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Monday, September 30, 2013

Garden - Somewhere Else



Since forming around two years ago in their hometown in Scotland, Garden has this unique sound combining the touches of Prog, Metal, Classical, and Folk music that are rolled up into one. And at times it’s almost like a film score, which is beautiful and touching and you can imagine the rivers rippling down by the Oceanside and walking through the waters and finding where home is and knowing the direction on finding out who you really are.

That said, their second EP, Somewhere Else, is a spiritual journey that will take the listener through various movements in the four genres and just takes you by surprise that is unexpected. The band considers Lauren Bain on Flute, Samuel Bradley on Lead Vocals, Bass Guitar, and Tuba, Dan Grover on Piano/Vocals, Chris Grieve on Cello, Patrick Jamieson on Guitar/Vocals, Matilda Nordqvist on Violin, and Cameron Kuronen-Stewart on Saxophone and Clarinet.

Opener, Overture for the Divided, is an excellent introduction to start the EP off with a bang. It begins with a mourning turned militant rocking before it goes into a fast-driven mode before going into the Weather Report meets King Crimson meets Symphony X roar as Samuel just goes into those melodic boundaries while each of the instruments just goes into different time phrases as they go into deeper and cavernous territories.

Then you have lukewarm emotional ballads like Leaving Home, which has this wonderful reminiscent to the Acid Folk turned Alternative Rock orientations, but with an orchestral boundary as Chris Grieve, Lauren Bain, and Matilda Nordqvist makes you feel right at home as they a classical yet lukewarm crisp while In a Garden, which the lyrics deal with how time passes by and remembering your first true love, is back into the symphonic and little bit of the Canterbury ‘70s sound , is a supernatural vibe.

Waiting for Fireworks, which works well as Samuel writes it as a mini rock opera with a Celtic Folk turned Prog Metal story-telling, about a person learning the errors of his/her ways by wishing to go back and change everything, but after the blasting and explosions have cleared off, the person may stay and find out who they are or go out to fix the problem and go out in a blaze of glory. And the music itself that goes through that along with a bit of Jazz fusion thrown in there, goes into an amazing waltz-like finale as Bradley pays homage to Jaco Pastorius on his bass guitar as the vicious roaring metallic climax ends in a high note.

The closer, The View, it has these wonderful harmonizing vocals that is done in an canon style. At first it begins with homage to Egg’s The Civil Surface-era (Wind Quartets I & II), but then all of a sudden it goes epic and uplifting turned into a dramatic finale thanks to the classical instruments that is a knockout. Somewhere Else is a genuine EP of a band who are still getting started on the yellow brick road of the Progressive genre and even though Garden's got a long way to go, they will make it no matter what happens.

Link:

http://www.facebook.com/gardenprog

Friday, September 27, 2013

Pandora - Alibi Filosofico



When it comes to Italian Prog, you can expect the unexpected. Bands like; Museo Rosenbach, Le Orme, Banco, I Giganti, and the legendary Premiata Forneria Marconi, were ahead of their time in the ‘70s and took the sounds of the British Prog genre and kicked it up a notch and the sounds of Classical Music, Jazz and bits of Theory in there with storytelling complexes makes it a mind-blowing experience.

Today, the new generation of the Prog genre is like a breath of fresh air. And one of the bands that are following into the footsteps of the bands is a group called, Pandora. The band has been around for eight years and they released two albums from 2008 (Dramma di un Poeta Ubriaco) to 2011 (Sempre E Ovunque Oltre il Sogno) and now this year, they released, Alibi Filosofico (Philosophical Alibi). Bits of Metal, Prog, and Avant-Garde thrown in there and guests including Dino Forre of Il Castello Di Atlante, Arjen “Ayreon” Lucassen on keyboards and David Jackson of Van Der Graaf Generator on saxophones, makes it an excellent combination.

Opener, Il Necromante, Khurastos E La Prossima Vittima, a 10-minute epic, begins with the rain, and the rumbling monster roaring before it kicks into a Progressive Metal powder keg that hits off like a big bang.  Throttling and classical guitars, ghost-like vocals, folky, time signature difficulty, fast vocals, and heavy riffs, it is a perfect combination. Then, there’s the keyboards, that is a combination of Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson role up into one that is almost like a concerto with swirling synths and mellotrons, bit by bit, piece by piece, it is dramatic and suspenseful to get you ready for an amazing magic carpet ride.

Ne’ Titolo Ne’Parole, begins with an homage to Steve Hackett’s Voyage of the Acolyte-era with female vocalizations and classical guitar lines that has a Renaissance feel for the first minute and forty-four seconds before it descends into a Deep Purple crescendo as Arjen goes into his tribute to Jon Lord on the keyboards. Then, all of a sudden it goes into the Classical Renaissance Folk Rock boundaries again as guitar, vocals, and organ reach from slow to a high climatic celebration with a dramatic finale as Arjen takes into a higher yet soaring surrounding.

And he and Beppe are showing they’re might and giving a lot of voltage on the instrument to see who can come up with the best solo while Claudio does guitar lines before the track fades out, which I wish they could have done some more to give it another dramatic finale. La Risalita features Claudio doing this concerto on the grand piano that is very pastoral and has a lot of ambient and atmospheric voyages that makes you wonder that it could have been used on Klaus Schulze’s Irrlicht.

Then, there’s another epic. The 11-minute, Apollo, features David Jackson of VDGG doing some Free Jazz intro on the Sax as if he’s paying homage to John Coltrane and Lol Coxhill before it descends into the sounds of Tom Newman’s territory, a-la Faerie Symphony style for a few seconds before David comes in to create a nightmarish terror. It transforms into a tribute to Van Der Graaf Generator meets Magma meets Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody rolled up into one that is a crazy and wildly improvisation on the Greek storyline.

Tony il Matto, is a Jazz-Waltz in ¾ . Even though it’s done in the style of John Coltrane’s My Favorite Things, Beppe does his Thelonious Monk-like tribute on the Piano as David improvises as a flautist going through various sax instruments to pay tribute to Coltrane and Crimson’s Mel Collins as well while Sempre Con Me goes into an epic and theatrical tempest. The instruments collide into one with guitar, organ, vocals, and back into the rural sounds as the story has a tragedy in the styles of Shakespeare and the stories of tragic heroes/loved ones who go out in a blaze of glory or die in their arms and go into the heavens to remain as one. The closing title track is as symphonic as you can get.

Fanfare, emotional, spiritual, hypnotic, and breathtaking, each of the complex structural that were part of the missing puzzle, finally come as one. Touches of Spacey Prog, Psychedelic, Orchestral, they come in at the right time at the right place at the exact moment they needed in their grocery list to close the album off to give it that sendoff.

This is my introduction to Pandora’s music and I have to say I’m completely taken away from what I’ve listened to. I have listened to their third album, twice already and it just knocked me off my socks. So if you admire La Maschera Di Cera, Unreal City, and Nodo Gordiano, then Pandora is the band that you must listen to and Alibi Filosofico is one of the most explosive and mind-boggling albums to come out this year.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Update

Originally, I was planning to go and take a hiatus in October to focus on my Classwork in Ear Training III / Theory III, but I decided I had a change of heart. So instead of October, I will be reviewing on that month, and take a long hiatus break in November.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Meir Shitrit - Way


Every album is like a traveling adventure going from a different state in parts of the United States or across the ocean’s view by ship and traveling through parts of Europe, which makes you relax and enjoy the voyages and seeing the dolphins jumping up and down in the cool salty ocean while watching the sun going down and landing in to a different land at the right time at the right place. One of the most virtuosotic musicians to come out of Israel is a performer named Meir Shitrit, whose debut album, Way, is a laid-back and cooling release that he released last year.

There are 12 arranging and compositions on Way and there are various styles of music ranging from; middle-eastern, Jazz, World, and New Age music that he had brought to the table to get the vibe and atmosphere that he wanted to create while working on his first album. And he stayed true to it and track by track, is almost an adventure that you, the listener, will embrace and embark on, that will take you by surprise from the moment you listen to this from start to finish.

Not to mention six centerpieces to make you understand the work of Meir Shitrit. Opener, Shepherd’s Melody, starts off with percussion along with the droning noise of the sitar and Meir’s bluesy and jazzy melodic guitar lines before kicking off into full gear with a pastoral feel as it resembles Camel’s The Snow Goose-era as he pays homage to John McLaughlin and Andy Latimer that sends shivers and goosebumps down your spine. Elsewhere, the Brazilian-Tropical Islands come in with a full swing on Waves, as you can imagine the dancing vibes kick in as Meir goes into some wonderful movements on different time changes on his instrument and the harmonizing vocals captures the essence of enjoyment.

Spirit of India begins with an ambient violin introduction before the slapping and groovy shaking vibes come in on the acoustic guitar while the waves crash in, setting the beautiful surroundings of the country as the sliding sounds and the middle-eastern atmospheres helps out with the percussion and Meir just going into town creating these magical wonders on his instrument. Then you have both the guitars and violin going into a dual mode playing different melodic variations that creates some tension and dynamics that is unexpected and astonishing and have a classical symphonic finale.

Then, all of a sudden, you have a wonderous sound of Raga-Rock coming into town on Jaffa Nights. Now Jaffa is located in the oldest part of Tel Aviv in the state of Israel and it has some Israeli Folk touches coming in thanks to the violin and Meir’s Fusion-sque lines coming from the town he was born in and you can imagine it with a beautiful sunny afternoon walking into that area and just having a wonderful time as Meir takes you into the soundtrack of your life.

Playin’ Around has this bizarre combination of Funk and Swing. However, it works well as it has this dancy moves and at times psychedelia before the Monk-like piano sounds come into the void to capture the scenes of late ‘30s/early 1940s as if you were time traveling and landing into a Jazz club at that time period and having a blast dancing till the wee hours of the morning while the closing track, Taqism Square, is a fast-driven Fusion Israeli Pastoral Rockin' climax.

This is where Meir takes full control as all the instruments come into full swing as it becomes a roller-coaster ride as some of the time signatures become frantic and difficult as he and goes up a notch and just pulls it to give it another rumbling and powerful electrical vibes. From a Stop-and-Go voltage, to a Violin Hard Rock atmosphere and at times, Spaghetti Western, if you will to show the love of the Italian Westerns of the late ‘60s of the Man with No Name trilogy that is a perfect closer to end the album off with a bang.

Way is one of the most-listen to albums that you need to check out from Meir Shitrit. He will soon be one of the most influential artists to come out of Israel alongside Aviv Geffen, but his virtuosity will take Jazz-Rock and World Music listeners by storm. So if you admire Frank Zappa, John McLaughlin, Ottmar Liebert, and Andy Latimer, check out Meir Shitrit’s Way. An album that will be an amazing journey that you’ll experience and expect the unexpected.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Half Past Four - Good Things


Canada, home for bands such as: Klaatu, Rush, Morse Code, and FM to name a few, have taken the boundaries of Hard Rock, Baroque, Symphonic, Electronic, and Progressive music up to a different level. And there is one band that are taking it up a notch and to a creativity and hypnotic swells that is joyous and dark at the same time. That group is called Half Past Four and let me just say that I’m completely hooked into the band’s work.

The band started forming in 1999 in their hometown in Toronto, and they had a few struggles with various drummers who had come and gone. But it wasn’t until 2005 is when they really started cooking after debuting at an Opera House and receiving word-of-mouth from the Prog world on this amazing group and they also did a film score for a Billy Zane zombie comedy-horror movie called The Mad in which its about a father-daughter in which they are terrorized by the living dead in a small town.

The band released their debut album, Rabbit in the Vestibule in 2008 and received excellent press. And now this year, they released their second album, Good Things, is one of the most uplifting, haunting, and driven albums they have unleashed to the table to get you in the car for an adventure that you are about to embark on from beginning, middle, and end.

This is my introduction to the band’s work and this is by far one of the most driven progressive rock albums I’ve listened to and they are soon going to be one of my favorite bands of this year. Not to mention the groups seven centerpieces from their follow-up. And the band considers; Dmitry Lesov on Bass/Chapman Stick, Kyree Vibrant on Lead Vocals, Iggy Kurtzman on Keyboards, Constantin Necrasov on Guitar, and newcomer Marcello Ciurleo on Drums.

Rise has this crossover between hard rock, laid-back jazz groove, symphonic boundaries, and ‘60s garage surf rock vibes as Necrasov pays homage on his guitar lines between Dick Dale, and The Ventures in the midsection before the time-changing signature kicks in as Kyree sings her heart out to give it that high note as the band follows her voice to go into the soaring skies.  The Russian dance-like sing along waltz turned swinging jazz as if you can imagine the setting in the late 1920s/ early 1930s of New York City in Black and White on Spin the Girl, has some wildly piano work while Kyree is having a quirky sense of humor on her vocals as Iggy and Necrasov does some dashing clavinet/guitar solos that is almost a duel between the two of them.

Cool Water is a descending composition that goes into the darker surroundings that is terrifying, gentle, and uplifting. It has this Film-Noir detective boundary that is disturbing, but unexpected at the same time while I Am Lion has this spacey ambient atmospheric introduction before going into a psychedelic feel in ¾ waltz time as the guitar, organ, drums, and piano go into some melodic backgrounds as the vocals come in.

Then everything becomes like a dystopian paradise and you can imagine the people praying for help in the last few minutes, resembles the harmonizing vocal canons of Queen’s The Prophet’s Song, that is mind-boggling and goose bumping at the same time with a sinister finale. Elsewhere, Wolf, a mini opera, has this bizarre combination of Gentle Giant meets 10cc, starts with a Coltrane introduction while Kyree does a perfect tribute to Lol Cr√®me and Kate Bush, that is spot on brilliant before Iggy does his Hancock style on the Rhodes and the growling vocals of the Wolf.

Opener, It Strikes You, in which the album opens for the curtain comes up for a dramatic introduction through a Talk-Box Guitar as Kyree’s vocal lines and Iggy’s swirling keyboards which sounds like a concerto while Les and Marcello go into a fast-driven bass/drum structures that is going into various directions on the road from one place to another and not to mention the little touch of Raymond Scott’s Powerhouse that gets the edge and flow going.

Then, there’s the closing track, The Earth. It is a rolling yet roaring finale to close the album off with a bang. There are elements of Genesis, King Crimson, Van Der Graaf Generator and ELP while Iggy challenges Keith Emerson to go through his Piano concerto and does some wildly improvisations through Classical and Jazz that have been put into a blender and goes into a wildly and maddest journey. And the tension is expected to happen as they give him a chance to come forward to get his energy and power loose like no other.

Good Things, in which I’ve listened to about five times already, is a complete knockout from what I’ve heard. Touches of Jazz-Rock, Symphonic, Art, and Progressive Pop rolled into one, shows that they have an off the wall sense of humor and Half Past Four know it very well.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Not a Good Sign - Not a Good Sign



Not a Good Sign is an awkward and strange way to name a band, but it works well. It’s a studio project that started three years ago featuring Paolo “Ske” Botta, Marcello Marinone, and Francesco Zago to name a few and they are from the AltrOck/Fading family and they pretty much unleashed their sole self-titled debut album released this year and it’s a combination of Eclectic, Italian, and challenging Prog-Rock like no other as they put their toes deeper into the waters of the genre.

Their debut is more an eruptive volcano that is waiting to explode at the right moment at the right time to get an example on when the lava is going to hit, in particular the opening 2-part epic, Almost is a time-changing difficult complex composition that combines the sounds of King Crimson meets The Mars Volta that is rolled up into one to create a dynamic and electrical vibe before it calms down into a jazzier ballad.

The second part is more a relaxation featuring gentle-like vocals, doomier guitar lines, Monk-like piano beats, and soaring Mellotron beauty to get the angelic voices come in which is the Moog setting the mood and vibration of the arrangement. The title track is a bit out of this world. Filled with chaos and dystopian beauty, it provides a magical structure of the Synths, Hard Fripp-like riffs, and the haywire effects to capture the scenery turned relaxed mode at times that resembles of A Trick of the Tail-era of Genesis.

The cavernous watery drips on Making Stills, has this ambient atmosphere from the keyboards to make it a joyous and lush-like beauty that is very dance-like on reflecting memories from the past and present before kicking into full gear in the styles of the Canterbury Prog sounds as they go into fast-driven mode in the style of the symphonic band, Camel, which flows through the last three minutes as a jam session to get your feet stompin’ before taking center stage with an alarming climatic finale that is unexpected.

Witchcraft By a Picture is homage and a tribute to the overlooked British Acid Folk scene of the 1970s as it goes through the styles of; Trees, Mellow Candle, and Spirogyra featuring gentle acoustic lukewarm crisp guitar along with spooky female vocals in the style of Celia Humphris while Coming Back Home is back into the swing of orchestral structures with a moody and hypnotic touch of emotional, uplifting, and soaring into the heavenly clouds to get a roaring value.

The haunting Flow On, has this ‘80s vibe as it begins with Rhodes, Guitar, and a string quartet and bits of the Synth doing a mourning solo, which is almost a resemblance to Radiohead’s Talk Show Host. Of course, the soaring vocals, militant-like sounds between bass and drums, and the effects of the synths setting up the tempo is a vibrating chemistry to see where the road is taking them.

The Deafening Sound of the Moon, which sounds like a sci-fi movie that could have been released in 1976, goes back into the Crimson and Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come mode in full swing. There are sharp Organ sounds, narrative-like vocals, Mellotron voyages, and at times the vibes makes you wish that they could have written the score for Logan’s Run.  The closer, Afraid to Ask, is almost a calm after the storm that begins with a lullaby introduction.

And then the electric guitar comes kicking in along with the cello, to give it a morning to remember as you can imagine the sun coming up in the horizon and this arrangement is a perfect to close the album off with the curtains coming down and cuing the thunderous applause.

I have listen to Not a Good Sign’s debut album about four times already and so far this is not just a Progressive Rock band, nor a supergroup, this is a band that should get some recognition they really deserve through the independent and underground scene to receive word-of-mouth. This is a knockout debut and if you fancy the sounds of Camel, King Crimson, The Mars Volta, Genesis, and Trees, then I highly recommend Not a Good Sign.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Simakdialog - The 6th Story



It’s been a good while since I’ve heard some excellent Jazz Fusion from Indonesian group, Simakdialog. They have been laying down the groove of the genre with a touch a Canterbury, Prog-Rock boundaries as they kick into high gear and decide which direction of the musical sounds they would take to follow into the highway while laying down the groove and the tempo.

The follow up to 2009’s Demi Masa, The 6th Story is another wonderful experience to sit through and enjoy the music and the Sextet have unleashed another home run for a laid-back yet adventurous Prog-Fusion beauty. Opener, Stepping In, is a 10-minute epic featuring Riza Arshad’s wildly keyboard improvisation and featuring Tohpati’s melodic guitar lines and percussion sounds of Endang Ramdan and Erlan Suwardana.

Like the crazy time signatures along with stop-and-go moments, it is a knockout.  Riza is doing this Rhodes-like solo in the styles of Herbie Hancock and Mike Ratledge along with a Canterbury twist as if he is paying homage to the Soft Machine’s later years while Tohpati is going off the wall creating this Fripp-sque feedback yet haywire effects on the guitar that is insane.

Lain Parantina is Riza and Tohpati’s concerto-like surroundings that has a Cosmic Voyage beat as the percussions get into a dramatic tension as both Riza and Tohpati and bassist Adhithya Pratama comes in with some Hugh Hopper lines as each of the pieces come in together like a thunderstorm. Harmologic is another haunting keyboard/bass/guitar composition as more of the tension, comes in full swing as it captures the essence of ‘70s Jazz Rock sounds of Return to Forever as if it was recorded for the sessions of Romantic Warrior.

Then, everything becomes this middle-eastern downbeat tempo as Tohpati is going into some Bluesy territory and shines on as if he performing this composition in front of the Royal Indonesian family as they get a kick out of What Would I Say?  Elsewhere, For Once and Never has this Film-Noir like score as if this was recorded for a movie set in the late ‘30s/early ‘40s set in Black and White while Common League goes into the Rock in Opposition mode in the homage of Samla Mammas Manna, Frank Zappa, and the Attahk-era of Magma in a quirky yet catchy and fast-driven beat.

As Far As It Can Be (Jaco) is a tribute to the late great bassist from Weather Report and solo artist, the virtuoso Jaco Pastorius. Its very pastoral, haunting, and emotional as Riza and Pratama go into a keyboard-bass beat as if we are walking in the streets of the Jazz Clubs in the Big Apple at Midnight and hearing the sounds just pulls your heart and makes you wonder if Jaco were alive, he would have gotten a real kick out this piece.

5, 6  goes back into the Canterbury Prog and Electronic vibrations. Riza is going through the funky wah-wah vibes and moogy adventures and is going into different directions and doing this wildly experimentations. At times it’s a combination between King Crimson’s Red-era, Hatfield and the North and Matching Mole rolled up into one and you begin to understand how they can take both the Jazz and Prog genres by taking it up a notch. The closer, Ari, is a relaxation and dance-like composition.

It’s more of an Indonesian Bebop Jazz sound while Riza moves away from the keyboards and into the Grand Piano. He goes through this wonderful improvisation and does it in the styles of Thelonious Monk, Wynton Kelly, and McCoy Tyner and he just goes with the flow as if the masters of Jazz Piano are watching over him to give him the thumbs up in heaven.

The 6th Day is another cornerstone is Simakdialog’s musical career and 20 years later, they still have the power and the touch of their sound and vision. And again, hats off to Moonjune Records releasing this unbelievable album, and getting the beauty to come at you out of nowhere, is an unexpected special treat for Jazz and Prog lovers.