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CD Reviews

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Matheus Manente, Illusions Dimension, 2017

matheus manente - illusions dimensionThis is the debut from Matheus Manente, a Brazilian multi instrumentalist and one man band. To be honest, when I started listening to this album I wasn’t all too sure about it. Sure, great shredding, a lot of stuff happening in a short time, but missing a bit of hooks and melody. And then track 4, Inner Peace comes on…. Mind blown! What a feel in this song. Absolutely fabulous in delivery, melody and all. So that really peaked my interest in what was to follow. Symmetry Of Evil proved to have plenty of hooks, or had I started listening properly? Then again, any song that plays way past 9 minutes needs positives to keep the listener interested. So it managed to kept the momentum going. Market Garden has quickly become a fan favourite. It is complex and rich in structure, and it’s rhythmic and harmonic changes fulfil the genres standards. Keyboards have a more prominent role as well, so that makes for a nice change.

By this time is was clear to me that Manente is a very impressive player. Maybe the drums need a bit more work to sound less mechanical, but the rest of his playing is without doubt classy. He is not shy of using light and dark in his compositions, so as a whole the album delivers. Because of the sometimes almost serene parts, he avoids flooding you with a wall of sound.

Great debut, job well done!

Website

Sunrise Auranaut, The Ocean Of Unspoken Words, 2017

sunrise auranaut - the ocean of unspoken wordsOh my! In my review of the previous album from Vitaly Kiselev’s Sunrise Auranaut I suggested he’d try a more focused approach to his music to attract even more listeners. And while I am not sure it is because of that remark, the thing that is sure is that this album surpasses it’s predecessor on every level.

Let’s start with the artwork, I think this is simply stunning! Next the songs of course. On offer are 9 songs and this time Kiselev (electric and acoustic guitars, bass and programming) got help in from Alexander Malakhov on synths. Total playing time is just over 50 minutes and the songs range from around 4 to over 8 minutes. And like before, this is an all instrumental album with it’s feet firmly rooted in Seventies progressive rock, spiced with the influence of classical composers like Tchaikovsky and Grieg.
But the most important thing for me is the balance in this collection. All songs have room to breathe so the melodies really shine. Since it is a prime example of what is looked upon as the classic era of prog, it is never heavy or flashy. This is all about telling stories with the songs and have the melodies to keep you interested. And that is delivered in spades.

As is the case with all releases on the Rock Company label; limited edition digi, so better grab a copy fast! Excellent stuff.

Website

Semistereo, Trans Earth Injection, 2017

semistereo - trans earth injectionHoly Cow! Man, I just love how sometimes an album takes you by surprise and just blows you out of your socks. Yes dear readers, this album Trans Earth Injection from the Dutch band Semistereo did just that. And the best thing is, from the stunning artwork in the digipack, to the booklet, to the sound and most important the songs, everything is of the same high calibre.

And I have to be honest, until this dropped in my post box I had never heard of this band. And when you realise this is self produced and recorded around the globe, you become even more in awe of the result. Even when this turns out to be their third album already. Compared to the likes of Oceansize, Karnivool, Deftones and A Perfect Circle, the quintet managed to capture strong melodies, with atmosphere, depth as well as raw eruptions. So yeah alternative rock, but with a pinch of post rock and a tad of prog.

With 7 songs and over 50 minutes of playing time, this is a hammer that everyone serious about rock music should give a home. It is intense, it is powerful, it is mind blowing. And maybe even more. So no more chit chat, go out and buy the thing and immerse yourself in one of the best albums this year has yet seen!

Website

The Missing Piece, Dream Rider, 2016

The-Missing-Piece-Dream-RiderWith a band name coming from a Gentle Giant album, yes, this is a progressive rock album of sorts. And while the band was founded in the North West of the Netherlands in 2007, they experienced many line up changes. And after recording this album, their female vocalist left. So where does that leave us with?

Well to be clear, the music on this album is pretty accessible. And while lead singer at the time, Nanna Burger, might not have the most exciting voice, she does provide us with decent melodies. For me the best songs are the opening track Closed Doors, the title track and the song Destiny. My main concern with the overall impression of the album is that is seems a bit bland. Only with they shift to a higher gear (with Destiny and other more tranquil parts being the exception) and get the guitars rocking a bit, I am starting to feel energised.
But then again, I am aware that much of the genre fans love their material sticking to a certain sound and formula. So it might be just me. And I do have to mention they are self supporting, and did the recording and mixing themselves.

All in all it is a good start and I do hope this album will give them the confidence to push it a little bit further next time.

Website

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

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

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

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