Reviews in this issue:
- RPWL - The Gentle Art Of Music
- Flat 122 - Kagerou
- Nevärlläjf - Klusterfloristen
- Delta Red – Gama De Espectros
- Terraex - Somnia
- Crystal Palace - Reset
- Chinawhite - Challenges
- Cédric Leroy - Eologie
RPWL - The Gentle Art Of Music
CD1 | Compilation: Hole In The Sky (7:29), Crazy Lane (4:41), I Don’t Know (4:02), Home Again (9:04), The Gentle Art Of Swimming (10:18), Sun In The Sky (4:21), Roses (6:36), Wasted Land (4:50), 3 Lights (8:18), Silenced (9:53), Choose What You Want To Look At (5:04)
CD2 | Revisited: Sleep (6:40), Trying To Kiss The Sun (5:48), Moonflower (3:55), Watching The World (3:59), Start The Fire (4:19), Farewell (5:05), World Though My Eyes (7:47), Cake (4:17), Fool (5:07), Breath In, Breath Out (3:50), Bound To Reach The End (6:26)
RPWL - who has not heard of RPWL in the progressive rock world? Well to celebrate their 10th anniversary as RPWL the boys thought to release a double CD covering the first decade of the band. So here we have the double CD album package with a "Compilation" disc which has tracks from all the studio albums by the band and in a chronologic order. Listening to this CD gives a rough idea of how RPWL has developed throughout the 10 years. You will find they have definitely developed their own unique sound.
CD2 is a "Revisited" CD and here RPWL prove their quality, these guys can play big time. Eleven tracks of revisited songs from their career and in a more acoustic format.
The band have enlisted a number guest musicians including Ray Wilson (vocals), Conny Kreitmeier (vocals), Bine Heller (vocals), Julia Schröter (vocals), Tom Norris (violin & viola), Jost Hecker (cello), Ferdinand Settele (saxophone), Manu Delago (Hang), Manasvee Mezz (Indian instruments), Mehmet Bayrakcoglu (Saz)
Sleep is originally from World Through My Eyes, in a slightly different arrangement here with the addition of Indian instruments giving it an Eastern, almost mystic sound. A masterpiece beautifully played. Next in line is Trying To Kiss The Sun, from the album with the same name, this time the arrangement is altered even more mystically, with violin, viola and Saz being used to create this stunning piece of music. Next to Yogi’s vocals are a lot more feminine vocals also adding extra’s to the music.
Moonflower goes Santana style all the way. A duet on vocals by Yogi and Julia Schröter. Another instrument is added in the variety saxophone. Though it is a good song all together Moonflower is not one of my favourites. Watching The World, is a new song, but one that sounded familiar to my ears. This may well lay in the fact that it is more a song you might expect from the likes of Coldplay or even Porcupine Tree. Start The Fire is almost classical music when it starts. Strings and Indian instruments do those parts normally heard from the keyboards and shows once more how you can change the feel of the song by the instrumentation.
Farewell has become very acoustic, a ballad in the truest form, with guitar, violin, viola and cello playing the beautifully recreated melody. An emotional song and listening to the lyrics it is hard to say farewell. By all means we do not want to hear farewell yet there is more to come. Next up World Through My Eyes. And has anyone ever heard of an instrument called a Hang? Well I hadn’t until now, but it is present in this recreated song from the album of the same name. World Through My Eyes now is a complete mystery. A true masterpiece and what an atmosphere they have created.
Cake is the second of the two new songs on the CD. This may well be the most commercially sounding piece of music I have heard by RPWL. A great song. Fool from God Has Failed is now almost completely acoustic and certainly has become a super ballad in this way; listen to the keyboard solo, pure ear candy. All the chorus’ in the song are beautiful. Whereas Breath In, Breath Out was already a ballad. Taken from the 2008 release the RPWL Experience, it is slightly different from the original version and definitely works better for me played this way. Bound To Reach The End marks the end of the revisits and yet another astonishing remake of the original from World Through My Eyes.
Concluding, CD1 shows RPWL’s development throughout their 10 year spanning career and is certainly a good way to become acquainted with the music of RPWL. CD2 shows RPWL at their finest, giving us an inside view of what they can accomplish. Maybe a true RPWL experience. The title of the CD says it all it truly is the Gentle Art Of Music.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Flat 122 - Kagerou
Tracklist: Circle Of Sound (1:19), On The Hill (2:45), Clouds (8:05), Panorama 2 (4:17), Sterra Lee Jones (7:56), Improvisation (3:38), Remembrance (7:07), Matsukura Snow [visual] (1:18), Matsukura Snow [story] (12:19), Kagerou (10:49), The Breeze (2:54), The Wave [Live] (10:58)
The promo shot quotes Flat 122 as;
“progressive jazz rock somewhere between Gong, Side Steps, Erik Satie, Pat Metheny, The Enid and King Crimson”.
There is no doubt that this band falls into this area as you can hear bits of these references woven into the twelve pieces on offer here, although they do keep an air of originality about themselves too. The music on offer here has been recorded to a very high standard and is very intriguing in places.
Flat 122 consists of Takao Kawasaki (piano, keyboards), Satoshi Hirata (guitar) and Kiyotaka Tanabe (drums & percussions) having released their second album Kagerou. Flat 122’s first album The Waves was reviewed and awarded 7.5 out of 10, so how does their sophomore release fair up? To be honest what we have here is an album that is very similar in approach and style as their first album The Waves.
The standard of playing in outstanding and as a trio they work very well together delivering their complex and convoluted passages. On The Hill the first proper tune on the album reminds me very much of Lyle Mays, and could have fitted onto any of his solo albums. Clouds drops into prog jazz mode offering some stupendous guitar tones and drumming from Hirata and Tanabe supported by Kawasaki’s dexterous finger work. There is a lot to take in during this track with its time changes and varying direction, which all in all surmounts to a very powerful track. Panorama 2 moves in the same circle as Clouds but has a somewhat more jazz rock feel, featuring cartoon-esque passages with guitar and drum closely mirroring each other, which reminded me of the Rudess Morgenstein Project in places. Sterra Lee Jones features guest musicians Miho Amino offering some vocal tones and Emi Sasaki on accordion, giving a Parisienne feel to it.
Improvisation although played by crafted and talented musicians comes across as being anarchic and discordant, not really offering anything. It comes as quick as it goes really, without substance. Music is all about challenge and reaction but this just left me cold. Remembrance slows things down offering a more challenging listen with some really tight drumming and some fascinating piano work. This I found to be the most interesting piece on the album, with more Lyle Mays piano approach. Hirata layers his guitar sounds perfectly adding depth and magnitude to the whole piece. Matsukura Snow pieces, (visual and story), start their journey as laid back pieces before it drops into a funky groovy piece, showing diversity of what these musicians have to offer, and is in my opinion the albums magnum opus. The track has it all, great interaction, ethereal layered vocals all skilfully woven together. Kagerou’s timbre and metre is very intriguing having me hooked right from the start, sounding almost Michael Nyman in approach. The track has been very cleverly composed and constructed with all the instruments rhythmically being driven with interjections from other instruments placed at just the right time. The Breeze slows everything down again with Kawasaki playing some interesting keyboards and layering it with piano giving a haunting approach and feel to the track.
The album closes with a bonus track, being a live version of the track The Waves from their first album, albeit five minutes shorter. The production for the track is again crystal clear and is my favourite track off their first album. It offers a quick look of what Flat 122 are all about, intricate, complex and challenging sounds?
This is a grower of an album, as is their first release The Waves, which you do need to listen to several times to enable you to get fully involved with what the band have created. In travelling that path you will be rewarded, finding new tones and intricacies which you missed from the last time you played the album.
Mr. Terwilliger’s review for The Waves album commented, “A good bassist would add the missing floor to this well-built three story house, and take them way over the hapless crowd below”. Truer words never spoken as I too feel that this addition would create something quite unique also.
If you love prog jazz rock that is heart felt when played then this is an album that you will really enjoy. If you like to listen to music that’s challenging, complex and intelligent then this is an album definitely for you too. If you like this album I would suggest you also seek out The Waves.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Nevärlläjf - Klusterfloristen
Tracklist: Hem-o-Röj (5:59), The Carpet (2:48), Ove Och Det Tjockaste Sminket (6:23), Flourtantskosmos (5:27), Knölpåksinhalator (5:11), Fusionlök (7:44), Kaskelottkotte (6:47), The Sacrifice Of Gluteus Maximus (3:33), KyskHästsDisco (11:08)
Definitely winning the name for most unpronounceable band name and song titles (to the non-Swedish speaker!), this young band have produced a similarly difficult-to-classify debut album.
Musea’s promo blurb mentions that Nevärlläjf took inspiration from a meeting with fellow Swedes Beardfish, and the two bands certainly have many things in common, such as youthful exuberance, an abundance of ideas and excellent musicianship. Yet whilst Beardfish use seventies prog rock as their jumping off point, Nevärlläjf use funk and jazz fusion from the same era as their launch pad into numerous other genres.
A description of the opening track, Hem-o-Röj, gives a good illustration of the band’s dynamic, restless sound, and the strengths – and weaknesses – in their songwriting. Immediately launching into a funky groove, with vintage Hammond organ lines laced over it, its clear this is not a band who stick to conventional time signatures, and also one who are constantly looking to move on to the next section. The advantage of this approach is that things don’t get too repetitive and it keeps the listener on their toes, although it also means the band never seem to settle, and good ideas aren’t perhaps explored in the depths they could be. Chuck in some heavy guitar freak-outs, a cacophony of strange voices, some electric piano work straight out of Headhunters-era Herbie Hancock, a snatch of twelve-bar blues and some free wheeling solo spots and you have a heady mix that seems rather squashed into its six minute time span.
Elsewhere, the songs with English titles (The Carpet and The Sacrifice Of Gluteus Maximus) are the shortest and wackiest on the album, verging on avant-garde territory at times; Fusionlök, as its name implies, focuses on the fusion side of the band’s repertoire and is very slickly rendered, whilst the first part of Knölpåksinhalator shows a more relaxed, laid back side of the band and provides a nice breather. As you can probably tell from its length and name, final track KyskHästsDisco is an epic which incorporates elements from that much-maligned late seventies musical style, as well as a myriad of others, leaving your head spinning by the end of it.
As I’ve said, the musicianship is first rate, with keyboard player Tor Sandall’s work, on a variety of instruments and using wide palette of sounds, being particularly assured. One thing the band do need to work on, in common with a number of fusion bands, is the insertion of heavy, fuzzed-up guitar parts into their songs – these often sound like they are from a different record, and rather jar on the ears.
Overall, whilst there’s an argument that there are possibly too many ideas being tried out on Klusterfloristen, the fact that so many of these ideas work should ultimately win over the listener. In addition, the band’s obvious enthusiasm and energy is infectious, meaning that even the harder-going tracks at least raise a smile. Hopefully there will be greater things to come from Nevärlläjf, but in the meantime this is a good start, and fans of adventurous jazz fusion would be well advised to check the band out.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Delta Red – Gama De Espectros
Tracklist: Gama De Espectros (11:51), Estampida (6:05), Segunda Premier (9:54), Cuarto Oscuro (5:54), Día Fuera Del Tiempo (5:22), Ciempiés (4:50), El Dique (7:56), Opus 14 (6:26), Venus (8:28)
I scored fairly well on the math portion of my SATs in high school, getting a 600 (out of 800). But these math skills could not prepare me for the formula and convention defying math rock of Delta Red, who tear the numbers up all over Gama De Espectros, their debut CD. The Mexican instrumental trio is made up of Julio Gándara on guitar & percussion, Arturo Olvera on drums & percussion, and Roberto Petriciolet on bass. Helios Valdez contributes baritone saxophone on one track.
Taking an obvious cue from King Crimson (Red pointers and to a lesser extent In The Court Of The Crimson King and Discipline), the band rollicks through nine tracks across almost sixty-seven minutes, throwing in varying tempos and alternating time signatures along the way. Segunda Premier wields serrated-edge guitar sharpness from Gándara, fluid bass from Petriciolet and rolling drums from Olvera. The beginning of the track evokes Black Sabbath, a brief bit of stonerism on this otherwise sober recording.
El Dique offers up a slow, liquidy intro with fine soling from Gándara and a proggy section referencing A Farewell To Kings-era Rush. Howling bass from Petriciolet closes out the track.
The overall production quality of the CD is conservative at best, with the drums sounding organic. But the band’s musicianship compensates for any production values that could be perceived as marginal.
Experimental complexities notwithstanding, I found the CD to be somewhat repetitive at points and it may well be deemed best suitable for background music. This of course can be subject to debate based on the individual math-rock enthusiast’s personal taste. And after a couple of “background music” spins of this CD, I would not rule out it growing on me with additional listens.
The CD booklet and cover are professionally designed and laid out.
As far as room for improvement goes, the band may want to focus on composing leaner, tighter tunes as this may offset the generic, repetitive quality of some sections of the music.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Terraex - Somnia
Tracklist: Dark (4:07), Hold On (3:37), Dirty Girl (3:40), In Chains (4:52), Song For All (4:06), Mermaid (4:25), Honesty (4:15), Both Of You (3:37), Perfection (3:02), I Wish I Had Horns (4:18), Days Of Despair (4:24)
Terraex’s debut album Somnia is as straight a rock album as you’re ever likely to see reviewed on DPRP. Their only claim to be considered under the “art-rock/crossover-prog” category arises virtue of their use of the mellotron during a number of songs on the album. However, just as the use of an orchestra does not make a pop song progressive, neither does the simple use of a mellotron: what is far more important is what you do with it and, on Somnia, the song construction remains rooted in standard rock territory. However, the band have been signed up by a progressive label, Musea - perhaps on the basis of future promise?
The multi-national band are based in Norway and comprise Maria Toreson (vocals, keys, violin), Carlos Sanchez (bass, keys), Andrea Ummarino (guitars) and Gunvar Wie (drums).
Judged as a straight rock album, the music is occasionally pleasant after a fairly nondescript start – the opening three tracks are lacklustre – the mood becomes lighter and more wistful on In Chains - there are scents of folk-rock and the mellotron brings welcome textural interest. Song For All brings some Hammond into the fray to add the textural interest and the mellotron, as well as a dash of violin, returns on Mermaid, but the lack of compositional inventiveness remains. Honesty is the album’s highlight as a catchy rock-pop song where the mellotron is well integrated with some menacing guitar. The piano features in Both Of You’s pretty melody. Taking a downturn, the very straight rock songs Perfection and I Wish I Had Horns lack even the textural interest of the mellotron, before Days Of Despair redresses the balance: a pretty ballad featuring both piano and mellotron.
Overall, the textural interest in the lighter, slower songs is of more interest to the progressive rock fan, whereas in the rockier numbers only Honesty stands out as being above the average in what is a very crowded musical genre. This band have had the adventure to bring the interesting sonic textures of mellotron and Hammond into their music: they must now develop their composition if they are to be lauded in the progressive rock world.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Crystal Palace - Reset
Tracklist: Darkest Hour (12:46), Sons Of God (8:50), Human Stain (6:38), Drowning On Dryland (4:10), Distant Shores (4:42), Damage Goods (8:04), Break My Wings (9:52), Cinescope Dreams (5:56)
Crystal Palace originate from Germany and the band was founded back in 1992. Through the years the line up has changed frequently and currently the band consist of Jens Uwe Strutz (bass, vocals), Jürgen Hegner (guitar), Feliks Weber (drums) and Frank Köhler (keyboards). Their current album Reset is tenth in a row of releases from the band and the music they play these days is Neo-prog, with bands like Pallas, Saga and IQ springing to mind.
Reset consists of eight songs varying in length from just over 4 minutes up to a lengthy 12:46. The songs have been structured professionally and have been produced quite well and clearly you can hear that Crystal Palace isn’t a band that is delivering its debut with Reset. You can hear the band has experience. However as a bunch of good songs none of them really stands out, but then again there is not a bad song either. Reset is a very consistent album. Enjoyable, certainly worth a listen if you like the afore mentioned bands.
It is definitely not an album I will play much, which probably has a lot to do with the musical style. It is not my favourite clearly. Nevertheless if you are a neo-prog fan, then certainly try it.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Chinawhite - Challenges
Tracklist: In The Beginning (4:00), Challenges - Dreams Of A Child (8:00), My Venus Rising (7:28), Stranger (4:13), How Many Miles (3:43), Better Than You (5:14), Inside (5:49), The Storm Rages On (8:08), I Am I (5:02), Dive With A Dolphin (5:45), Wings Of The Wind (8:30)
The origins of Chinawhite date back to 1989 and their first actual album, Breathe Fire, dates from the year 2000. The band also had quite an amount of demo-tapes recordings which surfaced on their follow up album A Dragon's Birth in 2001 and which contained all previous released EP's and demo's. In 2007 they started with the recording of Challenges which was released in 2009.
The style of music is on the hard rock side of progressive rock, heavy riffs with Hammond organ and melodic guitar solos. Music for fans of Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Threshold, Vanden Plas, Saga and Rush.
In The Beginning is an almost completely instrumental song with keyboard sounds, a mellow, ambient, slow build up to the start of the album. Challenges - Dreams Of A Child kicks in with a heavy riff with thick Hammond sounds and really Deep Purple like. They stick to that same riff for a bit too long but finally after three minutes the vocal parts start. That is also the place where my interest is heavily disturbed, the vocals are mixed in terribly. The vocals are not out of tune but they do not sound powerful and they are mixed in very softly. Sadly this situation stays throughout the whole album - the instruments sound heavy but in the back you can hear a voice desperately trying to be heard. When the solos start it is better, great guitar solo and the build up very good.
My Venus Rising is of the same length structure, more solo parts for the keyboard. Stranger is a rock song with more groove in it and that reminds me of another Dutch band, Splinter. How Many Miles sounds very like eighties AOR with an Iron Maiden like guitar solo, sadly it falls apart in the bad production. A Hammond opening, like Don Airey for and a galloping rhythm like Iron Maiden on Better Than You. Apart from The Storm Rages On the rest of the songs are pretty standard and not bad at all, apart from the bad production. The Storm Rages On reaches the eight minuter barrier again and has got some more strange structures and odd changes, Dream Theater like.
The style of music that is presented by Chinawhite is completely to my personal taste and the bands named as influences are all ranked high on my list. The songs and choice of instruments are also exactly what I normally listen to but this is one of those cases where the quality of the production ruins it all. As stated the vocals are mixed in terrible, the instrumental parts are not bad but the sound is very raw, almost demo in sound. When I heard Challenges - Dreams Of A Child kick in loud I loved it, but when the vocal part starts it all fell apart. I hope the next album will have a better production because then you can count me in.
Conclusion: 5 out of 10
Cédric Leroy - Eologie
Tracklist: Eologie – Partie Une (3:25), Partie Deux (4:09), Partie Trois (3:15), Partie Quarte (3:34), Partie Cinq (3:48), Partie Six (4:55), Partie Sept (4:01), Partie Huit (3:06), Partie Neuf (3:59), Partie Dix (3:44), Partie Onze (3:07), Partie Douze (4:38), Partie Treize (4:22)
Eologie is Cédric Leroy's new album which I have to say, is like listening to Jean-Michel Jarre. The promo literature states; “Cédric Leroy is a French keyboard player born in Dakar (Senegal), holding much influence from the works of Jean-Michel Jarre and his partner Francis Rimbert”.
As a promo shot this has got to be the most on the mark reference I’ve ever read and also the most understated comment too. If you are not fully conversant with Jarre’s work you could easily be fooled into thinking that this is one of his recordings, which if I am totally honest, when I first heard the opening track, I took the disk out and checked it, as I thought I had put in the wrong disc.
I don’t mind listening to people that sound vaguely like their influence / hero, or record one of their tracks, but to blatantly produce a whole album that sounds just like their influence / hero, in my eyes is unforgiveable really.
I could break down this album track by track but to be honest if you have heard any of Jarre’s recordings then you know what is on offer here, (even down to the parts 1 through parts 13 approach), and if you are not then you need to seek out Jarre and listen to the master at work. The reference points that jump to mind are Jarre’s Oxygene, Equinoxe, Rendez-Vous, Waitin’ For Cousteau and Calypso which are, by far, more superior.
What is on offer here are thirteen tracks that have been composed electronically using MIDI keyboards, sequencers, a piano and several computer assisted music software packages. The tracks vary to some degree being atmospheric to ethereal with each track developing a different atmosphere, but to be honest it is a bit samey in approach. There is nothing that really jumps out, but there are some interesting approaches in Eologie Parts Une, Eologie Part Six, Eologie Huit and Eologie Dix. Eologie is not a bad album per se, it’s just the fact that it has been done several times before. I would like to have heard Cedric experiment and been a bit more adventurous in his approach. It all sounds dynamic and rhythmic as you would expect from electronically created music, perfectly executed but cold.
The album claims, “A high environmental consciousness, with a marked tribute to wind and earth”? I am not to sure what that is all about and to be honest, you will have to make up your own mind on that one. All in all this is a very dull and uninspiring album.
Conclusion: 4 out of 10