Issue 2018-064: Mini Reviews Special
Reviews in this issue:
Emiliano Deferrari - Monty
Belgian-based Italian Emiliano Deferrari has a new album out called Monty. He is a multi-instrumentalist who plays everything on the album, as well as having a strong voice. He sings mainly in Italian, with some English creeping in as the album progresses. Monty is a loose concept album about a slow descent into hell, followed by some form of redemption.
The music is a mix of art-rock, avant-garde pop and jazz-rock. The songs divide into the jazzier ones, dominated by Deferrari’s fretless bass, and some more percussive, dance-meets-avant-pop tracks. The music moves between ballads and mid-tempo offerings. It never works-up the energy for any glow-sticks-in-the-air, thumping-beats moments.
It moves from the jazz ballad Essere, to the jazz-funk of Vuoto without much change in style and tempo, and (for this listener) much interest, although the swirling, layered keyboards of Ecco do work well. Things get better in the album’s second half with the fretless funk of Get it Right and White Life, and the multi-tracked vocals of Fuoco, that loop in and out, counterpointing each line.
When successful, Emiliano Deferrari‘s Monty sounds musically like a Japan or Mick Karn-influenced art-rock project. There is an attention to detail on all these tracks that make you say: "oh that’s interesting, go that way", but it often ends up going elsewhere. It’s a shame it doesn’t all come-off in the way I would like. In the end it is a listenable but only half-engaging release, which I feel misses the progressive opportunities possible in the music.
EvenFlow - Old Town [EP]
EvenFlow is a new collaboration between Stuart Stephens (one half of Whitewater) and Mike Kershaw (100% of Mike Kershaw!). The project came to life when Mike worked with Stuart on last year’s Whitewater album, Universal Medium.
“Stuart asked if I wanted to come on board”, says Mike, “and as we really enjoy working together as songwriters, it was a no-brainer”. “I enjoyed guesting on Mike’s last album”, adds Stuart, “and when he returned the favour for Whitewater it sort of became inevitable that we’d work together again."
EvenFlow has certain similarities to each artist's main projects, but on the whole the pair have managed to create something appealingly different.
The dark, bluesy bass-led lilt to opener Creation is an instant hit for me, as is Stephen's guitar playing, which remains a pleasure throughout. The bluesy mood continues on Fracture, where Kershaw's distinct vocal proffers a rather different, almost (early) Springsteen-esque feel.
The other three tracks trek a similar chemin of atmospheric songwriting, driven by Stephens’ instrumental work, and with Mike and Stuart sharing vocal duties. The title track really needs to evolve into a second phase or possibly could have been coupled with the closing track, Thorn, whose hesitant channeling of Pink Floyd would have perhaps provided a nice, mid-point contrast. Instead, the two are split by That's What You Do which offers the biggest hook and rock groove of the five songs.
This should be of interest to fans of both artists' previous works as well as those who enjoy a gentle slice of alternative, atmpsoheric rock-lite. Old Town is currently available as a digital-only release via the ubiquitous Bad Elephant label. Hopefully it is a taste of (longer) things to come.
Flower In My Lung - Flower In My Lung
Flower in my Lung hail from Moscow and have released 2 albums since their inception. The debut being this self-titled released that came out in November 2013.
The album features a lot of modern post-rock/metal sounds, interspersed with some more straight up rock riffs and melodies. Some sections sound a bit like Davenport Cabinet or Coheed and Cambria, other passages sound like what I would expect Pink Floyd to sound like if they started off today (Indeed, the band have covered Pigs (Three Different Ones) live before.
The album is instrumental, filled with leads and riffs to keep you rising and falling and flowing along with the rhythms. All the tracks have areas that make you tense, or chilled out, or get your feed tapping and head swaying.
It is a superb instrumental album and one of the best set of instrumentals I have ever heard. All the build ups pull you along with them and the musicians collectively sweep you up in the moment and superbly convey emotion through the music alone. It is safe to say I am extremely impressed with this, and can only hope their second album is as good as this!
[Note from the editor: This review was originally planned for the No Name Label special from a few weeks ago. The second album mentioned in this review was released in 2015, but after that there has been no sign of life from this band. The band's website is offline.]
Id Guinness - Lost Language
A singer/songwriter album on DPRP? Well, I've always believed that 'singer/songwriter' was more of a role than a genre, so that description didn't give me any expectations on the music.
And what about that music? Some rocky, like the opening track and Irradia. Several songs are rather poppy in structure. But what stands out are the arrangements. No simple pop tunes, but well-crafted and well-played multi-layered songs. Guinness has a warm voice with a rough edge that sometimes reminds me of David Gilmour but a bit more power, or sometimes even Ray Wilson.
The album is filled with several influences. During several songs I had that "ooh what does this sound like?" feeling, but it was often too short to find out what it was. Irradia has a little of a Duran Duran vocal line. The vocals in White Bird In A Blizzard are a bit like Chris Isaak. Two Katherines is more experimental, ambient. The arrangements are rich, Guinness is playing with several aspects of the recording studio, making Lost Language a more intriguing listen than the rather bland pop sound of many singer/songwriters I hear.
I believe the track listing is not matching the actual songs. What is marked as White Bird In A Blizzard sounds like Embassy Walls, which is the most poppy song in structure and sing-a-long-ability.
Although the songs and my taste are not a great match, I do hear great songwriting and arrangements. Overall I think this album is too poppy for die-hard prog fans, but if you venture into those areas now and then, or if you like No-man, Tim Bowness, recent Steven Wilson, you should definitely listen to this.
Gula - Gula
This is the debut album by a new Dutch band. I read "doom" in the description of their sound and was a bit wary, expecting something plodding forward but getting nowhere. But, you know how some debut CDs can bring surprises? This was one. Doom is just part of the package, but I have not found a single word for it yet. Let me try it another way.
Take a hefty dose of Krautrock of the more psychedelic flavour and spread it on a base of metal, then add a spoonful-or-two of doom to some of the slow-but-heavy parts, pour in some dirty psych blues for the guitar sound, and a pinch of progressive rock for intermittant, surprising changes. Shaken, not stirred. We don't want everything mixed too well, we still want to be able to taste the different ingredients.
Does that help?
In some instrumental parts, the music reminds me of The Gathering's Mandylion era. At other times I feel like I'm riding along Hawkwind's Spaceship Earth, but slower.
The album was apparently recorded on all-analog equipment. I like that. And it has been recorded very well. I have to add, that there is no "psychedelic" or doomy lo-fi. The good dynamics, really add to the listening experience.
Bass player Ilja Fase's vocals offer a nice contrast to the music. Her voice is, naturally, unlike a typical doom voice. She can however, produce an unexpectedly angry and fearsome growl.
Although I usually prefer my heavy music to be fast-paced, Gula manage to present an amount of doom I actually like, covered in Krautrock and that fat guitar sound that I love.
Ross Palmer - Last Swallow [EP]
Ross Palmer is a London-based multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, recording engineer and mixer. He plays live as a solo artist, as part of a duo with Melanie Crew and in James McKean and the Blueberry Moon. Formerly he played drums for Sumner, guitar in Carterhaugh and fronted the Fourth Wall.
Having never heard of any of those artists, this is my first encounter with Ross. He has written, played, recorded and mixed all four of these brief encounters (Melanie Crew and James McKean add backing vocals, whilst Colin Somervell contributes double bass on Ghosts & Echoes).
This is an EP that will please those who, like me, enjoy an occasional foray into the realms of folk, and the singer/songwriter tradition. Most of the 14 minutes of music is based around Ross' pleasing voice and acoustic guitar. The exception is the more up-tempo band sound that provides Make It Last with a fuller ambience. By means of its strong melodic hook, Separated by Water is the strongest track. Worth a listen.