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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Slivovitz - Liver



Recorded two years ago at the La Casa di Alex in Milan, Italy except for one track at the same venue on May 25, 2014, Slivovitz showcase the deliver and exuberant performance with the release of Liver. The seven-piece band at the time in 2016, released their third album, All You Can Eat which was their follow up to their second album,Bani Ahead. Listening to Liver, released on the MoonJune label, you have to understand more than just both the Progressive Rock and Jazz world that they brought on here.

Not only they would bring the two genres together, but the elements of ‘70s Funk and Fusion to make you close your eyes and be at the club watching and seeing in awe of cheering and showing support for Slivovitz. Beginning with Mai Per Comando, the sound of Pietro’s tenor sax giving the band doing their nod to the late great godfather of soul, Mr. James Brown and the Headhunters-era of Herbie Hancock, Slivovitz know the funk well.

Pietro channels the styles of Chameleon as if Mel Collins from the Lizard-era of King Crimson came to lend Pietro a helping hand before Derek’s harmonica wails it down as they do a melodic duel. And then at the last minute and 12 seconds, it transforms into a speeding train thanks to Giannini’s metallic riffs to make it through the finish line. From Bani Ahead, Cleopatra Through, the live version beats out the studio version.

You can hear Vincenzo coming in front as he does the bass line introduction. Clocking in at 7 minutes and 30 seconds, this gives electric violinist Riccardo Villari a chance by doing an extended solo. I don’t know if I ever heard it while listening to the studio version, but Riccardo has finally been given carte blanche on his improvisation. The audience are applauding for Riccardo before Pierri, Riccardi, and Stangelo do a stop-and-go moment between harmonica, trumpet, and tenor sax.

Riccardi’s trumpet echoes through the club using the effects on the reverb as if he was inside a cave creating improvisations that are both hidden and haunting on Egiziaca. Alongside Riccardo Villari, Ciro goes through the cave with his trumpet going both up and down before heading towards the light as Perri’s bluesy harmonica and Marcello’s guitar, lay down some blues-rock exercise.

And then, it becomes a mind-blowing finale as it head towards the essence of both Chicago Blues and Hard Rock thumps revved by Marcello in the intro and ending of the piece. The melodic lines between guitar and trumpet come again doing more of the stop-and-go sections in Mani In Faccia. Villari’s violin sets up the quick second beauty before Marcello and Ciro get back into the race for another extended version of the piece from All You Can Eat, but it gets more ideas from the band members to bring it out there from the studio version of the instrumental.

You get to hear the whole team not just hammering it out at the Casa di Alex, but delivering a powerful structure of the composition. Giannini is bringing a lot of ferocious sounds to get the boiling level up a notch. Then, it calms down for the last 20 seconds by ending back to applause. They do a take of Nirvana’s Negative Creep from their 1989 debut album, Bleach, sees Slivovitz going into a Thrash Metal approach of the song.

The sax and trumpet do the melody as it becomes an eruptive take of Kurt Cobain’s song by transforming it between a crossover of the Dio-era of Black Sabbath (Mob Rules period) and the Kill ‘Em All-era of Metallica. I had an amazing blast listening to Slivovitz's Liver. They never done me wrong. I still admire this band so much and after listening about seven times now, I can't wait for the next Slivovitz release to see what will they think of next.

Dusan Jevtovic - Live at Home



Recorded two years ago at Decije Pozoriste in Kragujevac, Serbia on December 23rd which is Dusan Jevtovic’s hometown city. Released by SKC (Studentski Kulturni Centar) and marketed by MoonJune Records for limited distribution, this live recording contains pieces that were featured in last year’s release of Dusan’s album, No Answer. Jevtovic is aided by keyboardist Vasil Hazimanov who was on the album. And also on here with Live at Home is bassist Pera Krstajic and drummer Pedja Milutinovic.

When you listen to Live at Home, you as a listener, you can feel Dusan’s presence during his performance. Not just listening to whole thing from start to finish, but image yourself by closing your eyes watching and seeing the quartet creating these harsh, mysterious, electronic, fusion, twisted, yet innovative sounds they would bring to the live recording at Kragujevac. The opener, No Answer on here, is giving Dusan a lot of free-rein through his improvisation while Vasil creates these cavernous water dripping vibes on the keyboards.

The intensive atmosphere between Vasil, Pedja, Pera, and Dusan himself runs these sonic surroundings on his guitar as it goes through a small amount of maximum power. But it is Vasil himself who is using this delay/reverb effect, walks you through this film-noir setting of the 1940s in black-and-white as if a crime scene has just happened.

And then, Dusan would go ahead go through picking up the pieces before ending with some harsh minor chords. On Angel/Al Aire-Soko Bira, Dusan goes through some electronic hisses before singing the traditional Serbian song. It is a chilling piece for the first 2 minutes and 50 seconds before Vasil takes the keyboards walking down the styles of the Starless & Bible Black-era of King Crimson as if the creature is walking behind the detectives lurking behind them for the kill.

With New Pop, it is a driving composition. It has this late ‘70s to early ‘80s pop sound that Dusan does. Pedja keeps the engine’s running through the hi-hat and the snare drum. Dusan channels his playing between the styles of both Lindsey Buckingham and the late great Walter Becker of Steely Dan. There’s this cross between Fleetwood Mac, Rush’s Moving Pictures-era, ZZ Top, and Steely Dan’s Aja thrown into the blender.

With Vasil’s composition of Briga, Dusan himself gives him a chance to come forth as the two of them do a melodic duel between piano and guitar. Vasil channels Bill Evans (Miles Davis, Kind of Blue) for the first 2 minutes and 36 seconds before switching to the electric piano by creating a strange and mysterious effect. He goes through various moments to give the other three to climb towards the mountain top.

There are some eerie vocals in the background as the intensity level in the last three minutes to give it a real surprise. And then, there’s the closer, Gracias Y Perdon – Outro. The music suddenly turns into a hay-wiring electronic mode and children in the background screaming for joy as Dusan is almost switching channels to create this shrieking hypnotic effect that pays nod to Pink Floyd’s On The Run.

Live at Home as I’ve mentioned earlier, that you as a listener, imaging yourself being at that concert at his hometown, watching Dusan bringing the audience towards a journey of various genres that is spiritual, amazing, haunting, and staggering. Dusan Jevtovic never disappoints me.

Tautologic - Re:Psychle



Released on their own label, Turtle Down Music, Re:Psychle documents Tautologic’s Ethan Sellers’ inspiration of the people that he met in his Hyde Park neighborhood in Chicago. It deals with the subject issues of; veteran’s issues, materialism, addiction, mental illness, celebrity culture, and the need for re-connection with nature. The origins of the band’s history goes back 21 years ago.

Ethan Sellers and drummer Pat Buzby both finished college and Ethan himself knew that he wanted to start a new band with friends while he was a student at the University of Chicago. Buzby studied at Olberin. When he read an ad by Sellers from a Prog-Rock discussion group, he knew it was the next move for him. The two of them both have an appreciation of the genre. 18 years ago, they released their debut album West is North, East is South which received critical acclaim both in the States and in the U.K.

Their next release was in 2002 entitled, The Basement Sessions. Then then work begin of Psychle began back after Sellers did a second theatrical piece called At the Apartment which featured songs from other material and The Basement Sessions. But Psychle was almost released, but due to financial setbacks, Sellers decided to archive the album for a decade.

Now in the year 2018, in the form of Re:Psychle, it finally sees the light at the end of the tunnel. It includes from former and new band members to lend both Ethan and Pat a helping hand. On Your Left is a fun-filled composition with a nod towards the genre of Cajun music. You can imagine Tautologic dance-walking a march towards from Treme to the French Quarter in New Orleans.

It’s almost as if they’re doing this song performing at the Preservation Hall and having a big blast performing the composition with organ, horn sections, violin, and sax going through the location to bring a new day. Their nod to the late great John Coltrane, sends towards a Prog-Pop atmosphere with the Coltrane Supermarket.

Beginning with hay-wiring effects of free-jazz sax improvisation and shattered glass and delving into a crossover between ELO’s Mr. Radio and MoeTar’s Butchers of Baghdad thrown in with some background harmonizing scaling vocalizations. Osaka Garden starts with these sirens, telephone’s ringing, and the sounds of an ordinary day in the city of Chicago along with construction workers drilling around the clock.

The lyrics deal with the subject of getting away from the noises in the street and the city into a quiet location to be away from the society with some gentle acoustic guitar and a nod to the Beatles white album sessions. And then there’s The Admiral. It’s perhaps one of Tautologic’s haunting compositions dealing with someone who is watching you and having paranoia.

It has this terrifying scenario that can be disturbing at times of looking outside to see if someone called the FBI, CIA, or the police, or if someone’s trying to take your life. And Tautologic deal with the subject matter brilliantly well. I will admit after listening for about three of four times now, I have to say that I'm not really crazy about this album, but it’s very interesting and a very interesting concept that Tautologic have released. It is ambitious and well-written with the subject matters based on Ethan’s inspirations in his neighborhood. But it's not a bad release at all.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Kevin Kastning and Mark Wingfield - The Line to Three



As I’ve mentioned in my 2017 introduction of my review of Kevin Kastning’s A Connection of Secrets, It’s been a good while since I’ve listened to Kastning’s music. It’s been way overdue and I figured it’s about time to go back and find out what I was missing. Since 2011’s I Walked into the Silver Darkness, I believe and I might be wrong this is, it is their sixth collaboration that Kevin has worked with Mark Wingfield. The combination between the two of them are a perfect team, and an amazing duo.

Recorded in over three days last year at Studio Traumwald in Northern Massachusetts in February while mixed and mastered in the U.K. at Heron Island Studio, the soundscapes on The Line to Three, released on the Greydisc label, gives Mark the creation he does by doing these deep, immersive sounds that almost made my arm hairs go up. He can make his guitar go through these chilling scenarios.

I almost had this feeling that he's tipping his hat to Terje Rypdal as if he’s watching Wingfield doing these component ideas while Kastning plays not only just the 30-string contra-alto guitar and the 15-string extended classical guitar, but playing some of the most menacing piano chords both high and low. And some of the booming sounds on percussion as if Kevin is making you, the listener, to understand that someone is creeping up behind you or waves crashing at the exact moment.

You can imagine yourself being at the Scandinavian mountains at night and you can almost feel the wind breezing and the pins dropping. Kastning and Wingfield setting up the cold, chilling, and freezing vibes of the mysterious whereabouts of being alone in a cabin with only one candle burning bright with no electricity, small amount of food, and the winds hitting really hard. The music really sets the scenario as if there’s no one to help you or rescue you. The only option is survival of the fittest.

Now, this is my second time listening to The Line to Three. It may not be everyone’s suitable taste in music, but with the elements of Avant-Garde, Classical, Droning, and Experimental music, Kevin and Mark kept me going for more to see what they will come up with next.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Magma - To Life, Death and Beyond: The Music of Magma


Next year marks the 50th anniversary of Magma’s formation. While we’re in 2018, and seeing where we will be for the next years to come, it’s time to describe one of the most mind-blowing bands to come out of France like a gigantic cannon blast. Magma were the band that pushed boundaries and often overlooked in the history of the Progressive Rock genre. It’s mixtures between the sounds of; Avant-Garde, Jazz, Rock, Classical, and Opera. It’s almost as if the volcano has erupted at the right moment, at the right time for Magma to come out of the lava and bring it to life.

That and their 2017 documentary directed by Laurent Goldstein entitled, To Life, Death, and Beyond: The Music of Magma, is a very interesting documentary describing the history of the band. Among supporters including not just the fans that are being interviewed, but people like; Trey Gunn of King Crimson, Robert Trujillo of Metallica/Suicidal Tendencies, and Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys who are in the film to show their appreciation of this band that are still going strong.

This was a project that Laurent who admired this band for 40 years, went on the road with them during their 2016 tour which was called, The Endless Tour. This is a labor of love for Goldstein and believe me, he’s done it well. With the help of Kickstarter that went up to $26,296 by 386 backers, there are some moments in the film that made me open my eyes more about Christian Vander.

Vander, who founded the band, says in the opening line of the documentary, “We presented ourselves with nothing, we were in the silence, and the music spoke for us.” That’s what Magma did, they spoke to a spiritual vibration and audiences to embark on an adventure that is ready for them to embark on the planet Kobaia. It’s not just for audiences for them to embark on the planet, but knowing it is both the sound and vibrations that will send chills down the spine.

We get to discover Christian Vander’s childhood from the eastern suburbs of Paris called Nogent-sur-Marne. You get to see that he had a difficult childhood, and brought down by both his aunt and uncle at times, but it was music that saved him. It was both classical music and jazz. The house being with musicians including Flautist Bobby Jaspar, drummer and Coltrane alumni Elvin Jones who did a drum duet with Vander in a rare footage between the two of them that guided Vander his steps on being a drummer.

But it was the late great John Coltrane that became a big influence in Christian’s work from the moment he heard My Favorite Things and that was the light bulb that went on for him. It was like a breath of fresh air discovering the master’s work. Whenever he went through his rough times, his music guided him through those troubled times after his mom was sent to jail for stealing.

When Coltrane died in 1967, it deeply affected him and went through depression. But it wasn’t until he wanted to do something to move forward and that was where in the spring of 1969, while he was in Turin, Vander he needed to change his life around and that was where he returned to Paris. To form what would be known as Magma.

There are interviews with former members of Magma including Laurent Thibault, Klaus Blasquiz, Patrick Gauthier, Francis Moze, along with archive interviews with bassist Jannick Top, and keyboardist Michel Graillier to name a few. The DVD contains six chapters including some bonus features that on here. Before I get into that, while this documentary is a legacy honoring the legends of the Zeuhl masters, it’s also short.

Mind you, it’s great to see some of the footage of the various line-ups including Offering and their 1977 performance at the Hippodrome du Pantin in Paris, restored. But it’s not the complete story of Magma. I just wished this documentary was only 2 or 3 hours long instead of 1 hour and 37 minutes.  

Christian Vander has been around from day one. He’s still going strong playing the drums and keeping the Magma train going. There is not a single stop-sign for him. He’s very much like a conductor at times and letting the band members decide where he will go next. At times he would give them free-rein including two bass players during their 1981 performance at Bobino.

Now the bonus features. The bonus extras on the DVD contains Jean-Luc Chevalier playing Jannick Top’s composition on acoustic guitar of De Futura. You can see Jean-Luc really playing the piece sort of in the styles of Django Reinheardt chord-like structures, menacing sounds, bass riffs and improvisations he does. It’s not a bad take, but Jean-Luc can really nail down those changes.

Jello Biafra’s appreciation of Magma and his discovery of the band’s music that he puts up there with The Stooges, Hawkwind, MC5, and Sparks. Trey Gunn’s horizontal vibes on his Warr guitar bringing to mind his Crimson days. It’s very much as if Trey is embarking you on a solar system adventure playing and tapping through his instrument as far as he can go.

And one of the highlights on here is Patrick Gauthier playing one of his compositions On the Persian Markets beginning with the bells and clock chiming before Patrick goes through a dynamic piano concerto he does. It’s a challenging piece, but he nails it through the keys as if creating a score for one the silent film-era between Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Buster Keaton films during the 1910s and 1920s.

To Life, Death and Beyond: The Music of Magma is not a bad film, just not the whole story. But we begin to wonder if Christian has a few more tricks up his sleeve and when the time will be right to come full circle. 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

King Crimson - Earthbound


Among supporters of one of the first “official bootleg” releases back in 1972 including Nick Cave of the Bad Seeds who worked with Robert Fripp on the second Grinderman project, King Crimson’s Earthbound is perhaps one of the most lo-fi recordings that King Crimson released during the time when the Islands-era line up toured during the states. When it was originally released in the summer of 1972 on the Island HELP label, it topped the mid-price charts in the UK, not on the main album charts.

I wasn’t quite sure for many years if I wanted to delve into the Earthbound album. But when I heard that it was going to be reissued as a part of the King Crimson catalogue in the 40th anniversary series (CD/DVD) by making it the 12th release last year, I was thinking to myself, “Let me give this live album a chance.” Listening to this, I will admit, it has a very rough sound due to being recorded on an AMPEX stereo cassette from a Kelsey Morris custom built mixer.

It’s not bad, but it does a very raw and rough sound. Listening to the bluesy rocker Peoria, the late great Boz Burrell does an incredible job scatting through his vocals as Fripp’s wah-wah on the guitar, lays down the rhythm as Ian Wallace’s pounding drums on the bass drum, follows his textures to get the groove and follow the paths of a mind-blowing trip. Mel Collins’ mellotron on The Sailor’s Tale takes you beyond the sea and heading towards the sun to rise as it sails from Fripp’s guitar work along with Boz and Ian creating these jazz beats between the Bass and Drums.

Even though it fades out in the end from Ian Wallace’s drum solo, I wish they continued more with that. But Ian takes center stage as he, Boz, and Mel’s sax improvisation continue with the Blues on the title-track. Boz scat’s well and channeling the greats of Al Green and Otis Redding. The Soul and R&B roots are delved into this classic. You could see where Boz was about to go into before embarking success with Bad Company.

When you listen to the opener, 21st Century Schizoid Man, you can imagine Boz’s vocals speaking through as if he was a Dalek from Doctor Who. The band in this are tight and keeping the machine flowing on here. Wallace’s bass drums is way too loud on here. Again, the criticism on this, I wish it wasn’t recorded in front of the stage, but on the soundboard instead of being up to a maximum volume.

The DVD contains a new sequence stereo version of the Earthbound album including a very interesting yet staggering version of Ladies of the Road, an intense take of The Letters thanks to the blaring nightmarish saxes of Mel Collins yet in the styles of Coltrane, also on here are two extended versions of both The Sailor’s Tale and Groon. Here, at their best, you can hear them what they could have been on the original release of the album.

The second thing on the DVD contains the original vinyl transfer release, the 11-part sections of Schizoid Men which was originally part of the DGM release of Ladies of the Road the 2-CD set in 2002 in the King Crimson Collectors Club during the Earthbound tour. Listening to Schizoid Men, the compilations between Mel Collins and Robert Fripp, is like a dueling car chase. It’s quite the surprise to hear them really hitting the race track to see they’re going to do next. 

And Ian following suit to be ready the blow the whistle at any moment. It made my arm hairs go up. But the Summit Studios recordings which contains both the New Stereo Mix and the Quadraphonic Mix, makes you realize that this could have been the should have been the Earthbound release.

The 16-page booklet contains liner notes by Sid Smith, including photographs of the band’s performance during that tour in ’72. It also includes pictures of the vinyl from Polydor label, press ads, and the final concert photos they did on April fool’s day in Birmingham, Alabama at Municipal Auditorium. After the tour was done, the band broke up. It wasn’t until they came which would later be their golden-era which was the John Wetton and Bill Bruford-era from ’73 to ’74.

Earthbound is not a great live album, there are some flaws on here, but it’s very interesting that it finally got the King Crimson 40th anniversary release. Would I listen to this again? Not really. But it’s understandable where they were about to go with next until their next live album during the Red-era entitled USA which is consider their best.

Vantomme - Vegir


Dominique Vantomme is a Belgium based pianist, keyboardist, composer, and producer. He’s worked with many of the European Rock and Pop acts while being a Jazz piano instructor at the Music Conservatory in Kortijk, Belgium. That and the collaboration between Chapman Stick and Bassist Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel, King Crimson, and Stick Men), Guitarist Michel Delville (The Wrong Object, Machine Mass, and douBt), and Belgium drummer Maxime Lessens.

It seems like an interesting combination, but it works! The four of them created this ominous, dark, haunting, yet nightmarish to kick 2018 off with the release of Vegir. The origins of the Vegir project started back two years ago when Dominique went to meet with his old friend, MoonJune labelist, Leonardo Pavkovic. And then, he befriended Tony Levin.

The quartet recorded the album back on October 29th, 2016 at Studio Jezus in Hoboken as it was mixed by Fritz Sunderman and mastered by guitarist Mark Wingfield (Kevin Kastning, Dwiki Dharmawan). Listening to Vegir, it’s almost as if you were at the recording sessions being in awe of the masters to bring the genre of experimental, jazz, and progressive music back to life, but done in the scariest way possible.

Not only that, but it is almost as if someone was creeping up behind you as if someone is lurking underneath your skin. And that is what Vegir does. Not just to give you the creeps, but being prepared to fasten your seatbelts. Because the music will chill you from beginning, middle, and near the end.

Vegir begins with Double Down. The opening track that clocks in at 7 minutes and 37 seconds, Dominique gets the car running between both the Rhodes and Mellotron before Tony and Maxime come into the seats between the back and the front of the station wagon. And then, Michel comes in last before Dominque gets the car started with these hypnotic effects.

Delville does these psychedelic wah-wah effects in the background as if Vantomme was driving through an endless passageway that is something straight out of David Lynch’s Lost Highway or Twin Peaks. Michel and Dominique go into this haywiring mode as Delville screeches through the instrument as if at any second he’s about to boil the kettle with a high pitch scream.

Part Agitation Free, part Soft Machine’s Third-era, it is an intensive introduction to start the album off as if Vantomme has already lit the fuse to let the Cannon erupt at any second. Sizzurp has this reminisce of the opening of the late ‘60s and ‘70s Italian Giallo films. It’s Dom’s synths channeling the VOX organ plus the spooky vibrations of Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti and Italian Progressive Rock band, Unreal City.

Then at 1 minute and 54 seconds, Dom and Michel go into some hard heavy walks followed by Levin’s bass riffs as if the three of them are walking into some deep, dark alleyway. However, in the midsection, the hay wire voyages of space comes in at light speed before Maxime calms everything down with his drum patterns as Delville screeches in the reverb effects. You can tell that Dominique is paying homage to Steven Wilson’s 2009 debut as a solo artist with the release of Insurgentes.

The grooves really give the quartet to feel all of the power and the energy flowing with its sections that can be terrifying. Levin and Lenssens keep it together for a texture of a dooming approach. Then, near the end it heads back into the VOX organ finale of the Giallo films. Now we’ve come to The Self-Licking Ice Cream Cone.

Here, the quartet brings their hats to a bow of the Canterbury scene. You can imagine them showing how much their appreciation of the movement to make sure the flames don’t burn out in the water. Dom’s nod to both Mike Ratledge and Dave Stewart (Egg, Hatfield and the North, and National Health) is shown as he channels both of the keyboardist doing some of the Hatfield and Soft Machine’s improvisation.

But the three of them, give Tony a chance to come center stage. With Agent Orange, Levin’s Chapman lays down the tracks as if he’s on a dangerous tightrope. And you may never know if the rope is going to be cut or not. But the composition, it’s a film-noir story in a movie inside your head.

You can tell that Levin’s Chapman is dealing the situation on the aftermath of a horrific scene for the agent to find out what really happened in the gruesome murders while the music increases on the right track. There’s the King Crimson motif’s that flow between 1973 and 1995 from Larks Tongues’ in Aspic and THRAK.

MoonJune Records really kicked it off this year with this amazing release. I have listened to this three times now. It’s quite surprising to see what the label will think of this year for me to be a part of their train and seeing where they will stop and what my ear will come up with next.

Whether it would be a band or artist, Leonardo Pavkovic knows his stuff and I can imagine that he’s not just the train conductor, but he’s also riding the train to see where the magic and mystery lies ahead in those tunnels the train is about to go into.