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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.

Phideaux - Infernal

It’s been seven years since Phideaux Xavier has released a new album since 2011’s Snowtorch. I’ve already have a huge admiration of this band along with Xavier’s work since discovering their music back in the first of the series of Romantic Warriors: A Progressive Music Saga released in 2010 by filmmakers Jose Zegarra Holder and Adele Schmidt.

This year, they’ve released their ninth studio on the Bloodfish label entitled, Infernal. Now for me, I nearly had forgotten about Phideaux’s music, but when I heard he was releasing a new album this year, I knew that the door was always opened to see and hear what he was cooking throughout those years.

This is a conclusion of his trilogy which began with 2006’s The Great Leap and 2007’s Doomsday Afternoon. So when I was listening to Infernal, I can imagine Phideaux is finally relieved completed the three stories and it is him finally reaching the light at the end of the tunnel. Back in 2011 when I compared Snowtorch as an alternate soundtrack to the 1976 cult classic Logan’s Run, I now compare Infernal as a score to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

The artwork done by Phideaux member Molly Rutten, captures the similarities of Alphataurus sole self-titled 1973 debut, Le Orme’s Uomo Di Pezza, and King Crimson’s In the Court of the Crimson King. The subject throughout the entire album tackles the situations of Fear, Terror, and Hope. From the pounding sections between guitar and piano on The Error Lives On, gives us a greeting for more bad news of giving the descriptions for bigger problems and it isn’t looking too good.

The rhythm tips its hat to Jethro Tull’s A Passion Play as Phideaux and Valerie take the listener to task on the danger and asking the questions on if they had given the news to them or not. On Crumble, Valerie Gracious sings this beautiful piece as if her character is getting close to dying in the streets as the war rages on as she gives us the last rite before she closes her eyes and going into the afterlife.

The door opens more to the dystopian atmospheric landscape on the opening track, Cast Out and Cold as the vocals and organ sets up the nightmare. The guitars and vocals come rising up as if opening up more of where we have left off in Huxley’s sci-fi classic. There are some elements between Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain, King Crimson’s first two albums, and Alice Cooper’s Welcome to my Nightmare. And not only that they work well, but it gives you some details that the pieces of the puzzle begin to come as one.

We Only Have Eyes For You runs us through the disaster through the rubble. With the watery effects of the vocal arrangements of “You Better, You Better Run.”, you have these medieval keyboard sections, acoustic and electric guitars racing through the doors to escape the chaos, but big brother himself will always keep an eye on them, no matter what if they don’t want to be controlled or owned by the city that is near the brink of collapse.

Pino Rucher’s spacey structures on Wake the Sleeper becomes a deep, dark, and lonely space as Phideaux’s vocals gives us the situation that there’s no sign of escape. Now I don’t want to go into spoiler detail, but with Tumbleweed, which is sung in the melody of Doomsday Afternoon’s version of Crumble, the puzzle suddenly matches each of the pieces one by one.

The 14-minute composition of From Hydrogen to Love has this militant rhythm in the style of Gustav Holst’s Mars: The Bringer of War, throws in some aspects of The Beatles, Muse, Morgan’s Nova Solis, and Banco’s Darwin-era. It is a roller-coaster ride to some unexpected moments that shows Phideaux has done his homework going from hard, Italian Prog, Baroque Pop, to a teensy-bit of some cookie-monster vocals which I might think it happens near the midsection for a couple of seconds.

But here's my take on Phideaux's new album. This is now my 14th time listening to Infernal. And it’s a welcoming return for Phideaux. This album has grown on me even more. While the trilogy has come full circle, I hope one of these days Phideaux turns the trilogy into either a graphic novel or a video game to bring the images to life. Is it too late to say that Infernal is going to be the album of the year so far? Let’s just wait and see.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Soft Machine - Hidden Details

It’s been 50 years since the Soft Machine released their sole self-titled debut album. From their Canterbury Psychedelic sounds to Jazz Fusion in the 1970s. The Soft Machine went through various line-up changes. Daevid Allen, Allan Holdsworth, Robert Wyatt, Hugh Hopper, Elton Dean, Mike Ratledge, Kevin Ayers, and Karl Jenkins to name a few, they were ahead of their time.

Now for me with the Soft Machine, I’ve always prefer their first three albums. But when I heard they were going to release a new album this year, my first thought was, “Well, this should be interesting. Let’s see what it’s like.” I have been familiar back in 2013 when it was known as Soft Machine Legacy when they released one of my favorite albums Burden of Proof which was issued on MoonJune Records and Esoteric Antenna. But let’s get straight to Hidden Details which is released on the same label, and find out what kind of ingredients they have cooked inside the kitchen.

I will admit, I’m not a gigantic Soft Machine fan, but I was completely taken aback from what I was listening to from start to finish with Hidden Details. And it showed how much in awe I have with this album. This is the first album they’ve released since their last and final album Land of Cockayne in 1981. And this is a big surprise they’ve unleashed this year.

From the opening composition of the title-track, John Etheridge’s guitar delves into a Dance of the Maya-sque intro as Theo’s sax and Babbington’s dooming bass sets up the crime scene with a futuristic film-noir background. Travis lays down some of the clues through his saxes and noticing a piece of the puzzle is missing before switching gears towards a wah-wah fender Rhodes sound as Roy and Etheridge go into some directory of being on the right track.

Broken Hill sees Etheridge creating these cavernous sounds as Theo goes more into the mysterious travels through his Rhodes while Marshall takes the cymbals on his drums into various areas you do not want to go into when it gets dark. I can imagine this piece as a film-score that Soft Machine do. And they set up these bluesy-psychedelic vibrations to go through these corridors as if to find out which parallel door they want to go into.

John Marshall’s drumming on Flight of the Jett goes through various crescendos capturing the styles of Elvin Jones and Robert Wyatt. I felt a little tug to the Third-era as Marshall hammering those drums like a true jazz musician as he’s going through the drum kit and knowing he’s not going through a stop sign, but making sure the job is done right.

Etheridge channels the riffs between Gentle Giant’s Gary Green during The Power and the Glory and Kansas’ Kerry Livgren’s Leftoverture phase before channeling the Grand Wazoo himself by laying down more of the Blues-like improvisation through his guitar playing on One Glove. But then we get to Ratledge’s composition of the first part of Out Bloody Rageous which originally appeared on the Third album in 1970.

The introduction begins with Theo using his Fender Rhodes to channel Terry Riley’s A Rainbow in Curved Air as he makes the keyboard sounding like an experimental swirling rainbow drop before the band members come into play honoring Ratledge’s arrangement. They honor not only his work, but Travis channeling the late great Elton Dean to keep his legacy alive and it is a great tipping the hat to him.

Fourteen Hour Dream has this combination of a Jazz-Psych-Pop orientated piece. From Babbington’s intro that he plays on his plays like a loop through walking circles, to unbelievable mid-bright mornings near the end by going through a mystifying atmosphere.

The closing track, Breathe features guest musician Nick Utteridge on wind chimes, sees Theo, Nick, and Marshall taking you into these atmospheric landscapes to the land of the rising sun. You can close your eyes and imagine this piece of music as a score to cities of Japan and it fits perfectly to capture the essence of the journey into the heart of Tokyo.

Hidden Details shows that Soft Machine is more than just both a Progressive and Jazz rock band. But going beyond those genres and making it something special with their sound. And this album creates a strangely, beautiful, adventurous, and illustrated that is brought to life.

Dialeto - Live with David Cross

Recorded last year on July 22nd at Sese Belenzinho in Sao Paulo, Brazil, this live album shows Dialeto bringing all of the ammunition at the cultural center. Not only bringing the aspects of Bela Bartok’s music, but the shattering eruptions of King Crimson with violinist David Cross. Released on the Chromatic Music label and distributed my MoonJune Records, Dialeto with David Cross who appears from track 5 to 13, are bringing the spirits of both Bartok and Crimson’s music alive.

And I can imagine the audience that night were really amazed and in awe of what they have seen. When you put on Dialeto’s Live with David Cross in which at the time they promoting Bartok in Rock, you can close your eyes and imagine yourself being at the center and watching the trio along with David Cross performing not just Dialeto’s music, but part of the John Wetton-era of King Crimson.

I can imagine David himself tipping his hat to Wetton as is he is watching down from Heaven to keep his spirit alive. Not only that, but his legacy to grow for many years to come. You have Costa doing this walking bass loop on Mikrokosmos 149 – Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm II while he and Codho’s spiral staircase-like guitar structure goes up and down the stairs whilst carrying the beat of the rhythm dancers going into the style of the music.

You can feel the alarming tension on Roumanian Folk Dances 4 – Stick Game with the Bass Guitar going into this homage of Pink Floyd’s Careful with that Axe, Eugene from the live version of Ummagumma. It becomes this walking tight-rope that Costa and Bailey do. It then becomes a very dangerous situation and you never know if the rope is going to be cut or not before reaching the climatic ending to roaring applause.

The morning over the swift sunrise that Cross does to bring the sun over the horizon on Mikrokosmos 78 – Five Tone Scale, brings these vibes to make that sun come out for some haunting textures. The effects in which David himself brings on his violin in the first three minutes are beautiful before Dialeto switches gears for this motorcycling ride down the highway.

Nelson sounds like a creative mad scientist. Listening to this track, I couldn’t even tell if Nelson and David themselves are doing this duel near the end. If they did, it’s an incredible moment on here before coming to an abrupt end. An Evening in the Village – 10 Easy Piano Pieces No. 5 sees Fred doing this clicking-clacking sound on the drums as he’s turned it into a warrior’s cry for a battle of fighting to bring peace in the valley.

There’s some touches of Asian music followed by the twists and turns of the Kabuki theatre atmosphere that the band and Cross do on this track. They do this blaring version of Tonk which is from Alive in the Underworld. It has this Hammill-sque arrangement that Gabriel Costa does to channel the mastermind of Van Der Graaf Generator.

It is part Hendrix and part THRAK-era that Dialeto take the piece into. The sinister and snarling arrangements on here, go into interstellar overdrive and damn! It is an eruptive take for the band to perform live. Their takes of the classic Crimson pieces of Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Part II and Starless which Nelson uses the Mellotron on his guitar. I can imagine he used the Electro-Harmonix MEL 9 to create the closing track to finish the album off.

It is a very interesting pedal to make your guitar sound like one of the most amazing keyboards from the late ‘60s and bringing the composition to life. I have to say that this was a very good live release that Dialeto have unleashed this year. And the collaboration with King Crimson’s David Cross, is like a breath of fresh air. I hope they continue to work together again in the years to come.