerald City in the land of Oz after following the long yellow brick road to see where their goal will reach them towards.

Kearin Cook’s artwork of the album cover, has this tug towards Miyazaki’s third film from the title-track on the album. If All Goes Wrong took me about six or seven times listening to this album. Now is it The Aaron Clift Experiment’s greatest album? No, but it is a very good release this year. And I hope Aaron continues to do more amazing work for many, many years to come.