Issue 2013-053

Reviews in this issue:

La Coscienza di Zeno - La Coscienza di Zeno

The Inner Road - La Coscienza di Zeno
Country of Origin:Italy
Record Label:Mellow Records
Catalogue #:MMP 521
Year of Release:2011
Info:La Coscienza di Zeno
Samples:Click Here
Tracklist: Cronovisione (7:36), Gatto Lupesco (7:23), Nei Cerchi del Legno (13:09), Il Fattore Precipitante (7:00), Il Basilico (6:19), Un Insolita Baratto Alchemico (7:11), Acustica Felina (9:37)

La Coscienza di Zeno - Sensitività

Country of Origin:Italy
Record Label:Fading Records
Catalogue #:FAD010
Year of Release:2013
Info:La Coscienza di Zeno
Samples:Click Here
La Coscienza di Zeno - Sensitività

Tracklist: La Città di Dite (6:46), Sensitività (12:22), Tune (3:31), Chiusa 1915 (7:04), Tensegrità (7:19), Pauvre Misère (7:50), La Temperanza (10:39)

Inevitably, there are always some albums that slip through the DPRP net, but after hearing La Coscienza di Zeno's excellent second album, it seemed an injustice that their first was not in our archives. Taking their name from a 1923 Italian novel by Italo Svevo, the band released their eponymous debut album back in 2011, and their second, Sensitività, this year. Rather than following the usual rigmarole of simply reviewing the albums as separate entities, I've decided instead to compare the two closely. These then are the similarities and differences between CdZ's first two albums.

The biggest and perhaps most important difference is the band's approach to music on each album. If you were to draw a Venn diagram of RPI, neo and symphonic prog, CdZ would sit proudly in the intersection of these three rings, but their direction is markedly different between albums and can be demonstrated by the first few seconds of the first track of each album which you'll find in the YouTube clips above and below. Though it's not usually safe to extrapolate from just a few seconds, I can safely say that the band's debut is indeed a lot more 'instant' than Sensitività. A lot of the music here is heavily dependent on bright synth sounds and complex playing, sometimes to gaudy excesses. Indeed, those first seconds of Cronovisione often see me reaching for the off button, but if you leave it on a little longer, a very tasteful instrumental track will follow, showcasing the skills of this young band. The band here, just like their forefathers in RPI, tend to opt for instrumentals over lyrical sections, thus lending themselves to a wider audience who perhaps can't appreciate or understand Italian.

Sensitività, on the other hand, is much more refined, and is almost classical in its approach, with the pianoforte seeing a lot of the action. The reason for this drastic change is actually quite simple: the six-strong band have had a change of keys player in between albums, with the effervescent Andrea Lotti replaced by the calmer Luca Scherani who only appeared on two tracks on the first album playing both the flute and the accordion. It's incredible that such a small change can make such a big difference to the music overall. Whether it's for the better or worse it's hard to say, as I've enjoyed both albums immensely.

Of course there are similarities too. Both albums have seven tracks, for example, and each has a standout track stretching to over twelve minutes. However the structure of one seems to be the reverse of the other: Nei Cerchi del Legno begins with a towering instrumental nine minutes in length, before a quiet - and some might say anticlimactic - lyrical section at the end; Sensitività on the other hand is mainly comprised of lyrics, but the final four minutes are devoted to a powerful instrumental finish. Though the former seems to drift off at the end, the powerful instrumental is by far the best thing the band has put together, utterly symphonic in style with special mention going to David Serpico whose bass guitar makes the piece soar.

Another similarity between the albums is the band's strength at writing seven minute songs. Out of the fourteen tracks here, nine of them run between 6 and 8 minutes, some might say the perfect length for a prog song. All of these tracks have interesting arrangements, but my favourites are the ones on album two. Chiusa 1915 sees the band going down a route Genesis took many years ago, and has a very powerful ending while Tensegrità has a beautiful piano-led ending showing just how beautiful the Italian language can be. Back on the power fuelled debut, Alessio Calandriello tests his voice to the limit on Il Fattore Precipitante, his voice going far higher than I could have imagined it would go; higher even than Chris Collins from an early incarnation of Dream Theater who attempted something similar but with much less success. The instrumental Un Insolita Baratto Alchemico showcases the band's skills at odd time signatures; the band has a small throwback to this style of playing in Pauvre Misère.

Both of these albums take the listener on a journey through beautiful, well-crafted music. Sometimes soft and melodic, other times powerful and energetic, La Coscienza di Zeno rarely disappoint. It may not be taking progressive rock to new pastures, but rather it is refining and channelling the best of what has gone before. On a technical note, while Sensitività is readily available through the flourishing Fading Records - a subsidiary of AltrOck - the band's debut is only available through their Bandcamp page, where you can pay whatever you like for a high quality download as well as stream the first album in its entirety. The band have also informed me that they plan to publish the lyrics to Sensitività in English in September, so that non-Italian fans can follow the words that seem very meaningful in their delivery. Only time will tell where this band will be placed in the prog hall of fame, but for now I recommend keeping an eye on them as they could very well make it large.

La Coscienza di Zeno: 8 out of 10
Sensitività: 8.5 out of 10


Opus Symbiosis - Nature's Choir

Opus Symbiosis - Nature's Choir
Country of Origin:Finland
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:OPSY-003
Year of Release:2013
Info:Opus Symbiosis
Samples:Click Here
Tracklist: Breaking News (5:12), Runtiger (2:55), Downpour (6:11), Skeleton (5:30), Flyna (2:04), One Day Seven Will Be Eight (5:27), Epique (4:34), Liqueur (6:23), H-Bomb My Friend (8:49)

Nature's Choir is Opus Symbiosis' third release, an album that is full of catchy hooks and melodies and takes a massive leap forward from their Mute EP. The album takes a well balanced approach and at times engages some rather nice and complex musical interactions, but never becomes too clever for its own good. As a band they have traversed both old and new approaches with their musical constructs playing spacious soundscapes, lilting psychedelic melodies and touches of experimental rock. The beauty of the presentation though is that the approach is more modern than "old school" which keeps it all very interesting.

This is a concept album although in all honesty it can be difficult to work out what it's all about; tigers, rain and clones? The album is split into two halves with One Day Seven will Be Eight being the breakpoint.

The production work gives the whole affair a crystal clear presentation where the instrumentation is precise and unmuted, offering strength to the constructs.

Christine Sten has a very warm, passionate and sultry tone that mesmerizes, matched by the clever, inventive, moody and intelligent approach of guitarist Victor Sågfors, avoiding the pitfall of making it a shredfest, an approach that makes Opus Symbiosis sound so good. Staffan Stromsholm, Erik Herman Lillkung and Jafet Kackur complement the team as they work their way through the nine songs on offer. Pat Mastelotto guests on drums on the track Liqueur, which I might add offers nothing more than having a named individual on the album. I say this as Lillkung is more than adept enough as a drummer to have offered up this contribution with his own bombastic and jazzy style.

The songs segue nicely into each other thematically which adds to the listening experience. There are many highlights to be found throughout starting with the opening number Breaking News which defines the sound for the album, as do the following tracks as they bolster the bands prowess. In fact, all the songs presented here have the ability to stand alone and be hits, H-Bomb My Friend being the track that bucks that trend. Being the longest track it takes various approaches throughout, never loosing either touch or sight of what has come prior to it. I love how the album ends with the exact same keyboard line that it opens with, very clever indeed offering an infinite cycle. Even when we are offered the dual vocals on One Day Seven Will Be Eight, refinement is the order of the day and, for all intents and purposes, the opening for the second half of the album. When Epique oozes from the speakers Christine's lilting melodic tones overlaid on the spellbinding guitar and piano makes your senses tingle. It is approaches like this that make the band and album sound so good.

Opus Symbiosis have got their creative approach spot on offering up this warm and atmospheric album for people to participate in. It may only be a short album per se, but there isn't anything in my mind that could be added or removed to make it any better. The future looks bright for this up and coming band.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10


From the DPRP Archives...
previous Opus Symbiosis CD Reviews:-

Mute EP
"Opus Symbiosis is a band that will more than appeal to the fans of artists such as District 97, Information Superhighway, Muse and Radiohead or to anybody who has more than a passing interest in high quality melodic prog."
(John O'Boyle, 8/10)

Rhùn - Ïh

Rhùn - Ïh
Country of Origin:France
Record Label:AltrOck
Catalogue #:ALT=034
Year of Release:2013
Samples:Click Here
Tracklist: Toz (9:25), Intermud (3:00), Dunb (8:57), Bùmlo (5:34), Mlùez (6:16), Ïh (8:18)

French zeuhl group Rhùn make their first appearance on this website with a collection that contains all of their previously recorded songs. Within Ïh, one can expect to find the band's debut EP, also titled Ïh and recorded in 2012, as well as three 'bhönus' tracks from their demos album recorded in 2008. The demos fill in the gaps left by the EP which, confusingly, does not contain the title track Ïh itself. Even more confusingly, the album packaging suggests that there are two album titles, Ïh and Fanfare du Chaos, although I am assured by drummer Captain Flapattak that the latter is simply the band's subtitle. With track titles such as Dunb, Mlùez and Bùmlo, this is hardly the most straightforward album to review.

However, buried beneath the sea of confusion and diacritics lurks the music itself, dark and ominous. This band exhibit zeuhl in its truest form, with faux-Kobaïan lyrics to match, a tribute to such fine acts as Magma and Dün (see DPRP's reviews of the latter's Eros album). Fiercely complex and defiantly inaccessible, there's much fun to be had on this album.

The Ïh EP consists of two nine-minute tour de force pieces, divided by a three-minute 'intermud' played in the style of an orchestral quartet with the Ensemble Pantagrulair. The opener, Toz is one of those 'everything including the kitchen sink' tracks, with a flurry of zany ideas and themes cropping up through the track. The fast pace keeps the audience on its toes. Just like their godfathers Magma, Rhùn have tried to write incomprehensible lyrics that are still fun to try and memorise and sing along to, although for me nothing on this album gets close to the "Üts Köhntarkösz" section of Magma's K.A I.

In fact, this is where I can appropriately expound my theory of what I like in music. After much deliberation, I've realised that, for me personally, lyrics and their meaning are not a priority. I feel that if the music isn't captivating in some way, then no amount of poetry can save it. This isn't a rule I've set for myself, but is my own observation of what I appreciate when listening to music. I began to notice that I felt this way when I realised that the meaninglessness of Jon Anderson's lyrics in the music of Yes gave no bearing on how much I enjoyed the music; it was the fact that the words complemented the music in a way that transcended meaning that made the music so enjoyable.

I feel that this complementation is what zeuhl seeks to experiment with. The words of Kobaïan are seemingly meaningless, and yet propel the music to new and higher levels. By writing in a made up language, Magma, Rhùn and others are freeing themselves from the shackles of having to associate their music, an abstract entity, with a literal meaning. The music is now free to do whatever it wants, and can still contain the power of vocals and lyrical structure. Moreover, the words of Kobaïan are captivating in their repetition, and drill themselves into the listener's brain without the aid of having any meaning. It's a thought-provoking way of writing music, that's for sure.

After Intermud, the band set off on the more straightforward, though still incredibly obtuse Dunb, which in places resembles a marching piece. There's more consistency to this piece than on Toz, which gives it a sense of momentum. Despite the momentum, the band see fit to slow their marching right down to a halt right near the end, before speeding up again directly afterwards, a technique I haven't heard in quite a while.

AltrOck suggested that Rhùn complement the EP tracks with the remaining demo tracks for a more complete listening experience. The final three tracks on this album are not quite as lengthy or brash as Toz and Dunb but are nevertheless experimental and angular. Mlùez and Ïh show a more jazzy side to the band than before, but the heavier elements are never too far away. There isn't really a weak moment on this album at all.

The band's passion and creativity cannot be denied; writing zeuhl music can't be the easiest gig! However, if I had to make a criticism, it's that the band don't add anything contemporary to the mix. I may as well just be listening to a 1970s Magma album. As quaint as it is to pretend we're still in the '70s, I must say that without any progress, the music will in some way fail to actually be 'progressive' rock. That said, this is still a strong album full of solid and interesting tunes. Rhùn is putting the bonkers back in prog.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10


Sailor Free - Spiritual Revolution

Sailor Free - Spiritual Revolution
Country of Origin:Italy
Record Label:Tide
Catalogue #:n/a
Year of Release:2012
Info:Sailor Free
Samples:Click Here
Tracklist: Spiritual Ouverture (6:11), A New World (5:46), The Run (4:15), Betray (1:59), The Curse (7:11), Daeron (4:36), Spiritual Revolution (5:28), War (3:40), The Entropia (3:56), Faithless (6:31), Beyond the Borders (5:00), Break the Cycle (3:02), My Brain (7:53), A Great Hope (3:54)

Sailor Free is an Italian quartet who has been active since 1991. A year later their debut was released, simply called Sailor Free, to be followed by The Fifth Door in 1994. Both albums were produced by David Petrosino, vocalist and keyboardist of the band together with guitarist Stefano "The Hook" Barelli, also the principal song writer. I have never heard those two albums and I also don't know why it has taken almost 20 years to release their third album. But it certainly was well worth the wait because Spiritual Revolution is a very nice album.

Sailor Free are a bit hard to categorize. On their website the references given by the music press vary from Black Sabbath through Cranberries to Level42 (all nonsense) and from Muse to Queensrÿche (very understandable). They play heavy prog dominated by guitar and keyboards with good yet sparse support from drums (Stefano Tony) and bass (Alphonso Nini). No instrumental virtuosity, no epics, no showing off but a really tight band that sometimes use flute or fiddle to express an unexpected mood in their songs. I found the vocals one of the strongest assets of this album; David Petrosino has a clear voice that expresses a sort of calmness that is a very good fit with the often heavy instruments.

The concept album tells the sci-fi story of Sebastian, a simple yet courageous man living somewhere in the South of an imaginary country, who falls in love with Eleanore, daughter of esteemed intellectuals from the North. As the two parts of that country are totally isolated from each other their love is challenged in many ways but survives in the end, at a high price. That story, inspired by Tolkien but mainly the Spiritual Revolution People movement, is explained in the beautiful booklet in which all the lyrics are printed too; a job very well done!

The songs take you through this story, starting off with the instrumental overture that is gentle and heavy, mellow and raw, quiet and energetic in just 6 minutes. The flute, played by guest musician Stefano Ribeca, dominates the coda and makes you very curious as to what more is to come. Before you realise, A New World breaks loose with quite heavy guitar riffs and brings you into a totally different mood, offering the leading musical theme for the first time. The vocals by Petrosino and Barelli are great, the chorus appealing. The song ends with a mellow piano and guitar coda, supported by striking bass and drums, ending with soft synths. Nice!

Unfortunately this good mood is fully taken away when The Spirals' Voice (Mark Hanna) introduces The Run. Just a few words, no significant meaning, annoying and unnecessary. The song first builds upon the theme of A New World but soon it takes a different turn, using some distorted guitars in a nice way. In those three songs the variety of moods that characterizes the full album is illustrated. Mostly quite heavy and guitar driven with good vocal melodies and appealing choruses with many changes in moods within and between songs. Daeron has it all within its 4 and a half minutes and is the highlight of the album. The title track ranks among the weaker songs because of its rather simple chorus.

All in all much can be said on the positive side about Spiritual Revolution. The vocals are very good and the musicians excellent, as is the overall production. The artwork is simply splendid!

On the down side there is only one issue: the introduction of some songs by means of spoken words is quite an annoying distraction from the nicely flowing and energetic music. Personally I found the story a bit too ambitious and philosophical but that is a minor detail. The band has invested a lot into the music, lyrics, production and artwork which makes up for those high ambitions.

For those who fancy heavy prog and rank Anathema, Riverside and/or Queensrÿche among their favourites, this third Sailor Free album may turn out to be the surprise you may have been looking for. To proggers who aren't afraid of some hard rocking and a metalesque riff once in a while I'd like to recommend this album. It takes a few spins to get into it but it is very well worth the try!

Check them out!

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10


BSI - Clevarity

BSI - Clevarity
Country of Origin:U.S.A.
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:n/a
Year of Release:2013
Samples:Click Here
Tracklist: Steps (For Rey) (4:57), Innocence (4:07), Crawling Back Through the Door (4:59), Pocket In My Mirror (8:07), The Hate of Christ (5:05), Zerbda (5:17), It's Breath, So Close On My Neck (7:30), The Questions Children Ask Us (4:15), Confessions Of an Alkaloid Paste (6:01), By Your Side (6:58), Pocket In My Mirror (Live) (7:25), Aire (8:52), Institute (3:13), these are not my download...Thin Smoke and Spring Air (4:27), Our 1 Million Year Journey (10:47), Ally (5:16), Weeping Golden Tears (5:25), Metabolic (5:07), The Cave (4:18)

Joining the dots (Legendary Pink Dots, obviously) between '60s psychedelia and '70s spacey Krautrock, all put through a retro-modern filter, Floridians Ryan Melanson and Jay Lewis recorded these organic and naturally evolving slices of dislocated oddness in a period spanning 1999 to 2010, along the way adding a rhythm section of Rick Horton on drums and Robert Sherber on bass around 2004 in order to forge a more substantial live sound.

Clevarity, subtitled 'A Spacerock/Audio Sculpture Journey from 1999 to 2010', opens with Steps (For Rey), and one is put in mind of what The Beach Boys might have sounded like had they been led by Syd Barrett. Veerrrrry struuunnnggg ooouuuuuttt indeed, and quite charming. Unlike the nightmarish lyric which, amongst other things informs us that "we shot the dogs that used to keep us up until the stroke of noon" in Jay's dreamy swoon of a voice; a rather clever if obvious juxtaposition.

Ryan plays guitars, bass, synths, tubular bells, e-bow, and all manner of electronica, while Jay sings, and sometimes declaims, as well as playing keyboards, synths, percussion and strumming more guitars. Both mess around with ring modulators, something you don't come across that often nowadays, and both "engineer", to no little effect.

Crawling Back Through The Door is described as "A Space Rock jam", but it has a lightness of touch backed with some very odd flanged bass that makes it atypical of a sometimes predictable and generic musical alleyway. We are told that Aire is built around the rhythm of Sons of Pioneers by Japan, and is one of the band's first recordings. There is a clue in the origins of that track as to the "space" these guys inhabit, it being of a bleak post-modern nature looking out over sparse Krautrock vistas with telescopes borrowed from the Legendary Pink Dots, rather than the traditional "space" you might associate with Øresund Space Collective, the Ozrics, and others of that ilk.

The song Pocket In My Mirror is featured twice, in both studio and live format. The former is a menacing percussion led dance through dark psychedelia, dominated by Ryan's tubular bells and Jay's monotonal and menacingly understated vocal. The live version, unusually, is slightly shorter, and as you might expect sounds more immediate and packs more of a punch, but both versions perform their tasks just as well.

The Krautrock influence is high up the agenda on Zerbda, which for something described as "a full on jam" displays a remarkable amount of structure, a motorik synth pattern overlaid with repeated bass lines and layers of out-there electronica. To think that It's Breath, So Close On My Neck is a "track written by recording 2 different patterns without hearing what the other did, then combining them" is quite remarkable, given that the combination produces an eerie Gothic space ballad that sounds effortlessly constructed.

Although the album is nearly seventy seven minutes long, such is the variety and intricacy of the sounds on offer that it never loses focus. Being as long as it is, it also has the advantage of being akin to a large bag of tasty sweets that the listener can dip into at any point and be pleasantly surprised.

By Your Side commences as if The Cure circa 1979 were coming down from a long trip, as it glides through your consciousness on a floating Viking funeral pyre drifting silently across a mist shrouded lake. My word, you don't even need drugs!

As if seventy seven minutes is not enough, the thirteen tracks listed at the top of this article being what you get for your $7, as you will see from the Bandcamp page, tracks fourteen to nineteen, a further forty minutes of music, are all free to download. If nothing else, BSI offer value for money.

While this is most certainly space rock, it is of a different kind, and for once I'll avoid using the overused Spock quote, Jim!

Conclusion: 7 out of 10


Violent Silence - A Broken Truce

Violent Silence - A Broken Truce
Country of Origin:Sweden
Record Label:Progress Records
Catalogue #:PRCD 055
Year of Release:2013
Info:Violent Silence
Samples:Click Here
Tracklist: Prism Path (11:30), Rim Of Clouds (10:05), The Kingdom Below (15:00), A Broken Truce (10:28)

This is an unexpected release given that earlier this year we reviewed the debut album, In Our Nature, by new Swedish band Hidden Lands which featured no less than four former members of Violent Silence. Any suggestions that Violent Silence have disbanded however are nixed with a brand new album under the stewardship of drummer Johan Hedman. He enlisted the services of two former colleagues Hannes Ljunghall (who co-founded Violent Silence with Hedman) and Björn Westén along with a new bassist Anders Lindskog and vocalist Martin Ahlquist. In the DPRP reviews of the two previous Violent Silence releases Kinetic (2005) and Violent Silence (2002) my colleagues were quick to point out that the line-up excluded a guitarist. With the dual keyboard frontline of Ljunghall and Westén that situation hasn't changed, and to underline the point Hedman also doubles up on keyboards.

With just four tracks listed on the back of the CD case it doesn't take a mathematical genius to work out that Violent Silence are comfortable with the longer song format. Each track (co-written by Hedman, Ljunghall and Westén) exceed the ten minute mark and are in the melodic, symphonic rock vein with the occasional nod to the usual '70s suspects with Camel (minus Andy Latimer's guitar of course) and Greenslade being fair comparators.

Hedman is responsible for the lyrics and there are lots of them. During the opening and perhaps strongest song, Prism Path, Ahlquist is prominent from the opening bars and to be truthful his high tenor voice is competent rather than commanding, sounding not unlike a cross between Colin Moulding (XTC), Steve Babb (Glass Hammer) and Curt Smith (Tears For Fears). Overall the emphasis is very much on melody with keyboards providing a tuneful backdrop and the occasional solo, creating a mood not too dissimilar to fellow Swedes Moon Safari and Brighteye Brison (who also boast two keyboardists).

Although again dominated by wall-to-wall vocals to begin with, Rim Of Clouds features some engaging instrumental exchanges during the mid-section with the two leads complemented by Lindskog's stately fretless bass and Hedman's busy but tasteful drumming with a nod in the direction of Phil Collins. The lengthy The Kingdom Below includes some of the most aggressive playing on the album (bordering on both Ayreon and ELP territory) although 'aggressive' is not a word I would use freely when describing Violent Silence. The coda with its swirling meleé of keyboards is particularly memorable. The concluding and title track, A Broken Truce, is centred around an impressive and jazzy keyboard solo which surprisingly comes from neither Ljunghall and Westén, but guest Andreas Hellkvist.

A Broken Truce is not an album that reaches out and grabs you by the throat but it does reward repeat plays. The Lindskog and Hedman rhythm partnership is a joy throughout whilst familiarity reveals subtleties and dynamics in the keyboard department. The production (by the band themselves) could perhaps be more forceful but overall this is a very good release indeed.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10


From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Violent Silence CD Reviews:-

Violent Silence
" interesting debut album that effectively by-passes the potential drawback of only having one lead instrument. Further development of their sound and continuing to integrate poly-rhythmic elements into their music is likely to yield further interesting results."
(Mark Hughes, 7/10)
"...can a band playing rock without any guitar be a kind of a rising star in the Swedish (and not only) prog scene?
Hell, YES!"
(Christos Ampatzis, 8/10)

Rick Miller - Immortal Remains

Rick Miller - Immortal Remains
Country of Origin:Canada
Record Label:MALS Ltd
Catalogue #:n/a
Year of Release:2013
Info:Rick Miller
Samples:Click Here
Tracklist: Rats in My Darkness (3:00), Ode to an Angel (9:20), Like a Drug (5:12), The Hands of Time (10:19), The Oasis (2:45), Sanctity (4:53), Providence (5:23), My Atom Heart (2:21)

Canadian multi-instrumentalist, composer, and vocalist Rick Miller's 2012 release, Dark Dreams, was favorably reviewed by my DPRP colleague, who described the overall impression of that album as presenting "darker themes set against an atmospheric background" and who likened the style to that found on the solo releases of Pink Floyd's David Gilmour. These characterizations are equally apt for Miller's fine 2013 CD, Immortal Remains. Indeed, Miller himself has described the CD as, like Dark Dreams, progressive rock in the vein of Genesis, The Moody Blues and Pink Floyd but also as "rather angry and even darker than [his] previous" releases.

On Immortal Remains, Miller, a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, was aided by a cadre of artists including a drummer, flutist, cellist, guitarist, and a violinist/guitarist. Miller composed all of the tracks and self-produced the album.

As noted, the music is atmospheric and heady. Of the groups mentioned above, the influence of Pink Floyd is most apparent; the music of Phideaux Xavier also quickly comes to mind, particularly with respect to the vocals and overarching tone. Somehow the sound is always full, even if little is being projected. The songs sequence smoothly, and it's often hard to notice the track changes. The homogeneity may be the result of non-creativity or, instead, an intentional effort to maintain a undivided flow. In any event, there is a certain monotony to the CD (although the Middle-Eastern tinge to The Oasis is a welcome diversion). You'll know right away whether this is your cup of tea.

Most of the tunes are highlighted by Miller's slowly sung, mellow vocals. The vocals, particularly the almost-spoken-word, hushed segments, are a bit eerie, and, as Miller noted, the tone is surely dark. There's usually a sense that something depressing, or even evil, is present or imminent, although on rare occasions, such as on the well-written Providence, the tone can seem soothing.

Usually mellow and sometimes crying guitar licks punctuate the music. Miller's guitar playing does sound awfully like David Gilmour's (although a bit rougher), and in my book that's not a bad thing. Although not upbeat, the guitar solos often shed a refreshing dose of light into the gloomy atmosphere. The soaring guitar in Sanctity is particularly sharp. Also occasionally uplifting the spirit is some excellent flute playing.

Despite its sombre mood, the CD is quite worthy. Indeed, life is not all candy, roses, and Moon Safari: a measured dose of dreariness can be acceptable if offset with sufficient pleasantries. In the end, I surprised myself by enjoying this CD more and more with each listen.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10


From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Rick Miller CD Reviews:-

"The overall sound has that magical touch that draws your attention. The female chanting vocals, the ambient passages and the beautiful melodies make this a very nice album."
(Edwin Roosjen, 7.5/10)
The End of Days
"The gloomy title neatly covers the overall atmosphere of this album. This is not the kind of music to play quietly in the won't exactly lift your spirits. It kind of loses impact in this way. But if you listen to it carefully with the headphones the album shows an undeniable splendour."
(Louis Koot, 7/10)
Angel of My Soul
"There is no doubt that this is a thoughtful and supremely constructed album that scores high marks on virtually every level...The burning melancholy that pervades the album is probably best appreciated through headphones with a glass of your favourite tipple to hand."
(Geoff Feakes, 7+/10)
Falling Through Rainbows
"...the music is very mellow and throughout the whole album the style does not change, with the opening song summing up the style of the whole album - mellow music with a great deal of lengthy Pink Floyd like solos."
(Edwin Roosjen, 6.5/10)
"...his music has that something you connect with, that heart, and that makes all the difference."
(Jeffrey Terwilliger, 8/10)
In the Shadows
"It feels like he is repeating himself and his music is slowly and gradually becoming less interesting."
(Edwin Roosjen, 6/10)
Dark Dreams
"The more you listen to this disc the more you will get out of it...Recommended for those who like Dave Gilmour or a more laid back style of album and certainly worthy of your time and investigation."
(John Wenlock-Smith, 7/10)

Ysma - Vagrant

Ysma - Vagrant
Country of Origin:Germany
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:n/a
Year of Release:2013
Samples:Click Here
Tracklist: Inchoate (Intro) (1:15), The Wanderer (5:12), Remember Jenny Samkis (5:12), Auditory Cheesecake (4:13), Penumbra (6:45), Urville Citizen (6:46), Flatland (4:09), Moth (4:57), Primetime Dreaming (2:47), Clean (4:39), Alan Smithee's Suicide Note (9:39), Kindermensch (5:21)

Ysma is a young instrumental band from Munster, Germany, and Vagrant is their first album.

Centered around the guitars of Daniel Kluger and Fabian Schroer, the music covers styles ranging from prog-metal rifferama, through hard rock, to introspective acoustic interludes, driven along by the rhythms of bassist Torge Dellert and drummer Jens Milo who also plays a trumpet on Auditory Cheesecake, that added to its promisingly strange initial structure makes it the most interesting track on the record.

Some interesting rhythm changes and intricate interplay feature on the likes of Urville Citizen, but what this album really needs is a bit more light and shade and musical diversity, as the production, while clear, is a bit undynamic. Perhaps they should try their hand at lyric writing and employ a singer?

Flatland is probably the finest example of their hard rocking style, and it goes through enough changes to keep things interesting, including a fine charge up and down the fretboard by one of the plank spankers. I quite like Moth, with its circular pattern and quieter atmospherics, wrought asunder by the introduction of a monster prog-metal riff.

The longest track here, Alan Smithee's Suicide Note, starts off quietly contemplative, picked notes and harmonics slowly building the atmosphere. Well, Alan's suicide was no rushed affair, that's for sure. Inevitably there's a riff coming, and here it is, a sub-Sabbath chuggathon that lumbers along without any real menace, another victim of the flat production. Halfway in it seems Alan is having a change of heart, as the returning contemplation might indicate. A thoughtful guitar break takes the song through the next passage, and although this is pleasant enough rock music, it might just as well have been illuminating a shopping list as a suicide note.

Without vocals and with very few radical musical moves the album is over long at an hour, and there is nothing here quite memorable enough to make one want to hit "repeat". The band need to get out of their comfortable niche, perhaps the result of living in the only large country in the EC seemingly unaffected by the economic blight the rest of us have to put up with? Do they even have vagrants in Germany? What I mean is, there is no "edge" to this record, and it all sounds a bit tame.

Conclusion: 5 out of 10


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Published 24th August 2013