Album Reviews

Issue 2024-027

Dialeto — Pandelirium

Dialeto - Pandelirium
The Long Way (8:41), The Great Geodesic Hall (6:26), The Long Way Back (8:31), Waiting for Numbers (8:03), Back Home (6:32)
Owen Davies

Some albums take a while to stroke and scratch a way in to your senses, others easily break down the defences and bludgeon a way in. Some albums, by turns do both!

Pandelirium certainly does!

Dialeto's latest album has so many different layers to appreciate. It is undoubtedly the bands most compelling album yet and certainly has a different feel to the band's last studio release which interpreted several Bella Bartók's tunes.

Pandelirium is full of opposing forces. These disparate elements somehow fit and work together remarkably well. In this respect, Pandelirium is both reflective and uplifting. Dissonance and melody have a part to play. Just check out the outstanding Waiting for Numbers.

Bombast and subtlety are also key ingredients. These two ingredients also beautifully coexist in Waiting for Numbers. A sense of collective inspiration certainly takes a hold in this tune and in many of the other tunes.

The concluding section of The Great Geodesic Hall is absolutely thrilling. I have had great fun digesting the music and trying to unravel and unpeel what it is about the compositions, that makes the album so interesting.

Reading the back-story to the album places the frequently sombre atmosphere projected by the music into context. Pandelirium describes through music, the band leader and guitarist Nelson Coelho's severe illness and subsequent recovery after contracting Covid during the Pandemic. Pandelirium has been released as a multimedia project made of Dialeto´s music and a book illustrated with paintings by Coelho.

The Long Way back is particularly striking. Its opening sequence of bass and Fripp like sustained notes on the guitar is very evocative. The band explorations of the numerous musical themes and ear friendly riffs which follow are totally gripping.

There is a vague resemblance to Finch or Focus in some of the excellent riffing and guitar embellishments in some of the sections of the uplifting Back Home. Swirling Fripp like tones also paint a different set of colours in some of the slower distorted atmospheric passages. But largely, at its heart is a lovely melodic tune and I guess that's why it made me recall the style of Finch.

This fine piece concludes the album in a climatic way with a howl of distorted feedback that evokes a disconcerting but positive lingering memory Although Pandelirium is a relatively short album, it creates a huge impression.

Its brash, its sensitive , its complex, its powerful and visceral. Is inspiring and stirring. Overall, Pandelirium is quite excellent !

Time in its company passes quickly; much more quickly than watching an hourglass losing its grain! Pandelirium is more interesting and stimulating.

I am going to spin it again, safe in the knowledge that it is about to stroke and bludgeon my senses one more time!

Kristoffer Gildenlöw — Empty

Sweden / Netherlands
Kristoffer Gildenlöw - Empty
Time To Turn The Page (3:35), End Of Their Road (4:37), Harbinger Of Sorrow (4:29), He's Not Me (5:56), Black & White (5:24), Down We Go (7:33), Turn It All Around (3:15), Means To An End (4:04), Beautiful Decay (4:02), The Brittle Man (2:29), Saturated (4:58), Empty (9:53)
Martin Burns

Kristoffer Gildenlöw's Empty is the fourth album to be reviewed here at DPRP Mansions (see below for links to the others). All of these garnered got good to outstanding reviews.

I was unfamiliar with Kristoffer Gildenlöw, other than his performance, playing bass and providing vocal harmonies, on Pain Of Salvation's acoustic live album 12:5. So Empty comes to me fresh, and I listened without any preconceptions or expectations. It turned out to be a bit of a grower.

At first listen Empty felt a bit similar-paced, mid to slow, and though there are no real rock-out moments, it wins you over with its passionate vocals, superb arrangements and instrumental detailing. Gildenlöw's lead vocals have a Roger Waters' like weariness to them but with a bluesiness that gives the songs their emotional momentum. The songs form a loose themed concept that is a 'sceptical and cynical look at humans and humanity', though it feels to me a bit more personal than the press notes allege.

Kristoffer Gildenlöw, promo photo

The songs on Empty have a melodic cast that infuses prog-rock with a blues melancholy and I think that is the aspect that grew on me as I listened to this again and again. The songs have a Pink Floyd feel to them in that the keyboards, bass and drums share that delicious filigree of detail allowing the introspective melodies shine.

As I said there are no rock-out moments but there are some fantastic guitar solos on this album, a number of guitarists are credited, but I'm not sure who plays on what track. At the end of the opening track Time To Turn The Page there's a Mark Knopfler style guitar solo that is superb. Throughout the album there are many terrific guitar solos that channel both Knopfler and David Gilmore.

But these are not the only things that lift this great album into a contender for people's end of year lists. There is the lovely slide guitar and organ fills on He's Not Me. The acoustic guitar and brilliant strings on Turn It All Around. There are growling, threatening synths on Down We Go. As well as well-placed use of fretless bass and wonderful acoustic piano melodies. There is only one track that that has a detail that irritates me. On Beautiful Decay the chorus has a brass band type rhythm that invites you to sing along 'Oom-Pah-Pah, Oom-Pah-Pah' (from the musical Oliver).

Other than that slight misstep Kristoffer Gildenlöw's Empty is a cracking collection of blues infused prog-rock songs that gives quite an emotional punch.

Go listen.

Kristoffer Gildenlöw On

Long Tall J — Solidarity

The Netherlands
Long Tall J - Solidarity
Your Soul (3:56), Ukraine (2:58), Alt Funk (3:16), Turandot (9:44), All About You (3:09), Solidarity (7:11), Long Tall Boots (4:53), Pie In The Sky (3:29), Still I Wanna Know (4:10), Floydian Blues (9:19)
Jan Buddenberg

Two years after The Spire Dutch musician and aviator Long Tall J (aka Jan Lievaart) returns with his fourth album Solidarity. An album exploring themes of love, introspection, war and global solidarity. The latter two subjects strikingly captured in artwork, songs, lyrics, and Lievaart's encouraging quotes to stand up and fight for unity. Imagine this album to be part of a pageant competition then its overall message may well be the most genuine answer ever given to the one question always asked.

In line with previous albums Lievaart and several returning guests once again present an intriguing collection of well-crafted songs that touch upon prog, melodic rock, hard rock, pop and various other genres.

In opener Your Soul this for instance leads to impressions of folk when, after an opening of acoustic guitar and refined piano embraced by ethereal vocal enchantment in likeness of Edenya, Yulian Heroim's violin steers melodies into a lovely Celtic environment that glows with mild Kansas attraction. Moments later Alt Funk, in full respect to its implying title, pleasantly dips into funk complemented with a surprisingly groovy twist that includes exaltation of jazz courtesy of The Kyiv Horns.

Add to this tightness of drum patterns, exciting guitar extravaganza and tension of (ambient) atmospheres enhanced with speeches, synths and sound effects in Solidarity that evokes thoughts of KONG, a touching ballad (Still I Wanna Know) and engaging alternative pop (All About You), and it soon becomes evident Lievaart has fully succeeded in his objective to offer his listeners a bit of variety now and again.

Another clear indication of Lievaart's intentions, this time from a musical perspective, is of course album closer Floydian Blues. As one of two truly prog inspired compositions on the album it engagingly snail-crawls its way through intricate arrangements and delightful blues based melodies reminiscent of Pink Floyd (duh). A vision strengthened through Lievaart's delicious melancholic guitar parts that strongly resonate David Gilmour.

The second prog focussed composition is Turandot, which features co-composers Peh Jong Ip and Mariia Arkhipova on male and female vocals respectively. This enjoyable neo-prog styled song lifts off with subtlety in instrumentation and dusky atmospheres of blues that perfectly befit Ip's vocals, and elegantly shifts into daintier atmospheres when Arkhipova's enchanting voice comes into action. A series of excellent synth/guitar movements and fluidly rippling guitar melodies follows. After which an outburst of dynamic rock and a beautiful vocal elevated ambient movement carries the song into it's captivating coda designed with a repetition of themes and melodies thriving under strength of complementing harmony vocals.

As much as I enjoy listening to all of these aforementioned tracks it's still Lievaart's heavy rock side that excites me the most. A fine example being instrumental rocker Pie In The Sky which energised by The Kyiv horns soars through energetic, bass enriched, melodies that create a perfect platform for Lievaart to go all out on crafty guitar soloing.

When this rock-gift is combined with the powerful, expressive and edgy versatile voice of Arkhipova then Lievaart's efforts really take off. Admittedly there isn't much prog involved in Long Tall Boots seeing it is a pure unadulterated adrenaline rock rush with full on dynamics, vigorous vocals and ravishing Rock 'n Roll piano parts in striking Herman Brood and Jerry Lee Lewis tradition. But I simply love it.

The same goes for the 'Twelve Points' scoring, near perfect, three-minute protest of Ukraine. Screaming multiple volumes in message to make rock not war (sort of), this straightforward composition vigorously rocks like a cradle from start to finish with fierce propulsions on bass, simplicity in structural rhythms, and an abundance of intensifying musicality that thrives on Arkhipova's emotional heartfelt outcries. A sublime composition that from a rock point of view could have lasted me much more.

With fine production values and a mastering by Steve Kitch (The Pineapple Thief), all of the above mounts up to the conclusion Lievaart has delivered a solidly convincing and great flowing album. One that showcases much more cohesion and consistency than The Spire and is easily on parr with 2020. Out of three reviewed so far this is now my go-to album by Lievaart, hence its higher recommendable rating. I secretly still hope though for that one album which specifically delivers what Lievaart, accompanied on vocals by either Amariia or Stan Verbraak (see the review of 2020) does best: ROCK!

Rick Miller — One Of The Many

Rick Miller - One Of The Many
Atrophy (8:21), Time Goes On (3:52), The Lost Years (8:29), She Of The Darkness (3:57), One Of The Many (4:54), Perchance To Dream (13:10), Wonderlust (6:15), Another Time (4:36)
Greg Cummins

As sure as day turns into night you can be assured that veteran prog maestro, Rick Miller from Canada will unleash yet another platter of sonic delights to tempt your taste buds with his dreamy, smooth and melancholic smorgasbord of new music. And what a step-up this one has turned out to be. Just as I had begun to slightly tire of the somewhat repetitive and formulaic style of some of Rick's latter material, he delivers what is arguably his best album in many years.

Over the years, Rick has adopted a more retro approach that, whilst not necessarily offering anything new or original, harkens back to a period within progressive rock history that allowed musicians and bands to create exactly what they wanted to and be damned with what the record company executives expected. The one major difference here is that Rick has, for the most part, produced quality albums that still possess sufficient style and thematic progression between each album so that you can judge the development accordingly without always feeling, "We've heard all of this before".

Having said that, however, a few of his latter albums suffered slightly from too much similarity with previous offerings and for some fans, a certain album may well have become the turning point whereby they declined to follow up with any future albums that Rick may have released. That was certainly my position after he released Altered States in 2023 as my thoughts on that album suggested Rick's efforts needed an injection of more hormones to keep those creative juices flowing. Fast-forward another 12 months or so and the results with his newest album, speak for themselves.

Others have rightly aligned Rick's music as appealing to fans of The Moody Blues, The Alan Parsons Project, Barclay James Harvest, Pink Floyd etc., although I would have no hesitation in adding a lot more recent artists to that credible list. Alan Reed, Anthony Kalugen, Aries (Fabio Zuffante), Cast (Mex), Tiger Moth Tales, David Minasian, Eloy Fritsch, The Lens, Janos Varga Project, Karfagen, The Enid, Ken Baird, Kevin Peek, (Sky), Martin Orford, David Bainbridge, Sebastian Hardie and Steve Thorne are worthy contenders amongst Rick's contemporaries. When you also add in some of the more progressive new age artists such as David Arkenstone, Davol & Zazen to the list, you will appreciate the influence that Rick gained when producing music from that genre when he began his career many decades ago.

Rick's music is often contemplative, warm and inviting without the fanfare or pyrotechnics that other musicians prefer. You'd need to refer to Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Vinnie Moore for some examples of more adrenaline infused material that Rick simply doesn't try to emulate. That allows him to keep the "feel good" factor at a reasonably high level as you can often succumb to the warmth and comfort of his playing style that is often lost with six-string slingers who spend too much time show-boating their speed without adding anything constructive to their music. You will certainly enjoy the addition of cello, flute and violin with Rick's music as its alluring power is perfectly enhanced with the addition of these more gentle instruments.

If you enjoy the music from those artists mentioned above and feel like experimenting with an unknown musician to infuse your listening needs with some highly accessible, easily absorbed and digestible music that borders on the softer side of progressive / symphonic rock, then Rick is your man. This is a great place to start but be warned, once bitten, you'll probably want to explore the rest of his back catalogue, as I did many years ago. Served best with a few glasses of Shiraz and some cheese and crackers of choice.

Optimum Wave — First Wave

Optimum Wave - First Wave
Cosmic Microwave Background (3:53), July 8th (4:53), The Optimist (3:47), Happy (3:42), A Lonely Place (5:16), In My Backyard (10:03), Rising Star (6:46), Cosmic Microwave Background (Reprise) (3:16)
Edwin Roosjen

Optimum Wave is the new band from keyboard player Steve Leigh who is known from the bands Tamarisk and Landmarq. Other band members in Optimum Wave, and providing the rhythm section, are Dave Wagstaffe (Landmarq) on drums and Chris Davies on bass. These three are the core musicians for the debut album First Wave that feature many guest musicians. Guest on violin on the song The Optimist is Dhany Vicky. This first album by Optimum Wave features four different guitar players and six different vocalists. For an album with only eight songs, with three instrumental, that is quite a lot. It kind of means that each song has a different vocalist.

The album starts with an atmospheric instrumental track. Cosmic Microwave Background is a nice opener, it has a nice steady flow and falls easy into your ears. Layers of keyboard soundscapes with a guitar floating over these sounds, really nice start of the album. July 8th does not fall gently into your ears and demands a bit more attention. Where on the first opener it is impossible to stop nodding your head to the beat, July 8th is on the opposite of the spectrum. Complex rhythm and vocal lines that do not fit automatically. Not necessarily a bad thing but it is a bit of a leap from the opener. Another leap is the one to the third song, The Optimist. This one starts with an uplifting violin melody and sounds like a folk song. The Optimist is an instrumental song in which violin and keyboard are handing over the solo spot to each other throughout the song.

Happy is as the title says a happy song. Instantly this tune is in your head and very easy to singalong. Optimum Waves jumps around with different type of songs and with the fact that each song has a new vocalist demands some flexibility from the listener. Next song A Lonely Place is again an enormous swing to another side of the spectrum. A sad complaining song in which the lyrics are in your face, certainly not a happy song. The guitar solo is also very fiery instead of the gentle melodic guitar playing we heard before. In My Backyard is a real old-fashioned neo-prog song. Just over ten minutes long and filled with melodies, many keyboard but also a lot of guitar. This song features two different vocalists that in the second part alternate in combination with many keyboard and guitar solos. The album closes with Rising Star is a slow mellow bluesy song and a reprise of Cosmic Microwave Background.

Optimum Wave is a very nice collaboration with two previous members of Landmarq. I can handle a diverse album, but with changing style in combination with the many guest musicians, this album has the tendency to become a mixed bag. A mixed bag with definitely some highlights — The Optimist with violin and In My Backyard are very fine songs. Fans of Landmarq and Tamarisk will surely like some parts of the album but could be skipping some songs. All things considered I still hope there will be a Second Wave with a more steady line up and a more coherent second album.

Rubber Tea — From A Fading World

Rubber Tea - From A Fading World
Ouranja Valley (1:14), Day Of Wrath (3:15), Go (5:30), Desert Man (5:37), Fading Forest (5:00), Chaturanga (6:03), The Gate (2:09), Welcome To Sunnville (0:54), Superhexacatalyst (2:52), Silence Answer Me (6:04), Ground Control (4:31)
Sergey Nikulichev

There is something very prog and psychedelic about tea, isn't it? Okay, beer is rock 'n' roll, soda is pop, whiskey is blues, but the proggiest drink turns to be... tea, if you ask me (well, unless you count magic potions of the 70ies). Of course, that's because of the importance of reassessment of British Isles tradition, which generally gave shape to prog five decades ago. So the crucial role of this refreshing Victorian drink should not be underestimated. Rubber Tea, a small prog orchestra from Germany, is one of many bands adding the “tea” reference to their name. Infusion, the band's debut from 2020 received a lot of praises in genre press, and four years later RT makes a second statement, somberly titled From a Fading World, and reiterated by an eco-warning cover art.

Neither the band's name nor the album's give listener a clue about what to expect from the music. One highly reputable prog web-resource classifies it as neo-prog, and the statement is criminally misleading – sorry, guys. Not a single note on the record resembles the Marillion / IQ tradition. Instead, Rubber Tea offers a number of compositions rooted in European fusion, Canterbury and – while playing their most aggressive material – alternative avant-rock, akin to Bent Knee. Again, parallel to Bent Knee, the band abstains from multipart epics and is female-fronted, graced with charming vocals of Vanessa Gross, who also plays sax parts and flute and is indeed the busiest player on the record. I am not particular fond of overusing labels — but I love inventing them — and my proposal for Rubber Tea is “neo-Canterbury”, i.e. Canterbury sound, aware of the newer influences and integrating them into the weave work of its own themes.

The record opens with acoustic intro Ouranja Valley, forewarning the wide usage of unplugged instruments. Day Of Wrath is the opening hard-rocker, with the aforementioned alternative influences (sounds a bit like Garbage with a chamber orchestra). Chaturanga features Iberian musical themes and guitar styles, somewhat reminding me of post-Wild Orchids works of Steve Hackett, something I also noticed on tracks like Desert Man. My personal favorite is the penultimate composition Silence Answer Me, balancing jazzy flutes and tenor sax parts with misty, almost noir esthetics and very intricate, unlike-any-other, leading melody.

Maybe it's just me who listened to a load of fusion-related albums over past couple of years, or something in Rubber Tea's music, but the feeling is that a couple of gems shine out of rather standard material. It is a good, at times even great Canterbury-related album, flirting with alternative rock and filled with beautiful sax / flute sections, but mostly it shall please fans within the genre. However, this is a name to track onwards, if you are looking for perspective newcomers.

This record doesn't have: long epics, funky jams, kettles of fish.

This record has: a bunch of fresh ideas, something that might be your cup of tea, something that might not be your cup of tea.

Album Reviews