Reviews in this issue:
- Dave Kulju – Notes In The Margin
- Noëtra - Live 83
- All Over Everywhere – Inner Firmaments Decay
- Univers Zero - Clivages
- Dante - Saturnine
- Incandescent Sky - Four Faradays In A Cage
- Alejandro Matos – Freak
- The Daedalus Spirit Orchestra – Ampulla Magnifying
- Total Station - Live At Radio Weimar
- Ego - MCM Egofuturismo
Dave Kulju – Notes In The Margin
Tracklist: Skating On Europa (9:33), Know Again (6:24), A Poet's Talespin: i) Half-Slept Moments (1:56), ii) Soft Collisions (8:28), iii) The Bridge (7:55), Iv) I Write (5:01), v) In The Shadows (6:15), Get The Hell Off My Lawn (4:18), Counted The Stars (1:18)
Very few debut albums have managed to grab my attention in the same way as Dave Kulju’s impressive 2007 release Abstract Expression. He originally came to the attention of the DPRP five years earlier as a member of the band Electrum and their album Standard Deviation. In the ensuing years Dave has forged ahead with a solo career resulting in this latest offering Notes In The Margin. Hailing from Rochester in the USA, he is a talented guitarist, composer and producer who also plays’ bass and keyboards. So what’s new, I hear you ask? Well from Dave’s perspective quite a lot. His previous album for the most part occupied retro prog territory whereas Notes In The Margin has a more contemporary feel albeit in a progressive rock context. More importantly he maintains his flair for producing beautifully melodic and structured music with near perfect execution. He is not alone in his endeavours and once again receives solid support from contributors Frank Basile (drums) and Ian Cameron (violins).
Opener Skating On Europa is a powerful statement of intent with a gutsy guitar riff that’s both urgent and intense but somehow still melodic reminding me very much of Gazpacho. Given the modern European (as opposed to American) tone the title is very apt although I’m not entirely convinced that there’s quite enough variety or development to fully justify it’s near 10 minute length. That being said even after repeated plays it’s still very much a grower which is always a good sign. Know Again is more laidback to begin with but soon develops into a heraldic main hook (in a Mike Oldfield vein) with Cameron’s stirring bowing underpinned by Kulju’s searing guitar.
Tracks 3 to 7 combine to produce the 30 minute centrepiece A Poet's Talespin which also contains the albums only vocals courtesy of Annie Oya. Following the tranquil piano overture Half-Slept Moments, her velvet tones lend a folky Iona and early Mostly Autumn ambiance to Soft Collisions. The soaring guitar solo that follows is a real joy with a superb proggy interlude driven by Basile’s solid drumming before returning to the plaintiff vocal/piano theme. The Bridge opens with a strident and strangely hypnotic acoustic guitar riff before building slowly with layered guitars and voices to an infectious coda in true prog fashion. I Write has a stately almost orchestral quality courtesy of keys (or is it guitar synth?) that opens out into a sunny but serene vocal melody. Annie’s voice is totally captivating here, double tracked for maximum effect. The final segment In The Shadows changes the mood with the introduction of a jangly riff in the style of The Edge (otherwise known as David Howell Evans to his mum) alternating with a sustained wall of sound usually associated with Porcupine Tree and Riverside. The compelling ringing guitar hook blossoms into a melodic and spacious Floydian solo that Mr Gilmour would be proud of before revisiting previous themes to play out.
The two concluding tracks don’t quite live up to the majesty of what’s gone before although they both have their moments. The splendidly titled Get The Hell Off My Lawn is a mostly heavy rock instrumental that opens out into more expansive and colourful soundscapes. In contrast, the prologue Counted The Stars is a moody, ambient affair with a deep and sombre string sound appropriately described by DK himself as a “Pseudo-tone poem”.
Once again I feel Dave Kulju has produced an instantly accessible album that satisfies both the head and the heart. And whilst it builds on the solid foundations of his previous work it demonstrates that as a musician he is not standing still and in the true spirit of progressive rock is prepared to explore different horizons. It also benefits from his wonderfully spacious production, adding that extra polish that music of this quality richly deserves.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Noëtra - Live 83
Tracklist: Long Metrage (22:23), Jour De Fete (12:51), Forfanterie (8:36), Le Voyageur Egare Se Noie Incognito (3:21), Casablanca (9:01)
Jean Lapouge (guitar), Christian Paboeuf (oboe and saxophones), Pierre Aubert (violin), Denis Lefranc (bass and vocals) and Daniel Renault (drums and triangle) are the band members of Noëtra on this album Live 83.
This is album comes to the market after the archives at Radio France’s having been trawled and Musea Records releasing it. The show was recorded in Cubjac, in the Dordogne region, and thanks to all parties involved, this recording has been released. Noëtra were a French band who mixed rock, jazz and chamber music never stepping totally into one genre and being influenced by the Canterbury scene. As a band they have recorded two well acclaimed studio albums, Neuf Songes 1979 and Definitivement Blues in 1981, with Lapouge recording a solo album too. When I say rock and jazz, think Hatfield And The North, Soft Machine, Weather Report, and when I say chamber music think Univers Zero without approaching their darker side.
With prog you kind of know when you are in for something special, and on this recording, the listener is presented with it straight from the word go, a twenty two minute plus instrumental, actually all the track presented on this release are instrumentals.
Long Metrage is a beautiful piece involving copious amounts of fantastic musical harmony, beautiful musical passages, complex structures which are felt as opposed to played. Lapouge is more than confident with his very fluid guitar style, where the rest of the band just slot in, filling any gaps, bolstering the construction of the whole piece. Renault’s drum work is dynamic in its approach, time perfect and supported well by Lefranc, who in unison with Renault allow perfect time and rhythm. Paboeuf’s contribution adds real character, wind instruments layered throughout the piece. Aubert for me is the dark horse in the pack, as his playing is very stated yet important, offering another dimension to the track. The beauty of the piece is that everyone contributes, succinctly, taking their turns, all bringing something to the table. This is music that is second to none.
Jour De Fete sees Aubert taking a more predominant position with this track, Lapouge having a guitar style that reminded somewhat of John McLaughlin in approach. Smoothly Paboeuf introduces his beautifully handled wind sections, giving that talked about chamber music feel. It’s just amazing how this just sits together, dancing melodically, with perfect pitch and tone. The violin work here really means business here, with its vibrant and twisting language, building crescendos, being important and pivotal to the whole piece.
Forfanterie has some nice jazzy pastoral passages; Lefranc’s bass work is spectacular really driving the piece along, again allowing the whole cast to really stamp their mark all over this piece. The beauty of the inclusion of the violin and wind instrumentation is that it gives the music an embellished classical edge, which is true throughout the whole of the album. Renault provides a very intelligent and somewhat impressive drum solo, including some really nice symbol work, driving Forfanterie to a close.
Le Voyageur Egare Se Noie Incognito is a atmospheric piece, with the alto saxophone really taking control of the piece. Lapouge plays some really deft guitar, allowing Renault time for some unusual and fascinating drum work. This is the shortest track on the album, yet Noëtra seem to be able to cope as well with short compositions as well as twenty minute plus epics, which is applaudable.
Casablanca tonally is absolutely fantastic, reminding me slightly of The Pat Metheny Group with its approach, with Lapouge guitar again reminding me of John McLaughlin. This is another track that really sums up what Noëtra are all about, classy musicianship, style and great composition. Each track, as with this, has a life off its own, building majestically, impressive soundscapes. Casablanca takes a more abrupt approach in places, displaying that they can cover different emotional approaches.
This is a beautifully constructed and recorded album with the live production mix being out of this world, with Musea supplying a nice detailed booklet with the package. Noëtra has challenged their listener with these five compositional pieces all written by Lapouge, offering an intelligent view of their musical approach, without being self indulgent and comes highly recommended.
All I need to do now is plug the gap in my collection, with their studio output and also Lapouge’s solo album. I would suggest that this is something that you will do to, when you have played this album.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
All Over Everywhere – Inner Firmaments Decay
Tracklist: Art Of The Earth (4:13), Endless Night (3:18), The Shroud (5:40), Honesty (4:29), After All The Years (6:57), On A Dark Street (3:32), Gratitude (10:34)
Now, I’m guessing that not many of you will have heard of All Over Everywhere, but you may well be familiar with co-founder Dan Britton’s other bands, Cerebus Effect, Deluge Grander and Birds And Buildings. Albums from all three have received favourable DPRP reviews (and Birds And Buildings attracted a DPRP recommendation for 2008’s Bantam To Behemoth). And rightly so. So, we’ll begin with a quick whistle-stop bio for his latest project before I go on to tell you that the album contains one of my favourite songs of this (or, for that matter, any other) year. One that I’ll probably never stop playing.
All Over Everywhere is a musical collective, based in College Park, Maryland, built around the songwriting of both Dan and Trinna Kesner who met in 2007 and discovered that several of the song ideas they had each been working on were compatible.
Dan, who comes from a progressive rock background, knew a few other rock musicians who helped with rehearsing, recording, and occasional live performances, and Trinna, who comes from a folk and classical music background, knew a few classical music students at the University of Maryland who helped with recording, arrangements, and — even more occasionally — live performances. Soon after the nucleus of the group was in place, plans for an album, ultimately featuring ten players in total, were well underway.
The design for the album was to be seven melancholic, “sad” songs followed by one “happy and uplifting” track.
If I had to give you a point of reference it would be Thieves’ Kitchen with a little Änglagård thrown in for good measure since the record makes great, and understated, use of the mellotron. A real one.
As well as the usual suspects, you’ve also got viola, violin, cello, accordion and oboe. And zither, dulcimer, flute and clarinet. The result is an ethereal, wonderful blend of classical, folk, psychedelic and (ultimately) symphonic prog held together by the hauntingly fragile (and occasionally harder-edged) vocals of Megan Wheatley.
The first seven tracks could quite easily be listened to as a suite, each song creating lush soundscapes and textures, similar at first but whose subtle differences are revealed through repeated listenings. They can be listened to, ideally, up close and personal, through headphones, or enjoyed as an ambient backdrop to take the edge off day to day banality.
Come the last track, though, you’ll burn your ironing, stick a knitting needle through your forefinger or polish the cat as Gratitude demands your attention, and whilst developing the textures and sounds that came before it is ultimately an altogether different beast to its worthy precursors. It’s as if the entire album, good as it is, has been building to these final ten and a half minutes. A lot of bands would have prematurely curtailed the track after seven, or eight and a half minutes but this builds, and builds and builds.
Dan’s guitar work finally gets a proper airing, and strings, keys, pipe organ, choir mellotron and (swoon) Rickenbacker bass all come together perfectly for a dizzying, delirious, wonderfully climactic symphonic progressive rock song that’ll have the hairs on the back of your neck standing up.
For what is, effectively, a self-release it’s an excellent album, containing a brilliant song. The music, I’m told, was recorded at various “non-professional” locations. One wonders what it might have sounded like with some serious studio money behind the production.
The artwork is by Dan Britton’s sister Maria, and is great but I would have liked the lyrics in the booklet. A minor gripe, I know. Anyhoo, they’ve got Gratitude up on their MySpace. Enjoy. Then buy.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Univers Zero - Clivages
Tracklist: Les Kobolds (4:15), Warrior (12:10), Vacillements (3:35), Earth Screams (3:11), Soubresauts (7:59), Apesanteur (3:40), Three Days (5:53), Straight Edge (13:57), Retour De Foire (7:42), Les Cercles d’Horus (3:45)
Michael Berckmans (bassoon, English horn, oboe and melodic), Kurt Bude (clarinet, bass clarinet and alto saxophone), Pierre Chevalier (keyboards and glockenspiel), Daniel Denis (drums, percussions and sampler), Dimitri Evers (electric and fretless bass), Andy Kirk (guitar track 2 and 5, percussions track 10), Martin Lauwers (violin), Nicolas Denis (drums track 10), Aurelia Boven (cello track 10) and Philippe Thuriot (accordion track 1 and 10) are the musicians that make up R.I.O band Univers Zero on Clivages.
Clivages is Univers Zero’s latest studio album that was recorded during 2009, being their first studio album in five years. Two previous Univers Zero albums have been reviewed by DPRP, Univers Zero album not rated and Relaps (Archives 1984 – 1986), which received a grand 7 out of 10 from these ears. It is certainly a personal choice as to whether you like this musical approach, but this is music that punches above its weight, producing some nice complex pieces.
Putting that aside, this Belgian band are legendary for their uncompromising musical vision, for me that means that this band has found the correct balance between rock and classical music, presenting their vision and sound to the world, which is only a plus. For me Univers Zero have lost none of their appeal or pizzazz.
The music that is compiled and played throughout this album is well thought out, intelligently constructed and very proficiently played, still retaining every musical nuance the band ever stood for, modernising the sound, but keeping it familiar. Musically the style of music is very much in the same ballpark, appealing to people who have a more than passing interest in Frank Zappa, King Crimson or Magma. The band may have been a founder member of R.I.O in the late 70’s, but times have changed and this music is now recognised widely.
Les Kobolds sets out the stalls for the proceeding sixty eight minutes of musical mastery. All the inclusive wind and string instrumentation, as you would expect, is second to none in its presentation, with Daniel Denis really offering the supporting canvas for these musical notes to rest on, with the band playing like a well oiled and constructed ensemble.
Warrior the second longest track on the album, with Lauwers playing a slow violin piece in unison with some very heavy but slow drumming, soundtrack in nature, building in power as other instrumentation drops in and out, to a crescendo. This is what we have grown to love about the band, with this being what the band does best, the creation of atmospheric and meaningful music. You get the little complex flurries of wind instruments, giving the whole piece an edge, but this only helps strengthen the structure of the track.
Vacillements is chamber music at its best, with neither wind or string taking total lead, but stepping forward when required and graciously stepping back when not. The whole piece just weaves in and out of itself with total elegance.
Earth Screams is an atmospheric piece, with minimalistic interaction, having an industrial soundscape, eerie, dark, building towards its end, quickly fading away as if it had never existed.
Soubresauts has a happier sound than Earth Screams, with woodwind in full flight, supported by Denis’s drumming and some really nice saxophone work, working together in unison. The whole piece is very jaunty and happy in its presentation, Kirk’s bass work being the standout feature really adding dimension.
Apesanteur is a sombre and slow moving piece to start with, before the repeating rhythmic passages start to liven up the work up. This track was composed by Berckmans, and sounds like it was a mantle to show off his musical dexterity, with the band in tow, the point is made, being an excellent short and melodic piece.
Three Days again is another chamber music soiree, which again allows Lauwers, Berckmans and Bude chance to work as a unit displaying their talents with finesse and style, coming across as a soundtrack piece.
Straight Edge the longest track presented, having Lauwers set the scene with his dextrous violin work, which is soon followed by the rest of the band, with their relaxed and smooth tones. It’s not long before the track builds into what Univers does best, marrying classical with varying rock styles, making it sound such a natural marriage. This is a fine example of what they can achieve, where others are just left in their wake, being very much what the band is all about, dark, challenging and uncompromising, stunning indeed. It really doesn’t get much better than this.
Retour De Foire is another intelligent use of musical partnerships, engaging wind and string instrumentation alongside and in unison with Denis’s drumming featuring some nice percussion work, although it is a very stated track, it by no means lacks character and style. Chevalier’s keyboard style quietly works its magic, although at first his playing is not that immediate, but as you repeatable play this track it becomes more prominent and beautiful.
Les Cercles d’Horus has the introduction of cello and accordion, with Nicolas Denis stepping into the fray on the drum stool. His approach is very forward, brooding and atmospheric, which is highlighted by the arrangements around his drum pattern. Les Cercles d’Horus closes the album with class, leaving the listener under no illusions as to what they have just witnessed.
As an album, I just love it, love it love it; this is what Univers Zero are all about. After five years, this album could have sunk disastrously, could have been just a regurgitation of past works or banal, but it is none of those. It’s a good starting point to discover the band if you are not familiar with them, being a well presented and recorded album. For those who know and love the band will instantly recognise and enjoy the craftsmanship.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Dante - Saturnine
Tracklist: All My Life (12:12), Drifting (4:49), Last (6:10), Never Return (8:48), Maybe One Day (3:55), Modal Acousma (7:33), Vanessa (19:00)
Almost two years ago I was nicely surprised by the debut album of a new German heavy progressive rock band who named themselves after the famous 14th century Italian poet/writer (Alighieri) Dante. And what a debut that was, the burning question now was, was it possible for them to come up with a successor that would be equally as good, or even better? I hope to bring you my own conclusion to that question during this review of Dante's second album Saturnine.
The surprise of that debut has gone and we are left to deal with the next step. There is progression in the music of Dante, although I have not found many new elements in the seven songs featured here on Saturnine. All in all what I do I know is that we are dealing with musicians that are, each and every one of them, very capable players.
On the cover of the booklet the title Sat–ur-nine is explained by means of dictionary:
Date: First known use - 15th Century
1. Born under or influenced astrologically by the planet Saturn.
2. a. Cold and steady in mood – slow to act or change
b. Of a gloomy or surly disposition
c. Having a sardonic aspect (a saturnine smile)
So what might we expect from the music when you read the dictionary’s explanation of the album title? For starters the whole album is "steady in mood", but yet agfain far from "slow to act to change" in music.
I am not in favour of using influences as references, however I need to describe my feelings to the album. Dante is German, not Polish not British not American, well that says it all. Dante is most of all - Dante. The five members started out on their previous effort The Inner Circle with the development of their own sound. Back then they only partially succeeded in doing so, but now the music has evolved to the next level into a sound of their own.
- The album starts with a nice tune called All My Life, a 12 minute long extravaganza of music with slow bits, piano pieces, a classical guitar piece and good vocals. This is a well built up song, classically orchestrated but still a heavy progressive song.
- We are Drifting into the second track of the album - a ballad in the truest form, which like all great progressive artists seem to have the need in making. Nevertheless this is a good ballad.
- Last is a classic heavy progressive song, all the elements are present, shredding guitars, heavy pounding drums, soloing, fierce bass line heavy vocals - and of course a soundscape made up of keyboards - an excellent song.
- Never Return begins with a sturdy bass, driving the song forward. It is followed by keys extraordinaire making way for the vocals - this well crafted song again full of twists in music.
- This brings us to another rest point on the album - Maybe One Day. Played almost entirely on piano, I can hear some orchestration - viola, violin maybe. The rest is vocals, which are well sung and full of emotion - a melancholic song.
- Modal Acousma is next in line, an instrumental tune - always difficult to make an instrumental track that attractive for people to listen to. I can only say this is a good track, where all musicians have their part, combined with good concept.
- And then for the last piece of music on this second effort by Dante. In this track they bring us a tale about a young woman called Vanessa. The song is broken up in five consecutive parts and in each of these different parts a story is told of the rise and the fall of the person in question. It takes Dante nineteen minutes to tell the story and a staggering nineteen minutes of great progressive music it is. It is orchestral, bombastic, mellow, emotional, tranquil, but most of all fun to listen and allows you to use your imagination. My favourite track by miles.
Dante has made a superb second album, they have not let me down for a minute. Saturnine is a must in every heavy progressive metal collection.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Incandescent Sky - Four Faradays In A Cage
Tracklist: September Song (9:27), Antarctica (9:05), The Byways (4:17), Orange Ice (10:20), Concrete, Glass, Steel (4:37), Four Faradays In A Cage (16:25)
After four years Incandescent Sky return with their third album - previous outings being the Glorious Stereo (2003) and Paths And Angels (2006). The band have retained a consistent line-up for all three releases with only Mehool Patel (bass, Chapman Stick) not featured on this latest outing. The performers are therefore John MacNeill (keyboards), Mike Marando (bass guitar), John Orsi (drumset & percussion) and Don Sullivan (guitar, synth guitar & loops). I've chosen the word performers as Four Faradays In A Cage is almost a live registration, the only difference is that it was performed live and in the studio - in one session and on one day (29 September 2007).
Truth be known, I really didn't hold out much hope that this album would appeal to me, especially as when I pressed play I began to read the notes that came with the album - and in essence the music I was about to hear was recorded in one session and without the aid of any musical notation or tablature. Now I'm not one for lengthy improvised music at the best of times and taking on board that this release came from the Twilight Time label, noted for their more eclectic and ambient approach, I placed the CD in my player with a sense of foreboding.
As September Song emerged into the headphones my early misgivings took a bit of a dent as the overall sound was immediately pleasing to the ears. MacNeill's lush carpet of keyboard strings was embellished by Sullivan's fluid guitar work and strongly underpinned by Osri's busy, but rhythmically hypnotic drumming and Marando's gutsy bass work. As that track moves forward analogue(y) synths are subtly added and around the 7:30 minute mark the guys gradually start to push the tempo, concluding the track at a fairly brisk pace. John Osri also lets rip on the kit adding a suitable climax to the piece.
Antarctica on the other hand is a gently undulating track with rising strings and perky keyboard ornamentations. The band take the music down very low in the middle section and the track ebbs and flows nicely across its duration. Violined guitars and again moving percussion are added to the sound. So although the music is of an improvised nature these guys have cleverly avoided the pitfalls of personal over-indulgence and concentrated their efforts towards an ensemble performance.
The Byways continues this albeit in a slightly more up-tempo vein. After a couple listens through and with this track especially I started to pick up on the subtle variations the band made to their sound - Osri's kit/percussion sounds different across the album, Sullivan employs different effects and styles (shimmering here).
As the album unfolds it becomes apparent that little will change in overall sound and textures, so it is in the mood, variations and subtle atmospheres that one will derive pleasure. The tracks rest easy on the ears, although this should not imply any lack of of depth or substance. The music is there to be immersed into, allowing the mind to wander wherever it may wish to. The remaining three tracks are equal to what has passed before - each possessing its own charm and attractions.
Despite my early misgivings this turned out to be an enjoyable album and depending on my mood at the time, different tracks appealed slightly more than others. Current favourite is the slightly Floydian Concrete, Glass, Steel (MP3 available on the Incandescent Sky website). Four Faradays In A Cage is going to attract those with a more experimental bent, however there is much to enjoy for those who enjoy a more structured approach to their music. As although the music was performed in an improvisational fashion, it is obvious that these guys have an empathy that allows something creative to emerge in such an environment.
It is highly unlikely that listening to a few snippets of this music will help you decide if this album might be one for you. As the saying goes the sum is greater than the parts. If I were to offer some pointers then the following came to mind (here and there): The ambient textures found in early Porcupine Tree, Pat Methney, Robert Fripp, Tangerine Dream, Pink Floyd, Vangelis... however I would emphasize that these would be spices - subtle flavours rather than the meat or main substance of the tracks.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Alejandro Matos – Freak
Tracklist: [Part 1] Abnormal: Falso Primogénito (7:00), El Mas Allá (5:31), Agujero De Sueños (7:23), Verde Por Dentro (5:43), Veneno Ilustrado (5:19) [Part 2:] El Infierno De Los Buenos (18:52) [Part 3] Normal: La Pasión Según El Cannibal (5:43), La Pasión Según El Cabinal II (4:55), Invernadero De Preguntas (2:07), El Resto - La Paranoia (5:44), Sombras Sin Filo - El Sabio (2:35)
According to his blogs, the multi-instrumentalist Alejandro Matos was born in Argentina in 1969, but his life only started in 1993. That was the year in which he found out about the music that he was searching for. It seems that Pink Floyd’s The Wall has become a key reference to the work of Matos, but I can also hear the drama of Peter Hammill in his voice, the agony of Stephen Wilson in his guitar solo’s and the rebellion of Frank Zappa and King Crimson in his compositions.
In 2006, Matos released his first album Persona and in 2007 he started working on his second album Freak, which was released in 2009. Just like on Persona, on his album Freak again he sings in Spanish.
I needed some time to write this review. Soon it was clear to me that this project was worthwhile giving attention. The seriousness of Matos has impressed me somehow. At the same time, this is dark, heavy stuff with cryptic lyrics which are very difficult to follow, even if you understand Spanish. The pathos in the voice of Matos seems authentic on the one hand, but is not easy to listen to on the other.
Freak is an ambitious (more than 70 minute long) conceptual project, split up in three parts. Part 1 consists of five tracks about abnormality, Part 2 consist of the epic El Infierno De Los Buenos and Part 3 consists again of five tracks, but now about normality. The three parts make up an effort to reflect on the role of fate, games and morality on human life. The freak is the central figure: somebody who is able to hide his abnormality behind some kind of camouflage.
In all honesty, it was only on after some research (blogs, interviews) that I could find out what these strange and peculiar lyrics were about – and still they leave me puzzled. The (beautiful) artwork, portraying a self made set of tarot cards, makes the concept even more curious.
The basic approach of Freak is the combination of mostly slow and atmospheric compositions and the mentioned poetic lyrics. Instrumentals are supportive. You might value the melodies and lyrics as unconventional and progressive, but others might say they are a bit far fetched or even pretentious. If you listen carefully, throughout the album you will find recurring themes, harmonies and melodies, with all kinds of variations.
In my opinion, on Freak there is the one track in which these artistic intentions really work: the mentioned, nearly 19 minute long El Infierno De Los Buenos (Hell of the Good Ones). It’s a track with a carefully built up suspense, working towards a dramatic climax and then descending again. The quality of this track stands apart in the entire oeuvre of Matos and I do hope he would be able to further develop this kind of composing.
I have the impression that the concept of Freak has some autobiographical elements. In my imagination, Matos is a ”freak” himself, somebody who does not fit in, a pig headed artist that resists popular culture and has come out of the closet with his strong sentiments for (progressive rock) music. This also might explain why he sacked a bass guitar player and played the bass himself. So, just like on his first album, on Freak he ends up playing all guitars and keyboards again. He is also responsible for the programming of the drum computers and for the production. Being what he himself once called ’an independent artistic militant”, Matos had all the freedom he needed to do whatever he wanted (even though there is one exception: Verónica Marjbein plays some violin parts).
This is perhaps the strength and the weakness of Matos’ music. It is an individual piece of music, without any concessions to anybody, and that has its charm. At the same time, you must be quite talented to have a successful career as a solo-artist. After all, you lack the critical reflections of a producer or other band members and the creative tensions that can make an individual artist grow.
In comparison with the first album though, on Freak, the quality of musicianship has improved quite a lot. Matos’ guitar playing, especially the solos, are convincing and keyboards are modest but effective in their atmospheric effects. Also the vocals have improved, although I still think the voice of Matos himself is his main weakness and might impede people to value his work properly.
To conclude: I am a bit critical on the project. I think the concept of Freak is too complicated and too abstract. I still don’t understand the link between the central issues on the album: morality, games and fate, the tarot cards and the three chapters. Simplicity can be a good thing in music, even in progressive rock. This explains the meagre 6.5 score. However, if all tracks would have had the quality of El Infierno De Los Buenos, the album might have earned a far higher score. That’s why I do look forward to the successor of Freak.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
The Daedalus Spirit Orchestra – Ampulla Magnifying
Tracklist: Visper Ayio (7:02), Shambles Start An End (8:59), Azucerado (5:08), Sloganeering (10:26), Unrelentingly (9:10), Crosstalk (7:28), The Clockwork’s Marching Along (6:17), Parallel Convergent (3:50), Askance Relief (7:55)
The Daedalus Spirit Orchestra has set themselves the goal of incorporating influences from various musical styles within their music and this is what they do on their first ever full length album. They are combining, jazz, funk, rock, avant garde, classic rock and much more into this set of nine songs on Ampulla Magnifying, their debut album. Personnel on the album are: Eric Lorcey (guitar/vocals/sitar/effects), Cecile Alves (keyboards), Lise Cantin (flute/vibraphone), Colin Gentile (bass), Christopher Cordier (drums/percussion). Eric Lorcey is the bands main member, composer, producer and of course musician, so he takes care of a bundle of tasks.
As all info received with the CD was in French, and I am sorry to say but I do not speak or read more than two words of French, I cannot give you anymore background details about the band.
Due to the many different musical styles incorporated on Ampulla Magnifying it it is nigh on impossible to tell what the style The Daedalus Spirit Orchestra play. The music is a kind of eclectic, experimental, jazz fusion, but also very good indeed.
Now I had done myself a favour and had taken this CD with me on my vacation. This would give me something to do when I sat in front of my tent, in the rain or sun, whilst the rest of my family were elsewhere. And it was on one of these evenings I put the CD in the player to have a listen. I must say it was a hard one to get into, I listened but could not dig the music at all. The first song made me think of my first encounter with The Mars Volta, I remember also having a difficult time listening to their albums the first time round. But I am not one to give up very easily and I kept listening and as after the first spin the family were still not back, I started the CD once more. Now I can tell you already by the second spin I felt a certain empathy with the music.
Now I will not bore all of you with a track by track review as I would need an awful lot of pages to do so. Each track (song), or musical extravaganza is a work with its own strengths. Ever so many changes in musical tempo and in emotional content.
I do however feel the need to point out the use of the more unusual instruments, (as found in rock music), like the didgeridoo in Shambles Start An End played by Romain Medioni and harmonica played by Natasha Vermeulen-Perdaen in the same track as well as Askance Relief. In the latter song Tomas Boucherifi-Kadiou plays a bombard. These folk/eclectic instruments give an extra dimension to the already grand sound of the album and all the musicians are very good at their instruments. Eric Lorcey’s singing, or may be chanting is better, is not of a very high standard, his accent is sometimes distracting, but still somehow seems to belong with the music.
My favourite songs and listening tips are Sloganeering and Askance Relief.
This brings me to conclude my review. This is a fine debut for an eclectic and experimental band. I can also say that I find the playing has a lot of resemblance to The Mars Volta, not duplicating, but more or less a similar type of music. So if you like The Mars Volta try The Daedalus Spirit Orchestra - it’s fun.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Total Station - Live At Radio Weimar
Tracklist: Prototype (5:26), Vladimir Lenin (2:33), Whole Country (8:11), February 21, 1920 (8:13), ГОЭЛРО (5:51), Modern Technology (6:38)
Formed in the spring of 2009, Total Station has released the debut Live At Radio Weimar album, which was recorded live at Radio Weimar on the 6th October 2009. The band for this recording consists of Vladimir Kabanov (tone generators, synthesizers and effects) and Michael Ogorodov (keyboard and effects). They have now added a third member to the band, Ivan Rozmainsky (piano whistles and flute) of Roz Vitalis fame.
The promo sheet describes Total Station as being influenced by minimalists and electronic pioneers like Pierre Henry, Edgard Varese, Morton Subotnick, John Cage, Juan Hildalgo and 70’s progressive bands such as King Crimson, Area, Czeslaw Niemen and Heldon.
From the list of influences you can tell that this is not going to be an easy ride, you are going to have to work for your supper. This album was originally played live on the German internet Radio Weimar, only in Germany would someone be brave enough to broadcast a piece like this. Musically Total Station’s album would probably be supported by Soviet educational or avant-garde films, which are usually commissioned to sit alongside in partnership. I have found when attending such shows, it can but doesn’t always enhance the effect, the balance is that fine.
This is a very interesting album indeed, opening up with a spoken word introduction by Wal Buchenberg, unfortunately in German, (I am not sure what is actually being said), before the opening electronic noise, soundscapes and air sculptures are created by this duo. Avant garde / minimalist interactions aren’t everybody’s idea of musical interludes, but there is something about this album that’s intriguing, as all six tracks segue as if one piece, with only a short running time, a concept album, being based on the GOELRO plan; GOELRO is the transliteration of the Russian abbreviation for "State Commission for Electrification of Russia, which was planned and initiated by Lenin. Which may offer some semblance or idea as to where this album coming from?
Throughout the whole recording Kabanov and Ogorodov work in unison, delivering their concepts, mixing analog and digital, electric and acoustic, psychedelic and industrial, producing six exciting and challenging artworks.
Prototype starts the minimalist affair with bouncing electronic interaction being modulated at differing frequencies, underpinned by a sonic resonance. Vladimir Lenin is up next, which limbers along slowly, devoid of any emotion paving the way for Whole Country, with lively opening electronic sets, pulsating, bouncing off each other, analog against digital, juxtaposed as old replacing new. The tones are warm short, created out of nothing, pitch competing against pulse, sombre in tone, featuring some nice synth and keyboard interaction. February 21, 1920, being a key date in the whole concept, continues in a sombre fashion with rising melody mixed in with sonic interjections, sounding like electricity flowing down cables, the nuance of sonics working with and in opposition to sound modulation, creating a powerful soundstage. ГОЭЛРО the penultimate track builds on a repeating tone, with electronic interjections, offering chaos and distortion, rivalled with harmony, giving the feeling of depth and warmth. Modern Technology closes the set, featuring a more modern and clean soundstage, pulsating in rhythm cleanly, almost as if the sonics that have been created are communicating, with the tones having some form of semblance as opposed to disorder.
This is, as I say, a very interesting album sonically, definitely one for the more adventurous or brave amongst us. If you have a passing inkling for any of the mentioned influences then you know what you are letting yourself in for. Those of you who aren’t be very careful, as you may possibly be disappointed.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Ego - MCM Egofuturismo
Tracklist: Riproduzione Meccanica (8:03), Cielo Di Piombo (6:56), Art Nouveau (6:49), Dinamiche & Alterazioni: Panorama Urbano Dopo La Pioggia, Percorso Tra I Grattacieli, Delirium Tremens, Sotterraneo Metroplolitano, Ego Ritovato, Fuga Dall’urbe (13:35), MCM (3:40), Egofuturismo (2:03), Fantasia Architettonica (8:44)
Pierluigi Caramel (keyboards and flute), Sergio Iannella (drums) and Daniele Mentasti (bass, trombone and vocoder) make up the power trio that is Ego with MCM Egofuturismo being their debut album.
Ego is a band that has more than a passing interest in 70’s prog bands, which has produced this very retro sounding album, finding influence in such acts as ELP, PFM, Goblin, Le Orme, Metamorfosi to name but a few. The band members have all been playing music for quite sometime, bringing together their vision to the stage, mixing up various genres to good effect. The production of the album is splendid indeed, which has allowed the instrumentation to breathe.
The trio work well as a unit, presenting these well crafted compositions which afford the listener a perfect opportunity to be able to focus on their music, not being distracted by lyrical content; allowing the listener to be able to interpret the compositions themselves. You can definitely tell that these three musicians have more than a love for all things prog, building their soundscapes, freely expressing themselves.
On initial listen, the album can sound cold and methodical, but the more you listen, the further you dig, the more you will be rewarded, the richer you will be for it. Although it has an air of familiarity about it, the band has tried to stay one step ahead of the game, keeping that important originality about their compositional work. Sure you can say, “That sounds similar to...”, but to be brutally honest, there aren’t many albums out there that you can’t do that with.
This is an album that has been built with total love and passion, the world needs more of this, bands really crafting their art, because they can. It sounds like they have been waiting all their life to produce this album.
No one musician on this album steals the show, they all work, taking turns to contribute, taking lead when required and then stepping back for the next man to fill his shoes. To some degree the whole album has a jazz feel to it, purists might snub the sound, but as I say, rich reward will be afforded to those who stay the distance, with its complex and intricate musical passages, differing time scales and punctuated interjections, the modern sounding electronics mixed in with the retro sounding wind instrumentation, bonded together by rich drum patterns.
Riproduzione Meccanica, (Mechanical Reproduction the English translation), with its mixture of varying industrial sounds, steam juxtaposed with robotic sounds, old meeting new, really stating where the band are, their passion of all that has passed and the excitement of things to come. It’s a very jaunty instrumental, really working the juxtaposition.
Cielo Di Piombo is densely populated by varying keyboard sounds, layered, being the mainstay of the piece, with full support from Mentasti and Iannella, changing tone, beat and phasing with the blink of an eye.
Art Nouveau moves in a jazz fusion arena, having a derivative sound, which is very much 70’s sounding. This is everything that you would expect from the genre, being the least exciting track on the album. Least exciting maybe, but still very well performed. Ego is obviously a trio of very talented musicians.
The thirteen minute plus Dinamiche & Alterazioni, is the showpiece, where the band really excel, where the old mixes with the new, analogue sounds verses the digital age. Caramel, Mentasti and Iannella put their instruments through their pace. The trio have really approached Dinamiche & Alterazioni with thought, Caramel displays dexterity on the keyboard, shredding those notes out one minute, then taking a more sedated pace the next. Mentasti supplies some stunning trombone work here, powerful and full of character, offering opposing emotional sounds, humorous then melancholic, in unison with Caramel. Iannella keeps the timing perfect, with understated elegance.
MCM is a more modern sounding piece, although it doesn’t move a million miles from the jazz rhythms. This really is a keyboard driven piece, very much in the vein of ELP, Mentasti’s bass controls the whole situation, allowing him to really work his magic, really taking hold of the piece and shaking it by the scruff of the neck. Iannella does what he does best; supply the foundation for the others to work, without fading into obscurity.
Egofuturismo is another short and lively piece; Caramel builds his keyboard lines on top of Mentasti’s pounding bass lines, which is very effect.
Fantasia Architettonica is an atmospheric piece, a rather fitting album closer, being grand and symphonic in approach. The guys really step up to the plate, the meter and timbre is divine, time changes impeccable, trading licks, interconnecting dynamically, in total synergy, much in the same way as they did on Dinamiche & Alterazioni.
All in all this is a very likeable album, that Ego have created. You can obviously feel the love and passion of the music that has been recorded here. It is certainly an album worth investigating, but whether you will find anything new here I am not too sure, that is the only downside for me.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10