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Tuesday, November 3, 2020

The Top 25 Albums of 2020

This year has been pretty rough throughout the whole year with COVID-19, Quarantine, and Concerts not happening. And while it's been stressful as well, music can always lift our spirits up. So I hope you got your Christmas and Hanukkah wish lists ready, because here is the top 25 albums of 2020.

1. Ring Van Mobius – The 3rd Majesty (Apollon Records)
2. La Maschera di Cera – S.E.I. (AMS Records)
3. Gary Husband & Markus Reuter – Music of our Times (MoonJune Records)
4. Markus Reuter Oculus – Nothing is Sacred (MoonJune Records)
5. Gazpacho – Fireworker (Kscope)
6. Ayreon – Transitus (Music Theories Recordings)
7. Jon Durant & Robert Jurjendal – Across the Evening (Alchemy Records)
8. Louise Patricia Crane – Deep Blue (Bad Omen Records)
9. Pixie Ninja – Colours Out of Space (Apollon Records)
10. Kansas – The Absence of Presence (InsideOut)
11. Rick Wakeman & The English Rock Ensemble – The Red Planet (Madfish)
12. Kavus Torabi – Hip to the Jag (Believers Roast)
13. Hexvessel – Kindred (Svart Records)
14. Markus Reuter – Truce (MoonJune Records)
15. Ross Goldstein – Timoka (Birdwatcher Records)
16. Deep Energy Orchestra – The Return (7D Media)
17. Amy Birks – All That I Am & All That I Was (Self-Released)
18. Magenta – Masters of Illusion (Tigermoth Records)
19. The Tangent – Auto Reconnaissance (InsideOut)
20. Zoe Polanski – Violent Flowers (Youngbloods)
21. Tim Bowness – Late Night Laments (InsideOut)
22. Jon Gomm – The Faintest Idea (Kscope)
23. Fish – Weltschmerz (Chocolate Frog Records)
24. Jakko M. Jakszyk – Secrets & Lies (InsideOut)
25. Nektar – The Other Side (Esoteric Antenna)

Monday, September 21, 2020

Reuter Motzer Grohowski - Shapeshifters

Recorded last year at the Shapeshifter lab in New York on August 18th, Markus Reuter, Tim Motzer, and Kenny Grohowski participated in an experiment at the sonic laboratory. The premise for the three members who were at the venue last year was; what are the corporate results of three sonic shapeshifters, released from their own prisons? What they will do when they’re behaviors become observed? And how they will assume by creating their own transformation?

And the result is on this recording that becomes this suspenseful drama that the trio unfolds with Shapeshifters on the MoonJune label. Listening to this album, its almost as if you are a part of their experiment as the trio gets down to business by increasing the heat gage level as it gets more hotter for the members unleash the flaming fires they’re about to unleash.

The four tracks that are on the live recording showcases their sinister side. It goes beyond the electronic route and the jazzier sides as well. This is the future that they’re bringing to us at the labs in Brooklyn. There are certain moments where they created an alternate score for Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 classic Stalker and Rainer Weiner Fassbinder’s 1973 TV miniseries World on a Wire.

They’ve done their homework very well when it comes to writing a score for a film that is brought to life. It is a climbing effect in some sections where they would bring the audience to a standstill and not knowing where they will go next. And some of its catchy, but then it returns into the swamps of Louisiana where it becomes dark and very scary.

The reason for that is there are certain area in that location which are dangerous and the areas you do not want to go into. And they take you into those areas and warn you why it’s a place in Louisiana you want to avoid at times. This took me a while to delve into for a few weeks to go back and listen again and again with Shapeshifters. Understand that the trio’s unexpected challenges bring the listener into those hard, intense, and brutal areas right in front of your face. And if you think it’s a story filled with a Disney-story line with fairy dust sprinkle all over to fly with Peter Pan, think again.

Markus Reuter Oculus - Nothing is Sacred

Recorded last year at La Casa Murada in Spain on May 15th, Oculus is one of the most interesting projects that is like finding long lost hidden treasures that haven’t been opened for a long, long time. Released on the MoonJune label, Nothing is Sacred is a challenging release this year that will make your spine crawl. And to be allowed to feature Fabio Tentini, Asaf Sirkis, Robert Rich, David Cross, and Mark Wingfield, it shows that Oculus aren’t just a band, but a family.

Listening to Nothing is Sacred is like walking into an area of the Twin Peaks universe that has never been seen before. With its dissonance, increasing temperatures, and chambering echoes of gothic cathedrals, Reuter takes the listener into the unknown. Solve et Coagula (Ghost I) is a cross between Philip Glass and Andy Summers’ Behind my Camel from The Police’s Zenyatta Mondatta-era.

Fabio’s bass goes upwards as Wingfield and Reuter’s soundscapes take a deeper voyage into some of Schulze’s arrangements. The themes on here are darker, nightmarish, and very creepy. Sirkis’ drums sound like as if they’re locking the doors very tight inside the mental institutions so that the inmates won’t take over the asylum for a while until all hell will break loose.

Bubble Bubble Bubble Bath (Wink) gives Reuter go into this psychedelic trance as we hear film-noir mellotrons with vocalizing whispers while David’s violin adds the beat with Asaf’s heart-pounding bass drum. And once Wingfield follows Markus in hot pursuit, he follows him into those eerie rabbit holes with a morse code.

The Occult (Dice I) has Asaf’s click-clacking percussion effects to fill up the entire studio by channeling Nine Inch Nails meets Gong’s You-era. The bass section that Fabio does, channels two unsung bass masters; Mike Howlett and Paul Jackson from the Head Hunters-era of Herbie Hancock. With an echoing effect, it has this intensive drive between Markus, Fabio, and Mark driving 900 miles per hour.

Nothing is Sacred is one of a kind. It may not be everyone’s cup of Joe, but Reuter and Oculus take you into those areas that are surreal, mythical, and Lynch-like. But the twists and turns can keep you guessing to see what will happen next.

Markus Reuter - Sun Trance

 The genesis behind this incredible project came when Dennis Kuhn came across Markus Reuter’s work six years ago as he contacted him about collaborating with his ensemble team, the Mannheimer Schlagwerk. It was almost as if Don Corleone from The Godfather once said, “I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse.”

Dennis has been around since 1979. He founded the Basler Schlagzeugtrio in 1984 and joined the Deutsches Schlagzeugensemble (German Percussion Ensemble). He collaborated with two composers, Wolfgang Rihm and controversial figure, Karlheinz Stockhausen.

Sun Trance was written quickly for Reuter to compose after finishing up Daimon Fu a few months earlier. Recorded three years ago at Alte Feuerwache in Mannheim, Germany on May 23rd and released on the MoonJune label, distributed my Iapetus Media, Sun Trance gives you the front-row seat to unveil this incredible live recording that has been unfolded and finally brought to life.

You can feel this lullaby going into a deep, dark area from the dissonance that is like a pin dropping at any second. It’s like something straight out of two films; Spike Jonze’s 1999 classic, Being John Malkovich and Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides. It has these mysterious edges towards the composition as if the ensemble has given audience members pieces of the puzzle set on to their tables.

And for them, they have to put the pieces together to see what happens next. The vibraphones that Ti-Hsien Lai and Dennis Kuhn are doing while the Glockenspiels between Luis Andres, Lukas Heckmann, and Chavarria Baez go into this dangerous maze that is very challenging.

It turns into a Goblin-sque approach that is deepish red and following into the Suspiria sessions that the ensemble challenge. Reuter’s instruments walk upwards on this spiral staircase by raising the temperatures up a notch. It has a walking dance in 4/4 with some shakers going in hot pursuit, and moody atmospheres to channel Jean Sibelius’ The Swan of Tuonela.

Sun Trance is a mesmerizing composition by Reuter and the Mannheimer Schlagwerk. It will keep you guessing until the very end. And for MoonJune, they’ve got something special, and it is the ultimate trip.

Monday, June 29, 2020

MevsMyself - Mictlan

There’s something that has crept upon the waters of vocalizations with a man named Giorgio Pinardi and his voice solo project, MevsMyself. Since 2015 with the debut release of Yggdrasil, he had begun music when was very young by studying opera singing and sung in the child choir of the La Scala Theater in Milan, Italy. After playing with bands, he decided to bring his voice from different perspectives – extended vocal techniques, body percussion, improvisation, and experimentation.

That and his second album, Mitclan which was released last year, showcases Pinardi’s arrangements by travelling through the various improvisations of Mongolian, African Indian, and Bulgarian music. Now, mind you I was very with this type of sound from hearing Herbie Hancock's Watermelon Man from his twelfth studio masterpiece, Headhunters. And two others; Crystal Beth, and the late great Paul Pena.

Who not only wrote the hit song Jet Airliner, but delved into the world of Tuvan throat singing which was covered in the 1999 documentary, Genghis Blues. For Pinardi, he channels those three masters and takes his own spin of vocal percussions with the twists and turns on Mitclan. Giorgio does well on just his voice, but taking us to these various landscapes that structure on where he’s going to land.

Sometimes the genres crossover between Jazz, World, Electronic, Scat, and a touch of Ladysmith Black Mambazo with some tribes of middle-eastern music thrown into the middle. And mind you, it is quite unexpected, but this album is quite a journey from start to finish that Pinardi has taken us into these unbelievable results that you might want to take note on.

While this album took me a long, long time to get into, Giorgio Pinardi’s arranging and composition was really worth exploring into the music of MevsMyself. But it was really something that made me wanted to go back and revisit it again. I don’t recall how many times I listened to, but I went back again and again to give this album my full stamp of approval for 2020. And I hope to hear more from Pinardi in the years to come.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Gary Husband & Markus Reuter - Music of our Times

While we’re living in these tricky times in 2020 with the Quarantine situation and COVID-19, music is our comfort zone to get away from those rough moments that we are going through right now. That and the latest release from MoonJune Records with pianist Gary Husband and Touch guitarist/live electronics Markus Reuter entitled, Music of our Times. This is the labels 101st release. Recorded at NK Sound Studio in Tokyo, Japan, Husband and Reuter create these visual soundscapes to capture the structures between loneliness, superstition, beauty, and chambering echoes.

The story goes like this, Leonardo Pavkovic booked a block of studio time in Tokyo after Stick Men were stranded by finishing off a performance in Nagoya at Blue Note. So what he did was to construct a plan “B” idea for both Gary and Markus before their return flight. And it was all recorded in one night.

Similar to what John Coltrane did with A Love Supreme being recorded for one night at Van Gelder Studios in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on December 9th, 1964, Music of our Times carries that torch, but with a strength of surreal beauty that is finally brought to life. With the usage of Fazioli F212 Grand Piano, Husband creates some of these darker passages with an echoing hallway effect.

For Markus, he follows Gary by becoming like a painter of sorts as they’re following in the footsteps of both Jackson Pollock and Julian Schnabel. They’re looking through their exhibitions between both original and plate paintings that are brought to life as if they’re walking through the stories inside those portrayals that are unleashed for the first time.

Some of the pieces including the intensive title-track, channel the crossovers between Keith Jarrett’s playing, meets the soundscapes of Klaus Schulze’s Irrlicht while delving into the dooming structures of Manuel Gottsching’s playing on Ash Ra Tempel’s Traummaschine. They work well together to create these mournful scenarios. On White Horses (For Allan) you can feel the spirit of the late great Allan Holdsworth in this arrangement.

Reuter channels his visual styles to make his own take of the SynthAxe while Husband follows him by going through the loops and walking towards some cavernous reverb effect as Markus’ instruments cries out to the gods by making sure that Allan is watching up from above and understanding that he’s got their backs, no matter what will happen next.

Colour of Sorrow at first sounds like the bass riff intro on Justin Chancellor’s Schism from Tool’s Lateralus. But it becomes different the way Husband goes into the abyss while walking down the stairs to see this glowing light approaching the duo at the right exact moment for them to fly off into the distance.

Now this was a big challenge for me that MoonJune Records have unleashed in 2020. It took me about six to eight listens. Mind you, I had a few albums that I listened that were very challenging at times. And my ears had no idea on whether or not this album was either going to sink or swim. 

But for me, Music of our Times is the perfect swimming exercise to listen from start to finish. MoonJune Records have never disappointed me with some of the greatest releases they’ve unleashed. And who knows what the label will think of next. But for Husband and Reuter, in the words of Steve Winwood, “Who knows what tomorrow may bring?”

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Andrea Scala - Coming Back, Leaving Again

Andrea Scala is an Italian born, Toronto based drummer and composer that has unleashed his debut album this year on the Shifting Paradigm label entitled Coming Back, Leaving Again. This was a big challenge for me to listen to his new album from start to finish. It was like walking into this other room and seeing what Andrea is going to do next.

I had no idea on what to expect as I was putting my earphones on, but I was up for that kind of challenge with Andrea’s debut. It’s electronic, fusion, progressive, and very whirlpoolish. Everything on this album is very much like the ultimate trip for Scala to push the envelope even further.

While this is my first time discovering the Shifting Paradigm label, some of the centerpieces that are on here, would shivers down your spine to see and hear what Andrea would think of next. There are moments of Avant-Garde, Soul, Electronic, Classical, and Atmospheric noises to make the cycling flower come to life.

Towards Oxygen sounds like the swirling guitar that is in a hay-wiring effect that Manilo Maresca channels the midsection sequence of Mark Mothersbaugh’s guitar on Devo’s Too Much Paranoias. Plus diving into the droning effects between Eno, Cluster, Stockhausen, and the Zeit-era of Tangerine Dream.

With Out Here, Scala goes into this Trip-Hop effect as he walks into these big gigantic steps with Tarenzi’s intensive piano exercise that goes from this cliffhanger effect into a Thelonious Monk approach. He along with Puglisi’s double bass, walk into this garden of dream-like beauty that has been unleashed to its own amazement.

Overnight Walk sees Nicola Costa’s guitar carrying this bluesy effect by channeling some of the early Floyd sounds while Raponi’s Wurlitzer soars into this R&B/Soulful twist with Liberti & Santodonato’s horn sections to take us into a midnight dance with some incredible grooves to give us a chance to see the sun in all of its glory. Cracked at first sounds like these complex challenges with some odd time textures thanks to Mareca’s guitar lines going up and down the rabbit hole.

It becomes this spiraling staircase into the wacky worlds of Mr. Bungle, Frank Zappa, and Kerry Minnear’s keyboard work from Gentle Giant. Now for me, Andrea Scala’s debut album is like a powder keg that is ready to explode. And he’s not backing down without a fight. He along with his team mates have worked well together to bring this album to life. So for me, I might peak my interest with not just with Scala’s work but the label itself to see what ideas they might have in store for me.

Friday, April 24, 2020

David Sancious - Eyes Wide Open

David Sancious has made a name for himself as one of the original members of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. But he’s more than just working with Bruce himself. He’s also worked and toured with legendary artists including Stanley Clarke, France Gall, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Jack Bruce, Jon Anderson, and Eric Clapton to name a few.

This year, Sancious has released a new album entitled Eyes Wide Open. Clocking in at 34 minutes, this is David showing us the landscape on what has America become. And you as a listener, whether you agree with him or not, David is showing them that there is a dark side underneath the homemade crust of Apple Pie that isn’t pretty. And believe me, it is a place that you do not want to go near.

And to be allowed to feature musicians that include Vinnie Colaiuta (Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa, and Tori Amos), Living Colour’s Will Calhoun, and Prince alumni Michael Bland on drums, it’s quite a combination to see these amazing group of people lending David a helping hand. Now before I went ahead and listened to his new album, I had to go back and listen to his previous albums he did between 1975 and 1976.

Both Forest of Feelings and Transformation (The Speed of Love), reissued by Esoteric Recordings in 2014, were kind of like an introduction for me to discover what I was missing behind those rare and unseen treasures that hadn’t been used for a long, long time. Listening to those two albums was showing Sancious to go beyond the Springsteen sound and into the worlds of; Fusion, Soul, Ambient, Classical, Flamenco, and Progressive rock rolled into one big giant burrito.

He took those different styles of music and he put them together by creating this visual style of format on how the pieces should be written and they should be brought to life as if the paintings of the Adoration of the Magi by Leonardo da Vinci was set to this mind-blowing score. Now onto Eyes Wide Open. As I’ve mentioned earlier, David is taking the listener through the dystopian world of the new America.

However, there is David’s return to the roots of Progressive Rock, Jazz Fusion, and Soul as if he’s bringing it to life again with a little touch of a gospel groove thrown into the vocals at times. When you listen to Urban Psalm #3, you can hear the sound of news reporter tackling the issues of racial tension, protesters chanting in the streets, and the voice of Martin Luther King Jr, lifting their spirits to keep fighting the good fight.

The drums, bass, and organ sets up this battle for the prayer on peace for a new tomorrow. And it is only just the beginning. Flip It is David’s answer to Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters-era. He channels the riffs on the opening sequence to Chameleon with a Pastorius and Bluesy tone. But adding the fanfare along with the stop-and-go sections in there, Sancious has it down to a “T”.

And you can tell that he’s having a ball making this track brought to life by bringing down the funk. The opening title-track takes you into the heart of the battle between the peaceful protesters and the police fighting to bring the tension to a halt. Sancious is telling the listener to keep their eyes open on what is happening behind you and be on the look-out for something dangerous that they might throw at you.

The music itself adds the tension between who can you trust on whether they’re telling the truth or they’re wearing a happy-go-lucky mask to reveal their dark secrets on what they’re doing. And Sancious gives his honest idea of what is happening all around the globe.

War in Heaven is this droning yet dooming atmosphere between the drum crescendo’s and then going up to the Heaven’s with a sax keyboard improvisation. Once the pearly gates are closed behind you, turns out that the gods and the political masterminds are butting heads with some heated confrontations than ever before.

Eyes Wide Open is Sancious’ welcoming return to the doors of real good music. It shows that he’s come a long way and there’s not a single stop sign for him. It was quite new to me to discover his music along with his new album. So who knows what David Sancious will think of next, but Eyes Wide Open shows that he is finally coming full circle.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Kevin Kastning & Sandor Szabo - Nograd

It’s been a good while since I’ve listened to Kevin Kastning’s music for a long yet overdue time. Well it’s time for me to get back on the horse to ride again to see what I was missing from the man himself. And this time his tenth collaboration with guitarist Sandor Szabo with the release of their new album entitled Nograd on the Greydisc label, shows that he and Sandor have never disappointed me.

Recorded last year in September at the Evangelikus Templom in Nograd, Hungary for one day on September 22nd, Kevin and Sandor return to their intensive roots once more. Between Kastning’s 12-string extended and 12-string alto guitars along with Szabo’s classical and 16-string guitar, you can never tell who is going to roll the dice and take a turn to decide who will win the race.

There are 14 pieces on this album that Kevin and Sandor composed from scratch. They wanted to extend the wider arrangements that go beyond the classical, experimental, neo-classical, and flamenco realms. But adding a little twist of lemon, you can never tell what the duo would think of next.

Adding the tension by creating these dangerous puzzle maps for the listener to walk through step by step, there are times that they combined the elements of Karlheinz Stockhausen, Lubos Fiser, Zdenek Liska, Gyorgy Ligeti, King Crimson, and Ottmar Liebert rolled into one. And some of these compositions can make you walk through the paintings of Jackson Pollock or walk through these spiral staircases that can take you into unknown locations.

Nograd is really a big challenge for me. And I always like to see bands and artists like Kevin 
Kastning always taking those risks by pushing the envelope even more. Now it’s been five years since hearing his album Otherworld back in 2015, again as I’ve mentioned earlier, Kastning has never, ever disappointed me. And now it is time to pull both the curtains back and explore the world of Kevin Kastning and Sandor Szabo’s Nograd.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Nikolov-Ivanovic Undectet feat. Magic Malik - Frame & Curiosity

I had no idea what to say about this next group that suddenly landed on my lap. This 11 piece band led by Skopje pianist and Bosnian drummer, Vladimir Nikolov and Srdjan Ivanovic, the Nikolov-Ivanovic Undectet are this large ensemble band that can break all the rules by influencing the sounds of Balkan music and challenging their listeners to an intellectual level.

Joining on their latest release entitle Frame & Curiosity is flautist Malik Mezzadri (Magic Malik) who brings this whole new level that is beyond the Jazz genre. Released on the Coolabel from France and distributed by MoonJune Records, Frame & Curiosity gives it a real jolt of the Jazz and Balkan genre like you’ve never heard it before.

Across the Threshold sees Vladimir the opportunity to channel Wynton Kelly’s piano work as they head deeper into the Kind of Blue-era as Clerc’s accordion, Sedan’s drum beats, and the wind instruments go into a laid-back section that is kind of romantic at times. He then goes upwards into this ballet sequence by rising the tables up in various forms that capture this glowing sphere that is ready to shine.

Anonymous is Mihails’ mid-fast walking bass line that gives him a chance to lay down the grooves while Noe, Vladimir, and Srdan go into a fusion state. And it gives Noe to go into an intensive vibe throughout his accordion before the screeching sounds of Malik’s flute. It becomes this unexpected twist that’s like opening up the heart of Jazz that needed to be open and it becomes this intensive magical power the Undectet have unleashed its true form.

Timbre and Prayer sounded like it was recorded in the streets of Paris set in Black & White during the mid-to-late 1950s as if Wes Montgomery had written this as an orchestral piece for his ensemble. The louder the horn section goes, the more powerful that it hits your heart as it tugs towards you on this tight edge.

Sade Sati sees Mihail’s double bass channeling the late Holger Czukay’s bass riff intro of CAN’s Halleluwah as the Gershwin soundscapes become this view of what people do across the streets of New York. And what they do for a living as Malik’s flute improvisation, becomes this very exciting sequence by walking from 42nd street to Madison Avenue. It shows that not only that the 11-piece band work well as a team, but having each other’s back.

Frame & Curiosity took me about three listens. And I have to say this, the Nikolov-Ivanovic Undectet and Magic Malik have taken my response to show my stamp of approval. They know how to bring both of the genres together. As I’ve mentioned earlier in my review, they broke all the rules by taking it a step further. I hope to hear more from them in the next years to come in the roaring ‘20s.

Kanaan - Double Sun

Kanaan is a power trio from Norway that combines the aspects of psychedelia, fuzz tones, atmospheric noises, and post-jazz rock to the core. They alongside other Norway bands including; White Willow, Ring Van Mobius, Gazpacho, and Motorpsycho to name a few, bring the aspects for a spaced-out adventure that you are about to embark on. This year, they’ve unleashed their new album entitled, Double Sun on the El Paraiso record label.

It’s their follow up to their 2018 debut, Windborne. And also a recording session album they did with Casua Sui guitarist Jonas Munk at his studio for a session they did entitle Odense Sessions. Onto the new album, Double Sun. Eskid Myrvoll, Ask Vatn Strom, and Ingvald Andre Vassbo, have stepped up to the plate that is a journey beyond time and space. And believe me, there’s so much sauce they’ve cooked up for a delicious hot and spicy meal.

From the moment you listen to the opening track of Worlds Together, they honor the E minor and A major chord section of Pink Floyd’s Breathe from Dark Side of the Moon while honoring Rosalie Cunningham’s band Purson during the sessions for The Circle and the Blue Door. You can imagine both the band and the artist are in awe to see this trio circling towards the Milky Way.

Clocking in at 12 minutes and 20 seconds, Mountain hurtles the listener through the cosmos as Kanaan into a deep-diving world of Space Madness! You have Eskild’s fuzzy bass sounds going into this deep end of the pool as Ask’s guitar follows him in pursuit with the major and minor improvisations while rising upwards and downwards to the groove.

Ask does his Manuel Gottsching-sque sounds at times, but with an Amon Duul twist channeling the Yeti sessions and crossing over the first two Ash Ra Tempel albums while Worlds Apart becomes this intensive twist of the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s race to the finish line. Kanaan gives Ask some dooming guitar structures as Ingvald channels the drumming styles between Bill Bruford and Keith Moon with some rapid firing on his drum kit.

The two-part closer of the title track goes from this Avant-funk swirl as the channel the late great Segre Gainsbourg as if he had recorded this during the session of his classic, Histoire de Melody Nelson with some spaced out scenarios while the second part that features Bjorn Klakegg, delving into some post-punk territory that is a speeding adventure back home to the planet Earth.

This journey is becoming a Space Ritual with some intensive rhythm that makes it worth the ride home. Capturing the essence of Michael Rother’s guitar section from Hero on NEU’s third release of NEU! 75 and Hawkwind’s Spirit of the Age, Kanaan makes it back home safe and sound.

Double Sun is the trip that you’ve been waiting for from Kanaan. The trio have upped their game to get the controls set for the heart of the sun. Now while I’m new to the band’s music, their latest release shows that they’ve done one helluva job. And I hope they continue to do more in the roaring ‘20s.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Railroad Therapy - Railroad Therapy

How would I describe this? Jazz? Fusion? Ambient? Or all of the above? Well if the answer is yes, you’ve come to the right place. From the outskirts of Indonesia comes a band called, Railroad Therapy. Their music is like a walk through this mystical cave filled with surreal beauty that the quartet have created with their own bare hands. And for me, I had no idea what to expect when I put my earphones on to come across this wonderful structure.

The band considers Adi Wijaya of I Know You Well Miss Clara on Keyboards, Dhimas Baruna on Bass Guitar, Jay Elizando on Sax, and Andar Prabowo on drums. The four of the band members are an amazing match, perfect combination, and a perfect team. And the four highlights that are on here, shows how much they work well together to create some strange mythical powers.

With the fusion-swing in toe, Monkey sees Adi, Andar, and Dhimas go into this walk across the pond by channeling an electronic take of Duke Ellington teaming up with not just Dizzy Gillepsie, but working with the Moving Pictures-era of Rush to create that intensive work out on the Night in Tunisia exercise. But then Adi lends Andar’s percussion a helping hand on Lost.

Here, he takes the listener on a walk towards those long hot summer afternoons into the forest by climbing upwards into these exotic locations that are beyond its true beauty while Andar goes into this drum rolling effect on Reflection. They walk us through some crazy time signatures from the channeling effects of Crimson and into a strange Gershwin concerto.

It is like a ramming speed sequence in the composition. Like walking through New York’s own Giant Endless Staircase nonstop, Adi almost plays it like a crazy mad scientist of a conductor as he lends the band members a chance to follow him in hot pursuit. And then you get to Nocturne which is Railroad Therapy’s tip of the hat to Robert Wyatt’s Rock Bottom.

At first when you hear Ary Janoe channeling the Wyatting structure, it goes into these ambient voyages of the sounds of airport announcements coming from the speakers to set up the Eno-sque effect that Adi brings to the table with some surreal atmospheres that is completely relaxed. For me, this was a real challenge listening to Railroad Therapy’s self-titled debut that came out last year.

It took me a few listens on whether I was going to accept it or not, and I liked it. It was beyond SimakDialog, I Know You Well Miss Clara, Dwiki Dharmawan, Dewa Budjana, and Ligro. But Railroad Therapy was worth the trip to explore from beginning, middle, and end. I can’t wait to see what the band will think of next in the roaring ‘20s. Because I can imagine this is only just the beginning.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Molesome - Be My Baby Tonight

Whenever Mattias Olsson does something very challenging at Roth Handle Studios whether it is producing or performing with various bands including Anglagard, In These Murky Waters, Weserbergland, Pixie Ninja, or Molesome to name a few, you may never know what to expect inside his studio in Stockholm, Sweden. Now for me, Molesome was one of those challenges I had discovered two years ago.

Their music took me a while whether I was going to accept it or not with their 2018 release, Dial back in May of that year on my blog site, Music from the Other Side of the Room. And as I’ve mentioned earlier in my review, Dial was a very interesting release that year. Now in 2020, Mattias has opened up another door for Molesome’s challenge with their latest follow-up that was released last year entitled, Be My Baby Tonight.

Mastered by White Willow’s Jacob Holm-Lupo and featuring this ‘60s-sque album cover done by graphic designer and illustrator Henning Lindahl, Be My Baby Tonight has some more of those unexpected challenges that Olsson and some of the band members that appear on this album, lend Mattias a helping hand. And when I was listening to the album, it was like walking through this crazy-like maze that Olsson himself has created for me.

Listening to both sides 1 & 2, its quite an oddball mixture is thrown in to create these sounds from lounge music, trip-hop, BBC Radiophonic workshop, sounds from the turntable, folk, classical, and string sections. What Molesome is doing between those different sides of the LP is to come along with their surreal and twisted journey that will keep you guessing until the very end.

And it is like you are in on the joke, and the joke is completely on you from beginning to end. So is Molesome doing a nod to The Residents? Faust’s The Faust Tapes, Or something straight out of Andy Votel’s Finders Keepers’ label? If you answered all of the above, you are right on the money with that. So be prepared to be a part of Molesome’s new release, Be My Baby Tonight.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Romantic Warriors IV - Krautrock Part 1

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve delved my toes into the waters of the genre that is known as Krautrock. I first became aware of the music back when I was a student at Houston Community College in the fall of 2005 when I went to the ProgArchives website and discovered bands/artists from the realms of NEU!, Can, Faust, Amon Duul II, and Tangerine Dream. It was like nothing I have ever heard before. It was dark, sinister, avant-garde, proto-punk, atmospheric, musique-concrete, and the music itself, was completely off the wall.

I would later find out that some of the bands/artists like Julian Cope, who wrote the Krautrocksampler book in 1994, John Lydon of PiL, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Magazine, Ultravox, Devo, Joy Division, and The Mars Volta admired some of the bands that were like a tidal wave that was waiting to happen. Now in the year of our lord 2020, Jose Zegarra Holder and Adele Schmidt, who have done incredible work on the Romantic Warriors series since 2010, are now doing the Krautrock genre as a three-part trilogy.

Starting things off is Part 1 of the documentary from Cologne, Dusseldorf, and Hamburg. It tackles some of the histories of the bands with interviews that include; Irmin Schmidt, Gunther Buskies of the Bureau B label, Damo Suzuki, members of Floh De Cologne and Faust, Michael Rother, Stephan Plank (Conny Plank’s son), Malcolm Mooney, Wolfgang Flur, Eberhard Kraneman, and the late Jaki Liebezeit to name a few.

There is an incredible moment in the film where Damo Suzuki’s Network is performing in Peru doing this amazing improvisational groove as he calls them “sound carriers”. The reason for that is that Damo himself wants to perform with traditional musicians by working together and bringing world music with any kind of instrument that is very different from his time with Can.

And you may never know what might happen on stage. But for Damo, he is free from anything he wants to, but having his own philosophy with music. Rother is perhaps one of the best interviews that Adele and Jose did. You could tell that he was very spot on about his time as an early member of Kraftwerk. However, there was tension between Dinger and Florian Schenider over creative differences on where they want to take the next level. And so, Klaus and Michael departed from the band and would later form NEU! And then with Harmonia.

Miki Yui is an archivist on the late Klaus Dinger, knows her stuff very well about the history of the band’s music while Rother saw that Klaus had potential in Michael’s arrangments and the time they worked with Conny Plank on those first three studio albums by creating an atmosphere, but taking the risks that would be challenging. For Stephan to see his father work on those albums, was as he mentioned when he was young, almost as if his Dad, was working on a spaceship.

But listening to NEU, it was the beginnings of what is known as Punk Rock. As Eberhard Kraneman described it as “Anti-Music” during that time he was with the band performing with them with some intensity. But when NEU’s second album came out, it got terrible reviews. Which I had no idea about. And it must’ve been very frustrating for them to get reviews like that and the two drummers between Hans Lampe and Thomas Dinger who would later form La Dusseldorf worked on the second side of NEU! 75.

And you can tell that David Bowie took a lot of inspiration on NEU’s third album on what would be known as his 12th studio album for his Berlin trilogy, Heroes. Not to mention watching a rare interview with Klaus Dinger I believe from 1975 in Germany. When I think of Faust in the documentary, I think of their music as insane, out of this world, and surreal Dadaism.

The Faust Tapes when I first heard it in 2006, I consider it to be Faust’s answer to Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica and their nod to the Velvet Underground with the pounding tribal sections of the opening track, It’s a Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl from their second album, So Far. Jean-Harve Peron has a wonderful history about the origin of the band’s name and their late producer Uwe Nettlebeck, who was German’s answer to Tony Wilson.  

They talk about the history of their time in Wumme where they recorded So Far, The Faust Tapes, and their collaboration with avant-garde composer Tony Conrad on Outside the Dream Syndicate from 1972 to 1973. This was for me, one of the best first parts of the documentaries covering the big names in the Krautrock genre. It almost makes me want to go back and take out some of those albums in my CD shelves to see what I was missing.

And new bands like Electric Orange and Wume, are following in the footsteps of the genre. I feel like I’ve learned a little bit more about what I was missing from those bands and artists from that time period in the 1970s. Very much like giving the bloated sounds of Dream Theater, Nickelback, and the boring pretentious horseshit of the top 40 hits you hear on the radio, the big giant middle finger. Krautrock is here to stay. And I can’t wait for both parts 2 and 3.

In the words of Julian Cope’s introduction on the Krautrocksampler book, “Krautrock transcended all this and more. Because it had to.”

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Talinka - Rainbow Over Kolonaki

It’s been three years since Talinka have released their sole self-titled debut release on the Fanfare label and distributed by MoonJune Records. The quartet have taken the genre to a whole new level. In my 2017 review back in September, I’ve described their music a combination between Folk, Jazz, Tango, and the Great American Songbook. Not to mention Tali Atzmon’s vocals in the styles of Miss Lily Banquette of Combustible Edison.

Well she’s not that anymore, she’s doing what she wants to do in a decade as we enter the roaring ‘20s. Talinka’s second release entitled Rainbow Over Kolonaki, released on Gilad’s Fanfare label, shows that the Talinka quartet are continuing their journey of the three similarities between song, melody, and beauty. And the three of those, are now as one whole circle.

From the opening sounds of the title-track, we hear birds chirping, church bells ringing, and conversations around common folk while the nod to Camile Saint-Saens’ Danse Macabre, fills the halls of a cabaret waltz. With Yaron’s double bass, Jenni’s violin, Gilad’s accordion, and Tali’s vocals, its almost as if you’re right in the middle of the late ‘30s/early ‘40s as Tali honors the arrangements of Lotte Lenya’s Pirate Jenny from The Threepenny Opera.

The spotlight shines on her again with Ol’ Blue Eyes’  I’m a Fool to Want You. Now for her to tackle the music of Frank Sinatra, shows how much she honors this incredible gem as if we, the listeners, are walking into the gardens of two film-noir classics, Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon.

The haunting finger-picking sounds of the Ukulele and the Accordion, takes us through the powerful exhibitions between the paintings of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning on Time Runs Out. Each of the images are set to this composition as Tali and Jenny share some background vocalizations in the midsection of the song.

The next composition of When Apollo Smiles, goes into the samba tradition of a Welsh folk song as the continuation between Tali and Jenny bring out more of the harmonies together in their voices while she and Gilad walk through the landscapes of Kew Gardens between her ukulele and Gilad’s guitar playing.

As Gilad’s opening sax introduction takes place on If I Should Lose You, he follows Tali by walking up and down this spiral staircase before Jenny & Yaron come together as they follow them to bring the curtains down on a soothing finale. This took me about a few listens with Rainbow Over Kolonaki.

And I have to say that the Talinka quartet have continued to bring the magic underneath their sleeves once more by bringing Jazz with unbelievable results to keep the genre going with a delicious twist of the Pomegranate.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Reism - Dysthymia

Now it’s been many months since I’ve reviewed a Metal album on Music from the Other Side of the Room. And it’s been WAY overdue from my part. So now, let’s kick the New Year off from one of the most explosive sounds to come out of Norway that launched back in 2005 in Liverpool of a band called, Reism.

Their music is a crossover between hard, heavy, and powder-keg industrial rock. With two albums in the can, the band came back last year after a nine-year long process with the release of their third studio album, Dysthymia. It’s an autobiographical release tracking the subjects of betrayal, depression, loss, grief, and humanity’s selfishness.

It goes deeper inside that old rotting wound that has been there for many, many years. And that wound itself, will never, ever wash off. For Reism to tackle those subjects, it is a challenge, but it works. The band considers Kirsten Jorgensen on Lead Vocals; Tom Poole-Kerr on Guitar; Kim Lund on Bass; and Wolfgang Ognoy on Drums. The quartet work together as a team. And they know that between the band members, they’ve got each other’s back.

The Folly of Men sees Reism delving into this electronic haunting nightmare with piano, guitar, and bass crying into the night as it plays like a cross between Radiohead and The Mars Volta before the band flies away from the destruction's of hell that it has become. Kirsten’s vocals on This Reality channels the soothing vocals of Within Temptation’s Sharon Den Adel as the song tackles the subject of being free.

The intensity between Kim and Wolfgang’s textures, adds more gasoline to the flames by raising the temperature up at a higher scale. Break my Bones reveal the true person’s identity of their skeletons in the closet to show their true colors that the public doesn’t want to even know about. You can hear this Jekyll & Hyde-sque background that is hard to believe that this person is creating the biggest lie of them all behind closed doors.

Reism now channels the Lateralus-era of Tool on Lost Yourself. In this song, it goes into the heart of betrayal as you feel that you’ve been punched in the gut by being used as someone else’s pawn this entire time while Kirsten pours her heart out in the pouring rain with some haunting piano chords as Let it all Go tackles the pain and suffering of domestic abuse.

Reism’s Dysthymia is not a bad release from last year. It took me a few listens to see whether I was going to like this album or not. And while I’m not a massive fan of the industrial metal genre, Dysthymia grabs your heart very well. And for Reism tackling the difficult subject matters, it is a very challenging album for 2019.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Remembering Neil Peart (1952 - 2020)

How I first got into Rush was 23 years ago when I first heard “Tom Sawyer” on KKRW Classic Rock 93.7 The Arrow which is now a hip-hop station. But when I was 13 years old at the time, it was the only station to play bands that introduced me alongside Pink Floyd from bands such as; Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath (Ozzy Osbourne-era), and Rush. When I first heard “Tom Sawyer”, I was completely blown away.

It was like a breath of fresh air of hearing the vocals, guitars, synths, bass, and drums all combined into one. It was this incredible fast-drum work done by Neil “The Professor” Peart. This guy was like a machine gun that is ready to burst fire at any second. And then I had forgotten about them until 2005 when I went to Borders which is defunct as well. 

And there was a MOJO issue entitled, Pink Floyd & The Story of Prog Rock. I bought it and I read about Rush during their hey-day in the 1970s. I knew right there and then, my re-introduction of their music, was right around the corner. I went ahead and went to a store called, Movie Trading Company and bought A Farewell to Kings and then went to Wherehouse Music and bought their era of the Synths-era and their ‘90s era. But it was A Farewell to Kings that made me re-introduce myself to their music. Listening to that album was like a movie inside your head.

It was everything. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, James Stewart, Fantasy stories, and an intensive cliffhanger story into the black hole. It was all there. This album still has a huge impact on me when I was in College after my re-introduction to their music. And I still try to figure out what Neil was writing throughout his amazing storytelling complex? Whether it’s the title-track, Xanadu, Closer to the Heart, or Cygnus X-1, he was writing them like movies inside our heads.

For Neil Peart who wasn’t just one hell of a drummer who followed into the footsteps of The Who, Pink Floyd, admired Stray, Buddy Rich, and influenced others including Metallica, Mike Portnoy, Iron Maiden, Porcupine Tree, and Billy Corgan to name a few, he was a brilliant lyricist that showed no sign of stopping.

Since he was in another band before Rush called JR Flood in 1970, then joining the band in 1974 after making his debut with the band by opening up for Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and Uriah Heep during their Wonderland tour at Pittsburgh Civic Arena on August 14th, he gave Rush, the power, the mystery, the big guns, and the explosive beats that would knock your socks off. 

Whether it’s the nod to King Crimson with YYZ, the struggle with Fame on Limelight, being an outsider in School with Subdivisions, the battle between By-tor and the Snow Dog and Bastille Day, or the nod to Ayn Rand with the 20-minute masterpiece, 2112, Neil knew what he wanted to do.

For me, Rush along with Pink Floyd, are and will always be my Beatles. Since Neil has passed away on January 7th due to a long battle with Brain Cancer, it’s the end of an era with Rush. And while they called it a day for their R40 tour in 2015, they had come full circle. But their legacy and their music, will live on forever and ever. In the words of Babe Ruth from the 1993 movie, The Sandlot, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”

Monday, January 6, 2020

Sirkis / Bialas IQ - Our New Earth

Since their establishment five years ago, the Sirkis/Bialas IQ have brought the institutions of going beyond the structures of Jazz by taking these gigantic steps into the worlds of different vocal arrangements, church organ, Konnakol, crotales, and the waterphone. Our New Earth sets up this amazing style of a spiritual guidance that MoonJune have unleashed last year.

They take these beautiful arrangements and put them together by creating this strange, mysterious, and surreal adventure that is brought to life featuring incredible liner notes by Bill Bruford. Our New Earth is showing the listener a chance to make our home planet, safe and secure from the dangers that will await us for many years to come. Both Asaf Sirkis and Sylvia Bialas are awaiting to be a part of that journey. And from the moment you put the album on, you’ll begin to wonder why they are so damn good.

With the sound of the waterphone that was invented by Richard Waters at the end of the ‘60s, it creates this haunting atmosphere that is lurking behind you for a Spooky Action at a Distance. Sirkis captures the intensity on the cymbals to see what Sylvia will come up with next. Like something out the Zeit-era from Tangerine Dream, it sends these shivers down your spine as the instruments open up the doors to see where Bialas is going.

And she sings in these melodic textures that give Frank Harrison and Kevin Glasgow to follow in her direction. Letter to A features Harrison on the Church Organ. I almost have this feeling as if he’s tipping his hat to Kit Downes. It has this mournful sequence before Sylvia’s vocalizations opens up the door to the gothic cathedral by giving Asaf a chance to help out in his drum kit.

The title-track gives Sirkis a chance to give himself carte blanche. You have the Indian scat singing of the Konnakol, high-pitch percussion sounds of the Manjira (Taal), and the crotales that he takes centerstage by having these percussions to the forefront. As the droning sounds which I might think it’s from a Sitar, I’m not sure, but Asaf comes out of the woods like a warrior that is ready to attack for the first three minutes to sweat out these machine gun bullets.

And he does it perfectly. But just as he finishes, the sound suddenly changes by opening up the pearly gates to reveal its true glory into the style of the Dance of Maya section. And then it spirals into the abyss for Birkis to enter inside those caves and seeing Frank himself giving out the last rite on the church organ.

The first two minutes of the Land of Oblivion sees Glasgow channeling his rhythmic structures and chords on his 6-string bass. He goes up and down on the frets as if he’s walking through this spiraling staircase while the wind howls throughout the Sahara desert by giving Bialas a soothing warmth to open her heart for us before Harrison’s Guaraldi-Monk like structure on the piano makes it a nice and beautiful segment.

MoonJune Records really hit a big challenge for me to delve into Sirkis/Bialas IQ’s work. And Our New Earth is one of them. While it took me a few listens during the Christmas break, I have to say that both Asaf and Sylvia have done an amazing job. Will there be more challenges in the roaring ‘20s from MoonJune Records? Let’s see the new decade will be for us. But the mystery of peace and surrealism, is an adventure worth exploring into Our New Earth.