Fanger & Schonwalder featuring Lutz Graf-Ulbrich - Analog Overdose 5
Ringbahn (7:42), Schonenburg (5:00), Geisterbahnhof (11:40), Wannsee (5:09), West-Tangente (8:09), Zentralflughafen (5:45), Wintergarten (5:13), Funkturm (5:59), Frankfurter Allee (22:36)
The nine tracks on this album are pure contemporary Krautrock, pushing into directions and dimensions previously explored by bands such as Tangerine Dream or Kraftwerk. However Fanger & Schönwälder go much further than either of those bands. With the guitar of Graf-Ulbrich adding an extra dimension, this is a mighty performance.
From the opening Ringbahn, which builds and builds, to the moody Gesiterbanhof, with its synthesiser sounds, and the driving pulsating beat reminiscent of early Jean-Michel Jarre, this is a joy to listen to. This album flows like all the best ambient electronic Krautrock albums should. With the wonderful understated cover work and the music it contains working so well together. A highlight of this intellectually produced, well performed and composed album, is the eight minutes-plus work of West-tangente, The fluid and ethereal guitar of Graf-Ulbrich complements the ambient electronic soundscapes that Fanger & Schönwälder pull together so naturally. There is a deftness of touch and a finesse to their work.
The closing finale to this extraordinary album is the epic Frankfurter Allee, a soundscape that was recorded and filmed driving round Berlin in a car. The electronic ambience evokes the moods of a journey, and again is reminiscent of electronic pioneers like Jarre or Vangelis, and of the work that Tangerine Dream was doing on Virgin in the late 1970s. This is all pulled together with contemporary stylings and sensibilities. Fanger & Schönwälder are no mere copyists, they are the latest in a long line of original German musical pioneers, and the interplay between them and Lutz Graf-Ulbrich is a joy to listen to.
This is a masterclass in contemporary electronic Krautrock, and deserves to be played on headphones so you can appreciate every subtle nuance and mood of this mighty album.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Fanger & Schonwalder featuring Cosmic Hoffmann - Earshot
Cosmic (pre-earshot mix) (10:32), Earshot Part One (11:12), Earshot Part Two (6:33), Earshot Part Three (8:20), Mopho Me Babe (post Earshot mix) (9:33)
A legend on the German music scene, Klaus Cosmic Hoffmann's guitar and electronic work is well known to all fans of German electronic music, and here, joined with two of its finest contemporary performers, the mix of new and old blood is sublime.
The opener Cosmic features some wonderfully psychedelic and intense guitar from Hoffmann, pulling in riff after riff as the soundscapes, created by Fanger & Schönwälder ebb and flow and build to a crescendo. Their power builds as the track builds, the momentum is like the tide rolling in, and the way that all three work together is fantastic, bouncing off each other and harking back to the days when Tangerine Dream was a real improvisational trio.
In fact the whole collection here is reminiscent of the mid 70s; hommage to the perceived halcyon days of Krautrock. The three-part title track invokes memories of that era, filtered through contemporary performances, and the unparalleled skills of Fanger & Schönwälder and the undoubted talent of Hoffmann.
The guitar and the synth sounds work so well, complementing each other as the track weaves its way into your brain with some fantastic bass lines, some wonderfully spacey mellotron and a driving beat to Part 2.
The instruction to dance on Part 3 is also wonderfully produced, as the beat turns into a fine example of ambient, electro chilled-out dance music. It retains the link to the first two parts, whilst the closing studio track has some fantastic bass work, wonderfully evocative keyboard pieces and more sublime guitar work from Hoffmann.
Listening to this on the headphones is a great way to enjoy this album and get lost in the music.
Fanger & Schönwälder are at the top of their game at the moment, and the way they work intuitively and expressively is a joy to listen to. Their collaboration with Cosmic Hofmann is one that brings out the best in all parties and has resulted in a fantastic record to listen to.
Conclusion: 10 out of 10
Fanger & Schonwalder - Analog Overdose: The Road Movie
Eindhoven (25:45), Liphook (12:15), Los Angeles (14:45), Frankfurt (10:27), Berlin (50:58)
Whilst the music is uniformly superb, the idea of watching a DVD of two guys sat at keyboards obviously isn't the most stimulating. So as part of the intense and eclectic performances there are plenty of visuals, footage of the individual cities, as well as specially created cinematic backdrops that merge with the music to create a multimedia whole.
That is what Fanger & Schönwälder are putting across here in their live performances. Unlike a traditional rock show, it isn't just about the band; here the music is naturally central stage. The composers and performers are almost anonymous engineers, creating these euphoric, grandiose, widescreen soundscapes designed to fill the rooms. With the visual accompaniments as well, it's as if every night they are creating a new soundtrack to a different film.
On the Frankfurt section the pair is joined by occasional collaborator Klaus Cosmic Hoffmann on the mellotron, which enhances their already impressive sound. The finale of the road movie is Berlin, where an epic soundscape, mixed with superb visual accompaniments, pulls together as a coherent, ambient audio-visual spectacle.
That's what this film is about, it's as much about the imagery as the excellent music on show, and that is the next best thing to actually seeing these guys live.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Latte e Miele - Passio Secundum Mattheum: The Complete Work
Introduzione (3:11), Il Giorno degli Azzimi (1:03), Ultima Cena (2:56), Il Pane e il Sangue dell'Alleanza (3:54), Getzemani (5:26), I Falsi Testimoni (2:41), Il Pianto (1:51), Il Rinnegamento di Pietro (2:46), Il Prezzo del Sangue (3:41),Giuda (1:05), Il Re del Giudei (1:54), Barabba (1:00), Toccata per Organo (2:29), Il Calvario (3:40), Aria della Croce (2:37), La Spartizione della Tunica (2:48), Dall'Ora Sesta all'Ora Nona (1:03), Il Velo del Tempio (2:17), Come un Ruscello Che... (3:53)
The band reformed in order to re-record its 1972 debut album Passio Secundum Mattheum. The band has expanded the original work with additional material, presumably with pieces that would not fit on two sides of vinyl. I have not heard the original recording, nor have I heard of this band before but I'm pretty sure, on the strength of this release, I will be investigating more of their back catalogue.
Passio Secundum Mattheum: The Complete Work is a classical music influenced work, taking its concept and inspiration from J.S Bach's St Matthew's Passion, though without copying Bach's style. Latte e Mielle has a sound that is full-on, classic 1970s progressive rock, and on the strength of this the band is equal to the likes of, Premiata Forneria Marconi, Le Orme, and Banco del Mutuo Soccorso.
This re-recording also features the Gnu Quartet on strings and the choir Classe Mista. It features multiple storytellers in the form of the evangelists. The different vocal timbres add drama to the story of Christ's crucifixion. The music throughout this work has a direct energy and warmth, with fine interplay between keyboards, guitar and the guest musicians and voices. The work is sung entirely in Italian.
It fades in with a string introduction, which uses middle-eastern tonalities to set the scene and capture the ear. The album then takes you on a more-or-less, seamless journey to its conclusion. Though the tracks are relatively short, they are packed with melody and interest. They flow well from one to the next, avoiding any interruption to the story telling.
There are a couple of places where I am distracted from the drama of the story. The first are the brief, jazzy phrases of Guida, which seem completely out of place. The second is the church organ instrumental, Toccata per Organo, which acts as an interlude, but I could have done without it. These are, however, very minor irritations.
The songs themselves are introduced by different evangelists, whose short, spoken-word sections push the drama onwards, as well as giving character to each track in a singular way. The drama is then fleshed-out by superb vocal performances and the clever use of strings along with the choir. It also integrates, seemingly effortlessly, with the playing of the band.
There are occasional dips into dark musical-theatre territory (Il Rinnegamento di Pietro), but on the whole the drama is played out in an emotionally engaging way. Highlights for me include the Michael Nyman-esque slow march of Ill Clavario, with its insistent strings and ethereal choir; the beautifully sung Getzemani, that also has a Bach-like harpsichord solo, and Ill Pianto, where a high tenor voice, full of sorrow, floats over a lovely orchestral arrangement.
This is an ambitious work telling the Gospel story. If one was to be ultra-critical, you could argue that the song structures are a little programmatic and predictable. But this is overcome by Latte e Miele's passion and commitment. The sound is rich and detailed, allowing the narrative to flow all the way from the low-key introduction to the major key finale. I think this is a terrific polishing of a hidden (from me, at least) gem, and it deserves to be appreciated in its lustrous glory.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Morta - Morta
Quandary (6:11), Joan (3:36), Lights (6:06), Rampart (4:04), Duck (4:51), Five Cents (7:00), High (3:45), Under the Table (5:49)
This is modern, sometimes quirky, jazz, utilising both acoustic and electric instruments, that mixes the traditional with some odd beats and electronics. The entirely instrumental CD emphasises subtlety, interaction, and atmosphere over individual virtuosity. Although the tunes are eclectic and thus the band as a whole is hard to pigeonhole, musical references might include Sound Tribe Sector 9 or on some occasions, *Weather Report" or even the jazzier side of old-school Canterbury music.
A few songs, particularly the ballads, favorably stand out. Five Cents features a blend of delicate piano and forceful saxophone. Another slower-tempo tune, High, is sensitive and brooding but also builds to a rousing crescendo. A different type of tune, Under the Table, not only features a fuzzy bass and a fresh electric piano solo but elsewhere finds a fine groove.
On the downside, parts of the edgier tunes, such as Lights and Duck, can be jarring, and the band's partial foray into funk, Quandary, lacks an identity and is likewise something of a miss.
In the end, the music here does not fit well under the umbrella of progressive rock but will likely appeal to open-minded jazz fans. The band is tight, the playing is sharp and confident, and there's enough variety to hold the listener's interest.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Sanguine Hum - Live in America
The Trial (5:29), Cat Factory (3:36), The Ladder (3:40), Before We Bow Down (4:27), Earthsong (6:32), Son Of Cheese (5:17), Nothing Between Us (5:51), Derision (6:12), Double Egg (4:13), Son Of Bassoon (2:59), Diving Bell (5:20), Coast Of Nebraska (6:34)
The original DPRP review of this live album sums up the release perfectly, but I would add that the performance is assured and the set blends material from Diving Bell with material originally released by the original band incarnation that went under the name of Antique Seeking Nuns. Indeed, there is a continuity in styles between the two groups, albeit the Nuns' sound having a greater resemblance to the Canterbury sound, with a definite nod to Hatfield And The North.
For this reason it is worth checking out this album and then investigating the three Nuns EPs which are still available from the group's Bandcamp page. Don't be put off by the somewhat daft titles, the three EPs are a great addition for anyone who is a fan of the two Sanguine Hum albums.
So what does this new release offer? Well obviously a physical copy of the live album is great for luddites like me who much prefer a tangible physical release to an ephemeral digital file. Then there is the very nice physical packaging, the cache of it being a numbered, limited release and, of course a DVD of the concert.
The film is pretty much a nice-to-have extra being a true rendition of the performance at the lovely Majestic Theatre (whoops, Theater!) with multiple cameras nicely edited together. Indeed, one would never know that Son Of Bassoon was an unplanned performance added on the spur of the moment by keyboardist Matt Baber when guitarist Joff Winks broke a string. Extras on the DVD include a lengthy radio interview taped the morning after the show in which the band go through their history and mention that they already have four albums worth of material written and demo'd. Plus we have bedroom rehearsals (literally unplugged) of the unperformed Joff Winks Band song Milo with Winks and drummer Andrew Booker, and The Trial with Winks and bassist Brad Waissman.
All in all this is a nice collection and package and one that fits very nicely alongside the two studio albums. With a backlog of music already written, one hopes that the release of a new studio release will not be too far away.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Trio, El - Los Manos
Desconnectar, Tanto Amor, Buenas Noches, Ojo Artificial, Cancion Sin Nombre, Canterbule Part 3, Reir Par No Llorar, No Somo Indio, Uanabi, Fuentes.
To call this a 'prog' album, as most would know the term, would be misleading. It is progressive in its unique blending of native Latin grooves, jazz interplay and more western rock influences. The band states its main influences as King Crimson, Living Colour and Luis Alberto Spinetta. All the songs are delivered in their native tongue.
Some songs will have appeal to progressive music fans who enjoy a cross cultural blend. Cancion Sin Nombre is a pretty straight slab of Latin Jazz fusion, Canterbule III is probably the most obviously jazzy prog number, whilst the opener, Desconnectar is a great, catchy piece of Latin Rock fusion.
Other songs such as the pure Latin jazz pop of Buenas Noches and Fuentes, the doom metal-punk-fusion of Uanabi or the salsa guitar rock of Reir par no Llorar, will require openness to a pretty broad musical church. Where used, the riffs are generally taken from the bluesy, classic rock mould (Ojo Artificial, No Somo Indio and Tanto Amor). Throughout there is a clear passion in the playing, a careful crafting behind the songwriting and a lot of skill in the delivery.
The sheer range of influences and styles on Las Manos does make it a very interesting album for those who seek diversity across an album. If you do decide to take a plunge into the El Trio waters, then I can guarantee you will have very few albums like this in your collection. Enjoyable.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Ut Gret - Ancestors' Tale
Ancestors' Tale (5:24), The Departure (0:58), Hopperknockity Tune (4:01), Selves Unmade (5:56), The Raw, the Cooked and the Overeasy (5:27), An Elephant in Berlin (8:29), Dinosaur on the Floor (3:51), The Grotesque Pageantry of Fading Empires (9:17), Zodiac (7:17), Walk the Plank (7:37)
Ut Gret is a self-confessed 'pan-idiomatic musical ensemble' from Louisville, Kentucky. They are led by multi-instrumentalist Joee Conroy, who joined forces with French TV leader Steve Roberts in 1996. They employ a mélange of wind and stringed instruments including bouzouki, sitar, marimba, mandolin, bassoon, flute and bass clarinet in addition to more standard rock instruments and electronics. Roberts' mellotron features heavily throughout, as do the wonderfully evocative vocals from Cheyenne Mize.
With hands and feet firmly in the Rock in Opposition movement, the three albums to come previously from the Ut Gret studio have been described as avant-prog, retro prog, world music, folk and jazz.
This is not immediately accessible music. You have to sit down and work through it several times. To help you, the collective does tend to stay within a certain stylistic framework or groove on each individual composition. As a result, despite its many diverse layers, Ancestors' Tale is a remarkably coherent and listenable record. It is afresh and full of appealing soundscapes and packed with some great playing and singing.
I've added a half point for adding the background story to each song in the sleeve notes. I especially liked the story around Siam, the elephant who survived the bombing of Berlin! Such notes are such a small thing, but add so much to my understanding and enjoyment of an album. I really don't know why more bands don't do it.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Winter in Eden - Court of Conscience
Knife Edge (4:41), With Intent (4:14), Critical Mass Part1 - Burdened (6:10), Toxicate (4:09), Order Of Your Faith (4:04), It's Not Enough (4:36), Before It Began (4:55), The Script (5:24), Constant Tomorrows (3:36), Behind Closed Doors (3:49), Affliction (4:09)
This band returns with its third production called Court Of Conscience, produced by Within Temptation's Rudd Jolie and mixed by that band's Stephan Helleblad. Indeed singer Vicky Johnson has a similar sound to Sharon den Adel's and for that matter so does the band. The other comparison could be with latter day Nightwish. They all dabble with orchestral keyboard sounds, powerful drumming and riffing, and are fronted by a female singer. Due to the "tag", to me there is a touch of Royal Hunt in here too.
To that end, even though they are British, they immediately have (to me) a European sound and very little gives away their UK roots.
Opening track Knife Edge totally sums up this genre with breathy, up-front vocals, crunchy guitar riffs and metal drumming, all packaged with a catchy chorus. It's a sort of slightly heavier AOR, very well played and pleasing to the ear.
With Intent gives us a mini moog(ish) solo and therefore polishes it with a prog veneer and the album continues in roughly the same vane.
There are hints of Borodin and other Russian classical influences throughout and on The Script there is a violin solo that further cements this band's Eastern European feel. The longest track, at 6:10 is Critical Mass Part 1 - Burdened and is the one song with the most light and shade, having some lovely acoustic and upper bass interplay in the slower sections. This all codas out like the last movement of a Tchaikovsky battle scene.
So definitely one for all fans of the aforementioned bands and not necessarily for anyone seeking an English group. Big, epic pop rock with blizzards of enthusiasm and avalanche playing. Throw another log on the fire, this could well be the soundtrack to the impending cold season.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10