Kinetic Element, The Face Of Life, 2019

kinetic element - the face of lifeAlbum number 3 for this US outfit from Richmond Virginia. Although the various members live all over the place. But since the band is founded by Mike Visaggio (keyboards), who still writes the majority of the music, Richmond it is. After the success of previous album Travelog, they have now expanded to a quintet, with St. John Coleman on vocals, Mark Tupko on bass, Michael Murray still on drums and Peter Matuchniak on guitar.

Some may be tempted to write the band off as a Yes / Genesis clone, but I don’t think that would be very fair. Yes it is obvious those bands are at the root and heart of KE’s sound. But especially in the epic tracks like All Open Eyes and The Face Of Life, they manage to add their own music identity. Let alone that both Yes and (old) Genesis have a distinct style, so a melting pot of those ingredients would already be something different.

Anyway, to me it is clear that the guys put their heart and soul into the music. And in doing so, create an album that will appeal to those stuck in the Seventies as well as those that keep track of everything that is going on in today’s scene.
I really like that despite that these 2 epics form 70% of the album, it still feels song based. No ego tripping and self indulgent technical wizardry. But songs that have a story to tell.

Another good effort, recommended!

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John Wiseman, Filling The Void, 2019

john wiseman - filling the voidOne should never underestimate the power of building a good track order for one’s release. But when your album covers a pretty wide range of styles, how you go about? I guess Cumbrian artists John Wiseman has had something to think about after completing the recording of his third album…

Because this is an album that is all over the place. From pop, to rock, to jazzy, to electronic and back. Now I do not mind experimentation or variation. It’s the spice of life. But I can also understand that an artist is asking a lot from his (would be) audience when the output is so diverse. Many critics love to put a certain tag on a release and making things difficult for them is often not appreciated.

So you understand I have been struggling a bit to find the words to describe my listening experience. Many tracks on this release are catchy, like On Your Side or Grow Up. This type of tracks has a bit of Eighties pop vibe that many people still appreciate. Won’t Last or Calling Out sound more modern, even when their backbone is not unlike the ones mentioned before.
But then comes the kick in the teeth; after listening to this album back to back a couple of times, these difference seem to iron out a bit. In a weird kind of way it all starts to make sense! So where I was first tempted to say that John might consider grouping his songs and releasing them under different names to attract a specific audience, now I am not longer sure. Even when I do think there is room here and there for improvement as not everything sounds  convincing.

Make up your own mind, but the more often I heard it, the better it got.

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RPWL, Tales From Outer Space, 2019

RPWL_Tales from outer spaceI was amazed to discover that this is actually the first time a RPWL album has made it to the pages. Not that this has prohibited them from having a career of course, phew.. 😉 And rest assured, it is definitely not the first time hearing them for me!

As is easy to tell from the front cover, Tales From Outer Space contains 7 tracks that deal with science fiction, without this turning into a concept album in a strict sense. If you already are familiar with the band, I guess their melodic song approach is already known and enjoyed. Should you be new to the band and consider yourself a fan of progressive rock, where have you been?

All kidding aside, with a sound sitting somewhere between Pink Floyd (Yogi Lang could easy pass as a young Gilmour with his voice), Steven Wilson / Porcupine Tree and a tad of Manfred Mann (keyboard solos), this is another album showcasing their knack for songs that are as catchy as they are intricate. All is done with great taste and finesse, without ego’s getting in the way. For me no need to talk more about songs or album, I can listen to this all day.

In other words, have no doubt, this is a gem!

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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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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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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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