Fair Wind Pleases — The Wind Of The Season
A new band to my ears, and what we find here is not your typical prog album. Their Bandcamp page gives us this introduction: "Fair Wind Pleases is a band formed at the beginning of 2020 in St. Petersburg and performing non-trivial instrumental music at the junction of neo-classical, avant-garde, ambient, progressive, post-jazz, chamber music, modern creative and other genres. In the sound of the group, the winds play the most important role, and its main goals are to generate positive energy and bring the spiritual dimension to everyday life. All these aspects are, to one degree or another, reflected in the name of the ensemble."
So that brings us some background, but also some intentions of this release; the band's debut album. Does the band achieve this? This listener is not quite sure.
As I have listened to this, I have had second album syndrome. My first DPRP review of the band Serdimontana was a great discovery, but now I have found that difficult second album.
I love something a bit more avant-garde. I love the use of the natural world around us to influence sound and music. But I have to admit to struggling with this album. I felt no positive energy, and although I am a spiritual person, I felt nothing from these tracks.
We begin with the first part of The Unpredictable Autumn. A gentle start with predominantly wind instruments, that builds slowly over time, almost like a building storm. The only comparable type of music I could think of was post-classical rock. But honestly there is nothing I have heard that I could compare this with. It has a big jazz influence too.
Then comes the track simply titled 7. There is a repetitive piano intro, then the wind instruments join in again and come to the fore. There is dissonance here. Not an easy listen. After the many sounds, there is a come-down at the end for the final minute. A breather.
The Unpredictable Autumn returns with Part 2. Gentle. Not as busy as the previous tracks. There is a slight shift half-way through, but it remains gentle enough through to the end. This is my favourite track on the album.
Part 3 follows. This is totally avant-garde. King Crimson maybe during their most improvised period. It still sits uncomfortably with this listener though. You may think differently. But I can only tell it, as I find it.
We close with Waltz Of Meek Lady. Much of the same. In my notes, as I listened, I didn't even write anything down. That sadly sums up my thoughts here.
So I struggled. Not an easy album. If you enjoy dissonance and the sound of clarinets weaving all around the sound spectrum, then this could be for you. If your avant-garde taste is for totally-out-there dissonance, with spontaneous sounds and patterns, then this will certainly satisfy. But I finished with disappointment. This promised much from the press release, but delivered little to my ears. But don't judge it from my words, listen for yourself and see if it appeals to you. Just not for me.
The Flying Caravan — I Just Wanna Break Even
The Flying Caravan have taken the bold step of releasing a double album debut. It is quite a risk to ask an unfamiliar audience to absorb close to two hours of music from a previously unknown band. Does it pay off? Well, yes and no. In fairness, the album does include two versions of the same epic song (The Bumpy Road To Knowledge) and there are moments of brilliance scattered throughout its 98 minutes. That said, I Just Wanna Break Even would have benefited from some condensing.
Regardless, props go to this talented group of musicians for having the level of confidence needed to introduce themselves in such an expansive way. Their faith is understandable, because instrumentally, this is a very accomplished release. The band's somewhat laid-back style of prog is impressively reminiscent of 70s era Camel, Yes and, well, Caravan. Get Real, the instrumental that opens the album, quickly proves how exceptional the musical performances are.
Singer Izaga Plata is introduced on the band-titled, second track, Flying Caravan. Though she has a pleasant voice, there are times throughout the album where the vocals don't quite mesh well. Thankfully, these moments are rare and on songs such as Love's Labour Mislead, all the elements click into place successfully. The two epic songs are entertaining, although A Fairy Tale For Grown Ups is the most significant example of where editing could have been beneficial. The track does contain a number of strong elements, such as the Yes-like vocals and soloing. At times, it sounds a bit like a respectful homage to Close To The Edge. However, the piece loses a fair amount of steam along its 36 minutes. Like most of the album though, it too is primarily salvaged by the band's exemplary musicianship.
Shortcomings aside, this is a solid debut that is certainly worthy of the band "breaking even". Yes, it is a nostalgic affair, but their rendering of this style of prog still sounds fresh and energetic. Any points lost on originality are made up by the strength of the performances. Ultimately, I Just Wanna Break Even is a solid illustration of classic progressive rock, played in an enthusiastic and convincing manner.
Bill Thomas — On Track... Kate Bush: Every album, Every song
Here we have the latest tome from Sonicbond Publishing, who have maintained a steady stream of books looking at the recorded works of musical artists. When the series began, it focused upon the output of artists that fit under the umbrella of Progressive Rock. As the series has expanded, other genres have begun to be included, such as Heavy Metal with the recent volume pertaining to Iron Maiden.
With the growth in titles, the artists being included are becoming more mainstream. Not in musical terms, as I would never, even though the commercial success, class Kate Bush's output as mainstream. I would class Kate as a musical icon, and with this type of success comes with it a fairly large amount of written material dedicated to her and her music. In the UK, popular musical magazine Record Collector, has recently published a special issue dedicated entirely to Kate Bush. Unfortunately when put side by side, the glossy quality of the magazine, it leaves the On Track book looking pale in comparison. With the On Track series focusing only on the recorded output, and copious amounts of material published over the years critiquing Kate's material, there appears very little left to say which is new.
This is were this particular volume suffers, as it reads like what you would have originally found in a Kate Bush fanzine published back in the 80's and 90's. What lets this volume down as well is the glaring mistakes which appear to confirm that the text is not passed by an editor before release. The most obvious example being the chapter dedicated to the Aerial album. The chapter title lists, in bold, Aerial as having been released in 1995, and the following line stating it was recorded at Abbey Road in 2004-2005. While I agree Kate is a magical performer, I feel her ability to time travel might be slightly beyond her skill set.
While having many critical issues with the book, I did find it provided some information which was new to me. The most surprising was that the sadly now departed Dio and Rainbow bass player Jimmy Bain played bass on The Dreaming album. This was because Kate wanted a rock bass player who was able to keep the rhythm, providing a rockier edge, rather than the more extrovert jazzy players she had used on previous albums. This did provide me with an excuse to dig the album out and listen with new ears to the output.
If nothing else, the On Track series of books are an easy read and the type of book you can dip in and out of, examining particular albums or individual tracks. Taking this into account, then the Kate Bush book does deliver what it set out to do. While by no means an essential for any Kate Bush fan, it is a very nice addition to any fan's library.
Thr33 — Thr33
Thr33 are a three-piece band from the UK playing prog blues rock. Nick Steed, Peter Mason and Greg Morgan aren't new in the business but this is their debut album. According to their press statement they have played with many different artists, ranging from Steve Hackett, Sonja Kristina (Curved Air), Ginger Baker and many more, so you can be sure we have great musicians here. They also say that the bass is played by Nick Steed's left hand on the keyboards. This is impressive because they get a four-piece sound despite being only a trio but I don't see the advantage of that; I guess they couldn't find a bass player? Anyway, let's focus on the songs here and the whole album, because it's a good one.
From the very beginning we can find their blended, bluesy, funky groove-sound that is present through the whole album. Believe it or not, it's not Sting singing on this first song. But wait, we have more than blues, funk and some jazzy moments. We have some progressive rock!
The first keyboard notes on Behind You remind us that these guys have many influences including the classic prog-masters. They know how to combine these old school sounds with fine blues guitar passages. I'm glad I have discovered this music because I think it's a great combination.
After these two songs, one can guess how the rest of the album is going to be. Don't take me wrong, this time this is a good aspect because you can check different ways of having all these influences combined in a very pleasant way.
OK, now the not so good points of my review. As I said the overall sound is great, the playing is superb, the idea of having these different styles combined is fantastic but the songs... I can't explain myself but my feelings tell me that something here is not working as it should. The only perfect track for me is the marvellous Hanging On. I find this one very cohesive, and perfectly executed from start to finish. It's the longest one and I feel the band has really put the best of themselves on it. The rest of the songs aren't bad but I miss something. I honestly think the band can do it better and improve on what is a very good album.
I can only recommend to check out this debut album by Thr33 and I encourage the band to keep playing this interesting style. I will be looking forward to hearing from them soon.
Vandemonian — Xenophilia
The groove of the first track pulls me in immediately. It's a post-rock, sometimes nearing post-metal, approach within alternate rock, while challenging rhythms and changes make it more progressive. They call it "progressive post-rock" themselves, so there you go.
I hear some Maybeshewill or Mogwai. There's a jazzy bass in Razumikin, and a cinematic approach like their countrymen Long Distance Calling. No influence outweighs any other. Nothing is so prominent that it defines the band's sound. It's a melting pot but these guys do make it their own.
I think the lyrics are quite important ("political post-rock" I read somewhere), so having only the music files (FLAC of course, thank you!) was a pity. At the time of writing I could not find them on the website either.
The vocals are not the band's strong point. Singer Nick Braren sings in an English accent (I think). It is not distracting and has a certain charm. But the sound of his voice is probably a bit of an acquired taste. Man Is Invertebrate has very intricate lyrics and they fit the music well, but would stand out more with a stronger voice.
Souls relies heavily on Braren's voice, so it's success really depends on your opinion of his voice. And it is not as strong an album closer as you'd expect. In Jack Ketch the vocal melodies go higher and that seems to fit his voice better.
But when you consider all the elements, the positive remains. The compositions are very interesting, intriguing and daring. The playing is from the heart, with proper post-rocking shoe-gaze sections, progressive riffing, very diverse sections and moods. The arrangements are mostly full and multi-layered, and the quality of the production and mix is high. You're in for a ride. This is a very interesting debut and I would love to see this band play live.