Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A band in the Spotlight: Flow and the Mingos (USA)

I've recently come across a band called Flow and the Mingos which play a melodic and grandiose sounding rock. They've released an EP this year, apparently their first output, called Living in Time.
This collection of 7 songs is slightly melancholic, emotional and rich. They are fronted by a special sounding vocalist, Sarah Walk, whose voice is spacious and warm. Their sound revolves around a core of piano, bass and drums (they're a trio) but it manages to sound bigger than the sum of their parts.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Review: Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound - When Sweet Sleep Returned (2009)

The oddly named Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound is another psych band I discovered in my journey through the Tee Pee catalog.
Based in San Francisco, this group formed from the core of Jefferson Marshall (guitar, bass), Charlie Saufley (guitar, bass), and Michael Lardas (drums). On this album, the lineup expanded to include Anderson Lanbridge (theremin, moog) and Camilla Saufley (keyboards, bass, vocals, flute) as well as Tim Green (vibraphone, e-bow, drums) and Cindi Kazarian (viola) and the following contributed vocals: Christina Monsfield, Brett Constantino and Evan Reese.
When Sweet Sleep Returned is their third album, released in 2009 and following the jump you can read my review of this release.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Review: Simon Steensland - Fat Again (2009)

Simon Steensland is a Swedish composer and self-taught multi-instrumentalist, though he started as a drummer at the age of 17. He releases both solo albums as well as composing for theater. His first solo release was in 1993, The Simon Lonesome Combat Ensemble, which he then followed up on with more albums, each of which had several usual musicians playing: drummer Morgan Agren and keyboards/piano player Mats Oberg.
The music was said to combine elements of jazz, neo-classical, rock and folk with a wide variety of instruments and to be influenced by Univers Zero, Art Zoyd, Present etc.
Here is a review I've written last year about his latest album to date, Fat Again, out on the exceptional label, Altr0ck.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Review: Moon Safari - [Blomljud] (2008)

Optimism, positiveness and cheerfulness are not my prominent characteristics. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find traces of them in me...

But you sure as hell will drown in the tsunami of joviality that pours out from the music of Moon Safari.

Now normally, I probably would not have liked this type of music and this sort of lyrics (see the case of Magic Pie and in particular the song Change from Motions of Desire); but this band makes music so lovely and beautiful that I can't resist it.

Both their albums are superb and with a new one coming out next month (end of October hopefully), I thought that I'd post my review of their second double album: [Blomljud] from 2008

Not Procrastinating. Working. Really.

That's right, I'm a middle-aged woman working in a paper inundated office...
Actually if you look in that picture of me, you'll see how neatly organized are all these papers right behind and around me. So now you know it's a fake.
I did not have any time this week to write or even prepare a post due to work and other things I have to write (like the update to my PhD thesis committee, which I need to schedule a meeting with soon to present my progress, or lack thereof...).

However, I have some new albums I've gotten and am excited about, which I will write about soon.
I'll also post a short account of the Magma show my wife and I saw in NYC this past Monday night (oh, so you have time to go to shows in the city, but not to write posts do you - I hear you say; What can I say, you caught me red-handed...).

I've also been splurging in online cd shopping again when I shouldn't. Naughty boy (I've had my wife punish me; with whip and cream no less... cream-whip, get it? yeah, I know, I didn't laugh either).

In the meantime, you should sink your teeth (actually, ears would be better) in:
Orbs - Asleep Next to Science (for prog-rock)
Samsara Blues Experiment - Long Distance Trip (for psych rock/metal)
Martriden - Encounter the Monolith (death metal)
Sky Architect - Excavations of the Mind (for prog rock)
The Claudia Quintet - Royal Toast (for jazz)


Monday, September 20, 2010

Review: Matthew Parmenter - Astray (2004)

With most albums, I connect mostly with the music, the sounds the emanate from the speakers/headphones, the ambiance, the tones and noise, the melody and texture and occasionally the voice of the singer.

But with some albums I connect with the lyrics.

Not that I don't like to sing along with songs that I don't identify with, or are plain silly, but those don't create an emotional bond, an unbreakable link between what is sung and how it impacts me.

But with some albums, that lyrics come across the musical plains and grab me.

One such album is this one by the highly talented Matthew Parmenter, whose two solo albums I discovered through his band, Discipline, which in turn, their album, Unfolded Like Staircase is one of my favourite albums.

Astray is not as ambitious sounding or complex as Discipline's music, but it is as captivating and beautiful. And I find Matthew's voice magnificent and haunting.
After the jump is the review of Matthew's 2004 solo release Astray.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Review: L'oeil Du Sourd - Un? (2009)

L' Oeil Du Sourd (The eye of the deaf) is a pscyhedelic-rock/jazz-rock band formed in 2004 in Rennes, France. The band began with high-school friends, Youenn Migaud (guitar), Herve Launay (sax) and Antoine Tharreau (keyboards) who were later joined by Cedric Lucas (drums), Charlotte Mérand (electric violin) and Mathilde Clavier (vocals and clarinet). The lineup now consists of Hervé Launay, Youenn Migaud, Yvon Philipope (vocals, keyboards), Tony Peoc'h (drums), Julia Robin (bass).
Their sound as is captured on their 2009 album, Un?, is as dense as it is particular and creative, ranging from upbeat and groovy patterns to weird yet captivating atmospheres and textures; from psychedelic-rock to jazz-rock to Zeuhl.

Read the review after the jump

Friday, September 17, 2010

Dan Britton - Deluge Grander medley on piano

The following video is taken from a recent event in the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington DC, where the documentary, Romantic Warriors (which I reviewed here before) was shown.
Dan Britton (whom I interviewed and posted here previously) is performing a medley of the album The Form Of The Good on piano

New Titan track - Wooded Altar Beyond the Wander

Over at Metalsucks they are pre-viewing a new track by Titan from their up and coming album Sweetest Dreams (out on Relapse, October 12; I've already pre-ordered it).

Great new albums I'm listening to lately

Here are 4 superb albums I've been listening to lately that I'd like to recommend to you.
Read after the jump

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Review: Sylbat - Mara (2008)

Sylbàt was formed in autumn 2006 after being commissioned for a piece by the Roué Waroch festival.

The band is made up of four musicians:

Clotilde Trouillaud is a renowned harpist and has played in other groups (Zim Zim, trio de harpes fileuses de Nuit) and with Sylbàt she has switched to playing the electroharp.

Patrick Boileau is the drummer and was the founder of avant-rock/zeuhl band Xaal (also featured in PA) and has since played in various other lineups (Alain Genty groupe, Gérard Delahaye, Louis-Jacques Suignard).

Hilaire Rama is the basist and before joining Sylbàt has played with various other bands and musicians (Gaby Blues Band et Tequila, Félix Théfaine, Alan Stivell et Melaine Favennec, Taïfa, Skeduz)

Hélène Brunet played the guitars in the band and loves and is inspired by Breton, Irish and flamenco music as well as blues. She played electric guitar and a 12 string Spanish guitar. She to has played with other musicians (accordionist Yann-Fanch Perroches, Jean Félix Lalanne, Scottish harpiste Mary Macmaster).

The fifth piece in this band is the soundman José Nédélec.

The band says their sound is influenced by bands such as Mahavishnu Orchestra, King Crimson and Weather Report along with touches of celtic music.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Review: Make A Rising - Infinite Ellipse And Head With Open Fontanel (2008)

Make A Rising are a band from Philadelphia, playing odd, quirky eclectic rock (avant-rock if you will), with catchy musical phrases pronounced in unconventional manner.
Following the jump you'll find my review for their 2008 album, Infinite Ellipse And Head With Open Fontanel.
Do check both their albums.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Review: Viima - Ajatuksia Maailman Laidalta (2006) & Kahden Kuun Sirpit (2009)

Viima is a five-piece sympholk band from Turku, Finland. After the jump you can read two reviews I wrote for their two albums.
You can listen to samples here and here.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Stian Westerhus | Pitch Black Star Spangled

Here's an excellent review, as usual, by John Kelman of All About Jazz. Here he discusses the new release by guitarist Stian Westerhus on Rune Grammofone called Pitch Black Star Spangled.

Stian Westerhus | Pitch Black Star Spangled

While you're at it, also check out his review of Puma (which includes said Westerhus in their lineup) and their Rune Grammofone new release called Half Nelson Courtship.

Puma | Half Nelson Courtship

Review: Bondage Fruit - I (1994)

This is a review I wrote about the first album by Japanese zeuhl/avant band Bondage Fruit.
Here you can read some more about them and their album IV



Primordial sounding and somewhat raw, this wonderful Zeuhl album by the magnificent Japanese band is a stunning listening experience; it makes me think of me as the listener, exploring a foreign land, and on my way encountering unknown tribes and cultures, getting to know their bewitching music which works like magic, attracting to it unsuspecting strangers. The main instruments and sounds that are the most prominent here are the vocals, percussion, glockenspiel & vibraphone and the violin. The rest gives a good and effective support to the music. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Review: Rational Diet - At Work (2008), Rational Diet (2007)

In anticipation of a new Rational Diet album, I am posting this review I wrote for the Belarus ensemble's album from 2008 called At Work and their s/t album from 2007.
Thanks for Marcello of Altr0ck for providing the promotional copies for these reviews.

Review: Diagonal - Diagonal (2008)

This is a review I wrote in November last year about the s/t album by prog-rock/psych/retro-rock band Diagonal.

"Those were the days my friend, we thought they'd never end?"

But they did.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sounds Heard Yesterday & Today (Sep. 9-10th, 2010)

Here are the sounds I've been hearing (after the jump)

Review: Klotet - En Rak Höger (2008)

Here's a review I wrote earlier this year about Swedish band, Klotet.


Surprises. I love surprises when it comes to music. Finding out a thrilling new band, something exciting, fresh and beautiful.
Such a surprise I had when a friend over at Progressive Ears recommended this Swedish four-piece band, Klotet and their 2008 release, En Rak Höger. They formed in 2004 in Uppsala and this is their first release, an instrumental album, out on Musea.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Favourite releases of 2009

Instead of Sounds Heard Today post, I'll post here this review list of my favourite releases of 2009 that I posted in Sonic Frontiers late last year. 

The expanded detailed list that follows goes from bottom to top:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sounds Heard Today (Sep. 8th, 2010)

Late night listening (last night):
Keeping up with the psychedelic/sludge trend of late, I grabbed this album called Of Sound Mind by Ancestors from LA, California. The first song on the album alone is worth getting this release, which is on the Tee Pee label I mentioned yesterday. This is heavy music, bordering on metallic (if not "there" already), rich, rather slow but still propulsive and they don't neglect melodic lines in favour of mood and freak-out psychedelic vibe.
If you want some psychedelic rock in your musical diet, head over to their website or myspace, see the bands on their roster and listen to the samples they have over there.

I'll devote an entire post just for the psych/sludge bands another time and for now I'll skip to other things I heard.

Next in line was Astrid Proll. This is a band from Puerto Rico, which released a s/t album in 2006. This band will appeal to fans of post-rock and space-rock, fans of bands that (for lack of better term) experiment with their tunes, create interesting and captivating textures and atmosphere.

I started the morning with US psych band, Alasehir (composed of a trio of musicians from Bardo Pond), and their 2009 release Torment of the Metals, which sounds like a jam around pre-conceived themes.

Following this, I revisited Blind Mr. Jones and their two releases: Stereo Musicale and Tatooine.
Stellar psych/shoe-gaze/atmospheric/ethereal rock or whatever you want to call it...
There is a compilation album called Over my Head that gathers their two albums plus ep's.

Gurumaniax was next in line with their 2010 release Psy Valley Hill. This group is made up of Guru Guru co-founders Mani Neumeier and Ax Genrich along with Guy Segers on bass (Univers Zero). A freak-out psychedelic journey, with emphasis on textures and grooves rather than following a melodic line. An entertaining jam in space.

I'll keep the rest of the albums for next post.

Album of the day:
Ancestors - Of Sound Mind

A Band in the Spotlight: Serpentina Satelite

Peruvian psychedelic band, Serpentina Satelite are releasing a new album called Mecanica Celeste (more samples here),

 Serpentina Satelite Mecanica Celeste album cover
"MECANICA CELESTE will be released by ROCKET RECORDINGS on September 6th 2010.
It will be available as ltd 600 vinyl LPs (one hundred on colour vinyl) plus foiled sleeve.
The LP will also come with a free download code and will be available for download via iTunes."

Dan Britton Interview, 2009

This is an interview I did with Dan Britton (Deluge Grander, Birds & Buildings, All Over Enerywhere) in 2009. 
It was posted originally in Prog Archives and Progressive Ears.
Thanks to Duncan Glenday for the editing and arrangements and to Debby Sears for the pictures and Frank Stickles for the video at the end.

Progressive Ears (Assaf Vestin): Can you tell us about your musical journey - what were your favourite childhood bands/musicians? How did you come to listen to Prog-Rock?

Dan Britton: The first music I remember obtaining as a kid were cassette albums by Bryan Adams, Howard Jones, Don Henley, The Cars, and Phil Collins when I was about 7 or 8 years old in the mid-1980's. Then I got into The Eagles and ZZ Top when I was about 12. The big revelation was getting Genesis' Duke CD and then, a few weeks later in 1991, Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot, on the same day. After Genesis came Yes, then ELP, then King Crimson, then Gentle Giant, and of course I became aware of Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd along the way, but didn't get as enthralled with them.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sounds Heard Today (Sep. 7th, 2010)

I'll start with the sounds of late last night and then move to today's hangings.

I started with some Italian prog rock and the wonderful album by:
Locanda Delle Fate - Forse Le Lucciole Non Si Amano Piu (a wonderful melodic album with great vocals, though I think they will be an acquired taste to some; you can also read about it here)

Sometimes late at night I feel like listening to either some psychedelic rock or sludge metal; I need some music that's dirty sounding, atmospheric, aggressive, dense, heavy, mid-tempo, powerful, relaxing, loud etc.
So I started with one of my favourite albums:
Neurosis - Souls At Zero (a seminal album, a change in direction from the two that preceded it)

I then continued with a more recent album:
Howl - Full of Hell
(influenced by Neurosis and the likes, sludgy, dirty, aggressive, angry, dense, heavy, great!)

As I started working this morning, I began with:
Persefone - Shin-Ken (extreme prog-metal from Andorra)

Then I calmed down with some post-rock, which wasn't that good, but I needed some of that special atmosphere:

Liam - Journey... Two Years and a Fragment

Then I headed for some hardcore/post-punk in the form of:
Refused - The Shape Of Punk To Come
Fugazi - Repeater

After that I felt again, the need, like last night, for psychedelic, dense and atmospheric music, so I "headed" to these two psychedelic rock bands:
Quest For Fire - Lights From Paradise (another good band on the fine psych-centered label Tee Pee)
Hypnos 69 - The Eclectic Measure (Graet Belgian psych/space-rock band who recently released a new album called Legacy)

Albums of the Day:
Neurosis - Souls At Zero
Howl - Full of Hell
Here is Opeth's performance of Dirge For November from their upcoming DVD In Live Concert at the Royal Albert Hall


Quick Recommendation: Tohpati Ethnomission (Indonesia)

Have a listen to this band from Jakarta, Indonesia called Tohpati Ethnomission 

Here's their Myspace bio:

" Tohpati is a guitarist from Indonesia, have released three albums under the label Sony Music (Tohpati, serampang samba, and its time), until now still actively joined the trisum band and simak dialog band.Year 2009 Tohpati create a group Tohpati Ethnomission, and released the cd in year 2010 under the indie label demajors (Indonesia) and moonjune records (USA), featuring bob mintzer(tenor sax), Tohpati experience ever played with the yellowjackets band at jakjazz festival in jakarta year 2008, Eric Marienthal (sax from USA) , Kenny Garret (sax from USA).Tohpati Ethnomission group music is collaboration between jazz and traditional instruments from Indonesia. which uses a suling (bamboo flute from java) and kendang (percussion from java)."

Osada Vida interview, 2009

Here's an interview I did with Osada Vida in 2009 in light of their then new album, Uninvited Dreams.
This interview was posted in Prog Archives and Progressive Ears. The version below is taken from Progressive Ears. Thanks to Duncan Glenday for the editing and design.

Assaf Vestin: For those unfamiliar with Osada Vida, can you give us a brief background of the band? How did it come to be, and what were your musical influences?

Adam Podzimski (Drums): Osada Vida was set up in 1997.  Lukasz and I created the band in 1997 as a trio.  The members of our band had changed several times and the same was with our music.  In the year 2000 we recorded our first demo album Moment Krytyczny (The Critical Moment).  Since then we have recorded two more albums: W Drodze Na Ksiezyc in 2002 and Osada Vida in 2004.

Our music was changing, developing you can hear it on our previous albums.  But the year 2005 was very crucial to our band.  We invited the new guitarist - Bartek Bereska - and released an album Three Seats Behind a Triangle in 2006.  We try to find an inspiration in every good piece of music.  No matter if it’s pop, jazz, metal or even classical music.

Lukasz Lisiak (Bass): Together with Adam, we wished to play our favorites’ music: Rush, King Crimson, Camel, early Porcupine Tree, Talk Talk and a stuff from 4 AD.  We never chose any style or never gave it a name.  We simply wished to play the music, which we felt, we loved, enjoyed and we wanted to listen to.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sounds Heard Today (Sep. 6th, 2010)

Yesterday I listened for the first time to Israeli band, Melechet. They have released one album called בין לבין, which means In Between. This requires several more listens, but from this first encounter, I perceived an eclectic affair, progressive for sure with songs connecting and flowing into each other, rock-opera-like and very emotional in sound and lyrics (though the vocals on the first song did annoy me). I'll definitely give this many more listens, but it requires focus while listening to it, so I'll pick a time when I can devote my full attention.  

Today I heard some metal bands while working as it keeps me going and serves as a good background while doing my experiments in the lab. Among those were:

Kalisia - Cybion (progressive death metal from France, one of my favourite albums of 2009)

Kylesa - Static Tensions (great stoner/sludge metal with a Neurosis influence, amongst others)

Decrepit Birth - ...And Time Begins (don't like this album, but needed something brutal at that moment)

Lustre - A Glimspe of Glory (atmospheric/ambient black metal)

Then after work, I listened to some prog rock albums:
Dean Watson - Unsettled (you can listen to the whole album on his myspce; click the link on the album name; read reviews of the album here)

Progression By Failure - S/T (I may expand on this album in the future; a very nice first effort from French multi-instrumentalist, Nicolas Piveteau; read reviews here)

Album of the day:
Kalisia - Cybion

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sounds Heard Today (Sep. 5th, 2010)

Here is the collection of sounds for September 5th, 2010

Hammers of Misfortune - entire discography
I chanced upon The Bastard, Hammers Of Misfortune first full-length release, in 2000, hearing the track An Oath Sworn in Hell. I was immediately taken by the powerful riffs and the intriguing lyrics sounding as if taken from a tale. It turned out that it is an album that tells a tale, fantasy story if you will, about opposing an evil monarchic regime, only to find that upon overthrowing it, you've become as bad, if not worse. A tale of hope and treachery, redemption, despair and acceptance of fate.
I then started following the band's output.

I got The August Engine much later than its release date but loved the instrumental opening and the smooth transition into Rainfall. Then there is the excellent Insects with a riff in the second segment of the song that is taken from The Bastard.

Then came what I still see as their best output - The Locus Years. I got it as soon as it came out. A stunning album, with a fantastic lineup, where Sigfrid Sheie performs wonderfully on the keyboards, adding so much the the Hammers sound. Scalzi's vocals are superb, accentuating the feel of the lyrics (as in the poignant Trot Out the Dead), Chewy's drumming as engaging as always and Cobbet's riffs piercing the stomach upon listening to them.
In 2008 came their double album release Fields / Church of Broken Glass. Again, woderful songs with great ideas and well performed. Now without Scalzi and bassist Myers and with two new vocalists (Patrick Goodwin & Jesse Quattro).
Their entire discography, including the out-of-print The Bastard, has been reissued by Metal Blade records, to which the band have signed with this year and with which they'll release their next album.

Reut Regev - This is R*time
Trombone-led jazz by Israeli musician/composer Reut Regev, with her husband, Igal Foni on drums and percussion, David Phelps on guitars, Brad Jones on bass and guests Eddie Bobe on congas and bongos. An exotic affair, mixing between direct and sharp catchy composition and subtler textures. 

Yatha Sidhra - A Meditation Mass
A trance-inducing calm psychedelic journey released by Brain records in 1974, recorded by the Karutrock band, Yatha Didhra and reissued in 2004.

Xing Sa - Creation De L'Univers
Setna - Cycle I
These two bands are connected. Both released through the excellent Soleil Zeuhl records, they share members. While Xing Sa is keyboards player Nicolas Guolay's music, Setna is drummer Nicolas Cande's music. These two play in both lineups, along with bassist Christophe Blondel. They musical vision of these two bands is similar as well; a sort of mellowed-down Zeuhl, very jazzy and relaxed, with chanting and centered around dominant bass lines with beautiful entourage of saxophone, voices and keyboards. However, while Setna is very subtle and gentle (you really need to crank up the volume), Xing Sa is a little more aggressive and imposing. I enjoy both as late night/early morning listening experiences. 

Song of the day:
Hammers of Misfortune - Fields trilogy

Album of the day:

Combat Astronomy available at Bandcamp

I was going to devote a post for Combat Astronomy, including a review I wrote for their 2008 album, Dreams No Longer Hesitate, but here's an update that I just saw on their myspace about them setting up a Bandcamp site with their albums available for streaming and digital download.
Do check them out!!
Be prepared for a brutal experience, though.



Review: Karcius - Episodes (2008, Unicorn Digital)

Here's a review I posted a while back of an album I am highly fond of.

Karcius from Quebec, Canada have so far released 3 instrumental albums, all of them quite eclectic with regards to the styles played in the various pieces the comprise them. With Episodes, I hear a band that has developed, and for lack of a better word, matured; they are more delicate and precise in their way of delivering their instrumental pieces, more refined than before. They are still as varied as before, conjuring up different styles and playing in a dynamic fashion.

In their first release in 2004, Sphere, which I very much love, they had a rawer approach and it was an eclectic affair that toyed with catchy tunes, heavy parts mingled with jazzy elements and cheerful melodies.
Going forward to 2008 and their release Episodes, this is still a diverse offering, but one that has a refined and distilled sound of the band, with an underlying link between all the pieces; the progressive rock and fusion of the three-part main piece, Elements and the Spanish flavoured composition Incident to the mellow blues/reggae/jam tune Racines. The refined sound owes to the song arrangements and to the musicianship. There is fabulous playing by all musicians here; listen to the bass licks and drumming on Elements II: Sol; to the guitar and piano on almost each piece. It's a feast to the ears.

Elements alone is a reason to get this album. Fading in it starts delicately with a relaxed yet steady, particular drumming rhythm (heard more in the back of the mix) and a soothing bass line, soon joined by the piano and then guitar, welcoming us into this beautiful palace of sounds that awaits us. A wonderful Pink-Floydian guitar solo proceeds as the full band engages their playing. From here on is a 30 minutes of delightful rich sounding music that is divided into 3 parts (but is continuous). There are climaxes and emotional peaks, heavy parts at times even aggressive (around minute 5:30 in Submersion, the first part and at the beginning of part 3: Combustion), quieter parts, jazzy interludes, fusion and rock segments, darker moments, lighter and happier parts and so on. The music in each part revolves around the main theme, playing with it, changing it, maneuvering it and developing it to make it interesting and appealing (and succeed in doing so).
The 3 parts themselves dissolve seamlessly into each other and make up a fascinating listen as a whole piece.

In Incident, a fabulous Spanish flavoured theme is presented with violin embellishments here and there. The chorus, if I can call it that, is a splendid powerful part of piano and acoustic guitar together in a swirling movement, going back and forth, creating a magical moment.

Levant is a short piece serving as transition to the piece Purple King as well as repose from the intensity of the music thus far. A mellow piano solo piece composed by the player (Mingan Sauriol), it's a beautiful composition that showcases what I suspect is a classical training. I'd love to hear more from him. 
Purple King start with a cool bass line, giving a mysterious vibe of something that is stirring up and about to reveal itself in its full magnificence. The ambience created here is outstanding, as the guitar licks add to the suspense and later electrifies the air. This is enhanced by the wonderful organ playing that creates a spell-binding atmosphere. This is a great rock piece by the band as the music twirls and weaves itself around the main theme, adding additional elements and layers to it until a peak at about 4:30, where it bursts further more as the lead electric guitar takes full charge of the situation and leads the band, with powerful drumming backing it up and the ever present Hammond organ delivering haunting playing.
A highly intense track, no wonder it is followed by the tender and Racines with its bluesy/reggae and jam-like approach to close the album. It does speed up about 3 minutes in a fusion-on-acid like style only to go back to the original theme about a minute and a half later.

Karcius present in this album several Episodes, each with a unique theme and style. Much like their previous album, this is an eclectic affair, but it works very well for me and it's a great pleasure to listen to their music. I look forward to their next one.

Here is a video of the band Live at Crescendo 2007
Here's an mp3 available at Prog Archives

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sounds Heard Today (Sep. 4th, 2010)

Here are some of the things I've listened to today at work and at home.

As I wanted to listen to some piano playing, I looked at the at what I have available and decided on listening to an album I got three years ago; an energetic and dynamic live performance by pianist Kenny Jaworsky, called A Piano Saga. The album is an un-edited, one-take live recording from April 14, 2005 of 14 original and mostly short compositions by Kenny. Ranging from the frantically fast to tamer mindset, this release is a fine and enjoyable experience to listen to.
Here's a video of Kenny:

For some reason I felt like listening to some Lou Reed. I have most of his albums, which are of varying qualities and amongst my favourites are Berlin, Coney Island Baby, Songs fro Drella (with John Cale) and New York with others like Transformer, Set The Twilight Reeling and Magic & Loss on the second tier. For some reason I wanted to hear the song Set The Twilight Reeling, which starts simply with an acoustic guitar and in a dry fashion but as the song goes on gets more power and then shifts into a second faster and fully electrified section. While I like his voice, a different vocalist could have lifted this song to higher planes. After that I carried on the jovial Coney Island Baby. This is a fun album, happy in a way, which doesn't seem to fit the rather sad and melancholic image that I always had of Lou Reed. 
Both my wife and I love his music; we saw him perform in Israel a few years ago and he gave a terrific performance that even I who dislikes live shows, enjoyed myself very much.As teenagers in the 90s' we got to know more of his albums together, including our favourite of his, Berlin. My wife also introduced me to the Velvet Underground back then, but that's a story for another time.

Somewhat expectedly, I followed Lou Reed with Neil Young - Harvest Moon; a lovely, relaxing and beautiful album filled with folk/country rock songs with lyrics I like to follow. I always like to hear this album in a calm weekend afternoon, enjoying a relaxed moment.

Then to break away from the pattern I put on Pär Lindh Project - Mundus Incompertus. An ELP influenced symphonic-prog extravaganza by this Swedish trio

Song of the day:
Lou Reed - She's My Best Friend (from the album Coney Island)

Album of the day:
Naima - Buscas?

This is a Spanish band made up of four musicians:
Manolo Valls Tenor sax
Luis Torregrosa Drums
Quique Ruiz Piano
Óscar Cuchillo Double bass

I am definitely not knowledgeable about jazz, though I listen to its various styles and approaches as performed by the bands I listen to. Naima plays a lush and dynaimc form of jazz, often starting mellow and then slowly reaching a climax with a rich sound that is greater than the sum of its parts. They have released two albums, Uno in 2006 and Buscas? in 2010. Both are beautiful, relaxing, thrilling pieces of contemporary jazz.
I also like the fact that they cover popular songs:
Behind The Wheel - Depeche Mode
Ana - Pixies
There Is A Light That Never Goes Out - The Smiths
Here you can watch a few videos of theirs:
Highly recommended!
A demain

Romantic Warriors: A Progressive Music Saga DVD (2010)

Adele Schmidt and Jose Zegarra Holder have released a 95 minutes documentary that features several prog rock bands and label/studio owners. This is not so much a story of current progressive rock, as it a small survey of several bands and the USA North East coast fests. The Film features these bands and musicians and their take on Prog Rock, how they deal with the struggle to create and release music and their attempts to reach the fans of the genre.
The bands/musicians featured are: Cabezas De Cera, Deluge Grander, Cheer Accident, La Maschera Di Cera, D.F.A, Karmakanic, Oblivion Sun, Qui, Gentle Giant, Rob Martino, Gary Green, Phideaux, Roine Stolt, Paul Sears.
It's great seeing the shows and performances by Deluge Grander, D.F.A., Cabezas De Cera and the rest of the bands; it makes you want to attend these shows and be part of the scene and experience the atmosphere and spirit of these events.

There are some very interesting insights from the musicians on their music, how they create it and on Prog Rock in general (Particularly, Rob Martino, Gary Green, Dan Britton, D.F.A, Cabezas De Cera, La Maschera Di Cera) and on the struggles of prog bands (Cheer Accident, Dan Britton, Paul Sears). They also talk about how the prog fests can be a huge boost to the career of these bands. Also, I liked the fact that not only bands are interviewed, but also Mike Potter owner of Orion Studios and Steve Feigenbaum owner of Cuneiform Records and Wayside Mailorder, which give their side of the business. It's fascinating listening to Mike Potter as he guides us through Orion Studios and showing the rehearsal places and the performing stage, while also sharing his view on the current prog scene and the prog fests and how his place offers an alternative to the bigger fests. There are also some Prog fans appearing in the film that give their take on the matters at hand. Cheer Accident gives a good distinction of one of the major clashes in current prog (the so called "Retro-prog" vs. "true" progressive rock), when they say that some bands try to sound as if it's 1975 and others try to genuinely do something progressive with their music.

There is a nice segment describing Prog Rock history, how it came about and developed up until our days (though people will surely debate how accurate and expansive it is).

I didn't sense any strict order to the film; while there were no sections that were devoted to a subject and the movie seems to flow from one band and fest to the other, there were topics that came up and were discussed by several bands/individuals. But there is no sense of a plot moving forwards towards a point. Because there is no real point, as the object of the movie, as I understand it, is to describe a current state of international diverse prog rock and USA North East prog fests; to give prog fans a glimpse into the current prog scene and some of the individuals involved in it. The film is a descriptive movie that strolls around between the people and bands interviewed. It seemed to flow freely between the bands, people and fests featured, alternating between each individual band story or comments. Cabezas De Cera features prominently in the movie, telling about their history and their shows in the USA in 2009 (and there's some footage of these as well), as well as talking about their music. The same goes for Dan Britton of Deluge Grander (and Birds & Buildings) as he describes his past briefly and one of his current bands, Deluge Grander and their albums and their Prog Day show in 2009 (there is footage of that as well as some of the story behind it). Mike Potter does a nice job of showcasing his Orion Studios and what happens there. Steve Feigenbaum shows a bit of his Cuneiform/Wayside operation, how he started in this business and describes a few of his label's releases.

Another issue I have with the film is that there are interesting subjects that come up throughout the movie but those aren't develop and are left as fast as they came up. For instance the question of why is there such an abundance of Prog Fests on the East Coast of the USA (not that the West Coast doesn't have any). There is also the subject of internet prog forums brought up by Paul Sears, and for some reason a huge logo of Progressive Ears appears on screen but no mention of this great website otherwise (nor of any of the other wonderful prog dedicated websites). However, it just ends there and nothing more comes from it. They also go very briefly into Internet illegal downloading, mentioned by Roine Stolt, but again this is immediately dropped (it is mentioned along with Steve Feigenbaum's talk about Cuneiform's low sales and the incessant reissues of old Prog "masters" mentioned by Dan Britton). Another interesting issue that wasn't developed enough was the prog rock radio shows, and two radio hosts were featured, but there was no going further into their story and view of the prog scene and how they act to promote the prog bands. And lastly, the issue of why there seem to be less women who are fans of prog rock. I realize there is a limit to what you can include in the movie, but then I would question why include this short comments to begin with, or why not cut other sections and expand on these. But then again, the film brings up these matters and though it doesn't deal with them (and doesn't intend to), it does plant the idea in the viewer and lets him think of it.

Who is this movie not for?
The way I see it, not for people who have no idea about Progressive Rock. Perhaps for those who are interested in getting to know it more, but do have an idea of what it is already. Otherwise it can completely bore them or even discourage them, particularly when hearing DFA saying that you need 20 listens of their album to grasp it and in the meantime you don't listen to anything else.

Who is this movie for?
I personally feel It's for people who are connected with the current scene (for instance internet prog forums members and fests partons), people who are fans of the bands appearing on the dvd, people who are interested in seeing and hearing more about progressive rock musicians and promoters and how they struggle to ge their music out there to people who would listen to it.

The bottom message I get here from the bands and musicians is that the music is out there for the potential listeners to look for, to explore and give a shot to the abundance of bands that release progressive music these days. These bands operate mostly underground, so to speak, unknown to the masses and most of them do the work of promoting their music themselves or through their independent labels.

I for one enjoyed the movie (as did my wife) despite its weaknesses and have watched it several times. I enjoyed hearing from the musicians about their music, their struggles, the way they compose, seeing them rehearse and perform. This movie may very well encourage people who are unfamiliar with bands features, to try them out. It may very well entice people to attend one or more of the prog fests in the north east of the USA. 
You can buy the DVD and see trailers here:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Sounds Heard Today (Sep. 3rd, 2010)

Today is Friday the 3rd of September 2010.

Listened to today (not in order):

Naima - Uno (awesome jazz/nu-jazz from Spain; more on these guys tomorrow)

Naima - Buscas

Vuvr - Pilgrimage (progressive/eclectic metal; other styles thrown in on a few songs)

French TV - I Forgive You For All My Unhappiness (eclectic prog rock, see more below)

Dave Kulju - Notes In The Margin (mainly instrumental prog rock)

It Bites - The Tall Ships (neo prog; don't like it too much)

Dawnbringer - In Sickness and In Dreams (not bad, but nothing too memorable classic-sounding metal)

Stig - Biodiversity (great ambient music)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _  

Today I discovered that there's a new French TV album out called, I Forgive You For All Of My Unhappiness; a great title which I use in my daily speech every so often towards people who annoy me.
Since I only listened to it once, for the first time today, and it being a French TV album (meaning there's so much music and ideas to absorb, that it's mind boggling), I didn't digest too much of it, but most songs sounded tamer than before, less "crazy" and wild, with a more "classical symphonic-prog" influence and some more of the "Canterbury-style" that they've done before. There still is the same French TV energy and quirkiness such as in You Got To Run It Out, Dawson!, which also boasts great bass and drumming work and some "fusion" infusions.

I also learned from Metal Sucks that the a song from the new Enslaved album, Axioma Ethica Odini, is available to listen to here. Looking forward to this album.

Song of the day: 
I usually listen to albums, but occasionally and in certain moods and certain genres of music, I like to hear particular songs. Today, after listening to Naima I mentioned above, I felt like listening to the great tune by La Pura Realidad, called Roja Ciudad (click this link to hear this song on their Myspace; it's the first in line in the player).

Album of the day: 
Dave Kulju - Notes In The Margin (check out both links)
A fine (mostly) instrumental album, with great engaging tunes that can be great accompaniment if you're on a long drive in the middle of a rural panorama or simply listening at home on your headphones. The compositions here vary from the epic (Skating on Europa) to delicate and emotional (parts of Soft Collisions) to the more poignant rock tracks (Know Again with its blues-rock sound and Stevie-Ray Vaughan guitar tone) and an acoustic guitar rich song (The Bridge, which reminds me of Steve Unruh in style of playing). There's much ground covered here, in sound and emotion. I'm still "digesting this album obviously, and I like it more each time I hear it. 
Go to Dave's website to learn more and you can also order from there his albums (he's also offering a deal of his two albums for 13$, which is what I got).

Review: Algernon - Ghost Surveillance (Cuneiform, 2010)

  The first time I heard of Algernon from Chicago was when I saw that their 2010 album, Ghost Surveillance, was being released by Cuneiform Records, a favourite label of mine. Intrigued I proceeded to listen to some tracks on their myspace. Favourably impressed I proceeded to order the album and am glad I did so. Algernon are a five-member band from Chicago and this instrumental album is their third release.

The music here borders on several styles such as “plain” rock, post-rock (in the scenic-atmospheric sense) and to a lesser extent jazz-rock. However, to try and pin-down their style and influences proves harder. While it is a rock affair with a strict form and fully composed, at times light and at others heavy, there is some jazziness and semblance of free spirit in the tunes, as if they are improvising, or at least doing so on a pre-conceived theme. They manage to capture a certain vibe by this that makes them sound spontaneous and fresh. Indeed, from what I read, bandleader and main composer, Dave Miller, is a very flexible guitarist and can play in a variety of styles.

Each track has its unique features and “personality” and they all go very well together. Each one has a clear melodic line, rich with playing of the five musicians, piling the layers of sounds. Their music flows seamlessly and with much power, shifting in its volume, density and layering. There is a sense of vitality and joviality in their music. Combining refined and soft sounds (vibraphone, glockenspiel) with harsher elements (such as some specific guitar tones). Indeed, this balance of power is a major attractive feature of their music. At times I was reminded of the Canadian group Hylozoists, with regards to the softer side of the music and the use of vibraphone. Indeed this and the glockenspiel are a superb tool that helps distinguish them and create their quite unique sound and style. This brings me to the point that Algernon does a great job of merging its raw and aggressive side with a mellow and subtler approach: “Broken Lady” is a good example of that. In fact that song seems to run the gamut of all possible paces and emotional landscapes portrayed in this album. They can be mellow, calm and even supple (“Everybody Stay Calm”, “The L Pill”) or ragged, adventurous, exploratory, noisy and edgy (“Intelligence Meltdown”, “Objective Compromised” etc.). This comes into play within different sections in tracks as well.

Ghost Surveillance is a fresh and quite unique sounding album, an album that builds up on contrasts and shows no fear of experimentation and forward thinking.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Review: Ciccada - A Child In The Mirror (2010, AltrOck)

   Unlike the Cicada insects whose music might sit comfortably in the avant-garde/noise camp, this Greek sextet called Ciccada makes pleasant melodic, folk-tinged progressive rock with heavy emphasis on keyboards and flute.

Ciccada came to be in 2005 as Nicolas Nikolopoulos (flute, keyboards) and Yorgos Mouchos (guitars) joined forces, soon joined in by vocalist Evangelia Kozoni (who also plays accordion and percussion), thus forming the core of the band. More musicians came and went as years went by and in this album they are joined in by bassist Omiros Komninos and contributions from session musicians.

The band’s music lies in what many call “symphonic rock” (a term I’m not sure of its meaning, but if it helps you, then that’s good). Their music is very pleasant and warm, even soothing and calm. The dominance of the flute and Evangelia’s vocals (not an in-your-face type of presence, but in the sense of being at the forefront, leading and setting the tone) is the element that permeates throughout the entire album and creates its atmosphere and its charm.

While other reviewers and the press release cite Jethro Tull, Renaissance, Gentle Giant and the likes as influences, which is all well if you’d like to get an idea of what to expect, I’ll chime in with two notions:
One, I personally would place Ciccada in a “camp” along with Viima and their “symphonic folk prog rock” style.
Two, instead of searching for labeling and sound-alike bands, I’ll say this: Ciccada’s music finds its inspiration and characteristics from symphonic prog, folk and to a lesser extent jazz. The result as I hear it, is a compelling, though not flawless, sound that doesn’t appear as a senseless mélange as can be the case sometimes.

I appreciate very much their use of varied instruments to create a rich and spacey sound (acoustic and electric guitars, flute, clarinet, strings, French horn, trumpet, glockenspiel, piano, violoncelo and of course bass and drums).
Another aspect I like here is the balance between the mellow and the less delicate. There are moments of higher intensity (as much as it can get intense in this album) where more instruments chime in, or the electric guitar gets involved (such as in The Endless Sea) and elevate the energy, whereas there are more refined and serene moments where only a few instruments play (usually the flute) along with Evagelia’s singing. But even as they become more powerful and noisy, it never gets over the top or abandons completely the peaceful roots of their sound (manifested in the accompaniment of the flute, piano and vocals as well as the pace of the music).

I must say I’m very happy to hear such a lovely album that is filled with beauty and tamed passion. Though I’d love to hear more daring and breaking out of the mold from this talented band, this is an album I enjoy listening to and one that has made me look out for their future release.

Sounds Heard Today (Sep. 2nd, 2010)

Been consuming huge amounts of music lately (mainly new releases). Helps disconnect from the world and my worries, while trying to get through work.

On the list is a lot of metal, prog, rock, jazz, chamber music, electronic, trance etc.

Here, I'll give a snippet of what I am listening to lately. You can see more of what I'm listening to lately here: http://rateyourmusic.com/~avestin. It contains almost all of what I listen to lately (plus albums I realize late that I have not yet rated).

Let's start with All Over Everywhere, the project led by Trinna Kesner and one of my favourite musicians/composers who I've mentioned before and whose music I reviewed, Dan Britton.
The music on Inner Firmaments Decay is otherworldly in a way; in fact, if you've heard Deluge Grander's second album, you'll recognize the style from there. It is quite dense and slow sounding, with female vocals in the background of the mix (by another Deluge Grander member, vocalist Megan Wheatley).

Another recent find is Dave Kulju who recently released his second album, Notes In The Margin. Well done instrumental prog rock that you can read about in the following review.

In the metal category, I just got to know Israeli black/prog metal, Winterhorde. They have released their second album this year, Underwatermoon and this review says much more than I can right now. Also, look at the stunning cover art work.

Zoe Keating is an accomplished cellist and composer who aside from her solo work, has played in various groups, including the wonderful Rasputina. Her latest album is Into The Trees, a wonderful collection of cello lead pieces (with some electronics, but really not something that noticeable or overbearing). Listen to some tunes here as well.

More lovely finds and spectacular experiences:
Sophie Hutchings - lovely piano-centered pieces, ranging from the intimate to the charming. Read more about it here.

Hour Of The Shipwreck - you know those albums you get and then either hear once, not fully concentrated and therefore aren't properly impressed and then some time later you discover it again and then you're completely taken by it? well that's one example. I'm not sure whether they are still active, but this 2008 release of theirs, The Hour Is Upon Us, is really wonderful. And you can get it for 6$ here

That'll do for now, I'll leave you with my track and album of the day for Thursday, September 2nd, 2010:

Track of the day:
Jean-Philippe Goude
- Picnic Music from the album, Rock De Chambre
Listen to it here.

Album of the day:
Winterhorde - Underwatermoon


It's all about venting.
Escaping the daily routine, the repeating pattern, the ever-occurring annoyances that fill our "modern" day lives.

Music is what helps me vent, escape, leave it behind for a while, recharge, connect, disconnect...
Music that I love is what will fill this small corner of the internet.

I've been writing about it unsuccessfully, for a while in other places (Prog Archives, Progressive Ears, Sonic Frontiers) and still do whenever I have the time (though that last website, Sonic Frontiers, has closed its virtual doors).

You can read more here: http://www.progarchives.com/Collaborators.asp?id=4595

To see what I've been listening to recently, you can have a look here: http://rateyourmusic.com/~avestin

Here I'll post about what I listen to (in short blurbs) and I'll post reviews as well (some which I have previously posted reviews).

Hope you find something of interest here.