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Monday, October 31, 2016

Nicolas Meier - Infinity

Since my introduction to the world of guitarist Nicolas Meier came to me last year with his collaboration with Pete Oxley on Chasing Tales, I always was fascinated by the teamwork that they did with the classical and flamenco influences that struck me of their virtuosity. Nicolas has been a busy man with The Jeff Beck Group and Dwiki Dharmawan to name a few. This year he’s released his new album entitled, Infinity on Steve Vai’s label Favored Nations Entertainment.

The origins of the album came when he was on tour with Jeff Beck ten years ago when wrote a composition entitled, Yemin which means “Pledge”. He wanted that Turkish vibe with a dosage of Fusion into the style. And with help from Drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and Bassist Jimmy Haslip, and guests including Violinists Richard Jones, Sally Jo, and Lizzie Ball, and Gregor Carle on Guitar, you can expect something special is about to happen.

For Meier, to be on Steve Vai’s label, it’s for me like winning a scholarship. And with six centerpieces on here, you can imagine yourself being in the studio with Meier and his crew, work as a team. JB Top is dedicated to Billy Gibbons. It’s done in the style of the early ZZ Top sound while Nicolas was on tour with them in Texas and it has this Hard Rock approach thanks to Gregor Carle’s heavier sound.

Rose on Water is Lizzie Ball’s Bach influence in the style of the sections from Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major. With these haunting beautiful melodies between Lizzie and Nicolas, you can imagine the two of them performing this at Carnegie Hall to a stunned and well-approved audience while Kismet takes you into these Greek melodies from the Mediterranean Sea.

With great tightness between him and Richard Jones’ playing, Vinnie’s drums in the midsection, sound almost like a clapping beat which is on the snare drums and following the speeding train section of Nicolas intense guitar run through the frets as if he’s Jackson Pollock painting like there’s no tomorrow. The gentle stream through the lakes on Riverside, sees Meier at the narrow sections through the rhythms and leading moments in the classical textures on the strings.

As for Legend, it’s his nod to Jeff Beck. It shows his admiration and accomplishments that he’s done while being on the road with him. And then there’s Tales. It starts and ends with a Flamenco-Folky Jazz atmosphere as Meier delves into the dance sections on his guitars. He is walking us through the various landscapes of the different paintings of an art museum as if they were moving forward quickly from one area to another.

I can imagine the influences of Jimmy Page, Robby Kreiger and Ottmar Liebert throughout the entire composition that he does to pay nod to. I had an amazing time listening to this album whilst I was going for my morning walks yesterday. It’s another accomplishment from the mind of Nicolas Meier. And I hope to hear more from him to see what he will think of next on another brainstorming ideas he will come up with.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Steve Hackett - Spectral Mornings (Deluxe Edition)

When Steve Hackett left Genesis in the summer of 1977 after an amazing three-night performance they did at Earls Court Arena at the time they were promoting their eighth album, Wind and Wuthering he knew he wanted to move on and see what he will do next as a solo artist. He always wanted to push forward with the release of his debut album, Voyage of the Acolyte released in 1975.

His next album in which was his third after the release of Please Don’t Touch was Spectral Mornings. It’s considered one of his best albums that he released in the late ‘70s. The album was recorded in the winter of discontent in the Netherlands in a studio called Phonogram Studios. He and his band mates worked day and night recording the album and you can imagine the intensity making this whilst not getting much sleep.

Even though the work was hard and difficult, Steve knew something special had happened with Spectral Mornings. Originally released on the Charisma label and reissued in a 2-CD/DVD release that features the new stereo mix done by Steven Wilson that gives it a clearer sound from the original mix, it was part of the 10-CD/4-DVD release of his years with the Charisma label from 1975 to 1983 entitled Premonitions released last year, it shows not just his playing, but it was the way that he knew where he wanted to go.

You can the sense of humor with the dosage of the Music Hall with a bluesy harmonica roar done by Hackett himself along with vocals and walking into the streets of Brazil with a bossa-nova and having a blast on his comedic timing throughout The Ballad of the Decomposing Man. Taking inspiration from the memoirs of Lord Dowding who was the commander in chief of the battle of Britain, goes into deep dark territories as Hackett channels his inner Crimson ideas as Nick Magnus uses the synths for the war background noises and turned into a mini-operatic feel about one day returning after the war is over one day with Tigermoth.

Not only it’s a progressive album, but it shows Steve’s opening to the doors of world music. On The Virgin and the Gypsy, it’s not only a beautiful track with folky melodies, but walking through the Asian landscape and you can close your eyes and visiting the country and witnessing historical landscapes thanks to his brother using the Chinese bamboo models of the Flute. Steve would use the Koto and with help from Nick of the Novotron bring an ambient atmosphere on The Red Flower of Tachai Blooms Everywhere.

The ticking sounds from Hackett’s guitar and Nick’s keyboards as John Shearer’s drums comes bursting through where Genesis could have gone, is a walk through this clockwork-like mansion with a puzzling tunnel by knowing where the right location is to be free from this maze on Clocks – The Angel of Mons. The three bonus tracks on CD 1 contains single versions of Every Day which to me is Steve’s homage to Kansas, Clocks – The Angel of Mons, and The Caretaker was a humoristic joke from the mind of Peter Hicks.

In the bonus track, he is complaining along with some nasty coughs in the way, the loud noise and the mess that the band did while working on the album. It’s funny and again Steve has an amazing sense of humor when it comes to music. The 2-CD/DVD set contains a foreword note by Steve himself along with an interview with him about the making of the album from the 20-page booklet by Mark Powell. It contains photos of him, single releases, and in the package, promo tours, and posters for his tour promoting his third album.

If you love the original 5-piece era of Genesis, then this is something that needs to be in your shelf, big time of where the band could have gone to before going ‘80s pop. Spectral Mornings is for me in my opinion one of my favorite albums from Hackett himself and it’s a crowning gem.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Syd Arthur - Apricity

From the moment you hear the mid-tempo running sound of the drums, synths, and the vocals of “Nowhere to run/the world will find you/six degrees of separation from you/I’m not moving until the sun shines on me.” You get the feeling that someone is watching you and you are on the run from the wolves of prey and hiding from them until the sun is up to make sure that the coast is clear on the title track. It’s quite interesting and a new direction from the realm of Canterbury’s own Syd Arthur.

This is their fourth release on the Harvest Records label and while it is a diverse album, they still carry the progressive touch throughout their music. I’ve been a big champion of Syd Arthur’s music since 2012 when I read about them in an issue of Prog Magazine and bought their second album, On and On. And the rest is history. They have supported acts including Paul Weller of The Jam, Sean Lennon’s band The Ghost of a Sabre Tooth Tiger, and Yes.

They have been very busy lately during those few years to be the headlining act with such amazing bands/artists for those three including performing at SXSW (South By Southwest) and Coachella. You can’t deny these guys. There is absolutely no way in hell you can’t deny them. They are damn good. When I listened to their new album entitled, Apricity, I was nearly in tears from the moment I put the CD on.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, it’s a diverse album and while they want to keep the Progressive and Psychedelic touch, it has an early 1980s vibe to their music and I absolutely love what I’m hearing. There’s also a different line-up in the band. Fred Rother left the band as the Magill’s brother, Josh takes over Fred’s duty on the drums. Syd Arthur for me, is not just a band, it’s more like a family unit that keeps the wheels going for the end of time.

Coal Mine starts with a fade-in awakening between keyboards and epic guitars. Enter in the acoustic/electric melodies and deep into the jazz-like rhythm with a dancing groove along with the violin. It’s a futuristic kicker and with melodic guitar lines/rhodes, you are the bird flying away into the sea and bringing some kind of treasure and knowing that what the world has become, is not what you think.

Plane Crash in Kansas is back into the mind of their second album. It feels as if it’s a continuation of First Difference. With some ‘60s organ, guitars, and incredible drum work by Josh as the rising beats get into some touches like something straight out of the John Hughes films in the 1980s from The Breakfast Club with No Peace. The afterlife can be an emotional turn as it tugs your heart with another rising rhythm from the drums, guitars, vocals, and synths as lyrical touches hit you inside to space and the sacrifices we make.

I’ll meet you on the other side/said it’s gonna be alright/brother don’t you cry said it’s gonna be right/I’ll meet you on the other side said it’s gonna be alright/there is a trap door to my heart.” You can’t write amazing lyrics like that with a journey into the afterlife of outer space for the Sun Rays. The ominous yet eerie ambient noise grows into an alarming yet mourning tone as you head Into Eternity.

Keyboards and Guitar handle the melodic warmth as your life is looking forward as you are on the top of the mountain to see the sun in all of it’s glory and knowing the next chapter is ready for you. The music nails it down to know your future is ready for you looking out. Rebel Lands is another mid-tempo beat. Swarming guitar introduction and drums set to the tempo of another dystopian atmosphere of a young man who’s from a troubled time and witnessing what is happening right now in his country.

He wants to get away from it and start a new life by travelling and focusing on not making this mistake and knowing it’s going to be okay. Syd Arthur takes you into the militant drums, oceanic waltzes, and taking you into the distant places thanks to the acoustical folk-like rhythm before kicking into a driving beat for the Seraphim. It’s very classical thanks to the string-like keyboards setting this aqua adventure.

The thumping beats keep on growing and growing. Here on the instrumental, Portal, the synths reminisce at times of Devo’s late ‘70s/early ‘80s style of the Post-Rock and Psych approach to take you on another journey to where you never seen before in your lifetime while Evolution draws into a heartbeat bass drum effect and echoing reverb effects of the vocals. With eerie hopes for love and sorrow, it still grabs more and more for swirling guitars to come flying in.

Dark, somber, art, and psych, Syd Arthur show there is no sign of stopping and the sound is essential and emotional. This here is another follow-up that needs some more recognition and deserves my stamp of approval that they have come a long, long way. Get ready for another journey with the band and hold on tight for Apricity.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Opeth - Sorceress

This is Opeth’s 12th studio album released this year entitled, Sorceress. It’s been many years since Opeth released their 2003 album Damnation and it was a radical departure from their Death Metal roots and moving forwards into the Progressive territory. Some people may not be happy with the moving away from their early days and into that sound. And it’s become a dividing line in the sand whether to accept their Death Metal or Progressive Rock sound.

Now for me, I love both of them (Death Metal and Progressive sounds). And Mikael Akerfeldt is moving forwards and he is not going back and not everyone has to like it and everybody has an entitled to their opinion. He is also a very busy man alongside with Opeth by working with Steven Wilson on the project they did with Storm Corrosion and working with Steve Hackett on Genesis Revisited II. With the release of their new album, it’s diverse and it flows very well.

It is folky, proggy, and metallic. It is all connected like a giant smoothie. You have Will O The Wisp which is a moving 3/4 time signature waltz in a beautiful yet dark sounding in the style of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s of Jethro Tull’s Folk-Rock era while Sorceress 2 features gentle acoustic melodies with a prog-folk background featuring the mellotron. Mikael’s vocals are double-tracked through a leslie speaker in the styles of Black Sabbath’s Planet Caravan.

Chrysalis is heavy rock at its finest. I love how the duel between Fredrik’s guitar nad Joakim’s blaring organ followed by Mikael’s riffs are just like a match between who will in the race in the styles of a Deep Purple groove of the MKII-era while Era is a fast driven styles of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) with fast rumbling guitars and galloping drums delving into the night sky.

Strange Brew features solos between Mikael and Fredrik. It features an ominous opening with double-tracking vocals followed by an insane midsection as Opeth go into Interstellar Overdrive. Meaning Fusion meets Rock Progressivo Italiano (RPI) before ending in crying battle of the guitars. Taking inspiration of Family’s second album, Entertainment, The Seventh Sojourn which sounds very much like an Ingmar Bergman film, features middle-eastern rhythm and lead acoustic guitars.

And a string section also as you as a listener can imagine yourself walking through the Isles of the Egyptian Deserts and seeing the pyramids before ending into a Floyd-sque finale of the styles from The Narrow Way from the Ummagumma album. The Wilde Flowers is an homage to the archetype of the Canterbury scene of a group between Caravan and the Soft Machine. But this track isn’t Canterbury related.

More of spirited and vital approach of a harder rock sound turned into the finale twists of Radiohead’s OK Computer-era as the opening track gives Opeth an homage to Ennio Morricone in the styles of the spaghetti western scores of the late ‘60s vibe as if it’s a continuation of the final chapter of The Man with No Name who is now gravely old, is returning for one last battle on Persephone.

I also enjoyed how on the title track there’s this fuzztone sound probably either on the guitar and the organ. It’s this sonic harsh tone from the fuzzing pedal box and not just with the heavy riffs that goes with it, but the textures in the styles of Mike Ratledge as A Fleeting Glance features the harpsichord with whispering vocals along with a structure of the early Floyd and Medieval-Psych rock for the first few minutes.

Opeth know their influences very well. The closing track, Persephone (Slight Return) is a nod to Jimi Hendrix but it shows that the sorceress has calmed down as the haunting piano fades into the darkness. I enjoyed this album very much and while I’m not a big Opeth fan, this is another crowning achievement for them and it’s not just Mikael’s band, they work together as a team.

The Far Meadow - Given The Impossible

The Bad Elephant Music label has now been one of my favorites this year. With not just The Fierce and the Dead, Trojan Horse, The Rube Goldberg Machine, Matthew Parmenter, and Mike Kershaw to name a few. It’s always looking through to see what the label would cook up something special in their experiments of interesting releases. One of them has landed on my lap is a five-piece symphonic progressive rock band from London called The Far Meadow.

They have released their second album this year entitled, Given the Impossible and with a different line-up change it considers; Marguerita Aleandrou on Lead Vocals, Paul Bringloe on Drums, Keith Buckman on Bass, Eliot Minn, and Denis Warren on Guitar. I can hear influences between Magenta, Yes, Cardiacs, Moulettes, MoeTar, U.K., and Frank Zappa.

The music is comprehensive, wacky, and vivid. For me, Marguerita is very much like a new Captain of the ship as she takes the listener on The Far Meadow’s ship to explore other worlds. Prove It Then opens the album with a gentle walking acoustic folky melody. The lyrics are very Randy Newman-sque before resonating with the drums and guitars before seguing into Hang On.

It makes you feel that you are embarking for lift-off with melodic and weird rhythmic beats thanks to the odd time signatures they would do as Marg and Eliot share a vocal in one of the sections of the compositions. It has a Knifeworld direction. Eliot’s vocals comes to mind at times of Kavus Torabi in that little moment. Then the Industry knocks the door down with a hardcore punch.

It feels like The Far Meadow recorded this composition in Pee-Wee’s Playhouse or on a flying ship with a Danny Elfman approach a-la Zappa and Cardiacs with the Moulettes thrown into place. Keith’s Bass is the engine and the engine sounds like going through a clockwork museum as Marg’s voice resembles Christina Booth (Magenta) and Moorea Dickason (MoeTar). The Piano concertos to Yes-like synths it’s one of those moments that you makes you want more.

I also love in the song Dinosaurs where in the midsection of the piece Warren is honoring the styles of Robert Fripp thanks to Eliot’s swirling synths and channeling the twists and turns of the eras of King Crimson’s Red and THRAK while A Gentle Warrior is dealing the story about the Bombe machines of the Wrens (WRNS) at Bletchley Park. It was a electromechanical device that was ahead of its time, that was used during the First Battle of the Atlantic with decoding Naval Enigma messages by helping with allied forces against U-boats.

The music itself tells the story about what was going on as keyboards at times bring to mind a Pan Flute a-la Gheorghe Zamfir. The 15-minute epic, Himalaya Flashmob is a conceptual piece about an adventurer who challenges herself to climb a peak up in the mountains of the Himalayas. But the challenges she goes through are difficult with a limited low on oxygen and deteriorating rapidly in the worst conditions. But she’s not alone.

I love how there are Yes-like boundaries in there but the mysterious midsection, in the ambient scenario, we have moving piano improvisation from Eliot as Eric goes into survival mode on his guitar with a Gilmour-sque vibe in the essence of Pink Floyd in their later years. The band give Eliot a chance to go into some soft, warm, jazz improve of a ballad with a tribute to the late great Keith Emerson as Buckman’s Bass is waiting for the moon to rise on Letterboxing.

The Seamless Shirt is the finale on the album. Not only it pays homage to Simon and Garfunkel’s Scarborough Fair for a few minutes, but the beats are driven and armed to go for one more drive to see where The Far Meadow will had into next. Given the Impossible might be worth you alley that you might want to take note to see where they have come a long way and this is an album that not just took me by surprise but it almost made me want to go again, again, and again.

All in all, an album that is worth checking out and highly a must listen to album if you love not just the wacky side to The Far Meadow's music, but a symphonic and driven beat.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Dewa Budjana - Zentuary

It’s always neat when a package from MoonJune Records is in the mail for me. I know my ear is always ringing for something exciting. One of those artists I’ve always championed is Dewa Budjana. With five albums now in the can, he never disappoints me with his virtuosic guitar playing. This year, he’s released his sixth album entitled, Zentuary. Released on Steve Vai’s label, Founded Nations Entertainment and produced by Dewa himself along with his company Museum Gitarku and MoonJune Asia, it’s a perfect combination to be on Vai’s label.

Dewa brought some helping hands including Bassist/Chapman Stick Tony Levin; Keyboardist, Pianist, and drummer Gary Husband, and Drummer/Pianist Jack DeJohnette. But there’s more. It’s not just a 2-CD set release, he has Danny Markovich (Marbin), Guthrie Govan (The Aristocrats, Steven Wilson), Risa Saraswati, and the Czech Symphony Orchestra to name a few. Dewa is lending a helping hand to show support and believe me, they got his back, big time.

The term, Zentuary came from combining the words “Zen” and “Sanctuary”. It’s a lifelong journey that Dewa has embarked on through his musical path. He’s come a long, long, long way from where he is. It’s an emotional adventure between the happiness, sadness, and rising up to the difficult challenges he’s come through. Listening to this album, you can just see that he’s been there from day one and as I’ve always say, there is no stop sign for Dewa Budjana.

I picked a few highlights on the album that I picked that showed Dewa is not doing this for himself, but he wants to give the artists creative freedom and do whatever they want throughout their improvisations. Rerengat Langit (Crack in the Sky) which is Dewa’s take of Stick Men’s composition based on poems by Tony Levin, sees Risa Saraswati going through spoken dialog in the styles of Jane Birkin.

The music itself it has a late ‘60s/early ‘70s touch with a Serge Gainsbourg feel in the vibes of Histoire De Melody Nelson. Uncle Jack gives DeJohnette, an intense acoustic piano work that you could have jaws-dropped at the right moment while Dear Yulman shows Dewa paying tribute to not just John McLaughlin, but paying tribute to the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

The melodies and sitar arrangements are realistic followed by the synth-spacey atmospheres contacting home from the outer limits in the styles of the Dance of the Maya. Danny Markovitch does a guest appearance on one of the tracks which is Ujung Galuh. His curved soprano sax is in full front as he takes the listener followed by Dewa, into a trip into the islands and filled with love as the immense and deep evocative composition of Suniakala featuring the Czech Symphony Orchestra and Guthrie Govan to the front, an awe-inspiring moment.

Guthrie is not showing off, he is taking you by the hand through his fret improvisational solos and going through each of the several doors he opens to the listener and finally seeing a giant light that is glowing brightly before an acoustic finale done by Dewa himself. Manhattan Temple is a trip down back to the Big Apple featuring Tim Garland’s sax journey through the streets of New York followed by the fast-revolving moog synth by Gary Husband. And near the end of the last few minutes of the composition, Budjana and Levin fade off into the nighttime sky between guitar and upright bass near the end of the composition.

Zentuary is a memorial, spiritual, and honorable release from Dewa Budjana. He’s never let me down through his guitar playing. He is still going on and I hope he continues to do more for the years and years to come. My top 30 albums of 2016 is really going to have some competition this mid-December and he’s definitely going to be on the list. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Anchoress - Confessions of a Romance Novelist

This is for me one of the most promising multi-instrumentalist and vocalist where the combinations between Art Rock, Indie Pop, and Alternative Rock are in one. Here name is Catherine Anne Davies, simply known as The Anchoress. Her debut album entitled, Confessions of a Romance Novelist released back in January of this year on the Kscope label, is one of my favorite albums this year. With help from co-producer Paul Draper of Mansun, it delivers, it catches, and it reaches, and touches you.

With receiving word of mouth from MOJO, Prog Magazine, The Quietus, and NPR, followed by winning this year’s Limelight award for the Progressive Music awards, she is definitely getting a lot of recognition and in my opinion, she is talented, emotional, and touching. I knew right from the beginning hearing some of the sample tracks including watching a music video with her duet with Paul Draper on the ‘80s ominous synth-art rocking delivery of You and Only You on (no pun-intended) YouTube, I knew I had to buy this album.

And I did. It’s these stories that are song written and it’s all in Catherine’s brain and she’s good at brainstorming through her lyrical boundaries. The homage to the Funk-Rock groove styles of early Stevie Wonder from the golden-era of the 1970s a-la Motown style with a team up between him and Jeff Lynne to create a soulful pop ascending deal with the occupation on not making it towards the big time with the Chip On Your Shoulder.

The up-tempo beats on dealing with while being stabbed in the back, revenge can come at you with a heavy price as a dish served cold thanks to some amazing catchy melodies that Catherine does on What Goes Around and the psychedelic wonders of reminiscing of the Beatles thrown in of the damage they caused towards of an abusive relationship with Doesn’t Kill You. The Anchoress digs deeper into risky and heavy subjects in her lyrics and she nails it.

On the Tim Burton-sque lullaby turned ‘60s punching percussion rhythm, punching guitar rhythms, organ, clapping sections, and vocalizations deals that once you get married, you find out that you are living in one big gigantic lie that you’ve been fooled the entire time with One For Sorrow and leaving the loved one who finds out is nothing but letting their loved ones down with intensity on P.S. Fuck You.

Again, Catherine digs, digs, and digs deeper into the roots of these situations. She can hit those notes in her voice that is right in front of your face including the last moment of life as to say farewell to your only child who sang to you and knowing there’s no turning back of the struggle of moving on and ominous chord progressions on the piano for Bury Me.

All in all, Confessions of a Romance Novelist is one of the most powerful, emotional and heartbreaking albums I’ve listened to. I can quite imagine this as a film score that Catherine wrote along with Paul Draper to witness what is happening behind the novelist eyes on what she sees. I can’t wait to hear and see what Catherine Anne Davies will think of next.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans (Definitive Edition)

It’s one of those challenging albums that grows on you. It’s up there with Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica, Electric Light Orchestra’s Out of the Blue, Magma’s Mekanik Destruktiw Kommadoh, and Jethro Tull’s controversial magnum opus, A Passion Play. Yes’ sixth controversial album released both in the UK and in the States between 1973 and 1974, has divided lines in the sand between fans whether they will appreciate it or not. It also marked the beginning of the end of the Progressive Rock genre.

When this album was released during that time period, it was savaged by some of the critics, but it went gold in the UK selling 5 million copies that skyrocketed in the charts at number 1 and at number 6 in the Billboard charts. But this was also the album that Rick Wakeman would later leave in disgust during one show he would eat some curry in Manchester during the promotion of the album and would later would release his classic live album recorded at the Royal Festival Hall, Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

But let’s get to Tales From Topographic Oceans. For me, it took me a few listens to adore this album. When I first heard this when I was in College, I didn’t like it. I thought Yes had crashed their boat with these insane ideas of making these songs 20 and 18-minutes long in four tracks. I thought they had run out of steam. But then, I listened to it again and again. It’s one of those albums as I’ve mentioned, that grows on you.

Sure it’s pretentious, it’s self-indulgence, it dinosaur music, but I love each and every bit of this. This year, the 3-CD/Blu-Ray set of the Definitive Edition shows that it is finally getting the recognition it deserves thanks to Steven Wilson’s new stereo and 5.1 mixes of this album. This was three years in the making for Wilson to do thanks to his amazing mixes he’s done with Jethro Tull, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, XTC, and Steve Hackett to name a few.

It’s a big challenge for him to do this ambitious project to clean it and make it clearer to make the instruments come in front. You have the original flat transfers, the UK and US needle drop vinyl transfers, instrumental mixes, single edits, studio run-through’s, and a rare live recording of a performance in Zurich, Switzerland in 1974. Wilson himself has done another spectacular job of giving Tales another chance.

Taking the inspirations of Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, thanks to a conversation Jon Anderson and King Crimson’s Jamie Muir were having during Bill Bruford’s wedding. The book tells the story of a spiritual journey with different levels and divisions between the Hindu scriptures. The music tells the story of going a magic carpet ride between these worlds that you’ve never seen before thanks to the amazing artwork done by Roger Dean.

I love how the intensity throughout the section where it becomes this weird-out improvisation between Chris Squire’s wah-wah Bass, Howe’s guitar, and Wakeman going into a frenzy on the Moog before relaxing into the atmospheric voyage on his Mellotron on The Ancient Giants Under the Sun. With mixtures of classical between Sir Edward Elgar as to prepare for the next adventure and stop-and-go moments, you can close your eyes and the thunderous moments that hits like at you with voltage coming at you out of the blue.

Alan White who took over Bill Bruford after his departure to join up with King Crimson during the Close to the Edge tour in 1972 on drums, is still killing it on the kit and he’s not trying to be Bruford, but he knows where the band wants to go into next during those moments in the compositions. It’s evidential on Ritual Nous Sommes Du Soleil.

Anderson’s scatting, followed by the speed-driving rhythm between Squire, Howe, White and Wakeman, it’s spectacular of heading back to our home planet. The voice and Howe’s melodic guitar, sends chills down my spine before the avant-garde twist in the last 7-minutes of the piece which shows White in full force on the percussion and drums.

He is not just all over the place, he can bang those percussions like a cannon going off before the nightmarish Mellotrons and chaotic Synths come into place. It is the “Holy Shit” moment right there! It’s insane, unexpected, but mind-boggling at the same time. The vocals and instruments are very clear. Gone now is the first two minute ambient introduction of The Revealing Science of God (Dance of Dawn) as Anderson sings “Dawn of light lying between a silence of solo sources/chased amid fusions of wonder/In moments hardly seen forgotten.

The harmonizing vocalizations, and setting off for an adventure setting for lift-off, it is a wonderful way to start it off with a bang. The watery yet beautiful effects take you into the deeper dark caves for a chance of searching for one self is where my arm-hair went up a notch on dealing with the impressed mind for The Remembering High the Memory. This was an amazing reissue that the Pangyeric label has done along with the other Yes albums (Close to the Edge, Fragile, The Yes Album, and Relayer) have done.

For me, it’s a perfect gift for Hanukkah, Christmas, or for your birthday. The set contains the mini-LP formats including the original LP gatefold sleeve which includes the lyrics and story of the album along with the band performing the promotion of this album. A 20-page booklet features liner notes done by Sid Smith, notes about the audio sources of the album and the set up information of the Blu-Ray disc.

It contains pictures of the band, tickets, rough draft sketches by Dean of the stage sets for Topographic Oceans, posters, a Hot Air balloon to each venue of the ’74 American tour, and New York area shows between Nassau Coliseum and Madison Square garden of a full-page advertisement, and international LPs. I have enjoyed what Wilson has done with this album.

And I’m very pleased with what the New Stereo Mixes has accomplished to as I’ve mentioned get the recognition it deserves with some clarity and cleaning up from the tapes. And as Jon Anderson says, “And I do think very well, that the song might take you silently that move fast/they tell me/there’s some rainbow alternate tune.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Security Project - Live 2

When it comes to tribute bands, sometimes they do right and sometimes they do wrong in honor of the legacy of artists/bands to cover their glory days. And some of them do right and avoiding the quote-on-quote term, “tribute bands.” The ones I enjoyed includes; The Musical Box, The Australian Pink Floyd Show, Zappa Plays Zappa, and now adding to the list is Security Project.

I’ve been an admirer of the Peter Gabriel-era of Genesis and his departure on a successful solo career with the first four albums and the live album, Plays Live. Peter, now inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame both with Genesis and as a solo artist, there is no stop sign for him. When listening to Security Project’s music which covers that time period including other gems, it’s honoring and staying true to the vision of Gabriel’s music from his earlier solo work including other related gems alongside the first five solo albums.

It wasn’t until I received a package in the mail by Glass Onyon of Live 2. And when I opened up the package, I knew something magical was in this live recording when I put the CD on my old portable CD player. And believe me, I was spellbound and hypnotize of Live 2.

It features some of the members of King Crimson, Shriekback, and original band members who worked with Gabriel to bring the early solo career into the spotlight. In this live recording, it considers Jerry Marotta (First four Peter Gabriel albums) on Drums, Percussion, and Vocals, Trey Gunn (King Crimson) on Touch Guitar and Vocals, Brian Cummins (Carpet Crawlers) on Lead Vocals and Acoustic Guitar, David Jameson on Keyboards and Eigenharp, and Michael Cozzi (Shriekback) on Guitar and Vocals.

Cummins’ vocals shines in his following in the footsteps of Gabriel’s arrangements. It shows power and emotions which is evidential on the acoustical letter to the styles of poet Anne Sexton that gives shivers on his take with his acoustic guitar on Mercy Street. Jameson’s keyboards help through the emotions and terror with a sliding effect and moogy terrors between Wallflower and Moribund the Burgermeister. Which are amazing compositions that I wish Peter would bring Moribund back to his performances.

But here, Security Project deliver it and you can imagine the audiences being in awe and in tears of these amazing arrangements to honor Gabriel’s solo work. The lifting music brings up to the cloudless skies of their take of White Shadow. The heavy guitars and I can imagine listening on here the crowd is mesmerized not just the guitar improvisations, but nailing each bit of the composition bit by bit.

They also bring back two of the Genesis songs from his last album with the group of the 1974 concept album, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Including the title-track and the floating adventures into bizarre world of the spiritual adventures of the inner-self with Fly on a Windshield. It’s not just his solo work, but his work with Genesis still carries a mighty punch and Cummins delivers it right followed by the background vocals and showing the audience support to sing along.

This was for me one of the best live albums I’ve listened to from Security Project. I’ve listened to this ten times now. They are still on tour with Happy Rhodes taking over vocal duties and they are touring from October 21st to November 4th. So please go and see this band. I just hope one day they come to Texas. And I would love to have the chance to see them one day. If you love The Musical Box, then I highly recommend exploring the wonders of Security Project and their second live album, Live 2. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

InterStatic - Arise

It’s another continuation of digging through the label of what is now one of my favorite labels; RareNoise Records. This time, it’s a trio from Norway entitled, InterStatic. Launched by Naked Truth’s Organist Roy Powell, it considers Jacob Young on Electric Guitar, and Jarle Vespestad on Drums. They have this love for music between Jazz, Blues, Avant-Rock, and Psychedelic Music and following in the steps of Zappa, Miles Davis, and Tony Williams’ Lifetime.

Originally known as Young, Powell, Vespestad, they have two albums in the can. And they released their third album in 2014 entitled Arise. When I put the CD on last on my old portable CD player, I was completely in awe from what I listening to. Not just they are so damn good, but the way they communicate between each other. I’m very new to the band’s music, here they delivered sonic surroundings, energetic mastery, and unexpected moments.

Those five enduring moments are some of the highlights throughout Arise. You have this amazing adventure of Caerbannog which is a reference to the 1975 comedy classic of Monty Python and the Holy Grail where it’s named after a cave protected by the killer rabbit. Mind you, not just the Python’s have a great sense of humor, so does InterStatic. With a swirling synthesized moog improvisation and a kicking drum section, Jacob’s train chugging guitars is a workout done in the mind of Hedvig Mollestad.

Frank’ll Fix It is Powel’s dedication to the late great tribute of the Grand Wazoo himself, Frank Zappa. I love how Jacob is going through the styles and virtuosity sections of Zappa’s mastermind playing. It’s a staggering tribute to not just his music, but knowing his legacy is growing strong and seeing where his influences will keep going for many years to come. But the track itself is in an homage to the styles of the Apostrophe (‘) album.

The opening track, Douzy Mugwump Blues makes you feel you are in the ghost-town of the Louisiana swamps and you could almost feel a pin drop by heading towards of watching the full moon while Alexa sees Powell delving deeper into the woods as he and Jacob deliver spooky rhythmic sections and melodies between each other with some wah-wah effects a-la Hansson and Karlsson style!

Jacob is another guitarist I’ve been getting a kick out of. It’s not because of his playing but the way he comes center stage between Roy and Jarle. He takes the influences of Classical and Jazz melodies are in full swing by taking turns between the three of them on Alpha Dog. InterStatic do in the styles of musical chairs as Jarle takes over the stage with his drumming. He plays an insane style of a swinging rhythm. He’s like a conductor on the kit as he lets them know when it’s time to take turns. But they can play well and give you a big round of applause.

Arise is a fierce, strengthening, and an immense album that InterStatic release. I knew right there that this is a band I need to check out later on. And RareNoise have never, ever disappointed me with their releases. They are up there along with MoonJune, Esoteric, and Cuneiform Records. So if you love Jazz Rock, Psych, Blues, and a dosage of Progressive music, then check out InterStatic’s Arise.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Half Past Four - Land of the Blind

Whenever you read my blog, you can sometimes know of me mentioning one of my favorite shows on the House of Prog website, Prog Rock Deep Cuts with Ian Beabout. One of those bands that I was introduced thanks to Beabout’s show is Half Past Four. This is a band that have never let me down. With two albums in the can, this year, they have released their third album in a mini or E.P. format entitled, Land of the Blind.

The Toronto quintet have scored another home run for me in my opinion. Not just that they are good, but they brought even more things onto the table with four highlights I've picked out through listening to the entire album. You have the opener, Mathematics. With a swimming/floating rhythm section into watery atmosphere with Annie Haslam meets Caravan’s In The Land of Grey and Pink-era in a flying teapot of a submarine and journey into the oceans of math for the first minute and forty-three seconds.

It suddenly changes into heavy riffs by Constantin’s guitar by blaring out the magical patterns a-la 90125 style as Igor’s Organ and Kyree’s vocals give the driving power and getting the juice up and going before delving down into the ocean for a lukewarm finale. Then, there’s Mood Elevator. Featuring dooming piano intro, alarming guitars and drums coming alive.

It tells the story of someone inside of a maniac person living in his own elevator as if it’s his own mental institute of an abandoned building and you being inside his mind of what he’s going through and done in the styles of Frank Zappa’s Over-Nite Sensation-era. I love their take of Max Webster’s Toronto Tontos.

Wacky and staying true to the original, it’s Half Past Four going in the styles of Zappa, Mr. Bungle, Cardiacs, and Spike Jones with some insane pastoral piano and thumping punches of the rhythm while Kyree brings her characterizations as a Pirate as she tells the story of the One Eyed Man as she transforms herself into Mike Patton. You never know what to those unexpected moments as the sounds with insane locations as if they did a guest appearance on either Pee-Wee’s Playhouse or The Weird Al Show.

I have listened to this twice now. And Half Past Four’s music is like something out of this world that you can as I’ve mentioned expecting the unexpected. It’s music that could have been used during the B&W-era of the Looney Tunes-era and give it a real kick in the gut with some insane surroundings. So my response to Land of the Blind? Worth.Checking.Out.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Three Man Army - A Third of a Lifetime

Whenever something Esoteric Recordings reissues, I would always check it out. Whether it’s Julian’s Treatment, Procol Harum, The Move, Barclay James Harvest, or Cressida, they always release some very interesting reissues that would peak my interest. I’ve always championed them since 2008. Next year will be 10 years since the launch of the label and I always would like to see where the road will lead them into next. One of the reissues that has suddenly landed on my lap is Three Man Army’s debut album, A Third of a Lifetime.

Originally released on the Pegasus label in 1971, it started out as a project between the Gurvitz brothers (Adrian and Paul) who started the band out of the ashes of the late ‘60s band, Gun. While there were various people involved with the debut including the late great Buddy Miles who was a part of the Band of Gypsys with Jimi Hendrix and the Buddy Miles Express which Adrian was a part of.

Not only he played drums, but he played organ also. The production was done by Lou Reizner who worked with Eyes of Blue and the Orchestral version of the Who’s Rock Opera Tommy, brought a heavier, progressive, and symphonic side to Three Man Army. When I was listening to this album, I was completely blown away right from the start. I can hear comparisons of Cream, Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top’s pre-Deguello, Free, and The Moody Blues thrown into the mix.

Not only Buddy was on the album, but Spooky Tooth’s drummer Mike Kellie helped on the album. There’s the classical-guitar and pastoral side to Three Man Army which is exampled on the title track as Adrian brings an epic atmosphere of walking towards the sunset as the end credits of a spaghetti western comes to a closing curtain. Three Man Army is a cross between the Rubber Soul-era of The Beatles and Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies sessions while the proto hard-rock opener in the styles of Cream with maximum volume of Butter Queen, could have been a hit single and get some radio airplay.

The Funky Blues Rock featuring Adrian’s wah-wah pedal and Buddy’s smoothing organ sound and Paul’s Bass are showing a team working well together with the waves crashing at the right moment on the instrumental Midnight. The mellotron comes in for a gentle yet heart warmth end in the styles between Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Seals and Crofts of Together. The two bonus tracks are A & B-sides of single releases.

There’s another throttling rapid machine gun fire between Gurvitz and Kellie’s playing as Adrian is not just going hard rock, but doing a little switch of the George Harrison sound at times on What’s Your Name? Travellin’ is done in the styles of Jack Bruce’s songwriting as if he could have written this song for Thin Lizzy. It has the essence of something straight out of an Ennio Morricone arrangement as the Man with No Name returns for one last game.

The 15-page booklet contains liner notes by Malcolm Dome about the history of the band, an interview with Paul and Adrian Gurvitz. When the album was released, it didn’t get the recognition it deserved. And after releasing two more albums (Three Man Army Two and Mahesha), the band called it a day. Then the Gurvitz brothers teamed up with their hero, Ginger Baker and would form the Baker Gurvitz Army and released three albums from 1974 to 1976. 

But put that aside, and dig deep into Three Man Army’s A Third of a Lifetime reissued by Esoteric and put this album and crank it up. You can understand it was so ahead of it’s time along with Adrian and Paul because they deserve the recognition.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Andre Dinuth - Here With You

The music of Indonesia is now been one of my favorite genres in the world of Jazz and Progressive genre. Not only that the MoonJune label has been a favorite of mine since 2011 of hearing some amazing music, but hearing the music from the bands and artists of opening up the door to World Music. One of the artists who has a powerful improvisation and staggering proportions of virtuoso is guitarist Andre Dinuth. He is one of the most mind-blowing guitar players I’ve listened to.

He’s worked both in concert and in the recording studio along with being the top 6 guitarists including Tohpati and Dewa Budjana. Along his work both as a session musician and in the studio, he’s also fronted the Andre Dinuth Group. Alongside Andre on Guitar, it consists of Adhitya Pratama on Bass, Yandi Andaputra on Drums, and Marthin Siahaan on Keyboards. They have performed in several shows around Indonesia including the Java Jazz Festival and the Freedom Jazz Fest.

He’s released his second album entitled, Here With You which is release this year and it’s a follow-up to sole self-titled debut album released last year. I was so blown away from the moment I put the CD on. Andre has this cross-combination between Steve Vai, Alex Lifeson, John McLaughlin, and Frank Zappa. You never know when he will stop because there isn’t a sign for him to stop. He’s keeping the machine rolling in full speed.

The opening intro of Sahara starts off with a galloping introduction of the percussions between the drums and tabla followed by dueling melodies between DInuth and Mohamad Saat Syah’s suling flutes as Lesama’s organ adds the action of the spice including a mellowing piano section. On Sophie’s Song, Eugen Bounty’s clarinet brings a joyous warmth of relaxation.

Featuring a folky-fingerpicking-classical improvisation done by Andre himself on the acoustic guitar, you can hear bits of vocalizations during the melodies that he does and it is a touching composition that you can you can hold your heart on to. Farm-O-Country is a killer composition. Here, it shows that Andre has an amazing sense of humor in the wackiest style!

It’s this cross between Blue Oyster Cult, ELP’s Benny The Bouncer, and very much like an extended version of The Ren and Stimpy Show theme, is the kicker. There is a ragtime piano in the honky-tonk sound a-la Scott Joplin style and since I’ve mentioned wacky, when I say wacky, I mean for them going into a Rockabilly, Country music swing and very much…well almost giving Keith Urban, a gigantic middle finger.

Rote Island starts with the sounds of children laughing before going into a dancing rhythm with a clapping section. It has a Steve Howe-sque intro as it transforms into a joyous electric celebration with powerful riffs while Syah’s flute brings a somber walkthrough into a beautiful forest over the Solitude. One of the things I love about Dinuth is that he gives the members free-rein (creative control) on whatever they want to do come in front.

Barry Likumahuwa’s funky chicken bass lines come in swinging on Wy Knot. It’s this soul-blues-funk-fusion rock territory with increasing sections between Andre and Ricad’s tenor sax with a blaring tone. It shows that they were not having just a blast, but having a great time. And that’s what I like about bands/artists, you want to have a great time and focus on that and not deal with the stress.

Barry’s bass reminded me at times of Primus’ Les Claypool and Paul Jackson from Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters. It’s a powerful and in your face composition that you want to play until the sun comes up. This is now my fifth time listening Here With You. And again, I was so blown away by Andre Dinuth’s improvisation and I think he’s going to hit the big time internationally one day and hit not just the big time, but to see where he will go next.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Chat Noir - Nine Thoughts For One Word

It’s been a few months since I’ve done a review from the label of RareNoise Records. I know, I’ve been a very busy man when it comes to listening and writing. One of the albums that has suddenly landed on my lap is a trio called Chat Noir. Now, mind you I’m very new to the band’s music, With five abums in the can from different labels including one from RareNoise also. This year, they have released their sixth album entitled Nine Thoughts For One Word.

They moved away from the Jazz sound and into Electronic/Experimental yet Atmospheric noises that just took me by eye-brows lit up with momentum and surprise. J. Peter Schwalm, whose best known for his work with Brian Eno and working together along with a film score of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Fear X released in 2003, replaces drummer Guiliano Ferrari.

What Chat Noir and Schwalm do is they bring a disturbing vision of the future. It feels as if the trio have collaborated together and worked on a film done in the styles of Refn, Alejandro Jordorowsky, David Lynch, Luis Bunuel, Ridley Scott, and Fritz Lang. Done in a silent-movie homage set in a black-and-white surreal dystopian film in 2046 as the music gives you a nightmarish and ominous tone.

I almost closed my eyes because some albums that I’ve mentioned as I would always say, “The movie inside your head.” Well, this one is definitely like a surreal/avant-garde/futuristic film that will confuse, guess, surprise, and blow you away for a midnight showing on Fridays and Saturdays if you are tired of seeing the same old Superhero movies, the music itself will give it a gigantic message of it.

Listening to this entire album, I always have this fascination of the styles of music between Lard Free, Neo-Classical, the Krautrock scene (NEU!, Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and Faust’s The Faust Tapes), David Bowie’s Low-era, bits of electronic Jazz, and of course Eno thrown into the mix. It echoes throughout the entire structure, but it is one of the scariest albums I’ve listened to.

Nine Thoughts for One Word is not an easy album to listen to, however this is I think in my opinion, the perfect choice of music for Halloween. I hope to see Chat Noir do more of this type of music for years to come. Eerie and Haunting momentum that will keep you guessing ‘til the very end. This is going to be one of my favorite albums of 2016 and RareNoise Records have scored another home run as Rutger Hauer’s character Roy Batty from Blade Runner says, “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

King Llama - Return To Ox

Los Angeles has been home for some of the progressive bands including Spock’s Beard, Tool, Carmen, and Intronaut. One of the up-and-coming bands coming from L.A. is a trio that formed back in 2013 with styles of Jazz Rock, Fusion, and Progressive rolled into a gigantic sleeve named King Llama. They consider Luis Briones on Drums and Percussion, Ryan Tanner Bailey on Guitar, and Nico Staub on Bass, Baritone Guitar, and Percussion.

The inspirations from what I’ve heard in King Llama’s music are a cross between as if Frank Zappa was making hot-and-spicy BBQ sandwiches with a gigantic dosage of Tabasco sauce and bands such as Rush, The Mahavishnu Orchestra and King Crimson were having lunch at the Grand Wazoo’s house and they both recorded sessions and never saw the light of the day. Return to Ox is the name of their debut album and it almost feels like a strange episode or something out of the short stories written between the late ‘50s/early ‘60s.

Their debut album was recorded last year at EastWest Studios and it feels to me that you are in the studio watching this amazing trio duking it out through their instruments and giving some mind-blowing improvisation throughout the compositions displaying through the sheer momentum. Shuffling rhythms (with a bit of Ska) followed by the funky bass lines as fuzz-tone keyboards comes into play with Just The Tip.

There’s a midsection with energized and exhilaration beats and not to mention some wah-wah guitar improve and mesmerizing drum solo’s. Call Me Elmo is King Llama honoring the style of Rush’s La Villa Strangiato as the voyages transforms from mellow, emotive structures and into fiery eruptive power while Hershey Highway is Nico Staub coming center stage.

Here Nico is going through his bass lines of Les Claypool meets Stanley Clarke as Bailey’s guitar goes forwards Sly and the Family Stone and King Crimson. Mighty Ox sees more of Nico heading into the streets of Geddy Lee. It’s Llama honoring at times Rush’s Moving Pictures-era in a Fusion Rock momentum. With reverb spacey effects and ending in a race-driven finish line at the last minute of the composition.

Return to Ox is an okay album, not good, but okay. However it is likely the thrilling ride that after that roller-coaster ride you went on, you want to go back for more and more. The trio have taken me by surprise and I hope they will continue to carry that sound in the years and futures to come.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Stick Men - Prog Noir

Stick Men’s music have always peaked my interest. Even though I’m not crazy about their music at times, but I do appreciate what they are doing in carrying the styles of what they will do next with challenging compositions and experience between the trio of Markus Reuter’s Touch Guitars and King Crimson members Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto. And for me, they do a wonderful job to keep the fans supportive and honoring the Progressive and Experimental music going like a Bullet train going 500 miles per hour.

This year, they have released their forthcoming album entitled, Prog Noir. Stick Men have spent years composing the album and what they would do is get some ideas according to Reutuer, is either as an album or playing them on the road. And it’s out whilst they’re on tour a lot of the time. I’ve heard some of the samples of the album on Sid Smith’s Podcasts from the Yellow Room which has been one of my favorite podcasts since I was in College.

It's been my go-to Podcasts. And whenever I would listen to his Podcasts I know something special that would get my notice and put on my wish list. And Stick Men’s music has grabbed my ears for an amazing yet mind-boggling adventure. The opening title-track sees both Levin and Reuter bring thunderous improvisations of a booming introduction on the Chapman and Touch Guitar lines.

With similarities of David Bowie’s Outside-era in the styles of Hallo Spaceboy, I’m Deranged, and A Small Plot of Land, the music makes you feel as if you are watching mystery/thriller/horror of a serial killer on the loose and then driving into the darkness not knowing when the killer would attack next and it won’t be pleasant and unexpected. Mantra sees Stick Men channeling their Canterbury influences between Egg and early Caravan as one of their guitars sound like the fuzz-tone organs while Plutonium features spoken dialogue on the questions of a planet gone wrong.

Here they checklist the styles of Carl Orff’s O Fortuna, Yes’ Fragile-era, and Tchaikovsky. It is unexpected and jaw-dropping and they are running at the right direction like being in the race to see who will in the finish line with some stop-and-go moments floating in. A Rose in the Sand/Requiem flows melancholically. Both Tony and Markus’s melodies sets some emotional tones throughout the composition as it changes gears.

You can imagine the sun fading away as evening has come to past as the drumrolls in the piece are to say farewell. The trio channel their own Swan-Song styles of Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria. The first 40 seconds of Leonardo, has a mysterious introduction between the Stick and Touch instruments as it changes into this metallic roaring rhythm in the styles of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

And all of a sudden, listening to that, I can imagine both Levin and Reuter dueling it out in the boxing ring with the stick instruments and still having the Midas touch of King Crimson and ending in a deep dark place near the closing section. With Trey’s Confession, it’s for me, in my opinion, an homage to King Crimson member, Trey Gunn. There are bits of the THRAK sessions that comes to mind. And believe me, it works well with the tribute and homage to Gunn’s craftsmanship.

Prog Noir I’ll admit, it’s not an easy album to listen to from start to finish. It took me about four listens to dig into. Sinister, Out-of-the-blue time changes, and peculiar rhythms that will keep you guessing until the very end, Stick Men’s new album is like as I’ve mentioned a film score straight out of a Mystery/Horror film with a strange plot twist. If you love the sounds of King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, and Igor Stravinsky, I recommend Prog Noir.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Cirrus Bay - Places Unseen

Cirrus Bay are a band that just took me by surprise this year. I first heard their music on their bandcamp website. And it didn’t flow with me at first. But then I listened to it again and I realized that this was something out of the ordinary. I knew I had to check their music out right away. The band started out in the late ‘90s with Bill Gillham and Chelsey Mann. Bill played the instruments and Chelsea sang. They did several shows and recorded several songs before Chelsea’s departure and Sharra Acle took over.

They have released four albums and through various line-up changes it wasn’t just the influences, but the spellbinding musical arrangements that blew me away. When the new arrivals showed up on The Laser’s Edge website which has been my go-to site since 2008, I went ahead and bought the album straight away. And from start to finish, I knew something special and something magical when I put the CD in my CD player with my headphones on.

Their music displays the styles of Symphonic-Canterbury music through the styles of early Genesis, Renaissance, Caravan, and Landmarq. Bill Gillham’s wrote all the music and with eight tracks, he is not just an amazing composer, but he knows where exactly he wants the band to head towards. He’s very much a conductor and heading in the right direction.

Dimension 7 is this cross between Gilgamesh, Hatfield and the North, Rick Wakeman, and Egg’s The Civil Surface-era and I could tell that Cirrus Bay know a bit of their Canterbury techniques into their music as Mark Blasco channels the virtuosity of Phil Miller’s playing. Now Tai Shan’s vocals, just sends me into a goose bump mode with her arrangements in her voice.

There are times where Tai channels the styles of Tracy Hitchings, Annie Haslam, Sally Oldfield, Anneke Van Giersbergen, and Robert Wyatt. It’s evidential on the opening title-track where it’s shade of Genesis Wind & Wuthering-era as if the band were having Earl Grey Tea in the winter of a tiny little cottage with In the Land of Grey and Pink-era of Caravan with Annie Haslam doing vocals for the sessions.

Song Unheard, I get this feeling as if it was written for a Disney Animated Movie in the late ‘80s or a non-Disney film of The Swan Princess done in a Rock Opera format with the rhythm of a melancholy piano as Horseback to Hanssonland is dedicated to the late great Bo Hansson. There’s electronic drumbeats, galloping rhythms to another world, Brendan Buss’ jazz saxophone improvisations, and beautiful textures of the flute, organ, and bass that rides into this mystical and mysterious land before the swirling sax fades out.

First Departure is an acoustic course for lift-off into space with guitars making the course for light-speed as Tai’s vocalizations brings essence of It’s a Beautiful Day as the closer of Second Departure begins with the Northettes vocal arrangements, mourning organ as it head towards the golden light. And the piano is swirling in the styles of Tony Banks and Hackett-sque acoustic/electric guitar and ending with a symphonic/orchestral pastoral end.

Cirrus Bay for me, in my opinion, have succeeded. This is for me the band I’ve been wanting to check out as their fifth album, Places Unseen is one of the most emotional and story-telling albums I’ve listened to this year. If you love Symphonic and Canterbury music, then I recommend Cirrus Bay’s Places Unseen. You won’t be disappointed.