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Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Invincible Czars - Invincible Czars play Graham Reynolds and Peter Stopschinksi

It’s quite an amazing idea of having different time signatures and wacky ideas to come unexpected that is right at you at the moment as a listener to go back and find out by saying “what did they just do all of a sudden? This is really interesting!” One of the bands is Austin’s The Invincible Czars who have been around for twelve years and while this is my introduction of the band’s music, it’s almost as if Frank Zappa had been around and teamed up with The Charlie Daniels Band, Miriodor and Hamster Theatre to create some mind-blowing ideas that just comes out of the water ready to get the machine ready for action for a performance they’ll never forget.

They have also some arrangements for Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky to gain word of mouth along recognition for a band that had various line-ups show that they can knock one out of the ball park. Their EP, Invincible Czars play Graham Reynolds & Peter Stopschinski, shows how much they can have a blast. The EP is a tribute of the two composers who did score work. Graham has done work with filmmakers including Richard Linklater on films like; A Scanner Darkly, Bernie and Before Midnight to name a few while Peter has done short films including Chickenfut and Attack of the Bride Monster.

Opener, Greyhound starts off with electricity thanks to Josh Robins bass and guitar work along with Phil Davidson and Leila Henley’s intense work between Violin and Flute and Chuck Fischer’s fast drumming work. It has this stop-and-go movement that the band would play and give Phil a chance to play a quick solo and Leila as well and it is quite interesting that they could have been inspired by King Crimson and bits of Jean-Luc Ponty as well, but the music keeps on going.

The haunting and in the vibes of Egyptian atmosphere thanks to Robins guitar in the style of Frank Zappa and Fred Firth of Henry Cow, can come in quite handy with The Duchess of Parma (The Polish Opening). At times it reminded me of the Diablo Swing Orchestra and almost like they could have used this piece of music for one of Tim Burton’s stop-motion animated films for Corpse Bride or The Nightmare Before Christmas as the melodic nightmarish dystopian ‘60s vibe, Dark Theme from Metropolis, is chilling and will give you goose bumps.

Josh does this twilight zone-sque yet spooky introduction with the delay/reverb sound to have that spaghetti western touch on his Guitar as if you are walking in a town with no one there as if you can hear a pin drop before the band comes in to have this mellowing and sadness of a town that was supposed to be, but gone wrong. The closing track, The Difference Engine II: Ada, opens with a guitar that is sounding like a Harpischord/Organ with a dytopian lullaby for the first 30 seconds and then the sax and violin play the same melody as the bass along with the drums comes in to increase the tension as it goes into some pronk (prog-punk) like structures to have the tempos going fast and not to mention the late ‘60s psychedelic vibe to go with it (Nuggets style!) before the haunting harpischord-like guitar chords closes the curtain.

The Invincible Czars have all the ingredients to have fun and enjoy themselves. They are one of those bands that they can take these different genres of Prog, Rock in Opposition, Punk, Polka, Hard Rock, and Jazz rolled up into one and create some amazement with their instruments and you can never expect what to come out of them. This is my 6th time listening to this EP, and I have now become blown away by The Invincible Czars and they are soon going to become one of my favorite bands to come out of Austin.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Chris Fury - From Darkness

When you have a guitarist who has this wonderful combination between the sounds of Mike Keneally, John Fruscinate, Alex Lifeson, Steve Vai, and Frank Zappa, it is going to be quite an amazing experience when you listen to an up-and-coming guitarist from Long Island named Chris Fury. With a bachelor’s degree in music from Binghamton University, Fury brings a touch of adventure, progressive music, virtuosity, funk, classical, and metal right in his veins throughout on his Guitar as it takes the listener throughout various journey’s with his debut, From Darkness.

Alongside Fury, he brought along Berklee Graduate Ian Underwood from the Chris Fury trio on Bass Guitar, Sebastian Persini on Drums, and Jason Roddin on Piano/Keyboards to help along Fury makes his mind-blowing debut to give it that high voltage.  The Nexus opens the album up like a battering ram that hits you right in the gut as the band go straight into town. Fury is playing both rhythm and lead by playing some heavy riffs and all over the frets as if Vai is watching in awe of this amazing up-and-coming guitarist giving some juice to heavy duty work while he gets into the Funky-soul yet bluesy groove in the styles of Parliament Funkadelic teaming up with John Fruscinate of the Red Hot Chili Peppers as if it was recorded in the early ‘80s on All Funked Up.

Then, he brings his finger-picking and thumb-slapping technique with a classical touch with Byte the Bullet. It is very much as you can imagine the sun going down into west as he is watching it by creating these soothing and minor melodies to capture it at the right moment as Roddin creates this atmospheric synth surroundings in which Fury gives himself a chance to relax before going back in the thumb-slapping unexpected moment that is jaw-dropping for an ending.

Elsewhere, Over Andover has a futuristic yet ascending adventure as In Your Eyes, has a very romantic acoustic-rock ballad that has an ‘80s feel and then Fury goes into this emotional yet powerful solo and soothing structures to fit the vibe. Both Mogera and Lost Transmission go through from heavy riffs, pummeling chords, Roddin’s doomy piano work for the finale to a gentle relaxation as the spaceship heads into lightspeed towards back home to earth with some calming atmosphere, makes it a wonderful voyage going through the heavier and uplifting touches between both Persini and Roddin.

Then you go back into the driving forces of fast-mode with a beat like a race car going 200 miles per hour on tracks like the fierce and dramatic beats on Running Away and the virtuosity tribute to Rush’s Alex Lifeson on A Fire WIthin as Fury gives Berklee alumni Ian Underwood a chance to do his bass work for a Jazz-like solo for a mellowing moment for a second in the style of Jaco Pastorius as Fury and Persini take turns doing guitar chords and drum patterns all over the place before the solos go in for a shrieking and volcanic finale.

The title track goes through a minor and mourning vibration before the seat belts are buckled up for another driven roar on the composition in which the piece deals with you really are on Autopilot Disengage. There are some classical and symphonic melodies that he plays on here and it really shows how Chris brings that in the 11th track and lending his chops to the table and it’s a killing track that is probably going to become a live fan favorite soon into his career and in the future.

The relaxing yet fighting as you sacrifice to save one person’s life with Last Breath, starts off with a relaxed acoustic guitar chords and then followed by a mellowing electric workout before going into almost a Brian May style and then back into the comfort bluesy sound and then back into the thunderous magic. Then, it becomes very ambient thanks to the synth textures on the spacey voyages into the universe of the milky-way as Chris relaxes to give it that warmth sunrise. The closing track, Mystical Journey is where everything gets right into the moment.

It starts off with a Tchaikovsky-like introduction as the band go into a ¾ waltz time signature as you can imagine someone doing the Tango for the first minute and twenty-four seconds before going into energetic overdrive and then back into the time signature. What Fury and the band are doing is creating a back-and-forth movement from going into the Waltz into a Harder edge drive that they switch gears by going into different directions on the road.

There has been some excellent music so far in 2014 and up-and-coming virtuoso guitarist Chris Fury fits right in this year with playing. There is almost the soundtrack inside your mind and Fury playing the music for you and his arranging and composition in From Darkness shows he can go into mellowing, heavy, classical, blues, fusion, and prog like no other. And after listening about seven times now, it is soon going to be one of my favorites. A must have for an adventure that you will experience from beginning, middle, and end.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Present - Le Poison Qui Rend Fou

It would be almost a score to David Lynch or one of the Italian Giallo films from the late ‘70s/early ‘80s by the master himself Lucio Fulci. For Rock in Opposition group, Present, their follow up to Triskaidekaphobie, would also be their last and final album (Le Poison Qui Rend Fou) that was originally released in 1985 and this 2-CD set shows the darker magic and brilliant force on here like no other! The title was inspired by Herge’s Tintin comic book series, Cigars of the Pharaoh and Trigaux himself wanted to pay tribute to the master from his childhood.

The opening 15-minute title track begins with this roaring Fripp-sque guitar introduction that Roger himself does along with the atonal chords done by Alain Rochette before they get down to business with the difficult time signatures followed by the operatic vocals of Marie-Anne Polaris that resembles the Zeuhl influences of Magma and very much straight out of Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels along with thumping and doomy bass lines done by Ferdinand Philippot. It is sinister, intense, haunting and ominous as well as you could tell which direction the band goes into by Roger’s conducting and he’s letting them know which time movement or instrument should come next to give it that shivering goosebumping surrounding moment to make the hair on the back of your arm raise up.

The track closes for the last 3 minutes as Rochette goes into this Schoenberg-like piano piece as Trigaux comes in along with Daniel Denis as well to give it that climatic finale. Ersatz is very much almost militant thanks to Denis drumming workout and Trigaux’s virtuoso is jaw-dropping as he goes through the frets and those odd time changes along with the stop-and-go moments can really come in handy as it segues back into the second part of Le Poison Qui Rend Fou.

The second part is called Didi, Dans Ta Chambre! Trigaux is all over the place with his guitar. He makes it screech and shriek at moments the Synth and percussion along with the piano go into the room with the different pieces and its insane at times while they go into the King Crimson Red-era by paying tribute to the album as if the two-part suite could have been a part of the sessions along with Dave Brubeck’s Take Five for a brief moment as well. It cavernous and in your face as well and shows that Present can give the listener the shocking and jaw-dropping moments an unexpected moment.

The closing track Samana is a calming after the storm at first. It has this atmospheric avant-experimental touch to it, but with a dosage of chamber music and neoclassical vibes to it. The second disc is a live performance that the band did at Livry-Gargan on January 23, 1982 in which it is a commune in the northeastern side of France and it’s amazing listening to the group’s performance live. You could imagine being in the audience, blown away of watching these amazing musicians really going to give the most mind-blowing performances that they are giving.

On the first disc, is a Quicktime video of the band’s rare performance around in 1981, in which there are only three clips of the performance in Paris. And I’ll admit it’s not the best quality, more like a "B" graded quality of the footage if you will, however it is very wonderful chance of seeing the group just taking different turns and seeing the band for yourself on your very own Computer. I have listened to Le Poison Qui Rend Fou about five times now and alongside their debut album, Triskaidekaphobie, I’m completely hooked into their music and Cuneiform Records have done a superb job reissuing these amazing albums and I’ve suddenly now become a huge Present fan. I will look into more of the Cuneiform catalog in the near future and see what kind of magic they have up their sleeves for me.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Present - Triskaidekaphobie

After Roger Trigaux left Univers Zero back in 1979 with their second album, Heresie in which according to the liner notes with the booking agent’s pressure and finding enough gigs to keep the band busy, had put a huge amount of pressure on Trigaux and he decided to leave the band and creating a vision and his own musical journey that is into darker territories and the soundtrack from hell if you will, that would later become Present. A sound that had this combination of Magma meets Frank Zappa meets King Crimson with a dosage of Alban Berg and Chamber music like no other.

My introduction to Present’s work was in the 2012 documentary, Romantic Warriors II: A Progressive Music Saga About Rock in Opposition. And soon, I was hooked into the music and world the Rock in Opposition genre and with their work it is dark, hidden, sinister, and terrifying. Almost as if they had recorded a score for one of Alejandro Jordorowsky’s films or Luis Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou by giving theatre goers a leaping out of their seat moments of their music. Their debut album, Triskaidekaphobie, (The Fear of the Number 13) released in 1980, is one of the scariest and terrifying albums I’ve ever listened to.

Trigaux is very much like a conductor and he tells the band what to do and goes through one time signature after another difficult time change and it’s very chilling and powerful at the same time. In the group during that time period, the band considered along Trigaux on Guitar and Fender Rhodes, Alain Rochette on Keyboards, Christian Genet on Bass Guitar, and Daniel Denis (Univers Zero) on Drums and Percussion. Opener, Promenade Au Fond D’un Canal, sees the band go into the minds of atonal music like it had just opened up the gothic cathedrals to bring in some dosage time changes as the band get into work.

Trigaux goes into the mind of Robert Fripp and Fred Firth on his guitar as Denis eruptive drum work sets the tension throughout the piece and it’s homage to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring comes in handy throughout in a quick minute or two thanks from the militant piano chords by Rochette. Quatre-vingt Douse is Roger’s chance to shine through on the Piano and Fender Rhodes as he goes through this ominous chord progressions and solo like a concerto pianist by going into darker areas in the styles of Magma’s sessions for Kohntarkosz before the last three minutes heads into some heavy and very bloody aftermath if you will of the fighting and the battle has happened as Trigaux and Rochette create intense movements between the two of them as Denis bangs the gong and Genet doomy bass work sets the tone.

And then, they are back into the train with the last 59 seconds a-la Stravinsky style as I’ve mentioned before for a dramatic finale before the closer, Repulsion becomes a doomy ambient/atmosphere vibe. Trigaux and Genet play these notes as the bass goes through a disturbing note that is an experimental technique. The bonus tracks on the album were recorded live at the Halles de Schaerbeek in February 28, 1981 in Brussels and its one of the most mind-blowing performances that they gave of performing two of Univers Zero’s compositions.

Listening to the two bonus pieces, you could tell the band were on fire that night doing both Dense (Ceux du Dehors) and Vous Le Saurez En Temps Voulu (Heresie) and giving all they got to unleash some electricity and I can imagine the audience were completely blown away the moment Present performed it and knowing they have done an incredible job and wanting more of both Present and Univers Zero’s music as well. The people from Cuneiform Records including the coordination and direction by Steve Feigenbaum, and the team have done an incredible job reissuing this amazing gem from the Rock in Opposition movement and the liner notes done by Aymeric Leroy and Renato de Moraes is amazing research on the band’s music and history and of course Udi Koomran’s restoration/ remastering the album is superb and amazing whilst listening to this about four times now, I’m completely hooked into the world of Present.

So if you admire the sounds of the RIO movement, Henry Cow, Frank Zappa, Magma, Univers Zero, and King Crimson, then Present’s Triskaidekaphobie is the album worth checking out.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Henry Lowther Band - Child Song

When people think of Jazz, they think of; John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Art Tatum, and Herbie Hancock to name a few. All of them changed the way we hear and listen to the sound of Jazz. But there is one artist that is overlooked and really had given a surprising debut that was released in 1970 and it has been a collector’s item that is rare and hard to find. And that is the Henry Lowther Band’s debut album, Child Song.

This is one of the most amazing reissues that the good people from Esoteric Recordings have released last year and it is one of my favorite listening albums I’ve experienced the moment I’ve put on the CD from start to finish and I was completely blown away from what I was hearing. Lowther is a session musician by working with bands and artists including; Keef Hartley Band, Bob Downes, Neil Ardley, Talk Talk, and John Mayall to name a few. And from the moment he was working on the album, he was already a student at The Royal Academy of Music in London while he went back and forth from playing Trumpet to Violin.

Alongside Henry Lowther, the band considered; Tony Roberts on Tenor Sax, Percussion, and Bass Clarinet, Mike McNaught on Electric Piano and Percussion, Daryl Runswick on Bass Guitar, Percussion, and Double Bass, and Mike Travis on Drums and Percussion. And also, guests musicians Jimmy Jewel on Tenor Sax and Neil Slaven on Percussion. Introduction starts off with a mourning fanfare that Lowther does on the Trumpet to give it a Coltrane-sque opener before McNaught and Runswick help out as if it they are doing almost a sequel to A Love Supreme and its almost as if Coltrane himself, Elvin Jones, Jimmy Garrison and McCoy Tyner are watching in awe in the studio to see these young musicians carrying the spirit of sax player himself.

Trav’lling Song is a moody, dark, and yet ambient-sombering composition. Lowther plays these beautiful soft and calming sounds on the violin. It’s very much like waiting for the sun to come up as the dawn comes near in the forest and do some classical orientations throughout his instrument before they go into a walking beat thanks to Mike Travis drum work and Tony Roberts’ Tenor Sax setting the mood for a bit here and there.

And then, it segues into Plaything (Child Song and Anima). It begins with the violin, Rhodes, and double bass coming into as one before they put them down and get into the percussion’s and just go into this Avant-Garde atmosphere on there. It’s almost homage to Nick Mason’s The Grand Vizer’s Garden Party for a couple of minutes and almost as if it could have been used during the Ummagumma sessions while they get into some Fusion-Funk business.

It is ¾ Skip (Trip-Up) that is a real catchy yet toe-tapping melody. There are some nice touches to the Canterbury sound with the Soft Machine’s Slightly All the Time. And Henry gives Runswick a chance to shine on his bass guitar. He is just going through his solo and just nails it each time he goes through the frets and at times it reminded me of Hugh Hopper and Pekka Pohjola (Wigwam) at times and by the time it gets a little faster, you could tell they are having a blast as Lowther blasts his Sax to give it the Miles sound and it’s a knockout!

Between gives Lowther a chance to show his classical side as the string section and his violin playing, is soothing and atonal as well as he goes through the mind of Arnold Schoenberg and a bit of Itzhak Perlman as well before closing it off with Puppet Song. The 11-minute finale, is Henry’s tribute to Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way-era as the band get down to work as they take turns soloing. Between Tony Roberts workout on his Sax, Lowther, Runswick, McNaught and Travis dueling it out to see who would come in the final race of the competition for the amazing solo, but they are all winners and it is a perfect composition to close the album off with a soothing yet smoky closer finale that makes you walk into the streets of either New York or Paris at 'round about Midnight.

The liner notes, done by Sid Smith, features an interview with Henry Lowther about the making of the album and the people who were a part of the album shows a lot of amazing and interesting insights on Child Song. It is one of the best reissues that Esoteric has done and I always can’t wait to see what they have up their sleeves for the years to come. So if you love the sounds of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and the Third-era of the Soft Machine, then Henry Lowther Band’s Child Song is a must have for Jazz Rock fans to sink into.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Tumbleweed Dealer - Western Horror

Tumbleweed Dealer is one of the most promising up-and-coming bands from Montreal that I’ve listened to since 2012. After hearing their debut EP in November 2012 and their debut sole self-titled debut last year, I knew this is a band that is worth checking out. And now their follow up, Western Horror, is almost like the soundtrack to a score for either the graphic novel of Frank Miller’s Sin City or almost as if Dario Argento, Sergio Leone, and Lucio Fulci worked together by combining the Italian Horror films of the ‘70s by making it a Giallo-Spaghetti-Western movie that stayed true to combining; The Man With No Name trilogy, Deep Red (Profondo Rosso), Zombi 2, and Suspiria with a Western gore-fest attitude.

The album cover almost looks like a poster that is perfect for the Grindhouse cinemas during that time period in the 1970s for Drive-Thru cinemas for midnight showings as you can imagine audiences to be scared and jump out their car seats when something would happen if the killer had an Ax and attacking the town in the middle of nowhere. And the tagline, “Sometimes looking for weed in strange places goes horribly wrong,” is a perfect way for you to get your popcorn, drink, and rasinets and enjoy a disturbing real horror adventure that you will never forget that you can imagine the movie inside your mind for a disturbing yet hypnotic concept album to explore.

Opener, Bluntlust begins with a deserted-like guitar introduction with a bluesy feel before the bass and drums come kicking in as you can imagine the car driving into the town and the credits beginning knowing that this isn’t going to be your typical blockbuster bombastic movie. The touches of late ‘60s psychedelic doom garage-rock sounds really fill the scenery with a touch of Tool’s 10,000 Days-era as if it was released in 1969-’70 thanks to Seb’s touches on the tribute to Adam Jones as he goes through the rhythm and touches on the Bass as well to capture that intense drive into the hellish town.

Slow Walk Through a Ghost Town is a 4/4 time signature ominous-like waltz as the people walk through the town where no one is there and its almost you could feel as if a pin dropped out of nowhere while imagining that there is nowhere to head out as whirling solo sets the nightmarish feel along with the laid-back drum patterns while Riding Upon a Skeletal Steed in which it has a stoner melodic structure riff that plays throughout the entire composition. There is a nice feel that reminded me of Diagonal’s Semi Permeable Men-Brain along with Southern Reaper, and where Tumbleweed Dealer go, they take it to a different level and making their almost film score with it.

From the mellowing grooves with …And The Horse You O.D.’d On and When Death Valley Becomes Home to the menacing rhythm section for the battle to get out of the deserted town by using a gardening tool and a firearm to battle for survival on A Scythe In One Hand, A Shotgun in the Other. Then it is the closing track for the credits to roll on Dead Dad Blues (Ending Credits). You could imagine the bloody aftermath and the spooky atmosphere on where we go from next as the tone has this sinister and disturbing touch from the guitar that play the rhythm and lead section that reminded me at times of Pete Townshend’s guitar work and a little bit of Robert Fripp and David Gilmour as well and it is sends chills down my spine.

Tumbleweed Dealer have scored another follow-up and the concept of almost doing like a Horror film for the Grindhouse-era in which I have mentioned earlier and it’s something that just took me by surprise after listening about four times of the entire album. And I always wanted to know what kind of tricks they have up their sleeve for the next one. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Galactic Cowboy Orchestra - Zombie Mouth

With the sounds of swirling violin work, sounds of the ‘70s vibes of Jazz Rock and Progressive Music, and bits of The Mahavishnu Orchestra meets the Red-era of King Crimson, The Galactic Cowboy Orchestra bring back the sounds with a fast driven beat that have the guitars, bass work, and of course Lisi Wright’s homage to Darryl Way, David Cross, Jerry Goodman, and Jean-Luc Ponty on her violin to stay true to the powers that be. The GCO have been around for five years and have released about four albums and their follow up, Zombie Mouth, shows how they can have an excellent time and bring in the Artgrass (Art Rock and Bluegrass music) like no other!

And while this is my introduction to the band’s music, I’m soon going to be a huge fan of their work and the moment you put on Zombie Mouth, expect for an adventure that you will never forget. The band considers; Lisi Wright on Violin and Lead Vocals, Dan Neale on Guitar/Vocals, John Wright on Bass/Vocals, and Mark O’Day on Drums and Percussion.

Pieces like; In To You is Dan Neale’s acoustic finger picking styles in the classical touches of Steve Howe and Mason Williams while he goes into the styles of Ry Cooder with help from Lisi doing a dance-like sound on the thumping country styles that could have been used in the 1970 controversial British cult classic, Performance on Going Nowhere Fast. Meanwhile, Wrong Shui is almost a foot stomping yet laid-back groove between Lisi’s husband John handling some Geddy Lee-sque style intro on the Bass, Mark’s Drumming, and Lisi’s violin as well as Dan’s Guitar as the two of them play the melody structure. 

There are moments that they go into a Jazz Fusion and at times a dosage of the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Inner Mounting Flame-era as in the midsection, they go into a different territory as Lisi just shines on with her violin solo as Dan plays at times some Jazz chords and some intense movements on his instrument while Mark himself goes into a different area on his kit.
And then they get down into the intensity like no other with the mind-blowing structures of Floating. 

With bits of King Crimson and Frank Zappa and the stop-and-go areas in the song makes it times sinister and in your face, it shows that the different time signatures can come in full handy while All or Nothing has this eerie yet darker moody desert sound as if you are lost in the hot-air surroundings of 120 degrees in the middle of nowhere in the state of Nevada and the tumbleweeds rolling down the hills. And then, the drums into the styles of Buddy Rich and Bill Bruford that gives Mark a chance to break loose before going back into the laid-back relaxation by driving off onto the break of dawn with the soothing yet balladry sounds on Broken Marionette

As with the closing track, Give Me More gives Lisi a chance to shine. She starts off by doing her intense violin introduction that is almost in the style of Curved Air’s Darryl Way that is almost a tribute to Vivaldi for the intro and then they lay down the Fripp-like sounds thanks to Dan Neale’s technique as the GCO go into the different time signatures along with the relaxation and uplifting moments that closes the album off.

I have listened to Zombie Mouth about seven times now. And I have to say, I am completely blown away from listening and introduction to the world and music of The Galactic Cowboy Orchestra’s sound and it was an amazing experience of listening to a band that are getting the beauty and the sounds of Country, Prog, and Art Rock like no other. The band have really brought something fresh and something that is strangely strange but oddly normal of the time changes that can be hard and vividly understanding the music. This is a must listen to band that is worth checking out.