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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Top 10 Reissues of 2018

And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, this year in the reissues has been a good year from the good people from Esoteric Recordings, Universal, Chrysalis, and Kscope. I hope you have written down some of these on your wish lists for either Christmas or Hanukkah. Here are my top 10 Reissues of 2018.

1. Procol Harum - Still There'll Be More: An Anthology 1967-2017 (Esoteric Recordings)
2. Curved Air - Reissues (Esoteric Recordings)
3. Barclay James Harvest - Barclay James Harvest (Esoteric Recordings)
4. Happy Rhodes - Ectotrophia (Numero Group)
5. Chris Squire - Fish Out of Water (Esoteric Recordings)
6. Jethro Tull - Heavy Horses: New Shoes Edition (Chrysalis)
7. The Kinks - The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society (ABKCO/Sanctuary)
8. Bruford - Seems Like a Lifetime Ago: 1977-1980 (Winterfold)
9. The Beatles - The Beatles (White Album) (Universal/Apple)
10. Mansun - Attack of the Grey Lantern: 21st Anniversary Edition (Kscope)

Friday, November 16, 2018

Top 25 Albums of 2018

I know I've been quiet since due to helping out with my family and doing other reviews for Echoes and Dust and The Progressive Aspect. The others I've done reviews was back in 2012 for Progplanet and Progsphere where I did a live review of Rush's Clockwork Angels tour when they came to Toyota Center.

Now does that say I'm giving up on my blogsite? Absolutely not! It's still going to be there and it will be there for another 10 years. But I needed to branch out and see where the doors will lead to me. Now as we are getting close to Thanksgiving and 38 days til Christmas.

So this is an opportunity for me, to go ahead and deliver my Top 25 Albums of 2018 early this year so that you could or might add this to your Christmas or Hanukkah wish list.

So here it is:

1. Alec K. Redfearn & The Eyesores – The Opposite (Cuneiform)
2. Ring Van Mobius – Past the Evening Sun (Apollon Records)
3. Phideaux – Infernal (Bloodfish Media)
4. Yuka & Chronoship – Ship (Cherry Red)
5. The Fierce and the Dead – The Euphoric (Bad Elephant Music)
6. Sanguine Hum – Now We Have Power (Bad Elephant Music)
7. VAK – Budo (Soleil Zeuhl)
8. Voivod – The Wake (Century Media)
9. Dee Snider – For the Love of Metal (Nuclear Blast)
10. WorldService Project – Serve (RareNoise Records)
11. Mark Wingfield – Tales from the Dreaming City (MoonJune Records)
12. Soft Machine – Hidden Details (MoonJune Records)
13. Kit Downes – Obsidian (ECM)
14. Argos – Unidentified Flying Objects (Bad Elephant Music)
15. Homunculus Res – Della Stessa Sostanza Dei Sogni (Fading Records)
16. Sonar with David Torn – Vortex (RareNoise Records)
17. King Crimson – Meltdown (Pangyeric/DGM/Inner Knot)
18. The Pineapple Thief – Dissolution (Kscope)
19. Gazpacho – Soyuz (Kscope)
20. Elephant9 – Greatest Show on Earth (Rune Grammofon)
21. Gleb Kolyadin – Gleb Kolyadin (Kscope)
22. Kevin Kastning & Balazs Major – Kismaros (Greydisc)
23. David Cross & David Jackson – Another Day (Cherry Red)
24. Vantomme – Vegir (MoonJune Records)
25. Dialeto – Live with David Cross (Chromatic Music)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

King Crimson - Meltdown: Live in Mexico

This 3-CD/1 Blu-Ray box set consists of King Crimson’s exuberant performance in Mexico City over five nights at the Teatro Metropolitan in July of last year and they also performed at the same location in August of 1996 during the THRAK-era. And not to mention Steven Wilson, who performed and recorded at the same venue on April 13, 2012 during his Grace for Drowning tour entitled, Get All You Deserve.

Now when you either watch or listen to the concert both on CD and Blu-Ray, you are now to embark on something more than just your average typical rock-and-roll show at a big gigantic massive stadium. And this time, King Crimson have got more unexpected ideas that they’ve unleashed to the audience. Believe me, this here is quite the journey that they and the fans themselves will never, ever forget.

If you think that both of the live albums from Chicago and Vienna were the real starters, Meltdown is the final cherry on top of the Red Velvet Cake. From the moment that the band enters onstage with thunderous applause, they are going to deliver more than just the goods for that evening performance at the Metropolitan.

From the three-headed drumming improvisations of the Devil Dogs of Tessellation Row and The Hell Hounds of Krim, to the lukewarm beauty of the Interlude between Mel and Jakko’s flute improvisation followed by Levin’s electric string bass, and the reigning of the battlefields of the most brutal yet bloodiest wars on Last Skirmish to the dooming aftermath of hell that laid waste on Prince Rupert’s Lament as Fripp’s textures fill the halls inside the venue for the Lizard suite.

You can see on the Blu-Ray where Pat Mastelotto is doing some of the textures as he pays a little nod to Crimson alumni Jamie Muir while Jeremy Stacey plays the keyboard along with Bill Rieflin follow suit. And for me, I would always say this, “Mellotron's galore!” as the music in Easy Money goes into a deeper, darker scenario by sending you into those ominous areas that are filled with greed, corruption, and betrayal.

Listening to the title-track, it’s quite peculiar for Robert to revisit perhaps one of my favorite era’s which is the Lizard period from 1970. While he has reconciled to the third release thanks to Wilson’s remix back in 2009, Robert himself is like a magician and kind of like an expertise on where he wants the tricks to be located at. He and Jakko along with the three-headed drum beasts and Mel take you into those crystalized areas inside the caves before the snarling monsters come out of the blue for Radical Action II.

But this where the mysteries and clues keep adding up more and more by Levin’s Chapman stick and the three-headed drum beasts keep up the search on Indiscipline. Jakko sings like a beat poet while the playing the melody on his guitar as the climax reaches more and more before to an abrupt halt as Jakko shouts “Me Gusta!

Now we have come to Starless from the Blu-ray. It is a must-watch sequence when they performed the song from the Red album. You can feel the band’s mellowing wonders to the heart of the city with a smoky vision that once was, is now gone. The band suddenly go into overdrive after the lights suddenly change from bright yellow, to darker orange-red coloring to increase the tension even more.

It becomes this dangerous high-wiring escape for the aerialist dancer to embark not just the 90-feet ground and never knowing when the wires are going to be cut unexpectedly, but it becomes alarming that knowing he has to make it before time runs out. From the blaring guitars between Jakko and Robert, to the clashing of the titan drumming, and Mel’s blaring sax solo, it becomes a free-for-all climax.

The bonus tracks on Disc 3, is where it gets even more interesting. They revisit another classic from the debut album, In the Court of the Crimson King entitled, Moonchild. The live version from the official bootleg bonus tracks, is very much like an extended version of the song that makes it more beautiful and surreal. You have these Cadenza’s between Tony Levin’s string bass to Jeremy playing his piano creating this finale of giving some sort of a mournful end.

Then everything suddenly changes into some sort of an attack mode as King Crimson goes into the archive of revisiting Robert Fripp’s debut solo album (Exposure) released 40 years ago tackling the track, Breathless. It has sorts of the Red-era with a brutal twist as Robert delivers more clues to add the pieces inside the Rubik’s cube with even more challenges.

Meltdown as I’ve mentioned earlier in my introduction, is the final cherry on top of the Red Velvet Cake. But this gives King Crimson more real adventures that are mysterious, nightmarish, surreal, and visionary. And what I hope for when they start their Winter tour in Japan in late November to the end of December, I hope we can expect more from them if they get a chance to record the shows in the Land of the Rising Sun.

And this here, is only just the beginning for them.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

King Crimson - Live in Vienna

This 3-CD set consists of King Crimson’s live performance they recorded in Vienna two years ago on December 1st. Mixed from the original multi-tracks, it features the two-set performance from the evening show. Since I considered the 2-CD Chicago performance as an experimental and tribal atmosphere, the Vienna performance brings more clues and mysteries for you to embarking their adventures into their possible universes that are infinite worlds that you’ve never seen before.

For 50 years, King Crimson despite through various line-up changes, in the words of Robert Fripp, Crimson has “A way of doing things.” And that’s how they do throughout their music. They aren’t just a prog band, they are a band that take these ideas and take them through the levels of intensity, hidden momentum, and sinister surroundings that would make your skin crawl.

Their live recording at the Musequmsquartier in Halle E, you can close your eyes and being at that venue and being in awe and supporting the masters with some volcanic eruptions that is on here. For me Live in Vienna is almost the icing on the cake. They revisit the classics including, Pictures of a City, The Sailor’s Tale, Epitaph, The Court of the Crimson King, and 21st Century Schizoid Man. The seven-piece line-up aren’t taking you through memory lane, but keeping their spirit and legacy alive.

And they know that this time, it’s going to be both ferocious and brutal. You have the 13-minute version of Starless. You can imagine both Tony and Robert taking the temperature levels by making the heat gage as high as it can go by making their instruments go through some menacing overtones.

But it’s Mel Collins laying down some incredible sax improvisations throughout the last three minutes as the three-headed drum beasts of Mastelotto, Harrison, and Stacey reign in the terrors once more before closing the night out with some Mellotron and dooming bass with a bang. But what I also love on the Vienna recording is that the three-headed drum beasts do some tribal workouts.

You can hear some of the aspects between The Hell Hounds of Krim, Devil Dogs of Tessellation Row including a little help from Tony Levin bowing the electric string bass. They play like the masters they are by lending a friend, some helping hands to keep the beat going. Each of the drummers play not like a jazz drummer, but laying down some swinging vibes by channeling both Buddy Rich and Magma’s own Christian Vander.

But I love the nods towards the THRAK-era that covers even more of the puzzle pieces even more as Jakko himself sings it out through Suitable Grounds for the Blues. And also the gentle warmths of Peace and as a master of ceremony for the Cirkus to begin. For me, whether like him or not Jakko’s voice and guitar playing grows even more and more to keep the vibration’s going.

Now once you get to Disc 3 which features four tracks recorded from Cophenagen, Milan, Barcelona, and Antwerp, Robert goes beyond the textures of Crimson and delving back into the soundscaping visions that he’s been doing since the mid-‘70s by working with Brian Eno on No Pussyfooting.

You have Levin, Collins, and Fripp going through the opening doors to reveal something that is minimal, nightmarish, and atonality of both Schoenberg Softened his Hat and Ahriman's Ceasless Corrputions to name a few. They channel Arnold’s compositions which I can hear from one of his Second String Quartet, Fourth Movement. And it’s quite the atmosphere that Robert tackles to show Arnold Schoenberg’s compositions by going beyond the twelve-tone techniques.

On the Cophenagen performance that’s on disc 3, they revisited Fracture. Now this hasn’t been performed since 1974 from their album, Starless & Bible Black. It is really quite a treat for them to go back and perform it live again. Robert really challenges his fingers on the fretboard as if he’s finding the escape route before it becomes a gigantic booby-trapped location.

The last three minutes on Fracture is the band going through this dangerous tightrope to make it right out of there before time reaches out as Jakko and Robert help through their guitar exchange as Levin’s fuzztone bass and drums go intensive together by making it through the exit sign and finally getting out of there in the nick of time.

Live in Vienna is King Crimson continuing more and more to surprise both the listener and the audience themselves. While Chicago as I’ve mentioned is their finest, Vienna is almost the cherry on top. But this is where the turning point was for Robert was planning to do for the following year in 2017. And this was only just the beginning.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Kevin Kastning, Sandor Szabo, Balazs Major - Ethereal II

Kastning still continues to surprise me instead more and more throughout his releases on the Greydisc label. The usage of both the 30-string contra-alto guitar and 36-string double contraguitar would make you question and answer more of the clues and evidential moments that he would help you solve the case. Kevin’s follow up to Kismaros is called, Ethereal II.

He brought along two people who previously worked with Kevin are now teaming up with him for his new album. With percussionist Balazs Major and Baritone guitarist Sandor Szabo, Ethereal II is embarking more mysterious adventures to see and hear what the trio would come up with next and going beyond our solar systems.

What Sandor would create on his baritone guitar is to go through by not just taking a rocket to outer space, but landing in through various cities that were once the brightest of the future, have now turned into a menacing and very deserted location. And throughout some of the compositions that are on the new album, you can hear some of these ominous cries throughout the cold wintery mountains throughout the landscapes of Antarctica where the sun never, ever sets.

Balazs’ percussion helps both Kastning and Szabo out by encountering deeper into those areas in the blue glaciers of those mountains that are snowy and filled with mystery with some spiritual guidance whilst making the music with a soundscaping atmosphere and would have made founder of ECM Records, Manfred Eicher very happy on what he’s hearing from start to finish.

Ethereal II is Kastning’s achievement and I hope there will be more for him to continue in 2019 and seeing where Kevin will take his instruments next into the nearest future. And in the words of Fairport Convention, “Who Knows Where The Time Goes.”

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Claudio Scolari, Daniele Cavalca & Simone Scolari - Natural Impulse

I don’t know how many years since I’ve listened to some Jazz albums after delving into the waters of Franco Baggiani’s 2014 gem, Memories of Always. But this time, I’m putting some of my toes back into the water once more. And this one, is a very interesting combination between electronic jazz from the minds of Claudio and Simone Scolari and Daniele Cavalca’s Natural Impulse.

This is their third studio album released this year via Principal Records and their follow-up to their 2015 release, South Hemisphere and 2012’s Synthesis. While I’m very new to the Scolari’s and Cavalca’s music, Natural Impulse is for me opening up the gates to witness something mysterious, spiritual, and fascinating ideas that are combined into one.

It has this combination between Tribal, Bebop, Experimental, small twists of the Canterbury sound, and free-jazz. When you listen to Natural Impulse, you have this door-opening vibe between Terry Riley, Miles Davis, Elvin Jones, and McCoy Tyner as if the four of them had done a session together in 1969 and creating these visual ideas and try something different that is beyond the realm of Jazz with some creative moments that are out of this world.

The music sometimes would go into weird tunnels that take you through some unexpected territories that the Scolari’s and Cavalca would walk right into with the nods of a Coltrane-sque Piano nod to A Love Supreme, but in a cat-and-mouse walk that make you feel as if you are a detective searching for more evidential clues to pick up the pieces once more.

It also these film-noir-sque vibe that the trio would create with a futuristic atmosphere. The usages of percussion, synthesizers, and trumpet, adds some of the tense moments on when the killer would strike again. Not only that, but the architectural landscapes to see the beauty of what the cities were back in the day were beautiful, have now become struggle and loss with abandonment.

Natrual Impulse is a small challenge to embark on, but what is one here is very, very intriguing. Would I delve deeper into their music to see what I was missing? Perhaps. But I would recommend it to go back into the detective’s offices and help them more to get the puzzle pieces back together again and solve the case right.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Alec K. Redfearn and The Eyesores - The Opposite

It’s been six years since Alec K. Redfearn and The Eyesores have released a new album after the release of their 2012 release with Sister Death. I was introduced to their music thanks to Prog Rock Deep Cuts with Ian Beabout in 2014 which was after I had graduated from Houston Community College. 

It was back I believe in October of that year when I first heard them on Ian’s show. And I was immediately hooked right from the get go as he played tracks from the album. It felt like something that was straight out of the stories between Richard Corben and Alejandro Jodorowsky from the adult illustrated fantasy magazine, Heavy Metal.

Since their formation 20 years ago in their hometown state of Providence, Rhode Island, Redfearn’s music challenges you by walking inside his own version of the Rubik’s cube that can be quite the task. It is compelling, minimal, avant-rock, gypsy music, folk, psychedelic, post-rock, and some elements of the Krautrock genre rolled into one.

This year, Alec K. Redfearn and The Eyesores has released their new studio album via Cuneiform Records entitled, The Opposite. Recorded and mixed by Seth Manchester at Machines with Magnets in Pawtucket and Mastered by Udi Koomran at The Pergola in Tel Aviv, Israel, The Opposite is inspired by Redfearn’s readings from the esoteric by a periodic theme whether it’s a shadow, or something that balances, haunt, or reflects it proprietor.

Everything from Crowley, Kabbalah, Gnostics, and George Costanza. It’s also named after from the fifth season episode of Seinfeld. Now their eight studio album is a daring yet terrifying and chugging releases that I’ve encountered from start to finish. And it’s a welcoming hand-shaken return from this incredible band that will give you some of the centerpieces and the shivers for The Opposite.

From the moment I listened to their opening track, Soft Motors, it begins with a ringing bell before Alec and McLaren drive into this revving motorcycle into the lost and dangerous night of the Mojave Desert. Kind of a cross between the fuzztone drives and wah-wah pedals to make his accordion going into some uncharted waters with some snarling like essences of early Hawkwind and CAN’s Tago Mago-era, but with a crunch to make it for lift-off between space and the infinite worlds that is ready for the doors to be opened.

Alec lays down some pummeling drives along with Ann Schattle’s horn to go into those darker clanking-clicking sections from the woods on Tramadoliday. It goes towards some stop-and-go moments before this blaring alarm goes off in the middle of nowhere and you can hear the horn, contrabass, and this snarling fuzzy keyboard heading towards some nightmarish yet territorial atmosphere.

The title-track continues more of the pulsive accordion work as Sadlers drives up to the ladder for some distinctive walks of different locations. McLaren sets up more of those effects he does on the drums for a dooming scenario to make sure showing the person’s good or evil side and perhaps bringing out their skeletons in the closet.

With Carnivore and Pteradactyl, you can imagine an Egyptian belly dancer getting into the groove of these two compositions as the heat level increases more and more thanks to the rhythm that Redfearn does to take you through those secret closed doors that is behind the Tarot Cards. Listening to Bat Living in my Room, I can hear some of this cat-and-mouse chase with some frantic nightmares that tackle the subjects between paranoia and hallucinations.

I can imagine this song being used as an alternate score to Robert Clampett’s 1942 animated classic, Falling Hare starring Bugs Bunny. The temperature level goes up and you can imagine Bugs losing his cool by trying to catch the gremlin inside the bomber. The drums, bass, and accordion go into this Twilight Zone-sque yet insane nightmare that might keep you going near the end as Alec creates this tension-like scenario throughout the end as Bugs begins to panic near the end of the short.

I have now listened to The Opposite at least 5 to 10 times. And let me just say that this here is an incredible release from Alec K. Redfearn and The Eyesores. The Opposite has this creative intensity that can make your skin crawl even more. Mysterious, scary, and hypnotic, The Opposite is an album that will make you search for more clues and pieces of the puzzle to find out what will happen next.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Sanguine Hum - Now We Have Power

It’s been two years since I’ve listened to Sanguine Hum’s music. And they’ve never let me down. Since I discovered their sound thanks to Sid Smith’s Podcasts from the Yellow Room, they always would come up with something fantastic from the essence of experimental, progressive and alternative rock sounds in their music. This year, on the Bad Elephant label, they’ve released their new album, Now We Have Power which continues the story of Don from the 2015 album, Now We Have Light.

Now this review is going to be filled with some spoilers. So if you haven’t listened to Don’s story on those two albums, you might want to leave the blog……….now. Okay, now we are back (Anyway to the Bad Elephant label, how’s the weather outside?) So now onto the story. After Don finds this time bubble in his Drastic Attic, he goes backwards nearly 50 years ago as he is seen by 100,000 people as the news helicopters hover over him and he is completely aghast on where he was.

The music tells his story. You can imagine yourself being in Don’s shoes to realize that this isn’t just a dream, but reality coming to life. Sanguine Hum go beyond the levels and take you through the conclusion of his story. And bringing original drummer Paul Mallyon as a special guest to conclude the adventures, makes Don’s story coming full circle. So here we go on the review.

Speak to Us is this crossover between Gentle Giant and Rush’s Permanent Waves-era. Matt Baber himself takes his medieval melodies on his keyboard to follow suit by Wonks and Waissman as they enter this psychedelic corridor before heading back into some odd time changes as Baber takes over the controls to reach the soaring skies with some incredible synths.

Pen! Paper! Pen! Paper! Winks and Baber create the tension as Don himself begins to shout those words for Nurse Millie by giving him both the pen and a piece of tissue to write something. Sanguine show you the opened doors on what is really happening to the characterization of this man’s attempt to take his life by raising the levels up while Flying Bridge is Baber’s ‘80s atmospheric Tangerine Dream-like voyages as Don’s witness by chatting with this strange creature before the noise becomes static near the end.

Wonks narration on the acoustic ballad, Quiet Rejoicing gives now that Don has lost his memory due to amnesia, helps brings some of the puzzle pieces together as the hearts are lifted for a clear awakening. The moment you listen to Speech Day, you begin to realize that Don is about to deliver one of the most awkward speeches that is the mother lode.

Like something straight out of Nicolas Roeg’s 1976 sci-fi classic, The Man Who Fell to Earth, the music begins to rise more and more as he begins to speak. Once he begins his speech, the audience begins to realize that it doesn’t make sense as he’s saying gibberish and the other half want to pummel him one way or another. The tension in Tall Tale is where all hell begins to break loose.

Joff’s guitar sounds like a harder crunch. And he knows that through his instrument that Don himself can’t come back from the mess that he created and now his followers turn his back on him. Now We Have Power is a bittersweet story to Don’s story. One of these days I hope Sanguine Hum turns his story into either as a graphic novel or a 2D animated movie and bring it to life. Worth exploring? Yes.

Tone Masseve - Amp L'etude

Now this took me a little bit of a surprise for me listening to an artist name Tone Masseve. He had been playing guitar since he was six years old. Not only he was listening to the sounds of Classical music, but in the footsteps of guitarists including Joe Satriani, Jeff Beck, Brian May, Robert Fripp, and early Eric Clapton.

The debut album released this year entitled, Amp L’etude took more than 20 years to complete. The collaboration between him and Jethro Tull’s drummer Doane Perry, is a very interesting combination, but when I was listening to the debut, it is not only bringing his music to life, but the vision and ideas that Tone brought to the table.

He tips his hat through the classical interpretations in the inspirations that it took from The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Queen, and Procol Harum to name a few. And it makes it something very special to go with it. Tone recorded his guitar parts that took two years to record. Now unfortunately in 1997, while Amp Letude was still in the works, Tone had pneumonia and passed away on November 27th.

Back in 2016, a group of musicians have come together to complete Tone’s vision for Amp Letude. Not only Doane Perry is involved, but Bassist “Willy” Sam Pell, percussionist Garry Kvistad, a Choir, and El Hectro Plait on Drums that he did on Track 7 (Prelude #4 (To The Grave)). For me listening to Tone’s debut, I could feel his presence throughout the entire album from start to finish.

And the musicians on here are bringing Masseve’s creation to life and releasing it and knowing he would have been very thrilled to know that Amp L’etude has finally been unleashed. And the fires are still burning and it will never ever burn out for Tone Masseve. The Moonlight Sonata (On the Hill of the Skull) you can hear the combination between Beethoven and Satriani, creates a darker beauty as Tone combines his two guitars into one as he plays the sonata and Joe’s virtuostic playing to show his appreciation.

With the styles of Schubert and the Beatles on Maria (She’s So) Ave, it brings together those essences to life as the choir honors the fab four’s legacy and the sounds bringing up to the ascending heavens by showing gratitude and warmth farewells to say goodbye to your loved ones. On Prelude #6 (It Tolls For Thee), there are some aspects between Queen’s second album and a little of Purson’s The Circle and the Blue Door-era on the track called Rocking Horse. It's almost as if the lullaby has become this mournful howling at the moors with no turning back.

The opener, Aire on a G String (A Whiter Shade) are Tone’s tip of the hat to both Bach and Procol Harum. He and Doane’s drums take you outside of the church and into a warm-like resurrection for some new chapters that will await you. Perhaps one of my favorite tracks on Amp L’etude is The Sunken Cathedral (Turns the Tide Gently, Gently Away).

I can imagine both Brian May and the late great Jimi Hendrix are in awe of Tone’s creativity of his playing by opening more of the floodgates as he is now the new captain of the ship to search for more hidden treasures that have been sunken over millions and millions of years ago. And now he’s bringing it to life. There are some incredible moments on here between the bells tolling for the arrival of this Cathedral to see for the first time and being in awe of the legendary castle and the tribal percussion's that make it come up to the surface.

This is now my second time listening to Amp L’etude. I have to say this, I was really impressed of Tone’s brilliance of what he has done to combine classical music and progressive and virtuoso music into one. As I’ve mentioned before earlier, if he were now, I think he would really appreciate and be thrilled to hear his debut album come to life for 2018.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Magma - AKT XVIII – Marquee – Londres 17 mars 1974

This 2-CD set contains of Magma going into overdrive at the Marquee Club in London on March 17, 1974. The band were promoting their third studio release, Mekanik Destrutkiw Kommandoh and were two months to go back into the studio to record their fourth album, Kohntarkosz.

This is a very interesting rare archival recording. It’s not just you can close your eyes and being at the Marquee while watching Magma bringing the styles of Stravinsky, Opera, Jazz, Classical, and Progressive Rock to life with the Kobaian language, but having the power and the glory to witness something special with this that will make your jaws drop from start to finish.

The scream of “HAMATAI!” kicks everything off with the work-in-progress version of Kohntarkosz. The band begins with this intensive crescendo that erupts like a cannon blast for the audience to embark on going into the Egyptian tombs of the god himself, Emehntehtt-Re. You can imagine the crowd is stunned and in awe of hearing the strange language being brought to life for them and knowing this is a concert they will never forget.

Claude Olmos comes center stage as Klaus Blasquiz’s vocals reaches the higher arrangements with his vocals as Claude’s guitar goes into some harder double-edge swords on a bluesy sound and removing those spider-webs inside those darker tombs. Graillier and Bikalo share this alarming yet ominous Rhodes-like tunnel to make you be on the look-out for some of the traps that the gods might have done.

Christian himself follows in hot pursuit to create more danger as he puts you on this tightrope as pounds those drums like Elvin Jones, Buddy Rich, and Billy Cobham combined into one. The last six minutes become even more dooming and intensive as Vander’s screeching vocals make your skin crawl while Claude does this Fripp-like movements for a brief second. But all of a sudden, it becomes a climatic frenzy as they come together to bring the club down to a thunderous cheering and applause.

Sowiloi is a mellowing ballad that has this feeling of Soft Machine’s Slighty All the Time that Magma tip their hats to. It then switches into a sudden change at the last two minutes as they go into a frenzy attack to go full throttle on yo’ ass! Sons et Chorus de batterie (Ptah) which translates to Sounds and Chorus of Drums, this gives Christian Vander a chance to sweat his heart and soul out on those drums.

It is tribal, pounding, swing, and some crazy improvisations that Vander himself brings to the audience. He is the mad scientist on the kit, but also a conductor. The last five minutes and fifty seconds in where he scats and sings in his operatic form, there are moments where he would go into this scale format as the rhythm goes really fast. There is another sequence where when he would hit the snare drum by the time he scats he would sound like a computer going haywire.

And after the explosive 25 minute improvisations, the audience went nuts and applauding for more of them to do another set. Jannick Top’s composition, KMX BXII Opus 7, is one of the rarest live recordings for him and his bass to fit the biggest pieces of the puzzle. Now you can hear some of the bits of the Kohntarkosz suite in there, but when Top plays, the band gives him free-rein. He uses the fuzz-tone sound and go into some heavy jazz-rocking lines that makes it sound like a rapid firing machine gun.

He plays through the spiraling staircases between Pekka Pohjola, Stanley Clarke, Geezer Butler, and Jaco Pastorius. As Jannick raises up the heat from the temperature, it goes up and up. I just wished in that moment that the crowd would have clapped along to the rhythm and tell him to keep going.

Also on here is another work-in-progress composition that was performed at the Marquee was the first movement of Theusz Hamtaahk. There were some parts of what Vander had also written for the trilogy and some aspects for the bizarre 1972 French Film, Tristan et Iseult, and a part of the album, Wurdah Itah. While the first movement wasn’t in its final shape, you could tell that this was where Vander wanted to go with the piece.

While the first movement was performed on a BBC Sessions they did for John Peel, prior to the Marquee. And then later in 1981 for the live album, Retrospektiw (Parts I + II), and recorded 18 years ago at the Trianon theater in Paris in honor of their 30th anniversary for the three movements including their groundbreaking album which would be the third and final movement, Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh.

This is now my tenth time listening Magma’s live performance at the Marquee. And the sound quality is either an A or B quality from the archives, it’s a very interesting release to see what the band or Vander himself will come up with next for the next Archive release in the near future. So repeat after me, “Hortz fur dehn Štëkëhn Wešt/Hortz da felt dos Fünker/Hortz Zëbëhnn dëh Geuštaah/Hortz Wlasïk Kobaïa!”

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Xavi Reija - The Sound of the Earth

It’s been two years since I’ve listened to Xavi Reija’s music. From his 2014 fifth album of Resolution which was my introduction to his work, and his collaboration with Dusan Jevtovic on XaDu’s Random Abstract, Xavi has brought together another release on the MoonJune label this year entitled, The Sound of the Earth. With Dusan on the album, Xavi has brought along Markus Reuter and Tony Levin from Stick Men to lend Xavi a helping hand on his new release.

When I was listening to The Sound of the Earth, Xavi, Tony, Markus, and Dusan aren’t just band members, but more like a family working together and getting stronger and stronger. There are these structures that go beyond the post-rock sound and some of the bluesy sound thanks to Dusan’s guitar that makes it a very interesting combination.

It’s not only that, but Xavi might have told the band members to go beyond several surroundings and take it as far as they can. From the fourth movement of the title-track you can hear some of the similarities between Ash Ra Tempel’s first debut album as Reuter’s touch guitar sets up this vast, spacious ordeal to go beyond those twisted paths before Levin’s upright bass opens up the creaking floorboards that are getting ready to crack at any second.

Tony’s bass, Dusan’s guitar, and Xavi’s pulsive drum patterns on From Darkness, go into a parallel twilight zone universe that is filled with paranoia and hell like you’ve never seen. Reuter follows suit to increase the temperature level up a notch while the second movement makes you want to close your eyes and experience the beautiful landscapes of Bahia in the heart of Brazil. It then transforms into a twisted electronic avant-garde switch as they have these hay-wiring effects that come into place.

Like a beautiful painting done by Jackson Pollock, Serenity’s echoing effects that Dusan and Markus do, are very haunting towards the Norwegian mountains in the dark. It’s this cross between Terje Rypdal’s Odyssey and Frank Zappa’s Watermelon in Easter Hay, it is bluesy, experimental, and the waves come crashing down at the exact moment at the right time.

There is this aggressive side on the piece, Deep Ocean. It’s between the riffing intros that Dusan and Xavi do by making the waves crash down more on the city. It has this Sabbath-sque intro they walk into before Levin and Reuter come in by making the staircases like a rubik’s cube that becomes more challenging. The Sound of the Earth is Xavi Reija’s vision to create a film score.

Listening to this, I had this vision of him using the music for Nicolas Winding Refn’s Valhalla Rising. But it is one of the most daring releases to come out of the MoonJune label this year and Xavi Reija’s challenge is really getting me hooked into more of what he will come up with next.

Not a Good Sign - Icebound

For a band like Not a Good Sign who are still carrying the flames of the Italian Progressive Rock scene, the first two albums are so damn good, I always wanted to hear what they would come up next. And from the release of their new album this year entitled, Icebound, it has this darker and ominous atmosphere. With their third album being self-released, Icebound gives Not a Good Sign to go beyond the temperature that is a freezing snow storm below zero.

And being in the middle of that weather, it is cold, chilly, and uncomfortable temperature. Finding someplace warm, that is a big challenge. From the moment I heard, Uomo Neve, it gives Paolo "Ske" Botta of creating a vision for him to make a score to a video game franchise for the BioShock series. He creates these moody visions from the piano before switching to the keyboards as to show the player of the high-tech cities that were once beautiful, has gone horribly wrong.

Van Der Graaf’s David Jackson makes a guest appearance on the album with Trapped In. He captures the spirit of his sax and flute to a terrifying yet calming composition. With Cassani’s thumping pick-bass before going into the chaotic textures between the Pawn Hearts-era and King Crimson’s Lizard, it transforms into a swirling psych-pop twists featuring some crazy organ work.

You have the moody violins setting up the change of scenery from Eloisa Manera to some Knifeworld-sque sax and heading back down the spiral staircase for some crazy time changes. The search for happiness on Hidden Smile, is not an easy subject. Being in this lonely forgotten area in the middle of the snowstorm, is survival of the fittest.

And throughout the instrumental, Trevisan and Botta send signals between each other to give some of the characterizations for a sign of hope that the clouds would pass through by hopefully seeing a ray of sunshine, but it becomes too late, as it disappears again for some more dangerous weather to come. Botta opens the doors again for the Truth.

He gives the listener to open them up to see through these collateral universes. Calandrielllo’s vocals tugs your heart as if he’s describing the real situations of getting out of the storm while Trevisan makes his instrument to climb up the staircase before the blaring sounds of Botta’s organ erupting and ending with some surreal momentum.

Not a Good Sign’s music for me, is always a challenge. But Icebound has perked my ears up. I’ll admit it this, this might take a few listens, but it shows that while they’ve come a long way, Icebound is not just a grand slam, but a raw and essential snowstorm from start to finish.