Minutian, Inwards, 2015

minutian - inwardsAfter the 2011 release of Repercussions, this is the latest effort by Finnish prog rockers Minutian. And one with a story behind it, as writing it was the way the band deals with the loss of guitar player Jaakko Jernberg (RIP 2012), resulting in these 9 tracks and 55 minutes of emotional music. And in the closing song Redeemer Jernberg says goodbye, as he wrote it.

The band mention however that the underlying theme is that of a protagonist struggling with his visions and seeking ways to mend his thoughts to ultimately find safety. We have to explore the lyrics to find that out :).
The music is indeed emotional and varied. Variation is of course standard in prog, but it is a good thing that these emotions are really there. Take for instance On Derelict Sidings. Beautiful arrangement and delivery, even if sometimes the band let go and delve into some heavy riffage. There is light and dark and it works like a charm. The added piano arrangements on the album from Helsinki based Elias Patrikainen add even more colour to the songs. And room to breathe.

I am quite sure that even if you are not aware of the background painted before, this is an album that will grow on you. It is clear that heart and soul are present and for me that is a very important aspect of music. Congratulations Minutian!

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Audio Pilots, Breaking The Silence, 2015

audio pilots - breaking the silenceThese Dutch Audio Pilots are from the Southern part of the country (region Eindhoven – Venlo for those familiar with the geography) and 2 members of them I actually have known for quite some years. Singer and guitar player Harold van Gestel (also wrote most of the songs) did some backing vocals on the second Chinawhite album and drummer Haico Brummans managed that same outfit a couple of years. You may also know Harold from The Chill Factor and various other bands.

Together with Will van der Linden on lead guitar and Alexander Tripiana on bass, they have recorded this debut EP. Well EP, the 5 tracks get company from another 3 stretching the running time to about 33 minutes. There was a time that was an album. But it’s always a matter of quality over quantity so let us delve into the songs. Self described as a mix of the Foo Fighters and the mighty King’s X, and from where I stand a healthy dose of classic rock, this is a most welcome introduction to the band.
Harold has a pleasant rock voice to say the least and the band as a whole seems to gel well. The songs are melodic, with enough twists and turns to avoid the all too familiar roads. And of course they rock. Nowhere near anything metal by the way. But with enough bite to get your energy pumping.

Very entertaining and certainly wets the appetite for more!

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Dewa Budjana, Hasta Karma, 2015

dewa budjana - Hasta KarmaIndonesian guitarist Dewa Budjana (Moonjune Records) has been featured here a couple of times before, his previous one is here. But there are 2 more on the blog. One thing I admire about him is the ability to write songs that connect instantly with the listener. Where a lot of his label mates need you to invest serious time in their release, Budjana has you tapping along in seconds. His themes and melodies are refined and attractive and he cleverly places them within the song structures.

His playing and that of his fellow musicians is without doubt of a high calibre, no matter the more accessible nature of at least part of the songs. And yes, there are pieces here and there where improvisation takes over. But that is the way it should be, we are talking about fusion after all. So Joe Locke on vibraphone, Antonio Sanchez on drums and Ben Williams on delicious upright bass not only provide a base for Dewa to excel on, they add a lot to the whole of the album as well.

The 6 songs (52 minutes) of Hasta Karma are a joy to listen to. And really, there is no need to tell you more. In the genre, I regard this as one of the best available and one able to cross bridges. I am sure that people that like adventurous music will have fun with this, as well as progressive addicts. Try it!

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Vanderlinde, Southbound Train, 2015

Vanderlinde - Southbound TrainDutch singer Arjen Van der Linde has been featured here a couple of times before. And even though it seems that, over the years, his music has become less rock and more mainstream, there is no denying that this has not detracted from his artistic integrity. If anything, it seems a progression, to convert ideas and lyrics into songs that speak more easily to the listener.

Opener Katie Lee is a great example, catchy melodies, good story, should be a hit if there is any justice left in the world. Also there seems to be a more broader spectrum in his songs nowadays. In Your World would feel at home in a country album, Oh America opens with a chilling violin arrangement before the acoustic guitar and his voice take centre stage, accumulating in another goosebumps moment. Miss Molly, the first single, is an upbeat pop rock song of which the melodies stay in your head for days. Safe to say that Arjen, again with the help of famed producer Erwin Musper, has come up with another batch of great songs.

So dear reader, every reason why you should check in on this album is valid. This is darn good and will appeal to a whole lot of people, and not only to the East of my border!

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Tesla Manaf, Self Titled, 2015

Tesla ManafAnother Moonjune Records discovery out of Indonesia. Actually this is a re-release of two albums that were previously only available in that country with so many gifted musicians. Tracks 1-8 appeared on 2014 album A Man’s Relationship With His Fragile Area, and the songs 9-14 on the 2011 album It’s All Yours.

If the setting of Moonjune, Indonesia and guitarist is a bit familiar, then you will know what to expect. Right, instrumental music that is progressive of nature and fusion like in execution. Opener A Man’s Relationship With His Fragile Area goes to prove the point. A lady is telling something (in presumably Indonesian) and Manaf mimics the “melody” of the talking with his guitar. Quite funny.  Some of the songs have traditional instruments like gangsa, kantil or jublag. Other instruments include (besides drums, bass, guitar and keyboards) clarinet, wooden flute, soprano sax, etc.

And what about the music? Well, it is for the most part very melancholic and melodic actually. Okay, some parts go a bit crazy, as in this type of music extended soling is to be expected. But on a whole I found it easy to enjoy and of a high calibre. So a good choice for people wanting to delve into the genre or who like expressive music with chops to match.

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Todd Griffin, 7 Days To The Sabbath, 2015

todd griffin - 7 days to the sabbathPretty hot on the heels of his previous CD, here already is a new one from former The Graveyard Train singer Todd Griffin. Still in the same The Black Crowes meets Tom Petty style. And this time the biography also mentions influences as Creedence Clearwater Revival and John Cougar Mellencamp. And the fact that David Crosby’s Almost Cut My Hair gets a redoing here might also serve as a reference. Or else the tribute to Jim Morrison (Doors) called Manchild.

But looking back on what I wrote in my previous post, I think I can repeat myself here. This is just very entertaining music, classic rock with a bit of a Southern flavour sometimes.  Opening duo No Love In America and Sundance Song are gold, but many, if not all other tracks here serve to proof all my positive feelings about this musician. Timeless melodies, great authentic vibe without sounding dated. Pure and honest. Yeah yeah, don’t bug me about not bringing something new to the table. If you want a new style, this is not the album for that. But if you enjoy songs that are delivered from the heart, add this to your list. I like this!

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Mark Wingfield, Proof Of Light, 2015

mark wingfield - proof of lightTo avoid confusion, the full artist introduction ought to be Mark Wingfield with Yaron Stavi and Asaf Sirkis. With Wingfield being the guitar player, Stavi the bassist and Sirkis the drummer. So we have a trio, the label is Moonjune Records; this can only lead to one conclusion, instrumental fusion.

And yes it is. It had been a while since a fresh batch of Moonjune releases dropped in the mailbox, and it seemed I had grown a bit out of touch with this music. Because it took me quite some time to start to appreciate (some of) the music on offer. Main reason for that is that this feels very loose and improvised. And to these ears sometimes just comes across as unstructured noise. But then you know you have to dig in deep and hold on. Only thus the art will reveal itself…
Wingfield sometimes has an almost synthesiser like tone in his guitar playing, just listen to that in opener Mars Saffron. In Restless Mountains I am sometimes reminded of the fretwork of Steve Vai, with all the bending and high pitched notes. Maybe also a bit of Jeff Beck because of that. Not bad references at all I guess. No denying that these are seasoned players that challenge each other or glue together. Lots of dynamics as usual in this genre.

In the end it becomes clear why the press sheet speaks so highly of this album. This is innovative and special. But to truly appreciate it, you really have to expose yourself repeatedly!

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Jace Pawlak, Perspective, 2015

jace pawlak - perspectiveNow here is a guy whose songs are more known than he is. After all, with artists like Tango Down, Goodbye Thrill and Far Cry on the list (besides releasing music under the names of Kindred Saint and Chasing Magic), this is not a rookie at all. With a first release in 2005, it is about time we get more music too!

Jace, or Jason, Pawlak (vocals, keyboards, bass, drums) comes from a musical pedigree (Kindred Saint and Chasing Magic are bands with brother and father, and they join him here too) and writes music in a broad spectrum of rock. A dash of classic rock, some melodic rock or AOR, a bit of singer – songwriter, etcetera. This album was funded through a successful kickstarter campaign and is his best and most diverse effort yet. Opening with one of the more melodic rock tunes Cry, which has a great chorus and guitar riff. While We’re Here is a touch or two lighter in tone, with acoustic guitar playing a big role. What If We Were Wrong is a lovely ballad, with more emphasis on his piano playing. My personal favourite is Don’t Talk To Me, a song Toto would be proud of. Horns and all!
This album has a bit for everyone on it, and it only affirms that Jace is a prolific writer and performer that deserves a bigger audience. So head on over to his website and start checking this out!

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Todd Griffin, Mountain Man, 2015

todd griffin - mountain manReading the press info on this one really put a smile on my face: “continued music fusion of Black Sabbath meets Led Zeppelin with influences of Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Neil Young”. Mhm, could be interesting. But how does it sound? In my humble opinion it is closer to The Black Crowes meeting Tom Petty actually. It has a bit of a Southern flavour to it, and shares the melodic sense that is always present in the Tom Petty catalogue.

So  this is not rocking hard, but more in classic rock territory. Todd used to lead The Graveyard Train and did the vocals for That 70’s song in its first season. But the last couple of years has seen him move away from the corporate music biz and take things into his own hands. And I must say, if this third release is anything to go by, we all might be the better for it.
Todd has a knack for writing songs that stick in your head so this 9 track album passes along like a summer breeze. His vocals shine and manage to reach out and grab you. It all feels very pure, honest and authentic. Which could explain why Mitch Perry (U.F.O.), Jorgen Carlson (Gov’t Mule) or Arlan Oscar (Joe Bonamassa) wanted to be involved.

Quite sure that many people will dig this stuff when it arrives in stores 2015-01-10!

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