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Monday, May 27, 2019

Gong - The Universe Also Collapses

Flicking through the pages/I’ve forgotten every word/The lines are meaningless/The photographs are blurred/And when I close the book/The story opens again.” The opening lines from the closing track of The Elemental shows that Gong are going strong since the passing of its co-founders, Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth. But keeping their spirit and legacy alive with their follow-up, The Universe Also Collapses. 

I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve listened to Gong’s music. Maybe four years or so that I haven’t gotten back on board with their Flying Teapot. But it’s time to head on board again with their fifteenth studio album released on the Kscope label. Their follow-up to Rejoice! I’m Dead! Is quite an achievement as Kavus continues to keep both Daevid and Gilli’s spirit alive as a new commander and the new captain of the Flying Teapot.

In an interview that Dave Strut and Kavus Torabi have done with The Quietus on May 15th written by Sean Kitching entitled, The Strange World of…Gong, Kavus was asked how Gong’s music was in their DNA, “For me, it was always about the way that all of us write songs and the way that all of us write songs and the way we approach music. We’re applying this to Gong, but we’re not trying to ape what Gong did in the past.”

“I think we’ve all been affected enough by Gong for it to be in our DNA and for it to be a way of operating that, we’re doing new music in that framework.” And that is what the next generation of Gong are doing, is bringing a new form of sound in the structure of Gong’s music and where would the flying teapot would take them on their new adventures that awaits them for Kavus, Dave, Cheb, Fabio, and Ian.

Clocking in at 20 minutes and 30 seconds, Forever Reoccurring starts off with some early Tangerine Dream before Strut’s synthesizer’s sets up the controls up and running before the sliding guitars go up and down and go beyond the outer limits of space and time. Kavus is like the master of ceremonies by telling the listener on what is about to happen in the years to come before the planets collapse in front of our eyes.

Not only that, but it gives Ian East’s saxophone through some passages and Torabi creating some challenging lines throughout his guitar before heading back down on dry land and going into the Carnivals of the unknown. Torabi’s riffs on If Never I’m and Ever You, sets up these spacey punk sections as East goes in for the kill on his instrument with a stop-and-go moment before going into the next parallel universe.

My Sawtooth Wake follows you back into the Isle of Everywhere with some crunchy riffs that have these little structures of Raymond Scott’s Powerhouse before Kavus becomes this faceless figure of what has happened in the storyline featuring some creepy vocalizations as Torabi channels the visions of both Daevid Allen and the late great Robert Calvert from Hawkwind. As Gong sets up this intensive moment in the 7-minute mark. Now this took me about three listens to whether or not I liked The Universe Also Collapses.

And I had absolutely no idea of what my eardrums were going to say. Well, my eardrums welcomed Gong's new album this year. As I’ve mentioned earlier, Kavus is making sure that the spirits of Daevid and Gilli’s legacy is alive and well. Yes, there will be some dividing line in the sand whether to accept the new generation of Gong or not, but what they have done, is to honor and staying true to that legacy. And The Universe Also Collapses, is the next adventure for the new cadets on board the Flying Teapot. Okay everybody, repeat the following chant, “I Am, You Are, We Are, Crazy!” Now we’re ready!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Markus Reuter featuring Sonar & Tobias Reber - Falling For Ascension

Markus Reuter has made a name for himself as a musician, composer, producer, and an instrument designer. From his collaborations with Stick Men, The Crimson ProjeKCt, and producing bands/artists such as Gentle Knife, Yang, and Sonar’s Stephan Thelen, Reuter has been around for nearly 23 years. And there is not a stop sign for him, because he is still going strong and never giving up.

Two years ago, he released an album by teaming up with Sonar and live electronic Tobias Reber called, Falling For Ascension. Released via Ronin Rhythm Records, Nik Bartsch’s label, Falling For Ascension gives Reuter, Reber, and Sonar a chance to dive into the waters of some unbelievable nightmares. Markus wrote some of the early compositions between 1985 and 1987 when he was in his teens.

To bring both Sonar and Reber by lending Reuter a helping hand, this is an interesting combination, but it works. The album was recorded in one day similar to what John Coltrane had done with his 1965 classic, A Love Supreme in one session. Reuter wanted to have it done under his direction as the pieces were prepared as modules with the 12-tone system as he assigned the instructions to each member.

Frank Zappa once said, “Music in performance, is a type of sculpture. The air in the performance is sculpted into something.” And that is what Falling For Ascension is, the sculpture of Reuter’s compositions being done from start to finish with some insane results.

Condition I is following in the veins of the ‘80s-era of King Crimson by keeping the fires burning. Markus and Sonar walk into this dangerous tightrope that goes from the Grand Canyon to the edges of the unknown. You can feel the levels go up a notch as Christian’s bass line and I believe it could be the electronics done by Tobias Reber. It goes into this bass and dark-like piano tones to set up the traps in its right place.

Condition II sounds like a Space Jazz Rock voyage that crosses over the Moonmadness-era of Camel, Herbie Hancock, Hawkwind, and Gong’s The Isle of Everywhere with it’s rhythmic melody. Throughout the loops and some of the Jonny Greenwood territories, it sends you towards a Clockwork Orange-like scenario with some insanity that is ready to unlock the prison doors so that the inmates can run the asylum.

The larger sections of the forests get even darker on Condition IV. As it gets bigger and bigger by the second both Markus and Sonar walk into, the piece is even more dangerous as Reber’s spooky atmosphere shows that the killer is on the loose by raising the heat gage level to 500 degrees. The closing track that clocks in at 22 minutes is Unconditional.

Listening to this train chugging riff that is on a loop, I can imagine that Markus is tipping his hat to Lainey Schooltree and her 2017 Rock Opera, Heterotopia as if they’re plaing the style of the final section, Utopia with a Crimson twist. But it goes into the Starless & Bible Black-era as Reuter knows exactly where he wants them to go into this final light at the end of the tunnel.

The music itself becomes brighter and brighter by thesecond as if to get out of those muddy tunnels. They know that once they reach the final mark, you could tell that this was one of the challenging structures of music that has have been a part of. And they deserve a gigantic pat on the back.

Now while this album itself didn’t grab me that much, it took me about a year or so to appreciate this album as if ears would accept Falling For Ascension or not. And for my ears accepted it. Now mind you, this album is not your typical prog-rock album, but Reuter, Reber, and Sonar finally release some magic underneath their sleeves and they nailed it.

Kuhn Fu - Chain The Snake

It’s been two years since Kuhn Fu have released a new album after the release of their 2017 album, Kuhnspiracy. So for me, I had completely forgotten about them. Until this year. Their follow-up Chain the Snake, shows them that the band are going strong. And this time it is filled with vengeance. Christian, Ziv, Esat, and George have the battering rams ready to burst the doors down with a hardcore punch.

Marco Messy Millionaire starts off with a brassy punk attitude as Christian channels both the Diablo Swing Orchestra and the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo by singing in the styles of Danny Elfman. It delves into some of the territories of Captain Beefheart as Christian and Ziv do this intensive challenge between each other as they raise the stake to see where both rhythm and improvisation go into some free-Jazz punk like structures that honor the WorldService Project.

Gargamel sees Kuhn Fu delve into the gems of Frank Zappa’s Weasles Ripped My Flesh. You could tell that Kuhn is like a composer by giving Ziv, George, and Esat some ideas on where he wants the band to march right into before going into this late ‘60s mysterious atmosphere with some wah-wah grooves. Traktus is one of their darker compositions by delving into the waters of the Rock In Opposition movement.

They channel parts of Henry Cow, Present, and Univers Zero before Christian Kuhn screams in the styles of Magma’s Christian Vander for a couple of seconds as Ziv’s clarinet and the dooming string bass sets up this nightmarish bloodbath as it switches into more of the punky movements as if Kuhn Fu are giving Green Day the big giant middle finger!

Gustav Grinch is a ska mode meets avant-jazz approach as Kuhn and Ziv crawl into this tiny little mouse hole by doing some alternate cartoon scores honoring Ren and Stimpy and the Robert Clampett-era of Looney Tunes. You can imagine Kuhn Fu are tearing down the rule books by going into the sounds by creating their take of making music for the 1942 short, Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid as if Beaky Buzzard has finally achieved his goal by capturing Bugs as if to please his mother.

Listening to Wolf’s Muckenkagel, Hadow’s tidal-wave intro on his drumkit is going through the sounds of The Ventures and The Surfaris. The chanting vocalziations go into a middle-eastern Malaguena motif as the chords makes these crashing sounds by setting up the final sequence of Clint Eastwood’s character of The Man with No Name in the final part of the trilogy, The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly.

Kuhn Fu have scored another touchdown in their own take of Football with Chain the Snake as if they brought everything from the kitchen table of Jazz, Swing, Ska, Punk, and the Rock In Opposition genre into a delicious Wasabi Mango Pineapple Smoothie. And Christian himself has delivered more than just a smoothie, but a volcanic eruption that is ready to explode.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

King Crimson - Live in Newcastle: December 8, 1972

50 years since King Crimson launched. 50 years since despite the various line-up changes, the music is still going strong like an eruptive cannon blast that is waiting to happen. And 50 years later, Robert Fripp himself is still going strong and keeping the machines of Crimson like a train chugging at 500 miles per hour. There’s no denial on how despite the genres to put King Crimson in, Fripp always considers King Crimson, “A Way of Doing Things.”

That and this rare live recording released last year from The King Crimson Collectors Club entitled Live in Newcastle December 8, 1972, showcases the early beginnings of the John Wetton-era of the band’s period. By this time period, the band had already finished up promoting the Islands album in 1971. Fripp parted company between Mel Collins, Boz Burrell, and Ian Wallace as they embarked on other successful careers from Camel, Bad Company, and Don Henley.

And in January of 1972, lyricist Peter Sinfield departed the band due to creative differences with Robert as he would later work with bands such as ELP, Premiata Forneria Marconi, and producing the first Roxy Music album. What Robert wanted to do is go into deeper darker territories such as the music of Bela Bartok and Free Improvisations. He brought along Family bassist John Wetton, percussionist Jamie Muir, violinist and keyboardist David Cross, and Yes drummer, Bill Bruford.

Bill had shown that he had reached his peak with Yes after the release of their fifth studio album, Close to the Edge. And what Bill wanted to do with King Crimson is have free-rein and go into a large full scale assault on his drum kit by having more textures of Jazz improvisations like no other. Now onto the Newcastle recording.

This was from a soundboard recording at the Newcastle Odeon where Sid Smith, who not only wrote the liner notes for this, but he was at this performance. And this was the very first King Crimson concert he saw at the Odeon. Listening to this concert, despite its quality, is quite a rare treat to discover the quintet taking all of the aspects of Free Improvisations, Classical Music, Jazz, and Avant-Garde structures like no other.

This was three months before their fifth studio album, Larks Tongues in Aspic was about to come out on March 23, 1973. And these were some of the early beginnings of what was to come prior to the Larks-era. So let’s embark on some of the highlights that are on the 48th release from the King Crimson Collectors Club.

My, my what a nice crowd of people they have in Newcastle. But now we will proceed to attack culture yet again to with a song called Daily Games and this, in turn, is preceded by a small demonstration of Mellotron tuning.” Fripp’s announcement after the exhilarating opening track of the first part of Larks’ Tongues in Aspic where Jamie Muir creates some eternal chaos throughout his percussions and drum kit by teaming up with Bruford as they let the beast run buck wild, is quite an achievement to come at you with some brutal force to start the show off.

The punching in the gut stomp intro of Easy Money from Wetton’s bass and scat solo, Cross’ mellotron, and Fripp’s nightmarish guitar lines delving into a clean yet quiet sound and Muir’s percussion textures, sets up the intensity of the greed coming at you and the dark side of the corruption. On Improv I, you can tell the band are having a blast going into some territorial free improvisation of the Jazz structure.

Wetton’s intensive bass lines, Muir and Bruford doing a duel on their drums and percussion, Fripp setting up some of the early beginnings of the Starless and Bible Black-era, and Cross taking you into those mysterious location in the heart of the forest that can be dangerous and very lifting at times. The drums are the key to the Newcastle recording.

You can tell that Bill and Jamie are having a blast between each other as they set the kettle boiling red hot from their free-improvisations as Muir is all over the place throughout the percussions whilst Bill is almost saying to him “Alright, let’s see how you can come up with this bad boy right here!” They are a perfect match, and a perfect team by working together during that performance.

And then they set up the Blaxploitation score by laying down the funk as Cross sets his wah-wah on his violin to set up the scenario on where Richard Roundtree’s character in Shaft will come up with next to bring justice and handle the law his own way, not the police, but the way he handles it.

Now on Improv II, I can’t tell if that is Jamie Muir screaming and chanting like something out of Jack Nicholson’s volcanic performance in the 1975 classic, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but if that’s him, he’s the raging beast ready to attack. He brings all of the percussion instruments to the forefront as he goes all over the place. It’s one of the terrifying and insane compositions I’ve listened to.

There’s the essence of world music he brings into at times, and some stronger elements of an Indian tribe and Soft Machine’s Third meets Klaus Schulze’s Irrlicht thanks to Wetton’s bass in the background very softly. The intensity is there and you can imagine the audience are going to be there for the ride that is challenging and right in your face.

Even though it is similar to the Earthbound release, the quality isn’t bad as I’ve mentioned earlier, but Live in Newcastle is the adventure that awaits them on what they were going to do and the direction they were going in between Larks Tongues in Aspic, Starless and Bible Black, and the Red album before calling it a day in 1975, this is the journey that begins the John Wetton-era.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Tillian - Lotus Graveyard

Whenever something that comes underneath the surface from either the Progressive Rock or Symphonic Metal genre, I know that something special awaits for me. And one of those up-and-coming bands that have really taken me by surprise is another band from Israel alongside Orphaned Land, Aperco, Ninet Tayeb, and Ahvak, is Tillian. Launched in 2014 from Tel Aviv, Tillian is the brain child of Leah Marcu.

Taking inspirations between Ayreon, Pain of Salvation, Gentle Giant, and Kate Bush, Marcu wrote it as if it was a solo album around the concept of alchemical transformations of the self. What she wanted to do was exploring those inner progressions; love to pain, pain to beauty, beauty to spirit, and spirit to love. It started to transform itself as Tillian.

And with help from Orphaned Land’s producer Erez Yohanan along with some hand-picked musicians while being mastered by Forrester Savell who worked with Karnivool. Alongside Leah who does the vocals, the line-up from the recording considers alongside Leah herself; Alexandra Marcu on Cello, Yadin Moyal on Guitars, Yoav Weinberg on drums, bassists Yanai Avnet and Alon Shulman on two tracks, and keyboardist Lior Goldberg.

Lotus Graveyard is their debut released this year. It is such a killer release for a band that’s delivering not just the goods, but combining metal, prog, and ominous haunting melodies, Tillian have unleashed an amazing debut. From the opening track of Reborn featuring the crossover sections between nylon strings, piano, and haunting electric guitars between Yadin, Alexandria, and Lior, walks down this twisted corridor to give Leah a chance to shine.

Her vocals resembles Within Temptation’s Sharon Den Adel and Anneke van Giersbergen as she rises from the ashes by becoming X-Men’s answer to the Dark Phoenix as she sings the line “Will I wither like all roses?/Will I forfeit my own cry?/But the blackness held its silence/The golden scales in perfect balances.” When she sings that section in the song, the music becomes this nod towards Muse’s Absolution as she tips her hat to Matt Bellamy’s arrangement.

The sections on Touched between the piano, moog, and classical structures by giving Leah a chance to spread her wings while Yadin’s guitar goes into the nylon strings into a battering ram line on his electric guitar with some heavy riffs while she channels her inner vision of Kate Bush as if she had sung for Gentle Giant by making her vocalizations go up a notch.

Yadin channels the bands between Judas Priest, Deep Purple (MKII), and Iron Maiden with some arpeggiated fast-driven lines and riffs for a short minute on Caught in your Slought while I’m Too Close tackles the themes dealing with obsession and domestic abuse. Leah’s vocals and Yadin’s guitar goes through the ascending mountains as you can imagine the woman herself going through this struggle to escape after being tormented by this person’s obsession and abuse towards her.

It’s not an easy subject to tackle, but the intensive arrangements makes this woman’s point of view to being free and escaping from the torment she was going through, but the moment she goes to sleep, he will haunt her in her dreams for the rest of her life.

Black Holes goes into full speed between Yadin’s riffs, Goldberg’s keyboards, and electronic drum sounds that have a trip-hop effect as the gates open up with the vocals and chords rising from the grave. It delves into a spaghetti western waltz before heading back into the territories of Gentle Giant as the tidal wave crashes down the cities with a mighty crash.

And it gives the band members some free-rein to have the waves to crash even more to hit those powder kegs at the exact moment they explode with a big gigantic bang. And then that gates open up even more on Love or Heaven for the battles to begin as guitars and drums go in full throttle with the bullets go into some rapid firing with snarling vocals thanks to Shachar Bieber (not related to Justin, mind you).

While I’m not crazy about the snarling voices from Shachar, but after Leah sings, she gives Shachar a chance to deliver those beast-like vocals as he is ready to raise hell even more to give Leah a chance to hit those notes on a big massive scale. Earth Walker is a nod between Iamthemorning and Steven Wilson’s Grace for Drowning. Leah channels the vocal arrangements of Marjana Semkina on the closing track.

Alexandra, Lior, and Yadin sets up this aftermath from the battle which has now become a massive bloodbath while delving into the atmospheric sections of Klaus Schulze’s Irrlicht. Alexandria closes up the book to give Lior a chance to wait at the exact moment for Leah raising her arrangements on her vocals.

This took me about two listens to delve into Tillian’s Lotus Graveyard. And the moment I listened to this from start to finish, I was completely spellbound that they’ve brought the genre of both Progressive Metal, Classical Music, and Symphonic Metal with a gigantic crunch by bringing them into one. I hope they continue to do more because the yellow brick road for Leah and her bandmates, have only just begun to follow in Dorothy’s footsteps.