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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Pymlico, Nightscape, 2018

pymlico-nightscapeOriginally a project that served as an musical outlet for Norwegian drummer and multi-instrumentalist Arild Broter (with a / through the “o”), Pymlico have since evolved into a 7 piece band and with Nightscape have released the fifth album. You can find these (and the live EP) also on these pages, with the exception of debut Inspirations (2011)

The most accurate description of the music I have read so far is instrumental progressive rock, mixed with fusion and with added cinematic textures. Another way of describing it is tasty, smooth, melodic and sophisticated.

That is not saying this is middle of the road typed stuff. They are too good musicians to play it safe all the time. Yes, I would not mind a little more energy here or there, but overall this is another damn fine listening experience with songs that stick. So you will again not miss vocals at all. And as usual this is an album that grows with every play. They know how to arrange their songs to the extent that you keep discovering.

But since the band have just released a new video of the track Tofana 10AM, here you have a simple way of finding out how you like what they do. I know I will enjoy to keep listening !

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Dialeto, Live With David Cross, 2018

dialeto - live with david crossBrazilian band Dialeto teamed up with David Cross and recorded and released this set. Both the band as well as David Cross have been featured before so you might know that this is a kind of avant garde / progressive rock / fusion album. And live or not, no doubt there will be improvisations…

The album opens with 3 Roumanian Folk Dances, numbers 3, 2 and 4 to be precise. Since these are kept fairly short, I think (not knowing them) they stick pretty close to the originals. Folk Dances usually have a leading melody, and these are no exception. Next are 3 Mikrokosmos tracks, 149, 113 and 78. Here the subtitles refer to Bulgaria, so I suppose this are more original folk tracks, adapted. And of course, being from the East, the rhythms are often more complex than you might expect. Also the improvisations seem to be flowing more.

During playback of the album, I am sometimes reminded of the soundscapes King Crimson is known for. Like the opening of An Evening In The Village. But then we are back to more faster playing. Exiles is another piece that moves around from soft to wild and frantic.
And talking of KC, the album closes with 2 of their tracks, Larks’ Tongues In Aspic part 2 and Starless. And even when I miss John Wetton’s voice (it is still sung right), this will always be a song that hits home.

So maybe not for everybody, there is a lot to enjoy here for the right people.

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Ally The Fiddle, Up, 2018

ally the fiddle - upOf course the violin is an instrument that is no stranger to progressive rock / metal. Think Kansas, David Cross or Apocalyptica. Let alone all arrangements involving orchestrated music.

Ally the Fiddle is a band around classically trained violinist and singer Ally Storch. For Ally, progressive means spinning things around. So expect prog rock and metal, but don’t be surprised to hear parts beyond that. A dash of fusion here or a bit of folk there, etc.

Opening track Sisyphos is an up tempo melodic track with multi layered vocals and the violin adding all kinds of extra’s. The song is expanded with an instrumental section full of breaks and solos, adding the metal to it. Aphotic Zone continues in that mould, going from gentle to fierce and back. Solos are exchanged between violin and guitar. The choices of tones in the melodies do create a jazzy sense to the track. But the metal guitars keep you grounded. The title for The Bass Thing suits the song well as the bass gets a leading role, supported by the rest of the musicians. Well, with a bass player as well as a chapman stick player in the band, you do get the chance to expand.
Because of the 6 instrumentalists in the band, there was no need to add keyboards…

Overall the album is more melodic than you might expect. Of course there are lots of instrumental parts and solos, but a lot of those keep an eye on melody as well.

Nice album to get to know the band (even when this is their second album) and certainly a band that manages to add a fresh colour to the densely populated prog scene.

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Mark Wingfield, Tales From the Dreaming City, 2018

mark wingfield - tales from the dreaming citySeems Mark Wingfield loves to keep himself busy. So here is his next release on Moonjune. Joining him are the familiar faces of Yaron Stavi (bass), Asaf Sirkis (drums) and special guest Dominique Vantomme (keyboard solos on several tracks).

Alas the recently discussed Dwiki Dharmawan album (also from Moonjune, and same rhythm section) did not do much for me. Thankfully this one is a lot easier to get into. Here songs do have structures and hooks I recognize after a few plays, making my listening a much more pleasant experience.
Mark has a very fluid style, vaguely reminiscent of one Jeff Beck. But there is room for all involved to shine. Because we all know these are experienced musicians whose playing capabilities are beyond any doubt. So besides the intricate solo (and rhythm) parts of Wingfield, there are also some expert bass playing and drumming parts to enjoy.

What also helps is that most songs range between 5 to 8 minutes, staying away from endless improvisation. Still, at least for me, the most important part is that the tracks resonate with me after a couple of plays. The moods are often a bit melancholic, with Mark’s guitar really ‘singing’. Try for instance Sunlight Cafe.

Maybe not for everyone, even when they like instrumental guitar music. But sure worth checking if you have an open mind!

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Cross & Jackson, Another Day, 2018

cross & jackson - another dayWhat we are talking about here are David Cross (a King Crimson member in the Seventies on violin and keyboards) and David Jackson (from Van Der Graaf Generator on flute, saxophones and keyboards). Joining them are Mick Paul on bass and Craig Blundell on drums.

The 2 Davids met in 2010 and discovered they shared a mutual vision on music, based on improvisation. And so they set out to create this, playing anything from fierce avant garde to somewhat rocking riffs and everything in between.
And like with a lot of improvisational music, you will need time to get into the moods and songs on the album. This is no dinner ready plate, this is music to dive into and suck your teeth in. While I do realize this is not music for everyone, the beauty of it is that when you stick to it, the melodies and themes start to reveal themselves more clearly and you start to realize what an amazing quartet this actually is.  Yes, on first listens this album can make you nervous and restless, but tracks like Anthem For Another Day will help you discover the mastery at work. Here the melodies prevail from the opening segments, thus making it much easier to enjoy. Compliments to producer Jake Jackson for giving the album an awesome sound.

So if you enjoyed either of their heritage bands, make sure you check this out. And if you are open minded and don’t mind a lot of things happening at any second, you might like this too. A grower for sure!

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Vantomme, Vegir, 2017

vantomme-vegirAh, another Moonjune Records release. And featuring none other than the mighty Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, Stick Men) on bass! Vantomme is the project led by Dominique Vantomme (keyboards, Ana Popovic, Vaya Con Dios, Viktor Lazlo)) who wrote all the songs/ jams that Tony contributed to, together with Michel Delville on guitar (The Wrong Object, Machine Mass) and Maxine Lenssens on drums.

Now this introduction should tell you a couple of things. First, yes it is instrumental and probably falls into the jazz / fusion category. Yes, this music takes time to digest as most of the themes incorporated in the songs will not show themselves in the first (few) rounds. Still, some songs do have a fairly quick impact, like opener Double Down or the haunting Sizzup. Other songs remind of the soundscapes King Crimson do. Something Levin is of course very familiar with.
Guys like this are ace players, capable of taking everything that is thrown at them into their own hands and turn it into something special. Yet in all honesty, the result is not always easy on the ears. So people expecting  straight forward songs should be beware that this might disappoint them. For the adventurous amongst us, this is a discovery that will last you a long time. And not only for funny song titles likes The Self Licking Ice-cream Cone!

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Focus, The Focus Family Album, 2017

the focus family albumDon’t mind listening to Focus, and even better when it is a double album. But wait, it’s a “family” album. Isn’t that supposed to be a kind of best of from Focus and related bands? Well, in this case that is only partly true. Because this is in fact extensive unreleased and new material! On offer are 20 tracks, of which 15 are unreleased, some are alternate versions of the Focus X sessions, solo tracks from current members and tracks from the beginning of the Focus 11 sessions. All wrapped in a cover that can only be from the one and only Roger Dean.

And does that mean that quality is an issue here? Of course not, we are dealing with world class musicians here. They care too much about music to release anything under par. So you will get: 2 songs by Thijs van Leer on flute, over some nature sounds. Very relaxing. 10 Focus songs, all in their usual mix of instrumental and vocal, fusion, blues and or rock. Also 2 songs from drummer Pierre van der Linden, 2 songs by guitarist Menno Gootjes (definitely check Hazel, beautiful), 2 songs by Swung, who are Focus without Thijs and 2 songs by new bassist Udo Pannenkeet, who takes over from Bobby Jacobs.
Besides the art work from Dean, another thing of note is that this is released independently on their In And Out Of Focus label! With their status I guess that is not a really bold move, but still.

Anyone familiar with their output can buy this on sight, class us usual.

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Wingfield Reuter Stavi Sirkis, The Stone House, 2017

Yes that are 4 names and thus four musicians. Mark Wingfield is an innovative guitar player who constantly is trying to create new sounds with his instrument. Markus Reuter plays TouchGuitars (put simple: 8 string guitar played like a stick) and is also a member of The Crimson ProjeKct and The Stick Men. Yaron Stavi plays fretless bass and Asaf Sirkis is the drummer in this collective. All are seasoned players with many years of experience.

And if Moonjune Records and or The Crimson ProjeKct rings any bells, you will already have a feeling about what you can expect from this album. Indeed there is a King Crimson influence floating around. Not the song aimed melodic KC, but the free floating soundscape version. Maybe with a little more guitar. Because these cats just set up shop in a studio and began improvising and recording. In that sense this is a 100% live album, resulting in 6 songs from 5 to 14 minutes each and a total playing time of an hour.

And while I applaud the stunning capabilities of these men, I also reckon this is not for everyone. It probably takes a certain level of listening experience to appreciate this. So for the adventurous a treat, others better listen in first.

 

Tohpati Ethnomission, Mata Hati, 2017

tohpati ethnomission - mata hatiIndonesian star guitar player Tohpati has been featured here quite a few times with all he is involved in, and now he is back with his band Tohpati Ethnomission. Since this is released on the Moonjune label, yes this is an instrumental fusion / jazz rock album.

First thing worth noticing is that opening song Janger is accompanied by the Czech Symphony Orchestra. Besides that it is another fantastic slice of music, full of power, groove and melody. Next track Pelog Rock might be one of the more heavier moments ever recorded by Tohpati. But it is another corker! Tanah Emas is more mellow, the flutes give it that Eastern and folky feel. And the combination of folky melodies, rocking jazz and of course solos on all instruments involved can be heard throughout the album.
The result is another Moonjune album that is fairly easy to digest. All songs have melodies to identify them with and still enough going on to make the album grow on you with repeated play. Hey and in Amarah you sometimes think a prog metal band joined! So yes, also the solos are more flashy here than ever before.

So happy to report this album is a worthy addition to the Tohpati catalogue, Moonjune fans can buy on sight, but I would recommend to give it a try to everyone who likes fiery guitar coupled with a keen ear for melody.

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