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Thursday, March 28, 2019

Ape Shifter II - Ape Shifter II

Now we’re cooking with more inflammable gas this year with Ape Shifter’s second album as they keep the fires burning from their follow up to their sole self-titled debut released in 2017. This time, the trio go into some of the different genres and carrying more of the Metal counterparts they always keep in the back seat of the car by revving it up to get the engines rolling by driving down to the heart of New Mexico and seeing the sunsets over the horizon.

Listening to Haskett, the trio ride in their motorcycles by going into the towns of the Thrash Metal genre by tackling the early days of Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All and Master of Puppets-era by travelling back between 1983 and 1986. The first minute and 24 seconds of the Mask of the Ancient Warrior becomes this powder keg that erupts at the exact moment Jeff and Kurty go into metallic riffs and blistering middle-eastern textures.

Jeff shreds more throughout his guitar as Florian’s bass riff goes on a loop as Aug channels the mysticism’s of Ash Ra Tempel’s Manuel Gottsching for a few seconds before heading back into the harder punches by reaching the finish line. On 7 Years Fat, 7 Years Lean Ape Shifter channels the workout of Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son as you can imagine the trio taking you inside the Egyptian tombs while Jeff’s guitar’s opens the door.

Once you go in, there’s no turning back. But then the mood changes as they honor more of the sounds from the Moving Pictures-era of Rush. It sounds like an extended mid-section version of the incredible styles of Alex Lifeson as Jeff goes back into the compositions of Red Barchetta as the cars go into some intensive heat as the gas pumps up the speed values by reaching the finish line.

The trio returns to the funk-rock roots on Jiggy Jiggy Boom Boom. And it’s not just getting down and getting funky, but with the raunchy blues rock and Walter going through the textures of Bootsy Collins and Larry Graham as Jeff gives Florian the chance to come center stage and get into those slap-and-pop sections to honor the two masters.

Die Rauscchmeiser sees them delving into the waters of the British Steel-era of Judas Priest as Aug and Walter get the energy juice pumped up once more by channeling Priest’s Glenn Tipton and Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris. They are honoring the NWOBHM sound on this track and they have got the pancakes and coffee well made for an amazing morning breakfast.

The closing track, Matilda which is sung by Jeff himself, has this Beatle-sque vibe with a twist to the Stones Their Satanic Majesties Request-era with a Celtic violin touch by Kilian Kayser. There is some psychedelic vocalizations and lyrical structures that deal with innocence being killed, moving on after losing someone, suicide, and picking either between your friends or your fights.

Ape Shifter have come a long way. And their second album is so far the beginning and they’ve really brought more ingredients to the table to make some more hot and spicy wasabi pizzas and the energies of funk, metal, psych, and a teensy-bit of rockabilly, they know their genres very well and I hope to hear more ideas they would come to the table.

They'll be starting their touring in Germany from March 30th to April 30th and then, performing at a festival on July the 24th at the Free n Easy Festival in Munich. So please check them out.



Tour Dates:
30.03.2019 DE-Immenstadt, Rainbow 
14.04.2019 AT-Salzburg, Rockhouse 
15.04.2019 DE-Bamberg, Live Club 
16.04.2019 DE-Jena, Rosenkeller 
17.04.2019 DE-Fuerstenwalde, Club Im Park 
18.04.2019 DE-Hamburg, Bambie Galore 
19.04.2019 DE-Berlin, Supamolly (w/ David Judson Clemmons) 
20.04.2019 DE-Hannover, Strangriede Stage 
22.04.2019 NL-Tilburg, Little Devil

23.04.2019 DE-Stuttgart, Kap Tormentoso 
24.04.2019 DE-Frankfurt, The Cave 
25.04.2019 DE-Koeln, MTC (w/ Zodiac) 
26.04.2019 DE-Oldenburg, Club Cadillac 
27.04.2019 DE-Karlsruhe, KOHI (w/ Far Behind The Sun) 
30.04.2019 DE-Willofs, Veteran Treffen 
24.07.2019 DE-Munich, Free n Easy Festival 

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Ape Shifter - Ape Shifter

Now I have been out of the limelight for a good while and way overdue on reviews. So it’s time to go ahead and delve deeper into the woods of this German-based trio called Ape Shifter. Launched in 2015 by Jeff Aug, He toured solo as support for Albert Lee, Soft Machine, and Allan Holdsworth.  His old band, Sorry About Your Daughter was support for Ice-T and Body Count, Jawbox, and Shudder to Think.

He has Two Guinness World Records from 2009 to 2012 for setting the world record as “The most concerts performed in 24 hours.” Now let’s get to Ape Shifter. The trio considers alongside Aug’s incredible virtuostic guitar playing, Kurty Munch on Drums, and Florian Walter on Bass Guitar.

Their sole self-titled debut album release via Brainstorm Records two years ago, showcases the energetic force of bringing down the thunder with some killer instrumental rock that crossover with sonic punches and intensive riffs that can make you close your eyes for a bit and capture the essence of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s approach on the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.

When you listen to Dopamtic, it has these blaring riffs that reminisces between Led Zeppelin’s Moby Dick and Parliament’s Give Up the Funk before driving down the highways to see where the trio heads into the desert sky of reaching the Grand Canyon before the sun rises. Kurty’s powder-keg drums and Florian’s fuzz-bass sets up for a few brief seconds before Jeff gets them back into the Corvette and finally reaching those gigantic mountains.

The motorcycling revving sound on Dead Tuna Boogie delves into the swamps of Louisiana with a swinging twist with some twangy sound that Jeff does to make you go into the dance halls inside the riverboat before he does some incredible fret work throughout his pedals and cranking out the vibes as if you’re on the boat by crossing over the Mississippi River.

Kurty’s tidal-wave drumming on Uhluhtc, gives he and Jeff channeling these metallic grooves as if honoring the styles of Rush’s YYZ as Ape Shifter honors them by extending that mid-section with some King Crimson vibrations before bashing the doors down for the last 50 seconds into some punk-like territories with a gigantic battering ram.

Verdammt is like Steve Vai channeling the Grand Wazoo’s legacy with Joe Satriani to lend a helping hand as Aug delivers more crunching roars throughout the composition as he is ready to load his weapon by raising more hell to reign fire and getting the alarm set at the right moment. Ratchet Attack is like something out of the sessions between Tool’s Undertow and Lateralus.

Ape Shifter makes the jump to light speed in hyperspace and seeing where the trio fight with all their might by bringing more of those harder edges as Florian nearly goes in for a brief second of going into the brief styles of Paul D’Amour and Jeff channeling Adam Jones. Kurty pounds more of those drums like a pounding punching bag on Sakrotani.

He goes into the styles between Klaus Schulze of Ash Ra Tempel’s drumming (before switching to the keyboards) and the late great Jaki Liebezeit of CAN’s Tago Mago-era. Kurty honors those two masters and making sure he’s up in tempo and going full speed to see what will Jeff come up with next.

This was now my second and third time by delving my toes into the waters of Ape Shifter’s music from their 2017 debut release. I was completely hooked right from the moment I put the CD on from start to finish. This wasn’t just a prog or a harder rock album, but a ride through those metallic edges that is opening the doors to those parallel worlds like you’ve never seen before.

Vasil Hadzimanov Band - Lines in Sand

It has been a good while since I’ve opened the door to hear more music from the realms of MoonJune Records. And as for me, it is now a good time that I’ve decided to open that door again once more to hear some incredible good music from the label. And this time, it is the Vasil Hadzimanov Band. They have released their new album last year entitled, Lines In Sand.

Now I first became aware of Vasil’s music back in February of 2016 when I first heard him with his band featuring alto saxophonist David Binney on their live album, Alive. When I first heard his music, I wasn’t just blown away by their sound, but how he and his band
mates would take you on their magic carpet and be a part of their concert in Belgrade in October, 2014. And you can just close your eyes and imagine yourself being at that venue.

With Lines in Sand, the Vasil Hadzimanov Band go into structures that are Avant-Garde, Trance, Pop, and Psychedelic to name a few. They’re going the beyond the Jazz genre. For them, it’s about moving forwards and seeing where the next yellow brick road will take them into by seeing, hearing, and understanding to go beyond that genre.

When you listen to Kazi, you can almost imagine Vasil tipping his hat to the late great Edgar Froese and channeling the master himself, Klaus Schulze. He takes you into these passages by going into these mournful sounds of the organ with swarming synths, and going into the depths of Tangerine Dream’s Zeit and Atem with bits and pieces of Camel’s Moonmadness into the kitchen, and featuring some sampling drum loops done by Peda Milutinovic.

It switches into the funk on Maklik as he gives bassist Miroslav Tovirac a chance to delve into those funky sounds from his wah-wah pedal. Bojan’s spacey fusion delay effects gives some ideas that he and Miroslav travel through space and time as Vasil goes into the waters of the Headhunters-era of Herbie Hancock while Dean Bowman’s vocals on For Clara, shows this nod that he gives between R&B singer Lou Rawls and Chicago’s Terry Kath.

But it has these echoing sounds that the band do. They channel these mysterious tones from the future of bringing both the Bebop and Atmospheric voyages with an ominous approach to Kind of Blue. Now on Mr. MoonJune, Vasil shows his appreciation by writing a composition about the master behind the label for 18 years, Leonardo Pavkovic. Bojan and Tovirac show those funky-fusion improvisations as Vasil’s synths fly upwards to the sky before going into a Vince Guaraldi concerto.

Rastko Obradovic’s sax fill up the missing puzzle pieces as Branko’s chords and Borjan’s percussion lend the saxophonist a helping hand. When I was listening to this track, I could tell that they honor the chord melodies in the styles of Miles Davis’ Freddie Freeloader. The beautiful vocals done by Marta Hadzimanov on Lost are sung in the melodic structures of Robert Wyatt’s arrangements of Calyx from Hatfield and the North’s self-titled debut.

She channels Wyatt’s voice as if honoring him to go through the scales that he would do on the track as the opening piece goes into this Brazilian bossa-nova intro from Vasil’s piano. From the major and minor chords as it sets up this sun-rising atmosphere before the tribal drumming by Milutinovic and Tovirac’s bass lend Vasil goes into this groove-like quality on the piano.

It can really get you up to speed before they would come up with next by walking across the hottest part of the city to enjoy those delicious ice cold teas. Ratinici Podzemlja (Warriors of the Underworld) sees the band going into a....disco phrase? Okay, well that really took me by surprise, but it does have this dancing vibration to carry the beat around with a chugging twist by having the disco ball shining brightly on them.

This was my fourth time listening to Lines in Sand. Vasil and his team have come around to bring more ideas to life. Now for me, this was quite the challenge to hear what Vasil has done on his new album by going into different formats of music that is on here. As I’ve mentioned earlier, this is not just a jazz album, but bringing different structures to life. And I hope that he will continue to do more on the next adventures that awaits him.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Third Ear Band - Music from Macbeth

My first discovery of reading about the Third Ear Band was back when I was a student at Houston Community College when I got a special issue of Classic Rock Magazine covering the story of Prog Rock in 2007. They were selected along with Greenslade, Jonesy, and Fruupp as The Best Prog Bands You’ve Never Heard by Malcolm Dome. Their music was so hard to find and I nearly gave up on trying to buy their albums. Until either last year or this year when Esoteric Recordings were going to do the Third Ear Band’s music.

And so my ears told me to go ahead and jump into the bandwagon of the Third Ear Band’s music. They originally started out as a psychedelic band from Canterbury called The Giant Sun Trolley and then changing their names in to the Hydrogen Jukebox.  But then they decided to move away from that scene into something that was a combination between Medieval, Classical, Avant-Garde, Raga, World, and Indian music.

Championed by the late great John Peel who played jaw harp on their first album Alchemy in 1969, when he first heard them in late 1968 at a concert in Guildford at a projected arts lab in which he wrote about them in an article of IT (International Times) issue 45 on November 29, 1968. After the releases of their previous albums including a score for a German TV special based on one of the most passionate true romantic love stories of the 12th century Abelard & Heloise in 1970, Richard Coff and Ursula Smith left the band.

Enter Paul Buckmaster (David Bowie, Elton John, Harry Nilsson) on Cello and Bass Guitar and Denim Bridges on Guitar. One of the Esoteric reissues that made me want to listen to again and again was their score for Roman Polanski’s film of Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Macbeth. It is perhaps one of the scariest, nightmarish, surreal, and intensive scores I’ve listened to from start to finish.

Music from Macbeth is not for the faint of heart, but for me, it was a challenge. It showed that the Third Ear Band’s idea to crack those doors open wider with textures of aleatoric music, folk, and some of the early structures of what would later be known as the Rock In Opposition movement (RIO). And with a little help from High Tide and Hawkwind’s Simon House on Violin and VCS3 after being recruited by the late great Glen Sweeney, it can make your skin crawl.

With Ambush/Banquo's Ghost, you get these sounds of chaotic noises of guitars, Minns’ Oboe, Sweeney’s percussion, and Buckmaster’s Bass, it goes into this crackling falling down structure by going into those rolling hills and channeling the minds of Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica. The Beach have these sound effects of seagulls and the waves before Simon’s violin screeches to make this noise of giving both the listener and the audience of what is to come in Shakespeare’s play.

The Overture has these aspects of between the early beginnings of Univers Zero and Present. You can imagine Roger Trigaux was listening to the band’s music to follow in their footsteps as if he wanted to make sure to honor them in Univers Zero’s music and breaking all the rules. Blaring guitars, bass lines, percussion, and Oboe’s that crawl through various corners of one room to another.

Fleance, sung by the late Keith Chegwin who was 12 years old at the time, brings this beauty and folk-like structures in the form of a waltz. It has these Acid Folk-sque sound as the son of Banquo sings to Duncan as he enjoys his feast with Macbeth before being killed. Simon’s VCS3 and Violin on The Cauldron sets up the witches potion that Macbeth drinks. The droning sounds from the violin, cello, and oboe sets up these alarming noises from the bubbling synths with some percussion and wah-wah guitars going back and forth.

Dagger and Death goes into this experimental approach for the Third Ear Band as they channel the Krautrock genre and honoring the styles of CAN’s early years to give Buckmaster a bit of a chance to channel the essence of Michael Karoli. The three bonus tracks contains the first versions of Court Dance, Groom Dance, and Fleance which were recorded at Trident Studios on December 5, 1970. Also in the reissue contains a 16-page booklet containing liner notes by Luca Chino Ferrari.

Ferrari is not only an underground writer covering folk/rock musicians including Captain Beefheart, Syd Barrett, Tim Buckley, and Robyn Hitchock, but also an official archivist and biographer on the Third Ear Band’s music. He also contributed the reunion for them in the 1980s. He also runs an incredible website covering the band’s history entitled Ghettoraga Archive (

Also in the booklet, it contains the original sleeve text, biography, Japanese promo of the band, snapshot of the band’s appearance in the film, and a picture of Roman Polanski during the making of the movie who at the time in 1970 before it came out in 1971, was going through depression because of the way the media handled the incident from the loss of his second wife, Sharon Tate who was brutally murdered by members of the Manson family on August 9, 1969.

When The Tragedy of Macbeth was released in 1971, it premiered on January 31st at the Plaza cinema in London after receiving some excellent stasis from Movie Critics including the late great Roger Ebert who gave it four stars in his article on the first of January that same year in the Chicago Sun-Times by calling it, “the most pessimistic films ever made.”

But when it was released in the States, it tanked after losing $3.5 million dollars at the box office. The soundtrack however was very positive from the music press and even was nominated for the 1972 performance awards. The award went to Nino Rota for his score to the 1972 classic, The Godfather.

After listening to Music from Macbeth, my ears were intrigued from start to finish. It was like searching for the lost and hidden treasure that Long John Silver had hidden for many, many years. And I hope to discover more adventures to Third Ear Band’s music to come from Esoteric Recordings to see and hear what I was missing for many years.