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Showing posts from October, 2021

Shamblemaths - 2021 - Shamblemaths 2

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(46:43; Apollon Records Prog) Track list: 1. Maaneskygge 1:05 2. Knucklecog 9:55 3. D.S.C.H. 6:22 4. Lat Kvar Jordisk Skapning Teia Pts 1-4 6:33 5. Lat Kvar Jordisk Skapning Teia Pt 5 a, b 5:37 6. Lat Kvar Jordisk Skapning Teia Pts 6-8 3:41 7. Lat Kvar Jordisk Skapning Teia Pt 9 2:17 8. Been and Gone 2:11 9. This River 9:02 Line-up: Simen Aa. Ellingsen - saxophones, guitars, recorder, tin whistle, vocals, samples, keyboards Ingvald A. Vassbö - drums, xylophone with: Eskild Myrvoll - bass Paolo Botta - keyboards Eirik Ö. Dischler - keyboards Marianne Lönstad - vocals Anna Gaustad Nistad - vocals Pia M. Samset - vocals Leon Li - bassoon Eivor Aa. Ellingsen - vocals Michael Francis Duch - bass Morten A. Nome - bass Ask Vatn Ström - guitars Prolusion. Norwegian band Shamblemaths has been a going concern since 2004, initially using the moniker Fallen Fowl but at some point opting for Shamblemaths as a better name. They released their self-titled debut album back in 2016, a production that w

The Foxholes - 2021 - Hex

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(41:58; The Foxholes) Track list: 1. Hex 2:02 2. Quarz 4:21 3. Elvira 3:20 4. Corey 12:35 5. Hexe 15:00 6. Escaparatismo I 4:40 Line-up: Jonah A Luke - guitars, programming Angel Millan - drums Max Morits - bass with: Javi Lopin - violin Maese 1001 - programming Societat Coral "El Vallès" - Choir Abel Sequera - drums Txosse Ruiz - guitars, bass Prolusion. Spanish band The Foxholes have a history that goes back to 2006, and from 2009 and onward they have been releasing new material at a fairly steady rate. "Hex" is the band's latest album, and was self released in the fall of 2021. Analysis. While I do not recall the specific details at this point, I do remember that the previous album by The Foxholes impressed me quite a bit, even if perhaps a bit open and expressive in form and function at times. While I do not recall where I placed that album in a progressive rock oriented context, this new album by them is a somewhat eclectic creation. That this is an instrum

Lua Azure (Accept JP) - 2021 - Apogee

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(47:51; Prime Numbers Label) Track list: 1. A Rose in the Sand 5:07 2. High Fort 3:02 3. Bread and Water 5:38 4. Ambiguous Loss 5:21 5. Requiem 2019 2:14 6. Winding Through the Desert 3:12 7. Blue 5:21 8. A Droplet of a Great River 7:50 9. Solemnity 1:43 10. White Moon and Black Sun 8:23 Line-up: Hisao - vocals, instruments with: Akihiro Fujii - percussion Prolusion. Japanese artist ACCEPT, not to be confused with the German metal band of the same name, have been exploring his particular variety of progressive rock since 2007 with seven studio albums to his name so far. "Apogee" is the most recent of these, and was released in the fall of 2021. One small detail of note is that this will be the final album composer and musician Hisao will release under the Accept artist name, as a certain German band after almost 15 years suddenly found out that they found it difficult to have a Japanese artist using the same moniker. Finding your way to this artist and his productions in the

Claemus - 2021 - Daydream

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(38:43; Claemus) When I heard that Hutt Valley band Claemus had released their debut album I was immediately intrigued, as I came across the single Hedonist a few months ago, and given the number of influences and styles they had managed to ram into 5 minutes what could they do with a full album? These guys have managed to secure support slots with bands as diverse as P.O.D., The Ocean, Make Them Suffer and Intervals, yet one could never imagine those four bands playing at the same festival, so why do Claemus manage to be a common link? The answer to that is just down to the sheer variety of styles on offer, which means that we can get a commercial hard rock number like Epilogue (which is strangely not the very last song on the album), which comes across as American crossover prog or Aspire Part III which has strong similarities with Written By Wolves. Of course, there is the aforementioned Hedonist, which is a commercial belter which has been heavily influenced by Meshuggah and Protes

The Mastelottos - 2021 - A Romantic's Guide To King Crimson

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(56:11; 7d Media) Here we have an interesting album, a re-imagining of King Crimson material by the husband-and-wife duo Deborah and Pat Mastelotto. Pat has of course been one of the drummers in that band for over 20 years, while Deborah has been joining Pat on tour on and off for more than 10 years and they came up with the concept of what would Crimson material sound like if it was played in a different manner with a female singer. Such is the style they have brought together, that Pat’s largest impacts have been in the arrangements and production, as this does not provide much percussion at all: the music is being treated in a manner where there is just no need for the forceful nature he normally provides in his day job, and he is far more delicate. This is all about sumptuous arrangements with plenty of woodwind and piano, which allows Deborah to gently show off her fine voice. Given he has been involved so heavily with the band over such a long period of time, Pat has an in-depth

Nightsong - 2020 - The Peasants' Revolt

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(54:23; Wise Queen Records) Recorded remotely during lockdown, this is the debut album from Ali Karim (electric guitar, bass guitar, keyboards), John Reed (vocals, backing vocals, cittern, acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards) and Jo Beth Young (vocals, acoustic, electric and bow guitar, keyboards, recorder, percussion). Here we have a collection of 16 songs, lasting some 54 minutes, telling a story of people from medieval times. If this were a solo project from John then I am sure we would be discussing a “straightforward” folk album, but with Ali and Jo Beth involved we instead having something which is now progressive folk, and all the better for it. John’s voice is perfectly suited for this storytelling, as there are times when he is almost speaking as opposed to singing, and one can imagine him being a huge fan of Ashely Hutchings as he has certainly been inspired by him. The three musicians are all multi-instrumentalists, and this has allowed them to develop multiple layers o

Nirvana - 2021 - Songlife 1967-1972

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(6xLP; Madfish) This is one of those reviews which is even more pointless than normal, as if you are a fan of Nirvana then this is an essential purchase, and if not then whatever I say will not convince you to go out and buy a 6-LP set. Some people think there has only ever been one Nirvana, but the later Seattle-based band had to reach a settlement with Patrick Campbell-Lyons and Alex Spyropoulos, who formed the original back in 1966. This set includes all the albums from their early period, namely ‘The Story Of Simon Simopath’ (one of the very first concept albums), ‘The Existence of Chance Is Everything and Nothing While the Greatest Achievement Is the Living of Life, and so Say ALL OF US’ (don’t you love the Sixties?), ‘Dedicated To Markos III aka Black Flower’, ‘Local Anaesthetic’, ‘Songs Of Love And Praise’ – plus the never before released 1972 LP ‘Secrets’. This last was originally a musical score which the band had planned on taking to the stage in the early Seventies, and the

Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere - 2020 - Theta Five

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(79:18; Discus Music) I was having a conversation with Martin Archer a while back, and he said I really should be listening to bands on his Discus Music label, and in particular he wanted me to hear Orchestra of the Upper Atmosphere. Therefore I am now listening to the fifth album in their ‘Theta’ sequence, and rather unusual it is too. Firstly we do have a somewhat strange mix of instruments with Martin himself providing saxophones, clarinet, flute, organ, Mellotron, software instruments, and voices and he has been joined by Steve Dinsdale (drums, synths), Lorin Halsall (double bass, electric upright bass, electronics), Yvonna Magda (violin, electronics), Andy Peake (Rhodes, synths), Walt Shaw (percussion, electronics), Jan Todd (vocals, voices, lyrics, harps, electronics, laptop, MIDI keyboards, bowed acoustic bass, glockenspiel, 12-string guitar, Korg wave drum, Idiopan) and Terry Todd (electric bass, acoustic 12-string guitar). The result is music, which was improvised over a two-d

Proage - 2021 - 4. Wymiar

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(55:43; Proage) This is the third album from Polish band ProAge, and although not a concept as such is thematically based around time, with the title translating to ‘4. Dimension’. I was not a fan of the last album, and in particular the vocals, and I know that I was not the only reviewer to feel the same way, so I was not really looking forward to this, yet ended up being pleasantly surprised. The band is the same line-up as last time, although they have now added a saxophonist to the group, but somehow this is much more together and structured than it was previously. Some of the songs are in Polish, some in English, and it seems like a very different band indeed, definitely feeling much more like a unit who have been working together and know what they want to achieve. They are firmly based in neo-prog, yet there are times when they move into crossover, with “Człowiek Z Wysokiego Zamku” having far less rock. We even get an epic in the title cut, which is more than 28 minutes in lengt

Riverside - 2017 - Lost'n'Found (Live in Tilburg)

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(103:45; InsideOut Music) Over the last 30 years I have been fortunate to have been introduced to a great deal of Polish progressive rock, a country which surely punches well above its weight in that genre. For some reason few bands have really gained the recognition internationally which they deserve, but Riverside flung the door open with their debut ‘Out of Myself’ in 2003 and since then they have become the most recognized Polish group around. This set was recorded on October 18th, 2015, at 013 in Tilburg, The Netherlands, finding the guys at the end of their ‘Love, Fear and the Time Machine’ album and documents the group’s last tour with original guitarist and founding member Piotr Grudzinski who died the following year from a pulmonary embolism. Tilburg has long been renowned as a progressive hotspot, and quite a few bands have recorded live albums there. However, this album was originally designed to be something different so even though the performance that night was very speci

Ghost Rhythms - 2020 - Imaginary Mountains

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(47:05; Ghost Rhythms) A few years ago, I reviewed the last album by Ghost Rhythms, ‘Live At Yoshiwara’, where I said “for those who enjoy their music to be experimental yet still with control and patience then this is certainly worthy of investigation.” To be honest, I could have copied those words and said that was the review this time around as we have the same here. However, unlike their other releases, this was written in lockdown. Given that here was a band who had only previously recorded in studios, and were used to having weekly rehearsals, this was a major shift for them (as it was for many other musicians during this period). Given that they had no way of recording drums, the decision was made by band leaders Camille Petit (keyboards) and Xavier Gélard (EBow, drums) to concentrate on the more orchestral aspects of the band. Drums were eventually added later, and the resulting album is something which is experimental, containing large elements of fusion, combined with chambe

Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate - 2020 - Feeling Great

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(18:36; Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate) Apparently, this EP is unrelated to the band’s next album, ‘The Confidence Trick’, but contains some songs written during lockdown. The first three feature both Malcolm Galloway and Mark Gatland, but the final number is an old one which Malcolm recorded some 10 years ago and was discovered by a fan on YouTube who asked for it to be released properly. The band admit they don’t have the original masters anymore, so it isn’t up to their normal standard, but have put it on here as a bonus. The EP is just 18 minutes in length, but the four pieces show some very different sides of the band, who often utilize guests, but this time have recorded just on their own. There are times when they are very Floydian, but the listener has quite a shock going from the almost laid back “Struggling” into “Callisto Cuddle Sponge” which has much more of a dance feel and is often led by a Chapman Stick. This song feels quite at odds with the others, while closer “

Head Machine - 1970 - Orgasm

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(36:09; Explore Rights Management [2020 Edition] ) Recorded in 1969, this was originally planned to be the third album for The Gods, before being released as being by Head Machine. The Gods were an important band in the late Sixties, less for their releases but who went through their ranks. Formed by Mick Taylor (yes, THAT Mick Taylor) and school mates Brian Glascock and his brother John (Jethro Tull), they went through some line-up changes over time. This included John being replaced by Paul Newton (who then left to form Spice, which became Uriah Heep), who was in turn replaced by Greg Lake (yes, THAT Greg Lake), before John was asked to return. During this period, they also brought in Ken Hensley (Uriah Heep), with Brian later being replaced by Lee Kerslake (Uriah Heep). Head Machine was The Gods along with their producer David Paramor, who provided vocals, with the rest of the line-up being Ken Hensley (organ, piano, guitar, vocals), John Glascock (bass, vocals), Brian Glascock (dru

Kevin Kastning / Sandor Szabo / Balazs Major - 2021 - Ethereal IV

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(47:46; Greydisc) This album was recorded at the Kismaros Concert Hall in Kismaros, Hungary, at the end of Kastning and Szabó’s 2018 European tour. Here we find Kastning on his 30-string guitar, Szabó on electric, and they were joined by famed Hungarian percussionist Balázs Major. I have been fortunate to hear quite a few of Kastning’s album over the last few years, and his approach to a massive multi-string instrument never ceases to amaze (he also often plays a 36-string guitar). Here we find him setting a base which is even more experimental than normal, and in Szabó he finds a perfect foil, while Major assists in taking the music in different directions. Recorded in just one afternoon, here we find the trio improvising and mixing musical threads from multiple different areas in ways which should just not make sense, but somehow do when placed in their hands. It is perhaps no surprise that the two guitarists can bounce and understand each other so much, given they had just completed

Kris Gietkowski - 2020 - Extraordinary

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(39:01; Kris Gietkowski) Kris first came to my attention when I heard some of his music through Fruits de Mer, who in turn had come across him from some videos he had placed on YouTube where he performed songs which had originally been on the first Egg album. That band are still rightly viewed as a huge part of the Canterbury progressive scene, and all serious progheads will have at least one of their albums in their collection, although there will be many music lovers who will say they have never heard of them. However, here we had a Polish keyboard player taking an album recorded nearly 50 years earlier and interpreting songs in his own way. This led to his debut album, which was comprised just of Egg material, while 2018’s ‘Sympathetic Communication’ found him in transition with two songs of his own sandwiching Egg's "A Visit To Newport Hospital". This was his third album, released in 2019, and this time all the material is his own, and he played all the parts. Given h

Kris Gietkowski - 2020 - Four Appointments With Doctor Jam

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(39:55; Kris Gietkowski) Gietkowski’s fourth album saw him moving his music in a slightly different direction, as while it was still very concentrated in the Canterbury scene, here he is now also playing electric guitar. He also brought in a drummer, Jacob Slous, while he performed keyboards, guitar, and bass. Given there was no guitar on his earlier albums, it is somewhat of a surprise to hear it being given such a prominent role on this one. The same is also true of the bass, which at times is very much the focal point. The four ten-minute-long instrumental tracks feel much more like a band than a multi-instrumentalist, and if there had been a group name on the cover, no-one would have been surprised. He is allowing himself to expand his musical repertoire, while staying within the same area, and he is again bringing in Emerson references, and there are times when it is more like The Nice than Canterbury, but the lines blend and merge. The result is something which yet again sounds a

Lars Boutrup's Music for Keyboards - 2020 - The Great Beyond

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(46:58; Ex'Cess Records) This is a new name to me, although Boutrup has been active in the scene for quite some time, and then formed this band 15 years ago. I also cannot think of another group where they put their musical style into the name, so even someone coming across these for the first time would know not only who the band leader was, but also what instrument he played. This is their fourth album, and they have had a fairly stable line-up during that time although drummer Fredrik Sunesen, who had been there since the debut, has now been replaced with Spike Nior while long-time bassist Niels W. Knudsen is still involved. As one can surmise from the title, here we have an instrumental progressive rock trio where the rhythm section set the foundation which then allows for layers of symphonic keyboards. The issue for me is a lack of consistency, as although there are times when the music is pulsating, driving and dominant there are others when it is meandering and looking for i

Magnum - 2021 - Dance of the Black Tattoo

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(72:50; SPV) It has been three years since ‘The Valley Of Tears – The Ballads’, a compilation that focused on their quiet, more otherworldly and dreamy side, and now they are back with a companion release which focuses on the harder side. This is a compilation of rare live cuts and radio versions to show a different aspect of the band, as if anyone needed reminding what they are all about. I have been a fan of the Brummies for more than 40 years and consider myself incredibly fortunate to catch them four times in the Eighties, including on the ‘On A Storyteller’s Night’ tour. There is no doubt that Bob Catley is one of the finest rock singers ever to take the stage, while in Tony Clarkin he has the perfect songwriting partner, and even though they tried to break the band some years ago it didn’t last too long at all. The problem with this album is that it feels more like a collection of rarities than it does a balanced release, which is exactly what it is. It means that while there are

Malcolm Galloway - 2020 - Wasp 76b

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(60:05; Glass Castle Recordings) This is a somewhat unusual release in that ‘Wasp 76b’ itself only contains two numbers, “Chrysalis” at just over five minutes and the title cut at nearly 15, yet there is a bonus number here as well. Nothing unusual in that I hear you say, but in this case, it is the closing piece from 2016’s ‘Still Life’, “The Haber Process”, which is nearly 40 minutes in length so therefore dominates the other two songs as it is nearly twice as long as those combined. Given that this is only a bonus on the Bandcamp release I am going to ignore it and concentrate on the two new songs instead. Galloway is of course frontman with Hats Off Gentleman, It’s Adequate, where he works with Mark Gatland, but when operating under his own name he moves between minimalistic orchestral compositions and songs of a more electronic nature.     In these two numbers we have examples of both sides of Galloway, and it is the first which really caught my attention. “Chyrsalis” is vibrant,

Cloud Over Jupiter - 2020 - They're Here with Us...

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(48:20; Cloud Over Jupiter) Here we have the latest album by Cloud Over Jupiter, the project put together by Moon Men bassist Jerry King (who here also provides guitars and synths), Michele King (vocals, clarinet, piano), Chard Wardwell (synths) and drummer Bill Jungwirth plus multiple guests. These guests often only appear on just one song, and I smiled when I realized that both Dave Newhouse (The Muffins) and Bret Hart are involved, which means that with Jerry and Bill we have all the Moon Men working as Cloud Over Jupiter. This album can almost be divided into two distinct styles, as Michelle provides some wonderfully delicate and ethereal lead vocals at times, which gives the music a very distinct flavour, while at others we are in a world of synthesizer-led instrumentals. Take for example “Pinnacle Valley”, the synthesisers are the focal point of this short instrumental, yet with solid bass and just a touch of sax, and it is totally different to the following “Alien Pharaohs/They’

Deaton Lemay Project - 2019 - Day After Yesterday

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(59:18; Deaton Lemay Project) As one can surmise from the title, this band has been formed by Roby Deaton (keyboards, guitars) and Craig LeMay (drums, percussion), who then brought in singer Hadi Kiani and guitarists Ehsan Imani, Joel Gregoire and Josh Mark Raj to complete the recording line-up. They say they were inspired to produce exciting progressive rock by the likes of Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson, but this has much more in common with Nineties-style American prog than what was around in the Seventies. This shines through in the instrumental “Tri-Overture” which contains some wonderfully tight sections and time signature changes, with the only issue being that it is way too short! Putting that to one side, one of the delights here is that while the music is based around Roby and Craig, they allow the guitarists to shine by providing some blistering solos on top. Although we do get plenty of instrumental passages, there are also times when Hadi is allowed to take centre stage, a

Dr. Coenobite - 2020 - Mysteries of Life

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(44:15; Dr. Coenobite) Multi-instrumentalist Coen Vrouwenvelder is back with his seventeenth album, which is a concept based on the mysteries of life. Delving further, he states “Of course meaning all the beautiful phenomena created by nature or unknown reasons (e.g., like Stonehenge), but also made by us (just like art, music, science, electronic devices, and so on). However, there is a devastating ‘undercurrent’ going on concerning climate changes, war, hate, hunger and finally a pandemic with an enormous impact (on all of us).” I reviewed Coen’s debut all the way back in 1993, and over the years he has certainly released some interesting work. Again, this is a solo album, with Coen providing guitars, bass, vocals, flute, gu zheng, pipa, harp, dulcimer, percussion, keyboards, synthesizers, Sound Libraries, programming & SFX. Coen is the first to admit that his singing leaves something to be desired, but he felt the lyrics were so important that he needed to sing them himself as o

Dream Aria - 2020 - Out Of The Void

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(37:43; Dream Aria) When I look back over my writings of the last 30+ years I divide it into two distinct periods, namely when I was in my country of birth, and when I moved to my country of choice, so up to and including 2006 for the first and 2007 onwards for the latter (although we moved to Aotearoa 15 years ago I managed to get away with not writing anything at all at least for a few months). Dream Aria belong in the first period, as I fell in love with and reviewed their debut album the year it was released, 2005. Due to the move I lost touch with many bands at the time, especially as I had decided not to write anymore (we can all see how that worked out), but a few years back I again got in touch with keyboard player Don Stagg and singer Ann Burstyn, and have been fortunate enough to hear both their excellent 2017 album ‘On The Other Side’ and their new one, ‘Out of the Void’. As with many bands, they have been through a lot in their career, both musically and personally, and thi