Folllow Me on Twitter

Friday, May 30, 2014

Spleen Arcana - The Light Beyond the Shades

Moving in the sounds of ASTRA, Genesis, Camel, King Crimson and White Willow, it’s hard to imagine following into the footsteps of the vintage Progressive Rock sound and capturing the essence of the 1970s. But for Julien Gaullier, who composed the music and wrote the lyrics along founding Spleen Arcana, his voice resembles at times Andy Latimer as if he has given the torch to him and is very proud of what he is doing and capturing the sounds of the golden-era of the progressive rock genre like a flaming fire.

Spleen Arcana has been around for five years and its one of the most up-and-coming trio groups that really show the essence and the vision like a flower opening to reveal its glory for the sun to rise and shine. Their new album, The Light Beyond the Shades, is almost like a trip back in time and its very elevating, exploring, spiritual and atmospheric. And while this is my introduction to Spleen Arcana’s music, I have to say I’m completely blown away from what I’m hearing from start to finish.

You can feel the vibration of the psychedelic and progressive sound of the late ‘60s/early ‘70s with the opener, Erin Shores, as the band go into work. Julien has a soothing vocal and he gives a lot of ideas to have a calming vibration as he plays both the instruments including Guitar, Bass, Keyboards, Bodhran, and Mandolin while David Perron plays drums and background vocalist Marie Guillaumet lends a helping hand to Julien.

At times, the track while it reminds me of the Mirage-era of Camel and bits of the obscure Welsh Prog group, Blonde on Blonde from their Rebirth sessions, the guitar and the Mellotron shine through into the clouds and moments of the Hammond Organ comes in handy to give it a shining momentum on the solo work between the two instruments (Guitar and Organ) as they play the melody as if it’s a spellbinding combination and knowing that its capturing the emotional boundaries of fantasy throughout the lyrics.

The electronic and captivating touches on Fading Away, has more of a futuristic surrounding and dealing with the loss of a loved one or a friend that has passed on, but the memories of him/her has them in their mind and knowing they haven’t forgotten them.  However there is some wonderful keyboard and classical guitar touches on there that gives it a relaxation as Julien and Marie help out on the vocalization in the midsection and then the harder edge comes in on the rhythm section on guitar and drums as it goes into this homage to Bigelf that is a marching beat combining the classical mix as everything is combined into one.

The closing 24-minute epic, Memento Mori, begins with a mellotron string atmosphere that is almost straight out of the 1999 film, The Virgin Suicides for the first minute and eighteen seconds before Julien’s voice comes in. There are some mind-blowing unexpected yet out of the blue with jaw-dropping moments in the passages that is on this piece. There are elements of Heavy, Space, Symphonic, Rock Progressivo Italiano, and Melodic structures that are in this finale and Spleen Arcana show a lot of gratitude here in this composition.

This is my eleventh time listening to The Light Beyond the Shades and I’m completely hooked into the world of Spleen Arcana’s music. And for me, while this is my introduction to the band’s music, I had a real blast listening to this and I can’t wait to see what Julien has up his sleeves for the near future.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Sours - The Sours

It’s this wonderful combination of both Indie Rock and Folk music and for Sasha Markovic in which I was blown away from his debut work on Yagull’s Films sees him going into an acoustic approach. And with help from Sarah Schrift on Lead Vocals and Guitar, and Kana Kamitsubo on Piano, sees this wonderful line-up called The Sours, and their debut album, sees them go into some directions and elements between the sounds of Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, Iron & Wine, and Laura Veirs flown in.

At times it feels like there were songs that could have been used in films like, The Royal Tenenbaums and Juno to name a fewBut each composition on this album, it has a melodic, emotional, and catchy boundary that just makes you feel that hits you right at home at times. And Sarah’s voice is so gentle, beautiful, and soft as if she is comforting the listener as Sasha’s guitar helps out to give it that warmth sunrise for a beginning to start a new day and a new beginning by relieving the stress and not letting yourself down. And experiencing five centerpieces that will make you have an understanding on The Sours music.

Songs like Wish, has these moving Piano chords that Kana does, and the lyrics dealing with finding out on who you are throughout the lyrics and it has these wonderful homage to Dave Davies’ lyrics and almost straight out of the sessions for The Kinks Lola vs. Powerman and the Moneyground, Volume One while Seawitch has this down-home folky yet country-styled sound that is perfect for snapping your fingers and tapping your feet to dance and sing.

Then there’s the emotional beauty opener, Everwas which Sasha is almost fingerpicking through the notes as Sarah sings with such amazement on lyrics like “Pour another feeling/Screaming outside screaming/ I don’t call your name/ I don’t know you now/ I’m the same as I ever was.” She captures the essence on remembering the past and people trying to remember whom their friends were, but they don’t as they start a new chapter with starting a family and not looking back on the present and focusing the future.

Gnt offers Kana to go into a wonderful piano melody as Sasha plays both the rhythm and lead parts on his acoustic guitar and tapping the beats as almost as if the guitar was almost a percussion instrument. You could tell there’s almost a reminiscent of the Bryter Layter-era of Nick Drake’s music and the double-vocals that Sarah does is really spot on and just makes you want to travel to different parts between the States and Europe.

The closing track, Eeget, is a chilling composition. And it is almost as it was recorded inside a deep, dark empty cavern with the water dripping down as the spotlight is on Sarah and giving this deeply yet ominous piece and she nails it on the notes and it is simply stunning as if its almost like the dawn approaching for a chance to see light for freedom.

So far, this is my 9th time listening to The Sours debut album and who knows where they will go to next, but this is soon going to be one of my favorite albums that I've listened to and it is worth checking out for fans of the Indie Rock/Folk sound and it is a must listen to album from start to finish. It is shown that Sasha has come a long way from the Yagull debut and the road is hopefully ready for him to see where he between his projects with that and The Sours will take him to.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Embrace of Disharmony - Humananke

It is I think one of the most interesting yet eruptive up-and-coming bands from Italy. And their debut album released from the My Kingdom Music label, shows that they have a lot of potential and a dosage of the Progressive, Extreme and Symphonic Metal sound that is like a cannonball waiting to attack and Embrace of Disharmony who have formed eight years ago in Rome, have shown they are carrying the flag to let the followers and the genre know that while they have a long way to go, they can take into a different area.

Following in the footsteps of Opeth, Symphony X, Epica, and Amberian Dawn at times, the band considers; Gloria Zanotti on Vocals, Leonardo Barcaroli on Bass/Fretless Bass, Matteo Salvarezza on Guitar and Harsh Vocals, Orchestra Programming, and Emilano Cantiano on Drums/Percussions. And adding to the collaborations; Susanna Coltre on Piano and Keyboards, Paolo Caiti on backing vocals, and Francesco Bianchi on Synths.

And once add guests from members including Orphaned Land, Angra, Symphony X, and Eldritch, you know something amazing is about to happen. Their debut album, Humananke, which they worked on during late 2012 and completed, last year in October, is their volcanic entrance. The usage of the keyboards and distinctive time signature changes gives the band a chance to get the steam engine rolling on seeing which direction they would go into whether it’s a heavier, mellowing, orchestral, or ominous passage tones the band deciding which road they would take.

At times, it is like an epic score for an action film they would do and give it an electrical jolt to give it a huge wake-up call from the people in the audience. The best four highlights from the album are the haunting turned Power Metal charge on Dirge on a Soul Staring at the Stars – offers a heavy bass work, the mourning bell tones, the alarming guitar riffs and solos, haunting keyboard work and the vocals just makes it tell a story and not to mention the militant snare drum work before going into overdrive with the growling voice coming at you to reign terror and guitars carrying the sound of Queen’s Brian May from the earlier days before mellowing down as the lunatic screams in terror to be out of its asylum from hell as the haunting piano closes the piece.

Elsewhere, The Edge of Nowhere, which features Kobi Fahri on Vocals from Orphaned Land and mind blowing bass work from Mike Lepond of Symphony X. It starts off with a dream-like middle-eastern atmosphere before Bianchi goes into his homage to Arjen “Ayreon” Lucassen on the synth solo and the classical boundaries comes swirling in like a jet engine with the violin and percussion setting the catchy tone. The opening 10-minute track, Shards of Apocalypse, begins with the keyboard strings and horn section setting the post-dystopian setting with a Danny Elfman vibe for a Tim Burton film in the late ‘80s as if they had done the score for Batman before getting into the rumbling extreme sound and the beauty and the beast vocalization comes in and then during the last few minutes, they do a reminiscent of the Vision-era from Haken that is uplifting and gothic to survive after the apocalypse.

Then, it’s the killing composition that is like another bullet train going in about 600 miles per hour on The Eternal Champion. Followed by a drum crescendo, a nightmarish keyboard intro, and almost sounding like a duo guitar solo that has at times, the combinations of guitarists Dave Murray and Adrian Smith of Iron Maiden along with K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest, it’s a wonderful storytelling on Michael Moorcock’s vision of The Dreaming City and the anti-hero of Elric of Melnibone after slaying his cousin, Cymoril and ending with a snarling vocal and Gloria’s gentle voice and classical guitar and then back into the Extreme metal like a flaming fire going out to explode.

I have listened to the album about three times now and it’s a very good and interesting debut they have unleashed. Now is it an amazing album? No, but they have something up in their hearts and in their minds as what they have brought onto the table. Humananke is a transfixing debut that will hopefully get the band some recognition and word-of-mouth from the Metal community and receive attention. An effective introduction to the world from Embrace of Disharmony.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Tohpati - Tribal Dance

Indonesian guitarist virtuoso Tohapti is back and may have unleashed something special and a mind-blowing experience. He has been a very busy man with his work with Bertiga and Ethnomission and of course, SimakDialog and there is no stop sign for him. This year, he released Tribal Dance featuring Bassist Jimmy Haslip (Donald Fagen, Jeff Beck, Blackjack and Yellowjackets) and Zappa alumni drummer Chad Wackerman. It shows Tohpati, Wackerman, and Haslip, going through various motions in the styles of music and intense workout from the trio to go into a heavier overdrive, into experimentation's, and atmospheric/ambient beauty to go along with it.

And yet with these three motions of the music along with the sound of Jazz Fusion come into place, it shows how Tohpati can really take you into different areas with his Guitar. And throughout his projects and of course with SimakDialog, he can take it to a whole new level and help get the sounds of World Music and Jazz a big push and here on his new album, he takes the steps further and soars into the blue skies into amazement.

Opener, Rahwana, is an up-tempo driven yet experimental piece that starts the album off with a bang as the trio go into town and Tohpati goes through the McLaughlin and Holdsworth phrase with rhythm and the riffs to capture the speeding train going 600 miles per hour but mellowing down and then heading into the electronic void while getting back into the rhythm.  Elsewhere, Spirit of Jawa, rides through the ominous tones of the sinister/haunting reminiscent of the Red-era of King Crimson, early Sabbath, and the Rock-in-Opposition sounds of Belgium group, Present.

And then, after the first couple of minutes, they go through a shuffle-like Fusion sound as they have a lot of intense vibes as Wackerman and Tohpati try to duel one another between drum and guitar solo as Chad goes all over the place before heading back into the haunting tones to close the piece while the title track which Tohpati is using his Guitar of going through a synthesizer of the sample-and-hold touch, goes through a mellowing relaxation and at times its bluesy and mid-fast, but know which direction the time changes goes through.

Savana is a short little atmospheric/ambient guitar introduction before it segues into the soaring yet uplifting skies on Run. Here, Tohpati is getting the jams going through his instrument with the shuffling touches as he gives Jimmy Haslip a chance to breathe in with his bass exercise. You could tell there are moments in which he is paying homage to Stanley Clarke and Jaco Pastorius as Red Mask goes through a nice tribute to the Duke-era of Genesis by reminiscing the song, Turn it On Again and bits of the ‘90s-era of Pink Floyd from the sessions of The Division Bell.

Supernatural begins with a mourning Tuvan throat-singing before it goes into a Post-Rock touch as it becomes an adventurous momentum with some Fripp-esque touches to capture that electrical voltage on where the trio would go next as the closer, Midnight Rain, is an experimental finale. Tohpati creates these mysterious and strange yet surreal beauty on the instrument to have this rain pouring down on the streets with his Gilmour-like sound for a chance to see a clear blue sky and hopefully to see the dawn settling in and the sun to come up at the right moment at the right time.

Tribal Dance is very much a big out of the blue jaw-dropping album from Tohpati. And here, this is an album that is a wonderful adventure for the listener to experience. And with help from Chad Wackerman and Jimmy Haslip, it shows that Tohpati offers a chance to relax and after listening of over seven times on here, his new album released by the good people from Moonjune Records, is a must have album for 2014.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Spirogyra - St. Radigunds

The Canterbury sound of the late ‘60s and the golden-era of the 1970s has been home to many in that circuit from bands like; Caravan, Soft Machine, Khan, Egg, and Hatfield and the North. But there was one band that was a part of that scene that had a disturbing, beautiful, yet ominous sound of the Acid Folk scene in the 1970s and that band was Spirogyra. Taken their name from a single-cell organism, the group was formed in the late ‘60s by Martin Cockerham as it started originally as a duo, but then Martin decided to added three people who were a part of the Kent University folk club during that time period.

Alongside Cockerham, the band also considered Barbara Gaskin on vocals, Steve Borrill on Bass Guitar, and Julian Cusack on violin. And last year, the good people at Esoteric Recordings have finally given the three Spirogyra albums the reissue treatment it deserves.  Their first album, St. Radigunds, originally released on the B&C record label in 1971, Along with special help from Dave Mattacks on Drums and VCS3 synthesizer by Tony Cox, the band received some recognition and with Martin’s lyrics that took a political level and look into different territories that is well deserved and it hits you like a kick in the gut from the moment you put the album on. And not to mention, enduring the band’s five centerpieces.

Songs like the ominous, The Future Won’t Be Long, deals with a story that before the war came around through the mind of a story-teller that everything was for the working man by going through dealers in honest trade, but some who knew their place and situation while and the right woman for him and then everything goes to hell. The intense acoustic guitar strumming along with Cusack’s violin is powerful that reminiscent of Graham Smith of String Driven Thing and Colin Pearson of Comus while Cockerham and Gaskin’s vocals sets the situation and tension with a view of what is to come.

Time Will Tell, starts off with Cusack’s haunting violin introduction that is touching as Borrill’s bass and Martin’s rhythm guitar and Barbara’s gentle vocals comes in. The song deals with death and its telling the listener, if you are not happy of living in the corrupted world, you might as well have to suffer through it, but at the end she sings “What you want to be you must try to be, you will all be free.” Meaning whatever you want to be, you will be free from all of the difficult situations. It is disturbing, yet strong lyrical backgrounds and it opens eyes on what is happening right in the past, present and now in the 21st century.

Then there’s the fantasy with the heavy acoustic strumming on Magical Mary with some thunderous bass and violin duel that has a mid-tempo along with the guitar in which it includes a chugging sound and the drums to give it a dream-like atmosphere with a psychedelic tense while the fingerpicking touches on Captain’s Log, has the Captain writing the last days of his life in his journal and not knowing when they are going to survive or not in the thunderous yet dangerous oceans they are in.

The closer, The Duke of Beaufoot, begins with a classical-guitar introduction and featuring the VCS3 synthesizer going into a high and low frequency as the Bass/Violin comes in as Cockerham’s voice comes into the picture as he tells the story about who the character is. He sings at times like Roger Wootton and bits of Chris Adams of String Driven Thing flown in there, and then Barbara comes in the last verse as the tempo gets a little faster but then calms down in the last few minutes by becoming a ballad as both Martin and Barbara do a duet together as if the sun had shined up and the climatic bass/violin/guitar rhythm section gives it a big push.

I have listened to St. Radigunds, about 10 times already and I am simply blown away from what I’ve heard from a band that was ahead of their time. And they can write and tell a story throughout their music in the history of Acid and Progressive Folk by giving it a huge jolt. They are now one of my favorite bands to come out of the 1970s. And hats off to the liner notes by Sid Smith, who received help from Richard Morton-Jack of Sunbeam Records, Rick Biddulph who would later join the group in 1971 playing Mandolin, the blogsite It's Psychedelic Baby, Max Kimber, and Max Hole, who was Spirogyra's manager, for a lot of credit on the research they did on preparing for the notes.

So if you love Comus, Trees, Mellow Candle, and Spriguns, Spirogyra are the band you need to check out.