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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Iamthemorning - Lighthouse

Iamthemorning have been around since their formation back in 2010 in St. Petersburg which consider Marjana Semkina on Vocals and Gleb Kolyadin on Piano. They have released two albums on the Kscope label including an EP and a live album. This year they released their third album entitled Lighthouse. The album is engineered by Marcel Van Limbeek who worked with Tori Amos and self-produced by Gleb and Marjana. They brought along Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree, King Crimson) on Drums, Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree) on Bass and Vocals, and Mariusz Duda (Lunatic Soul, Riverside).

The album is a mixture of classical chamber music, folk, and jazz by adding a wide-ranging texture throughout the entire set. It is also a concept album about a woman who is suffering from a mental illness as she tries to fight the disease through a remission and into a final breakdown. Through the inspirations between Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath, it’s an emotional and touching story dealing with the subject along with depression.

It was recorded between London, Moscow, and St. Petersburg and it almost for me feels, like a soundtrack and a movie inside your head of a one-woman show sung throughout the whole thing which very much in the realms of Jacques Demy’s 1964 French classic, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. You can imagine the woman’s pain and suffering on what she’s going through her breakdowns and the illness she is suffering from. As the music itself, it is a spectacular and striking essence of what the duo brings to the story.

The striking ominous intro of the first part of I Came Before the Water sets a stirring tone of the character through the reflections of herself with beautiful string sections, dripping water, and a cry for help as Marjana’s vocals beams through the pain into the person’s head. Colin’s bass lines on Clear Clearer, has this spirited melody as organ and brushing drums starts at first with a Jazzier introduction as it moves into both harmonious rhythms with a lifting section as guitars channeling Robert Fripp at the very end.

Elsewhere, Sleeping Pills features a haunting piano section that Gleb channels in the midsection that the trouble for the person’s tragic soul is only getting worse as the title track featuring Riverside/Lunatic Soul’s Mariusz Duda takes onto the vocals in the last three-minutes of the song just gives me chills between him and Marjana’s duet-ting together, it gives the atmosphere a chilling yet soaring experience.

It reminded me at times between Steven Wilson and Ninet Tayeb’s Routine and bits of Hand.Cannot.Erase thrown in at the same time as Duda and Semkina do a brilliant job together. It just gives me more of what is on here that just made my eye-brows go up at each track. The lullaby turned waltz section in the styles of Vince Guaraldi with Harmony and the medium speed tempo with catchy grooves to dance to with Matches with an homage to Thelonious Monk and bits of Keith Emerson thrown in.

Chalk and Coal is a disturbing immense composition. The vocal arrangements, both singing and speaking in the beginning is someone near the end of their total breakdown. Marjana just hits those vocals in the park very strongly. There is a darker tone throughout the midsection with the experimental and heavier elements as the disease suddenly comes in as the character realizes in the speaking section as they taunt this person towards their doom with no light at the end of the tunnel.

I love the Jazzy sections in Gleb heads forwards through his piano to know what is happening near the end of the story as he plays towards the end in a fade out as we hear and watch what is about to happen next through an echoing reverb. The second part of I Came Before the Water and the finale, Post Scriptum, is the end with a tragic closing of the character’s choice of death.

It just sends goosebumps on my arms as you can see the person going through the final chapter of the book to say goodbye to everything. The instrumental closer, is a gorgeous piano filled experience and helps to understand the incredible talent that Iamthemorning shows here, is a gigantic wonder of amazement that have taken me to another surprise on what they did next.

I really enjoyed Lighthouse. It feels like looking at a beautiful painting of Vincent Van Gogh. The right moment at the right time that you could imagine hitting closer to home dealing with the subjects of Mental Illness and Depression. The duo themselves nailed it perfectly with an emotional and stirring concept. And with help from various band members, it is something worth exploring into their music. A challenging issue and a tragic storyline, this here is a stirring gem released this year that the Kscope label have released this year.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Beastmaker - Lusus Naturae

This is a new band hailing from Fresno, California that are carrying the torch of the Doom Metal genre in the essence of Witchfinder General, Black Sabbath, and Candlemass. They release their debut album on the Rise Above Records label this year entitled Lusus Naturae which translates to “A Freak of Nature.”

I love the art design of the album in which is done by Branca Studio in which it’s an homage to the great Horror films of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s in which it’s almost an homage to the Hammer films in the styles of the booklet. The band considers Trevor William Church on Guitar and Lead Vocals, John Michael Tucker on Bass, Andres Alejandro Saldate IV (Juan Bonham) on Drums.

Trevor wrote the 12 compositions on here. And the music itself is blaring, eruptive, and filled with intense riffs, stoner rock, and in your face to see what Beastmaker will think of next. This is a must have for Doom and Occult Rock fans and I love what is on here from right into the beginning and in the very end. The trio know what they are doing and they are pulling no punches with the homage to the ‘70s rock sounds.

Fierce and raw power comes into action with Eyes are Watching, The Strain, and Astral Corpse. Both of these tracks have the intensity and energetic force. And Trevor’s voice resembles a young Ozzy Osbourne and capturing the Sabbath and Doom genre torch and making sure it doesn’t burn out. I can hear almost as if they were recorded between 1970 and 1973 from the Paranoid, Master of Reality, and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath sessions.

The trio really head into town as they work as a team. Loving those metallic bass lines that John Michael Tucker does. He carries the fuzztone levels through the riffs which is shown on You Must Sin and the homage to Electric Wizard with the Arachne. Trevor carries the rhythm and lead on here and both lending John and Andres a helping hand. Andres can take the drums from the styles of Bill Ward and Jan Lindh (Candlemass) to various sections. From mellow grooves to haunting/ominous directions on his kit.

The mid-galloping twist of Skin Crawler, sends me goosebumps and I can imagine the touches of Black Mountain’s In The Future-era in there. Trevor and John go into town between Guitar and Bass playing the melody together as if they were definitely writing scores for the Horror genre in the styles of Mario Bava, Dario Argento, and Terence Fisher’s The Devil Rides Out.

This is my third time listening to Lusus Naturae. I was completely spellbound the moment I put the CD on. There’s going to be a few more good releases coming out this year and some competition to go with it. Beastmaker have landed on earth with a mighty punch to send the Doom Metal sounds with a vital force! This is a recommended band worth checking out. And I hope they will continue to see where the road will lead them into.

Blood Ceremony - Lord of Misrule

Doom Metal and Occult Rock band Blood Ceremony show absolutely no sign of stopping since their formation ten years ago in their hometown in Toronto, Canada. With three albums in the can on the Rise Above Records label, I always imagine what will they think of next with their follow up. Alia O’Brien is brilliant with her vocals, keyboards and flute playing. And with her fellow comrades including guitarist Sean Kennedy, bassist Lucas Gadke, and drummer Michael Carrillo, she knows that she has got their back and never letting them down.

She’s been very busy as she contributed to a film score with a 2015 documentary film from Banger Films covering the historical origins of Satan entitled Satan Lives which is directed by the same people who did Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, and Super Duper Alice Cooper. But let’s get straight to their new album entitled, Lord of Misrule. The traces of Psych, Folk, Doom, and Prog is still there with the essence of Jethro Tull meets Black Sabbath meets Fairport Convention.

But thrown in The Electric Prunes, Jefferson Airplane, Trees, and Forest, Blood Ceremony know their roots very in their cream of the crop of Prog and Doom. And they know what to get when they shop around for new songs and carrying the torch is showing how much they have come along and I’m very blown away here.

The opener, The Devil’s Widow, is a killer introduction with mid-tempo rhythms, blaring lead guitar riffs and solo, and drums getting the shuttle making a jump to light speed before Alia’s flute shows a bit of the essence of Thjis Van Leer. Flower Phantoms is like something straight out of the first Nuggets compilation as they go into the ‘60s garage rock-era with a hyper mood to jump into the groove with the VOX-like organ sounds, guitars heading into a haunting area.

Lorely is Blood Ceremony’s homage to the late great Harry Nilsson with a touch of British Psychedelia approach capturing the line busy tone from the Rhodes keyboard before to a swirling Beatle-sque ascending Mellotron ending. But I also love their approach of the band doing a waltz. It’s evidential on The Weird of Finistere.

I can imagine both Roxy Music and The Moody Blues working together on a composition like this as if they recorded this between 1969 and early 1970. And it’s such a chilling piece between Alia and Sean together. The double-tracking vocals, echo-reverbed, laid-back percussion, and lyrics dealing of the last rite of the character’s dying scenery.

Old Fires sounds like a chugging yet crunchier roar thanks to Sean’s guitar with it’s pumping riffs, blaring organs, and dramatic lead section in which he goes straight to the sky with his improvisation as he plays both at the same time in the double-tracking section that makes my head bang a bit more. Half Moon Street goes into Doom-Folk-Metal as if Sabbath had teamed up with Comus to create a grittier version of Song For Comus.

The closing somber, Things Present, Things Past makes the atmosphere melancholy to give it a look back on what will happen when we look back on the memories and that remained and either we fly into the previous chapters of our lives or play the last game to decide to make that choice either way. Blood Ceremony have scored for me another home run.

It’s great to see them going into a different direction, but keeping the Doom and Prog approach and showing that it’s still there and with the new album, it’s another classic surprise that makes me just jump for more and here they unleashed it again. Highly recommended.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Trettioariga Kriget - Trettioariga Kriget

I have been writing reviews on Progressive Rock for about eight years since I’ve started Music from the Other Side of the Room. And there’s not a single stop sign for me. I’ve been a champion of bands from the different isles alongside from the States and in the UK including, Italy, Scandinavia, France, and Indonesia to name a few. I’ve always loved the Swedish Progressive Rock scene with bands/artist such as; International Harvester, Beardfish, Opeth, Samla Mammas Manna, Turid, Hansson & Karlsson, Anglagard, and the late great Bo Hansson.

One of the bands that are one of the Heaviest and Proggiest is Trettioariga Kriget. Formed in the summer of 1970 in Saltsjobaden in which is in the east of Stockholm it is translated as The Thirty Years War in which it was between from 1618 to 1648 in Central Europe between the conflict of Catholics, Political Rivals, and German Protestants in the three countries of France, Sweden, and Denmark who were opposing the Holy Roman Empire and Spain.

The band recorded their sole self-titled debut album between May and June of 1974 and was released in September of that year. Listening to this again, you could tell how much they were ahead of their time and it is at times heavier, dark, sinister, and just in your face. Most of the time it sounds like if Rush had recorded their debut in Sweden and give it a real kick of high voltage that would shake up the city with a big alarm clock waiting to hit at the right exact moment.

Listening to this album for me, is like that. But with an eruptive explosion to kick things off with Kaledoniska Orogenesen. From the volcanic guitars, crescendo drums, and electrifying bass lines, both Stefan Fredin, Dag Lundquist, and Christer Akerberg head into town. I can hear the essence of Close to the Edge-era of Yes between Stefan and Christer as it becomes dynamic at times before Robert Zima’s spooky vocal arrangements and then the mood changes into a haunting melodic in the rhythm section.

Roster Fran Minus Till Plus begins with dooming bass lines, xylophones, and guitar melody that has a nightmarish essence of the Rock In Opposition format before transforming into a spacey and spooky atmosphere featuring the Mellotron coming in to give it a chilling vibration. Fjarilsattityder brings the combination between Gentle Giant, Gnidrolog, and King Crimson with a brutal force as Christer and Stefan challenge each other to a sword-like duel on their instruments and they go nail each other in their lead sections as Dag helps out to give an epic battle on the drums.

Mina Lojen starts off a heavy intro before diving into a melodic yet folky-acoustic-electric rhythm section. Vocalist Robert Zima is at the top of his game to give it a cooling mesmerizing section before the time signature changes as Stefan is really giving the Bass a gigantic blast through various sections that really resemble Geddy Lee and Chris Squire at times. The band give Stefan a chance to free-rein himself as he shines and giving Christer more of the section for a helping hand.

Ur Djupen channels the MKII-era of Deep Purple’s In Rock sessions while the closer, Handlingens Skugga which was inspired by Democritus, the Greek philosopher of the 5th century B.C., gets back into the heavier side and it becomes a chaotic adventure as they head into the crunching mode.

There are three bonus tracks in which the album was reissued on the Mellotronen label thirteen years ago. Under the Pendent Roof in which it’s the first version for Ur Djupen is an eruptive guitar knockout by Crister himself. He channels both Ritchie Blackmore and Tony Iommi in the lead section that is jaw-dropping as he goes through both the lead and rhythm sections and it carries the twist between Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Judas Priest.

I’ve Got No Time starts with a ballad and you can almost imagine that Trettioariga Kriget show their softer side as Perspektiv in which it was the first song that Stefan wrote and the band worked and rehearsed in 1970. It was originally known as Amassilations which appeared on the Glorious War album which were recordings between 1970 and ’71 when the band was starting. It is a great unearthed gem as the band go into their improvisations that inventive and hypnotic.

This is one of these albums that I get a kick out of everytime I want to play this at maximum volume. The album did receive well in the music press as it was considered the first Swedish Heavy Rock LP. They were ahead of their time. They would later go back into the studio for a follow up which would be Krigssang (War Song) in which it was their second album.

But if you love the heavy rock sounds of Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Rush followed by the Prog touches of Gentle Giant, Yes, and King Crimson, then Trettioariga Kriget’s sole self-titled debut is the album worth exploring into. And play this very loud! 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Sam Coulson - Electric Classical

Sam Coulson, guitarist for ASIA, has released his first solo album in which it’s his take of classical music done in an instrumental format entitled Electric Classical in which he self-released it last year. There are ten tracks on here that clock in at 24 minutes and 05 seconds and there aren’t any guitar shredding and powerful riffs, it’s Sam showing a beautiful and gentle side of his love of the genre from the realms of Beethoven, Bach, Anon, and Tarrega to name a few.

He started sharing videos nine years ago on YouTube of playing Guitar from the realms of covers and classical interpretations. And it caught the eye of Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big, Racer X) as he brought him to be a guest instructor at the Great Guitar Escape in which Gilbert himself created back in 2012.

It soon got Coulson to fill in the place of Steve Howe after he departed with ASIA as he released Gravitas two years ago on the Frontiers label and I hope he’ll do more with them for years to come. Now onto his debut album. I have to admit, I wasn’t aware of Coulson’s music until I saw his videos and just being blown away of his interpretations and he brought a lot of amazement to me of his videos on his YouTube channel.

With the release of his solo debut, I was impressed that it showed he’s got lot of potential in his virtuosity. Both clean and hard, he nails these pieces of music that proves he isn’t showing off, but nailing it down top to bottom. The tracks clock in between, 2, 3, 4, and 1-minute long and it’s very laid-back, beautiful, uplifting, and very strong in which he brings it to the dining room table.

It is now my fourth time listening to Electric Classical. And even though I was very new to Sam's music, it is a beautiful and short debut album for him and I hope for the second album he continues to do more. Maybe some longer pieces in the future as I hope he will do challenging pieces from Stravinsky, Mussorgsky, and Alban Berg to name a few.
All in all, it’s a welcoming debut for him and along with his work with ASIA. And I imagine Paul Gilbert has done one amazing job and being very proud of giving the shining light for Sam Coulson.

The Winstons - The Winstons

This here for me is one of those unexpected debut albums that had my ears glowing brightly on earphones waiting for something unexpected and out of this world. And that band who carry the essences of Psychedelic Music, Garage Rock, and the Canterbury scene in the history of Progressive Rock is a trio called, The Winstons. They are from Milan, Italy and when I’ve listened to one of their samples and being in awe of the artwork done by Japanese artist Gun Kawamura, I knew I had to buy this album straight away.

And right from the moment I put the CD on, I was sent on a journey that almost made me feel as if they recorded this back in the golden-era of the Progressive Rock scene. They carry the essence of the Syd Barrett-era of Pink Floyd, The Doors, Caravan, Soft Machine, Arzachel, and Jennifer Gentle. The trio considers under the fictional names of Linnon, Rob, and Enro Winston. But they are in real life; Enrico Gabrielli on Keyboards, Alto Sax, Bass Clarinet, and Lead Vocals (Calibro 35, Mariposa, and Der Maurer), Roberto Dell’Era (Afterhours) on Bass Guitar, and Lino Gitto on Drums.

It is this blasting and hypnotic debut in which the trio just goes into town with an Avant-Psych-Prog Canterbury approach that just send shivers and arm hairs going up at the exact momentum. The instrumental Viaggio Nei Suono A Tre Dimensioni is set into hyper-space rock featuring thunderous fuzztone bass lines, VOX organ-lines, and driven tempo drums setting the course into the Milky Way that screams early Floyd and Hawkwind.

She’s My Face does remind me of the late great Ray Manzarek’s keyboard playing in which Enrico does to pay tribute to the legend who brought The Doors sound and resembling the Strange Days-era while Nicotine Freak sees The Winstons paying homage to the Canterbury backing vocal arrangers of The Northettes before delving into a Psychedelic voyage into the Outer Limits that you can imagine this being performed in the swinging ‘60s at the 14-hour Technicolor Dream that would send you on a trip like never before.

The ¾ Jazz-Psych Rock blasts more into the adventures of the trio’s music as they sing in Japan in which Kawamura himself wrote the lyrics for on Diprotodon. As both Gabrielli and Dell’Era share vocals with each other as they channel the early Soft Machine sound and Mike Rateledge’s blaring fuzz Organ that gives it a shrieking and melodic groove before the Saxes come in and then back into the Waltz that you can delve into.

Play with the Rebels channels the ascending momentum of a Beatle-sque ballad as they delve more into the early Pink Floyd again with a crossovers between A Saucerful of Secrets meets the Ummagumma sessions for …On a Dark Cloud. It’s a beautiful homage to Richard Wright and David Gilmour’s playing at the time he joined the band in 1968. There’s this film-score quality that I like about this as if they were doing a score for one of my favorite filmmakers in the surreal world of Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Some will love or hate The Winstons music. For me, I adore it from I put it on my Portable CD player.  This isn’t your typical Prog-Rock band, this is a band and project that I hope the trio will continue to do more in the near future to see what lies ahead in the years to come. AMS Records released their sole self-titled debut this year and I welcome it with open arms.

So if you love the Psychedelic Jazz Rock, Canterbury Prog, and the hidden treasures what they bring to the kitchen table, then be prepare to delve into the music of The Winstons. This is an album that might be played loud and turn it up at the right moment for an amazing psychedelic avant-garde adventure that you will experience.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Magni Animi Viri - Heroes Temporis (World Edition)

Ten years ago Giancarlo Trotta and Luca Contegiacomo have come from backgrounds between Metal and Classical Music from the Southern Italian state, Salerno. They created this project called Magni Animi Viri and released a Classical Metal Opera entitled Heroes Temporis. It received positive critical reception from Italy and abroad the world. Now in 2016, the duo have returned re-release the album again in an English edition with two international stars both in the Symphonic and Progressive Metal community.

Featuring Russell Allen (Symphony X, Adrenaline Mob, Star One), and Amanda Somerville (Trillum, After Forever, Avantasia). And with Clive Riche doing the narration. Alongside the three, there is the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra, John Macaluso on Drums, the late bassist Randy Coven, and guitarist Marco Sgogli (Creation’s End, James LaBrie, Project Damage Control, Jordan Rudess) who takes over the great Franco Mussida of PFM.

With the release of the album, it also features to go into a charitable aim to help donate a ward for dedication to autism children for a clinic in Italy in which to finance an opening of a "game-and-diagnosis" at the MerClin ward in Campagna, province of Salmero. Now onto the story. It's about a Man’s journey towards understanding redemption through the attention that the reality that he’s living in, is nothing more but a dream. And the music itself, being a fan of both Symphonic and bits of Prog Metal thrown in, it is for me, an epic spiritual journey to find out who you really are.

From the moment I put the CD on, I was taken to an open door to a world of peace and hope that all heroes will be joined as one. And the music itself nails it perfectly. I have to admit I got a little teary eyed from the music that Trotta and Contegiacomo brought here in their arranging and composition format of the story and orchestral metal that blend well.

For me, I’ve been a huge Amanda Somerville fan since hearing her work in her orientated project entitled Trillium back in 2012 with the release of Alloy that I bought from The Laser’s Edge website. And I was just completely blown away of her vocal arrangements in the melodic format and for me, she can sing very well.

Both she and Russell handle the duets as if working together as a team. The evidence is there on songs including the Thrash turned ascending Symphonic yet beautiful Thoughts. I love how the guitar goes through these various section between power riffs, leads, and rhythm as drums lend a mid-fast tempo beat before choirs kick in the door open and I get a feeling it will become a fan favorite and yet a sing-along song classic.

The acoustic ¾ waltz time signature to dance to with an emotional strong and powerful lush on Moon Peace while Intus + Until captures your heart with an embracing moment as Somerville’s vocal arrangements that resembles the styles of Within Temptation’s early days from the Mother Earth sessions and not to mention Trillium’s Alloy which I could imagine it could have been used as a bonus track.

Both Temporis and Heroes captures the styles of Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody’s Ascending to Infinity. I love the classical boundaries thrown in between classical guitar, harpsichord, and the Sinfionetta’s by giving Russell’s voice which carries a resemblance to Alessandro Conti. It’s not that he brings passion through his vocals, but at times calmer and ascending positions on his vocals that had my eyebrows go up.

This is my tenth time listening to Heroes Temporis (World Edition). It’s a strong, powerful, and poignant album from start to finish. And I have to give this project a huge amount of credit for helping donating on autism awareness for children and music itself is a healing process. If you love Symphonic, Power, and Progressive Metal from the realms of Within Temptation, Ayreon, Nightwish, Dotma, and of course, Luca Turilli, then delve into Magni Animi Viri’s Heroes Temporis.

Here is the website on what they are doing:

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Mothertongue - Unsongs

Mothertongue are a six-piece band from Manchester that have this strange combination between the genres of Prog, Punk, Ska, Spaghetti Western music, Pop, Indie, and Ska. And with the essences of MoeTar, Cardiacs, Madness, The Blue Ship, Diablo Swing Orchestra, Oingo Boingo, and Mansun to name a few, it’s a twisted, but amazing combination that just the back of my arm hairs go up. This year, they have released their debut album from Bad Elephant Music entitled, Unsongs.

This is a knockout for me the moment I put my headphones and listened to the whole thing from start to finish. There’s a theatrical and art side to Mothertongue’s music whilst adding the sense of humor into their music. I can imagine they were having a blast recording the whole album and knowing something surreal and magical was happening for the sextet. And with seven centerpieces in hand, I know this is a band I will check for years and years to come.

And I hope they will get the Prog-Pop machine rolling in. And for me, they have. Songs like the opener, King of the Tyrant Lizards has a thumping intro featuring a ‘60s rockin’ explosion in the styles of Schizoid Lloyd meets Oingo Boingo, but with a Punk-Mariachi-Ska twist that makes it fun and dramatic melodies flowing in that feels a touch of Dead Man’s Party to get into the dance floor.

A Poem That the Sky Wrote features ascending melodies with punching grooves featuring a Waltz in the beginning along with funk-chugging guitars and vocals reminiscent of Tim Smith while Shango gives a tribute to the late great composer of Elmer Bernstein’s score of The Magnificent Seven between heartbeat percussion’s and horn sections to capture the Western films that makes the song thunderous and very catchy.

Sidescroller has this ‘80s essence of the Video Game scores as if Mothertongue could have done work in the height of the Nintendo-era as if working with Devo for their Oh No! It’s Devo-era on the third installment for the Mega Man series. Meanwhile, Funeral Song for the Icarus Worm features this gentle classical guitar and accordion with a darker-mourning piece before ending in a Vienna style twist as it segues into Blooper’s Theme.

I get a feel of something straight out of MoeTar’s Entropy of the Century with an ascending epic vibe and the vocals hitting those notes very well as lead guitar sections throws in a touch of Queen’s Brian May and having different time signatures into the mix. Nautilus begins with a clean Jazz melody opener before transforming into a different rhythm.

Voices going in various directions a-la Gentle Giant style followed by a dramatic section, more of the thumping rhythms with a galloping momentum and almost having a sing-along anthem with more of the humor thrown in.  And I got to admit, this made my jaw-dropped not just because it’s a great song, but the different time changes in the compositions, makes me want to hear more and more of the band’s music.

I have enjoyed listening to Unsongs about nine times now. And Mothertongue as I’ve mentioned before in my introduction, a band that I will check out for years to come to see what kind of magic tricks they have underneath the Top Hat. Bad Elephant Music have never disappointed me and I hope to hear more of Mothertongue’s music and I recommend exploring their debut album, Unsongs.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Fuchsia - Fuchsia

When the books of Titus Groan and Gormenghast were released in 1946 and 1950 by Mervyn Peake, they were introduced to a character who was the lover of Steerpike, and the daughter and first child of Sepulchrave, 76th Earl of Groan, and his countess, she also was considered a gauche in the movement and in sense, with an ugly of face, but how small twists that her mouth was sullen and rich with her eyes smouldered.

Her name was Fuchsia Groan. That and the name of the six-piece band, which is taken from Peake’s novels, were formed in Exeter University in 1970 by singer-songwriter Tony Durant. Alongside Tony Durant who both plays both Acoustic and Electric Guitar and does lead vocals, they consider; Michael Day on Bass, Michael Gregory on Drums and Percussion, Janet Rogers on Violin and Backing Vocals, Madeleine Bland on Cello, Piano, Harmonium, and Backing Vocals, and Vanessa Hall-Smith on Violin and Backing Vocals.

They released their only sole self-titled debut album originally on the short-lived record label, Pegasus in November of 1971, and it’s for me, in my opinion, one of the most amazing, unsung, obscure, and buried treasure gems of lost albums that is deserving recognition thanks to Gianpaulo Banelli who 13 years ago who reissued it on his label, Night Wings Records back in 2003. Last year, Esoteric Recordings have reissued the album and it is still a powerful cult classic Acid/Prog-Folk album that is up there with Comus, Trees, Spriguns, Mellow Candle, and Spriogyra.

Tony Durant’s vocals resembles Kaleidoscope/Fairfield Parlour’s Peter Daltrey’s arrangements and he nails those changes in the vocals very well. When I heard that Esoteric was going to reissue this, let’s just say that I jump in the swimming pool and reach the lap and bought this from the Kinesis website and I was very impressed from the moment I put the CD on in my Portable CD player.

Songs like the galloping yet thunderous haunting introduction for the Gone with the Mouse. There’s a bit of almost as if Jim Croce had written the continuation of Peake’s stories with a driven beat. I love the eruptive and mellowing rhythm section between guitars and string sections as if they were adding the drama and tension. Lyrics have almost a renaissance-era, but it’s an excellent way to start the album off with a big bang!

The Nothing Song has a sinister ominous crescendo between drum fills, violin, and rhythm guitar introduction as if something terrible had gone wrong, before delving into a militant rhythm section. It’s very catchy at times and almost a split personality in the composition, but it works very well different signature when it transforms into memorable and disturbing at the same time and not to mention a folk-pop tradition in there.

Meanwhile, Another Nail starts off with the first 3-minutes with the music going into a journey into outer space before delving into the Syd Barrett-era of Pink Floyd as they channel the Crazy Diamond’s lyrics that resemble at times Astronomy Domine and almost if championing Barrett himself before going into a shuffling train rockin’ adventure. You could hear the essence of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn thrown in the music and it’s another knockout.

The mourning and resembling childhood years with a touch of Harry Nilsson and early Bowie’s psych-folk touches with the string section will touch your heart on Me and My Kite. This is for me, one of the albums that I will cherish for many, many years. After the album was released, and received a little attention thanks to the advert on Melody Maker, the band broke up and went on to do other projects.

Now, since reforming with a new line-up few years ago, the band’s music is still going strong and with recognitions thanks to the Internet and the word-of-mouth about this album, it is finally getting the light at the end of the tunnel it deserves. It features the lyrics, a 16-page booklet with liner notes done by John O’Regan, including the artwork done by Anne Marie Anderson’s design of Fuchsia Groan’s mystique and allure, makes it beautiful and stirring. All in all, this is again the unsung obscure Acid Folk gem of 1971.

And the band themselves are still continuing to bring more of the psych-acid folk adventures to bring more complete, eccentric ideas for songs in a strange, but beautiful complexes brainstorming ideas on where Tony Durant would come up with next. This is a must have if you love the Acid Folk and Psych-Prog Folk adventures of Comus, Trees, Spirogyra, and Spriguns.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Manna/Mirage - Blue Dogs

Mind you, I’m new to bands who have been around since the ‘70s and one of them was The Muffins. I first became aware of their music when they were mentioned in both of Jose Zegarra Holder and Adele Schmidt’s Romantic Warriors series on Rock In Opposition and the Canterbury scene. The band launched back 43 years ago in Washington D.C. and released four albums before calling it a day in the early ‘80s. They have an influence of; Canterbury Prog, Rock In Opposition, and Jazz.

So it’s a perfect combination to get your socks off and head into the dance floor. The band have moved on to different projects including Muffins own Keyboardist and Saxophonist Dave Newhouse. Taken from their debut album, the Blue Dogs idea was originally going to be the next Muffins album, but due to disagreements and the things that weren’t blending in, Newhouse himself decided to take the project on a separate album.

There are three quarters from the Muffins including Dave himself, Paul Sears on Drums, and Billy Swann on Bass. Also alongside the three members of the Muffins are; George Newhouse (Dave’s son) on Drums, Mark Stanley on Guitar, and Steve Pastena on French Horn. Recorded and mixed by Mike Potter at Orion Studios in Baltimore, in which its been home for the Progressive Rock venues and engineered by Dave himself at Abin Sur Studios in New Market, Maryland, it is a treat of what could have been the next Muffins album. Here is Dave’s treasure that is now a gem fully opened to hear and listen.

Opener, Canterbury Bells starts off with a tribute to the scene that inspired the Muffins music with elements between Hatfield and the North, Caravan, and early Soft Machine. You can hear the fuzz tone organs, woodwind instruments, mid-tempo drum section, and piano going in between lead and rhythm that makes us to go back and time and go through the albums discovering more of the Canterbury-era and why they were ahead of their time.

Duke Street is a tribute to the late great Duke Ellington. Newhouse plays in a mid-tempo style of the 1930s with a swing feel as the piano goes into different areas in the beginning in the left, center, and right in front. It has a catchy rhythm snapping-finger quality to it as you can imagine the Zoot Suit-era’s getting on the dance floor and nailing it down to the beat of the sound. Now Muffin Man Redux I really enjoy.

I love Dave’s homage to the Northettes on the Woodwinds that reminded me of Egg’s The Civil Surface-era before heading into walking extreme double bass lines done by Billy Swann as Mark Stanley does his homage to Zappa on his guitar to capture the virtuosic exhilaration’s of the Grand Wazoo himself. There are unexpected time changes throughout the whole section as if Egg had teamed up with Charles Mingus and it’s a real kicker.

The haunting Blind Eye goes into the haunting Avant-Rock and Zeuhl territory that sends shivers down the spine. There’s a bit of Rock In Opposition movement thrown in between Magma, Manfred Mann Chapter Three, King Crimson, Art Zoyd, and Univers Zero. It sends shivers down the spine between the shrieking horn solo that Newhouse channels David Jackson of Van Der Graaf Generator for a couple of seconds while the 1950s and early ‘60s walk into the streets of Paris at midnight makes it a chilling and moving walk into the beauty of France to be Lost in a Photograph.

Newhouse goes into the pictures of Dexter Gordon and John Coltrane as he plays the sax as if he is walking and entering in the Eiffel tower to hit those notes as the band follows him up into the top of the city to give a beautiful good night’s rest that makes it a beautiful composition. Then back into Swing town with Shwang Time.

It’s time travelling back into the sounds of Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and Gene Krupa. And man, this is another favorite of mine. I love where Newhouse and the team get more down to business and the Swinging Jazz sounds between the 1930s and ‘40s, it has some catchy grooves and hitting those dance floors again.

I always wonder this composition could have been used for one of either the Betty Boop cartoons, Ren and Stimpy, or the Robert Clampett-era’s of the Warner Brothers cartoons with this track and it works well. Not to mention Steve Pastena’s chance to shine on the French Horn. Finale of the Rovian Cue, it has a glowing and shining element between the Piano and Horn Section followed by the Flute section and relaxes to close the curtain down.

This is now my fourth time listening to Blue Dogs. And with an incredible artwork done by Gonzalo Fuentes, this is more of the Jazz I’ve been waiting for a long, long time now. I might delve into The Muffins catalog sometime either this year or next year. 

But for now, Dave Newhouse and his team have done an incredible job of bringing more of the today’s Jazz into the light at the end of the tunnel. I hope they will do more for the next years to come. If you love Prog, Jazz, Avant-Rock, and ‘40s Swing Music, then delve into Manna/Mirage’s Blue Dogs.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Beledo - Dreamland Mechanism

Ella Fitzgerald said that “Music is the universal language. It brings us closer together.” That’s what music great. It can be your best friend, your companion, and to play it. That and Beledo’s debut from MoonJune Records entitled, Dreamland Mechanism which is released this year. The album is a star-studded album that features people like Dewa Budjana, Gary Husband (Soft Machine Legacy, Quincy Jones, Gary Moore), Lincoln Goines (Dizzy Gillespie, The Avengers, Sonny Rollins, and Elaine Elias), and Rudy Zulkarnaen to name a few.

Beledo himself is a multi-instrumentalist who doesn’t just plays guitar, but plays; piano, keyboards, violin, and accordion. The album itself is a combination between World Music, Prog, Flamenco, and Jazz Fusion. So prepare yourself for a journey from the man himself as he takes you into different worlds that again makes Music, a universal language.

Pieces like Marilyn’s Escapade which is dedicated to his late friend, Marilyn Rubine, who passed away a few years ago. It showcases Beledo’s inspirations of his own Piano Concerto between the styles of Vince Guaraldi, George Gershwin, and Keith Emerson. It is a smooth, melodic, and voyage journey featuring a beautiful finale between the Accordion and the Violin. Then there’s Lucila. With a composition between the musical sounds of both Indonesia and Flamenco genre. It’s a strange twist, but it works generally well with an electrical voltage.

Beledo transforms himself into Ottmar Liebert and his classical guitar carries the Tango and eclectic dances as both Cucu Kurnia and Endang Ramdan who both play the Sundanese Kendang Percussion on the track, you could imagine the joy recording the track as Beledo is smiling and having a great time working with the two together as if they were making magic.

Then on the other three tracks, the trio between him, bassist Lincoln Goines, and drummer Gary Husband is almost as if they had done a session in a smaller studio between all three. On Big Brother Calling they do this reminiscent of Stanley Clarke’s School Days-era meets Rush’s Moving Pictures-era as there if is a Alex Lifeson channeling momentum as if it sounds like a mid-tempo version of YYZ.

However on Sudden Voyage, Beledo brings the techniques to an exquisite adventure with his guitar solo while Mercury in Retrograde is a revolutionary composition as he captures the vision of the 22nd century. But the real kick is Budjanaji. Here, Beledo and Dewa create more magic in a gentle relax atmospheric composition. And the two of them work well as a team and they blend creating mysterious conceptual improvisations as partners.

MoonJune Records again, never disappoints me. Beledo’s Dreamland Mechanism is a superlative feature. I can’t wait to hear more of what Beledo will do next of his virtuosity and powerful imagination that is brilliant and spectacular. So be prepare to enjoy the sounds of World Music, Jazz Fusion, and Progressive Rock and exploring the musical language adventure of Dreamland Mechanism.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Matthew Parmenter - All Our Yesterdays

By now you’re probably aware of my support of Prog Rock Deep Cuts with Ian Beabout which airs every Sunday evening at 6:00pm (5:00pm CST) on the House of Prog website. Back a few years ago, I was completely blown away by a band called Discipline on his radio show. It was almost like an American version of Van Der Graaf Generator and I went ahead and bought both To Shatter All Accord and Unfolded Like Staircase with my Birthday/Hanukkah money. And I fell in love with them and I hope to get a few more.

Matthew Parmenter is for me, one of the most mind-blowing, theatrical, and hypnotic artists who holds the train rolling for Discipline. He is also a solo artist in which he released two solo albums on the Strung Out Record label. This year, the record label, Bad Elephant Music, home to bands like Trojan Horse, The Fierce and the Dead, Shineback, Tom Slatter, and Keyboardist/Guitarist Emmett Elvin (Knifeworld, Chrome Hoof, Guapo), signed Matthew to the label and it’s a perfect combination to be a part of the Bad Elephant family. 

His third album entitled, All Our Yesterdays is named after the fifth Act in William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth. It is a stunning and heartfelt album in which Matthew plays all the instruments and he brought Discipline drummer Paul Dzendel on four tracks. Rush and Klaatu’s producer, Terry Brown, also mixes the album. And once you add him to the mix, you know something interesting is about to happen, but it is for me, a perfect collaboration.

Matthew is like a brilliant actor who nails it down the line and almost doing a one-man rock opera of an insane king who’s gone into an asylum and is telling the audience what has happened to him and why he’s lost and can’t find anyone to help him out. It’s almost like the tragic hero who locked in eternity forever that is emotional and stirring.

Stuff in the Bag is a very catchy melody. It’s upbeat tempo with piano hooks, and lyrical touches to the great Randy Newman, it’s paying nod to the legend with an ‘80s vibe as if he wrote one of his songs for a John Hughes film of the Brat Pack-era.  The spooky intro Scheherazade, starts with ghostly vocalizations that just send chills on my arm hair going up at the right exact moment.

It tells the story about The cuckold king and him eyeing it’s prey like a madman and seeing what she’ll do next for the King’s diversion while Danse du Ventre has these Robert Fripp-sque guitar melodies that could have been used in Goblin’s Suspiria with haunting piano and percussion instrumental background realization for a gothic-prog like touch.

Both All for Nothing and the title-track, including the one having the essence of Camille Saint-Saens homage of the Danse Macabre as if Jack Skellington was singing the continuation of Peter Hammill’s A Louse is not a Home as the other piece, feels almost like a operatic rock take of the 1973 horror classic, The Exorcist as if the two priests are in disbelief on what has happened to the little girl and what to do now. The closer, Hey at the Dance is almost the last rite to give one final dance and who we are and what we will do before ending in a shuffling blues rock finale.

This is my fourth and fifth time listening to All Our Yesterdays. Matthew Parmenter shows no sign of stopping. And I hope he does more with his solo work and with Discipline. I’ve mentioned a few years ago he’s the combination of Peter Hammill and Alice Cooper. And thrown in the essence of the late great David Bowie, he has a lot of charisma in his body and soul. It may not be your cup of coffee, but his third album is a cornerstone that is dark, beauty, gothic, fun, and sadness.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Sanguine Hum - What We Ask Is Where We Begin: The Songs For Days Sessions

Since I’ve started this blog back eight years ago while I was still in College working on my degree in Jazz Studies whilst champion the old and new Progressive Rock bands and artists, I’ve always knew that my ear was waiting for something special to happen. That and the music of Sanguine Hum. Since hearing their debut album, Diving Bell released six years ago, I’ve always wanted to hear what they have in store for me.

They have released so far three albums including a live performance they did at the Majestic Theater in Gettysburg at Rosfest (Rite of Spring Festival) back in May of 2012, it’s almost like unexpected surprises they have in store whenever they release something spectacular for me in my opinion. This year, they released their lost album on the Esoteric Antenna on a 2-CD set entitled, What We Ask Is Where We Begin: The Songs for Days Sessions.

They released the Songs for Days album under the name, Joff Winks Band ten years ago. And you can imagine the band hated that name including Joff himself! What happened was when the album was released, it never got any fanfare without any light at the end of the tunnel until back in the summer of 2007 when it was released as a download and then disappeared. What it is, it is Sanguine Hum’s lost debut album, and it is a real treat.

Among supporters in the liner notes including Ian Fairholm who runs Eppyfest and runs his own podcast series entitled the Eppy Gibson podcast and snooker legend Steve Davis who runs with Kavus Torabi (Knifeworld, Cardiacs, and Guapo) of The Interesting Alternative Show on Phoenix FM in the UK, it’s an ear-listening and eye-opening experience of the unreleased gem that is finally getting the recognition and fanfare it deserves years ago. And the moment I put the CDs on, it was almost as if I was walking on water like Peter Sellers character, Chance in the 1979 film classic, Being There.  

I was very proud and excited when this album came out on the Esoteric Antenna label. And there are a few highlights on the 2-CD set that made me want to keep playing this album forever and ever. Before We Bow Down deals with about growing up and being mature to trust on your own. Drummer Paul Mallyon does clicking intro on the percussion before doing an arpeggiated section with the hi-hats as Baber and Waissman creates these moody improve to help out on the Electric Piano and Bass lines.

And with the line “What We Ask Is Where We Begin.” It’s a reminder where do we go from here and how we have to confidence and taking responsibility. The homage to the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Inner Mounting Flame-era gets a real kicking eruptive yet melodic rocking experience changing the story of the boy’s life on there must be something else to delve into real good music in the record shop for Milo. The disturbing alternative-rock acoustic train ride of a boy and behaving like a terrorist, gives it a chilling scenario for the Ace Train.

The inspiration between the Ziggy Stardust-era of David Bowie and Dark Side of the Moon-era of Pink Floyd, blend in very well together with a Prog-Glam-pop ascending new mixing of the bonus track of New Streets while the spacey synths, organ, and acoustic guitar set a voyage for the Apple Pie. Then, they take a Metal approach inspired by the sounds of Porcupine Tree which is unexpected, but eye-browing lift up moment for me of Double with a Gentle Giant and Yes approach into the blender for another spacey voyage.

But I love their take of Steely Dan’s Here at the Western World which was one of their lost tracks that appeared on some of the compilations. Sanguine Hum stay true to Fagen and Becker’s vision and it’s a beautiful cover that would have make them appreciate the unreleased track and give a stamp of approval with the Jazz Rock ballad and nailing right to the core of the duo.

Esoteric have again more home runs for me and the lost album of Sanguine Hum’s Songs for Days is a buried treasure that is releasing its light at the end of the tunnel momentum. The 2-CD set which features a 20-page booklet which talks about the songs, pictures of the sessions, and a history of the album itself. If you love the band’s music, I would highly recommend What We Ask Is Where We Begin.