Issue 2017-052: Mini Review Special
Here at DPRP towers, we frequently receive some interesting albums that whilst not strictly "prog", would be of interest to many of our readers. We sometimes receive albums that have been released in previous years. Also, with so many albums submitted, it is not always possible to find a writer with the time to give every release our usual in-depth review.
So how best can we still bring you news of such releases?
This is the first of our new Mini Review Special Editions. Each still has all the usual album information and links to samples and videos (where available), but the reviews are much shorter, and we do not award any score.
We hope you will find some great music that you think deserves further investigation.
Astral Son - Mind’s Eye
The compositions on Mind's Eye are truly authentic as are the arrangements and instrumentation. The man behind the project took very much care to sound exactly like the old school idols, and has maintained the production sound to be like the ones of old days. So those who were around when psychedelic and space rock happened originally will experience a full throw-back to old times, and maybe wish they had a joint at hand for the full enjoyment of this album.
Even though it is not progressive at all to create this sort of music in the here and now, listening to Mind's Eye is still a great retrospective of a time in which creative music was free of genres. If you still have a flavour for the albums of the golden era of prog and psychedelia, and if you love the imperfect sound of those albums, you shouldn't miss this one!
Charles Brown - Explorer Of Life
Best known to guitar fans as one of the finest independently produced, instrumental prog-rock fusion artists, Charles Brown has earned a stellar reputation for his albums that offer a mix of guitar-based progressive, jazz-rock fusion and hard rock instrumental songs and arrangements.
Fans of guitar heroes such as Pete Townshend, Richie Blackmore, Pat Metheny, Alex Lifeson, Kim Simmonds and George Benson will want to listen, as Charles Brown explores the realms of the electric guitar. Featuring ten tracks, Explorer Of Life leads off with the title track, and the entire album burns its way through a wide range of electrifying, rock-based instrumental guitar tracks, all spotlighting Charles playing a number of guitars, synths and percussion.
On Explorer Of Life, Charles Brown sounds very influenced by the instrumental guitar sound of Pete Townshend and prog guitar icon Steve Hackett. Hackett and Brown are also fans of JS Bach, and one of the highlights here is Charles' cover of the Prelude from Bach's Cello Suite.
This album is filled with all kinds of overtures and undertures, like the hard-hitting Parallel Journey and the drive and power of the two-part Wind Of Darkness Suite. Along with the sonic sweep of New Horizon, all are tracks that will find a home among fans of Deep Purple and Black Sabbath and Townshend's orchestral guitar visions on Quadrophenia. Acoustic instrumental guitar fans will enjoy Above The Mist and When The Sun Rises, which features light synth backing and falls into a kind of new age acoustic sound.
Fans of heavy metal instrumentals and progressive orchestral, in the spirit of Hackett-era Genesis, must give Explorer Of Life some serious spin time.
Kant Freud Kafka - Onírico
The result is a classic progressive rock record, with a reliance on melodic and keyboard-based passages. It is all very reminiscent of 70s prog, à la Genesis. The choice of keyboard sounds adds to this feeling, along with many tempo and time signature shifts. This style is all represented in the instrumental opener, Insomnio de una Noche de Verano, which can be translated as A Midsummer's Night Insomnia.
The whole album deals with the topic of dreams and their influences on us. The subject is very well underlined by some uncanny sounds and melodies.
In the booklet are six different drawings in black and white that represent the songs, and that fit with the general atmosphere of the record. Musically this is very good, but personally it does not do much for me.
Enrico Merlin & Valerio Scrignoli (Electric Guitar Duo) - Maledetti (Area Music)
It must be said that the two guitarists, Enrico Merlin and Valerio Scrignoli, have certainly taken-on an adventurous trip. What we have here is an album full of improvisational music, from which it can be heard that both men have had a lot of fun exploring the music at hand, and giving it their best.
Even though progressive rock can be as broad a perspective as you want it to be, this, to a lot of listeners, may be considered too close to jazz-rock and fusion. If you like guitar playing in a free, improvisational way, and if "progressive" to you calls for anything new and/or different, then you may wish to give the Electric Guitar Duo a chance? Never raising a storm, but being on a quest for the Area within it, this might just bring forth a pleasant surprise.
Qualia - In The Heart Of A Dying Machine
The slow build-up in songs like Umbra and Void, definitely touch post-rock, all the way into distorted guitar sounds. More tracks have distorted guitar sounds, but these are more experimental, than post-rock.
So there is a lot of ambiance. Tension is also an ambiance. It makes quite a varied album of repetitive elements, not suited for background music, rather for those daring to widen their ambient horizons. Alternatively, just forget the "ambient" tag and go for "experimental noise with a touch of post-rock".
This album is from December 2016, Dan Leader has already released two other albums under the Qualia name.
Tune - Identity
One thing that immediately jumps out at you, is the stylistic vocal of the lead singer Jakub Krupski. With the odd hint of Bowie and Japan's David Sylvian, he certainly can deliver a dark and brooding vocal performance.
The tracks are fairly short, and although there is some great prog-related music, there is a pop feel to some of their songs. Nothing wrong with that, and these guys know how to write some interesting songs. Nearly all of the tracks on this album have contrasting sections, ranging from sparse 'tingly' intros, quiet acoustic passages, through to full-blown heavy rock.
The opening track On (Intro) is an instrumental that slowly builds over a simple, repeating guitar motif. It does go on far too long (this intro track is longer than four other tracks on the album), since it just seems to repeat while getting louder. The catchy Change, with its acoustic vibe and sparse piano, reminds me of a track from Bowie's back catalogue (possibly back to the Hunky Dory era). There is definitely a 70s feel, but a very good track none-the-less, with some appealing guitar solo work.
Live to Work to Live is a mid-tempo song with simple drum patterns and treated vocals in places. It's not a song that immediately grabs you, but after a few listens, it certainly appeals with some great atmospheric solo guitar work, over deep riffs and jangly piano.
Trendy Girl has a catchy hook and a strong pop feel. In some parts I was reminded of a young Bob Geldof singing. Suggestions has a nice, slow intro with electric guitar and vocals. Then after a couple of minutes the full band enters, which includes an infectious, repeating bassline supported by atmospheric guitars. This song certainly rocks towards the end.
At the point of Sheeple, I have to say that there's a similarity in style and song construction, as some of the songs do sound similar to each other. Instrumental Off (outro) begins with a simple intro but you can feel the music is moving towards something magical. Then we get some great drum work, before the band lets rip. It is a great way to end the album.
This music is definitely progressive in its approach, with quite a few pop moments, along with good musicianship, interesting themes, and some catchy tunes.