Slug Comparison, When You Were Living Here, 2019

Slug Comparison - When You Were Living HereSecond album from Canadian singer / guitar player Doug Harrison (Fen). The first one was released a couple years ago and I loved that one to bits. After that, Doug started releasing a few songs at a time in the form of digital EP’s, until Rock Company came with the plan to combine those with a few extra songs and release them in physical form too. And the result is this!

Opener Exactly What To Do is a meaty rocker that kicks things into gear. Great chorus too. Hyperslump is more mellow, even when the tempo goes up a bit. Let Some Light has a bit of a singer/ songwriter vibe to it. It sounds deceivingly simple!
There are several songs on this album that send the shivers up my spine. Fine With It is one of them, same as the killer title track and Beings Far Away. Those last 2 are dedicated to the memory of Eric Rose, Doug’s close friend from whom a painting is used in the front cover. So Ya Got A Great Guitar and One More Step are a return to more rocking territory.

This release proves once more that Harrison is a fabulous songwriter with the ability to sing any type of song with a stunning passion and emotion. Also, the diversity of the tracks means that lots of people will find something to their liking. This is a genre crossing release that you must explore!

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Dewa Budjana, Mahandini, 2019

dewa budjana - mahandiniFrom all Moonjune artists, I think Dewa Budjana is one of my favourites. He not only is a gifted guitar player, but  he also writes songs that appeal to me because of their fluid melodies and intricate arrangements. And on his new album he surprises with enlisting Marco Minneman on drums, Jordan Rudess on keyboards and the (just as) fabulous Mohini Dey on bass. Also John Frusciante sings on 2 tracks and plays a solo. Other guests are Mike Stern (solo) and Soimah Pancawati (vocal).

Opener Crowded is a bit of a surprise, but of the pleasant kind. A rather rocking track that shows another side. Queen Kanya is a more complex but still melodic gem where Hyang Giri marries East and West in a way that should please both sides too. All musicians also shine in a solo spot here.
Well, actually these musicians not really need a special spot to shine, because their talents are unmistakeable. But where several label mates prefer free form improvisations, with Budjana’s music it always seems to be composed. This gives the music a more clear direction and makes it more easy (for me) to enjoy it. So you try listening to Jung Oman and resist the beautiful playing, fuelled with emotion.

Yes, every of the 7 songs on offer highlights different aspects of the mix of  progrock and fusion. With releases like this, Budjana firmly remains high on my favourites list.

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Xavi Reija, The Sound Of The Earth, 2018

xavi reija - the sound of the earthSpanish maestro drummer Xavi Reija is giving us another insight in his musical world. And if you are familiar with his previous releases, you will already know that his world is one of complex ideas, based on inventive rhythms and jazzy notes and free form jams.

Accompanying him on this album are the ever so wonderful Tony Levin on bass and stick and on (touch) guitars Markus Reuter and Dusan Jevtovic. All of them no stranger to the Moonjune label.

If anything, this is another album that you will have to digest slowly and repeatedly. Well, at least for me that is certainly the case. Should you be familiar with the Three Of A Perfect Pair album from King Crimson, I am getting the same kind of vibe from several of the songs here. So lots of sound and noise things happening in seemingly random order.
So where opening track Deep Ocean surprises me with riffs and hooks I can immediately identify with, others like From Darkness make me look over my shoulder to check if I am still alone…

Of course there is no debating the quality of the musicians here. This is just a matter of taste and the willingness to invest a lot of time of getting to know and appreciate the music. Which is too rare a thing sadly in today’s world of fast everything. But if you regard yourself an exception to that rule, enjoy this trip!

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Electric Mud, The Deconstruction Of Light, 2018

electric mud - the deconstruction of lightAfter repeated listens to this album, I still was struggling a bit with how to describe it. So I checked the website, and there the answer was: “moving from krautrock to ambiant, from post rock to traditional prog, from edgy to contemplative. Imagine Deep Purple and Camel jamming together with Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream”.

And I must say, the unique feel of this album hit one of my soft spots. Because you might be lead to believe that all these influences lead to a patched up collection of sounds and ideas. But the reality is, that this is not the case. If anything, the project have managed to deliver an album that keeps you on your toes, anxiously waiting for what will happen next. Ideas develop, and then slowly transform. So you do get all these different genre typicals, but the 3 guys (Hagen Bretschneider; idea, sound concept and bass – Lennart Huper: rhythm guitar and Nico Walser on all other instruments and… sound alchemy) mix and match, transform, evolve and warp everything. So what sounds like an old fashioned obscure and rocking Deep Purple song at first, might end up sounding like an ambient Tangerine Dream like electronic track.

Add to that: this is another example of how to create interesting instrumental music. It is creative and exciting, and is definitely exploring new grounds. Recommended!

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Claudio Delgift, The Essential, 2018

claudio delgift - the essentialClaudio Delgift is an Argentinian guitarist who so far has released 7 albums and a couple of EP’s. All these are only available in the digital format so with The Essential you get the chance to listen to a collection of his songs on CD or Digital. All in remastered form. His 2018 album One Life Many Roads is featured here.

There are 12 songs on the release, ranging from 2 to almost 9 minutes. What always strikes me most about “C” is the quality of his guitar playing. Which is of course at the centre of each song. He uses a fairly clean guitar tone, but always manages to surprise with tasty solos and inventive song structures. Even when he is not the best singer in the world (you cannot have all), his delivery is always honest and authentic. Guitars and bass and some keyboards are also handled by Claudio, with additional keyboards coming from One and Fernando Refay. Drums are provided by an international cast of 4, Tom Geisler, Theo Heidfeld, Nicolas Jourdain and Nicolas Roldan.

So what more is there to tell? Well, to me it seems that the melodic intent of the songs makes them accessible. This means that even people who are not really much into progressive rock, could enjoy this material, should they give it a chance. And the more critical listener is sure to discover more and more less obvious details on repeated listen.

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Marching Out, Rock Will Never Die, 2015

marching out - rock will never dieSo, you name your band Marching Out, your album Rock Will Never Die and start with a track called Prelude. If all that has not told you Yngwie inspired neoclassical metal, than nothing ever will.

These guys are from Japan and I must say, they are pretty good at what they do. Their guitarist must be a big Malmsteen fan, and must have studied pretty hard to get all them chops in his fingers. He sure is on fire here. And, since Yngwie has been getting quite some critique for no longer working with a decent singer, this band might provide lovers of the style with a decent alternative.
Maybe the pronunciation sometimes leaves a bit to be desired, but there is nothing wrong with the vocal prowess here. A bit in Dio territory I think.
Also, the songs are solid and with enough variation and bite to keep the momentum going. By the way, some of the ultra high soloing reminded me more of Uli Jon Roth than of YM, but that is probably just me.

So the songs are there, the voice is there and the flashy guitar playing is there. Seems to me lots of people would love to add this to their collection! No clue about availability alas, but if you dig this style, you might want to follow the below link to their website and pick up a copy. Oh, and yes that is Doogie White on the bonus title track.

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Cody Carpenter, Force Of Nature, 2019

Cody Carpenter - Force Of NatureMaybe not everybody will agree, but I think, when done right, instrumental music can be just as exciting as vocal music. There are already numerous examples on these pages.  And now we can add Cody Carpenter (keyboards) to that list.

Being the son of actress Adrienne Barbeau and the maybe even more famous John Carpenter, Cody sure is coming from a talented gene pool. And it shows throughout this album. A mix of progressive rock with fusion elements, the songs on this album all are examples of how to write songs that have melodies that make you sit up and pay notice. Also the interaction between the musicians and the arrangement details here and there show the quality involved. It surely helps when people like Jimmy Haslip and Virgil Donati get involved, even when the keyboards form the base of the tunes, without forgetting about guitars.

Just listen to Fantasy Of Form, where 2 melodies react to each other and weave an intricate web that fascinates. For me every song on the album is worth mentioning. So I won’t. This is an album that fully deserves its title. If you are a fan of this type of music, you have to go and have a listen. And if you are not, this might be the album that proves you wrong. So have a listen and see what happens…

I love this to bits.

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Unified Past, Shifting The Equilibrium, 2015

unified past - shifting the equilibriumRecently I got in touch with Stephen Speelman, radio host of Friday Night Progressive. Turns out he is also the guitar and keyboard player in this band, Unified Past. So he was kind enough to send me a copy.

I am guessing that on first impression there will be little discussion about what genre we can expect here: yup, progressive rock. While listening to the album, my thoughts sometimes drifted back to the US outfit Cairo (where have they gone?). Not only because of the sound and timbre of singer Phil Naro, but also because of the complex nature of the songs. Which do not bother Naro to still succeed in delivering accessible melodies!  The band is completed by Dave Mickelson on bass and Victor Tassone on drums.

The 6 tracks that form the regular album all are ticking the right boxes for people into this type of prog: rhythmic changes, lots of ideas, technical wizardry on guitar and keyboards, epic songs, etc. And as I already mentioned, the singing keeps it all together and prevents the music from being all mind and no heart. There is a bonus track available on the limited edition but not sure you can find that anymore.

Damn good if you ask me, sorry I missed the original release!

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Rome, Le Ceneri Di Heliodoro, 2019

rome - le ceneri di heliodoroHere is something for ya! This has turned out to be a very interesting affair. But before I get ahead of myself a short introduction. Rome are from Luxembourg, and apparently are quite the name in the neofolk scene, with this being their 13th release. Well, silly me would not have known that! Yet in fact the sole permanent member is Jerome Reuter. Who calls this mix of American folklore, French Chansons and English Punk: Chanson Noir. And he might have a point…

Now to the album. For me the folk can be traced back to the constant use of acoustic guitar accompanying the vocals. Through the addition of chants and choirs, strings (or keyboards), bass and drums, the sound evolves into something special. More so because of the use of several languages throughout the album. You can hear Italian, German (or maybe Luxembourgish) and English. And the lyrics paint a rather bleak picture of the state of today’s world. Europe dissolving, the current affairs in the US, etc. All comes in a beautiful package with an extensive booklet.

If I put all that aside and just concentrate on the music, I cannot help but be impressed by the sheer power of the emotions that shine. No power from heavy guitars of course, but the combination of all elements of this album just grabs me.  The tracks might not be all too complex, they do hit the mark!

These are songs that question without answering. They make you think. And that is something we surely need if we want to get out of the current mess we are experiencing all around us…

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Ronny Morris, Sweet Silence, 2018

ronny morris - sweet silenceI cannot help but smile while listening to this debut from Danish musician Ronny Morris. Not because of the beautiful and a bit mysterious artwork. Not because of silly lyrics, or anything like that.
No I smile because this album keeps reminding me why I like music. This guy obviously creates for the love of art. And not because of stupid things like fame, winning TV competitions, reality TV, etc.

But even if you do not fall for that, there are lots of reasons why you should check out this album. First; it is a damn good pop rock album with tons of moody songs that reach out to your soul and heart. Morris also has a fine voice with that bit of edge that many people find attractive. Also the performances and production are top notch.
Another reason is that this is produced in a climate neutral way. First time I ever heard about that, and, being a firm believer we are here to make sure our children also have a planet to live on, a worthy cause.

And last but not least, even when all songs are accessible, by no means they are carbon copies of things you have heard a thousand times before. If I would be forced to mention a reference, it would be something like Bryan Adams met Donald Fagen with a bit of Beatles thrown in for good measure. Also the sophisticated sound reminds me a bit of 3rd Matinee, but that is a reference not all too many will understand.

Most important thing is you go listen to this album, it truly deserves your attention.

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