Nicolas Meier World Group, Peaceful, 2019

nicolas meier world group - peacefulGuitarist Nicolas Meier has been featuring in many guises here on the blog. And where many of his contemporaries (on the familiar Moonjune label for instance) impress with improvisations (which do require a trained ear), Meier seems more at home in well thought out and arranged songs. The benefit? It is far easier to connect to his music!

Album Peaceful was released last year but as with a lot of albums, has silently been waiting on its turn.  Again this is an album one can play on many occasions. It is a joy for the casual listener because of the melodies and the obvious Eastern influences. And while I love that feel, I will always be impressed by the technical side too. Especially since here they are a means, and not a destination.

Another good one!

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Mark Wingfield & Gary Husband, Tor & Vale, 2019

wingfield husband - tor and valeGuitarist Mark Wingfield is no stranger to these pages. And while not everything he does suits me, several of his albums are a pleasure to hear. Sadly, this album with Gary Husband on piano is not one of them.

The reason for this is simple (at least for me); 3 of the 8 songs (together 39 of the 76 minutes of the CD) are spontaneous improvisations, recorded directly after they finished recording the other 5. And while there is no denying that these guys are very capable musicians, I am having a hard time connecting to this. Maybe I am currently not in the right set of mind or something. For me this is too abstract, too free of form and without structure.

So if that is something you do enjoy, be your own judge. I’ll take a rain check and play a more simple album…

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Oxley Meier, The Alluring Ascent, 2019

Oxley-Meier-the-Alluring-AscentAs if running an award winning venue, touring with Jeff Beck or releasing numerous albums isn’t enough, you can always get together to do another combined album. So that is what Pete Oxley and Nicolas Meier did on their fourth album together.

Since they tour as a quartet, or perform as a duo, all songs on the album can be played in both formats. As usual, they also use a plethora of stringed instruments of which the 11 string fretless guitar, or a 7 string nylon are amongst the less obvious choices.

But it is the music that counts and this album is just wonderful for many occasions. Yes it is jazzy, but this oozes the mood of a weekend barbecue with some good friends, drinking wine and enjoying each other’s company. Musically it is of the highest order, with intricate playing. But the guys made sure it would work for both the occasional listener, as well as the fan that studies every lick and trick. It is tasty, it is sophisticated as it is warm and authentic.
East Coast Jams is such a fine example. On the surface it passes along nicely, but there are so many details incorporated that showcase how talented all the musicians involved are.

A very enjoyable album, and one I would play to people who say they don’t like jazz / fusion.

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Vasil Hadzimanov Band, Lines In Sand, 2019

vasil hadzimanov band - lines in sandBeen a couple of years since previous album Alive was discussed here. And looking back, and now hearing this, I have been wondering; is this album more accessible, or have I grown in understanding this type of music? As you will know by now, a lot of releases coming from Moonjune are not for the faint hearted. Often based on jams and improvisations they always impress with musical and technical skills, but rarely hit home on first play. I consider most of them growers…

So how about this one then? Well it seems that this time, the mix of fusion, funk, psychedelia, rock and so on, has generated a couple of tracks I like from the first time I heard them! Mr. Moonjune has some recurring themes (always helpful to connect with), and a great funky groove going. The way the piano arpeggio in San Snova is rhythmically accompanied by the band is very imaginative. Lost, with vocals from Marta Hadzimanov, is a beautiful jazzy song, with impressive restrained playing. And Maklik is just brilliant.
Of course, variation is key here, and they do sometimes indulge in extensive soloing on whatever instrument they seem fit. But for me this is an album that I would play again in the future.

Yes, I like it, especially the funky side of it!

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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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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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Xavi Reija, The Sound Of The Earth, 2018

xavi reija - the sound of the earthSpanish maestro drummer Xavi Reija is giving us another insight in his musical world. And if you are familiar with his previous releases, you will already know that his world is one of complex ideas, based on inventive rhythms and jazzy notes and free form jams.

Accompanying him on this album are the ever so wonderful Tony Levin on bass and stick and on (touch) guitars Markus Reuter and Dusan Jevtovic. All of them no stranger to the Moonjune label.

If anything, this is another album that you will have to digest slowly and repeatedly. Well, at least for me that is certainly the case. Should you be familiar with the Three Of A Perfect Pair album from King Crimson, I am getting the same kind of vibe from several of the songs here. So lots of sound and noise things happening in seemingly random order.
So where opening track Deep Ocean surprises me with riffs and hooks I can immediately identify with, others like From Darkness make me look over my shoulder to check if I am still alone…

Of course there is no debating the quality of the musicians here. This is just a matter of taste and the willingness to invest a lot of time of getting to know and appreciate the music. Which is too rare a thing sadly in today’s world of fast everything. But if you regard yourself an exception to that rule, enjoy this trip!

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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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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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