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Xavi Reija, Reflections, 2017

xavi reija - reflectionsThe previous album from Spanish drummer Xavi Reija was one in which he excelled in jazz and free form songs. On his new album he  works with New Yorker Nitai Hershkovits on piano and Pau Lligadas on upright bass. And while they both may be young, they already have an impressive curriculum. The result is an album that quite surprised me! And the first hint is that the 11 songs on the disk clock in at just under 40 minutes. Which in comparison to previous output is fairly short.

Now, when you start reading the inside text it reads that this is a recording of dance music. Though definitely not in a regular sense. But when you listen to the CD, it becomes clear that there is a certain lightness on offer here. Restrained elegance as it is so aptly described. While there are still parts that remind us we are dealing with virtuoso players who like to experiment and improvise, there is no denying that these songs speak easy to (at least) my ears.
So, while a drummer, bassist and pianist are reasonable common in jazz land, this trio have managed to come up with a rather delightful album. Joyous and emotionally charged, living and breathing music performed by authentic musicians.

If anything, this proves that music from the heart always reaches out and touches anyone who will listen. Wonderful album.

Website

Status update

As I have mentioned through my twitter account, updates on the blog have been extremely slow. This was due to the fact that I felt forced to switch host. As it turned out the performance problems that kept getting worse by the day, were due to the fact that the new owner of my ISP stopped updating the server and software. Thus creating an unstable environment for my blog to work under. Writing a new post was taking me a couple of hours instead of the usual time. Let alone the amounts of spam that were seeping through.

So after a lot of frustration I decided it was better to move on. And with the help of my new found ISP, the blog now has a new home and better tech specs than ever. Which I hope will make scrolling these pages even more fun / quick. Took a lot of time and money, so won’t mind if some of you hit that donate button on the top…

And now back to writing, have a lot of catching up to do!

Apologies to the artists waiting, hope you all understand.

Wingfield Reuter Stavi Sirkis, The Stone House, 2017

Yes that are 4 names and thus four musicians. Mark Wingfield is an innovative guitar player who constantly is trying to create new sounds with his instrument. Markus Reuter plays TouchGuitars (put simple: 8 string guitar played like a stick) and is also a member of The Crimson ProjeKct and The Stick Men. Yaron Stavi plays fretless bass and Asaf Sirkis is the drummer in this collective. All are seasoned players with many years of experience.

And if Moonjune Records and or The Crimson ProjeKct rings any bells, you will already have a feeling about what you can expect from this album. Indeed there is a King Crimson influence floating around. Not the song aimed melodic KC, but the free floating soundscape version. Maybe with a little more guitar. Because these cats just set up shop in a studio and began improvising and recording. In that sense this is a 100% live album, resulting in 6 songs from 5 to 14 minutes each and a total playing time of an hour.

And while I applaud the stunning capabilities of these men, I also reckon this is not for everyone. It probably takes a certain level of listening experience to appreciate this. So for the adventurous a treat, others better listen in first.

 

Lost Lakes, Self Titled, 2016

Lost-LakesAlas I cannot remember for the life of me how I got this. And unfortunately I did not receive any info with it either. So with the help of internet I have found Lost Lakes to be a four piece band. Central is the collaboration between Corey Mathew Hart and Paul Mitch, who met at a songwriting competition and just clicked. The style is described as pop infused folk rock, which I believe to be pretty accurate.

So in general this is a lot more mellow as most of the stuff I have been listening to off late. But that takes nothing away from it feeling authentic and heartfelt. The 12 songs all clock around 3 minutes and sometimes even have a hint of Country, or Americana if you will. All arranged with the song in mind, so no room for musical indulgence. Lots of vocals and melodies that want your attention.
So while this isn’t something I would usually pick up, I must confess that it is no punishment to listen to the album. At all! No, it is very well done and sounds honest and pure. In a time where fake music seems the standard, this is something to applaud.

All songs are of the same calibre so if you have a listen and still like it after Digital Tears and slight personal favourite Can’t It Wait, just buy it. Very enjoyable.

Website

Tohpati Ethnomission, Mata Hati, 2017

tohpati ethnomission - mata hatiIndonesian star guitar player Tohpati has been featured here quite a few times with all he is involved in, and now he is back with his band Tohpati Ethnomission. Since this is released on the Moonjune label, yes this is an instrumental fusion / jazz rock album.

First thing worth noticing is that opening song Janger is accompanied by the Czech Symphony Orchestra. Besides that it is another fantastic slice of music, full of power, groove and melody. Next track Pelog Rock might be one of the more heavier moments ever recorded by Tohpati. But it is another corker! Tanah Emas is more mellow, the flutes give it that Eastern and folky feel. And the combination of folky melodies, rocking jazz and of course solos on all instruments involved can be heard throughout the album.
The result is another Moonjune album that is fairly easy to digest. All songs have melodies to identify them with and still enough going on to make the album grow on you with repeated play. Hey and in Amarah you sometimes think a prog metal band joined! So yes, also the solos are more flashy here than ever before.

So happy to report this album is a worthy addition to the Tohpati catalogue, Moonjune fans can buy on sight, but I would recommend to give it a try to everyone who likes fiery guitar coupled with a keen ear for melody.

Website

The Sighs Of Monsters, Lie, 2017

the sighs of monsters - lieOh yeah, I cannot help but like a band who clearly state they love albums and respect the album as an art form. That’s the spirit boys! So hailing from London UK we have this quartet and their second album (after 2014’s Ground).  On it you will find 12 songs with a total running time of 46 minutes. In a way one could consider this as an art-rock or prog band. But actually that would be selling them short as the songs vary too much to put into one category. On the other hand, that might just be a very progressive thing…

Listening to the album I was hooked from the first bars of I Hear Drums. Call it infectious, call it catchy, call it what you like, it is a damn clever way to start. From a bit of distance it is quite remarkable how 4 guys can deliver music so diverse and still sound spot on in every second of it. Whether it is a more elaborate track like Superman In The Silence, the almost Johnny Cash sounding Fight or the almost New Wave sounding song like Hello. And if you now think this is a patchy work, forget it. Don’t know how they do it,  but nothing seems out of place here.

So there you go, the album as an art form and The Sighs Of Monsters as the advocate, I love it.

Website

Age Of Aquarius see Mercury rising

Age Of Aquarius have released a second video from their Dawn Of The Age Of Aquarius debut. It is the dark yet beautiful ballad Mercury Rising, here fitted with simple and effective imagery. Have a look:

Dewa Budjana, Zentuary, 2016

dewa-budjana-zentuaryOne of my favourite Moonjune Records artists, Indonesian guitarist Dewa Budjana, has found a new home in Steve Vai’s Favored Nations label. And while I don’t know if that was such an extra inspiration, the result is we now have a 2 disc album on our hands. And looking at the guest musicians list, things must be going well! I mean, Gary Husband, Tony Levin, Jack Dejohnette and Guthrie Govan to name a few. Not bad!

So on the the music. Both disc’s hold 6 songs and clock around 50 minutes. The reason I like Budjana’s music so much is that he always writes great melodies that easily capture your attention. Not something simple as this is mostly instrumental music. Yes some tracks have vocals, but for the larger part they serve as an extra melody instrument. From disc one I totally enjoyed songs 4-6, Suniakala, Dear Yulman and Renangat Langit. These are prime examples of the beautiful music these men are capable of.
Alas the rest of disc one, and most of the music on disc two, is of a more abstract level. The musicianship is of the highest quality (as usual), but the themes are just less obvious and there are tons of improvisations going on. This makes it harder for me to connect to the music. Of course parts here and there are still attracting my attention fairly easy, like in Manhattan Temple and Dedariku, but overall I think I still need to spend more time with the music to let it sink in.

So am I disappointed? Not really, even if I would have preferred a single disc with the best songs on it. But the quality on offer is always too high to ignore. It just needs time and effort!

Website

The Aurora Project, World Of Grey, 2016

the aurora project - world of greyTwo years back The Aurora Project took a serious blow when rhythm guitarist and lyricist Marc Vooijs suddenly died. The band took a year off to decide on their future and the outcome is clear, the band continues, but without replacing Marc. This means their sound is now more rock than metal, with bass and keyboard filling the guitar gaps.

World Of Grey is a concept album based on an idea from Marc but this time Mox stepped in the writing shoes. It deals with the idea that the established world order is increasingly restricting the people and a grey blanket of control and repression descends over the world. How the album art fits in is not quite clear to me, but I guess that is artistic license.
While listening to the album (which does work as single songs by the way) I noticed it took the band a song or 2 to really find their own feet. Opener Expect Us sounds a bit like your regular neo prog band but from then on it is onwards and upwards. Stone Eagle is a great slow burning song, Deadly Embrace another song with catchy melodies and rather tasty guitar work. Okay, sometimes it still sounds a bit Marillionesque, but with more bite, so no problems there.

The band will resume live duties this year, so be on the lookout for that. The songs on this album will work, no doubts in my mind! If you like your prog melodic and with great playing, make sure to listen in.

Website

Songsbury, Self Titled, 2016

songsburyMhm, not sure how this ended up on my desk. But anyway, I got it, so I listened to it. This is clearly very much in the pop genre, with a dash of dance influenced beats added. Not something I would usually listen to.

But to be honest, Songsbury, which is in essence Mat Teofilo handling everything except for guitars in last track Last Goodbye, knows a thing or two about writing songs. Opener Till The Day I Die is carried by his vocals, and they are good. Next track Common is also very enjoyable. I Think I’m In Love did not do that much for me, but Beautiful is just that. Very nice vocals again, and the piano playing here fits the mood to the tee. In this genre I will prove even worse in referencing other artists, but to me She Made Me Do It sounds a bit like one Bruno Mars. Which also means it is a track that does not work for me. Last Goodbye ends the EP and yeah, a little guitars added here indeed. Immediately gave it a bit of extra sizzle with for instance a great solo. And again Mat proves to be able to write commercial songs that can appeal to many.

So this one is a bit out of my zone, but some songs proved quite good.

Website

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