Friday, December 31, 2010

Recommendation: Matt Stevens (acoustic, instrumental, progressive)

I came across this musician a few days ago while browsing Bandcamp. I was immediately captivated by his music and looked up his website to learn more about him.
So instead of me telling you about him, here's what his website says:

"Matt Stevens is a musician and composer from North London. An instrumental artist, he uses an acoustic guitar and a sampler to create multi layered tracks live. This is often called Live Looping. His music is compared with artists as diverse as John Mclaughlin and Sigur Ros. He plays live all over the UK.


Last year saw the release of Echo his well received debut album. It has been a "word of mouth" success thanks to the support of bloggers, podcasters and listeners from across the internet.
He has composed for short films(including the award winning Daddys Little Helper) and his live work is often compared to watching a one man guitar orchestra or wall of sound. He also plays guitar in the band The Fierce And The Dead.
He perfoms to people from all over the world using Ustream.TV "

Also, here's an interview with him.

You can stream his two albums on his bandcamp and also pay-what-you-want for downloads, or purchase the cd's (10₤ for both).

Do take a listen, it's fantastic music!

Recommendation: Golem - Orion Awakes (1973?)

Supposedly originating in 1973, released by Pyramid Records to be sold at art galleries, this album has been reissued in 1996 and in 2010, with the latter supposedly having authenticity evidence in the booklet.
However, upon listening to this for the first time without realizing who I was listening to, it sounded to me more like a modern recording. When I then looked at the band and realized this is supposedly from 1973, I became skeptical. These two reviewers seem to think the same: 1, 2.

Regardless, Golem presents here a fuzzy psychedelic freakout session, excellent for your tripping needs...

If anyone has more info on this album (beyond what is found on the net), please share it in the comments.

After the jump you have youtube playlist of the album.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dark Ambiances Series - Pt. 1: The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble

During the next nights, we shall experience dark, somber and mysterious ambiances. We shall dwell in the depressive and forlorn, we will bask in the shadows of hopelessness.

I'll dedicate each post to a different group and their music; each group known for their own take of brooding and melancholic textures and melody.

We open this exhibit of the macabre with the multi-national group The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble.

They started as the duo of Jason Köhnen (bass, guitar) and Gideon Kiers (effects) who composed music for old silent movies. They were joined in 2004 by Hilary Jeffrey (trombone) and Nina Hits (cello) and this lineup recorded the debut self-titled album released in 2006. The lineup expanded further with Eelco Bosman (guitars), Charlotte Cegarra (vocals and various instruments) and Sadie Anderson (violin). In 2009 they released their spectacular album, Here Be Dragons.
Their side project, The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation, will featured here soon as well in this series, and so will wait its turn.
Music after the jump.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Songs by crazy Norwegians...: Major Parkinson - Death in the Candystore

Would you let your kids shoot a video with a bunch of twist-minded Norwegians?

Of course!

Heck, I'd beg to take part as well.

So have a look at the first video below and see the lucky children participating in such an occasion, orchestrated by Norwegian band Major Parkinson.

Major Parkinson play a charming, playful and fun brand of rock with carnival-esque spirit. They've released two albums, a s/t in 2008, and Songs From A Solitary Home this year.
I highly recommend both.

Songs by crazy Swedes...: Samla Mammas Manna - Tärningen & Svackorpoängen

Whenever I want some wacky, humorous music, there is a multitude of options to choose from (Zappa, Komintern, Ma Banlieu Flasque, Mr. Bungle and others).

A very good option, though, is Swedish band Samla Mammas Manna, a band which incorporated various influences into its sound (folk, jazz-rock and other vegetables) and created their own sound.

The band consisted of great musicians including drummer Hasse Bruniusson (Flower Kings) and Lars Hollmer (who passed away two years ago in December 2008).

They were part of the RIO movement and participated in the RIO Festival in London in March 1978.

They have undergone several incarnations and have related projects (Von Zamla and Zamla Mammas Manna and Ramlösa Kvällar), all worth while listening to as well.

The following youtube clip is in fact two songs from their second album, Måltid, released in 1973.
They are the 6 and 7 tracks:
6. Tärningen (3:33)
7. Svackorpoängen (3:11)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Musician / Band in the Spotlight: Richard Wileman / Karda Estra

Richard Wileman, under the moniker of Karda Estra, composes, plays and produces his releases, comprising of stunning lush pieces of neo-classical/folk/goth/etc. music and in which he has guest musicians playing alongside him. 

He has released thus far 9 full-length studio albums, of which I'd highly recommend Eve, Weird Tales and The Age of Science And Enlightenment (but all the albums are of high quality, in my opinion).The music is, while calm, emotional and ranging from gorgeously beautiful to eerie and spooky, from senses of elation to bleak and somber (all depending on the album and track). It is played in a restrained and appropriate manner, never getting cheesy or over the top. I like how every instrument gets its proper role and is heard distinctly in the recordings.

You can listen to many compositions by Karda Estra here, here and here.

For those of you interested in buying these, you can buy directly from Richard all his albums (provided they're not sold out), from his website at 5£ each, including free shipping world-wide.

After the jump are recent videos that Richard has recorded of him with other musicians playing Karda Estra pieces. You can see/hear more here.

Recommendation: Hidden Orchestra (Scotland; electronica/jazz)

I've recently discovered a very pleasant surprise in the form of Scottish quartet Hidden Orchestra, formerly known as Joe Acheson Quartet.

Read more and listen after the jump

Monday, December 27, 2010

Interview: Mike Judge (USA; Sinthome, The Nerve Institute)

Mike Judge is a multi-instrumentalist who has released music under various names, the latest being Sinthome and currently, The Nerve Institute.

To introduce him to you, here is the bio he provided for his PA page:

"The Nerve Institute is the current incarnation of a one-man project that's been active in some form for nearly a decade now. Variously has been called The Wolf Tickets, Jerusalem, and Sinthome; Ficciones was released by ReR/Ad Hoc under Sinthome. I cut my proverbial teeth on the D.I.Y./punk scene in Kansas City, which back around 2000 appeared to hold semi-utopian promise to the very naïve kind of kid I was at the time. I drummed or played guitar or bass in a number of bands of whom maybe a dozen people on Earth have very sharp memories and who were passed over like the Hebrews in Egypt on the night of the Tenth Plague by everyone else: Culture Camp (noisy art-punk), Kill Brochtune (sort of prog-punk that in retrospect was strikingly ahead of its time -- I didn't write the material, hence my boastfulness), Dish (power-pop), Jimmy D and the Rotten 3 (ridiculous meltdown), the Wrecking Ball (backing band for the tremendously talented singer-songwriter Ben Summers), Mind the Gap (free improv). This led to some session & live work of various sorts, maybe most notably with It's Over -- onetime Next Big Thing of Kansas City -- and Tut Tut, the solo project of Alex Abnos of the recently-signed group Secret Cities.

Architects of Flesh-Density is my eighth LP of new compositions, the first under the Nerve Institute name. Entirely self-composed, self-played, self-recorded, self-produced as per all the others, save their occasional guest spots. Most notable among these was probably the appearance of Jacob Holm-Lupo (White Willow, the Opium Cartel) on Ficciones, donating some guitar and synth. I haven't performed any of my music live for almost six years, due variously to a distaste for teaching people to play it to my tremendously anal standards, disgust with the whole enterprise of The Music Business and, frankly, with audiences in general, and less dire stuff as well -- getting a B.A. in English lit, giving a few lectures at philosophy conferences, currently finishing a novel to be published next year.

Of the records I've made, the only ones I would claim today are the two Sinthome records, Ficiciones and the unreleased A Woman Has Given Birth to a Calf's Head (2008), and of course the new Nerve Institute LP."

After the Jump is the interview I conducted with Mike and I'd like to thank him for taking the time to answer in length to the questions.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Recommendation: Greg Haines (UK, ambient)

Beautiful music is something many, if not all people, are after. However beauty comes in many forms and is differently perceived by different minds. And so one form of beauty can be found in Greg Haines music, which is as soothing and calming as it is beautiful.
I've recently heard his Until The Point Of Hushed Support, and was mesmerized by the sheer power of emotions and gorgeous textures found on this release. You can listen to samples on his website and myspace (linked in the two previous links).

You can stream a previous release of his, Komarovo, on the following bandcamp by Slaapwel records:

A song to watch the snow with...: Giant Squid - Panthalassa (Lampetra tridentata)

For those of you in areas where snow is falling, here's a song from Giant Squid's album, The Ichtyologist.

You can stream the entire album here:

You can find their merch here.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Recommendation: Poseidotica (Argentina)

Instrumental heavy and psychedelic progressive rock is the order of the day delivered by Argentinian band, Poseidotica. With two albums to their record, Intramundo from 2005 and La Distancia from 2008, the band is evolving their approach, becoming more eclectic and open to new sounds and ideas.

Enjoy their two albums available for streaming in their bandcamp:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Review: Picchio Dal Pozzo - A Live (2010, Altr0ck)

This release captures the live show of Picchio Dal Pozzo along with Yugen at the 2008 Altr0ck festival. The concert features 5 songs form their first album, the single, Uccellin Del Bosco, from the Abbiamo period, one from Camere and one from Pic_Nic. The closing track is a re-discovered lost track from the Abbiamo album that a fan had on cassette and passed it to the band.

Review: Diagonal - Diagonal (2008, Rise Above)

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

But they did.

Or did they?

Well, according to the British band Diagonal, those days may have passed but that's no reason not to try to revive them, or in fact re-live them. And they do it so well, that their version of past days seems better than the original.

Released on Rise Above Records, which aside from metal bands, has also several bands in their lineup that recreate the magic of past days of glory, such as Circulus, Litmus, Blood Ceremony, Astra and Diagonal.

Diagonal, from Brighton that sits on the shores of southern England on the channel, are a 7 members band, bent on recreating sounds long gone and even in the booklet of their self-titled album they look like 70s' rock musicians, giving the impression that they are either a long lost band only recently discovered or rather time travelers or in fact just die hard enthusiasts of another age.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A song to lament with...: White Willow - John Dee's Lament + A studio Report from Jacob

There are band who release albums that are quite different in style and. White Willow from Norway are one such band with their 5 releases to date and there's a new one in the making, called Terminal Twilight.

I am partial to three of their albums, the first one, the folk-rock Ignis Faatus, which has recently been re-issued in vinyl; their third one, Sacrament, which is my favourite and shows the band expand their folk roots to include symphonic prog traits; and finally the heavier (some say metal-ish) Storm Season.

I wanted to post a youtube video of a song from Sacrament, however the only one available is Paper Moon and I wanted either Anamnesis or The Reach. So I looked what else was available and so I found another great tune from their first album, which you can listen to below.

Here you can see a clip Jacob did about the making of the new album

Recommendation: William Gray - Living Fossils

No, William Gray is not a person, but a band from Argentina who released their first and so far only album in 2006. Living Fossils is an eclectic progressive rock album drawing influences from old "symphonic prog" but adding a harsher and heavier flavour along with other elements, including Hispanic ones. The album's variety is not only in its styles and influences but also in the ambiances it conjures and the moods it conveys. It's a long album, with a common theme running through it, fitting as it is a concept album about a person roaming the streets of Buenos Aires on the fringe of sanity and the music and its eclectic nature convey that very well.

A very well done album and I really hope they release more music.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Review & Spotlight: Komintern - Le Bal du Rat Mort (1971)

This French band was founded by Francis Lemonnier (sax and vocals) and Serge Catalano (drums and percussions) in May 1970 after they left Red Noise due to musical and political disagreements. The name chosen gives you a clear indication as to their political views. The band released one album called "Le Bal Du Rat Mort" in 1971 and one single "Fou, roi, pantin" and were active until 1975. The musicians that joined them were Michel Musac (guitar), Olivier Zdrzalik (bass, vocals, organ and piano) and Pascal Chassin (guitar). At first they were less focused on composing only music but more on mixing it along with satiric theater - a sort of "cabaret satirique", in order to express their extreme left views. They used their music to enhance their message, and they did it in a manner that mixed several styles of music that would fit their show and the message to be passed on to the crowd/listeners. They were related to extreme left movements such as the "Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire" and they toured in the summer of 1970 in, among other places, universities and factories that were in strike.

A tune for the first snow...: Camel - The Snow Goose

The first snow has arrived here on Huntington, Long Island, NY.
Now on to shoveling the road and clearing out the car...
In the meantime some Camel...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Songs to be remembered by...: Chuck Schuldiner / Death

Nine years ago, on December 13th, 2001 Chuck Schuldiner passed away at the age of 34.
I won't belabor with words, I'll let the metal flow instead.

A song to delicately initiate your week: Senni Eskelinen Stringpurée Band - Embers

Senni Eskelinen Stringpuree Band are a Finnish trio combining folk into their delicate brand of intricate melodic rock. Here's a beautiful song from their 2008 debut album.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Recommendation: Soft Mountain - Soft Mountain (2007)

Soft Mountain

Improvised live in the studio by the quartet of Hugh Hopper (bass), Elton Dean (sax), Yoshida Tatsuya (drums) and Hoppy Kamiyama (keyboards). Although, only released in 2007 (and in some places in 2006), this was recorded in 2003, during Dean's and Hopper's tour in Japan with Soft Works. By contacting Hoppy ahead of time, they agreed to get into a studio and just play... They start nicely and calmly with some "regular" sounding jazz, and slowly and progressively advance towards the more experimental and daring parts of this free style playing, of which a major part if free-form. The drums, while at times a bit too much in the back, are just a wild ride, relentless and with non-stop energetics, as if on steroids. It's made up of only two tracks - Soft Mountain Suite parts 1 & 2, and each is around half an hour. It might get too much at times, but when in the proper mood or state of mind, this is very rewarding. In any case, a fine release, very enjoyable, dynamic with mostly non-stop action.

Soft Mountain

Track 1: Soft Mountain Suite Pt. 1 (30.40)
Track 2: Soft Mountain Suite Pt. 2 (27.55)

Total running time: 58.40

Recorded 10th August 2003 in Tokyo, Japan

Elton Dean sax
Hugh Hopper bass
Hoppy Kamiyama keyboards
Yoshida Tatsuya drums

Music composed by E. Dean, H. Hopper, H. Kamiyama & Y. Tatsuya

Friday, December 10, 2010

Recommendation: Ephrat (Israel, prog-rock)

Formed in 2005, Ephrat is Omer Ephrat's creation, making heavy, emotional, melancholic and epic progressive rock. The band consists of Lior Seker (vocals), Tomer Z (drums) Gili Rosenberg (bass) and Omer Ephrat (guitars, keyboards, flute).

Their 2008 debut, No One's Words released by InsideOut, was mixed by Steven Wilson and has Daniel Gildenlow and Petronella Nettermalm (of Paatos) guesting on vocals on two songs.
Listen to some Youtube samples after the jump

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A song to to find your way home with...: The Builders & The Butchers - Short Way Home


The Builders & The Butchers are a Portland, Oregon based band playing lovely folk/Americana rock. I came across their website earlier this year and ordered their 2009 album, Salvation Is A Deep Dark Well, which is a superb collection of catchy melodic folk-rock.

Aside from this album, they have a s/t album from 2007, a split with Loch Lomond from the same year, a live album, Where The Roots All Grow, released this year. In 2011 they'll release their new album, Dead Reckoning.

Here's a great song from their second album called Short Way Home. Listen to the entire song, don't quit in the middle.

Watch more videos here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Recommendation: Amity In Fame (Austria, rock, acoustic)

Austrian band Amity In Fame play acoustic-rock and have released an album in 2008 called Dinner For One and are now working on a second album. You can read more about them here.

Legal free download of the album, Dinner For One, on Jamendo

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Review: Random Touch - A True Conductor Wears a Man (2007)

Here's a review I wrote some years ago about the first Random Touch album I heard, A True Conductor Wears A Man.

Moving between the Random and the Planned 

The name of this group might give a hint at what is going on here. But then again, I don't think anything is random here, maybe not well planned ahead, but if this is random, then the outcome is one hell of an organized mess for such a thing, though improvisation seems to have been part of the process. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Review: Yugen - Iridule (2010, Altr0ck)

In Iridule, Yugen continue their musical journey began in Labirinto d’Acqua in 2006. While they retain their sound from their first album, here Yugen are incorporating additional styles, including the addition of (female) vocals, courtesy of Elaine Di Falco (Thinking Plauge, Caveman Shoestore). Yugen offer several shorter, vocals-lead songs, which are focused on creating eerie and odd textures and atmospheres, rather than presenting a tune. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Review: Djam Karet - The Heavy Soul Sessions (2010)

Despite having a musical style that on paper should appeal to my tastes, being a widely critically acclaimed group and having an extensive discography spread out over 3 decades, I’ve only checked out so far two releases from California-based instrumental progressive rock act, Djam Karet: 1991’s Burning the Hard City and 2003’s A Night for Baku. While I find the music on these albums to be good and very well played and produced, it didn’t grab me and made me have repeated listening, though I know that these albums have their fans, so I’m not writing them off.

In 2010 comes their newest studio offering, the 15th in number called The Heavy Soul Sessions, 5 years after the well-received and acclaimed Recollection Harvest which I have yet to hear, but definitely intend to after listening to this album.

The Heavy Soul Sessions was born as a result of live shows in which they played tracks spanning their 26 years of existence. They proceeded to record these tracks live-in-the-studio with no overdubbing. They have also included a cover song, Dedicated To K.C. by Richard Pinhas from his 1982 album, L’Ethique. Indeed this album sounds great, fresh and crisp both sound-wise and music-wise. In fact it has inspired me to go back and re-listen to the two albums I have of theirs and get some others I don’t have. So what you get here is a taste of the variety of flavours of the band’s output. You get a taste of space-rock, ambient and electronic music as well as a balanced portion of aggressive rock, warm analog synths and mellotron, spacey guitar solos and dreamy-eerie slow and pensive sections.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A song for a rainy winter day...: Gösta Berlings Saga - Sorterargatan 3

I've had a post about Gösta Berlings Saga before, reviewing their latest album, Detta Har Hänt. Here are two videos of the second track from that album, Sorterargatan 3.

While the second video has better sound quality and shows a tighter performance, both are worth watching/listening. This song has a great buildup and then a propulsive rhythm and simple yet charming tune.

Pay attention to the drumming work and how well it mixes with and supports the music.

Club Groddar & Gräsrötter at Landet, Stockholm, Sweden 2009-10-22.

Frölunda Kulturhus 2009.09.25; Göteborg (Gothenburg)

A song to Thank You!...: Alphataurus - La Mente Vola

November has ended and December has began!

First I'd like to congratulate my good friends Emma and Johnny on the birth of their son Alex (born 29-11-10).

Second, my committee meeting went rather well, and so now I need to work hard for the next one.

Last, I'd like to thank you people who read these nonsensical blurbs and verbal outpourings of mine. The blog has had much more visitors than I had anticipated, with over 900 visitors this months and almost 200 returning visitors. Thank you!

Please let me know in the comments what do you think, what would like to see more of and what would you like changed. Can't promise I'll do it, but I will read and consider.

With regards to music, there have been great albums released this year, some of which I've mentioned here and I will do a 2010 favourite albums summary in January 2011 (similar to the one I did for 2009).

So I'd like to sum this post up with a stunning song to thank you all, La Mente Vola (the mind flies) by Italian prog-rock band Alphataurus.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Recommendation: Hour Of The Shipwreck (rock, USA)

Dreamy yet fierce, the music of Hour Of The Shipwreck bridges between opposite emotional banks. In their songs they travel from delicate and calm currents to gushing and agitated torrents as they present their beautiful melodies fronted by soft male vocals. Their music is dramatic and intense.

Based in LA, this band has released one album in 2008, The Hour Is Upon Us but since then I've not seen any news from the band and so am not sure as to their current status.

Read an interview here and reviews here, here, here and here

Review: Big Big Train - The Difference Machine (2007)

Big Big Train The Difference Machine album cover

This is a review I wrote some time ago for the 2007 album by British prog-rock band Big Big Train.
In light of their new offering, an EP entitles Far Skies Deep Time, I thought of posting this review now.
Also, you can download the title track (23 minutes) of their last full-length, The Underfall Yard, here. They have more free downloads in their website.