Daniel Eliseev Project — Lost Humanity
The Daniel Eliseev Project are back with a follow-up to their 2018 album, Night Shadow.
The new album, Lost Humanity, is all instrumental, unlike their last record. The music ranges from progressive metal, to jazz fusion, with atmospheric and upbeat rock moments throughout. All the tracks were composed, arranged and produced by Daniel Eliseev, who played all the guitars, keyboards, and programming. Bass, drums, saxophone and percussion are played by a large ensemble of various players. Check out the group's Bandcamp page to see who does what and where.
The track titles help unpack what's going on a little bit. The opening track, Beyond The Night, presumably refers to the title of their previous album. A track like Autumn Mood creates an autumnal atmosphere through the calmer music, particularly the low bass and percussion. The tracks Prayer For Life and In Search Of The Truth reflect the album's title, since we now find ourselves living in a world that has lost its humanity, or at least has lost its ability to recognise the humanity of others. Or maybe the world never had that to begin with, and we were all fooling ourselves by thinking it did. I digress.
With more of a jazz fusion sound this time around, the group further displays their versatility and skill. This leads to some King Crimson-esque moments on the record, particularly on Curved Path. The song has an improv-heavy jazz rock feel, but it also dabbles in quieter, guitar-driven moments. The saxophone takes a dominant role in much of the song. The booming bass on this track, as well as the rest of the album, does a great job of filling in the back end.
Shambhala is primarily guitar driven, with an excellent extended solo. Eliseev's solos are clean and smooth. The primary melody is rather hypnotic, with a repeating bass line, rhythm guitar line, and primal drum beats. The lead guitar plays over the top of that. At its most basic, I suppose the song is rather simple, but when all the parts play together, it is a very interesting piece.
The album closes with an upbeat form of metal on In Search of the Truth. I'd say metal is more of an 'influence' on the Daniel Eliseev Project, rather than calling them outright metal. Most of their music is rather laid back, even though it is guitar-driven.
Fans of guitar-focused rock will certainly enjoy Lost Humanity. For an instrumental album, the music manages to tell a story quite well. The music is interesting and well-composed, and the production is clear and crisp. The Daniel Eliseev Project is definitely worth checking out.
Victor Go — Tales From McIntyre Lake
There are various ways in which to listen to an album. Being on the road to work is one preferred way, although finer details tend to get lost due to surrounding traffic and other distractions. In the seclusion of one's 'studio' (a.k.a. living room), these refinements reveal themselves much better. So this is usually my preferred method of enjoying music. A third option is the use of headphones which works wonders when it comes to New Age and ambient music, opening up a whole new world within the composition's atmospheres.
So why I turned to the first two options in light of Victor Go's Tales From McIntyre Lake is beyond me, as I should have known better, based upon his previous effort The Leap and its precursor Going For A Sense.
Maybe an alerting 'Listen with Headphones On' label should be introduced one day. For both The Leap and its successor Tales From McIntyre Lake demand this. Both are without doubt two of the best-sounding efforts I've ever encountered whilst fully immersed in headphone mode.
In terms of its sound, Tales From McIntyre Lake is on a par with The Leap's fidelity, which means exceptional spatial depth and a crystal freshness. This high production level marvellously brings out richly detailed and wondrously attractive music, composed by multi-instrumentalists Go.
To quickly capture the unique spherical sounds of Go's efforts in a few words, an aquatic analogy is probably easiest.
On the surface the music swims synchronously to his previous endeavours, with a lush electronic 80s appeal graciously gliding on waves of 70s English prog. Once snorkelling underneath these individual compositions listeners will then find adventurously-refined differences taking shape, whirling via silky-smooth symphonies, musical elegance and enchanting cross-over prog melodies. Diving deeper into Go's wondrously crafted waterworld unveils further limitless reefs of musicality, colourful instrumentation and breathtaking complexities.
This lovely inventive environment flows magnificently from start to finish. It opens in a delightful, upbeat fashion in Perfect Time, a song-title accurately in sync with the album's overall feel. Harbouring a fresh summery atmosphere and initially displaying various sublime vocal diversities, before ascending towards the top of a pool slide for a timely reflection in delicate symphonies with lush orchestrations.
Prelude is a gorgeous overture where bass, guitar and majestic melodies coalesce beautifully and mild Eastern vibes alongside Deja Vu impressions emerge, follow and float into oceans of the ELP-influenced Shallow Water.
A perfect example of Go's compositional strength and clear vision to arrangements, this treacherously-titled composition is an infinite oasis of melodies bursting with playful cheeriness and captivating guitar sounds reminiscent to mid seventies Yes. Water Ripples is a far-too-short excursion into luscious Genesis as it glides on endless waves of brilliant guitar leads, taking an elegantly inspired jazz dip midway through.
In the mighty Pelican, an ambient opening and wonderfully soothing sounds bring graceful melodies that awaken images of Yes during their Going For The One period. The multitude of moods captured within the song, in which the lovely guitar melodies whirl around key movements, creates an even brighter musical depth. And this adventurous richness sees a formidable equivalent in Anything You Dream Of, slowly submerging from light Pink Floyd-inspired atmospheres into comfortable melodies with a spacious synth feel.
The short atmospherically expressive Flares and the uplifting acoustic nature of Fancy Town Renaissance, reminiscent to Peter Gabriel, both play within similar musical dimensions and hold attention effortlessly. The same goes for Your Day in which excellent guitar flows and a vibrant electronic Flame Dream meets Alan Parson's atmospheres are sprinkled.
With the exception of Postlude and In A Torrent all drum partitions are handled by Go, who does a great job at it. They have the tendency to sound a bit clinical, like in the playful and melodic bonus track Fresh Start, but it's only in the rocking intro of The Eve where simplified drums and melodies seem to wash up on a sandbar for a while. Due to superb eclectic E.L.P. influences, a strong vocal section and various dynamic diversifications thriving on synth melodies, the composition nonetheless glides by expeditiously.
Postlude's returning classical symphonies and melodies, featuring Viktor Syrotin on drums, flows in a similar vein and one hardly notices the difference in percussive approach. In In A Torrent this is however a different affair, for drummer Gennady Grosfiler's versatility adds a wonderful organic vibrancy to the composition. Together with Go's delightful guitar explorations and the song's complexity, it's a brilliant testament to Go's compositional and arrangement skills. It is over all too soon and could have lasted me some more.
Tales From McIntyre Lake is a real treasure trove in terms of complexity, melodies and musical interplay. Extraordinary care and attention has been given to the music and once again the listener will be blissfully drowning in a multitude of albums, fused meticulously into one. Captivating from start to finish, it is extremely hard to find fault, especially from the production point of view. One could argue though, this being my final watery analogy, that the production level is maybe too perfect, resulting in too many smooth dives all around, where a once-in-a-while bombing splash would be appreciated.
In conclusion: those already acquainted with Go's previous efforts can add a lovely album to their collection. If any of the artist names mentioned within this review rock your boat (oops) then be sure to check this album (and his previous ones) as they cover a lot of corresponding progressive grounds. And don't forget your headphones!
Joe Jackson & Todd Rundgren with Ethel — State Theater New Jersey 2005
This is not an unlikely collaboration of somewhat disparate artists, but a concert featuring individual sets from Joe Jackson and Todd Rundgren, with an opening set from New York's "virtuosic" [ugh, Americanisms!] alternative string quartet Ethel, who join the main artists for the encores. The tour, some 16 years ago now, took in the USA and England, (an increasingly infrequent destination for Rundgren) and came off the back of his Liars album released the previous year. It had been over two years since Jackson's last release, and three years before he released a new album. Ironically, Ethel were the largest ensemble, as both Jackson and Rundgren performed solo.
Ethel themselves were featured artists on the just-released Here This Now: Cantaloupe Music Sampler with music by John King, a couple of pieces from which were featured in their opening performance. Their set bears a slight resemblance to Dead Can Dance, with the opening to Alap in particular having the middle Eastern textures associated with DCD. They are certainly virtuosos and, depending on your view on classical music, deliver an inspiring and forceful set.
Jackson, as a pianist, is ideally suited for acoustic performances; just a man and a piano delivering a fine selection from his back catalogue with a heavy nod to the hits. Hometown is achingly beautiful. Stepping Out works very well as a piano piece, with Jackson hammering out the left-hand rhythm with passion. An energetic and lively version of Take It Like A Man shows that although he is not perhaps up to the musical virtuosity of Ethel, he is no slouch when it comes to tinkling the ivories.
While the more familiar numbers like Different For Girls and the plaintive Be My Number Two are excellent reminders of his heyday, other songs such as The Obvious Song and Citizen Sane show his talent and his fine way with a melody. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the version of The Beatles' Girl, where he amusingly delivers the chorus backing vocals as huge sighs! His rewriting of the instrumental section is just fantastic.
But the highlight is undoubtedly Is She Really Going Out With Him?. On his own live album he included three different versions of the song, each of which was stunningly original. On this recording he is highly amused by the forceful audience response of "Where?" after he sings the line "Take a look over there", causing him to laugh and put him off the song. He gets his revenge later in the song when he complements the audience for clapping in time, and then deliberately changes the tempo to put their clapping out of sync. A great set.
Rundgren opens with acoustic versions of Love Of The Common Man, I Don't Want To Tie You Down, Lysistrata and Tiny Demons. Passionate performances one and all, although he certainly struggles with the higher notes and is caught singing rather off-key in places. The first three numbers are all pretty one dimensional, although Tiny Demons slows things down somewhat and applies lashings of reverb to the vocals, which does have a generally positive effect.
A switch to piano for a trio of numbers starting with a well-performed version of Compassion, before the atmosphere he has generated is broken by Free, Male And 21. Never a very good song, it is not redeemed by this rather lacklustre, and often painful rendition.
Hits next. The awful introduction somewhat spoils Hello, It's Me but, if you can ignore that, then the actual song remains a lovely piece of music and features some of Rundgren's best singing of his set. The early eighties hit Bang The Drum All Day is performed on ukulele and provides a bit of light relief. Irrespective of the merits of the song, it does have an infectious rhythm and melody and is an amusing performance with inclusion of several older hits. A quick switch to electric guitar brings forth a solid Black and White before the set ends with one of the highlights of the Liars album, Afterlife and a pleasing finale of The Wheel.
For the first encore Jackson returns with Ethel for The Other One, a class song and arrangement that shows how well Jackson's compositions take to having a classical backing. I could listen to a whole album of this sort of arrangement as it is simply beautiful. Similarly, Rundgren's Pretending To Care, also from Liars, works well as just the string quartet backing the vocalist. All of the evening's artists come together for a rousing version of While My Guitar Gentle Weeps with Rundgren singing the verses and Jackson the choruses. The concert ends with Rundgren's Black Maria that offers a fine conclusion to an evening's entertainment. The two vocalists blend well on the chorus, Jackson providing suitable backing for the forceful attack of the quartet, with some fine solos from each member of the quartet as well as Jackson. A rocking end to the evening.
No doubt this release is aimed primarily at Rundgren fans but from my point of view, Jackson steals the show hands down. His performance and song-writing are wonderful and are worth hearing even if only as a reminder of the time when he set the charts alight. Rundgren's set is inconsistent and his best performances are in the encores. If you are a Rundgren fan then Black Maria is well worth adding to your collection, heck it is worth adding to your collection even if you are not! And I am grateful for the introduction to Ethel, a quartet who I intend to investigate further, with high expectations based on these performances.
(This album is available as a digital version and as a 2 CD + DVD digi-pack via the Bandcamp link).
Plenty — Enough
I remember back in 1987 receiving the twin vinyl album of Double Exposure, purchased primarily for the early version of Seriously Siblings by Geoff Mann with The Bond, but being impressed with some other artists represented that I was previously unaware of. Amongst these were Plenty and their haunting combination of the songs Forest Almost Burning and Sacrifice. After reuniting to finally complete a proper album, 2018's It Could Be Home, the band polish up seven more of their original compositions on a mini album Old, included on the first CD of this double set. This first CD is accompanied by five additional new recordings which, as may be guessed from the title Borrowed, is an EP of cover versions. The second CD collects seven original demos recorded on a Portastudio between 1986 and 1990.
Being somewhat disappointed that Forest Almost Burning had not been included on It Could Be Home, I am happy to hear it kicking off the first CD. The song has lost none of its allure over the past 34 years and is still a great song, with the prominent bass driving it forward and the guitar part on the original version being replaced by synths, the wider sonic palette of which adds to the glory of the song. Rather surprisingly, and something that is only apparent on hearing the Older CD, is that Tim Bowness' vocals have actually got higher over the years, rather than the more usual lowering of the pitch as age encroaches. Again, this, and his characteristic 'speech singing' delivery suits the material, which would not sound right with a full-throated vocal delivery.
Alongside Bowness, David K Jones adds all sorts of bass, with Brian Hulse adding the rest of the musical backdrop on guitars, keyboards and drum programming. Jones' fretless playing, particularly on The Walker has a very Mick Karn feel to it, while the ethereal Towards The Shore, which features original band member Michael Bearpark on guitars, favours more the sound of Karn's Japan colleague David Sylvian. The simplicity of this latter piece, with some lovely piano from another guest, Peter Chivers, is a highlight of these re-recordings, surpassing the version released in 2011 on the Chivers/Bowness album Slow Electric.
Overall, except Bleed A Little More which sounds somewhat dated due largely to the drum pattern, the songs don't sound as if they are over three decades old. Incidentally, War Games By The Sea, which Bowness also recorded for his Late Night Laments album is quite different from the solo version, which was closer to the original Plenty song from which it originated, Ancient Walls. It is also only one of two tracks to feature real drums, the other being The Blessed Ones, played by Tom Atherton and Charles Grimsdale, respectively.
The Borrowed songs are ones that, for the most part, are by artists that are not often tackled, particularly by artists that are linked to the prog rock field. But all five of the tracks featured on this section of the release have survived their Plenty adaptations with their credibility intact.
New Brighton, originally by It's Immaterial is a lovely rendition of a song by a band that are largely forgotten these days. Suzanne Vega's Soap & Water is transformed into an up-beat number from its original, sadder form. Tiny Children from the brilliant Wilder album by The Teardrop Explodes is perfectly suited to the Bowness vocal approach and the jazzy inflections of the underlying piano are perfectly apt. I am not all that familiar with the work of Kevin Coyne so am not sure how representative of Forgive Me is of his oeuvre. It is certainly not what I expected and is my least favourite of the cover versions. Finally, there is a rather left-field version of the country music classic I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry by Hank Williams. This is probably the first version of this heartbreaking/heartbroken song that, albeit without listening too hard to the lyrics, that has a more positive feel; well bitter-sweet at least. An interesting selection that is well worth hearing.
The original versions of songs recorded by the band have survived well, and although obviously not as hi-fidelity as the material on the first CD, are noticeably lacking in defects.
The sparse piano/vocal of The Other Side is a complete contrast to the re-recorded version on CD1, hence it being subtitled The Other Version. It is great to have Forest Almost Burning and Sacrifice on CD, as my Double Exposure LP doesn't often see the light of day these days. Brave Dreams is a great vehicle for Bowness' singing voice which is backed by ethereal synths and sparse guitar; a very much later years Talk Talk vibe going on here.
Broken Nights is the only Older song that featured on It Could Be Home. The updated version added a lot more to this simple song. It is rather too fragmented in its original version to really make an impact. The re-recordings of both The Walker and Towards The Shore are also, as one might expect, better than the originals. However, after a slow start, the 1990 version of The Walker brightens with a couple of Fripp-like guitar flourishes and a fuller, more aggressive sound. Towards The Shore is such a great song that even this more abstract/arty version is a very enjoyable listen.
I know it may be somewhat of a cliché but in many ways Plenty were ahead of their time. The fact that this album sounds like an album composed contemporarily rather than a simple nostalgia trip, is a testament to both the song -writing and the ideas the group had back in the latter half of the 1990s. By my reckoning there are at least nine more songs that have not been re-recorded, so hopefully there may well be a third release by a revitalised Plenty.