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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

King Crimson - Epitaph

It was during Spring Break of 2002, and something strange had happened to me. I was only 17 years old when my Mom drove me for an evening run to Soundwaves in the Montrose area here in Houston. I was in my Sophmore year in High School when I came across this incredible set of a King Crimson live album entitled, Epitaph.

Now unfortunately many years later I worn it out not just because of the incredible, yet intensive performances they gave from their sessions they did for John Peel’s Top Gear, but the performances at the Fillmore East and West between November 21st and in December of 1969 with the original line-up.

Now released last year in an eco-wallet design, it brought back so many memories revisiting some of those moments with Robert Fripp, Greg Lake, Michael Giles, Ian McDonald, and Peter Sinfield on my little boombox 17 years ago and revisiting the volumes one and two for their incredible virtuosity. 50 years later, despite the sound quality whether it’s an A or a B recording, it still sounds fresh.

Not to mention the album cover design of The Four Seasons by P.J. Crook. Her artwork that is evidential on the latter King Crimson’s albums, is quite staggering. It’s almost the passage of time set in this Victorian-era in the late 1890s and Crook captures that moment of what once was, is now gone. But let’s get into Volumes One and Two of the 2-CD set, Epitaph.

Now by this time period, King Crimson released their debut album on October 10, 1969, In The Court of the Crimson King after performing their breakout performance by opening up for the Rolling Stones on July 5th at Hyde Park featuring the Third Ear Band, Family, and Alexis Korner’s New Church to name a few. And word of mouth started to spread about this band including Pete Townshend of The Who, describing their debut, “An Uncanny Masterpiece.”

You have this flaming fire version of 21st Century Schizoid Man at the Fillmore East where the band were on fire to an audience were in for a treat to hear this band kicking into full gear as if a cannon went off unexpectedly at the right moment at the right time. Then there’s the mournful composition of Epitaph at the same venue where Ian’s Mellotron, Greg’s bass, and Robert’s sadness that he brings throughout, the song tackles the subject of the dangers of war that is about to come.

Greg’s vocals fill the halls of the Fillmore East as he sings “But I fear tomorrow/I’ll be crying/Yes I fear tomorrow/I’ll be crying/Yes I fear tomorrow/I’ll be crying!” You almost couldn’t turn off the first disc, because it is simply beautiful of what Lake has brought to this track. The jazzier smoky sounds from Ian’s sax and Greg’s bass of an old song that Giles, Giles, and Fripp did during their recording sessions for The Brondesbury Tapes, sees King Crimson going into the towns of Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis from the ‘50s of Drop In recorded at the Fillmore West on the second disc.

Their take from the BBC Session of Donovan’s Get Thy Bearings, despite the quality of the sound, takes it up a notch than the version I heard from the Plumpton live recording back in 2000 on the fourth disc of the 1992 box set, Frame by Frame: The Essential King Crimson. Ian’s sax goes through various corners while Greg’s walking bass line sets up the night before climbing those ladders to reach those sections for Ian to tackle the Coltrane sound to honor the master himself and just going all over the place.

Mantra gives Fripp, Giles, and McDonald to take this middle-eastern minor section throughout the chords of finding the signs of peace from the first disc with some incredible relaxations from their previous tracks on disc one. But it’s both A Man, A City (which was one of the early basis for Pictures of a City from their 1970 follow-up, In The Wake of Poseidon) and Mars that gives Crimson a chance to go into mass madness.

Fripp describes to the audience on the first disc about the song describes the city of New York City and dedicated to the Big Apple as Lake sings in the style of Schizoid Man structure but with some heavier grooves, insane time signatures, calm before the storm, and then back into the action once more. But when you get to Mars, this is where King Crimson brings all of their energy out into the audience.

From the seven movements of The Planets suite by Gustav Holst, Crimson go into this brutal nightmarish atmosphere on the Fillmore West performance. With the view of the red planet of its militant march between Guitar, Bass, Drums, and Mellotron, it turns into a chaotic frenzy near the end as the audience erupts into cheers that can really make your skin crawl and the audience chanting for Crimson to do another encore.

Epitaph really brought back memories for me as a Teenager. And now listening to this again, I can imagine what unearthed material that is going to be delved into the 50th anniversary box set of their groundbreaking debut album for its own limited edition that's coming out this October. And as Robert Fripp would always say, “King Crimson has a way of doing things.” Well, they do. And for them, there’s not a single stop sign for them.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Tirill - Reissues

Tirill Mohn is a name you probably may or may not recognize. She’s a singer-songwriter from Asker, near Oslo. She was one of the multi-instrumentalists that appeared on White Willow’s 1995 debut, Ignis Fatuus that was originally released on The Laser’s Edge label and reissued on Termo Records seven years ago. Last year, three of her solo albums from 2003 to 2013 have been reissued on Stephen Lambe and Huw Lloyd-Jones’ crossover label, Sonicbond.

These three albums showcase Tirill’s arranging and composition by continuing where she had left off during those sessions on White Willow’s debut. Listening to these albums, there is a Folk-like landscape that is set inside a gothic cathedral as if she had recorded them at the same venue by having this haunting atmosphere. Her debut album, Tales from Tranquil August Gardens was originally released As Dance with the Shadows on a small indie label, The Wild Places.

Unfortunately, when the album was released, the label was defunct due to the death of label boss Michael Piper. What Tirill did was to go back to the original album’s title. The guests that are on her 2003 debut include; Ketil Vestrum Einarsen on Flute, Sigrun Eng on Cello, Nils Einar Vinjor on Guitar, and Sylvia Erichsen on Vocals.

When I was listening to Tales from Tranquil August Gardens, Tirill’s voice resembles the spooky atmospheres between Happy Rhodes, Nick Drake, and Mellow Candle’s Clodagh Simonds. She captures these different tones that are stirring, eerie, emotional, and epic. It’s like being a part of her journey as we the listeners, embark on her emotional, beautiful, surreal, and powerful ride that is something extra special.

Nights are Colder begins this track with a dystopian scenario as if hell has arrived and everything has gone to pieces. You can imagine her singing this by going through the calm after the storm and carrying a bit of the Acid Folk and White Willow structures as she tips her hat to Jacob Holm-Lupo. She and Odd Halson Solbakken walk towards the rubble through the abandoned architectures.

When you listen to Don’t Dare to Love You, It’s her nod to Radiohead’s OK Computer. But then she carries that mysterious walk through the singing styles of Subterranean Homesick Alien and Exit Music (For a Film) with Nils’ steel guitar with Ketil’s intensive flute playing, and some incredible percussion work by setting up this scenery of a romantic relationship gone wrong.

Ketil’s reverbing effect on his flute throughout Heavy Heaves gives you another return to the futuristic nightmare as the spooky effects from the keyboards and the vocalizations between Happy Rhodes, iamthemorning’s Marjana Semkina, and Trees’ Celia Humphris. It makes you return to that landscape by sending shivers down the spine for one of the terrorizing visions that await us for the 22nd century.

Sylvia and Odd lend Tirill a helping hand on Vendela by doing the vocal duties. You can feel the goosebumps behind you as she continues to honor White Willow’s music by keeping the flames burning bright as if this was recorded during the sessions for Ex Tenebris. Now with Nine and Fifty Swans, it was inspired by the poetry of W.B. Yeats as she continues to write these story telling compositions that was a follow-up to her 2003 debut.

She channels both Vashti Bunyan and Trees’ The Garden of Jane Delawney as Sigrun’s cello and Nils lferman Schultz’s double bass captures the day of a life of a woman who is going through her routine as being queen. Dagfinn Hobaek’s vocals give Tirill’s narration a shining light to the story while the medieval folk structures pay homage to the 1973 British cult classic The Wicker Man by dedicating To A Child Dancing in the Wind.

Parting is Tirill’s nod to Jim Croce’s Time in a Bottle. Dagfinn’s vocals and Tirill share the mournful loss of saying goodbye to a loved one and the struggle to move forwards. There is some eerie guitar lines that come near the end. And then we come her third album released in 2013, Um Hininjoour (About Heaven). Tirill moves from the folky genre into the progressive and ambient sound.

Chariot’s usage of the mellotron fills in some of the empty spaces to bring some sort of closure as she fills in the missing puzzle pieces in the composition by fulfilling your destiny as the lifting melodies begin to make you feel closer by coming towards the heavens. Fagar Enn Sol (Pleasantness Than Sun) is Tirill at her strongerhold.

She brings her vocalizations into different areas that have a multi-layered background along with her singing while some of the minor chord changes at the end brings to mind of David Bowie’s Hunky Dory-era. The spooky keyboards on Moira delve into the waters of King Crimson as the sound becomes these atmospheric locations as the guitars swim towards the city of melody while becoming a shadowy shape-like figure that watches every step you make.

The gentle lullaby that’s on Quiet Night gives Tirill to go into this quiet relaxing finale as for thanking the listener to be a part of her journey. I have to say after listening to these three albums, Tirill Mohn has come a long way. 

Tirill is more than just a progressive artist, but she's taking it a step further to go beyond the genre and beyond the yellow brick road. I hope that she continues to do another solo record in the near future and waiting to see and hear what she’ll come up with next.

Sonar - The Bill Laswell Mix Translations

Sonar have been around for nearly ten years. Since my rediscovery of their music thanks to Prog Rock Deep Cuts with Ian Beabout, and with the release of their 2018 album, Vortex via RareNoise Records along with their live performance they recorded at Moods Jazz Club in Zurich on Trey Gunn’s 7D Media label, they show no sign of stopping.

For this new released that was unearthed last week; Bill Laswell who is a producer, remixer, and bassist, reconstructed two tracks from the Vortex album, were done at Orange Music Studios last year in West Orange, New Jersey and was recorded four days in July of that same year in 2018.

What Bill has brought on those two tracks, some of the electronic structures to life and creating something that is intense and off the wall that you can never expect from Laswell himself. He’s not just honoring the sound and vision of Sonar’s music, but going beyond the solar system that is a million light years from home.

The genesis of the remixes came to life when Music Without Borders: Innerviews founder Anil Prasad e-mailed bassist and composer Stephan Thelen by telling him that he was meeting Bill for dinner and wondered if he could ask Bill to do some remixes by Sonar.

The answer from Stephan was yes. Stephan talked to his bandmates about it and decided which two tracks Bill can put his magic on the compositions. The evidence that is on The Bill Laswell Translations, is right inside the delicious Boston Crème Pie.

Listening to Billy’s mixes on both Vortex and Monolith, the first track has this very Tangerine Dream-sque landscape with some 8-bit video game structure before setting the controls through some far away distant planet that captures the early sounds of Pink Floyd before the chugging guitars and Bill’s mix captures the intensive grooves as the minimal sounds of Mike Oldfield meets Fripp-like guitars to set up the crime scene.

And then, all of a sudden, the electronics go into some dangerous tightrope as they kick into some mid-sonic overdrive with some creepy altitudes. I could tell that Laswell himself honors two of the masters of Vortex between Edgar Froese and Klaus Schulze. The bass becomes this looping walk as it becomes this questionnaire on the possible infinite universes that awaits Sonar.

Monolith goes beyond the stories from Arthur C. Clarke. It has these outer limit concept features some of the punching bass work while heading towards King Crimson’s Starless and Bible Black-era. Laswell’s bass punches through the controls by going through these abandoned space stations to find out what happened and what went horribly wrong.

He whooshes, swirls, and swooshing throughout the cavernous places that can be very, very dangerous. I really liked how Bill tackled two of the best compositions from the Vortex album. I can imagine it was quite a challenge. But he took it and it can make your skin crawl bit by bit. I would like to see him work with Sonar one day in the near future on the next release.

Please check out my other reviews I did on two Sonar albums from the Echoes and Dust website.

Sonar + David Torn - Vortex:

Sonar - Live at Moods

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Loomings - Hey Weirdo!

It’s been four years since I’ve listened to the sound of Loomings. Since their formation in 2012 in Strasbourg, France, I’ve first became aware of their music by accident when I listened to one of their tracks from the AltrOck bandcamp website on their debut album entitled, Everyday Mythology. Their music was this cross between Frank Zappa, Gentle Giant, the Rock In Opposition movement, and a little bit of The Residents, Univers Zero, and Present.

When I listened to their 2015 debut release, it was like opening up this door by discovering that the term “Prog” is more than just a four letter word. Jacopo Costa keeps the Loomings juice strong by making sure the band members have enough of them inside their body to launch another full scale assault on their follow-up this year entitled, Hey Weirdo!

The album is on the Soleil Mutant label, which is a sub-label of Soleil Zeuhl. And their second release shows that they’ve brought more challenges for Loomings to get more of the temperatures increased and the flaming fires burn even more! Listening to Hypnotic, the drums like they’ve opened the doors for the piano and vocals between Maria Denami and Clara Weil taking turns with some spiritual guidance as if the instruments have come to life to honor the work of the late great John Coltrane.

Not to mention the surreal vocals that go from area to another. The piano has some strong resemblance of Magma’s Stoah before the synths come in as everything increases to bring the inmates from the mental intuition’s going buck wild before the bass increases as the sounds of the Avant-Pop genre comes kicking in.

It was quite unexpectedly, but Loomings can bring the different genres and put them into this giant blender. They’re letting the listener know that isn’t any rules, but they can break them. One by one. The Slap has some incredible horn sections. Followed by the Bass Guitar sharing a melody with the saxes with some funky grooves for the xylophone as it goes into a crossover of Beat-Poetry turned Trip-Hop momentum as the rising vocals from Maria and Clara come crushing down like a battering ram swinging at the doors, hardcore!

The voices go into some territorial houses as if Loomings channel both The Residents and their nod to Kerry Minnear’s keyboards and walking into the hotel of The Grand Wazoo’s suite that makes it one size fitting all to make the cosmik debris inside the room.

All Hail is quite the challenge on the vocal arrangements. I can imagine Jacopo conducting the piece while Nicolas Klee’s bass goes into this Matching Mole-sque walk while Boyny keeps up with the female duo as he, Klee, and Costa fly upwards to a new heaven that is filled with wonderful music that shines brightly with some unexpected turns.

The title-track sees Loomings go into this avant-post-punk for a few seconds and go into this hard rocking mode. Pedicone’s drumming sets up this tidal wave mode as the vibes follow the band members into the Twilight Zone for a sonic-like drive that heads into these parallel universes with some nods to Oingo Boingo. And their hat tipping sections to MoeTar’s music that comes in and showing how much appreciation they have with this incredible band.

The synths that are on To and Fro go into this ‘80s New Wave/Jazz Rock approach before this melodic structure between the vibes and Rhodes play on this loop and then going into some film-noir like sound and then back into the structure of the loop by channeling the Three Friends-era of Gentle Giant. Not only that, but I can imagine both Maria and Clara are honoring the vocal styles of Moorea Dickason.

Cerchi (Including Central Park West) is Loomings chance to take a break from their electric sounds and going into this atonal classical jazz sound. You can just close your eyes and imagine being in the heart of The Big Apple set in the late ‘70s in Black & White. You can imagine being at different seasons, cultures, art museums, and the heart of New York City that will always be there for the rest of time.

This was my second time listening to Loomings’ Hey Weirdo! Jacopo launched a Kickstarter page back in February of this year to raise $3,368 dollars. And they have come a long way. This isn’t just a prog album, but an album that crosses over Jazz, Pop, Contemporary Music, Avant-Rock, Canterbury, Beat-Poetry, and twisting the grapefruit even more with some yummy taste that are delicious and surreal.

If you want to lend your support for Jacopo Costa for bringing Hey Weirdo, please go to the website to bring this to life.