Daal - Dances of the Drastic Navels
Malleus Maleficarum (10:17), Elektra (An Evening with...) (7:41), Lilith (4:15), The Dance of the drastic Navels (23:50), Inside You (5.20)
On this new set of compositions, Daal still displays a Floydian trope now and again, but as 2012's "black album" Dodecahedron illustrated, they have stamped their own signature sound on top. Mixing Floyd's mid-70s, dynamic, classic rock sounds with eerie but thankfully not predictable electronic effects, Daal creates its own cinematic vistas to tell the mostly-wordless story of "a man from the future who falls in love with a witch, who is half woman and half robot, and ends up making her his toy". A nice bedtime tale, I've no doubt.
Charging out of the gas station like an overloaded Harley on a never-ending road trip, Malleus Maleficarum signals a heavy intent, at odds with the rural idyll this album was recorded in. That peace and quiet, inspired Alfio Costa to write the five tracks contained here-in within a mere 48 hours. Davide Guidoni then used his arrangement skills to give form to proceedings, also contributing the intros to Malleus Maleficarum and the title track.
The darkly-menacing and trippy Electra (an evening with...) blends the heaviosity, with highly absorbing electronica. The obvious care that has gone into the construction of this track, and the album as a whole is reflected in the psychedelic-Gothic video for the song (see link).
Dance of the Drastic Navels (the track) comes across as several Sabbath riffs put through a time-signature blender, with added Rick Wright trickery, along with thumping rhythms, embellished by many percussive flourishes. It's one heavy mofo, and has to played loud to do it full justice. At nearly 24 minutes, it goes through several twists and turns, occasionally becoming almost Zeuhl-like in its building intensity, before the middle section sees some Klaus Schulze sequencers play out the dance with Davide's percussion in the far reaches of the Seventh System. Later on in the track, we witness a nicely contrasting faux classical piano and synthesised flute interlude, leading into the concluding section. Daal put me in mind of a warmer Latino take on the starkly intense, instrumental Scandinavian band Gösta Berlings Saga, and fans of that fine combo should find plenty to groove to in here.
A rare Daal outing into the world of song ends the album, with Alfio's Inside You, a suitably erotically-charged but contemplative affair, with some lovely female vocals from Tirill Mohn, accompanied by undulating violin from Letizia Riccardi.
Dance of the Drastic Navels is a fine album and shows that Daal continues to progress into the darker corners of Italian progressive music. Get your motor running, move on down the highway to the hard driving of Italian duo Daal. They're coming to get ya! Recommended.
Roger Trenwith: 8 out of 10
Antoine Fafard - Occultus Tramitis
Peace for 4 (5:24), The Chamber (5:01), 13 Good Reasons (6:23), Sum of Six (6:15), Holding Back Time (5:55), Fur & Axes (5:04), Funkevil (5:42), Tree O (5:18), Slydian (5:28), Methamorphosis, (5:54), Prelude No.2 in C minor (1:49)
Enlisting drummers such as Terry Bozzio (Jeff Beck, Frank Zappa), Gavin Harrison (King Crimson, Porcupine Tree), Chad Wackerman (Allan Holdsworth, Frank Zappa) and others, as well as Jerry Goodman (Mahavishnu Orchestra) on violin, the style of music comes as no surprise. However, there are no "look how good my chops are" or "do you think it's possible I could play more notes in this bar" show-boating in evidence. All the musicians play just what the music demands, whilst still stretching each other and improvising where jazzy elements are desired.
The sound is not dominated by Fafard's warm, rich, dark chocolate-sounding six-string fretless bass. Given that the guest musician's contributions were recorded separately worldwide, it is a tribute to Fafard's production skills that the album sounds group-like.
The album is consistently interesting and inviting. The changes in personnel between tracks give each a distinctive rhythmic flavour (odd time signatures abound), whilst Fafard's bass playing grounds it all.
The most distinctive feature of the set is Jerry Goodman's violin playing. Every track on which he plays, sparring with electric guitar or with Fafard's bass, is a jazz-rock joy.
Other tracks to note include, The Chamber, which comes-on like a jazz-metal power trio, with Fafard and guitarist Scott Henderson trading licks and solos. Tree O, a mid-paced funky groove for three bass players (Fafard and two of his teachers) and drums (Emmanuelle Caplette). It is amazing how different the three bass players sound.
Standing out from an excellent crowd is Methamorphosis. A piece for two drummers, violin, classical guitar and bass, full of complex cross-rhythms and syncopation, held together melodically by sliding violin and bass runs. It is an intense and rewarding listen.
This album is always inventive and often forceful, yet it never succumbs to playing for playing's sake, nor to playing funk for funk's sake. This melodic collection of jazz-rock fusion tunes should appeal to anyone who likes artists such as Return to Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jean-Luc Ponty or Jaco Pastorius. I can see myself returning to this fine album often.
Martin Burns: 8 out of 10
Harvest - Northern Wind
Into the Void (1:09), It All Becomes Clearer (9:28), This Day (6:17), Northern Wind (4:02), Sending Signals (5:07), Something's Changing (6:09), Under the April Sky (5:39), Shadows Behind the Lilacs (3:24), Rush (6:04), Tonight (6:33), Colours (8:31)
Julianne Regan, Heather Findlay and, closer to the origins of Monique van der Kolk, Anneke van Giersbergen all have beautiful female voices. With her vocals on Northern Wind, Monique, more than on the previous albums, really gets behind the music and adds more emotion to her singing. Soft when needed, and with more power when the music and lyrics call for it.
Having witnessed Harvest live at the said Marillion Weekend, I found the band very strong and powerful in the live environment. With this album, Harvest prove they can get closer to what they can sound like on stage. The band should be credited for that, as they took it upon themselves to produce the album.
Hearing the opening pairing of Into the Void and then It All Becomes Clearer, I thought the songs might have been about the album's recording and production process of the album. Yet when reading the lyrics, it is quite apparent that is not the case. It is though, as if the band has really got into playing together, creating a great atmosphere, and then, very sensibly, taking the time to record the album.
The album might not feature time changes every minute, yet there is undoubtedly a prog feel to the music. We find that in the rich and atmospheric arrangements, in Jordi Amela's keyboard sounds, and in Jordi Prats' guitar work. The songs will appeal to music lovers beyond the realms of prog, as the music is very open and inviting. That also is due to Monique's singing which might draw unexpected newcomers to the music. I just wonder what would happen if the title track could be heard on national radio. I don't think Harvest are out to become everyone's favourite band, and write music just to get in that one direction (sic), yet a surprise hit record might not harm the quintet.
This is music that can allow you to drift away. Whether it is by Monique's elf-like voice, by the great interplay between Toni Munné on bass and Alex Ojea on drums, or the leads played by both the Jordis, they pull it off together as a team. Their mix of prog, dance influences as well as pop, make for an album that has a fresh wind blowing through it, whenever listened to.
Marcel Hartenberg: 7.5 out of 10
Jouis - Dojo
All That Is And One (6:00), Loop (3:38), What's New Guru (4:13), Earthly Emerald Eyes (4:32), Hyperception (5:51), New Moon (5:26), Mister Maker Stomp (5:34), Rain (1:48), Universe Goggles (10:07)
For example, Magic Bus's delightful and whimsical album mined the rich Hammond sound associated with artists such as Mike Ratledge and David Sinclair. It also perfectly captured the whimsical approach to song writing epitomised by the Land of Grey and Pink era Caravan. The more jazz orientated colours associated with Soft Machine and the English Jazz movement of the 70s could be seen expertly displayed in the complex and lengthy arrangements of Canterbury based band Lapis Lazuli's Alien/ Abracadaver release. Whilst Schnauser's witty and eccentric Protein for Everyone contained subtle musical references to Soft Machine Two throughout its impressive grooves .
On the face of it Jouis occupy a similar sonic territory to Syd Arthur. Imagine if Syd Arthur had embellished their Sound Mirror release with greater dynamics, a Fleet Foxes vibe, more instrumental interludes and a much better production. Whilst Sound Mirror was tightly spun, and condensed with little room for musical detours, Jouis' Dojo is by way of contrast, expansive and airy.
There is a fluid and flexible approach to the compositions as they ebb and flow. The album offers numerous opportunities for frenzied head dancing. Dojo caters for all levels of agility and fitness though, and there are many laid back occasions where much less vigorous nodding can take place. The glorious production values inherent in Dojo enhance the sound and make everything sound warm and inviting.
Dojo is blessed with a charming ability to offer tunes such as What's New Guru and Universe Goggles that are amply sprinkled with eye brow shaking riffs. The closing instrumental section of Goggles has an authentic Hammond sound and has many of the classic ingredients associated with the Canterbury sub-genre. Other tracks such as, the Latin tinged Hyperception brim with sun-filled rhythms that induce toe tapping and energetic torso bouncing.
Hushed, eye- lid clenching, reflective moments are also amply provided for. Languid, sparsely illuminated back lit passages adorn many of the pieces. In this respect, the gorgeous ambience of New Moon and extensive harmonies of Universe Goggles are particularly impressive.
Claude Debussy's statement 'Music is the silence between the notes' aptly applies to much of Jouis' spacious approach to composition. The silence is framed by warm melodies, sumptuously golden vocal harmonies and a mix of stimulating arrangements and highly skilled playing.
The vocal harmonies are particularly exquisite reminding of CSNY, early Yes and Argus era Wishbone Ash. These are very much in evidence during the wonderful Earthly Emerald Eyes. This jaunty standout track is a masterclass in the art of how to deliver a catchy melody with vibrant instrumental parts and progressive interludes. The tune contains the vivid and colourful lyrics 'Kaleidoscopic psychotropic trance we dance'. These perfectly sum up the mood and feel of this piece.
Dojo is a totally engaging experience. It is a highly palatable and intoxicating mixture of West Coast meets Canterbury. I thoroughly recommend it. It is a near perfect accompaniment for a tranquil and peacefully relaxing sun washed day.
Miles Davis said in his own interpretation of Debussy's statement 'Don't play what's there, play what's not there'. On the strength of Dojo, Jouis have gone a long way towards successfully implementing this approach. Jouis have totally succeeded in creating an album where jazz rhythms, psychedelic musings and musical space and harmony coexist to present a wonderfully uplifting kaleidoscopic tapestry of sounds. I look forward to discovering which direction this highly talented young band takes in their next release.
Owen Davies: 9 out of 10
Nomads of Hope - Breaking the Circles for a While
Breaking the Circles (3:00), In the Shadows (3:20), Every Daybreak (6:14), The Day (4:27), Kindly Winds (4:18), Politics and Dreams (3:02), Connections (4:14), I use to Forget (3:53), Hear my Voice (6:19), Gloomy Silvernight (5:13), All Nights (2:57), Water Flowing (7:33)
Nomads of Hope is a duo, comprising of ex-Kultivator members Ingemo Rylander and Johan Hedren. The music is complex, stylistically bold and laden with emotion. The duo never falters in their quest to innovate or experiment, or in their attempt to create a challengingly different, song-based album.
I had the pleasure of reviewing former Kultivator member Stefan Carlsson's enjoyable Lost Kite Two release in 2014. It is terrific to see, in the form of Nomads of Hope, yet more past members of this eclectic, but now defunct Swedish band still producing good quality music, that stretches across musical boundaries.
In essence though, Breaking the Circles for a While mines the same rich vein of primeval rhythms and the same range of feelings that Gazelle Twin managed to do so successfully, in her Unflesh album. Whilst GT's work was deliciously bleak and industrial, this release is warmer and much less reliant on creating, or imposing, a disturbing futuristic soundscape upon the listener.
Both releases have at times a minimalist approach in terms of instrumentation, but each is able to create a bewitchingly expansive sound. The use of guitar, whistles and harp alongside more usual instruments, gives this album a more traditional canvas on which its artistic vision is placed and created. The shockingly disconcerting final product of Unflesh, was generated by GT's reliance on electronics and voice. Like Unflesh, Breaking the Circles for a While is essentially a collection of unique and well-crafted songs that do not rely heavily upon conventional song structures.
On tracks such as The Day, Every Day Break, Hear My Voice, and I Use to Forget there are certainly analogous points of reference with Unflesh, in terms of style and ambience. The music contained in Unflesh though, is perhaps even more radical and challenging than the stimulating and interesting approach to song-writing taken here.
Whilst GT's work is overwhelming, as it compellingly draws the listener in, Nomads of Hope does not demand that sort of response being much less intense, and as a consequence, equally, if not more appealing.
Nevertheless there are many similarities. Both have a bewitching rhythmic quality that penetrates the consciousness. Both use synthesisers as a coiling backdrop for the vocalist's rich range. Both GT and Rylander utilise an impressive array of vocal dynamics to surprise and hold attention. Power and frailty are equally conveyed, and are at the heart of their respective performances. Both albums are never lyrically trite or inane, and each has a thoughtful message to convey.
In tracks such as, Connections, Politics and Dreams and All Nights, Kate Bush rather than Gazelle Twin might be considered to be a more useful point of reference. Much of Nomads of Hope's music is attractively refined. In this respect, the beautiful and superbly fashioned Kindly Words stands out. In Gloomy Silvernight a spaciously-open and joyous Celtic feel is created by the use of whistles. This track is rhythmically infectious and instrumentally rich. The instruments chosen and ambience created, emphasise the point, that despite its title, this is a tune not in any way shrouded in grey. My favourite track is Every Day Break.
In the Shadows is somewhat less alluring, but is appealingly awash with cascades of Mellotron. This has the desired effect of gently lapping the listener, as vintage sounds help to coax and lull the tune gently into life.
In keeping with the overall, enjoyably minimalistic nature of the album, I will conclude by jotting down some aspects of the release that I found particularly attractive. I could have noted down an almost inexhaustible number of things, but in the end I restricted myself to seven gilt-edged words: Courageous, Quirky, Innovative, Atmospheric, Engaging, Frenzied and Unpredictable.
I strongly suggest that you check out this refreshingly different album, and who knows, you may even be moved to create your own list of gold-plated words to describe its many qualities.
Owen Davies: 8 out of 10
Rhys Marsh - Sentiment
Calling In The Night (3:25); Burn The Brightest Day (3:29); Pictures Of Ashes (3:50); The Seventh Face (4:49); The Ghost Ship (6:11); In The Sand (3:49); Last November (5:07); Silver Light & Blackened Eyes (5:30); Give Me (What You Need) (5:23)
Rhys put out his first solo release in the autumn of 2013. That five-song collection of covers, called Suspended in a Weightless Wind, also generated much-praise from this site.
Sentiment is Marsh's debut full-length solo album, for which he has handled all duties from start to finish.
I've only ever heard odd-songs from the Autumn Ghost collection, but was highly impressed by the sweeping musical landscape captured by Kaukasus last year. So much so, that I ordered a copy of it to come in the same packet as the promo for Sentiment.
And in many ways these two discs make excellent bed-fellows. Marsh has taken a similar musical mood to Kaukasus, while transposing its bleak atmospheres into a more direct, song-based structure. All of the tracks here are around the five-minute mark, with extended instrumental sections a luxury that this format does not afford. It is an intense listen, with extra weight added by some frank and very personal lyrical musing. At times it is akin to being the other side of the confessional box curtain. Captivating would be an appropriate adjective.
Whilst in one way the personalisation offered by a truly solo project is part of the charm, on the other hand some of the songs would have benefited from the extra ideas and influences brought by other instrument-specific musicians, especially here in the drumming and guitar. For much of this album there is just too much condensed into the mid-range, making it a very crowded house and hard to differentiate what is going on. An overuse of cymbal doesn't help. The sparse, open sections work better, allowing more space for the lyrics, melodies and textures.
The big plus points are that I really engage with Marsh's vocal and melodic hooks. The songs are ones that stick in the mind, and that I want to return to. (Try any of the three videos that accompany the singles from this album). I love his singer-songwriter lyrical style. The lyric sheet is an essential part of one's appreciation of Marsh's music.
Maybe once or twice he could have extended and played around with a couple of the themes. However the-days-of-vinyl length of this album means that there is little here in terms of padding, and the very personal-impact of the music does not linger long enough to become too overwhelming. For those reasons alone, this album is a recommended purchase.
Andy Read: 8 out of 10
Sonny Simmons and Moksha Samnyasin - Nomadic
Help Them Through This World (14:19), We Are Entering the Place of That (7:46), I Put It in a Dark Area Where I Don't Remember No More (13:57), When It Comes, I Don't Fight It (8:01)
Nomadic is an album of meditative, psychedelic drone rock with Simmons sax. There is none of the atonal squonking you sometimes get with free-jazz. Instead the free-jazz, here, is that of collective improvisation.
This contemplative set of instrumentals share the same basic template. Reverb heavy bass lines that are slow paced but building in tempo, as percussion, sitar and electronic washes join them. Moksha Samnyasin lay down evolving grooves, which Simmons then improvises over, as the musicians' journey through eastern tonalities.
There are no hummable tunes, as such, relying instead on moodily atmospheric, melodic drones; noir-ish ambient electronics and rolling percussion, topped by Simmons' sometimes spectacular blowing. There is a languid spontaneity in the live feel of this album.
A heartfelt and deeply spiritual mix of The Doors' The End, the electronic drone of Hawkwind without the amphetamine drive and last year's Marblewood album, minus the blues inflections. An album akin to John Coltrane's spiritual works. It is a good album on the margins of psychedelia infused prog.
Martin Burns: 6 out of 10
Spiralmaze - Back to the Center
Multiverse (7:41), Hwang Ho (5:24), Remipede (6:22), Myriad Small Creatures (7:33), The Longest Day py. I (4:04), The Longest Day pt. II (8:49), Back to the Center (6:43)
Nice touches to their music are the electro touches that come and go in their music and the jazz tinged sound that can be admired throughout the album. Vocal samples are used in a couple of the tracks, yet they are there only to enhance the sound and the atmosphere. The album really does work as a spiral maze with the music of the band luring you further and further to get to the heart of it.
Danceability is a feat that the band may have discussed for that is something that most certainly applies, perhaps not to each and every song but Multiverse and The Longest Day pt. II have certainly got that written all over them. There is also ambient features in the album. A track like Hwang Ho has that on display and The Longest Day pt. I as well.
This is one thoroughly enjoyable album that is played with great skill and, as it happens, to these ears is a fine companion for the spring to let rip. Just imagine yourself sitting in a lazy chair, sunglasses and headphones on, sipping your favourite drink and meanwhile, as you feel the sun warm your skin, ease away with a gentle breeze taking you further and further way back to the center of a spiral maze. An amazing trip and a very nice album. I for one am now going to enjoy the sun, eyes closed, dreaming a daydream with this sweet music from Greece.
Marcel Hartenberg: 8 out of 10