Issue 2016-065: Flute Prog Special, Part 3
Flute Prog Special, Part 3
Trillian Green - Metamorphoses
Gasworks (4:18), Kudzu (3:46), Boreas (4:21), Jack the Cat (3:31), Kuruk Setra (6:38), Liquid Moon (4:25), Circle In the Sand (3:34), Geist (Gargoyle II) (3:30), Halcyon (3:40), Pan Parag (4:50), Tapestry (4:34), Gargoyle (Sentinal of the Nocturns) (3:19), Oregon Rain (4:32), La Montagna sacra (4:24)
Trillian Green was a relatively unknown band from the USA, and unfortunately they disbanded shortly after the release of their second album Metamorphoses. The band's first album, Psycho Tantric Juju Jazz, is also a highly-gratifying, progressive flute experience. Both albums have a fascinating amalgam of styles, centred on the charismatic performance of flautist Ben Klein. After the break-up of Trillian Green, Ben released a solo album, Ben Flutism in 1999. Ben Flutism disappointingly, rarely attains the musical heights, or depth of styles, achieved by Trillian Green, but it is none-the-less worth checking out for Klein's virtuoso performance.
From start to finish Metamorphoses is a fulfilling and fascinating experience. Much of the album's playfully mysterious atmosphere is created by the interplay between the cello and Ben Klein. During the album's long running time, a whole gamut of styles are encountered. Many intriguing influences can be found. These are all woven around the magical, darting interplay between flute, percussion, cello and the occasional acoustic guitar.
Many of the band's compositions are steeped in folk melodies, but these are enhanced by a potent fusion of rock and world influences from Asia and India. Some of the tracks, such as the impressive Kuruk Setra and the percussion filled Circle in the Sand, include hints towards shamanism and the music of Native America.
Each of the tunes on offer is distinctive and highly enjoyable. Nevertheless, the limitations of the instrumentation of the trio, and a running time of just under an hour means that some listeners might feel that the album lacks the contrast needed to retain their complete interest. For this reason, it is probably an album that is initially best encountered in short segments.
I am confident that many listeners will discover an album that brims with variety. It has a plethora of subtle nuances just waiting to be uncovered. Metamorphoses is highly rhythmic by nature, and is enriched by frequent changes of tempo and an abundance of atmospheric melodies. Although not necessarily the standout tracks of the album, if I were to pick three to represent the band's fusion of styles it would be Geist, Pan Parag and the magnificent Gargoyle.
In the final analysis, Trillian Green's music is difficult to classify and does not easily fit into any pre-defined musical genre. Nevertheless, their unique brand of progressive flute music is totally absorbing and deserves to have greater recognition.
Attila Kollár - Musical Witchcraft
Musical Witchcraft Suite (19:16), Music from the Spheres (3:36), Soleriade (4:57), Morning Dance in the Garden of Chenonceau Castle (2:03), Silent Man´s Prayer (7:22), Rocks and Waves from Saint-Malo (4:32), Alchemy (4:32)
The first piece, Wanderers from the First Century, vividly evokes that era with its cacophony of village sounds, earthy drum beats and folk-inspired melody. An altogether harder edge is explored in the second piece of the suite. The Dark Middle Ages is an exciting, rock-driven tune containing an abundance of the sort of flute embellishments associated with Kollár's playing in Solaris. The jousting between guitar and flute is a constant and satisfying feature of this track, and also of the disc's numerous heavier parts.
The third part of the suite is entitled Poseidon and shows Kollár's innate sense of melody. This is a beautiful and quietly reflective tune, which at its heart has a baroque feel. Classical influences abound in Kollár's compositions. Bo Rock is part 4 of the suite and is a tribute to JS Bach. It is based on the rondeaux theme from JS Bach suite no 2 (b minor). This meeting of prog rock and classical influences works particularly well in this piece and in Boleraide. This successful fusion of styles, mirrors to some extent the approach found in Solaris in E- Moll concerto from that band's 1990 album.
The whole album is a fitting vehicle and tribute for both Kollár's attributes as a flautist and as a composer. He is joined on the recording by many players who have been associated with him and the work of Solaris over the years. The album also includes numerous inspirational guitar passages played in the vein of Gary Moore and provided by Vamos Zsolt. In Musical Witchcraft, Kollár plays flute as you might expect with a great deal of aplomb, and he illustrates that he is more than capable of performing in a range of styles. As in his work with Solaris, some of the more electric moments are interspersed with atmospheric recorder passages. Kollar's rich, fluently-soaring flute style is perfectly suited to the flowing, classically-influenced music that adorns much the disc.
However, when the need arises, Kollár can perform powerfully and with a degree of the breathy-spite associated with flautists more normally connected with a rock style. This is particularly the case in Music from the Spheres, where Kollár's repetitive flute riff is the cornerstone for a track that buzzes and bursts with energy.
The music contained in Musical Witchcraft is still for the most-part symphonic and includes folk and classical influences. However, on the numerous occasions when the guitar comes to the fore, the band's rock influences takeover, and as a consequence Musical Witchcraft is in some ways heavier and more diverse than anything created by Solaris.
The contribution of guitarist Csaba Bogdan is notable in six of the compositions. However the most striking and electrifying guitar parts are reserved for Varnos Zsolt. He gives the music his own fiery stamp on three tracks, and most notably in Rocks and Waves from Saint-Malo and Silent Man's Prayer, where Zsolt's meaty playing is interlocked with the equally impressive humming and snorting fluted flurries of Kollár. The beautifully expressive blues-based guitar solo which concludes the piece, is brilliantly executed and is particularly moving.
The flowing symphonic keyboards of Robert Erdesz, that are such an integral part of the Solaris sound, have much less prominence in Kollár's Musical Witchcraft. Erdesz appears in four of the album's seven compositions but his contribution is more as an accompanying performer, than a soloist. It is therefore perhaps not surprising that Musical Witchcraft has a harder-edged guitar-led sound than much of the music that is associated with Solaris.
In many ways, Kollár's next album released under the Musical Witchcraft moniker in 2002 and entitled Utopia is even more impressive than his first solo foray. Both his debut and Utopia are highly recommended if you enjoy the music of Solaris, and are essential if you find flute-led progressive music appealing.
In 2006, Kollár released the third of his Musical Witchcraft releases, Zsoltárok és Filmzene. This album is a much more laid-back, acoustic affair, with the emphasis on melody rather than power. Nonetheless, it is also a welcome addition to his discography and should appeal to those who appreciate Kollar's more lyrical side, as illustrated by Poseidon in the Musical Witchcraft Suite. His most recent release was a live album recorded with his Invocatio Musicalis band and was reviewed by DPRP in 2015.
At the time of writing this review, Kollár is about to release a new album entitled Progrock 55. This is a compilation of newly recorded tunes and live recordings taken from both his solo career and his work as a member of Solaris.
Grovjobb - Vättarnas fest
Visa från Arendal (4:59), Gäddans jakt (5:11), Gånglåt (6:55), Sauna (4:45), Skogsgläntan Vättarnas fest (19:11)
The band's strident, hypnotic trance-like, jam-based approach takes no prisoners, and frequently crosses barriers of jazz, folk and rock. This is the real deal in every respect when it comes to flute prog rock. Play it softly and it is alluringly beautiful. Play it loudly and it transforms into a beast that cajoles and eventually captures a listener's head, hands and heart.
Flautist Simon Jenson is a master technician who is equally at home improvising and producing beautifully fluid notes, or making his flute emit sharp-tongued flurries. The fuzz-laden, unwashed guitar of Jerry Johansson is a constant feature of the band's sound. The rhythm section drives the music in an incessant, immovable, pulsing style. These protagonists exhibit skilful virtuosity throughout the album's five compositions. I am going to attempt to convey the flavour of just three of my favourite tracks.
Grovjobb's debt to Fläsket Brinner is apparent in the Scandinavian, folk-inflected tune of Ganglat. It centres on a repetitive melody that is full of foreboding. The whole piece is embellished by some hot-coal guitar parts and wonderful flute interplay. Jensen's flute parts detonate with each twist and turn of Johansson's guitar. This creates a memorable and intense listening experience.
Changes of tempo are atmospherically established and a sense of menace is maintained as Ganglat develops. One of the attractions of Grovjobb, is the ability of all the players to create a spacious feel to their music. When the pace slackens in Ganglat, this facet is very much in evidence. The reflective accompaniment that emerges, fits the mood perfectly. It is a stunning piece, in a fine album. Listening to Ganglat puts me in flute heaven, and writing about it has me reaching for the play button yet again.
The remainder of the album is just as satisfying and includes examples of the range of styles represented in the rest of Grovjobb's recorded output.
Sauna is a jaunty piece, which moves the band into the powerfully-fuelled territory of space rock. The main riff and often-repeated motif is wonderful. During the course of the piece, this theme is explored and adapted to wring out a range of variations. Parts of Sauna are really striking, none more so than when the guitar blasts itself into orbit as the band prepares itself for a foray into the solar system. Once again the overall sound produced is akin to Fläsket Brinner and is gloriously retro and magnificently evocative.
The chief jewel in this album's sparkling crown is undoubtedly the title track. Skogsgläntan Vättarnas fest lasts for just under 20 minutes. It proudly proclaims that Grovjobb's approach is not one dimensional, nor limited to folk-based psychedelic rock, nor space rock.
At the beginning of the track, the sitar is the main instrument. Johansson had been studying the sitar and Indian classical music, and this interest is clearly displayed. Simon Jensen on the other hand was particularly interested in Jazz flute and improvisation techniques. This fusion of interests and styles, creates something that is unique and very special in this exciting and innovative piece.
At times, Skogsgläntan Vättarnas fest sounds like a more robust, muscular version of what Colin Walcott had so successfully and uniquely achieved with Oregon. The second half of the piece is heavily overlaid with Johanssen's piercing, thick electric guitar lines and an otherworldly ambience is established. Jensen's flute provides a subtle, melodic counterpoint to the Indian-styled percussion that is prominent throughout the piece. Skogsgläntan Vättarnas fest is superb in every respect and it ticks all of the right boxes for me in terms of performance, composition, ambience and above all else; uniqueness.
You may have guessed from my unbridled enthusiasm for this disc that Grovjobb are one of my favourite flute-led bands. I could have chosen any one of their three releases to represent their talents. All offer some of the most exciting and progressive flute music to be found. Their unique brand of flute rock may not always be the most intricate or complex, but it more than makes up for that with the energy and excitement that is generated by the players.
During all of Grovjobb's albums, and particularly in the band's more extended compositions, the performers show a great collective approach and are able to deliver music that is engaging and captivating in every respect. I hope that after reading this, you also feel inclined to explore the band's output.
Grovjobb's album has just been reissued on vinyl with full details from the "Info" link above.
Owen Davies: 9.5 out of 10
Tánger - Tánger
Espejos (3:51), Laberinto (3:40), Nova Lisboa (4:10), Una Tristeza Nicturna (2:57), El Juego Posible (2:55), Mas Alla De La Noche (6:18), Tierrra esconocida (3:24), Camino Circular (3:09), Tres Imagenes (4:40), El Sueno Des Las Mares Lejanos (5:40), Notre Dame (3:55), El Filo De La Eternidad (4:29)
Tánger's debut is ugly, disturbing and totally challenging. In short, it is not the sort of album you could confidently play in the car whilst giving a work colleague, or an acquaintance, a lift to the shops. I have often wondered why nobody asks me for a lift anymore!
It consists of 12 individual pieces played in a remorseless and persistent style. The bass is prominent in the bold and loud, chest-bulging mix. The inventive guitar of Ignacio Lois gives the whole album an intentionally unyielding and passionate feel.
The flute takes a full role in providing a powerful voice in the band's loosely formed and often improvised compositions. Flautist Daniel Algieri does a commendable job. His breathy style is suited to the brashly abrasive quality of much of the music, although there are occasions when the saxophone is used to create an even more uncompromising sound.
The band's overall approach reminds me of a less sophisticated and more brutal version of Glazz, whose The Jamming Sessions Take 11 album covers a similar territory, albeit without the flute. It seems to me as though the Tánger album may have been originally conceived as one long jamming session, as the closing piece has the sort of climatic conclusion that brings the whole gripping experience to an inspiring close.
After, just under 50 minutes of listening to such unbending music, the effect upon the listener can be tangible. My body language always gives it away: I sit, slumped, stupefied and silent. My family always know when I have listened to Tánger, and for the sake of my health, it is something that I try not to do too often.
There are also many hints towards mid-seventies King Crimson in the busy rhythm section. This is particularly evident in the album's opening piece, Espejos. The album is strewn with the recurrent use of a muscularly discordant guitar sound and is draped in a style that will be familiar to many King Crimson aficionados. Guitarist Lois, frequently uses the type of fluid tone associated with Robert Fripp in King Crimson's The Night Watch.
In Mas Alla De La Noche, the discordance of Lois' guitar reaches a crescendo, that is matched by some particularly emotive flute humming. It is an excellent piece and is representative of Tanger's tenacity and style. Fripp's flowing Frippertonic style is also evident in the plaintive, beautiful El Sueno Des Las Mares Lejanos For once, during the duration of this piece, the pace and intensity of the album briefly lets up. It is a short respite though, as the band cranks things up and the throttle is fully opened again, to become even more frenetic in the album's two remaining tracks.
The band's second release, La Otra Cara (2002), is in many ways a superior effort, as it contains an altogether more accessible sound and the new flute player, Damian Lois excels. The greater use of saxophone parts, arguably give the second album a greater variety than its predecessor. As indicated, Tánger's original album bore some comparison to King Crimson, but I feel that in La Otra Cara they create a more unique style which fuses both jazz and rock.
Their second album also owes something to free jazz in parts, whilst the more blues-inspired tracks are redolent of Triode. The jazz-tinged playing in Tánger's second album is perhaps also reminiscent of Focus. The most satisfying pieces are the more melodic ones such as the wonderful title track that features some impressive bass playing. The substantive tone is not dissimilar to Eberhard Weber. As in Tánger's debut, the compositions sometimes appear to need further development.
Nevertheless, the first two albums by Tánger are thoroughly recommended for those who like music which heavily features the flute. Their third album, Ciudad was released in 2006 and is even more impressive.
I hope that if you are not already familiar with this band, I have whetted your appetite sufficiently so that you are motivated to discover whether you will find their music as utterly compelling as I do.
I have just found out that Tanger's debut album has been remastered and has recently been made available from the Bandcamp link above.
Mini (Adam Torok & Mini) - A szél nomádjai (Nomad of the Winds)
Misztikus repülés Kárpátia fölött / Mysterious Flying Overground of Carpathia (12:06), Afrodité tánca körbe, körbe a tiszta kék tó körül / Aphrodite's Dance Around at the Clear Blue Lake (21:00), A szél nomádjai / Nomad of the Winds (9:04), A szõlõhegy ura / Lord of the Vineyard (7:49), Bioétel gyermekeknek / Biofood for Children (2:29)
In 2001, Mini reformed and Torok dipped his toe fully into progressive waters with the release of A szél nomádjai / Nomad of the Winds, released on Hungary's well respected Periferic label. Nomad of the Winds is an album that is full of melodically accessible instrumental tunes. These are played with a great deal of panache. There is much to admire in the release. Those who appreciate atmospheric keyboards and folk inspired melodies, contained within carefully constructed compositions will find much to reflect upon.
At times, Torok's overall approach in the album is contemplative, but is never melancholic. The album is enriched and garnished with some sparkling, soaring flute work that gives the meditative moments a less-introspective air. The symphonic nature of much of the album would probably attract those who enjoy the music of Camel. The more muscular moments would attract anybody who enjoys prog music that utilises the flute as a powerful lead instrument.
The music in the album is not in any ways restricted to one specific style. It has an organic earthiness that is hard to ignore and easy to appreciate. Torok's sense of melody is always present, but he is not afraid to solo aggressively when the need arises. In his hands, the flute becomes an aggressive tool to impressively complement and contrast with some of the more laid back pastoral passages.
The album lacks any virtuoso guitar passages, but more than makes up for that with its overriding sense of quality and attention to detail. The standout track is the quietly absorbing and mysteriously titled Aphrodite's Dance Around at the Clear Blue Lake. This epic composition lasts for 21 minutes. It is a stunningly beautiful piece of music and one that is more than capable of easily holding a listener's attention, whilst they are being gently caressed in its sweet and warm embrace.
The rhythmic fluting that is ever-present in the title track is also attractive; although for my tastes the piece falls a little bit too much towards a muzak ambience. It is just a trite too easy on the ear for me to wish to play repeatedly. Nevertheless, in the context of the album, the piece works well and includes some outstanding piano work in its middle eight sections.
Nomad of the Winds has always had a place on the top table of my progressive flute collection.
Flor de Loto - Flor de Loto
La Llegada (7:20), Libélula (7:22), Negativos de una Memoria Inexistente (6:15), Ayahuaska (4:10), El Errante (9:02), El Niño y el Puerco (7:36), Y (1:55), Ritual (6:28), Flor de Loto (2:53), Suculentas Frutas (9:35)
Flor de Loto's self-titled debut album was released in 2005. It is probably their most accomplished foray into the excitingly-varied sub-genre of progressive flute rock. It is an album that is thoroughly recommended.
The fusion of metal, classic progressive rock, jazz and Andean folk music works particularly well in this totally instrumental album. Stylistically there are nods to Los Jaivas and Solaris, but in this album Flor De Loto impose their own unique style of South American Prog upon the listener. It is an album that has many wonderful solos, and much of the music has a spontaneous and improvised feel. The release is littered by an abundance of wonderful guitar parts, expertly executed by Alonso Herrera. These ensure that the album is an intense and exciting listening experience. The recording, faithfully captures the band's energy and outstanding technical ability. The interplay between the flute and guitar is at times simply breath-taking.
Some listeners compare aspects of Flor De Loto to Jethro Tull, and have named this band "South America's Jethro Tull". In my view, this comparison is totally erroneous and is just as inaccurate as when some commentators have called Nu the "Spanish Tull". Even when flautist Johnny Perez adopts a more strident rock approach, his tone is thinner and his playing is much less powerful than Anderson's full-throated style.
The flute in Flor De Loto is an essential part of the ensemble's collective sound, rather than as a solo virtuoso voice within the band. The music of the two bands, apart from the obvious references to the folk traditions of their respective countries, is completely different. Celtic and English folk influences are apparent in Tull's case, whilst Andean folk influences are represented in Flor De Loto. The use of an Andean pan flute gives the music of Flor De Loto a uniquely South American flavour. More importantly, Flor de Loto's first release contains a much greater fusion of ethnic traditions mixed in with rock, jazz and prog elements, than that found in most of Tull's releases. This complex diversity within Flor De Loto's music is one of the reasons why their first album is so appealing.
One of Ian Anderson's main talents was to use the flute to embellish his gifted ability as a writer of complex, yet intrinsically melodic tunes. In this respect, Flor de Loto's compositions pale in comparison to Anderson's genius as a song writer.
Since their debut, Flor De Loto has largely abandoned their fluent style of instrumental flute progressive rock. Instead, the band has steadily adopted a more metal style and has also incorporated vocals into their overall sound. The band's latest album is entitled Medusa and contains a DVD and audio CD of a 2014 concert from Buenos Aires, and was released in August 2015.
Whilst, I enjoy aspects of the band's later releases, the album which I continue to return to on a regular basis is always their impressive debut.
Owen Davies: 8.5 out of 10