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.


Adult Cinema, Teaser Trailer, 2016

adult cinema - teaser trailerAnother one of those albums that slipped between the cracks for a long time. But now surfaced again to claim it’s spot. Besides the off-kilter name, you should know that AC is in essence Mike Weston, a multi-instrumentalist from the UK. Okay, he gets help on several of the tracks from various people (including his dad and uncle Bob) but what we get to hear is his vision.

I guess in many ways this is to be labelled as a progressive record. But bear in mind it is more like (an early) Supertramp kind of progressive. By which I mean that it would not surprise me if a whole bunch of people would like this album a lot, should they get to know about it and actually have a listen. So hopefully this helps a bit…

Because this is just a very pleasant album in every sense. It has great melodies that hook you in with ease. It has extended arrangements that show Mike is not afraid to think outside of the standard pop formulas (hence the prog tag) so you can enjoy instrumental bits, hooks, riffs and so on. It is never too much of anything yet has enough going on to keep you interested. And above all it has songs that are varied, have roots in various styles, and together make for an album that is a joy to hear. Especially for fans of Seventies music.

So go ahead, get in touch with him and have a listen!


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.


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.


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!


The Aurora Project, World Of Grey, 2016

the aurora project - world of greyTwo years back The Aurora Project took a serious blow when rhythm guitarist and lyricist Marc Vooijs suddenly died. The band took a year off to decide on their future and the outcome is clear, the band continues, but without replacing Marc. This means their sound is now more rock than metal, with bass and keyboard filling the guitar gaps.

World Of Grey is a concept album based on an idea from Marc but this time Mox stepped in the writing shoes. It deals with the idea that the established world order is increasingly restricting the people and a grey blanket of control and repression descends over the world. How the album art fits in is not quite clear to me, but I guess that is artistic license.
While listening to the album (which does work as single songs by the way) I noticed it took the band a song or 2 to really find their own feet. Opener Expect Us sounds a bit like your regular neo prog band but from then on it is onwards and upwards. Stone Eagle is a great slow burning song, Deadly Embrace another song with catchy melodies and rather tasty guitar work. Okay, sometimes it still sounds a bit Marillionesque, but with more bite, so no problems there.

The band will resume live duties this year, so be on the lookout for that. The songs on this album will work, no doubts in my mind! If you like your prog melodic and with great playing, make sure to listen in.


Songsbury, Self Titled, 2016

songsburyMhm, not sure how this ended up on my desk. But anyway, I got it, so I listened to it. This is clearly very much in the pop genre, with a dash of dance influenced beats added. Not something I would usually listen to.

But to be honest, Songsbury, which is in essence Mat Teofilo handling everything except for guitars in last track Last Goodbye, knows a thing or two about writing songs. Opener Till The Day I Die is carried by his vocals, and they are good. Next track Common is also very enjoyable. I Think I’m In Love did not do that much for me, but Beautiful is just that. Very nice vocals again, and the piano playing here fits the mood to the tee. In this genre I will prove even worse in referencing other artists, but to me She Made Me Do It sounds a bit like one Bruno Mars. Which also means it is a track that does not work for me. Last Goodbye ends the EP and yeah, a little guitars added here indeed. Immediately gave it a bit of extra sizzle with for instance a great solo. And again Mat proves to be able to write commercial songs that can appeal to many.

So this one is a bit out of my zone, but some songs proved quite good.


Shaman Elephant, Crystals, 2016

shaman elephant - crystalsKarisma Records are again bringing us an interesting new band from Norway. So let me introduce you to Shaman Elephant, a 4 piece from the Bergen region. With a style that is firmly rooted in seventies psychedelic and progressive hard rock. The colours on the front cover already hint at that psychedelic part, but let me tell you, a lot of groove is present in this band.

Opening with the title track, an 8+ minutes cracker, that  showcases all you are to expect from the band. Cool riffs, vintage sounds and power. But also more moody parts, extended soloing on guitar and keyboards (Deep Purple anyone?) and convincing melodies. So what more could we ask for? Well, that might be tracks like Shaman In The Woods. That turns out to be filled to the brim with tasty melodies over a steady groove, but does that in less than 5 minutes, so might attract some airplay.
And you gotta love the bass riff opening I.A.B, with that little distorted sound. But in fact every song on offer (6 in total, running 45 minutes) brings something exciting to the table.

Yes it might be retro in parts and roots, but it also has a modern touch and does not sound outdated at all. The album is very expressive, fresh and convinces on all parts. I loved listening to it, so some addiction warning is in order here 🙂


Terry Draper, Window On The World, 2016

terry draper - window on the worldRemember Klaatu? No? Shame, anyone into progressive pop / rock should own their back catalogue, especially the album Hope. But anyway, one of the core member of Klaatu was Terry Draper, who continued to release music after the demise of the band in the early eighties. Recently we got in touch and he was so kind as to make this available to me.

I guess the “the lost 80’s tapes” sub title really tells you a lot. But what it does not say is that this is really a release on USB. It includes not only the 10 tracks from the album, but also videos, an extensive booklet and info sheet and no less than 12 bonus songs. Terry calls 2 of them an attempt at Euro-pop, 5 are songs about loved ones with female lead vocals, and 5 are demos in various states of completion.
Now, if you are familiar with the Endangered Species album from Klaatu, then I think the 10 songs will sound familiar as I think they come closest to that period in the Klaatu history. At that time there was more focus on straight songs it seems. And there is really nothing wrong with that as they’ve always shown a keen ear for melodies. That “The undercover Beatles” rumour from back in the day had to have a little root… Standout tracks for me are opener I Have A Dream, You Don’t See Me Laughing and closer and title track Window On The World. But I am sure that any song would have fitted well on any album.

So this makes me a happy man, and not only for the insights in the more obscure tracks!


Offworld, Some Circles Are Square, 2016

offworld - some circles are squareWell, I guess this is for the ones who like their music trippy and psychedelic. The core of Belgian band Offworld are the trio of Peter Baart (bass and fx), Stijn van den Bossche (keyboards and fx) and Tom Tas (guitars). Guests are Rob Martin (drums), Pieter van den Broeck (keyboards) and guest solos from Joris van Daele (guitar) and Geert Roels (sax). And if you did not find a vocalist there, you are right, because this is an instrumental album.

And while the combination of psychedelic, trippy and instrumental may sound like something you would want to avoid, in this case you might be missing out on some rather tasty music. I suspect the the band members have some roots in progressive rock and metal music, because the songs have clear structures and are very varied in their arrangements. The guitar playing is of high calibre, both with riffs as with solos. But the fx and keyboards take care of all the moods you will encounter while listening to this. And also add some solos.
So the good thing is, the band never just dabble on, they have a clear vision of what they want the song to bring to the table and they stick to it. In any case, I never once got bored listening to this and they rarely go over the top.

So square or not, I liked listening to this! You might do to if you give them a try. Start with Alien Vocal Chord Trauma and Shaman’s Garden and work your way from there.