XSyntax is the alter ego of fellow Dutchman and synth enthusiast Richard Aardenburg. Richard claims to be influenced by Rick Wakeman, Jean Michael Jarre and Tomita and describes his music as a mix of EDM, ambient, downtempo and urban. And this is his first release.
Alas I am not an expert in these genres. All I can say is that since most of the songs have beats in them, EDM seems closest, with a bit of ambient here and there. But maybe that’s just me.
For him, music is like water, so it can come in different modes and shapes. So where I was expecting songs around a theme of water, this is not the case here. Instead we get songs like the calm Dream On, the uptempo Technix V where sequencers and beats dominate, or the mid tempo Caravans In The Desert. There are 11 songs and a bonus track on the album, and most of the songs are around 3 minutes.
I think the ideas are there, but XSyntax needs to work a bit more on finding a good balance in the mix. In some tracks certain parts are so much louder, they drown out the rest. What is good is that he keeps trying to find new sounds to use. Also he always works with melodies, but could sometimes do with a bit more arrangement. A drum computer and a melody does not always give enough body to the songs. But again, that is just my opinion.
If you are into the genres mentioned, check for yourself!
Don’t know about you, but I kinda like it when an artist releases music that is so personal and intimate, it is unique. And for me Janet Feder just did that. I can understand why she writes that previous work happened in her head and this comes from the heart. And even if only 3 from the 9 songs contain her vocals, she speaks volumes with her guitar as well.
With a background in folk and rock, but also classically trained, the tools were already there I guess, but the decision to just be, paved the path for these songs. And don’t expect to be overpowered by technique. When I say intimate, that is what you get. It feels like she is there in the room with you pouring her heart and soul out through her playing or singing. The album opens with Crows and Ticking Time Bomb, 2 of the vocal tracks. Brooding with atmosphere and suspense, these suck you into the album immediately. Happy Everyday Me is the first instrumental track. Nylon stringed guitar and various sounds that enhance this composition. No Apology contains almost unidentifiable sounds behind another classical guitar piece.
And yes, the playing is impeccable, but what counts most for me is the way this music has been enriched. Janet and her friends succeeded in creating timeless music that touches on a deeper level. That Close indeed!
For me the second album on the Volkoren label, and one with similarities to that first one, from David Ahlén. And one of the reasons for that might be that the latter is co-producing and arranging here. First thing to notice is another striking package from the label. Beautiful photo’s of the singer in a natural environment. Which fits this album to perfection, as this is another collection of songs that are earthly in approach, minimal in execution and spiritual in perception.
Sara has a lovely voice that reminded me a little bit of an old favourite, Paula Cole, albeit this album being much more laid back and intimate. This is music to consume with full attention, drifting away on it’s mellow tones and soft dynamics. I don’t think many people realise how hard it is to bring music in this way. So gentle and fragile, sometimes whisper soft, and yet so commanding. Huge kudos for that! Maybe not the right music for any time of day, but surely of high calibre. So if you are looking for quality and don’t mind spending time with an album, this is surely something to pick up. Beautiful music that transcends genre tags and will appeal to anybody willing to listen. Intense!
This is my first acquaintance with both David Ahlén (sorry can’t find the o to go above the A) and his label Volkoren. And I must say, this is something special in my humble opinion. David wrote the songs and sings and plays guitar and harmonium. And that is the core of all songs. But wait, there are guests, on piano, vocals, zither, harp, cello, vibraphone and some percussion. But most of that is sparse and serves to add some accents in the mood created by said voice and (acoustic) guitar. About the voice, Ahlen chooses to sing most, if not all, with his falsetto. This combination creates a very intimate setting, but if you pay attention to the music (which is obligatory in this case) it makes for a wonderful experience!
The overall sound is like a feather in the wind, or the eye of a storm. Calm, peaceful, maybe sometimes a bit haunting, but in a good way. It creates a condition where one cannot help but relax and sit back to undergo the unique qualities of this. It creeps up on your spine and sucks you into the imagery of the artist. Timeless if you ask me, and praise to both David and the label for bringing us this unique and wonderful album that actually defies categorising!
Well, this release of MoonJune certainly turned out to be surprising. Whereas most of their releases are in the Jazz, Fusion, Prog field or a combination of those, this release is something completely different. Based around Sasha Markovic on guitar, bass and percussion, and Kana Kamitsubo on piano, Kai is a very intimate sounding album that is simply wonderful from start to finish. Some songs have guests that are familiar MoonJune names, but centre stage is for named duo.
Their brand of instrumental music is very accessible, a delightful palette of moods and melody. Take for instance their take on 2 famous classic rock songs, Burn by Deep Purple and Wishing Well from the Free. Unrecognisable to some extent, but yet so familiar and convincing. The other 10 tracks are originals, with 2 of them reworked versions of earlier work. They master their instruments to such extent that it is almost like they speak to you directly. Great tone and vibes all around. A song like Z-Parrow reminds a bit of old Jethro Tull because of the added flute. But with or without outside contributions, this album will appeal to anyone that takes the time to listen to it. This defies genre tagging, this is music that goes straight for the heart and the soul. Simple as that, so fully recommended!
With yet another new line-up (now adding scene veteran Fred den Hartog on drums) Sylvium are back with their third release. And while my thoughts on their previous one was that it lacked a bit a colour and versatility, I feel that this release is easy their best one yet. Their mix of prog, rock and ambient now blends well and the rock factor is really there.
Not that they have turned into a full blown metallic monster. But this collection of songs at last move around, sometimes heavy, sometimes fragile and everything in between. Thus creating a mood and experience. Also more vocals this time, and that also helps getting into the music. This time 7 songs and 44 minutes on the album, with highlights for me being Signal To Noise, Fragile and Coda. The voice of Richard de Geest might still remind me a bit of The Mission, there is no doubt that he can carry a tune and really reaches out to the audience.
So for me the band are on the right track with this album. It is colourful, moody and versatile. Dutch label Freia-Music did the right thing and I congratulate all parties with this recommended release!
All around nice guy Scott Mosher (guitars, bass and keyboards) and his Oceans Of Night project are no strangers to the blog. So it is with pleasure that I write some words on the new album, Midnight Rising. Typed as ambient metal, or progressive metal if you will, Midnight Rising was again mixed and mastered by Joey Vera and features guest appearances by Vivien Lalu, Chris Rifkin and Stephanie Warren and as before, lead vocals by Scott Oliva and drums by Alan Smithee.
Like on its predecessors, Oceans Of Night deliver a melting pot of prog metal, melodic hard rock and ambient sounds. So you will understand that there is a lot of light and dark here. But Mosher bridges the styles to compliment each other, rather than write songs in specific genres. Listening back and forth to this, I think the balance between power / aggression and dynamic / flowing is pretty good on this album. And I also feel that production wise this is one of the best sounding releases of him so far. Damn nice if there is still progression after six releases!
With 10 tracks ranging from just over 3, to 10 minutes, this is almost an hour of music. Soaring guitar solos, guitar riffing, keyboards in multitude and melodic choruses, it is all here. I like this music very much and heartily recommend it to lovers of the genre. Should you be afraid of ambient, just think of it as prog metal and give it a try!
Independant label Rock Company has just presented the first video for their new project Earthshine. The project aims at delivering instrumental music with touches of ambient, new age and film music. Little guitars, but emphasis on piano, mellotron and synths. With drums and bass where needed. The first album will soon be released. So for now welcome Earthshine:
Okay, the press sheet mentions this is progressive, ambient, instrumental, experimental rock. And that is all true. Adrian Jones is responsible for guitars, bass and guitar synthesiser and Michel Simons did the programming and the keyboards.
Some will probably hail this as one of the best releases of 2013. Because one thing is for sure, it is progressive in a true sense. It is original, combines elements of many styles and does not care if the masses like it or not. So that makes for authentic and pigheaded. And yes, especially the dreamy ambient parts are beautiful and moody. Yet in all honesty, I am struggling with this album. For me the main thing lacking are identifiable songs. Thus resulting in 9 tracks of sounds and hints and ideas. When it gets noisy, to me it is just that, noise. Guitars screaming (which I normally do not mind at all) and drowning in effects? Maybe when served with certain substances it becomes a trip. Or maybe it is a state of mind and my mind is not open enough at the moment to enjoy this. I do not know for sure. Still I applaud the balls and the vision.
So for the open minded and the brave, this might prove to be an essential addition to your collection. All others approach with caution…
Devin Townsend. The guy that screamed his way through the Sex & Religion album from Steve Vai? Who released several seriously heavy metal albums with Strapping Young Lad? Who put out a string of solo albums with a wall of sound? That Devin Townsend, yes. Guess that kinda makes us expect something pretty heavy now don´t it? Well if that is the case and also what you need, do not read any further.
Because dear readers, Ghost is anything but heavy. Instead we hear acoustic guitars, flutes, keyboards, some drumming, ethereal vocal harmonies and serene vocals. Very dreamy songs, ambient like. This is a big surprise. Not because I don´t know he is capable of doing this. He has done this type of music before, but always a part here, or a track there. Never a full 72 + minute album. Very relaxed and moody, but what a wonderful album, I keep hitting the play button. This is such an intense experience, it almost hurts. Beautiful is not covering it at all… Buy at sight!