The Kentish Spires, The Last Harvest, 2018

kentish spires - the last harvestWhile this is the first release of The Kentish Spires, the musicians involved certainly are not new to the scene. Singer Lucie (also violin) has a past in folk and metal, Danny Chang (producer, guitars, keys and backing vocals) was a pro musician at 15 and Paul Hornsby (reeds and keys) is a session player. Rik Loveridge (keys and guitar) composes for the advertising industry and Phil Warren (bass) played for instance for Mike Stock.

The idea behind the album is a nod to the Canterbury scene, and even the recording equipment used for the album contributes to that. In all honesty it took me a while to get used to the sound. It is clear, but somehow sounds old and a bit dry. Since that is deliberate, I’d say mission accomplished.

The 7 songs on the album range from 3 to 13 minutes. And as you can deduct from the instruments mentioned above, the music could be described as early King Crimson and Jethro Tull mixed with jazzy interludes. Of course because of the reed instruments. The voice of Lucie is powerful and distinct. The band do know how to rock out a bit too.
The result is an album that keeps growing on you. There is a lot happening so you will have to invest time into getting to know the music.

Over time I have learned that this type of album turns out to be very rewarding, something you can revisit from time to time and still find new discoveries. Well done!

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Light Freedom Revival, Truthonomy, 2018

light freedom revival - truthonomyBuilt around the vocals and songs of John Vehadija, and accompanied by a wealth of ace musicians, here is the as yet unknown to me, Light Freedom Revival. And of course you want to hear names, so what about Oliver Wakeman on keyboards, Eric Gillette on guitars or Billy Sherwood on bass and drums? Rounding out the band are Jamie Glaser on acoustic guitars and Marisa Frantz on harmony vocals.

The result however, is not your typical run of the mill big name project. It seems Vehadija had a certain vision and this was carried out to the tee. The result is an album that sees all songs clock at least 5+ minutes, has an epic of 16 minutes, and still sounds not as you would expect.
The reason I feel, are that there are a lot of words in every song, so there is no escaping the (fairly high pitched) vocals. Vehadija is also almost always accompanied by Frantz. Also Gillette’s guitars are rarely heavy.
The outcome? An almost lightweight sounding album, with tons of melodies.

Is it a bad thing? Think that depends on taste. I would have loved if this had been packing more punch, but I cannot deny that it listens away pretty easy and is overall still a good listen. So melody before riffs and solos here. Listen to it yourself to make up your mind.

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The Fierce And The Dead, The Euphoric, 2018

the fierce and the dead - the euphoricFinally the time has come to discuss the new The Fierce And The Dead (TFATD) album The Euphoric with you. In their ranks Matt Stevens (guitar) who has released a bunch of solo albums that you might want to check out too.

To my knowledge TFATD are a quartet consisting of drums, bass and 2 guitars. Those guitars often enhance their sound with (synthesised) effects, thus giving a nod to King Crimson. Overall I guess their sound combines rock, prog and a tad of post hard-core. But where the soundscapes from KC sometimes tend to linger on a bit, TFATD make sure they keep pumping loads of energy into their songs. And they combine that energy with hooks  and melodies and musicians able to infuse dark and light into their compositions.

The result is, quite frankly, anything but your typical instrumental album. I never once miss the vocals on this album because of the way the songs are arranged. Very detailed, very varied and with room for everyone to shine. Thus making sure you never lose your connection with it.  You keep wondering where they will go next, but because of themes returning, they give you enough anchor points to not loose your way.

Yup, easy one of the most exciting albums in the genre this year. If you haven’t already, make sure you give it a couple of spins.

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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!

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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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Peter Banks, The Self-Contained Trilogy, + The Anthology, 2018

peter banks - the self-contained trilogyPeter Banks, is that not the first guitarist of Yes? Indeed he is, he played on their first 2 albums. And what you might not know is that he suggested the name change from Mabel Greer’s Toy shop! This collection contains 3 of his solo albums, namely Instinct, Self-Contained and Reduction.

Now 3 CD’s might sound like an awful lot to digest. But I think you will be surprised should you decide to have a listen. That is if you, like me, never heard them before. Not only is the material at hand of an enormous diversity, it is also larded with intros or short interludes with spoken word that show a keen sense of humour.
Back to the music, you will find anything from ambient to shredding, to funky, groovy to progressive here. And I must also admit that I like his guitar sound better than that of his successor in Yes, Steve Howe (who is a fabulous guitarist in his own right of course). Banks shows more of a rock vibe in his playing and sounds, and that suits me just fine.
And while I wonder if that diversity might be a reason for some to avoid his music, I was sincerely amazed listening to this. Banks proves to have been an amazing musician and a powerful creative force with the combined abilities of Vai, Satriani and maybe even any other guitarist you can think of.

peter banks - be well be safe be luckyShould you first want to sample Banks’ talents, there is also an Anthology available in the form of this double disc Be Well, Be Safe, Be Lucky…The Anthology. Disc 1 is a collection of some of his finest work. And disc 2 features a lot of rarities and extended versions. The latter making this release also interesting for the people that already enjoy his music.

For only being familiar with the name, to getting a more deeper insight in this man’s talent, 5 CD’s of discovery for all to enjoy!

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Fernando Perdomo, Out To Sea, 2018

fernando perdomo - out to seaNow here is a guy that has been making quite a name for himself in recent years. Touring and recording with Dave Kerzner, or playing with some of the biggest names in the biz is surely not a bad thing. Also the fact that Fernando played most of the instruments on this album himself, is only more testament of his talent.

So what do we have here? Out to Sea is a man showing his skills. But instead of showing off, he is translating that into songs. Songs with a capital S, where melodies galore, where the vocals are never missed. With light and dark, so they take you places.
Even when I feel a bit equivocal about his tributes to for instance Peter Banks in The Architect, to Focus in De Boerderij or to Roye Albrighton in The Future According To Roye. This because these songs are so damn close to those artists, it’s almost hard to believe they are original. Yet in a way I guess that is a big compliment in itself!
Still, for me, focussing on his own inspirations gives us more than enough tasteful songs. Prime examples being The Dream or the 16 plus minute epic Dreaming In Stereo Suite.

All in all a wonderful instrumental prog album that is firmly rooted in the Seventies, from a man blessed with a great sense of melody and the capability to shine on just about every instrument he touches. Go check it!

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Yuka & Chronoship, Ship, 2018

yuka & chronoship - shipAnother new name for me, but a band that was formed in 2009 and consists of Yuka Funakoshi (keyboards and vocal) with experienced session musicians Shuna Taguchi (bass), Takashi Miyazawa (guitars) and Ikko Tanaka (drums). This is album 4 for them.

The first 7 songs deal with the Greek mythology of Argo and special guest Sonja Kristina stars on the opening Tears Of The Figurehead. Which turns out to be a short and fairly mellow introduction. Because the next track The Ship Argos really sets loose a vibrant progressive work-out. Vocals are mainly used as instrument here, and there is some stellar guitar playing to admire along with some catchy hooks. Talking of catchy, what this band does really good, is writing themes that attract your ear. So even when much of the album is without actual singing words (8 of the 11 songs are instrumental), I never missed a singer there. Be it keyboards (hammond!) or guitar, they will find a way to send a convincing melody your way. So the story of Argo is told with a bunch of tracks that sit really well together and offer an exciting view of the qualities the band have to offer.
The remaining 4 tracks are of the same high calibre. And 2 of those have some lyrics to enjoy (like I mentioned, the voice is used as an instrument in other parts). Even when Visible Light is in Japanese, (you get a nice English translation in the booklet) the performance just fits the music.

As an added bonus I would like to compliment the open and transparent, yet powerful sound of the album. Very good release that every prog rock fan must listen to!

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Hillsphere, Florescence, 2018

Hillsphere - FlorescenceLots of prog releases and debuts have been arriving here at YMB HQ, and this one doubles as both qualities apply. Hillsphere are a new Dutch prog rock / metal band and Florescence is their way of saying hello to the world. The band are a 5 piece in a familiar prog band setting. Who have decided they’d like to start with a concept album. Bold move!

The album opens with the beautiful and melancholic title track on keyboards whose only problem is that I would have loved to hear more of it… Next track The Breeding Of Us gives us more insight in what we can expect. Modern synths, heavy guitars, dynamics, riffing and soloing. And a band that cares about melodies, even in instrumental pieces. Next up is Home, which is again instrumental, but like Florescence, it is short even when this time mainly based on ambient synths. On track 4, Our Physical Way Of Speaking, we hear vocals for the first time. And they are a combination of clean melodic singing and in part aggressive screaming. For me they could have been more prominent in the mix, but hey, that is a matter of personal taste. The song itself is again very dynamic, something the band proves to be very good at. Which is of course always a bonus as that opens up every album.

The album has 4 more tracks, with a special mention for closer Clairvoyance which I love to bits. The 8 tracks  and almost 50 minutes of music have proven to be a pleasant listen. Lots of emotions, great playing, melody in abundance, job very well done! Congrats to the Layered Reality label.

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Mile Marker Zero, The Fifth Row, 2018

mile marker zero - the fifth rowHere the first album from Mile Marker Zero, at least the first one I have listened to, as this marks the album that made me aware of them. But as it turns out, they have been around since 2005 and already have released a couple of EP’s and a full length in 2009.

And maybe that bit of history explains why the band sounds so mature. Everything on the album has a thought behind it it seems, and the result is, simply put, quite mindblowing.
Yes I can honestly say that the modern prog on offer is having a very positive effect on how I feel when I listen to it. Even when I am bad with comparisons, I regard it a mix of, say, Coheed & Cambria, 30 Seconds To  Mars, a bit of Rush and Spocks Beard, and with the late Chris Squire playing bass. But the best thing is, they have managed to avoid sounding like any of them, and created their own identity.
And the energy pouring from a track like The Architect is just awesome. The riffs and the melodies hook you in and refuse to let go. And then to end it with a bit of violin playing over a kind of film soundtrack, just great.

I could go on and on about how I love this CD, but my advice to you is: if you consider yourself to be serious about modern exponents of prog, then you MUST hear this album. Killer.

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