F-uki, F-uki Music, 2016

f-ukiFrom Japan comes F-uki, who was pretty adamant I’d write about this album. So I will. Self described as “Pursuit of balance between universality and originality. Various types of songs”. And stating The Beatles / Paul McCartney and Yellow Magic Orchestra as influences.

So what does that leave us with? Well, there is no denying that part of the songs seem influenced by the Beatles. And maybe even a bit of Beach Boys too. Not sure about YMO, but some tracks definitely fare more into electronic territory.

And while I think there are some good ideas presented on this 10 track album, for me that desired balance has not yet resulted in songs I am dying to hear more often. Some of that is because the difference in styles does not sit well with me. Some of that is because the execution of especially the rhythm parts (drumcomputer) is not on par with the melodies. And maybe even some is down to using lots of production tricks that seem out of place in my ears.  All this creates a certain nervousness that makes it hard for me to hear it back to back.

So I applaud the ideas and the effort but for me, if the Beatles inspired work was done more true to style, or kept modern, albeit with less experimentation, this would have been a much more enjoyable result. Also, more attention to drums and bass, will also help in getting the message across.

Maybe it is just me, so give it a try if the thought of this pursuit excites you.

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Stephan Thelen, Fractal Guitar, 2019

stephan thelen - fractal guitarThird Moonjune release in a relative short time for me and still very different than other artists on the label. As is fairly usual for Moonjune, this release incorporates many other musicians. Markus Reuter is one of them, and a busy one. Other names are David Torn, Matt Tate, Jon Durant, etc. Thelen himself provides guitar, organ and samples.

Recorded over a 3 year period all over Europe and North America, this album is based around recurring themes over which layers and layers of guitars have been recorded. The drums (excellent sound by the way) lay down a groove and add fills, but this is all about guitar. I think the bass is coming from the 8 string guitars. Because of the constant repeating of especially the bass / base, a kind of hypnotic feel is created. The guitars are used in many different ways. Some sound are highly processed, with tons of reverb and echo, thus creating a certain mood. Other parts add colour, lightness, percussive elements and of course solos and or melodies.

After repeated listen I am still asking myself how I feel about the album. Main problem for me is that the constant repeating of the bass riff seems a bit one dimensional. Especially since the 5 tracks together generate 67 minutes of music. On the other hand, the drums and guitars often create nice moods and make me enjoy the tracks.

Fans of King Crimson (especially their instrumental side) will enjoy this. Fans of intelligent instrumental music should also listen in. I am curious how this will develop in the future.

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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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