Album Reviews

Issue 2015-001

Accolade - Legends

Accolade - Legends
Country of Origin: USA
Format: LP/download
Record Label: CD Baby
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2013
Time: 42:32
Info: Accolade
Samples: Accolade website
Track List:
Gelfling Song (1:58), Elf King (5:22), Hymn To The Moon Goddess (2:24), The Journey (11:54), The Lady Of Shalott (20:54)
Although I own a large LP collection, it is shamefully ignored these days, with CDs providing the mainstay of my listening habits. It's therefore a rare treat when a new vinyl release comes along that gives me an excuse to crank up the turntable and watch the stylus glide over the black, glossy surface as the music pours out of the speakers.

Legends is a limited edition vinyl release by San Francisco based Accolade and follows their debut album Festivalia which appeared on CD in 2012. Taking ancient myths and legends as its source (it's a prog album after all), Legends was inspired by the band's visit to the historic Chalice Well in Glastonbury, England.

Formed in 2006, classically-trained singer Stefanie Reneé and multi-instrumentalist Aaron Goldstein are the nucleus of Accolade, ably supported by drummer and percussionist Cade Burkhammer who joined in 2012.

In the grand tradition of prog LPs, Legends includes a side-long epic, preceded by four shorter songs that makeup the 'A' side. The album opens with a creditable version of the haunting Gelfling Song from Trevor Jones' soundtrack for the 1982 fantasy film The Dark Crystal. Stefanie's heavenly soprano and the sounds of running water are underscored by Cade's tribal rhythms.

More strident, but equally hypnotic, Elf King has a medieval flavour thanks to Aaron's harmonium-like keyboards, Stefanie's recorder and the stirring sounds of trumpet and flugelhorn from guest Mark Grisez.

The words and music for Hymn To The Moon Goddess are credited to Anon, a new name to me (unless you count the pre-Genesis Charterhouse School band that is). Mandolin and (sampled) zither add a European-folk ambiance, and although the lyrics are all but indiscernible, Stefanie's soaring chant is effective nonetheless.

The 12-minute The Journey features acoustic guitar, floating evocatively between the speakers, before Aaron's muscular guitar and bass riff and Cade's busy drumming propels the song forward with a sense of urgency, recalling Fleetwood Mac's Formula One anthem The Chain. This is probably my favourite track on the 'A' side, with Stefanie's singing at its purest.

On the 'B' side, the 21-minute The Lady Of Shalott features the famous 19th century poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson set to music composed by Accolade. Divided into four parts, the band provides a perfect musical setting where each part has its own distinct instrumental signature. Part the First leads with the rippling sounds of (sampled) harpsichord and Stefanie delivers Tennyson's prose to beautiful effect.

Piano and acoustic guitar take over for Part the Second, with electric guitar joining in for the soaring final verse. Prominent bass, supported by organ and trumpet, reaches a triumphant peak during Part the Third whilst Part the Fourth is rockier, with drums adding a more contemporary edge. Mandolin leads Stefanie's vocal on a merry dance before guitar, harpsichord and trumpet conclude on an optimistic note.

Setting Tennyson's elaborate prose to music is an unenviable task but Accolade has pulled it off in style. In fact, so steeped in olde-worlde Englishness is their sound, it's difficult to believe that they originate from sunny California. The music has an organic quality that's quite unique in progressive rock (perhaps prog-folk would be closer to the mark) although I was at times reminded of Gryphon and Annie Haslam's work with Renaissance. It's rather appropriate then, that they dedicated this album to Renaissance guitarist Michael Dunford who sadly passed away in November 2012.

If this review has spiked your interest and you don't own a vinyl record player, the good news is that Legends is also available as a digital download. The band also has a five-song EP recently released on CD entitled Catharsis Of Rhetorik, a collaboration with composer and keyboardist Sean Henry.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10

Ainulindalë - Nevrast

Ainulindalë - Nevrast
Country of Origin: France
Format: CD + DVD
Record Label: independent
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 40:03
Info: Ainulindalë
Samples: Ainulindalë on LastFM
Track List:
Hither Land (1:41), The Parting (5:39), By the Shore (6:19), Namarië (5:26), Vinyamar (2:58), Under May's Moon (4:11), Nevrast (9:47), Distant Land (4:00)
Ainulindalë, which means Music of Ainur as described in Tolkien's Silmarillion, is an eight-piece folk band from France led by composer, guitarist and percussionist Thomas Reybard (also known as Engwar).

He is also the principal singer. His singing is a bit restrained and therefore the vocals are quite sombre and without much expression in it. In some songs like The Parting and Namarië he is joined by vocalist Alice Jean which gives those songs a lighter atmosphere.

The other players are Brice Hartmann (fretless bass), Bastien Langlois (trombone), Cyrille Javanaud (flute), Francois Paul (snare and cymbals) and Eden Mastro and Christian Mariotti on timpani.

Given the fact that this is a large band, you might expect quite some volume on their new album, but the opposite is true. Nevrast offers acoustic folk, with the acoustic guitar and the violins of guest musicians Caroline Aviebel and Irene Dupont as the leading instruments. However even though they play folk music, it is far from being a cheerful album. Actually, if you're mentally instable or on the depressive side of the mental health spectrum, then keep away of this album, for it is sombre and brooding, sometimes tending towards Gregorian music, sometimes to Breton folk and sometimes to a very melancholic Anthony Phillips. But it really is beautiful!

The album opens with the instrumental Hither Land that sets the mood immediately with acoustic guitar, cello and violin. The Parting is a waltz around the acoustic guitar with again a leading role for the violin and cello as well as great interplay between flute and cello.

In By The Shore the trombone plays a very tasteful solo with a full choir in the background, after which the flute takes over again. Namarië opens with a very sad-sounding cello and soft acoustic guitar, but the clear voice of Alice Jean takes this song a bit higher on the mood scale. Halfway through it changes into a sort of march, with the choir singing and the trombone playing over some rhythmically-sounding drums. But soon the main melody returns, played by violins and flute, after which the song ends in a sad mood. Vinyamar features acoustic guitar and some wordless choir singing.

Under May's Moon has a slighter higher tempo and seems to develop into a cheerful song but then the cello and the flute come in and the overall melancholy sets in again; very tasteful though.

The title track is a waltz-like lament with vocal duties done by Reybard and Jean alternatively. It tells a story of how men treat the land around them, turning it into ruins instead of cherishing its natural beauty. The song has some parts that made me think of Magna Carta's Seasons from way back in the 70s. The end of this epic is too sudden.

Distant Land is an instrumental with nice acoustic guitar, flute and trombone fading out with some timpani in the distance. Nevrast comes in a beautiful card box sleeve with a nice, naïve landscape on the cover. The set contains the CD and a DVD with a 5.1 surround mix, on which the images from the richly-decorated booklet accompany the songs. The only downside of the booklet is the hardly-readable font; for the rest it shows the love and devotion that the band has put into making this album.

Information on a record company is nowhere to be found, so I expect that this set was released by the band on their own. Thankfully it reached dprp; this is one of the most beautiful, yet also one of the most sombre, almost depressive albums of the year. I liked it a lot though. It's too bad they will almost certainly not reach a large audience, for this melancholic, tranquil music deserves to be heard by many.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10

Hand - Kintsugi

Hand - Kintsugi
Country of Origin: UK
Format: cd
Record Label: Brutal Elite Records
Catalogue #: BER007CD
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 49:36
Info: Hand
Track List:
Level 1 (5:02), Windlestraw (6:11), Anthem (Ode to the Giddy) (4:35), Volcanic Panic (5:22), Nebula (5:28), Amazing Burn (5:17), Hide You (5:29), Through the Big Door, Up the Stairs and Out (8:09), Words to that Effect (4:03)
The musical equivalent of energy drink stems from Surrey in the UK and gives you that kick you wish for at the start of a new week. The quartet wastes no time, as Level 1 comes storming out of the gates and renders breathing space when Kate Ward starts singing. With a voice that might be considered quite the opposite of the band's music, she might draw equal numbers of those who love her voice and those who find it failing.

Kate has a distinctive voice and it is her way of singing that, to these ears, is the ideal contrast to the music which is often trying to break speed limits. It is not that the band are just out there flexing their muscles, not at all. Yet, when they rock, they do so with fervour. Apart from the singing, Kat is the bass player – something she does with great skill. Windlestraw shows just that, as Kieren Johnstone provides us with a riff not unlike Alterbridge would.

Kintssugi is all about the different emotions that might be lived through in relationships and the band has certainly made music which knows how to capture a deep variety of emotions. There are parts that are as heavy as thrash metal bands such as Megadeth. On the other hand, we get funky influences, such as in Anthem (Ode to the Giddy) where Kieren channels a Rush-meets-Red Hot Chili Peppers feeling. Just as easily, keyboard man Tom Johnstone adds different sounds to the palette in order to keep the musical landscape from getting too single-minded. Variety is the Hand trademark.

As funky as Nebula starts, and as mellow and easygoing as Amazing Burn is, whilst Hide You has a bit of the feel of the opening tracks on the album. Kieren provides the muscle together with Kat on bass and Dan Thomas who pounds the skins of his drums, yet who also has the feel and the groove to bring the swing to the amazing Through the Big Door, Up the Stairs and Out.

Tom Johnstone, amidst all the energy, sees to the addition of sounds that make for a diversity within the songs. That is exactly what happens in Through the Big Door .... If you like your prog with adventure, if you dare to have yourself challenged by a vocalist who might not be your cup of tea but who really adds to the music, and if you are in for some prog rockin' riffery, the likes of which might suit Dream Theater or fans of the heavier songs by Rush, then here is a new name, ehm, well, at hand.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

Heylel - Nebulae

Heylel - Nebulae
Country of Origin: Portugal
Format: cd
Record Label: independent
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 47:00
Info: Heylel
Track List:
Hope (1:50), The Prophet (4:18), Watcher of the Light (4:30), Alter Ego (3:56), The Sage (4:38), Deeper (4:29), Wings of Eternity (4:05), I Talk to the Wind (6:30), The Great Abstinence (5:39), Sometimes (3:56), Embrace the Darkness (3:37)
Portugal, land of panoramic views, land of poetry, land rich in history, land of great literature, land of explorers, land of tradition, land of port wine, land of music from the heart and the soul and ever so rich in saudade. Saudade is an ever present feeling of longing that is always there. It translates very well into the fado music that is sung throughout Portugal. Though not everyone loves fado, the deeper emotions, lyrical contents and the longing that finds its way out through fado, are a key part of the soul of the country. Portugal may not have made too many waves internationally through its pop and rock culture, yet that doesn't mean Portugal goes without. Internationally, the focus might have turned to fado singers such as Cristina Branco, Ana Moura, Mariza, Dulce Pontes and Misia, who are all, in a way, inspired by the legendary Amàlia Rodrigues.

There are also bands that are known outside Portugal. DPRP readers might be familiar with gothic doom rockers Moonspell as their haunting and atmospheric music could fit in well with the more metal-oriented part of our readership. Equally as atmospheric and steeped deeper in the saudade feeling, is Madredeus, a band from the capital that combines the traditional acoustic guitar sound with an angelic female voice and great use of keyboards.

So, where does all that leave us with Heylel? It might seem a little far fetched, yet, from the general feeling of the music, from the vocal lines that Ana Batista sings in tracks like The Prophet or Watcher of the Light, and from the way (part of) the lyrics reflect an inner longing or even sadness, the music of Heylel might have just as much Portuguese heart and soul as transpires in other, more traditional music.

That is not saying that Heylel plays fado, for they surely do not. It is to say that they put more in their music than you might consider when first listening to this album.

For sure, the album shows its prog and gothic influences, yet it is the way that Narciso Monteiro adds acoustic parts to the music and in the way that Ana sings, that makes this not just a gothic rock album. Too many of those have had singers reaching for illustrious heights with their voices, plus bombastic and operatic parts for the fun of having bombastic and operatic parts, in order to create effect. Heylel manages to steer clear from going over the top. Instead, they strive to seek dreamier parts where Ana's voice adds greatly to the songs. Yes, Watcher of the Light uses an operatic addition as well, but it is just there for a moment. The greater part of the song concentrates on the vocals and on the music that contrasts nicely with the singing.

Ana Batatista may be the focal point of Heylel, but to say that the music is but a backdrop to her voice, is not doing Heylel any justice. The way Alter Ego unfolds for example, does far more than just turn the spotlight on Ana. It is the feeling that the whole song carries, which makes it special. The balance that Heylel put in their music, is not about having the musicians portraying their undoubtedly great skills (if you take a good listen to the album, you'll get convinced of that anyway) but rather to take us on a journey through life by putting forth emotions experienced throughout the cycle of life. That, to these ears, is what surely happens in this album.

Even though Anathema might have more emphasis on the instrumental part, there are similarities in the way emotion is put to the fore here.

Heylel have added two cover versions of songs; Emerson, Lake and Palmer's The Sage and King Crimson's I Talk To the Wind. They are done with virtuosity and it is clear from tracks like Deeper and Wings of Eternity that Heylel know and cherish their roots.

Wings of Eternity might be a pleasant surprise for those who love their portion of
Blackmore's Night*. If only the Man in Black would offer us a solo like that of Narciso at the end of the track. So, that is where a different sense of saudade might set in. Yet it is not the longing for new material by the dark minstrel that remains, not at all. It is the feeling that Nebulae_ creates. Mind you, this is but a debut album. If Heylel develops along the lines of this album, their future might be very bright. I for one look forward to that.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

Khun Narin - Khun Narin's Electric Phin Band

Khun Narin - Khun Narin's Electric Phin Band
Country of Origin: Thailand
Format: CD, download
Record Label: Innovative Leisure
Catalogue #: IL 2021
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 40:23
Info: Khun Narin
Samples: Khun Narin on Bandcamp
Track List:
Lam Phu Thai (11:41), Lai Sing (4:38), Sut Sanaen # 2 (4:36), Show Wong Khun Narin (19:28)
Khun Narin, are a psychedelic (to western ears) collective from Thailand, who became known through a Youtube video. In it, a group of Thai musicians were filmed parading through a remote village, with a homemade sound system, playing electrified folk instruments. Six months after that first encounter with Khun Narin's Electric Phin Band, a Los Angeles music producer named Josh Marcy used Facebook to contact the band and arranged to record them. He recorded them live at a Buddhist temple and this recording is the edited result.

Khun Narin's line-up on these recordings consists of five percussionists playing various floor toms, tom-toms and hand cymbals, plus an electric bass player and two phin players. A phin is a kind of lute with two or three strings and can be double necked. Here they have added Fender pickups and put them through various effect pedals. The phin has a light, toppy sound to it, like a guitar played close to its pickups, although the phin is phased and flanged, dirtied up and generally abused through all sorts of effects pedals on this recording.

That is the back story, so what is the music like? From a western perspective, the music is full-on, instrumental psychedelia; in the sense that it is spontaneous, jam-orientated, organic and loose, but without being sloppy. This is music with feel. Nothing seems calculated and the musicians just go for it, as they listen to and respond to each other, over the course of these extended and hypnotic pieces. This is upbeat music and has nothing of the downer psychedelia of stoner rock.

These celebratory instrumentals never descend to any form of bluesy meanderings. They have pace and dynamics to spare. The interplay between the musicians is top-notch. The two-part Lam Phu Thai has a looping bass guitar groove that holds it all together; whilst the shorter Sut Sanaen # 2 is intricate, delicate and foot tapping, all at the same time. The epic showpiece of Show Wong Khun Narin opens with phins played further down the neck, giving a darker hue. It then kicks-up into an organic rave-up with some blistering playing across its three sections.

The melodies here, are, as you would expect, rooted in non-western tonalities. The tunes evolve and circle around themselves in short phrases with sliding glissando and picked notes mashed together. The only album I can compare it to would be Ry Cooder's collaboration with the Indian musician V.M.Bhatt and their blues-raga based A Meeting by the River.

Just a couple of words of warning though; the sometimes relentless higher pitched tone of the phin may become an irritant. It did annoy some people I have played it to, as did the constant hand chimes.

However, Khun Narin are following no tradition other than their own and it is difficult not to get swept away in the joy of these instrumentals. This is the one to play when you want to break out of that post-Christmas malaise. If you fancy partying on to a non-blues, world music, psychedelic jam band, then give this a go.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10

Láquesis - Láquesis

Láquesis - Láquesis
Country of Origin: Argentina
Format: CD
Record Label: Viajero Inmóvil Records
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2013
Time: 55:58
Info: Láquesis
Samples: Láquesis on Soundcloud
Track List:
Efecto Placebo (7:13), Tema X (5:24), Hamacamatic (8:17), Puestas de Sol (12:06), Lemuria (6:36), Las Moiras (16:05)
The first thing that comes to mind when listening to Láquesis' self-titled debut album is how good the quality is. It's one of those rare efforts that oozes class and character from the moment you press play.

The first track, Efecto Placebo is a varied piece that opens on a rock riff and then breaks the momentum with a soft, bass lead, coloured by guitar and keyboard arrangements. The instrumental interlude is fantastic, and the guitar solo is especially tasteful.

Sadly, this is one of the few tracks with vocals. Not that there's anything wrong with the instrumental songs, but in the two songs that they are present, the vocals add to the band's overall sound. It must be noted that while the first track is in English, the second worded-song is in Spanish.

A darker side is presented in Tema X, and the best point of reference I can find is that it resembles the edgier sounds of bands like Transatlantic or The Flower Kings, both Roine Stolt projects.

Hamacamatic is a blast to listen to. It's an eight-minute homage to Carry on my Wayward Son's riff. The whole track gravitates around it, while managing to sound both fresh and varied at the same time: one of the best songs on the album.

Probably the proggiest track comes in the form of Puestas de Sol. It's a brilliant display of the softer, more thoughtful side of the band. But that's not to say it's just another classic prog ballad, since it also intertwines more complex passages, very much like what you would find in a lot of 70s prog. It even adds colour by throwing in some jazzy and bluesy elements. Its variation transforms it into one of the most interesting tracks on this album, and that is saying a lot.

Nothing on this debut is what it seems, every song conveys a strange form of mysticism and offers something new to discover at every turn. Such is the case with Lemuria, a ballad with a touch of ethnic percussion as well as an instrumental break in the middle, which could very well be a separate track, were it not for the fact that it fits so well within the rest of the composition.

The album closes on a four-track instrumental suite based on the Greek myth of the Three Fates. It contains elements of a lot of the greatest prog rock and metal bands of the last 40 years and is a must-listen for every prog fan.

It's always hard to rate a mediocre album, but it's even harder to review a superb piece. Láquesis' first effort is dominated by high peaks, to the point where it's hard to see a valley that would even resemble an "OK" track. Even better, it doesn't immediately recall any "inspiration" bands, which is real praise in this day and age. This album would have easily been my 2014's top 3 list; had it not been released in 2013!
Conclusion: 9.5 out of 10

Mad Fellaz - Mad Fellaz

Mad Fellaz - Mad Fellaz
Country of Origin: Italy
Format: CD
Record Label: Lizard
Catalogue #: MF 001
Year of Release: 2013
Time: 58:36
Info: Mad Fellaz
Samples: Mad Fellaz website
Track List:
Il Colpevole - parte 01 (16:27), Il Colpevole - parte 02 (18:27), Banda Scavejoni (3:17), White Widow (5:50), La Giungla (14:32)
Mad Fellaz self-titled debut release has been a constant companion since I first encountered it. One of the highlights of reviewing albums for DPRP, is that once-in-a-while a release comes along that immediately appeals and ticks all the right boxes.

The five compositions on offer here exude quality and succeed in every respect. All of the tracks have enough consistency, variation and invention to complement each other and reward frequent plays. The result is an instrumental album that straddles many different genres. The band has a skilful ability to successfully combine unpredictable innovation and structure, melody and dissonance, subtlety and power. Mad Fellaz have created an excitingly fulfilling debut that should appeal to many readers.

The band was formed in Bassano del Grappa in Italy during 2010. Mad Fellaz use of diverse instruments in their arrangements is impressive. Stunning piano passages, darting flute-led sections and fluid blues-based guitar solos all have important roles to play.

Within the lush instrumentation of the compositions, there are stylistic references to amongst others King Crimson, Santana, Larry Coryell's Eleventh House and more contemporary bands such as, Porcupine Tree and even hints of post rock.

The first two tracks are interconnected and occupy over 32 minutes of the album's running time. Both parts of Il Colpevole illustrate the variety of styles that the band are able to utilise. The lengthy nature of the pieces enables the music to include many variations in mood, style and tempo. The expansive and wide-ranging nature of Il Colpevole also gives numerous opportunities for the individual players to express themselves and display their collective prowess.

The piece begins with an accessible motif that forms the basis for much of the improvisation that follows. The album was recorded live in the studio and does not feature any additional treatments and overdubs. In this respect, the playing of all of the performers throughout this outstanding album is exemplary. The performance that is captured, has a spontaneous feel and is fully infused with a vibrant organic quality.

Both pieces notably feature some recurrent and dissonant hard rock riffing sections that link the two compositions. These heavily dissonant parts called to mind King Crimson. Whilst the melodic and flamboyantly-rich organ and guitar tones prevalent in Il Colpevole had things in common with Santana or perhaps even Focus. Il Colpevole Part Two begins with some cascading piano parts and lashings of unexpected jazz/piano improvisations. Themes originally hinted at, or explored in Part One are gradually brought to the fore again during some great band interplay in Part Two.

The expressive guitar playing throughout the album is a delight and is both a key and a positive aspect of the band's overall sound. The album features two guitar players, Paolo Busatto and Emanuele Pasin. Both are very talented and they interact seamlessly at times. Their playing features blues-based solos reminiscent of Pink Floyd's Dave Gilmour and guitar-driven passages where the influence of fusion is more apparent. The band's rhythm section provides a muscular backdrop for the other instruments to soar. The infectious drum and flute interlude at the 14-minute mark of Il Colpevole Part Two is superb. The jazz big band sound that the players manage to channel is also particularly enjoyable as the piece sprints towards its final moments.

Il Colpevole has all of the ingredients that should appeal to readers who like instrumentally-diverse music, with excitingly unpredictable moments. Within the two pieces, and in the album as a whole, the sound created is totally exhilarating and unique. As a band, Mad Fellaz are creatively uncompromising in their quest for excellence and this is displayed abundantly in Il Colpevole.

This suite and the other three pieces on offer are able to transcend specific labels and sub genres within progressive music. The centre or heart of the music contained in the release is identifiable as the band's own style. It is a style that is consistently and engagingly on display throughout the album.

Banda Scavejoni is a wonderful excursion into rhythmic jazz rock. It has a funky feel and features magnificent organ parts that are balanced against a dynamic rhythm section. The solo flute part that breaks free from the band's insistent groove is captivating and brought to mind the fluid style of Bjorn J:Son Lindh. In this shorter piece, the band display total empathy with each other, as the track bubbles energetically to its conclusion.

White Widow continues in a fusion vein. Organ and flute are prominent and the beginning of the piece is characterised by an incessant blues/jazz riff. The flute part, which comes to the fore after three minutes as the mood of the piece changes, is simply gorgeous. It combines the right mixture of spitting aggression and charming serenity. The outro of this impressive piece is a wild, express train of stop-starts and explosive guitar playing.

The album concludes with the lengthy La Giungla.The piece's initial flute and guitar interplay, set within a jazz rock landscape reminds me in some respects of the Japanese flute-led band TEE.

La Giungla is simply breath-taking in its scope and variety. Overall the piece has an ambience that reminded me of aspects of Santana. In some respects it is also reminiscent in atmosphere to the Latin tone which Al Dimeola so successfully achieved in his Elegant Gypsy album. The successful contrast between melodious guitar parts and heavy guitar riffs is expertly achieved. The piece is also able to accommodate furiously quick instrumental passages and beautiful reflective moments.

Throughout the fourteen plus minutes of this piece Mad Fellaz have the ability and ingenuity to surprise with many different and unexpected musical directions and diversions explored. For example, in the final minutes a totally unexpected flowing synthesiser emerges. This was an enjoyable surprise and is quickly followed by a sparse flute and piano duet to end the piece. The contrast is beautiful and particularly engaging. It concludes the album in a superb and appropriate way.

Mad Fellaz has an engaging freshness that is apparent in all of their compositions. I highly recommend that readers should check out this outstanding release. The band is currently working on their second CD, despite some changes of personnel with guitarist Emanuele having left the band. Lorenzo Todesco on percussion and Jason Nealy on guitar have joined. I hope that the band's next release continues to develop their sound. If it is as good as their debut, listeners will have a total musical treat to feast upon.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10

The Main Sequence - The Main Sequence

The Main Sequence - The Main Sequence
Country of Origin: USA
Format: CD
Record Label: World Abounding Records
Catalogue #: watms001
Year of Release: 2013
Time: 71:42
Info: The Main Sequence
Samples: The Main Sequence on Bandcamp
Track List:
Camelopardalis (22:14), The Star of Courage (15:31), Triple Indus Sunrise (15:36), Noon to Evening, Dome Sector 4 (18:13)
The Main Sequence is a duo from Iowa City which produces long-form, improvised pieces of ambient, looping, spacey instrumentals. All the music here is edited from studio improvisations and recorded direct to a two-track through a pair of stereo microphones. There are no overdubs or added effects and the tracks were only edited for time and cross-fading.

It is a tribute to the skills of the two musicians: Joel David Palmer (guitar, sound processing, and loops) and Joshua Alan Weiner (Moog, Mellotron, guitar, bass, percussion, and loops) that these pieces are, in the main, successful. They develop an array of textures that mostly repay close listening. This music could be termed 'proper head-phone music' as it slips and slides across one's ears.

Palmer is an associate of Robert Fripp's Guitar Craft course and so, as one would expect, this album displays more than a few influences from Fripp and Eno, as well as Tangerine Dream, mixed with a dash of psychedelic ambience and elements of drone-rock. Some of it sounds like the electronic soundtrack for a lost 1970s epic science-fiction film.

The lengthy Camelopardalis opens the album with loops of drone-style guitars, ambient bells and gongs. It sounds like it should be playing in the background around a garden centre's water feature display. It improves a bit, as the keyboard and guitar loops build in slowly-rolling waves of sound. As it moves at a glacial pace, it fails to be as hypnotic as it needs to be, to sustain its length. Though I cannot argue with the musician's vision or commitment to their craft here, I personally could have done with a change of pace, rather than the slow change in volume and complexity that occurs.

The change of pace I craved, comes with the second piece, The Star of Courage , and it is the best track on the album. A bass Moog line drives this one. Dirtier sounding, more immediate and surprisingly soulful for such cerebral music; it has an exquisite, layered and looped guitar line that sets up a nice tension with the pulsing bass lines. In effect, it is a re-imagining of parts of Tangerine Dream's Phaedra with Fripp adding on Frippertronic guitars, and it works really well.

Triple Indus Sunrise opens with more guitar loops in a hesitant, stop-start way and has a touch of Angelo Badalamanti's Twin Peaks theme music to it. Interest grows considerably when the keyboards join properly just before the half-way mark. Eastern tonalities give this a more psychedelic feel, especially when the sitar-like drones appear.

The wonderfully titled, Noon to Evening, Dome Sector 4 , closes the album. It is another slow work but not as glacial as the opener. Low-end guitar loops evolve to longer washes of sound, before a synth-line lifts the piece. In fact, the more keyboards there are on these pieces the more I like them. The musicians seem to bounce ideas off each other better when they are playing together. Not that there is anything wrong with the guitar loops and drones, it is just that the keyboards add seasoning to the good work that is already there.

This album, then, is a bit of a mixed bag. However, I found that by programming my CD player to open with the fourth track and close with the first track, whilst leaving the middle two in place, I enjoyed the album as a whole somewhat more.

This album is for fans of the Frippertronic experiments of Fripp and Eno. For myself, I could have done with less of the ambient drifting but it was still an interesting listen.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10

Pink Floyd - The Endless River - Duo Review

Pink Floyd - The Endless River
Country of Origin: UK
Format: CD
Record Label: Parlophone Records
Catalogue #: 2564621547
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 52:55
Info: Pink Floyd
Samples: Pink Floyd website
Track List:
Things Left Unsaid (4:26), It's What We Do (6:17), Ebb and Flow (1:55), Sum (4:48), Skins (2:37), Unsung (1:07), Anisina (3:16), The Lost Art of Conversation (1:42), On Noodle Street (1:42), Night Light (1:42), Allons-Y (1) (1:52), Autumn '68 (1:35), Allons-Y (2) (1:32), Talkin' Hawkin' (3:29), Calling (3:37), Eyes to Pearls (1:51), Surfacing (2:46), Louder than Words (6:36)
Niels Hazeborg's Review
We at DPRP arrive a little late at the Pink Floyd party. Their most-definitely final album has been out for a while. Someone, somewhere has probably already painted its gorgeous cover image on the back of a naked woman (possibly sitting by a pool). You probably know the score with this album: it's a long instrumental, ambient piece created using old recordings from the Division Bell period. You probably know it was released in honor of Rick Wright, who passed away in 2008, and you've probably read some less-than-glowing reviews. "Boring". "Disappointing". "Directionless". "Muzak". "A rip-off".

I'm here to tell you that they're wrong, all wrong.

Given the circumstances, given the nature of this album, given the absence of some people you might have wanted to see, but even without taking any of that into account, The Endless River is just about as wonderful as anyone could have hoped for.

Never let the words "instrumental" and "ambient" lead you to believe that this is boring, background music. For not only is this album a graceful, moving and deeply satisfying way for David Gilmour and Nick Mason to say goodbye to their band's career, and to their late comrade, it is also a very good piece of music in its own right.

Floating on the wings of Wright's unparalleled, understated playing – so simple and so effective, all he has to do is play a chord to suck you in – Gilmour and Mason take us on one last grand tour around the Floyd residence. There are nods to Shine On, High Hopes and Run Like Hell. Ebbing and flowing, soft and gentle, they give us a flowing piece of music to dream us away. Not, maybe, with as much fire as was once there, but beautiful and self-controlled. Every recognisable moment gives off a little tingle. Some music looks forward, these old men are looking back, and they are doing so in style.

As this is Gilmour-led Floyd, we get a showing from the majestic and bluesy side of the band, rather than the angular bite of the Waters' era. It is in more-ways-than-one the lost companion-piece to The Division Bell. I happen to have that album etched into my soul, and I appreciate this may not be the case for every Floyd aficionado. Fans of the band in its 70s heyday may find there is something missing.

And yes, if I were really fair, I suppose I could find things to criticise about the piece. Yes, it meanders a bit. Yes, it often seems like it doesn't know where it's going. Yes, the lyrics to the one song with vocals, Louder Than Words, are a bit weak. What does it matter? It's 2014, we have a new Pink Floyd album, it sounds how it's supposed to sound, it's made for the right reasons and it really, really doesn't suck. (Never underestimate the power of not sucking; people get Nobel Prizes for it). What sort of world do we live in if we can't be happy with that?

Roger Waters has gone to some lengths to debunk rumors that he was in any way involved in this album. Bless him. He is a fool. It'd do any man proud to have their name attached to a project such as this.

How many prog bands from the fist generation could end their careers with such grace? In a year when Yes made one of their worst albums to date and Genesis made fools of themselves with a superfluous compilation album and an ill-conceived documentary (sold to us as a "reunion"), Pink Floyd have kept their dignity.

They don't go quietly into the night or explode in violent disagreement. Instead, Gilmour and Mason take the time to make one last statement. It's a gentle, simple reflection on life through music, that says nothing more or less than "we've had some great times and now it's over", before putting the chairs on the tables and turning down the lights. That indeed, speaks louder than words.

So here's to the memory of Rick Wright. Here's to you, David Gilmour and Nick Mason, for giving him the most dignified farewell any man could wish for. Here's to you, Roger Waters, you cantankerous old grouch. Here's to Pink Floyd, for giving us so much great music in their long career and for ending it on such a worthy note. It's a New Year. Have a perfect ten.
Rick Collins' Review

I am a lifelong, Pink Floyd fan but I must admit that I wasn't expecting to like The Endless River all that much. I'd heard the album described as being "ambient music" cobbled together from tracks recorded 20 years ago, during the Division Bell sessions. I was expecting to hear the fading echoes of a once great band, fitfully shambling off into musical history. Thankfully, I discovered that The Endless River represents much more than that.

David Gilmour and Nick Mason have described this album as being a tribute to their late colleague and keyboardist, Richard Wright. For me, the album brought a much more vivid focus to Wright's contributions to the Pink Floyd sound. Rick Wright did not define himself as a soloist first and foremost, but rather as the consummate accompanist. He used his battery of keyboards deftly, coloring and shaping the band's sound. Nick Mason may have provided the thunder and David Gilmour and Roger Waters may have gotten the glory, but the unassuming Wright was the rock that Pink Floyd's music was built upon. He was steadfast, tasteful and truly a team player. If The Endless River is a tribute, then it is a well deserved one.

It is divided into four LP sides - four movements. Things Left Unsaid is a subtle, opening track, built upon sounds, spoken-word bits and ethereal keyboards and guitars. It slips seamlessly into It's What We Do, a classic Floyd instrumental that would've fitted in well on Wish You Were Here. The rhythm section is solid and Wright's keyboards provide a launching pad for Gilmour's soaring guitars. Ebb and Flow is a pretty, instrumental duet featuring Wright on keyboards and Gilmour on E bow guitar.

Sum opens "side two" in a whirl of spacey sound effects and keyboards. Propelled by Nick Mason's powerful drumming, the track provides a showcase for Gilmour's impassioned guitar playing. To my ears David seems to cut loose a bit more on this Floyd album than he has on some of his solo LPs. His playing is fiery and authentic.

Skins takes us back to the days of Ummagumma and the advent of space rock. Mason's drums set the pace, while Wright and Gilmour set the controls for parts unknown. It is a treat to hear the experimental side of the band again. Unsung provides a brief interlude that guides us into Anisina, a Gilmour composition that features some oddly-effective sax playing by Gilad Atzmon. "Side three" opens with Wright's The Lost Art of Conversation, a pretty guitar/piano duet. On Noodle Street features Gilmour's guitar and Wright on Fender Rhodes piano. It is an interesting throwback to the days of The Division Bell. Night Light is another brief mood-piece that gives way to Allons-y (1) an upbeat, showcase for Gilmour's tasty guitar licks.

Autumn 68 is a haunting interlude featuring Wright playing the Royal Albert Hall pipe organ. It slips precisely into Allons-y (2) a powerful, guitar-driven rocker. Talkin' Hawkin' features a spoken vocal by Stephen Hawking and background vocals by Durga McBroom. It would fit nicely into The Division Bell.

Calling opens "side four." It features Gilmour and Anthony Moore on keyboards and is a somber, spacey track that harkens back to the band's early days. Eyes To Pearls is a Gilmour composition that features subtle, repetitive guitar-playing against Mason's percussion and a spacey backdrop. Surfacing is another guitar showcase featuring David Gilmour on electric and acoustic guitars and Durga McBroom's familiar backing vocals. Louder than Words closes the album with power and conviction. To my ears, it echoes such classic Floyd tracks as Comfortably Numb with Gilmour earnestly singing lyrics, which seem to provide a fitting summation of the band's long and storied career.

In summation: this is an album that rewards with repeated listenings. The music is full of subtle twists and turns, and of sounds and rhythms that draw you in with time. It is a daring concoction which could've been a disaster, but in the end has become so much more. It is an epic piece of music that I believe will stand the test of time.
Niels Hazeborg: 10 out of 10
Rick Collins: 9 out of 10

Retsam Suriv - Danger

Retsam Suriv - Danger
Country of Origin: Argentina
Format: CD
Record Label: Azafran Media
Catalogue #: AP 1416
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 54:13
Info: Retsam Suriv
Samples: Retsam Suriv on Soundcloud
Track List:
Alto Voltaje(7:24),Nuevos Tiempos(4:43),9:15(11:58),Siento(9:55),Amenazas De Un Final(8:07),Un Mundo Differente(9:15),Transicion Final (Danger) (2:51)
Retsam Suriv is a progressive metal band from Argentina. Led by keyboard virtuoso Cristian Del Giorgio, the band formed in 2002 and released their first CD Exegesys in 2009. Only Cristian Del Giorgio and vocalist Vilma Del Giorgio remain from the band that recorded Exegesys. In addition to the Del Giorgios, the band's current lineup includes Miguel Carrasco (guitar), Charlie Palermo (bass), and Javier Fraccione on drums and percussion.

Danger shows Retsam Suriv taking their inspiration from heavy prog bands such as Dream Theater. The arrangements are complex, the musicianship is tight, and Vilma Del Giorgio adds a powerful and acrobatic set of vocal chords. The lyrics are sung in Spanish.

An instrumental, Alto Voltaje opens thing up with some aggressive guitar riffing and a lengthy synthesiser solo by Cristian Del Giorgio. The overall heaviness of the track is broken by a subtly effective piano solo. Retsam Suriv likes to provide contrast in their lengthy compositions. Power and aggression is often broken up by an attractive, melodic passage. Cristian Del Giorgio makes use of all of his keyboards and the band always leaves plenty of space for soloing.

Nuevos Tiempos opens with Miguel Carrasco's metal guitar licks sparring with Cristian Del Giorgio's synthesiser. Vilma Del Giorgio makes her first appearance here and her voice provides the band with another powerful, solo instrument. Her voice swoops and soars, providing a lively counterpart to the guitar and keyboard, fireworks. She can sing with both power and finesse, and when everything comes together, Retsam Suriv is a powerhouse.

The nearly 12-minute epic entitled 9:15 showcases Retsam Suriv at both their best and at their worst. The playing is superb, especially Miguel Carrasco's lightning-fingered guitar solo but the music labors to justify its length. It's full of ideas but to my ears, it would have benefited from a bit of editing.

This is my problem with Retsam Suriv as a band. They are obviously good musicians with a lot of ideas but sometimes the extra solo doesn't help. The remaining tracks have their virtues. Siento opens with soft piano and guitar, and a restrained vocal from Vilma. It picks-up steam and develops an anthemic feel. There is some nice solo work but maybe too much is going on for one song.

Amenazas de Un final features a strong vocal and some deft soloing, while Un mondo differente is a nine-minute plus song, that features a variety of moods, a nice vocal and some powerful guitar work. There are some interesting things to be heard here but not everything held my interest.

It summation: Retsam Suriv are all fine musicians who seem full of ideas but not quite sure of how to use them. At this point, their compositions aren't particularly distinctive, and the soloing could stand to be a bit more focused. Definitely a band with potential but in my opinion, they need to tighten things up a bit. Sometimes less can be more.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Album Reviews