Life in Digital, Signs To The Far Side, 2019

life in digitalVia his busy social media activities, I have been following the steps of John Beagley for quite a few years now, even buying several of his releases. So it was nice to receive the promo for his second Life In Digital album. Which is John and singer Robin Schell (who is a dead ringer for Jon Anderson).

Knowing that John not only comes from an Eighties pop/wave background, but also is a massive prog fan, it will not come as a surprise that this album is an amalgam of those influences. On this, fans of the Trevor Rabin era of Yes will find many things to their liking. And for avid proggies who think nothing is prog unless a song is over a quarter long, the album opens with the 22+ minutes epic Karma. Nice thing about it is that they were not afraid to add more ambient soundscapes. The other songs are more in the 5-6 minute range but also showcase their talent.

This is a very melodic prog album with obviously a strong Yes reference. Thankfully the music can stand on its own and turned out to be entertaining!

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Suns Of The Tundra, Murmuration, 2019

suns of the tundraWhile I was working my ass off the last couple of months, in the very limited free time I had, this album was played quite often. And while it might not be an album that everybody will enjoy, I must confess I keep being very intrigued by it, and that is not because of the artwork. After numerous plays, I am still not exactly sure what its charm is.

Is it the prominent bass throughout, that keeps reminding me of Chris Squire and Geddy Lee? Is it the melodies that are slowly nesting themselves in my brain? Is it the diversity on display?

Well in any case this is a progressive album by name and nature. But based on songs with head and tail, rather than by an abundance of technique. Kudos for that.

So in the end I guess it is not really important what its key features are. What is important is that I never minded hearing it over and over again.  Job well done!

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Michel Héroux, Now, 2019

michel heroux - nowOn my quest to find the time to work my way through all the backlog regarding the reviews I want to write, it became time to listen to Michel Héroux.

He was so kind to include a letter with the CD, saying he was not sure about the direction he wanted, he just wanted an instrumental rock album, without it becoming a shredding project.

Well, this album did not help me shorten the list, as it turned out to be far too good for a limited amount of listens! There are a lot of influences shining through on the music on this album. Think folk, jazz, and prog rock. And while that may sound an eclectic mix, the songs delivered make perfect sense. And yes, no shredding, even though the guitar is the hero here.

Lots of feel from all involved, various moods and luscious grooves on offer. Diverse and vibrant, a great album to visit and re-visit!

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Yuval Ron, Somewhere In This Universe, 2019

yuval ron - somewhere in this universeLet me first set the record straight on the title. The official full length title of this album is Somewhere In This Universe, Somebody Hits A Drum. Featuring Marco Minneman.

With that out of the way, a confession; I have played this album many times now, and I still hate the title track that opens the album. The wordless “singing” from Ron destroys it for me. And there are other spots which keep putting me of. Something to do with the label name; Wrong Notes… On the other hand, there are also moments that I enjoy very much, like in Wifi In Emerald City and The Discovery Of Phoebe.
The strange thing is that it is advertised as a progressive rock album while for me it is above all a fusion record. And while it is less free form as some other albums discussed on these pages, in my current mood I have a hard time connecting to this.

No discussion about the musicianship on offer, technically this is great. Guess my expectations were just wrong, and I might also not be in the right state of mind. For me it is now time to move on. Sorry!

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Acoustic Black, In A Different Light, 2019

acoustic black - in a different lightFrom the Bavaria region in Germany come this trio, Acoustic Black. The name, in combination with the front cover, should tell you a lot. Drums and bass accompany the acoustic guitar, resulting in a form of rocked up singer-songwriter sound. Or alternative acoustic rock as they call it.

And truth be told, that is what you get. As well as some tongue in cheek lyrics, so don’t say Germans have no humour. It’s a easy listen this, I can imagine this working great on an outdoor event or at in home concerts. Lots of driving rhythms combine nicely with the pop melodies. What also helps is they they cleverly added additional instruments here and there to give the songs a bit of extra colour.

Also an album that will be safe to play on the family barbecue 🙂 Good job!

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Dimitris Korontzis, 5 Elements, 2019

Dimitris Korontzis - The 5 ElementsDimitris Korontzis is a guitar player from Athens in Greece. He has released his first Jazz-Fusion LP Empathy in September 2017 and here we have his second one by the name 5 Elements. It is described as an ambient guitar album related to the Chinese tradition of Wu Xing. There’s more:  according to this philosophy everything in the universe is made of this 5 elements Earth- Metal- Water- Wood- Fire

The basic music scale of the Chinese is the major pentatonic C-D-E-G-A and every note is related to each element, C is Earth, D is Metal, E is Wood, G is Fire and A is Water. The order of the notes he used is called the Productive Circle in the Wu Xing philosophy.  All songs are built using only these 5 notes with that specific order and a drone with the basic note of each element.

And for a guitarist it is a remarkably restraint effort. In Earth the guitar is hardly recognisable, while you can hear it play its gentle parts in tracks like Metal and especially Wood and Fire. The guitar is heavily processed with use of effects like reverb and delay and such. This makes it an album aiming for atmosphere rather than technique.

Something to chill to!

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Arcana Kings, Lions As Ravens, 2019

arcana kings - lions as ravensIt probably is a good thing I am aware that my mood influences how I perceive music. A few days ago I would probably have put this down as a solid but a bit mediocre album. But today I do hear a couple of tracks that carry fire.

So the former Johnny McCuaig Band, with seldom used bagpipes as part of the arsenal, do deliver some energetic tracks in their mix of pop, rock and a dash of punk. Especially the first few tracks (Drowning, Friend Of Mine and my favourite Here We Go) are vibrant and convincing. Still, with 9 tracks and a playing time of under 32 minutes, there is room for improvement. A track like Run Runaway has already been done too often.

A good (re)start and a band that probably will light up any stage.

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Bryan Beller, Scenes From The Flood, 2019

Bryan-Beller-Scenes-From-The-FloodSome musicians are so talented it’s almost inhuman. And when they often work with other guys whose chops are also out of this world, I get suspicious. Maybe the aliens are already amongst us and just dazzle us with their musical capabilities…

Well one can never tell for sure, but Bryan Beller sure is a guy that has talent in spades. And not just as a bass player, the job he’s best known for.

This double album proves he is much more. And thus delivers another album to prove people wrong who do not believe instrumental music can be as entertaining as vocals songs. (There are some vocals present on the albums by the way).
A lot of diversity on offer too, and all packed in Songs, not just your (above) average rifferama. From catchy to spectacular and everything in between, the album delivers! And accessible too, I loved it at first play. But that is not surprising or else I would have chosen other words to describe the joy of listening to this. Stellar!

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The Kentish Spires, Sprezzatura, 2019

the kentish spires - sprezzaturaSecond album from this outfit arrives hot on the heels of their debut. Now officially a sextet, so ready to come for you (when live performances are allowed again).

And where the first was a result of process of months of work, this one they recorded in 40 days straight, going for the ideas that immediately worked. From memory this one sounds a bit more polished though.

The result is an album that still contains their nod to the Canterbury style music wise, but with songs that are more easy to get into. At least that is my impression. And progrock fans will be pleased that the 8 songs consist of 2 trilogies, giving it a bit of a concept feel.

So it seems the band are growing as a unit, and are out to grow their fanbase too. Deservedly so!

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25 Yard Screamer, Natural Satellite, 2019

25 yard screamer - natural satelliteWhile I had promised myself to start writing shorter reviews to try to catch up a bit on all the albums waiting for their turn, this little ditty turned up.

And since at first play I thought it was rather pretentious, I was about to write a few lines and move on. But as this is a progressive rock band, that just did not feel right. Something to do with “taking the time to get into an album…”

The good news is; it does getter better after repeated play!  I read in the press info that the album is a combination of improvisations and one take performances with careful arrangements and playing. They’ve kept the sound rather sparse, which possibly contributes to the need of repeated play. But when you stick to the album, slowly it will reveal its magic to you.

Since this is a grower, I would not be surprised I will consider it a classic in a few years time. For now I think it is a damn good album that moves around a lot in various subgenres of progressive music and beyond.

Or as they say themselves: melody, beauty and aggression. And a bit of fun. Exactly!

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