Issue 2017-078: Mini Review Special
Eduardo Aguillar - Plano Sequência
Coliseo (7:02), Perto do Fim (5:04), Plano Sequência (8:06), Um Pedaço do Tempo (3:36), Antigos Caminhos (6:15)
If for nothing else, Aguillar deserves respect for his dogged determination to enable his Plano Sequência work to become available. It has been over 25 years since the music was initially composed and recorded in 1992. Plano Sequência was finally released on CD in 2015.
On the evidence of tracks such as Antigos Caminhos, there can be no dount that Aguillar had great fun creating and performing his compositions. Nevertheless, nothing can disguise the fact that the album is the product of one person; essentially armed with a keyboard, a recording studio and an array of effects. Consequently, despite the composer's undoubted skill and proficiency, the album is somewhat devoid of feeling.
In this respect, although the compositions contained in Plano Sequência are certainly highly accomplished and easy on the ear, the album as a whole lacks the organic feel that arguably can only be achieved by the interaction created between a group of musicians. As such, this is an album that rarely touches my emotions and one that I suspect I will only play occasionally.
Arcpelago - Simbiose
Sopro Vital (11:08), Distância Entre Um Dia E Outro (7:52), Ebulição Dos Tempos (5:28), Cidade Solar (6:48), Universos Paralelos (2:33), Dentro De Si (9:51)
Whilst there is nothing innovative about the band's overall sound, the fact that they are able to reproduce the style of classic prog bands of the 70s, has a certain appeal.
However, to classify this Brazilian band as just another group living in the shadow of the 70s is to do them a disservice. Their compositions are generally interesting, and the playing throughout the album is exemplary.
Distância Entre Um Dia E Outro is particularly adventurous and is probably the album's standout track. The deep-throated fuzz bass that dominates this satisfying, full-on instrumental piece recalls bands such as Soft Machine and King Crimson.
The band is at its best when the organ and Mellotron, guitar and bass combine to create a warm and familiar sound that is sure to delight. This is the case in the expressive, kaftan-clad tones of the tonsil-shaking ballad Dentro De Si, which has an instantly recognisable style and closes the album in a reassuring manner.
Dwiki Dharmawa - Pasar Klewer
CD 1: Pasar Klewer (12:13), Spirit Of Peace (8:55), Tjampuhan (12:57), Forest (8:00), London In June (4:58)
CD 2: Lir Ilir (11:38), Bubuyu Bulan (8:31), Frog Dance (10:54), Life Itself (6:59), Purnama (6:49), Forest (Instrumental) (7:59)
CD 2: Lir Ilir (11:38), Bubuyu Bulan (8:31), Frog Dance (10:54), Life Itself (6:59), Purnama (6:49), Forest (Instrumental) (7:59)
Dharmawan is skilled enough to construct compositions that have imaginative textures, and which reflect the cultural diversity of the players. The input of Gamelan player Aris Daryono on four tunes is important, in adding an authentic ethnic flavour to an album that defies being ascribed to any particular genre of music.
The meeting of Eastern and Western traditions works well. The result is a compelling release that is wide-ranging in style, is episodic in its ever-evolving and subtly-changing structures, and is keenly experimental in its overall approach.
The title track sums up the wealth and breadth of styles on offer. The piece is built upon the subtle piano of Dharmawan, and his deft touches throughout, add an expressive elegance. However, it is the lush, moonlit tone of Mark Wingfield's guitar that shines the most brightly. His emotive phrasing and flamboyance, create the perfect counterpoint to the wonderful ensemble playing.
It's a captivating piece that highlights the excellent musicianship of all of the players. The addition of Daryono's traditional three-string violin and vocal warblings, in its mid-section, give the composition an additional dimension, adding to its ambience, wow factor and mystique.
Pasar Klewer is a compelling album that warrants repeated listens. It rewards time spent, listening to its numerous qualities. Equally, it repays time spent exploring its less obvious facets. These reveal themselves over time, to uncover something new to discover and enthuse about.
Put simply: It is special!
Sérgio Ferraz - Flutuando Sobre As Ondas
Paisagens Sonras Eletrônica Imaginárias: Parte I - Missão Jupter (9:06), Parte II - Cartas de Saturno (9:16), Flutuando Sobre as Ondas: Parte I - Vishnu e os Nove Avatares - O Senhor das Águas (6:40), Parte II - Matsya - O Guardião do Universo (6:28), Parte III - A Ira dos Deuses (6:07), Parte IV - Na Imensidão Infinita (4:21), Parte V - A Sétima Encarnação de Vishnu (4:03), Parte VI - Entre Deuses e Demônios (8:08), Parte VII - Nas Águas do Oceano Cósmico (10:45)
However, as well as the extensive and layered use of keyboards throughout the album, Ferraz is also able to express himself with the electric violin in an exciting and innovative manner. The release is made more interesting by the unusual violin passages that occasionally adorn and ultimately brighten up the persistent, heavy carpet of keyboard sounds that dominate.
Nas Águas do Oceano Cósmico is one of the highlights. Just as John Coltrane opened up a new approach to the sax in the avant garde period of his career, there are moments when it appears that Ferraz is able to open a whole new range of possibilities and palette of sounds with his highly individual, heavily textured and effect-driven approach to the violin.
At times, Flutuando Sobre As Ondas is an absolutely intriguing and spellbinding release. At other times the impersonal, repetitive and recurring nature of much of the music can be challenging. It's a case of choosing when and how to listen to this album. On the right occasions and at the right time, it can be a thoroughly rewarding experience. Suffice to say the atmospheric tones of Flutuando Sobre As Ondas are more suited to dark-skied nights, rather than blue-rimmed, sun-streaked days!
Glorious Wolf - Aquarius
Aquarius I (4:28), Aquarius II - Bearing The Water (4:31), Aquarius III - Seeding The Future (5:38), Broken Arrow (2:08), Questions (6:03), Healing Colours (4:05), Old Diamonds Shine Brighter (4:17), Shaman's Journey (4:19)
Skip forward one-and-a half decades, and we now have the arrival of Ruud's second release, this time under a more appealing project name of Glorious Wolf. The passing years have seen Ruud playing in several covers bands, playing everything from Hendrix to Marillion, until the time arrived for him to focus on his own compositions once again.
This is the classic one-man-band scenario, with Ruud playing all the instruments, undertaking all the programming (synths and drums) as well as the full production duties. The result is an enjoyable collection of guitar driven rock music, that covers many styles and moods, with plenty of progressive twists and turns.
I do find Ruud's jazz fusion-influenced work the more appealing. The more ambient passages are also effective. He has a lovely smooth tone to his guitar work on the mellow second part of his Aquarius trilogy. The more complex writing of the third part, eased by the latter symphonic tones, is also impressive. The metallic riffing of the opening section is clumpy and clumsy, not helped by some uninventive and laboured drum programming. Bringing in some guest musicians to bring greater depth to the musicianship would bring a big benefit next time.
This digital only release is available from Ruud's Bandcamp page. Ruud is now seeking suitable musicians to perform this music on stage and has already started recording the follow-up album, with the first single, Zodiak recently also released on his Bandcamp page. I guess we won't be waiting another 15 years to review Glorious Wolf again.
Strobes - Brokespeak
Winder (4:38), BRKSPK (5:03), OK Please (4:54), Guns, Germs and Steel (5:51), World GB (5:51), Spin (6:39), Kiksin (3:55)
It's a close-to-perfect creation; if you enjoy edgy instrumental tunes flavoured with lavish amounts of unpredictability, and filled with accomplished playing. It is an album that rewards intensive and repeated listens. It is fresh, progressive and boldly brash, and it readily exudes excitement. There isn't a bad track on the album and many deserve special mention.
The opening piece, Winder, sounds as though it could have been an outtake from a more unconventional, yet pumped version of something that might have appeared in Alan Gowan and Hugh Hopper's Two Rainbows Daily album.
As a contrast, BRKSPK is full of the complex rhythms, discordance, aggression and stylistic traits associated with King Crimson. It's quite an outstanding ride that demands that the listener keeps a tight grip and wears heavy shoes to avoid being spun out of the chair.
Other pieces such as, OK Please move the album into electronica territories that are similar to those explored by the irrepressible Gazelle Twin in her outstanding Unflesh album.
As one might expect, Brokespeak, without doubt, will not appeal to everybody. However, if you are willing to take a chance, I feel sure that its unusual palette of sounds will at the very least astound you, and might even enchant you.
G Vaughan & Si Hayden - Process
Process, Pt. I (5:05), Process, Pt. II (16:37), Process, Pt. III (13:51), Process, Pt. IV (13:55), Process, Pt. V (14:02)
Si Hayden is a British musician-composer who has released some 45 albums of largely original material and featured on multiple guitar compilations with the likes of Alex De Grassi, Guns N' Roses guitarist Bumblefoot and Will Ackerman. Just for good measure, he has also recorded as a guest musician on over 100 releases.
In early June he took his bass and joined drummer G Vaughan for an improvised session underneath the arches in Coventry, England. This album was recorded in five sessions over two hours, with a cup of coffee and a cigarette in-between, for reflection of the previous session and a chat for inspiration on the next; before pressing the red button. What you have here, is what the pair created under those Coventry arches. Zero was left on the cutting room floor. The only editing was the ordering of the tracks, in order to progress their improvisation in a pleasing fashion.
The result is just over an hour of very bio (organic) music. Process is full of fast moving, dirty space-funk vibes. At times the flow is smooth, and at time the avant stylings give things a more rugged listening pleasure. With just the drums and a range of bass sounds, the focus is obviously on rhythm, and on some heavily textured bass groove and atmospheres.
It is safe to say that this is some way out of my musical comfort zone, but I did find it a fascinating listening experience. The spur-of-the-moment nature of improv' (even more so with just two musicians), means that some parts of this disc work much better than others. Those who enjoy the more obscure corners of the improv' and avant garde scenes will undoubtedly find much to treasure here.
The pair hooked-up a few cameras to capture the "performance" on video; one of which you can see from the link below. Process is available as both a CD and a download.
Zé Da Flauta - Psicoativo
Ativamente (5:02), Ludicamente (4:29), Nanáturalmente (8:23), Pesadamente (4:45), Influenciadamente (3:58), Progressivamente (3:29), Propositalmente (4:42), Surubinamente (6:12), Enlouquecidamente (4:36)
However, there is also an underlying, rich lunar beauty to a number of the tunes, which ensures that this album is not a just a blur of spitting, overblown, silver-fluted, blues-based riffs accompanied by some searing organ work and crunchy guitar parts. Standout pieces such as Nanáturalmente, Progressivamente and particularly Surubinamente (which features some delightful keyboard parts), have a quirky edge that provides the album with satisfying prog credentials, an added shelf life, and arguably a greater appeal.
It's a highly satisfying album, and if you enjoy the instrumental interludes in the work of bands such as Jethro Tull, Flor De Loto and Adam Torok's Mini, then you are almost certainly guaranteed to enjoy much of Psicoativo.
Zé Da Flauta's real name is José Vasconcelos de Oliveira. He is based in Recife, Brazil and although Zé has been involved with many artists as both a producer and as a performer, Psicoativo is the sexagenarian's first solo album.
The album is also noteworthy as it contains one of the final recordings of master percussionist Naná Vasconcelos before his untimely death in March 2016. In Nanáturalmente, Vasconcelos adds sung percussion effects to great effect in a piece that successfully brings together the musical traditions of Brazil and hard-blowing, psychedelic flute rock.
Psicoativo is highly recommended for anybody who enjoys instrumental flute-led hard rock music, with a touch of prog added in for good measure.